Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C. B. Varma Introduction | Glossary | Bibliography

078 – The Personality of the Buddha

T he tradition furnishes very little information on the personality of the Buddha. The colour of his skin was golden. He had a fascinating personality and his critics also considered him “charming”. He was “handsome; and perfect in complexion, stature and gracefulness.” He was endowed with the thirty-two marks, the presence of which signifies that one is either destined to be an emperor of the world; or a Buddha. These marks include black eyes; long tongue, which could touch the forehead; palms reaching beyond the knees when stretched and so on. (See Lakkhana Sutta, Digha Nikaya iii.142-49).

His voice had eight characteristics, viz., fluency; intelligibility; sweetness; audibility; continuity; distinctness; depth; and resonance, which was not to travel beyond his audience. (See Sumangala Vilasini ii. 452 f.; Papancha Sudani, ii.771). He preached only in eight assemblies, namely, of the nobles, scholars, house-holders, recluses, the four regent devas, the devas of Tavatimsa Loka, and Mara. (See Anguttara Nikaya iv.308)

His daily routine was to rise early and finish his bodily functions. Then he would sit in solitude. Then after putting on his outer robe he would go out for alms; sometimes with a large number of monks and sometimes all alone. If he had to go out all alone he would then keep his cell-door closed. It is often believed that sometimes he used to fly with some advanced monks, who were purified of the defilements (khinasavas).

Upon his return from the alms round he would wash his feet and talk to the monks; and discuss the subject matter on meditation; or instruct them. He would then rest or sleep for a while depending upon the availability of time. Then he had the time to look around with his divine eye to identify a deserving person, who could be benefited by his teaching.

In the evening, he would take bath and again attend to the monks and exhort them of the right pursuits till the first watch of night. He would allocate the second watch of night to instruct the devas. In the last watch of night, he would first keep walking and meditating. He would then sleep for a while. Again he would wake up to contemplate on the possible benefit of his teachings to be imparted to a deserving person (Veneyya) owing to his acquired capability by way of righteous karma of the previous births.