Who is Buddha and Who is a Sage?
Today when many people talk about Buddhas, bodhisattvas, or saints, they either think these beings are beyond comprehension or associate them with blind faith and make believe. The master’s simple and clear explanation truly corrects this misunderstanding.
The Buddha was a human, not a god. What kind of person was he? From reading about Sakyamuni Buddha, we can see that he was a person whom the Chinese would call a sage. To be a sage, one must have a thorough understanding of everything in the universe. In other words, a sage is clear about everything and is not confused or deluded. One who is not clear about everything is an ordinary person.
The Chinese character for the word “sage” conveys the meaning of someone who understands the truth of all phenomena and teaches the truth in the Six Paths and the Ten Dharma Realms to all beings to help them break through delusion and attain enlightenment.
The Chinese character for the word “god” conveys the meaning of someone who is able to eradicate his desires; let go of his wandering thoughts, discriminations, and attachments; and thoroughly understand all natural phenomena. Therefore, the word “god” conveys the meaning of wisdom and a thorough understanding. It does not have anything to do with blind faith.
The Chinese respectfully call one who thoroughly understands the truth of the universe a sage. In India, this person is called Buddha or bodhisattva. Buddha, bodhisattva, and arhat are all Sanskrit transliterations. A Buddha is a person who has completely let go of his wandering thoughts, discriminations, and attachments, and who has a perfect understanding of the noumenon of everything and its phenomenal expressions, causes and results, and all principles and matters. A bodhisattva is a person who has let go of wandering thoughts, discriminations, and attachments but whose understanding is not yet perfect. An arhat is a person who has let go of attachments but whose understanding is less than that of a bodhisattva.
In today’s education system, a Buddha is like a person who holds a doctorate, a bodhisattva is like someone who holds a master’s degree, and an arhat is like someone who holds a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, the words Buddha, bodhisattva, and sage do not connote blind faith. On the contrary, they are the titles of those who truly have a thorough understanding of the noumenon and phenomena of the universe. Such beings are worthy of our emulation.
The master often says that Sakyamuni Buddha renounced his throne because he thoroughly understood that only through education can one help all beings attain happiness and peace. This education is the teaching of morality, the law of cause and effect, science, and philosophy as taught by the sages: the teaching of love and peace that is taught regardless of a student’s religion, ethnicity, and capacity. This idea agrees with that of the ancient wise Chinese emperors: “Education is essential in building a country and in guiding its people.”
The wise emperors deeply knew that physical force, the military, culture, the economy, and politics are auxiliary means that can help the implementation of moral education. But if they are used as main methods, it will be hard to perfectly achieve the goal of helping all beings leave suffering and attain happiness.
This is why Sakyamuni Buddha renounced his throne to engage in multicultural education and lectured on the Dharma for forty-nine years.
Confucius traveled to various states for fourteen years in the hope of finding a good ruler who would allow him to implement his political ideals for benevolent government rule. Regrettably, he did not encounter any favorable conditions to do so and had no choice but to return to his hometown and teach. He passed away five years after that. Although he taught for only five years, the influence from his teaching far surpassed any political or economic influence. His influence extends over time and throughout space. He is respected as “the civilian king” and “the Most Sacred Teacher.” Furthermore, after 2500 years, he is deeply admired even by westerners. This is the great power of moral education.
The need for moral teaching comes from the bottom of one’s heart. Moral education is the manifestation of the virtues that are perfectly innate in every one of us and is not rules formulated by Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and sages to restrain us. This is why moral teaching is able to transcend time, space, and written language, and accords with everything in the universe. The teaching has been passed down by ancient wise Chinese kings and by Confucius and Mencius. This teaching illuminates like the sun and the moon. These virtues have been perfectly manifested by Buddhas, bodhisattvas, patriarchs, and accomplished practitioners, which makes these virtues everlasting like the true nature.
A Brief introduction of
Venerable Master Chin Kung’s