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Dipankara Buddha

By Devik Balami at
Dipankara Buddha

Dipankara Buddha is generally regarded as the Buddha of the Past. It is believed that he lived on Earth one hundred thousand years ago. According to some Buddhist traditions, Dipankara Buddha reached enlightenment eons earlier than Gautama Buddha. Dipankara Buddha is especially important because of prediction of Future Buddhahood to the Tibetan-Burman youth who would become Gautama Buddha, who is regarded as present Buddha. It has been forecasted about the future Buddha, Maitreya Buddha. So, in Chinese Buddhism, all the three Buddhas are regarded as "the Buddhas of Three Times".

In Buddha Statues, Dipankara is generally represented as a sitting Buddha, but in some southeastern countries like China, Thailand, and Nepal, he is depicted as a standing Buddha. He generally depicted in a protection mudra (Abhaya mudra). When shown with a companion, he is generally portrayed with two Bodhisattvas- Manjushri and Vajrapani, which is common in Java, Indonesia. He is portrayed with two bodhisattvas- Avalokitesvara and Vajrapani, which is common in Sri Lanka. He is portrayed with two Buddhas- Shakyamuni and Maitreya Buddha, in Nepal and Tibet.

The meaning of the word Dipankara in Sanskrit and Pali is “lamp bearer”. In Chinese language, Dipankara Buddha is regarded pinyin Randengfo. In Tibetan languages he is called mar me mdzad and while in Mongolian, Dipankara Buddha is regarded as Julaa-vin or Dibanakara. In Vietnamese, he is regarded as Nhien Dang phat.

Dipankara Buddha's mudra is Abhaya (blessing of fearlessness) and his complexion is yellow and his bodhi-tree is pulila.

Birth of Dipankara Buddha

It is believed that Dipankara was a Bodhisattva in the Tushita heaven and it was time for him to live upon the earth and manifest himself as a Buddha. He chooses king Arcishtra of Dipavati as a suitable father and then entered into the womb of his spouse Susila.

At the time of childbirth, Susila requested the king to visit the lotus tank. When she reached the side of the tank, an island sprang up. On that island, the Bodhisattva was born. At that moment, it was experienced the miraculous manifestation of a large number of bright lamps. Therefore, the Bodhisattva's name was Dipankara.

The Famous prediction of Dipankara Buddha

Even before Gautama Buddha got enlightenment, he was Sumedha in his past lives. When he was in the city, he learned that Dipankara Buddha happened to be in that same city. So, he wished to give lotus flower as an homage to Dipankar Buddha. To his surprise, he found that the king had bought all the lotus flowers in order to give Dipankara Buddha. Feeling low, he was going towards the place where Dipankara Buddha was residing. On the way, he found few lotus flower held by a girl named Sumidha. He requested her to give him some lotus flower in order to give it to Dipankara Buddha. She gave some of the lotus flowers which she had them. Taking that lotus flower, he went to visit the Dipankara Buddha.

Sumedha then paid homage to Dipankara Buddha. Dipankara Buddha then told Sumedha that he will be born in the family of the Shakyas and will be known as Gautama in the coming ages. He will be the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maya. He will become Buddha named "Shakyamuni" in that particular life. Listening to that Sumedha requested Dipankara Buddha to tread with his feet on his hair (during his birth, old age, and death) when he is enlightened and becomes the Buddha.

Dipankara Buddha again added that Sumedha, in his future life after attaining enlightenment, will become an effective teacher for the sake of the world. He will spread the knowledge about the wheel of life, birth, and death. His main disciples will be Sariputta and Moggallana. His caretaker will be Ananda.

This encounter about the Dipankara Buddha and Gautama Buddha can be found in a Mahayana text called the Sangathan Sutra.

Antique Buddha Statue of Dipankara Buddha

Buddha Statue of Dipankara is depicted in one of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, which was destroyed by the Taliban government in Afghanistan in 2001.

The Antique Buddha Statues and images of Buddha in Japan resembles Dipankara Buddha. The Buddha Statue has been depicted Abhaya mudra by the right hand and Vara mudra, which means a gesture of charity, by the left hand.

The Buddha Statues found in the Longmen and Yungang Grottoes in China are also believed to be of Dipankara Buddha. Almost all of the Buddha statues are depicted in a sitting position with the leg locked while only a few of them are in standing position. The Buddhas have portrayed in Abhaya mudra.