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What does the Buddha mean when he says "when I was only a bodhisattva"? Thanks.

Dear Tom,

Thank you for the opportunity to answer this question.

What does the Buddha mean when he says "when I was only a bodhisattva?

A bodhisattva is a being who is on the path to becoming a Buddha. You might call him a Buddha in training. Not everyone can be a bodhisattva, it is actually a long and arduous journey filled with sacrifice, hardship and difficulties.

Once accepted onto the path of a bodhisattva, the individual will have to go through many aeons and incalculable periods in order to fill the virtues of character (paramita).

Once he has completely filled all 10 Virtues (Paramita)each with 3 distinct levels of attainment, he will be qualified to be a Buddha.

Then he will be born into his last life (still as a bodhisattva), and then achieve Buddhahood later in that lifetime.

For example, the Buddha filled his last level of Virtue in the life he was born as Vessantara. Then the next life (his Buddha life), he was born as Prince Siddhartha. At this point, he was still a bodhisattva (has not obtained Buddhahood yet). The Prince eventually ordained and strove for Buddhahood. At this point, he was still a bodhisattva. However, once he knew and understood the universal truth with his heart and mind, he fulfilled his long awaited destiny and became enlightened as an Arahat (fully enlightened being). At this point, he was referred to as a Buddha - the Fully Enlightened One.

As a comparison, it is just like a student and a graduate. As long as you are enrolled in school and have not finished your coursework and have not gotten a degree, you as still called a student. However, once you finish all the requirements, finish all the work and receive a final degree, you are no longer a student, but are now a graduate.

I hope I have answered your question in a suitable manner. If not, feel free to ask a follow-up question for more clarity.  


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Anandapanyo Bhikkhu


I can answer questions about Buddhist practice, Buddhist understanding and how to apply Buddhism to daily life. I can help analyze Buddhist sayings and teachings. In addition, I can help with questions Buddhism stories, fables and Vinaya(rules). I have meditated for over 10 years and can help you start with meditation. In addition, I can help provide insight into what to do when you feel that you have hit a wall with your meditation. My main area of expertise is how to think in accordance with Sammaditthi (the right view - and number 1 in the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path. If I cannot answer your question, I have many able teachers with over 20 years experience to help me, so chances are I will be able to find an answer for you.


I have been practicing Buddhism since I was born, but as a serious practice since 2003. I started studying under various famous Thai Theravada masters. Finally, I met and studied under Phra Acariya Thoon Khippapanyo who has recently passed away on Nov 11, 2008 and is widely accepted as a great Arahant (fully enlightened) teacher of our time. In addition, I have personally read and studied much of the Buddhist scriptures and popular literature available. I have recently undertaken the ordination vows and have become a Buddhist monk in the theravada forest monk tradition. I reside at a temple with many dedicated practitioners and great teachers. I have been practicing training my mind to be aligned with right view (sammaditthi) for over 10 years. I have also been meditating for over 10 years. In my time spent with Acariya Thoon, I learned many things and was able to incorporate them into my life. In addition to practicing Buddhism within temples and my home, I used to own two restaurants and managed commercial real estate. I had to deal with many different and problems. I learned how to use Buddhism to fix my problems, both externally (my environment) and internally (within me).

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