Buddha ［仏］ (, Pali; hotoke or butsu): One enlightened to the eternal and ultimate truth that is the reality of all things, and who leads others to attain the same enlightenment. In India, the word buddha was originally a common noun meaning awakened one or enlightened one, referring to those who attained any kind of religious awakening. In Buddhism, it refers to one who has become awakened to the ultimate truth of all phenomena. In this context, the term Buddha at first was applied exclusively to Shakyamuni. Later, however, with the development of Buddha as an ideal, numerous Buddhas appeared in Mahayana scriptures. These include such Buddhas as Amida and Medicine Master. Expressions such as “the Buddhas of the ten directions” and “the Buddhas of the three existences” communicate the idea that Buddhas, or the potential for enlightenment they represent, are omnipresent. The state of perfect enlightenment sought in Buddhism is called Buddhahood.
Various definitions of Buddha are set forth in Buddhist teachings. In Hinayana teachings, it means one who has entered the state of nirvana, in which both body and mind are extinguished. Mahayana teachings generally maintain that one becomes a Buddha only after innumerable kalpas of austere and meritorious practices, by eradicating illusions and earthly desires and acquiring the thirty-two features of a Buddha. The Lotus Sutra views Buddha as one who manifests the three virtues of sovereign, teacher, and parent, who is enlightened to the true aspect of all phenomena, and who teaches it to people to save them from suffering. The Buddhism of Nichiren, which is based on the Lotus Sutra and regards it as Shakyamuni’s most profound teaching, recognizes the potential of every person to become a Buddha.