‘I Am Not The Buddha’


Dharma Chakra Mudra
Sarnath Museum, 450 CE


If someone would for a hundred thousand eons Constantly look at the Tathagatha Without relying on Ultimate Reality But only seeing the World’s Saviour That person is attached to Form and enlarging the Net of Ignorance and Illusion Tied up to the prison of Birth and Death Deluded, he does not see the Buddha.

The Avataṃsaka Sūtra

The Self-Eating Expression is a linguistic device and the basic linguistic expression is the Assertion or Statement. And there are various ways to classify Statements. One of them is called the Chatushkoti [tetralemma, if you are partial to Greek].

It was widely used in the analytic Buddhist literature beginning the second century BCE but became prominent only after the rise of the Madhyamaka School.

The Self-Eating Expression: ‘I am not the Buddha’, was in fact taken to its sacrilegious point of doubt by some who questioned whether there ever was a Buddha in flesh and blood. A fair question given the substance of the Teachings.

If the questioner was annoyingly insistent, the response of the Scholar-Monks was set to the standard four-part template of the times:

‘The Buddha existed; did not exist; both existed and did not exist; neither existed, nor did not exist’. Siddhartha Gautama would have chuckled.