The Equality of the Buddhas

A student was under the impression that one or a few buddhas are more buddha than others. The misunderstanding is almost to be expected. I, too, held that incorrect view for some time. However, one needs only contemplate the Buddha’s own teaching to determine, as have the great masters, that there is only one taste of buddha nature, thus all Buddhas are equal.

A human being’s challenge is complexity. Due to the fundamental illusion of separateness, human beings ascribe distinctness and separation on everything and thereby on where none exists. Due to this we desire help/guidance/comfort to direct us through the maze that we have created in our mind. This is because we have not realized innate perfect Wholeness which is shared unlimited Oneness nor can we conceptualize this. We search for this and that’s along with their relation because we are deluded in separateness and, like apprentice magician, make it so in our minds.

All the while (outside of any time constraint), the Buddhas – though freed of the fundamental delusion of separateness – wish primal unconditioned bliss to those who are abiding in the experience of suffering due to the perception of separateness. Buddha nature responds to the cry of ignorance and delusion by emanating qualities of Being (buddha nature) that can be recognized within the constructs of ideation, sensation, and form. These forms of the Buddhas – complete with names, mantras, and practices – have poured into the world over and over again through spiritual_illustration__buddha_by_budhufakir-d4cowx7incalculable time. Add to that, that the bodhisattvas abide and reside within the ranks of humanity. Though they have established their awareness in the non-interrupted state of interconnectedness (inter-being), they live within the fallacy of phenomena. As a result, yet with conscious pledge, the bodhisattvas experience the full range of the human experience while at the same time being the guide, the comfort, or the help for others. The buddhas can emanate bodhisattva forms; the bodhisattvas can emulate a buddha quality; and both can emanate multiple streams of awareness to meet the needs of others. Thus, once again, forms of the bodhisattvas, similar to idea-forms of the buddhas, are revered and kept as sacred.

Human beings ask for help and get it; that is the cosmic law of invocation and evocation. To do so, and in complete non-two-ness, emanations of Those Thus Gone (buddhas) as well as Those Pledged to Return (bodhisattvas) guide and assist, give comfort, protection, and refuge. Yet, because of the primary illusion of misidentification  as self which creates other, we human beings do not realize that these guides and comforters are none other than innate Buddha nature. Our confused mind ascribes otherness to these emanations, though ultimately no otherness exists.

All this, I think, is a necessary preamble in order to respond to the misunderstanding of rank or differentiation within Buddhas or Buddhist deities (same thing).
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Form is empty, sensations are empty, perceptions are empty, formulations (concepts) are empty, consciousness is empty. All dharmas are empty.” This reports that all ways by which the embodied and unenlightened mind perceives, establishes that which it perceives as existents, and relates to those perceptions and forms are – in fact – empty of true existence. They are naught. This means that all differentiations or distinctions created through the common mind, emotions, sensations, conceptualizations, and consciousness are null as well. They are merely fabrications in the blank space of Awareness.

Supernovae_by_gusti_boucherThe Sugatas (buddhas) are equal, not only to one another, but they are equally dharmakaya. To say “the” sugatas is to individualize that which has no individuation. Buddha nature is ALL. Dharmakaya (the form – kaya) of Pure Awareness-Being or Reality (Dharma) is ALL. And, one cannot really say “ is all there is” because “is” connotes a a dualistic view.

The Sugatas (also called the Tathagatas; another term for Buddhas) are of one taste, one essence – Buddha nature. Yet, anything that is written or said about Buddha nature is, by default, a conceptualization. However, Buddha nature and, those “who” are self-same Buddha nature, are empty of those concepts, ideas, and perceptions. We, unenlightened, cannot perceive or conceive of the nature and qualities of Buddha nature because we still have perceptions and ideas. However, the one taste of the Sugatas is the way by which the Buddha and the Buddhas convey the non-distinction or non-hierarchy of Buddha nature.

ushnishaNonetheless, due to the delusion of duality which conjures preference, avoidance, resonance and dissonance, a practitioner is drawn to the distinctions of the nirmanakaya and samboghakaya emanations of the supreme Indistinguishable Buddhas. As such, people of faith are attracted to one precious Being or another for guidance, protection, and training. This seeming choice of the practitioner is actually a manifestation of the supreme wisdom and vast reach of compassion of Buddha nature. Through the illusion of distinction, the practitioner practices a mantra or renunciation or perfecting in the Way that is pointed out by the chosen deity (buddha). Yet, since the practitioner is, at essence, Buddha nature and the method is suited to the demeanor of the practitioner, then those same qualities of Reality and of innate buddha nature awakeness come more and more to the forefront of the practitioner’s awareness and livingness.

Ultimately, all qualities of all buddhas are simply the projections and assignations of the practitioner’s mind – and have been for the millennia of practice by all practitioners. This is so because “All is MIND.” and “All phenomena are void of self nature.” This means that all experiences – pre and post – that anyone will have all along the Path of increasing awareness are simply the mind awakening to the innate qualities of MIND-AWARENESS. That awakening must use the constructs and concepts within the mind-stream, much of which is below the threshold of conscious-knowing yet nonetheless exists within the mind-stream. This fact is an underlying theme in the story of the Buddha’s journey to and experience of enlightenment. He realized that all experience is within the mind which is how the primal force of separateness could not overpower his samadhi. Mara, the name given to this force, was given no distinction in the Buddha’s mind as he sat under the bodhi tree, thus no separateness – duality – was experienced. The Buddha’s experience was the emptiness of Mara, the voidness of Mara’s primal existence, thus was the experience of the infinite freedom of living the voidness that is non-separateness (non-fabricated distinctions).

manjushri snThis idea is given to us in the name of the Manjushri, which brings us directly to the consideration of the buddhas as equal. Manjushri translates as smooth glory, or gentle majesty, or non-interrupted infinitude that IS. This name and its meaning is conveying the non-divided, non-rippled, completely effortless glorious state that IS the supreme Wisdom that IS unmoved Awareness-Mind. Any reference to the highest level of practice refers to the capacity of the practitioner and has nothing to do with rank qualifications of the buddhas. In this way, we are to understand that Manjushri, just as Tara, or Vajrayogini, or Avolokiteshvara, or Medicine Buddha are word-names meaning that they are describing the indescribable qualities and nature of Buddha nature.

  • Tara refers to the immediacy of Awakeness in every regard, thus the Mother of Awakeness that is every single moment, instantaneously, should the practitioner choose.
  • Vajrayogini refers to the power of enlightenment experienced as a perpetual state. As such all perceptions and sensations are only the play of dharmakaya – buddha nature.
  • Avolokiteshvara refers to the completely pervasive nature of Buddha nature – nothing is not this. All perceptions ultimately give way to the pervasive unstoppable nature of flawless understanding.
  • Medicine Buddha refers to the recognition of buddha nature within all forms, including oneself (of course). Thus Medicine Buddha refers to the resolution of fundamental ignorance and, thus, Duality as a construct and the eradication of the aggregates as the determinate of perceived reality. Medicine Buddha, then, represents the Self-Sameness of the aggregates and emptiness. (“Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Sensation is emptiness, emptiness is sensation, … perception, conceptualizations, consciousness.” {We often forget the rest of the five aggregates in the consideration of emptiness. Yet the Buddha spoke clearly and often of all five being equally and necessarily empty.”

Due to one’s contemplation of the Buddha’s words and the explanations of the masters, we can have confidence in all buddhas being of one nature with no rank within buddhas or Dharmakaya (Buddha nature). Buddha nature is “tathagata garba” the one source (womb) of Those Thus Gone. In other words, those who have completely liberated themselves from the hold of the aggregates have gone beyond the constructs and confines that the aggregates generate. Yet, these same aggregates are the only Path for awakening whether engaged through renunciation (hinayana), through dedication (mahayana), or through transformation (vajrayana).

It is the needs of sentient beings that evoke qualities of Being from the womb of all awakeness, thus do “the” Buddhas and bodhisattvas appear to the senses and mind. This is the perfection of self-sameness – of form and emptiness, perception and emptiness, sensation and emptiness, conceptualizations and emptiness, consciousness and emptiness. The practitioner resonates to that which can be brought forward of his or her Buddha nature. Over time and with right practice, consistency of result will ensue. And, lo, the Buddha nature already present will awaken within the practitioner and he or she will “go beyond” the five aggregates that are the source of the experience of duality.


“As this great ocean has but one taste, that of salt, so has this Dharma but one taste, that of freedom.” Udana sutra

“The five aggregates, monks, are impermanent; whatever is impermanent, that is dukkha, unsatisfactory; whatever is dukkha, that is without a Self. What is without a Self, that is not mine, that I am not, that is not my Self. Thus should it be seen by perfect wisdom as it really is. Who sees it by perfect wisdom as it really is, his mind is not grasping, is detached from taints, his is liberated.” Samyutta-nikaya sutra

“Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Form is no other than emptiness, emptiness is no other than form. In the same way, feelings, discriminations, compositional factors, and consciousness are empty. In this way all phenomena are empty.” The Prajnaparamita (The Heart Sutra short form)

“One in meaning, non-dual, the ultimate dharma,
ultimate truth that is unassailable,
which take on forms with diverse capacities
and a richly diverse continuum of consciousness
delighting in every object and entity,
a passionate intellect that delights in emptiness
while devoid of all worldly desires,
taking greatest joy in threefold existence.”
Manjushri namasamgiti (Manjushri Tantra)

“Homage to you, great horrific one, Ture
Who destroys Mara’s forces
And slays all opponents
With merely a wrathful twist of your lotus face.
21 Verses of Tara (Tara Tantra)

May all beings discover innate flawless clarity and compassion.

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About Donna Mitchell-Moniak

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4 Responses to The Equality of the Buddhas

  1. Pingback: Upcoming: Tibetan Buddhist Imagery webinar and course | Blazing Light, Love's Song

  2. Can’t wait for the next one 😉

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