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Buddhadharma : Winter 2015
38 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 1 5 perfections to be either a Buddha or a compassion- ate Universal Monarch (Cakkavattin). each mark is said to have been due to a particular excellence developed during past lives and to have indicated a particular quality in the present life of a Buddha or Universal Monarch. For example, “On the soles of his feet and on the palms of his hands wheels arise—with a thousand spokes, with rim and hub, adorned in every way and well-defined within” (in the past, he protected and helped others; in the present life, he has a great retinue of followers); “His skin is delicate and so smooth that no dust can stick to it”(in the past, he was keen to enquire of the wise about wholesome and unwholesome actions; in the present life, he has great wisdom); and “his eyes are deep blue, and he has eyelashes (long) like a cow’s” (in the past, he looked at others in a straightforward, open, direct and kindly way, not furtively; in the present life, he is popular and loved by all types of people). Here we see that the Buddha possessed both ordinary and extraordinary features that were a crystallization of the kind of good actions that anyone can come to excel in. It is an interesting mindfulness exercise to stand and contemplate the thirty-two marks as if they were on one’s own body. Sometimes they can seem to come alive in the practice. Not surprisingly, the question arose as to whether the Buddha was still human. Once, when someone saw in his footprints a sign of one of the “marks of a Great Man” and asked the Buddha whether he might be a deva (god), a gandhabba (a fragrance-eating heavenly musician), a yakkha (a nature-spirit), or even a human, to all these ques- tions the Buddha replied, “No” (AN.II.37–39). In response to his puzzled questioner, he explained that he had destroyed the asavas, deep-rooted intoxicating inclinations that would otherwise have kept him limited as one of these kinds of beings. He was thus none of them, but precisely a Buddha, an Awakened One. In this, he said he was like a lotus, which, although it grows from muddy water, comes