The Signs of a Great Man

From Dhammakaya Int'l Society of Belgium

There are 32 two main features [] which distinguish the Buddha and 80 sub-features [anubya~njana].

Main 32 Signs [ mahaapurisa 32]

  1. supati.t.thapaado: feet with a level sole (the Buddha would have an even pace -- not like those who wear down their shoes unevenly -- such a sole would spread the weight of His body evenly)
  2. he.t.thapaadatalesuu cakkani jaataani: 1,000 spoked wheel marks on soles (such marks would make the Buddha's hands and feet infinitely flexible -- unlike our hands and feet which can flex only in one or two directions because there are only two or three lines on our palms)
  3. aayatapa.nhi: projecting heels-- the heels were not round in shape but more oval (spreads weight and gives extra leverage for strength to the foot)
  4. diigha"ngulii: literally this means big fingers, but in fact it refers to the fingers & toes of the Buddha being of even length (makes the hands and feet very strong by comparison to our own for whom all our fingers and toes are of different lengths)
  5. mudutalahatthapaado: hands & feet soft skinned (this is not to say that the Buddha was not strong. Normally we associate hunks of taut muscle with strength -- but also soft flesh can be full of muscles)
  6. jaalahatthapaado: netlike lines on palms and soles (this is similar to no.2 -- it allows the feet and hands to be infinitely flexible -- it is not people of ancient times who had such a feature -- even Kuhn Yay Thongsuk Samdaengpan had such a feature on her hands which perhaps explains why she was so resiliant, even at a senior age when travelling to give teachings around the country)
  7. ussa"nkhapaado: high raised ankles (this feature is similar to the way the legs of a horse are built -- it gives exceptional strength, leverage and agility to the leg)
  8. e.nimigasadisaja"ngho: taught calf muscles like antelope (again this explains why the Buddha could be so strong -- because his legs were strong like those of an antelope -- rather than being flacid like those of a buffalo)
  9. .thitako va anonamanto: even standing without bending down, the Buddha could touch his knees (such proportions for a person are in fact the ideal -- not like Asians who have a long body but short legs or at the other extreme negros and caucasians who have a long body and long legs)
  10. kosohitavatthguyho: sexual organs concealed by sheath (the advantage of this is not to risk bringing offence to anyone even when naked)
  11. suva.n.nava.n.n.o: bright golden-coloured complexion (such golden skin has the advantage of being sensitive to the touch)
  12. sukhumacchavii: skin so fine no dust can attach (this is unlike the rough skin of a reptile to which all manner of dirt attaches. In fact the Buddha managed to achieve what women and sportsmen still try to achieve, but without all the effort!)
  13. ekekalomo: body hair separate with one hair per pore (not like some people who have whole tufts of hair coming from each pore).
  14. uddhaggalomo: bluish body hair curls clockwise
  15. brahmujugatto: upright stance like a god (such a stance gives an exceptional sense of balance and a firm stance)
  16. sattussado: flesh undinted and convex in seven places (these seven places comprise: the back of the hands [2], the upper side of the feet [2], the shoulders [2] and the neck [1])
  17. siihapubba.d.dhakaayo: lion-like chest (such a chest allows strong breathing and better metabolism than a normal person)
  18. piitantara.mso: flesh on back undinted (not like some people whose back looks like fishbones)
  19. nigrodhaparima.n.dalo: equal distance hand-to-hand & head-to-toe (such a proportion allows one to sit comfortably for meditation, without one's legs sticking out)
  20. samva.d.dakkhandho: neck rounded and smooth (the shape of the Buddha's neck was perfect like a tube or organ pipe and is the reason for the melodious voice he had)
  21. rasaggasaggii: sensative taste-buds (allows one to pick up the nutrients from even the poorest of foods and is why the Buddha could survive for 49 days on seven lumps of rice after his enlightenment or during the time when he had to spend his rainy-season in a place where there was famine)
  22. siihahanu: lion-like jaw (such a jaw is necessary to accommodate the 40 teeth of mark 23.)
  23. cattaa.liisadanto: 40 teeth (most people have only 32 teeth and normally some are missing too. Such a set of forty teeth is permanent throughout life -- not like ours which change from milk teeth > adult teeth > false teeth!)
  24. samadanto: evenly-spaced teeth
  25. avira.ladanto: gapless teeth
  26. sukkadanto: crystal canine teeth. Some people ask how when, as we sometimes find in the scriptures, the Buddha and Ananda are walking along, how Ananda could know that the Buddha has noticed something and is smiling about it. Normally, Ananda would walk directly behind the Buddha, but the reason he could know that the Buddha was smiling is because even just the parting of his lips, light would eminate from his canine teeth)
  27. pahutajivho: large, long tongue (large enough to cover his whole face and long enough to lick ears -- contributes to melodious sound of the Buddha and accommodates exceptional tastebuds)
  28. brahmassaro hiravikabhaa.nii: god-like voice (this is a particularly melodious sort of voice -- collective fruit of the shape of his neck, teeth and tongue -- not like a person who is having problems with their teeth)
  29. abhiniilanetto: bluish-black eyes
  30. gopamukho: eyes innocent like a calf
  31. u.n.naa loma bhamukantare jaataa: white cotton-wool soft wisp of hair in centre of brow (Indians respect this very highly and if they don't have one will draw one in as a 'caste mark')
  32. u.nahiissiiso: brow & face, especially the join between the two, are excellently smooth

Even having studied the thirty-two signs of a great man, we find that they are not enough to explain all the things we see on the Buddha image. What is missing is the following eighty sub-characteristics:

80 Sub-characteristics [anubyañjana]

  1. beautiful fingers and toes
  2. well-proportioned fingers and toes
  3. tube-shaped fingers and toes
  4. finger- and toenails have rosy tint
  5. finger- and toenails slightly upturned at tip (elegant)
  6. finger- and toenails smooth & rounded without ridges (not like ours which have lines and rough parts)
  7. ankles and wrists rounded and undinted (you don't see the bones)
  8. both feet equal (left and right feet are the same)
  9. gait beautiful like a king-elephant
  10. gait stately like king-lion
  11. gait beautiful like that of a swan
  12. gait majestic like royal ox
  13. right foot leads when walking (not just a habit, but automatic for him)
  14. knees have no (visible) kneecaps (thus there are know kneecaps to be painful when meditating)
  15. comportment of a great man
  16. navel without blemish
  17. deep-shaped abdomen
  18. clockwise marks on abdomen (sometimes represented as a swastika on the chest of the Buddha)
  19. thighs rounded like banana sheaf (like a Burmese pagoda)
  20. both arms shaped like elephant's trunk (but without the wrinkles)
  21. lines on palms have rosy tint
  22. skin is thick or thin as it should be
  23. skin unwrinkled
  24. body spotless and without lumps
  25. body unblemished above and below
  26. body absolutely free of impurities
  27. strength of 1,000 crore elephants or 100,000 crore men (Perhaps you have heard the story of when as a boy the Buddha found an elephant carcase which had been left lying at the side of the path by Devadatta, and which had been cleared to one side by Ananda? Even as a child he could without trouble throw it over the wall by its trunk)
  28. protruding nose (more like an Aryan than an Asian)
  29. nose well-proportioned
  30. upper & lower lips equal in size and have rosy-tint
  31. teeth unblemished and with no plaque
  32. teeth long like polished conch
  33. teeth smooth and unridged
  34. all five sense-organs are unblemished
  35. all four canine teeth are crystal and rounded
  36. face long and beautiful
  37. radiant cheeks
  38. lines on palms are deep
  39. lines on palms are long
  40. lines on palms are straight
  41. lines on palms are have rosy-tint
  42. body has halo of light extending around him for two metres
  43. cheek cavity is fully rounded and smooth
  44. well-proportioned eyelids
  45. five nerves of eyes unblemished (it is said that his eyesight was exceptionally good -- he could distinguish a mustard seed in the dark at a distance of 16 kilometres)
  46. tips of bodily hair neither curved nor bent
  47. rounded tongue
  48. tongue soft and with rosy-tint
  49. ears long like lotus petals (long -- but not so long as depicted in some Buddha images where they flap down over the shoulders)
  50. earholes beautifully rounded
  51. sinews and tendons don't stick out anywhere
  52. sinews and tendons deeply embedded in flesh
  53. topknot is like a crown
  54. forehead well-proportioned in length and breadth
  55. forehead rounded and beautiful
  56. eyebrows arched like a bow
  57. fine hair on eyebrows
  58. hair of eyebrows lies flat (not like the hair in other places which sticks up)
  59. large brows
  60. brows reach outward corner of eyes
  61. skin fine throughout body
  62. whole body abundant with (signs of) fortune
  63. body always radiant
  64. body always refreshed like a lotus flower
  65. body exquisitely sensative to touch
  66. scent of body like sandalwood
  67. all bodily hair consistent (not in tufts or of different lengths)
  68. fine bodily hair
  69. breath always fine
  70. mouth always beautiful like a smile
  71. scent of mouth like a lotus flower (not only the Buddha but also many of his disciples -- not like some people who have to use special products such as Listerine to take the unpleasant smell away)
  72. hair has the colour of a dark shadow
  73. hair is strongly scented
  74. hair has the scent of a white lotus
  75. curled hair (his hair would always stay the right length for a monk without him having to shave it)
  76. hair doesn't turn grey
  77. fine hair
  78. untangled hair
  79. hair with long curls
  80. topknot is as if crowned with flower garland (You have to distinguish with a Buddha image what you are looking at -- whether it is the physical body of the Buddha which has a topknot like a garland or whether it is the Body of Enlightenment [dhammakaaya] of the Buddha which also has lotus bud on the topknot.)

Sometimes in Dhammakaya Temple, newcomers are curious why the Buddha images are not the same as in other places. In fact, they don't need to be curious, because in Dhammakaya Temple, the Buddha images conform very strictly to what is found in the Sutta, rather than just following the sculptor's imagination or the traditional interpretation of proportions. Even in Thailand, the proportions change in popularity from one era to another -- in Japan, the Buddha images look like a Japanese; in China the Buddha images look Chinese; in Tibet, they look like a Tibetan. Sometime the Buddhas have flames or spikes coming out of their heads which are hardly scripturally supported.

All these details are quite interesting for us to know -- how the Buddha is different. We can compare ourselves with the Buddha and it will help to prevent us from becoming enamoured with our own bodies which we can see are clearly deformed by comparison with the Buddha image. We are 'nothing' if compared to all the signs of auspiciousness which the Buddha had on his body. It is also useful for us to know about the extra convenience these special features of the body bring, in facilitating our pursuit of perfection. It can be encouragement when we find we are in pain when we have to sit for meditation for a long time -- if we cannot manage as much as we like to, we can know it is a limitation coming from lack of good deeds in comparison to those of the Buddha (and be quick to make up for them!)

However, perhaps what is more interesting than all of these is 'how' the Buddha earned these thirty-two marks. This subject is the topic of a
subsequent lecture which deals with the special good deeds cultivated by the Buddha to achieve each of these thirty-two signs.

© 1997-2002 Dhammakaya International Society of Belgium v.z.w. All Rights Reserved.
Last Update: 5/7/2002