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Tibetan thangka of Vajradhara, a representation of the primordial buddha (ādibuddha).

ādibuddha (T. dang po'i sangs rgyas དང་པོའི་སངས་རྒྱས།; C. benchu fo 本初佛) has two connotations witihin the Sanskrit Mahayana tradition.[1][2]

  1. First Buddha - Ãdi means "first", such that the ādibuddha was the first to attain Buddhahood.[1]
  2. Primordial Buddha - Ādi can also mean “primordial,” not referring to a person but to an innate wisdom that is present in all sentient beings.[1]

According to the Princeton Dictionary, the term seems to have first appeared in the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra where it has the meaning of the "first" or "original" buddha.[1]

The term also appears in tantric literature, most prominently in the Kalachakra, where the term is interpreted as either "first buddha" or "primoridal buddha."[1]

When referring to the "primordial buddha," the term refers not so much to a person, but rather to a state of innate buddhahood or innate wisdom present in the mind of all sentient beings (sattva).

The 14th Dalai Lama states:

I understand the Primordial Buddha, also known as Buddha Samantabhadra, to be the ultimate reality, the realm of the Dharmakaya-- the space of emptiness--where all phenomena, pure and impure, are dissolved. This is the explanation taught by the Sutras and Tantras.[3]

Karl Brunnhölzl states:

Longchenpa's Treasure Trove of Scriptures...explains that Samantabhadra—one of the most common Dzogchen names for the state of original buddhahood—is nothing other than the primordial, innate awareness that is naturally free, even before any notions of "buddhas" or "sentient beings" have emerged.[4]

In Tibetan Buddhism, the term ādibuddha is often used to describe Samantabhadra, Vajradhara or Kalachakra.[1][2] In East Asian Mahayana, the ādibuddha is typically considered to be Vairocana.[1]



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