samyaksaṃbuddha (P. sammāsaṃbuddha; T. yang dar par rdzogs pa'i sangs rgyas ཡང་དར་པར་རྫོགས་པའི་སངས་རྒྱས་; C. zhengbianzhi) is translated as "complete and perfect buddha," "totally and completely awakened buddha," etc. It is a common epithet of the buddhas, used both as an honorific and to distinguish them from beings of lesser realization such as arhats, pratyekabuddhas, and the like.
A samyaksaṃbuddha is distinguished from beings of lesser realization as follows:
- the samyaksaṃbuddha
- attains complete awakening through following the bodhisattva path, which entails developing limitless wisdom and compassion
- awakens in a age when there is no buddha (and no buddhadharma), and realizes buddhahood through their own efforts
- after realization, teaches beings through extraordinary skillful means
- the pratyekabuddha
- attains realization through their own striving, typically by contemplating the twelve links of dependent origination
- does not have the extraordinary skillful means to teach others, because they lack the limitless compassion of the samyaksaṃbuddha; some pratyekabuddha might teach through gestures or displays of supernormal powers
- the arhat (aka śravakabuddha)
- attains realization through listening to the teachings and following the sravaka path (sravakayana)
- has a lesser realization than a samyaksaṃbuddha because they lack limitless compassion
- has less capacity for teaching than a samyaksaṃbuddha
- The Buddha is called the Fully Enlightened One (sammāsambuddha) because he is the one who has fully understood by himself the ultimate nature of all phenomena both in their particular and universal characteristics. The term implies the direct knowledge of all realities gained without help from a teacher. The Buddha is also called the Peerless One (atula) because his qualities and attributes cannot be matched by any other being. Though all Arahants possess the distinguished qualities of morality, concentration, and wisdom sufficient to result in liberation, none possess the innumerable and immeasurable virtues with which a supreme Buddha is fully endowed — the ten Tathāgata’s powers of knowledge (M.12), the four grounds of self-confidence (M.12), the attainment of great compassion (Pṭs.i,126), and the unobstructed knowledge of omniscience (Pṭs.i,131). Hence the Buddha is without a peer among all sentient beings. As it is said: “There is one person, bhikkhus, who is unique, without a peer, without counterpart, incomparable, unequalled, matchless, unrivalled, the best of humans — the Tathāgata, the Arahant, the Fully Enlightened One” (A.1:13/i,22).