Twelve deeds of a buddha

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Twelve deeds of a buddha (Skt. dvadaśabuddhakārya; T. sangs rgyas kyi mdzad pa bcu gnyis སངས་རྒྱས་ཀྱི་མཛད་པ་བཅུ་གཉིས་; C. shi'er xiang chengdao) are a set of twelve acts that are performed by all buddhas during their lifespans, according to some sources in the Sanskrit tradition.[1] This list is particularly emphasized in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The text Praise of the Twelve Deeds of a Buddha (Dvādaśakāra-nāma-stotra) is popular in Tibet and is recited in Tibetan monasteries.[1]

In the context of the three buddha bodies (trikaya) of the Mahayana tradition, it is the nirmanakaya manifestation of the buddha that "displays" these acts.

There are different versions of this list of twelve acts. A commonly-cited version presents the following twelve acts:[2][3]

  1. descent from Tushita heaven (T. dga' ldan gyi gnas nas 'pho ba) for their final birth,
  2. entry into the womb (T. lhums su zhugs pa) of their mother,
  3. taking birth (T. sku bltams pa),
  4. becoming skilled in the arts (T. bzo yi gnas la mkhas pa),
  5. enjoying the company of consorts (T. btsun mo'i 'khor dgyes rol ba),
  6. renouncing the world (T. rab tu byung ba),
  7. practicing austerities (T. dka' ba spyad pa),
  8. going to the the "seat of enlightenment" (bodhimanda) (T. byang chub snying por gshegs pa),
  9. subjugating Māra (T. bdud btul ba),
  10. attaining buddhahood (T. mngon par rdzogs par sangs rgyas pa),
  11. turning the wheel of the dharma (dharmacakrapravartana; T. chos kyi 'khor lo bskor ba), and
  12. passing into parinirvana (T. mya ngan las 'das pa)

A similar list of "eight episodes" (baxiang) in the life of a buddha is common in East Asian Buddhism. The Pali tradition identifies thirty deeds that are common to all buddhas.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. "twelve deeds of a buddha" in main dictionary section.
  2. Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. "Twelve deeds of a buddha" in "List of lists".
  3. Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang 2011, Glossary.


Further reading