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Home > Fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism > Level 2: Lam-rim (Graded Stage) Material > Arrangement of the Thirty-two Excellent Signs and Eighty Exemplary Features According to Location on a Buddha’s Enlightening Body

Arrangement of the Thirty-two Excellent Signs and Eighty Exemplary Features According to Location on a Buddha’s Enlightening Body

Alexander Berzin, 1973
based on explanations given by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey
as translated by Sharpa Rinpoche

In order to help obtain a cohesive, complete picture of the Enlightening Body of a Buddha, let us combine the lists of the thirty-two excellent signs (mtshan bzang-po gsum-cu rtsa-gnyis, thirty-two major marks) and eighty exemplary features (dpe-byad brgyad-cu, eighty minor marks) and present them according to their locations on the body.

[For the individual lists and their causes, see: The Thirty-two Excellent Signs (Major Marks) of a Buddha’s Enlightening Body, and The Eighty Exemplary Features (Minor Marks) of a Buddha’s Enlightening Body.]

Signs and Features Regarding the Head of a Buddha

Excellent Signs

(1) The top of a Buddha’s head has a crown protrusion (gtsug-tor, Skt. ushnisha), made of radiant flesh, round and circling clockwise. When seen from a distance, it seems to be four finger-widths high, but upon closer scrutiny, its height can never be measured.

(2) A Buddha’s cheeks are round and full like those of a lion. [In the Pali, Sanskrit and Chinese traditions, this feature is given in reference to his jawbone or chin].

Exemplary Features

(1) Except for the crown protrusion, a Buddha has a perfectly rounded head, in the shape of a dome.

(2) A Buddha’s forehead is wide from side to side and top to bottom.

(3) A Buddha’s forehead is also flat, with a clear, well-defined hairline.

Signs and Features Regarding the Hair of a Buddha

Excellent Signs

(3) A Buddha’s bodily hair grows upwards.

(4) A Buddha’s bodily hair curls clockwise, with never more than one hair growing from each pore.

(5) A Buddha has a white treasure-like curl of hair (mdzod-spu, Skt. urnakesha) on his mid-brow that curls very tightly clockwise. When it is pulled from its tip, it extends a huge distance, and when released, it tightly recoils.

Exemplary Features

(4) A Buddha is either completely bald, or has a full crop of hair.

(5) The color of a Buddha’s hair is a vivid black-blue.

(6) A Buddha’s hair is soft and smooth.

(7) A Buddha’s hair is very fine and silky.

(8) A Buddha’s hair never becomes matted or tangled. Each hair is distinct, and curls in a clockwise pattern.

(9) A Buddha’s hair has a naturally sweet fragrance.

Signs and Features Regarding the Eyes of a Buddha

Excellent Signs

(6) The black and white portions of a Buddha’s eyes are clear and distinct, with no red or yellow discolorations. [The Further Everlasting Continuum (rGyud bla-ma, Skt. Uttaratantra) tradition adds that the eyes of a Buddha are dark blue like a blue water lily, while the Pali tradition simply has that a Buddha’s eyes are dark blue].

(7) A Buddha’s eyelashes are beautiful and long, like those of a bull, with each hair distinct.

Exemplary Features

(10) A Buddha’s eyes are pure and unclouded.

(11) The Buddha’s eyes are not wide, but are slanted in a thin strip.

(12) The white and black portions of a Buddha’s eyes are distinctly divided like individual, beautiful lotus petals.

(13) A Buddha has thick eyelashes that are properly arranged in single file.

(14) A Buddha’s physical sight is unblurred, and the sight of his omniscient mind is perfectly pure.

Signs and Features Regarding the Eyebrows of a Buddha

Exemplary Features

(15) A Buddha’s eyebrows are long, stretching from the mid head to the temple.

(16) Each hair of a Buddha’s eyebrow is exactly the same length.

(17) The hairs on a Buddha’s eyebrows aren’t bristly, but are soft and smooth.

(18) A Buddha’s eyebrows are bright, shiny and vivid.

Signs and Features Regarding the Ears of a Buddha:

Exemplary Features

(19) A Buddha’s ears are equally sized.

(20) A Buddha demonstrates perfect hearing, and can hear regardless of distance.

Signs and Features Regarding the Nose of a Buddha:

Exemplary Features

(21) The nose of a Buddha is straight and slightly raised at the tip.

(22) A Buddha’s nose is completely clean and free of mucus, and it never runs.

Signs and Features Regarding the Mouth of a Buddha:

Excellent Signs

(8) A Buddha has a special faculty of taste that no matter what food he is given, it always tastes delicious.

Exemplary Features

(23) The chin of a Buddha is evenly proportional and is neither too long nor too wide.

(24) A Buddha’s lips are full, red, and well developed.

Signs and Features Regarding the Tongue of a Buddha:

Excellent Signs

(9) A Buddha’s tongue is extremely long and can reach the top of his head, his ears, and his chest.

Exemplary Features

(25) The tongue of a Buddha is particularly thin.

(26) The color of a Buddha’s tongue is completely red.

(27) A Buddha’s tongue is very flexible, and can be thick or thin, long or short, according to need.

Signs and Features Regarding the Teeth of a Buddha:

Excellent Signs

(10) A Buddha’s eye-teeth are more brilliantly white than his other teeth are.

(11) A Buddha’s teeth are all of equal length. [The Furthest Everlasting Continuum tradition adds that a Buddha’s teeth are also free of stains].

(12) A Buddha’s teeth are perfectly aligned and straight, with no gaps between them.

(13) A Buddha has a set of forty teeth, with an equal number on the upper and lower jaws.

Exemplary Features

(28) The teeth of a Buddha, and all other parts including the bones, nails and hair are enlightened beings.

(29) A Buddha’s eye-teeth are sharp.

(30) A Buddha’s eye-teeth are of equal length.

(31) A Buddha’s eye teeth are narrow and fit in perfectly with the rest of his teeth.

(32) A Buddha’s teeth are perfectly white and as clear as crystal.

Signs and Features Regarding the Speech of a Buddha:

Excellent Signs

(14) A Buddha’s voice is melodious like that of an ancient song-bird, flowing without any effort, or like that of a Brahma. Whoever hears the voice of a Brahma is temporarily relieved of his or her problems, but the sound of a Buddha’s melodious and resonant enlightening speech can bring about full liberation from all fears.

Exemplary Features

(33) The sound of a Buddha’s voice is as loud and far-reaching as thunder.

(34) A Buddha’s voice is smooth, sweet, rhythmic and extremely pleasant to listen to.

Signs and Features Regarding the Entire Body of a Buddha:

Excellent Signs

(15) Seven parts of a Buddha’s body are rounded and slightly raised. These are the tops of each hand, foot, shoulder and the back of the neck.

(16) The body of a Buddha is very straight and is seven cubits tall, while ordinary persons are usually four cubits tall. [Pali tradition: the body is as straight as that of Brahma].

(17) A Buddha’s elbows and kneecaps do not stand out. [Pali tradition: the anklebones do not stand out].

(18) The body of a Buddha is as stately and well-proportioned as a full-grown bodhi tree. [Pali tradition: the analogy of a banyan tree, instead of a bodhi tree].

Exemplary Features

(35) The body of a Buddha is fully taut and exudes a natural magnificence and glory.

(36) The body of a Buddha is immaculately tidy and is as if it had been polished.

(37) A Buddha’s body is youthful.

(38) A Buddha’s body has no indentations.

(39) A Buddha’s body is well-fleshed and well-developed.

(40) A Buddha’s body is firm, and not at all flabby.

(41) A Buddha’s body is naturally clean.

(42) A Buddha’s body is naturally pure.

(43) A Buddha’s body is balanced in size, and is perfectly proportioned and symmetrical.

(44) A Buddha has beautifully proportioned and well-distinguished hands, fingers, feet and toes.

(45) The reach of a Buddha’s body is extensive and excellent. It is flexible and has the ability to reach anything.

(46) A Buddha’s body contains the full set of the thirty-two excellent signs of the Buddha’s Enlightening Body.

Signs and Features Regarding the Upper Body of a Buddha:

Excellent Signs

(19) The upper torso of a Buddha becomes progressively broader, like that of a lion.

(20) The top of a Buddha’s shoulders are round and well-connected to his neck, and his network of veins is not visible. [Pali tradition: his shoulders are evenly rounded].

(21) The area between a Buddha’s collarbone and shoulder is rounded, fleshy and full, without any hollow depression.

Signs and Features Regarding the Skin of a Buddha:

Excellent Signs

(22) The skin of a Buddha, no matter how old he is, remains unwrinkled and as smooth as that of an infant nursing on his mother’s milk. [Pali tradition: he has tender hands and feet].

(23) The skin of a Buddha is luminous and golden in color.

(24) The skin of a Buddha is as fine and unblemished as is purified gold free from all taints. [Pali tradition: his skin is delicate and smooth].

Exemplary Features

(47) The skin of a Buddha is soft and smooth.

(48) On a Buddha’s skin, one cannot find a single beauty mark, mole, pockmark or freckle.

Signs and Features Regarding the Veins of a Buddha:

Exemplary Features

(49) Veins and arteries are not visible through the skin of a Buddha’s body.

(50) There are no knots in the veins or central channel of the subtle and external bodies of a Buddha.

Signs and Features Regarding the Arms of a Buddha:

Excellent Signs

(25) The arms of a Buddha are extremely long. When he sits cross-legged with his elbows at his side, his hands cover his knees so that his fingers can touch his seat. [The Furthest Everlasting Continuum tradition adds that his arms are smooth, round and even in length].

Signs and Features Regarding the Hands of a Buddha:

Exemplary Features

(51) A Buddha has hands that are as smooth as cotton.

(52) When he gives prophecies, a Buddha’s hands have a long stretch like the trunk of an elephant.

Signs and Features Regarding the Palm Creases of a Buddha:

Exemplary Features

(53) The lines on a Buddha’s palms are glossy and distinct.

(54) When a Buddha raises his hands, the deep lines on his palms are visible even from a great distance. According to the particular limited being, the lines are viewed differently. For instance, some beings may see the eight auspicious signs.

(55) The lines in a Buddha’s palms are long and contiguous, none of them are short or broken.

Signs and Features Regarding the Fingers of a Buddha:

Excellent Signs

(26) The fingers and toes of a Buddha are connected with a web of white light.

(27) The fingers and toes of a Buddha are extremely long.

Exemplary Features

(56) The fingers of a Buddha are round.

(57) The fingers of a Buddha are slim and tapered, and one cannot find a single fold or wrinkle on them.

(58) The fingers of a Buddha are beautifully developed and soft.

(59) A Buddha’s thumbprints and toe prints are of endless knots and other auspicious sings, such as clockwise swastikas.

Signs and Features Regarding the Fingernails of a Buddha:

Exemplary Features

(60) A Buddha has copper-colored nails.

(61) A Buddha has nails that are radiant and shining.

(62) A Buddha has nails that are convex and rounded in shape.

Signs and Features Regarding the Navel of a Buddha:

Exemplary Features

(63) The navel of a Buddha is very deep.

(64) The lines in a Buddha’s navel swirl clockwise.

Signs and Features Regarding the Lower Body of a Buddha:

Excellent Signs

(28) A Buddha’s private organ is recessed and remains concealed.

Exemplary Features

(65) The belly of a Buddha is curved, not flat.

(66) A Buddha’s waist is perfectly proportioned.

(67) A Buddha’s waist is not too long, too wide, too far or too crooked.

(68) A Buddha’s slender belly is positioned neither too high nor too low.

Signs and Features Regarding the Legs of a Buddha:

Excellent Signs

(29) A Buddha’s calves are well-rounded, like the legs of an antelope.

Signs and Features Regarding the Feet of a Buddha:

Excellent Signs

(30) A Buddha’s heels jut out broadly from his feet.

(31) On the sole of each of a Buddha’s feet and on the palm of each hand is the impression of a thousand-spoked wheel.

(32) The soles of a Buddha’s feet are as smooth and level as the breast of a tortoise’s shell, so that his feet are always firmly planted.

Exemplary Features

(69) When a Buddha walks, the bump on his ankle disappears because it is so small.

(70) The soles of a Buddha’s feet are flat, rather than uneven.

(71) A Buddha’s feet are equal in size, as are the steps he takes.

Signs and Features Regarding the Qualities of a Buddha’s Gait:

Exemplary Features

(72) A Buddha walks like a lion, stately and full of confidence.

(73) A Buddha walks like an elephant, beautifully straight and steady on the path.

(74) A Buddha walks like a majestic bull, without fear.

(75) A Buddha can, if necessary, exercise the extraphysical power of flying like a graceful swan.

(76) A Buddha walks with his right side toward anyone he meets.

(77) When walking, a Buddha neither swaggers nor sways, but rather walks very smoothly without any imbalance.

(78) A Buddha walks very beautifully, looking straight ahead with his hands clasped, taking not-too-large steps.

Signs and Features Regarding the Bearing and Demeanor of a Buddha:

Exemplary Features

(79) A Buddha conducts his body, speech and mind with the utmost purity.

(80) All of a Buddha’s manifestations of actions are entirely beautiful and pleasing to the minds of others.