Former Buddhas

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Former Buddhas. Members of a lineage of Perfectly Awakened Ones (sammāsanbuddhas) who are alleged by tradition to have preceded Gotama, the historical Buddha. Earliest Buddhist texts record the names of six: Vipassi (the earliest), Sikhi, Vessabhu, Kakusandha, Konāgamana, and finally Gotama's immediate predecessor, Kassapa.

In later texts the number of former buddhas becomes gradually multiplied: the Buddhavaṃsa lists twenty-four, the Lalitavistara Sūtra fifty-three, the Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra eighty-one, and the Mahāvastu five hundred. Eventually, in accordance with the expansive cosmology and mythology of the Mahāyāna, their number becomes incalculable. See also DĪPAṂKARA; MAITREYA.