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Rediscovering the BuddhaLegends of the Buddha and Their Interpretation$
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Hans H Penner

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195385823

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195385823.001.1

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The Great Agent

The Great Agent

Universal Monarchs and Buddhas

(p.177) 20 The Great Agent
Rediscovering the Buddha

Hans H. Penner

Oxford University Press

This chapter restores a very important mythical figure to his rightful place alongside the legends of the Buddha. They are both called “Great Agents,” great conquerors and renouncers. They both have the thirty-two marks of a “Great Agent.” They come together in a unique appearance as Sandha and Metteyya at the end of our age. Emphasis on literal meaning prevents us from making the mistake of translating the meaning of Universal Monarchs and other Great Agents as symbolic representations of “real” kings and persons. As Davidson put it,“nothing, no thing, makes sentences and theories true [i.e., meaningful].” A comparison of the Great Agents demonstrates that it is the oppositions that reveal the differences between them. The one, a renouncer, the other a conqueror, both share an ascetic liminality. The chapter closes with the suggestion that the Bodhisattva, another great mythical figure of Mahayana Buddhism, may bring about a unity or synthesis of the two figures.

Keywords:   thirty-two marks, Bodhisattva, conqueror, renouncer, Davidson, Great Agent, language, Metteyya, Sandha, sentence meaning

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