Normally when we refer to the Buddha we tend to have the idea of the Buddha statue and that statue refers to one person, who attained enlightenment 2600 years ago and spread the teachings, which now became known as Buddhism. What does “Buddha” actually means? The term “Buddha”can be referred to two things; a person and the state. So let’s understand Buddha as the state first, the term Buddha literally translates as to know, to awake, to enlighten or to realize, which is a state of the person after reaching enlightenment. 2600 years ago, there were lots of practitioners who had been looking for spiritual attainment, they were many yogis, atheist, many types of monks, practice different kinds of methods in different places, all of them aim to reach one thing and that is “the truth” or “the answer to life”. When we are born, we don’t have any knowledge on why we are here, where we come from, where we’re going, our purpose, what we have to do, what is right and what is wrong, whatever we know, we learn later, but it might not be the absolute truth. So all these practitioners aim to reach one simple thing, “the absolute truth”. That absolute truth is known as the dharma or dhamma. Basically everybody is looking for the dhamma or the truth.
Buddha was another person during that time trying to reach enlightenment, Buddha means to enlighten, enlighten that dhamma, that absolute truth and later he taught what he discovered to the others. That’s who actually became known as the Buddha as a person. So since we know that the word Buddha refers to terms enlighten: to know, to awake, to realize. Why do we call the Buddha enlightened one? Or the awakened one? Because the literal translation of the term Buddha, when he realized that truth, he woke up from the state of ignorance. He knows what he needs to do in life, he realized that, so he became an awaken one. Everybody can be in that state but least to reach that state of enlightenment or to be a Buddha, there are three different types of Buddha.
First type is called Samma Sambuddha, the person who reached the state of enlightenment on their own and teaches others. The second one is called Pajeka Buddha, is the silent Buddha, which refers to the person who reaches the state of enlightenment on their own but does not teach others. The reason they do not teach is because in order for someone to become a Buddha, it takes many lifetime cultivation of practices until a person accumulates enough perfection to become Buddha but to be a Buddha who can teach requires a longer period of time to craft that teaching skills so that a person can disseminate the teaching and help others. So there are numbers of people who realize that they have reached a state where they can enlighten on their own but if they teach others it will take more time so decide to end their task and pass it to complete nirvana.
The third one is called Anu Buddha, the person who is enlightened after receiving the teachings from others whether from other enlightened beings or enlightened person or the Buddha himself and reaching the state of enlightenment afterward, we call it Anu Buddha or the Arahang. So these are the 3 types of Buddha state that a person can reach and basically anyone, anyone can reach it.
Normally when we hear the word Buddha, it comes with another term called Bodhisattva. “Bodhi” means enlightened and “Sattva” means being, together it means being that is in search of or looking for the state of enlightenment. Basically it can be anyone, who is still trying to find a way, who is still trying to practice in order to reach the state of enlightenment. It takes lifetime after lifetime to continue those practices until one day Bodhisattva transforms into the Buddha that is what the process is all about. Who can be Bodhisattva? Eventually anybody can be, a Buddha as well because we live in this cycle of existence, the cycle of rebirth. It brings endless pain, endless suffering, endless sadness. When we are born we get sick, get old, we die, we born again, we grow old and we die and then we come back again and repeat the process again and again so in order to end this vicious cycle of suffering is to end this course, to end rebirth or to resolve the state of rebirth and get out of the cycle of existence, so that’s how we can reach the state of enlightenment to get out of this place. Everyone will finally reach that state, the state of passing into Nirvana and that’s why everybody can be a Buddha at one point.