Is it The Buddha or Buddha?

I cannot say I am a great fan of Western comics (excluding comic strips) and the medium. But one that truly had struck me as a piece of fine literature was Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (BDKR).

Different to previous Batman comics he is referred constantly to as “The Batman” throughout the story. While you may think this is a trivial matter I think it is important. Otherwise the author would not have made such an effort to be consistent. After all, that is what makes literature literature.

The point of the subtle name change is that it is to signify that this Batman is different to previous versions of the character. And indeed he is. He is an older (until BDKR the various versions of Batman had not aged), wiser, less tacky and more violent. So there is (good) justification on literary grounds for the name change.

In Buddhism (at least in English) there is a similar problem facing the believer – is it The Buddha or just Buddha? More common is the former use because the word ‘buddha’ means ‘enlightened one’. As a name, then, Buddha with a capital ‘B’ must mean ‘Enlightened One’. As the “founder” of Buddhism then it is important to distinguish him from other enlightened beings. But in English to call him ‘Enlightened One’ without the ‘The’ sounds strange as he is unique in the context of the religion. That is why we use the translated version of his name we refer to him as The Enlightened One. And by extension to call him The Buddha is more common and accurate.

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