When you go looking in a search engine for the answer to the question, “How many Buddha’s are there?” you are not going to find a definitive answer. In one Buddhist tradition it is said there is only one Buddha per age. I heard, some time ago, that there are as many Buddha’s as there are grains of sand on the seashore. What should be kept in mind and which also answers this question, without giving a specific answer is... everyone has Buddha nature. It’s something that can be developed.
You could take some period of time and wander through the towns and cities, in the manner of Diogenes, searching for an honest man and ask people what the primary goal of their life was. You could have a few questions to determine priorities. You could ask the relevant question according to the land you were in. In the East you could ask about Krishna or Buddha. In the West you could ask about Christ. You could ask about Islam in either. You would ask according to what was prevailing there as a prototype for realization or enlightenment.
In your search, you would want to differentiate between accepted religious beliefs; dogma and cant... and an actual intensity of pursuit. You want to find out how many people are searching for a greater awareness in the moment in which you find them. Go ahead, ask them. If this last point were to be taken as a vital criteria, then... you would find that the number of people you encountered who could be identified as being engaged in awakening their Buddha nature was very, very small. In times of pervasive materialism you would find the number to be smaller still.
You do not have to ask anyone these questions. You can sit in any park on a Sunday; walk along a beach in summer, on any city street on any evening, into bars, nightclubs and theaters and simply watch. You can attune yourself to determining the focus of the people you are observing. You may not penetrate into their deepest thoughts- it is likely they will not either- but you can get a general idea.
Churches are mostly locked up at night in these times but some are open and you could compare the population of a church at night to any of the centers for amusement. Church attendance is often not a sign of spirituality, as much as it is a measure of conformity but an open church, such as we have here in Europe, shows you what kind of traffic there is during the times that services are not being held. You have to consider that the larger portion of those you will find in a church in these times... you have to consider that they are there because of some pressing life problem, as opposed to a driving intensity to know their maker and themselves.
The wild places of nature have always been sanctuaries and havens for those seeking to commune with the ineffable. If you wander in these places you will very seldom find anyone engaged in what I am talking about. Some numbers of people are practicing spiritual inquiry ...and remembrance ...as they go through their day and while moving through the world. You have to assume that this number is also very small. It appears that very, very few people are engaged in seeking to find what authored the process in which they find themselves.
In the comments section at another blog I posted this interesting series of pictures which shows us how infinitesimally small we are. You could take what is shown here and apply it to the universe within. You could apply it to this search I am talking about and you could apply it to the question of how many Buddha’s there are. You could apply it to the question of how many sincere seekers there are in any faith. You could apply it to the population of the marketplace as opposed to the number of cave dwelling yogis which inhabit the Himalayas. You would need to factor in endless time and the absence of time altogether. You would need to factor in the possibilities that there may be living worlds like our own in many places across the universe. There are so many factors that you would get no real answer but... you would get a sense of immensity that exceeded your ability to grasp it.
As you follow the progression of pictures, give careful consideration to what was discovered when the Hubble telescope was focused on what appeared to be empty space for four months.
I am using Buddha’s as an example. You can pick any tradition. You have to probe for what I am trying to say because there is no way to say it. What’s being presented here is not exactly what is being said.
Every Buddha generates out of their being, an entire world, or type of solar system or galaxy that is freely given for any who would seek sanctuary there. Every spiritual being, who has achieved realization, generates a space where the determined soul can enter and where the clamorous sounds of the ravenous world can be muted for the purpose of self-inquiry. The Amitabha Buddha has The Western Pure Land. Traditionally there are six realms in the Buddhist cosmology. Hinduism, Christianity and Islam have comparative circumstances where the same place is differently designed to accommodate the trappings of what the followers of any tradition might expect. It’s what’s known as ‘user friendly’.
There are other planes of existence. Whatever you are thinking and feeling at the moment and whatever occupies your interest is determining your direction. You are actually headed somewhere at this very moment even if you are sitting down. Go back into the marketplace and look at the size of the crowd and observe the desire bodies at work. The interplay of behavior, desire and relative components all serve to create something like an automobile on the highway. Realization and the higher virtues have never been a main consideration of the mass. The mass actually operates in opposition to these things. There are people of seemingly high intelligence who have all the answers and no interest in what lies beyond their areas of concern.
These individuals have already determined the value of everything they do not know based on what they have assumed to be true, based on what they prefer to believe. Many of them will tell you there are no other worlds; there is no divine authority, there is no purpose to life other than what has been scientifically determined and so on and so forth. They are ‘dead’ certain that what exists within their bandwidth is all that there is, even while their own sciences prove otherwise.
Perhaps you are one of those rare souls who actually care about what might lie beyond this fire world. How can you find your way out of this place? You have to head somewhere and you must have a guide. Consider the nature of vibration. Consider the nature of sympathetic vibration and how this might lead you to acquire both direction and guide.
You are climbing a mountain. This requires energy and determination. You must know or believe that what you are seeking lies at some point along your route. This is certitude. Something must carry you through the certain tests that you will encounter. This is faith. If you Google these words you will find that they are tenants of Islam. You will find the same in every legitimate tradition and you will find that the truth realized is hidden in the outer world and revealed in the inner world. Outward are the wars between everything. Inward is the resolution of all conflict. Confusing this leads to the eternal problem.
You can’t take anyone with you but you will find companions on the way. If you are content with what you have here then this will not apply to you. If you are not content then you will have no peace until you seek, because, the very distress you feel is the impetus to the search. One needs to hone their intensity by the hour. This is the primarily important thing. Nothing else is important except for good behavior on the way. Persevere and you will see Buddha’s beyond counting and more, far more than your imagination can presently conceive.
'I Need More Light' is track no. 4 of 11 on Visible's 2001 album 'God in Country'
Lyrics (pops up)