Gautama was a philosopher who considered the Way of ultimate or Transcendental Realization in the terms of “phenomenal realism.” He is not rightly called a “Buddha” because of this philosophy. He is rightly called a Buddha because he Realized the Samadhi of Awakening to the Nirvanic or Transcendental Condition.
“Buddhism” is not inherently associated with the philosophy of “phenomenal realism.” It only tends to be considered in those terms because of the original association of traditional Buddhism with Gautama’s philosophical consideration of the Way. Actually, much of historical Buddhism involves considerations of the Way in other terms than those of “phenomenal realism”—such as those of metaphysical and subjective “idealism.”
Truly, “Buddhism” is a term that may rightly be applied to any sixth to seventh stage Transcendentalist philosophy or Way of Transcendental Realization, just as the term “Buddha” may rightly be applied to any Adept who has entered into the Realization or Samadhi that characterizes the seventh or fully Awakened stage of life.
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