Chinese Character for Buddha: Fó (佛)
Chinese Character for Buddha: Fó (佛)

The Chinese character 佛 (fó) stands for Buddha and is a term phonetically translated from Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language.

佛 is a phono-semantic compound, a type of Chinese character consisting of a sound component and a meaning component.

In 佛, the meaning is provided by 亻 (rén) on the left, which is a variant of the character 人 (rén), referring to humankind, people, or a human being. The sound is contributed by 弗 (fú) on the right.

When the term 佛 was first introduced in China, it was phonetically translated into Chinese as 佛陀 (fó tuó), 浮陀 (fú tuó), 佛圖 (fó tú), or 浮圖 (fú tú), among other variations.

Later, the Chinese people contracted the term Buddha to a single character, 佛 (fó).

Buddha means “an enlightened being,” one who has become enlightened through cultivating (improving) one’s character and attained immense wisdom.

Such a sentient being has a complete understanding of the entire universe, including the mysteries of life, humanity, and every dimension of existence, and is truly able to distinguish good from bad, righteous from evil.

Examples of terms that contain 佛 include 佛意 (fó yì), a compassionate intent; 佛像 (fó xiàng), a Buddhist image or statue; and 佛經 (fó jīng), Buddhist scripture or sutra.

The Buddha School of cultivation practice is called 佛家 (fó jiā), or the family (家, jiā) of Buddha. In the Buddha School, to return to one’s innate goodness, one cultivates the Buddha Fa (佛法, fó fǎ), or simply Fa (法, fǎ), the Truth of the universe.

Buddhism is called 佛教 (fó jiào), literally “Buddha teaching,” where 教 (jiào) means teaching/to teach.

佛性一出, 震動十方世界” (fó xìng yī chū, zhèn dòng shí fāng shì jiè) states that “when one’s Buddha nature (佛性, fó xìng) emerges, it will shake ‘the world of ten directions.’”

The “world of ten directions” refers to the Buddha School’s conception of the universe.

佛光普照, 禮義圓明 (fó guāng pǔ zhào, lǐ yì yuán míng) states that the “Buddha light (佛光, fó guāng) illuminates everywhere and rectifies all abnormalities.”

It explains that the energy emitted from the bodies of those who cultivate the Buddha Fa can rectify all abnormal conditions.

  • Wim Van Aalst

    What is the meaning of fu? (the second character in “fo”)?

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