“Buddha” was initially more of a non-image like the Upanishad’s Brahman or Chinese Tao referencing a totality that cannot be represented well by an image. The stupa, a deer, a footprint with a circle representing the wheel of dharma were some early imagery related to “buddhaology.”
“Buddha” describes a self-nature that is akin to a world soul rather than to an individual, with the totality being expressed in every facet of the immanent world. This buddha is the authentic self-nature, and the direct experience of buddha counters a sense of birth and death and specialness. In his lifetime, Siddhartha may have been acknowledged as a venerated teacher rather than as the Buddha.
However, human nature tends to create a derivative, culturally-comfortable “assurance” of a sustaining self-as-ego after death. Along with a transcultural emphasis on ancestors, pre-Buddhist concepts such as karma and rebirth and special birth and death characteristics of unique selfs termed “Buddhas” with supreme enlightenment. The ego might mollify into an insect, person, god, hungry ghost and so forth before, and rarely, transcending this “wheel” into a nirvana where there still may be an egoic quality.
With the written Buddhist record beginning long after Siddhartha, It is impossible to say what Siddhartha really said or believed. Even in the later centuries when writing was established, the “records” of, for example, 7th Century adepts are not really records of fact but recounts penned later by adherents. Buddhism had also splayed out into various sects in various cultures, with their own interpretations as to authentic Buddhism. And the history of each Buddhist sect is, in fact, a record of a roller-coaster of degeneration and reform, subject to periods of cultural support/influence and outright attack and gaps in lineage.
The Zen sect of Buddhism is astonishingly text-rich, even though the experience that forms the primary point of Zen is clean, deconceptual, and cannot be taught. This text-rich information is primarily about what this Zen experience is NOT. This Zen experience references a universal dimension of human experience that has worn many names. it precedes Buddhism and is an experience of authentic self-nature. Siddhartha is idealized as an ultimate example of experiencing and then living human experience from this experience. The task appears difficult and yet it unhidden and “speaking” everywhere. It diminishes a deep suffering that we often do not recognize by liberating selfness from a sense of separation. While everything is empty of self,
(no Bodhi tree
nothing to polish
no where for dust to finally, solidly, alight)
authentic nature or true home is a rich fullness. As Tachu notes what you see, hear, and experience is yourself.
everything is inseparable
When we turn to human life, we tend to find a boundary a the skin, and more, we imagine a separable eternal essence that (in Buddhism) might be imagined to pass through physical animal, and psychic god and/or hungry ghost forms, to finally attain nirvana, and yet, perhaps imagining becoming a free entity on a spiritual mount. However, with such a turn, we remain bound.
When we turn to a flower or a cloud or a mountain, we do not see the need to polish these events. And further, the being-ness of each of these events is boundless. A spring flower is in the evolution of a star and appears with the tilt of the Earth into the sun and melds light into mass, so that eh flower is a radiant event perhaps akin to a wave in the ocean with the Oceanus in the wave and in the flower.