One of the Buddha's ten epithets. Tathāgata is a Pali and Sanskrit word; Gautama Buddha uses it when referring to himself in the Pāli Canon. The term is often thought to mean either "one who has thus gone" (tathā-gata) or "one who has thus come" (tathā-āgata). This is interpreted as signifying that the Tathāgata is beyond all coming and going – beyond all transitory phenomena. There are, however, other interpretations and the precise original meaning of the word is not certain.
The Buddha is quoted on numerous occasions in the Pali Canon as referring to himself as the Tathāgata instead of using the pronouns me, I or myself. This may be meant to emphasize by implication that the teaching is uttered by one who has transcended the human condition, one beyond the otherwise endless cycle of rebirth and death, i.e. beyond dukkha.
The term also occurs as a synonym for arhat, identifying one who has attained the ultimate in the holy life. There is even a sense in which such a one is no longer human. "a tathāgata, a superior state of being (uttama-puriso)".
In the new religious movement of Falun Gong; the Tathāgata of a realm is the highest level enlightened being that can still manifest on earth to interact with human beings in order to save them. Founder Li Hongzhi claimed that both Jesus and Laozi were Tathāgatas.