The Buddha is called the "Tathagata", and this word has several meanings. The commentary to the Cariyapitaka gives different explanations of this word in order to show different aspects of the qualities of the Buddha.
"Tathagata" is explained as "thus come". As soon as the Bodhisatta was born in his last life he went the same way as the previous Buddhas. "Thus come" shows the advent of a Buddha to be. He arrived at his goal through the same course as the Buddhas of the past.
"Tathagata" is also explained as "thus gone". Gone refers to the Bodhisatta’s deportment at birth, when he took seven strides and surveyed the world in all directions, exclaiming that he was the chief, the best and the eldest in the world and that this was his last birth. "Gone" also refers to the movement of his knowledge. This implies the development of his wisdom culminating in final deliverance.
The third explanation of "Tathagata" is: "come to the real characteristic", and this refers to his discovery of the real characteristics of all dhammas.
The next explanation of "Tathagata" is: "awakened to real dhammas". This refers to his realization of the four noble Truths and the Dependent Origination.
The following explanation of "Tathagata" is: "seeer of the real", and this discloses the scope of his knowledge, the analytical precision of it and its all-encompassing range.
The Buddha is called the "Tathagata" because he is the speaker of the real. This refers to the truth of every utterance of the Buddha, from the night of his enlightenment until his parinibbana.
The Buddha is called the "Tathagata" because he practises what he teaches. His conduct is in accordance with his teaching.
The Buddha is called the "Tathagata" in the sense of vanquishing or surpassing. He is unequalled as to virtue and wisdom. He is unique, incomparable.

Topic 253