Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Concept of Three Bodies (Tikaya)


The Theravadins think that the subject of the Buddha is unthinkable. According to åcinteyyasutta of AN, there are four subject that are unthinkable. They are

1.  Buddhavisaya = Subject of the Buddha
2.  Kammavisaya = Subject of the body
3.   Lokavisaya = Subject of the world
4.  Cittavisaya = Subject of the mind

Mahayanists on the other hand tried to explain the detail of the Buddha as a result this concept of TikAya came into existence.

According to Mahayana concept, there are three bodies of the Buddha.

1.  ∂hammakAya = body of doctrine
2.  ßambhogakAya = body of experience of Buddha nature
3.  ñirmAnakAya = created body

Although this is a later Mahayana concept we see some ideas of the same line in the Pāli canon also. In the åggaJJasutta of DN, there are similar three words as synonyms to the Buddha but they are the same what Mahayanist means accordingly. They are

1.  ∂hammakAya = body of doctrine
2.  BrahmakAya = body of nobility
3.  KarajakAya = physical body

There were given (presented) in spiritual sense although later they could have given birth to similar concepts related to Buddha’s whole existence.

Dhammakāya : The reality of NibbAna exceeds all other truths, it is beyond the conventional truth. This state which is the truth in ultimate sense is called ∂hammakAya. This is the main body of the Buddha, it is also is the knowledge of enlightenment. It means the truth which the fully enlightenment covered for his fully enlightenment is called dhammakAya. ∂hammakAya is devoid of all forms of illusions. This kAya is common to all the Buddhas not like ßambhogakAya and ñirmAnakAya, the ∂hammakAya exists at last therefore it’s natural. It is the time obstructs free spiritual reality. Sarvapali Radhakrisnan says ∂hammakAya is similar to Brahman in üpaniSad, the Buddha’s real nature is known from this ∂hammakAya.

Sambhogakāya : This form is not found in Pali sources. It is the creation of Buddha’s body out of ∂hammakAya. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas appear in this form. It is a body enjoying rapture. To acknowledge the world about ∂hammakAya and ßambhogakAya is essential. So it is a real body but temporarily existing. All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that appeared in this eon (kappa) lived in the form of ßambhogakAya in order to help others to attain ñibbAna. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas appear to each other with ßambhogakAya. In another word it means that the Buddha enjoys bliss of truth taking this form.

NirmānakāyañirmAnakAya means the appearance of ßambhogakAya in this world in human form and name Sakyamuni Gautama Buddha or the historical Buddha is ñirmAnakAya. The Buddhas who appear in ßambhoga form in heavens and pure land etc appear in human world as human beings taking nirmanakAya. Human beings see the ñirmAnakAya not the other two. According to µahAyana definition the Buddha really doesn’t need food, drink, sleep, rest etc.  In spite of the Buddha does not feel hunger, thirsty, tired etc. but the Buddha does human deeds to appear similar to human. 

According to Mahayanist concept the Buddha Amitabha represents ∂hammakAya, the Buddha Amitayus represents ßambhogakAya and Buddha Sakyamuni represents ñirmAnakAya.

This theory for the first time was presented by µahAsAGgika LokottaravAdin School. According to them the Buddha is supra-mundane and has no a human body. He bears a physical body purposely to promote the will of people to ñibbAna. Herein we would observe a passage as recorded in theravadin Buddhist literature. This shows that the Buddha was such supramundane being who could travel every wherever he wishes to. In fact the Buddha did it not with purpose of showing his capacity to the others but with idea of helping those in whatever way can do.

åbhijAnAmi kho punAhaM Ānanda aneka sAtaM khattiya parisaM brAhmana parisaM  . . . gahapati parisaM . . . samaNA parisaM . . . cAtummahArajika parisaM. . . tAvatiMsa parisaM. . . mAra parisaM . . . brahmA parisaM upasaGkamitA. tatrApi mayA sannisinna pubbaJceva, sallapitapubbaJca. sAkacchA ca samAjInapubbA, tattha yAdisako tesaM vaNNo hoti, tAdisako mayhaM vaNNo hoti. yAdisako tesaM saro hoti, tAdisako mayhaM saro hoti. dhammiyA ca khathAya sandassemi, samAdapemi, samuttejemi sampahansemi. bhAsamAnaJca maM na jAnAti kho nu kho ayaM bhAsati devo vAti manusso vAti sandassetvA . . . antaradhAyAmi. antarahitaJAca maM na jAnAti kho nu kho ayaM antarahito devo vA manusso vAti.
                                                                                             (mahAparinibbAnasutta, DN)
=O Ānanda! I know that I approached to many hundreds of Brahmins . . . Khattiya . . . householders . . . ascetics . . . four great kings . . . thirty Gods . . . Mara the evil one . . . Brahma communities. Even there I uses to sit, speak and conduct discourses, my color was as their color, my voice was as their, I make them understand, make them know, make them feel and make them follow with righteous speech. When I speak they don’t know who is this speaking, whether God or man. Having made them understood I disappear, when I disappear also they don’t know who disappeared whether man or God.”

These kinds of quotations show that the Buddha used to have contact with beings of other world. When He was with them He could communicate and make them understand. Such records must have led Buddhist Schools to understand the Buddha in super normal term, so they developed such views further establishing the Buddha as a being completely away from the nature of normal human beings.

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