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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Trikaya

(Trikāya) A Sanskrit compound word formed of tri, “three,” and kaya, “body,” “trunk (of a tree),” “assemblage,” “habitation,” etc. It is used in MAHAYANA BUDDHISM to refer to three bodies of Buddha: Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya. The first refers to the body of the Law (dharma), but has a metaphysical significance of ultimate Reality, the highest state consciousness can attain. It is this body, according to Mahayana Buddhism, that manifests the real Buddha, making him almost godlike. The second refers to the body of enjoyment (sambhoga), presumably both a vehicle in which the historical Buddha experienced the world as well as its more transcendent analogue which experienced the bliss of nirvana. A Bodhisattva is also said to have such transcendental pleasure. The third refers to the transcient, “transformation” (nirmana) body of the historical Buddha. The significance of the trikaya idea was to impart the idea of some sort of permanence, even if transcendental, into the Buddha’s teaching of impermanence (Pali aniccya; Sk. anitya) while retaining the idea of impermanence at the empirical level — that of enjoyment and body change. It also had the effect of identifying the Buddha’s teaching (called dharma in Sanskrit; dhamma in Pali) as coming from the highest level of Reality. In The Voice of the Silence by Helena P. BLAVATSKY, these bodies are termed “vestures.”

 

R.W.B.

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