Buddha Body

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Buddha Body (sangs rgyas sku)

  • One of the five fruitional aspects of a buddha. The term "buddha-body" (kāya; Tib. sku) refers not only to the physical body of a buddha, but also to the varying 'dimensions' in which the embodiment of fully enlightened attributes is present. As such, the buddha-body can be categorised in different ways, corrsponding to the different levels of the teaching. For example, sūtras of the Lesser Vehicle (Hīnayāna) speak of the buddha-body of reality (dharmakāya) and the buddha-body of form (rūpakāya), while sūtras of the Greater Vehicle (Mahāyāna) generally mention three buddha-bodies (trikāya), dividing the latter into the buddha-body of perfect resource (sambhogakāya) and the buddha-body of emanation (nirmāṇakāya). In the sūtras and treatises expounding buddha-nature (tathāgatagarbha), such as Maitreya's Supreme Continuum of the Greater Vehicle (Mahayanottaratantrasastra), an enumeration of four buddha-bodies (catuhkāya) is mentioned. Here, the budddha-body of essentiality (svabhāvikakāya) is added to the aforementioned three buddha-bodies, to indicate either an active/ passive distinction in the buddha-body of reality, or the underlying indivisible essence of the three buddha-bodies. In the tantras of the RNying-ma school, there is an eumneration of five buddha-bodies (pañcakāya) where the buddha-body of awakening (abhisambodhikāya; Tib. mngon byang gi sku) refers to the apparitional functions of the three buddha-bodies, and the buddha-body of indestructible reality (vajrakāya; Tib. rdo rje'i sku) refers to their indivisible essence. Finally, in Atiyoga, when the buddha-bodies are actualised, the buddha-body of reality is known as the youthful vase body (gzhon nu'i 'bum pa'i sku) and the buddha-body of form is known as the body of great transformation ('pho ba chen po'i sku). GD (from the Glossary to Tibetan Elemental Divination Paintings)