In Mahayana Buddhism there is a teaching common to all schools called the Trikaya. Tri means three. Kaya means body. So the Three Treasures, in which Buddhist’s take refuge, have these three bodies or manifestations.

Master Keizan wrote: “In the Three Treasures, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, there are three merits. The first is the true source of the three treasures. The second is the presence in the past of Shakyamuni Buddha and the third is the presence at the present time.”

Dharmakaya
The first is the true source, which is the Dharmakaya, the Tao, the Unborn, that which is not impermanent, endlessly functioning, ceaselessly giving rise to pure inspiration. This is Dharma in its absolute mode, without beginning and without end. It is the fundamental truth of the universe and all possible universes. It is true, was true and will be true whether anybody knows it or not. Still it needs expression. It invites us but is not coercive. It is an open field within which all wonders appear. Those with few desires sense it and feel its wonder. Those with many desires see the surface of things, but even for them the Dharmakaya is mysteriously working.

Nirmanakaya
The second is the appearance of Buddha in the world, the nirmanakaya, concrete physical manifestation in the material world of the sage who teaches the Dharma to all who have but little dust in their eyes and who is compassionate indiscriminately to all beings. A Buddha appearing in the world is born at a certain time, enlightened at a certain time, teaches in particular places and times, and dies when the time comes. This kaya is a historical event. Such a happening, however, is shot through with Dharmakaya. The Buddha does not live for self. He is a mortal body but inflated by the spirit of all the Buddhas of all times. In the Larger Pureland Sutra, Ananda asks Shakyamuni how it is that he looks so radiant and asks if it is a sign that Shakyamuni has been communing with all the other Buddhas of past, present and future, and Shakyamuni affirms that this is so. Buddha is a mortal, but an extraordinary one. What had he got that others lack? The inspiration of the true source and communion with all those who manifest that source no matter where or when.

Sambhogakaya
The third is the appearance at the present time. This is the sambhogakaya, the spiritual manifestation of the Three Jewels in manifold forms, visions, dreams, and signs. This is what has been put into the world by the appearance of a Buddha in the past. Buddha does not die when Buddha’s body dies. Thus, where Dharmakaya is without beginning or end and nirmanakaya has a beginning and end, sambhogakaya has a beginning but no end. Once the Dharma is in the world it is forever, appearing in innumerable ways. Sambhogakaya is the bridge between the Dharmakaya and the foolish being. It is Shakyamuni still with us. It is Amida Buddha’s all acceptance. It is the solace of Quan Shi Yin and Samantabhadra, the wisdom of Manjushri and the saving power of Kshitigharba. Sambhoga means enjoyment. This is how we ordinary beings of the present enjoy the spiritual life. The nirmanakaya died long ago and the Dharmakaya is only directly perceptible to the enlightened. It is through the sambhogakaya that Buddhist religious consciousness is made manifest. The central figure on the main altar of most Buddhist temples in the orient is some representation of the sambhogkaya.

The Religious Consciousness of Buddhists
This, therefore, is the religious vision of Mahayana Buddhism. This vision, in one way or another, is what the devotee keeps in mind and is open to. This is mindfulness or religious consciousness. It keeps the practitioner open in such a way that the Tao can function and form her or him. Sometimes the devotee is conscious of what is happening and sometimes not, but once they have entered the path much happens, both wittingly and unwittingly.

Practice is Encounter
Delusion and enlightenment are qualities of encounter. The ten thousand things enlighten us. When we encounter one another, delusion and enlightenment are both present and absent. When we encounter the Buddhas similarly. Faith (shraddha - literally “heartedness”) is what enables a person to stay in this flow of encounters, in which delusion and light alternate and through which Dharma enters the world. Thus how we encounter others is our practice. Yet in every encounter we are stirred up. Samudaya overwhelms us. How can we turn such passion into the path? When religious consciousness is already established, we are meeting the sambhogakaya every moment.

The Key to Practice
How then is it to be established? One needs a key. Each school of spirituality provides keys of various kinds. For Pureland Buddhists the key is nembutsu. The nembutsu is to call on Amida Buddha, who is the embodiment of the sambhogakaya. Namo Amida Bu!

Good things happen - Namo Amida Bu! Bad things happen - Namo Amida Bu. Meeting a friend - Namo Amida Bu. Encountering an enemy - Namo Amida Bu. Seeing a stranger - Namo Amida Bu.

In the nembutsu are the three bodies of Buddha, the three bodies of Dharma, the three bodies of Sangha. Therefore, in the nembutsu is all merit. Thus, in all encounters is all merit.

Although we talk of the effectiveness of this or that method, the great masters were enlightened in moments of encounter. When any aspect of the Trikaya is present in our encounter with another, then the Dharma Light is present. Keep turning the key and the sambhogakaya will take up residence in your heart. Then all will happen naturally. Namo Amida Bu.

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Replies to This Discussion

Thank-you Dharmavidya! That's so beautifully clear and inspiring. Is it o.k. if I use this as a Dharma talk in my Jodo Shin Shu Sangha, Friends on the Path?What is the definition of Samudaya?

Namo Amida Bu, Steve

So long as they are referenced back to here it is OK to use any of the Daily teachings.

Samudaya, or more correctly Dukkha-samudaya, is the second of the Four Truths. The conventional idea is that samudaya is craving that causes dukkha. I think this is right but only half the picture. Dukkha-samudaya means what comes up with dukkha (sam=with ud=up -aya=come). So putting these two together. the ordinary person goes round in circles. What comes up with dukkha is a surge of energy and feeling that leads the person to do things that give rise to more dukkha. I think that the four truths are saying that there is an alternative, which is that if samudaya is followed by nirodha, then instead of leading to more dukkha it leads to marga. Marga is the eightfold path. The conventional idea is that marga abolished samudaya. I think this is wrong. The correct translation of the term normally rendered Four Nobel Truths is actually Four truths for nobel Ones. Becoming a noble one (i.e. enlightened) does not mean that you cease to feel anything when dukkha happens. It means that you respond to those feelings in a different way. The mistake of much popular psychology is the idea that the way ot control life is to control feelings. But feelings happen. Change your outlook and different actions follow. With a different outlook and different behaviour feelings will change as a consequence. Feelings are related to outlook and behaviour but the popular idea has the cart before the horse. So samudaya means the energy/feelings that arise in the wake of dukkha and that are liable to lead a person into creating more of the same, hence samsara.

Thank-you Dharmavidya. I will certainly reference back to you.Hopefully, some of my Sangha brothers and sisters will visit this site. Namo Amida Bu, Steve
D

It calls again my attention the strong parallelism between Buddhism and Christianism. These three bodies, Trikaya Buddhism seem to be, apparently, what it is called The Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The father as God or the Whole, the Son as the incarnation as a human being in the form of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as the bridge between humanity and the divine.

Again, the Cross as a form of Nembutsu: the cross itself as a symbol of human suffering and the man on it as an expression of helplessness. The man calling for help and feeling himself abandoned showing his bombu nature, but when that man surrenders to God the cross becomes the Cross, I mean, the sacred is revealed.

I suppose this is quite clear,but discovering all this is quite new for me. Thank you!

Namo amida Bu

Yes, it is nice when a whole lot of things come together. People might ask why the teachings on this site come from many different traditons, but it seems to me that whether what is written about is Taoism, Christianity, various forms of Buddhism or even the plays of Shakespeare, one finds there the important matter of how to live a deep and real life full of true spirit.

About this, I may say that, at least in my case, it frees me from many narrow ways of considering different traditions and paths that I used to see as completely or very much separated. I notice that it increases my interest in approaching and knowing other valuable experiences that also contribute to enrich my own path.

On the other hand this fact is also giving me a way of living  Buddhism much more flexible, open-minded, which increases my admiration, respect and esteem day by day. And I am really grateful for it.

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