Monday, June 20, 2016

A Study of Dhammakaya in Mahayana Buddhism


 According Mahayana Buddhist tradition, the Buddha has three bodies or three aspects of personality, they are; Dhammakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya. If we study Early Buddhism, we cannot find the theory of three bodies or trikaya but we can find Dhammakaya and Rupakaya concept in the early Buddhism, we cannot find sambhogakaya or the body of reward or enjoyment. The three body doctrine indicates that all Buddha were described and combined in three ways. The Buddha appeared in human world in order to give Dhamma which is for the benefit all suffering beings and the teaching guided human beings how to eradicate suffering. By trying to understand the three body of the Buddha, one can realize and perceive the true nature of all Buddha. And in the early Buddhist teaching that we can notice about only two Kaya that the Buddha possessed: 1. Dhammakaya which can be explained as the Buddha had human identity with all types of human weakness such as physical sickness and face with all kinds of challenges. 2 the second one is considered as rupakaya superhuman which possessed of thirty-two marks of a great man and six kinds of supernormal knowledge. In this essay paper, I am going to discuss only one body which is Dhammakaya out of three and I will also describe the characteristic of Dhammakaya according to Mahayana Buddhism.

The Dhamma is that which was realized by the Buddha and taught to his followers; conversely, the Buddha is he who has realized the Dhamma, who has become one with the Dhamma,, the “one who has the dhamma for his body” Dhammakaya. [1]
The term of Dhammakaya can be found in the early Buddhist text and The Body of Dhamma or true body of a Buddha, which is the essence of the Buddha a fundamental truth that the Buddha has enlightened.  And it is basically spiritually fully enlightened being. We can simply understand that Dhammakaya is formless body which is something that is always present. In the nikaya, it is said that the one who sees dhammakaya also sees the Buddha. And Sarvastivadins sometime described that there are eighty thousands dhammakayas which consists of three divisions: morality, concentration, and wisdom and those eighty thousands of dhammakayas are also mentioned in sutras consisting of five divisions: sila, Samadhi, prajna, vimukti and vimukti-jnana-darsana. 
The concept of the Dhammakaya has been fully developed and reinterpreted in the Mahayana sutras and sastras in two aspects: (1) philosophical and (2) salvific.[2]
The first aspect or philosophical aspect has been more develops with two new concepts by Mahayanists. The two new concepts are: the tathagatagarbha and the buddhadhatu. According to Mahavaipulyarathagatagarbhasutra, every sentient beings has potential to be Buddha or Buddha-nature, the true body of dhammakaya has existed in all sentient beings but when the defilement influenced over sentient beings, so the people cannot see the things as they really are. And the second aspect or the salvific aspect of the Dhammakaya has also been developed in th ePrajnaparamitasutras. And the Pancavimsatisahasrika affirmed that before the Buddha teach Dhamma to the followers, he radiate the light from his body. However, salvific aspect in some Mahayana text is extended, “the Buddha is the dhammakaya, which is eternal and can deliver suffering sentient beings by its numerous manifestations”.[3]  There was a description in the Avatamsaka that all sentient beings can liberate by hearing doctrine and seeing dhammakaya. In th e Samyukatagama, the minister of Asoka questions about his immense supporting in order to spread of Buddhist teaching that King Asoka explained his lavish supporting to build stupas as well as to preserve and transmit of original teaching of Dhamma.
Asked by ministers why those offerings surpass all others, he says “the Body of Tathagata is the body of Dhamma(s), pure in nature. He (Ananda) was able to retain it, them, all; for this reason, the offering (him) surpass (all others).[4]
The most important thing is that Dhamma which compose the true identification of the Buddhas, not just only the body.
 The true body consists of the eighteen exclusive attributes, the ten powers, the four kinds of intrepidity, the three foundations of mindfulness and great compassion. All of these qualities are the mental strength of the Buddha. There is confusing case concerning the list of eighteen exclusive dharmas which is complicated between Sarvastivada and Mahayana tradition. Mahayana list concerning eighteen exclusive dharmas is different from Sarvastivada. 

The ten powers
    The ten powers can be found in the Majjhimanikaya, No.12. Mahasihanada suttas. Ten wisdom powers are featured to the Buddha. The ten powers are:
  1. The Buddha possessed the power to know possible or impossible conditions and the Buddha knows all factors, what is right and wrong, and cause and conditions. 
  2. The Buddha has power to know consequence of every action, and the power to know all kinds actions of the past, present and future.
  3. Wisdom power of liberations, meditation, concentration and attainment and also the Buddha has power to know all those supporting factors to the path of liberation.
  4. The Buddha truly knows the moral faculties of all beings which is lower or higher faculties of all sentient beings.
  5. The Buddha truly knows the purity and inclination of all sentient beings and also knows the different aspirations of other living beings and individuals.
  6. The Buddha knows the actual condition of every individual and also know the acquired dispositions of all beings.
  7. The Buddha knows which path leads to which destination or path that leads to different destinies.
  8. The Buddha possessed the power that he could recollect all his former existences as well as other being’s previous existences.
  9. The Buddha sees with his divine eyes the death-place and rebirth of all beings.
  10. The Buddha has the wisdom power of destruction of impure influence.

The Buddha possessed of those ten powers of wisdom that indicated the Buddha is fully awakened, and who obtains leadership. There is clear declaration that only the Buddha possesses these qualities. It is impossible for ordinary people even Arahant to have those qualities. All of those ten powers are mental strength of the Buddha and all mental power of the Buddha is wisdom, this is why, those ten powers is described as great wisdom. 

The Four Kinds of Intrepidity
The four kinds of intrepidity also have wisdom as their essence because the first intrepidity corresponds to the first power, the second to the tenth power, the third to the second power, and the fourth to the seventh power.[5]
The ten wisdom and the four kinds of intrepidity have their own essence and we can compare these two that the first intrepidity is similar to the fire power which mentioned the Buddha has attained fully enlightenment, so that the Buddha knows possible and impossible condition with his power. And the second intrepidity is similar to the tenth power which described that the Buddha has destroyed all defilements. The third intrepidity is alike to the second power which explained the people the elements which disturb for the realization of true Dharma. And the fourth intrepidity is the same to the seventh power which expressed the method of liberation or the Buddha knows the paths that leads different destines.
The three foundations of mindfulness
  1. When his disciples listen, accept and practice his teaching unanimously and respectfully, the tathagata experiences neither joy or satisfaction, but remains in different, in full mindfulness and awareness.
  2. When his disciples do not respect, do not hear, do not accept and do not practice his teaching unanimously, the tathagata does not experience displeasure or impatience, but remains indifferent, in full mindfulness and awareness.
  3. When some of his disciples hear, accept and practice his teaching respectfully, while others do not hear, do not accept and do not practice his teaching. The Buddha does not experience joy or displeasure but remains indifferent, in full mindfulness and awareness.[6]
The three foundation of mindfulness indicate that The Buddha does not expose the emotion but indifferent whether disciples agree or disagree of his teaching because he has achieved the practice of emptiness and eliminated all defilements. And the Buddha always has full mindfulness and awareness. These three foundations of mindfulness also similar to the first of ten power which described as the Buddha knows truly what is right and wrong as well as cause and condition.

The great Compassion
    The great compassion is one of the most important qualities of the Buddha, and it is the root of Bodhicitta which is the path to achieve enlightenment. The great compassion is one of the sixth perfections which the Bodhisattava practice in order to become fully enlightened one to benefit of the world and all sentient beings with his great teaching.
The Buddha is described as one who is fully accomplished in both wisdom and compassion.[7] The compassion of the Buddha is different from ordinary people’s compassion. There are some reasons behind why it is called great compassion. According to Leo M. Pruden’s English Translation of the Abhidharmakasabhasya, there are eight ways in distinction between great compassion and ordinary compassion. Some of them are that ordinary compassion has not hatred, thus great compassion is absence ignorance. Ordinary compassion takes the form of ordinary suffering, but great compassion takes the form of a threefold suffering. Ordinary compassion is kind of partial compassion which has compassion for those who are suffering, but great compassion is turned towards all beings equally. 

The development of Dhammakaya concept in Mahayana Buddhism
    The notion of Dhammakaya in Mahayana Buddhism has been developed from the early Mahayana Buddhist schools. New ideas and terms have been added concerning the theory of Dhammakaya such as ththata, tathagatagarbha and buddhadhatu. And the concept of dhammakaya was altered in various ways in Mahayana sutras. According to the text, this real nature (ththata) is in everything including Ththagata and remains one and the same without change at all times.[8]  It does not matter the Buddha exist in this world or not, the nature of all things exist naturally. And the nature of all things in Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita (Asta) described as emptiness. Bodhisattava become fully enlightened one because he truly realized the nature of all things and dependent co-arising as emptiness. Thus everything is empty. The Asta explains that even the Buddha is empty, comes from nowhere and goes nowhere because all dhammas are empty.[9] So we can note that if we realize the true nature of dhamma, there is nothing exists, everything is emptiness. This is why Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita (Asta) affirmed that all Dharmas are characterized by emptiness which does not have creator, origin, and birth.
Avatamsaka states that all sentient being can get the benefits of dhammakaya without any discrimination, even unbelievers of the Buddha can benefit of dhammakaya, just light sunlight all living beings can benefit of sunlight without discrimination. The sutra states:
Although blind people do not see the sunlight of the wisdom of the Tathagata, yet they benefit by it.[10]
All sentient beings can benefit the light of wisdom that the Buddha possesses if they come and acquire the light of true dhamma of the Buddha. if you see the light of true dhamma of the Buddha will benefit the pure dhamma, the light of true wisdom will even eliminate the suffering, and give happiness, and finally attain enlightenment. 

The notion of Dhammakaya in Mahaparinirvanasutra
The Dhammakaya is eternity, happiness, self, and purity.[11]
Mahaparinirvanasutra in Mahayana Buddhism affirmed the eternity of the Buddha in two ways, they are: the Buddha is dhammakaya which described in five Mahayana sutras that all Buddhas bodies are only one Dhammakaya. And the second one is the concept of nirvana which explains the distinction between nirvana attained by sravakas and pratyekabuddha. And Mahaparinirvanasutra in Mahayana version own four attributes which are: eternity, happiness, self, and purity.
Non-duality of Dhammakaya    
Tathata, the real nature of all dharmas, is neither existent nor non-existent.[12]
Dhammakaya is the reality of the universe which is completely free from duality. It is said in Avatamsaka that the Body of dhamma is neither reality nor illusion. It is not past because Dhammakaya eliminated all kinds of worldly existences, it is also not future because Dhammakaya will not be arising again. This is why Dhammakaya is non-dual and it is pure and equal. Lankavatarasutra explained dhammakaya as buddhadhatu and discussed that the body of dhamma cannot be described or expressed in words. For instance, cause and effect, or created and uncreated, the cause is that it is non- dual. 

    All sentient being possesses Buddha-nature or everyone has potential to be Buddha. Bodhisattava practice six perfections till he attained fully enlightenment. The Buddha possessed three bodies; Buddha as the embodiment of enlightenment with wisdom, compassion, and perfect freedom. And the body of dhammakaya is, in fact, one of them. As we have studied the notion of dhammakaya, the concept of dhammakaya has fully developed in many Mahayana sutras which were in two aspects; philosophical and salvific. The first one is that dhammakaya is described as true nature of all things or suchness and non-dual. At the stage of Buddhahood, it is called Dhammakaya and at the stage of sentient beings, it is called buddhadhatu. The second one indicated the Buddha has salvific power to liberate all sentient beings. He could help to all sentient being for the liberation of all sufferings by guiding true dhamma. And Avatamsaka described that by seeing of dhammakaya, all sentient beings can liberate, all sentient beings can attain enlightenment, and all beings can become Dhammakaya.

Guang Xing, 2005. The Concept of the Buddha: Its evolution from early Buddhism to the trikaya theory. RoutledgeCurzon Critical Stuies in Buddhism. London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon.
Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, 2000. Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism. New Delhi:  Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt.Ltd.
Makransky, John. 1997. Buddhahood Embodied: Sources of Controversy in India and Tibet. New York: State University of New York Press.
Gokhale, Balkrishna Govind, 1994. New Light on Early Buddhism. London: Sangam Books Limited.
Harrison, Paul, 1992. ‘Is the Dhammakaya the Real Phantom Body of the Buddha?’ The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, Vol.15, No.1, 52-53.
Habito, Ruben L.F. The Trikaya Doctrine in Buddhism, Buddhist-Christian Studies, 1986, Vol. 6.

[1] Habito, Ruben L.F. The Trikaya Doctrine in Buddhism, Buddhist-Christian Studies, 1986, Vol.6, P.54
[2]  Guang Xing, “The Development of the Concept of the Buddha”, in Budhdist and Pali Studies in Honour of the Venerable Professor K Anuruddha, edited  Ven.K Dhammajoti and Y Karunadasa (Hong Kong:  Centre of Buddhist Studies, The University of Hong Kong, 2009 ) , 398.
[3]  Guang Xing, The Development of the Concept of the Buddha,399
[4] Harrison, Paul, ‘Is the Dhammakaya the Real Phantom Body of the Buddha?’ (The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, Vol.15, No.1, 1992), 52-53.
[5] Guang Xing,  The Concept of the Buddha: its evolution from early Buddhism to trikaya theory, (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon Critical Buddhist Studies  in Buddhism, 2005), 39.
[6]  Gong Xing, The Concept of the Buddha,  40
[7] Gong Xing, The Concept of the Buddha, 40
[8]  Guang Xing, The Concept of the Buddha, 76
[9] Guang Xing, The Concept of the Buddha, 78
[10]  Guang Xing, The Concept of the Buddha, 85
[11] Guang Xing, The Concept of the Buddha, 92
[12] Guang Xing, The Concept of the Buddha, 94


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