by Andreas Kretschmar | 246,740 words

The English translation of the Bodhisattvacharyavatara (“entering the conduct of the bodhisattvas”), a Sanskrit text with Tibetan commentary. This book explains the bodhisattva concept and gives guidance to the Buddhist practitioner following the Mahāyāna path towards the attainment of enlightenment. The text was written in Sanskrit by Shantideva ...

Text Sections 165-166

The dharmakāya of realization [rtogs pa chos sku] is the wisdom [ye shes] realized by the Buddha. The dharmakāya of the doctrine is the expression [rtsal] of Buddha’s wisdom, the spoken teachings of the Buddha, the dharma. The Buddha’s realization [rtogs pa] is dharma [chos] as is also the doctrine [bstan pa] that he teaches.

The dharma that the Buddha has in his mind is called the ’dharmakāya of realization’; the dharma he teaches, which he expresses verbally, is called the ’dharmakāya of the doctrine’. Therefore, the phrase ’endowed with the dharmakāya’ [chos kyi sku mnga’] connotes ’dharma’ [chos] as the second jewel among the three: Buddha, dharma and saṃgha. It also connotes Buddha’s realization from where the dharma stems.

The ’dharmakāya of the doctrine’ means that, based upon the Buddha as the cause, the words and letters of the teachings appear for those to be tamed [bdag rkyen sangs rgyas la brten nas gdul bya de nyid gyi sgra dang yi ge rnam par snang]. Therefore, the root text says in stanza one: “The sugatas, who are endowed with the dharmakāya,…” [bde gshegs chos kyi sku mnga’].

In other words, the ’dharmakāya of realization’ is the wisdom of knowing the natural state as it is [ji lta ba mkhyen pa’i ye shes], and the ’dharmakāya of the doctrine’ is the wisdom of knowing all that can be known [ji snyed pa mkhyen pa’i ye shes], which is omniscience. These wisdoms are inseparable.

‘Kāya’ [sku] in the term dharmakāya [chos kyi sku] means ’support for qualities’ [yon tan gyi rten]. Literally , dharmakāya means ’body of dharma’ [chos kyi sku / chos kyi lus po], a term connoting ’support for the dharma’ [chos kyi rten], both support for the dharma of realization [rtogs pa’i chos] and support for the dharma of the doctrine [bstan pa’i chos].

‘Dharma’ also refers to wisdom [ye shes] and ‘kāya’ to the perception aspect of it [mthong rgyu yod pa]. ‘Kāya’ actually means ‘body’ [lus po] and has also the connotation of ‘appearance’ and ‘perception’. In other words, there is something there—a wisdom body—that can be seen or that manifests but only to the Buddha. Therefore, dharmakāya means ‘wisdom appearance’ or ‘wisdom perception’ [ye shes kyi snang ba].

The term ’saṃbhogakāya’ [longs sku] denotes the support for the wisdom of great bliss [bde ba chen po’i ye shes kyi rten]. ’Nirmāṇakāya’ [sprul sku] denotes the support or basis that gives rise to inconceivable emanations [sprul pa bsam gyis mi khyab pa’i ’char ba’i gzhi’am rten].

One who is endowed with the qualities of the dharmakāya [chos kyi sku’i yon tan mnga’ ba po] is a buddha. Among the three jewels this is the jewel of the Buddha. The jewel of the dharma has the twofold meaning, the dharmakāya of realization and the dharmakāya of the doctrine.

Moreover, the term ’dharmakāya’, ’body of dharma’ [chos kyi sku] can be interpreted at various levels. In this context, ’dharma’ [chos] refers to the natural state [gnas lugs], to emptiness [stong pa nyid]. The nature [rang bzhin] or the ’expression’ [gdangs] of this emptiness is called ’body’ [sku, skr. kaya] or ’manifestation’ [snang ba]. In this case ’body’ and ’appearance’ have the same meaning. The Buddha is thus endowed [mnga’ ba] with the dharmakāya.

The empty essence [ngo bo stong pa] of the dharmakāya is called the ’expanse dharmakāya’ [dbyings chos sku]. The cognizant nature [rang bzhin gsal ba] of the dharmakāya is called the ’wisdom dharmakāya’ [ye shes chos sku]. The Buddha is endowed with both the ’expanse dharmakāya’ and the ’wisdom dharmakāya’.

The dharmakāya of realization [rtogs pa chos sku] and the dharmakāya of the doctrine [bstan pa chos sku] can also be explained in other ways. The ’dharmakāya of realization’ can refer to the wisdom [ye shes] of the Buddha. The ’dharmakāya of the doctrine’ can refer to the teachings and scriptures that are principally concerned with the truth of cessation [’gog bden] and the truth of the path [lam bden]. The truth of cessation and the truth of the path are known as the ’dharmakāya of realization’ [rtogs pa chos sku], or the ’actual dharmakāya’ [chos sku mtshan nyid pa]. The scriptures or teachings that manifest from this wisdom are called the ’dharmakāya of the doctrine’.

The dharmakāya of realization [rtogs pa chos sku] is the realization of the truth of cessation [’gog bden]. The truth of cessation is endowed with a nature of twofold purity [dag pa gnyis ldan gyi rang bzhin], the ’nature of perfect purity’ [rang bzhin rnam dag] and the ’transtemporal purity’ [glo bur bral dag]. The ’nature of perfect purity’ [rang bzhin rnam dag] means that the nature of one’s mind is primordially pure [ye nas dag pa]. The nature of the mind is primordial buddhahood [ye sangs rgyas pa] and has never experienced any stain or defect.

The ’transtemporal purity’ [glo bur bral dag] refers to the afflictions which arise temporarily. All afflictions [nyon mongs; skr. kleśa] and habitual patterns [bag chags] are compounded phenomena [’dus byas kyi chos]. They are neither primordial nor uncompounded and, therefore, can be completely eliminated. In the face of the realization of dharmakāya they are entirely absent. This explains ’transtemporal purity’.

The dharmakāya of realzation, the truth of cessation, is gained through non-dual wisdom [zag med gyi shes rab], where no distinction any longer exists between subject [yul can] and object [yul]. The dharmakāya of the doctrine refers to the teachings and scriptures that establish this realization.

The ’dharmakāya of the doctrine’ also includes the teacher of the profound way [zab mo’i tshul ston pa] and the teacher of the manifold way [sna tshogs pa’i tshul ston pa]. These two teachers refer to the saṃbhogakāya and the nirmāṇakāya respectively.

Generally, a buddha is endowed with the three kayas: dharmakāya, saṃbhogakāya and nirmāṇakāya. The dharmakāya is said to have the nature of twofold purity [dag pa gnyis ldan gyi rang bzhin] as described above.

The saṃbhogakāya is endowed with the five certainties [longs sku’i nges pa lnga], which are

  1. certainty of place: the saṃbhogakāya buddhas dwell only in the Akaniṣṭha realm [gnas ’og min stug po bkod pa kho nar bzhugs pa];
  2. certainty of time: they remain until saṃsāra is emptied [dus ’khor ba ma stongs bar du bzhugs pa];
  3. certainty of body: their bodies are distinctly ornamented with the major marks and minor signs [sku mtshan dpe gsal rdzogs kyis spras pa];
  4. certainty of entourage: they are surrounded exclusively by noble beings of the Mahāyāna [’khor theg chen ’phags pa sha stag gis bksor ba]; and
  5. certainty of the teachings: to this noble entourage they exclusively teach the Mahāyāna dharma [de la chos theg chen gyi chos ’ba’ zhig gsungs pa].

Concerning the nirmāṇakāya, different nirmāṇakāya or emanations are distinguished: the ’supreme nirmāṇakāya’ [mchog gi sprul sku], the ’created nirmāṇakāya’ [bso ba sprul sku], the ’rebirth nirmāṇakāya’ [skye ba sprul sku], and the ’manifold nirmāṇakāya’ [sna tshogs sprul sku]. All these different distinctions of dharmakāya, saṃbhogakāya and nirmāṇakāya refer to the jewel of the Buddha [sangs rgyas dkon mchog], first among the three jewels.

We can, however, distinguish between different nirmāṇakāya or emanations of the Buddha. Buddha Śākyamuni himself is called the ’supreme nirmāṇakāya’ [mchog gi sprul sku]. His body, speech and mind are beyond compare [mnyam med]; his qualities are beyond imagination. A ’supreme nirmāṇakāya’ like Buddha Śākyamuni teaches sentient beings through the twelve great deeds [mdzad pa bcu gnyis].

The twelve deeds of the Buddha are [sangs rgyas kyi mdzad pa bcu gnyis]:

  1. Descending from Tuṣita’s heavenly place [dga’ ldan nas ’pho ba’i mdzad pa].
  2. Entering the womb [lhums su zhugs pa’i mdzad pa].
  3. Birth [sku bltams pa’i mdzad pa].
  4. Demonstrating his physical prowess [sgyu rtsal bstan pa’i mdzad pa].
  5. Enjoying the company of his queen [btsun mo’i ’khor gyis rol pa’i mdzad pa].
  6. Leaving home [khyim nas mngon par ’byung ba’i mdzad pa].
  7. Undergoing penance [dka’ ba spyad pa’i mdzad pa].
  8. Realizing the essence of enlightenment [byang chub snying por gshegs pa’i mdzad pa].
  9. Defeating the māras [bdud sde ’dul ba’i mdzad pa].
  10. Total awakening [mngon par byang chub pa’i mdzad pa].
  11. Turning the wheel of dharma [chos kyi ’khor lo bskor ba’i mdzad pa].
  12. Entering into nirvāṇa [mya ngan las ’das pa’i mdzad pa].

A ’created nirmāṇakāya’ [bso ba sprul sku] is an emanation of the Buddha that looks exactly like him and gives teachings. Examples of these are the six munis, each of which manifests as a buddha in one of the six realms of saṃsāra. The term ’created nirmāṇakāya’ does not refer to statues or thangkas of the Buddha, which are created by human beings, and are instead called ’manifold nirmāṇakāya’.

Another type of nirmāṇakāya results when the minds of advanced dharma practitioners receive the Buddha’s blessings in the bardo, the intermediate state. When these practitioners are subsequently reborn, they are known as ’rebirth nirmāṇakāyas’. The Mahāyāna sūtra tradition refers to such consciousnesses which have been blesssed in the bardo as ’tulkus’, nirmāṇakāyas. This occurance is a merging of the Buddha’s blessings with the mind of an advanced practitioner. Meditating at all times on the Buddha establishes the auspicious conditions for the Buddha’s emanations to merge with one’s mind in the bardo. When this occurs it is called a ’rebirth nirmāṇakāya’, a ‘tulku’.

A tenth level bodhisattva becomes a fully enlightened buddha at the very moment that the bodhisattva realizes the genuine dharmakāya of the Buddha. That moment is called ’fully realizing the dharmakāya’ [chos sku mngon du gyur ba]. The moment a practitioner realizes the genuine saṃbhogakāya, he becomes a genuine bodhisattva [byang chub sems dpa’ mtshan nyid pa]. This is possible from the first bodhisattva level onward. From the first to the tenth level he will perceive and realize different levels of the saṃbhogakāya.

‘Manifold nirmāṇakāya’ [sna tshogs sprul sku] refers to all representations of the Buddha’s body, speech and mind [sku gsung thugs rten]. It refers also to relics of the Buddha as well as to anything which can benefit sentient beings, such as lotus flowers, jewels, medicine, food, clothing, vehicles, bridges, and so forth.

The utterly immaculate dharmadhātu [chos dbyings shin tu dri med pa], the expanse of dharma, connotes the dharmakāya of realization [rtogs pa chos sku]. The dharmadhātu [chos kyi dbyings] is inseparable from wisdom [ye shes], and it is wisdom that recognizes the dharmadhātu [chos kyi dbyings ha go mkhan de ye shes zer gi red]. The realization of dharmadhātu, as it is in itself [ji lta ba bzhin du], is called the dharmakāya of realization.

Conducive to the cause of its (realization) [de yi rgyu dang mthun pa] means ’conducive to the causes of the wisdom that realizes the utterly immaculate dharmadhātu [chos kyi dbyings shin tu dri ma med pa rtogs pa’i ye shes de yi rgyu dang mthun pa].

The profound [zab pa] refers to profound emptiness [zab pa stong pa nyid]. Manifold [sna tshogs] denotes the vast classifications of the teachings [bstan pa’i rnam bzhag rgya che ba]. In both sūtra and tantra we find the distinction into what is known as ’profound teachings’ and ’vast teachings’ [zab pa dang rgya che ba’i chos].

The ’profound’ and ’vast’ teachings are a manifestation [ston pa’o] of the enlightened mind of the Buddha, similar to his own realization. The teachings only manifest ’similar to’ and are conducive to [de yi rgyu dang mthun pa] the Buddha’s realization because the dharmadhātu itself cannot immediately manifest in the mind-stream of a sentient being as it is in reality. The Buddha’s realization replicates in the mind-stream of beings according to the degree of realization they can achieve.

Since the Buddha is endowed with the wisdom that realizes the dharmadhātu as it actually is in itself [ji lta ba bzhin du], the dharmakāya of realization, his wisdom has the power to give rise [ston thub pa’i nus pa / ’char thub pa’i nus pa] to many profound and vast teachings. This is the dharmakāya of the doctrine and is also the twofold knowledge [mkhyen pa gnyis] of the Buddha.

Truly realizing the natural state as it is [gnas lugs ji lta ba bzhin du mkhyen tshar nas], one also gains omniscience, the knowledge of all that can be known [shes bya ji snyed pa bzhin du mkhyen pa]. Paltrül Rinpoche said:

If one knows (the natural state) as it is but cannot see all that can be known,
Then even if one (appears to be) a noble being, this is still not the enlightened mind of the Victor.

ji ltar mkhyen cing ji snyed mi gzigs pa’i
‘phags pa yod na rgyal ba’i dgongs pa min

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