The Buddha is the ultimate ideal of enlightenment. Although the historical Sakyamuni and His
emanations are the personification of enlightenment, and He is praised
with the honor and esteem of the the Ten Titles,
the Buddha really is totally beyond any aspects of personality or individuality.
The Buddha has attained the highest ideal of Nirvana, and so all traces of egocentrism
have been extinguished. The Buddha has truly conquered Life & Death.
As the Bodhisattva practice is the cause of enlightenment, the different
stages of Bodhisattva development give a clue as to the real nature of the Buddha:
- With the The Abodes
one opens up and inspires an understanding of the nature of enlightenment
- With the Ten Practices
of Virtue (the Paramitas), one reveals the nature of enlightenment in one's
- With the Ten Transfers of Spiritual
Merit (Parinamanas), one awakens the nature of enlightenment in
- With the Ten Groundings,
there is entry into nature of enlightenment that beyond self or other.
The Buddha is beyond all limitations of self or other, and is the unconditional
will and means to relieve suffering and bring enlightenment to all living beings.
The nature of the Buddha is revealed in two aspects and three aspects.
The Two Aspects:
- The Manifestation of the Buddha
in this world; The life of enlightenment in the flesh, in the realm
of Life & Death; This is the incarnation of enlightenment (Rupakaya
or Nirmanakaya), the appearance of the Buddha in this
world in response to the needs of living beings for enlightenment and the
relief of suffering. This is personified by the life of Sakyamuni and its
story as an allegory for
the life of enlightenment.
- The Origin or Source of the Buddha
in the spiritual realm; This is the spiritual body (Dharmakaya),
the eternal nature of enlightenment
that is beyond space or time and is innate in all living beings. This is
the eternal Buddha that is the spiritual truth of reality that is everywhere
in all places, illuminating and teaching all.
The Three Aspects of the Buddha's Life:
- The Physical Manifestation of the Buddha in this world (Nirmanakaya);
This is often represented by His 32 Ideal Physical Characteristics.
This is the aspect of the Buddha that is easiest to relate to, as it
is the anthropomorphic representation of the Buddha. This is the Buddha
that appears in this world before our eyes in response to our need
for salvation and enlightenment. This would also refer to any physical
representation of the Buddha that we can detect with our senses (statues,
images, the sounds of the Dharma being taught, etc.).
- The Wisdom and Virtues of the Buddha (Sambhogakaya); This
is the enlightenment that is earned through vows, practices
and sacrifices made over countless lifetimes. It is often expressed as the
Ten Spiritual Powers, the Four Kinds of Fearlessness, the Four Unhindred
Forms of Expression, the Eighteen Unique Qualities, etc. - see the Forty Unique
Qualities of the Buddha for an overview of these. Through worship and
service to the Buddha these rewards of spiritual merit are transferred
from the Buddhas to the Bodhisattvas. This is the enlightenment that is
conferred through the ceremony of the Three Treasures.
- The Original Buddha that is the Spiritual Body (Dharmakaya);
This is the unity and trinity that is the Innate
Threefold Body of Enlightenment that is eternal and everywhere in all places.
© Peter Johnson 2001 - All rights reserved
Policy - Contact the Author at firstname.lastname@example.org
July 9, 2001
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