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The threefold body        trois corps    Tam thÔn    三身    Trayaḥ kāyāḥ
The threefold body or nature of a Buddha, i.e. the 法, 報, and 化身, or dharmakāya, sambhogakāya, and nirmāṇakāya. The three are defined as 自性, 受用, and 變化, the Buddha-body per se, or in its essential nature; his body of bliss, which he "receives" for his own "use" and enjoyment; and his body of transformation, by which he can appear in any form; i.e. spiritual, or essential; glorified; revealed. While the doctrine of the trikāya is a Mahāyāna concept, it partly results from the Hīnayāna idealization of the earthly Buddha with his thirty-two signs, eighty physical marks, clairvoyance, clairaudience, holiness, purity, wisdom, pity, etc. Mahāyāna, however, proceeded to conceive of Buddha as the Universal, the All, with infinity of forms, yet above all our concepts of unity or diversity. To every Buddha Mahāyāna attributed a three-fold body: that of essential Buddha; that of joy or enjoyment of the fruits of his past saving labours; that of power to transform himself at will to any shape for omnipresent salvation of those who need him. The trinity finds different methods of expression, e.g. Vairocana is entitled 法身, the embodiment of the Law, shining everywhere, enlightening all; Locana is 報身; c.f. 三賓, the embodiment of purity and bliss; Śākyamuni is 化身 or Buddha revealed. In the esoteric sect they are 法 Vairocana, 報 Amitābha, and 化 Śākyamuni. The 三賓 are also 法 dharma, 報 saṅgha, 化 buddha. Nevertheless, the three are considered as a trinity, the three being essentially one, each in the other. (1) 法身 Dharmakāya in its earliest conception was that of the body of the dharma, or truth, as preached by Śākyamuni; later it became his mind or soul in contrast with his material body. In Mādhyamika, the dharmakāya was the only reality, i.e. the void, or the immateria1, the ground of all phenomena; in other words, the 眞如 the tathāgatagarbha, the bhūtatathatā. According to the Huayan (Kegon) School it is the 理or noumenon, while the other two are氣or phenomenal aspects. "For the Vij˝ānavāda... the body of the law as highest reality is the void intelligence, whose infection (saṃkleҫa) results in the process of birth and death, whilst its purification brings about Nirvāṇa, or its restoration to its primitive transparence" (Keith). The "body of the law is the true reality of everything". Nevertheless, in Mahāyāna every Buddha has his own 法身; e.g. in the dharmakāya aspect we have the designation Amitābha, who in his saṃbhogakāya aspect is styled Amitāyus. (2) 報身Sambhogakāya, a Buddha's reward body, or body of enjoyment of the merits he attained as a bodhisattva; in other words, a Buddha in glory in his heaven. This is the form of Buddha as an object of worship. It is defined in two aspects, (a) 自受用身 for his own bliss, and (b) 他受用身 for the sake of others, revealing himself in his glory to bodhisattvas, enlightening and inspiring them. By wisdom a Buddha's dharmakāya is attained, by bodhisattva-merits his saṃbhogakāya. Not only has every Buddha all the three bodies or aspects, but as all men are of the same essence, or nature, as Buddhas, they are therefore potential Buddhas and are in and of the trikāya. Moreover, trikāya is not divided, for a Buddha in his 化身 is still one with his 法身 and 報身, all three bodies being co-existent. (3) 化身; 應身; 應化身 nirmāṇakāya, a Buddha's transformation, or miraculous body, in which he appears at will and in any form outside his heaven, e.g. as Śākyamuni among men.