The Trikāya doctrine
The Trikāya Doctrine (Sanskrit, literally "Three bodies"; 三身 Chinese: Sānshēn, Japanese: sanjin, Tibetan: སྐུ་གསུམ, Wylie: sku gsum) is an Mahayana Buddhist teaching on both the nature of reality and the nature of a Buddha.Definition The Doctrine says that a Buddha has three kāyas or bodies: The Dharmakāya or Truth Body which embodies the very principle of Enlightenment and knows no limits or boundaries; The Sambhogakāya or Body of mutual enjoyment which is a Body of bliss or clear Light manifestation; The Nirmānakāya or created Body which manifests in time and space. Origins Pali Canon Even before The Buddha's Parinirvāṇa the term Dharmakāya was current. Dharmakāya literally means Truth Body, or Reality Body. In the Pali Canon The Buddha tells Vasettha that the Tathāgata (The Buddha) was Dharmakāya, the 'Truth-Body' or the 'Embodiment of Truth', as well as Dharmabhuta, 'Truth-become', 'One who has become Truth' The Buddha is equated with the Dhamma: ... and The Buddha comforts him, "Enough, Vakkali. Why do you want to see this filthy Body?
Whoever sees the Dhamma sees me; whoever sees me sees the Dhamma." Putikaya, the "decomposing" Body, is distinguished from the eternal Dhamma Body of The Buddha and the Bodhisattva Body. Mahāyāna The Dharmakaya-Doctrine was possibly first expounded in the Aṣṭasāhasrikā prajñā-pāramitā (The Perfection of Insight In Eight Thousand Verses), composed in the 1st century BCE. Mahayan Buddhism introduced the Sambhogakāya, which conceptually fits between the Nirmanakaya and the Dharmakaya. The Sambhogakaya is that aspect of The Buddha, or the Dharma, that one meets in visions and in deep Meditation. It could be considered an interface with the Dharmakaya.
The Trikaya-Doctrine and the Tathagatagarbha bring the transcendental within reach, by placing the transcendental within the plane of immanence. Around 300 CE, the Yogacara school systematized the prevalent ideas on the nature of The Buddha in the Trikaya or three-Body Doctrine.Interpretation in Buddhist traditions Schools have different ideas about what the three bodies are.Chinese Mahayana Pure land The Three Bodies of the Buddha from the point of view of Pure land Buddhist Thought can be broken down like so: The Nirmaṇakāya is a physical Body of a Buddha. An example would be Gautama Buddha's Body. The Sambhogakāya is the reward-Body, whereby a Bodhisattva completes his vows and becomes a Buddha.
Amitabha, Vajrasattva and Manjushri are examples of Buddhas with the Sambhogakaya Body. The Dharmakāya is the embodiment of the Truth itself, and it is commonly seen as transcending the forms of physical and spiritual bodies. Vairocana Buddha is often depicted as the incomprehensible Dharmakāya, particularly in esoteric Buddhist schools such as Shingon and Kegon in Japan. As with earlier Buddhist Thought, all three forms of The Buddha teach the same Dharma, but take on different forms to expound the Truth. Chán The Three Bodies of the Buddha from the point of view of Zen Buddhist Thought are not to be taken as absolute, literal, or materialistic; they are expedient means that "are merely names or props" and only the play of Light and shadow of the Mind. Rinzai states it this way: Do you wish to be not different from the Buddhas and patriarchs? Then just do not look for anything outside.
The pure Light of your own Heart i.e., 心, Mind) at this instant is the Dharmakaya Buddha in your own house. The non-differentiating Light of your Heart at this instant is the Sambhogakaya Buddha in your own house. The non-discriminating Light of your own Heart at this instant is the Nirmanakaya Buddha in your own house. This trinity of The Buddha's Body is none other than he here before your eyes, listening to my expounding the Dharma.Tibetan Buddhism Fourth Body - Svabhavikakaya Vajrayana sometimes refers to a fourth Body, called the Svabhavikakaya (Tibetan: ངོ་བོ་ཉིད་ཀྱི་སྐུ, Wylie: ngo bo nyid kyi sku, THDL: ngo wo nyi kyi ku), meaning essential Body. The Svabhavikakaya is simply the unity or non-separateness of The Three Kayas.
The term Svabhavikakaya is also known in Gelug teaching, where it is one of the assumed two aspects of Dharmakaya: Essence Body/Svabhavikakaya and Wisdom Body or Body of Gnosis/Jnanakaya. Haribhadra (Seng-ge Bzang-po) claims, that Abhisamayalamkara chapter 8 is describing Buddhahood through four kayas: svabhavikakaya, jnana)Dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya. Dzogchen In Dzogchen teachings, "Dharmakaya" means the Buddha-nature's absence of self-nature, that is, its Emptiness of a conceptualizable essence, its cognizance or clarity is the sambhogakaya, and the fact that its capacity is 'suffused with self-existing awareness' is the nirmanakaya. Mahamudra The interpretation in Mahamudra is similar: when the mahamudra practices come to fruition, one sees that the Mind and all Phenomena are fundamentally empty of any identity; this Emptiness is called Dharmakāya.
The essence of Mind is seen as empty, yet having potential which takes the Form of luminosity; the nature of the Sambhogakāya is understood to be this luminosity. The nirmanakāya is understood to be the powerful force with which the potentiality effects living beings.Anuyoga In the view of Anuyoga, the 'Mindstream' (Sanskrit: Citta santana) is the 'continuity' (Sanskrit: santana; Wylie: rgyud) that links the Trikaya. The Trikāya, as a triune, is symbolised by the Gankyil. Dakinis A Dakini (Sanskrit: डाकिनी ḍākinī; Tibetan: མཁའ་འགྲོ་མ་ khandroma, Wylie: mkha' 'gro ma, TP: kanzhoima; Chinese: 空行母) is a tantric deity described as a female embodiment of Enlightened energy. In the Tibetan Language, Dakini is rendered khandroma which means 'she who traverses the sky' or 'she who moves in space'. Sometimes the term is translated poetically as 'Sky dancer' or 'sky walker'. Dakinis can also be classified according to the Trikaya, or three bodies of a Buddha.
The Dharmakaya Dakini, which is Samantabhadri, represents the Dharmadhatu where all Phenomena appear. The sambhogakaya Dakinis are the yidams used as meditational deities for tantric practice. The nirmanakaya Dakinis are human women born with special potentialities, these are realized yogini, the consorts of the gurus, or even all women in general as they may be classified into the five Buddha-families.Western Buddhism Theosophy In the 19th century Theosophy took an Interest in Buddhism. It regarded Buddhism to contain Esoteric teachings. In those supposed Esoteric teachings of Buddhism, "exoteric Buddhism" believes that Nirmanakaya simple means the physical Body of Buddha. According to the esoteric interpretation, when The Buddha dies he assumes the Nirmanakaya, instead of going into Nirvana. He remains in that glorious Body he has woven for himself, invisible to uninitiated mankind, to watch over and protect it.