Three Bodies of the Buddha (Trikāya)

Ruben L.F. Habito

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online April 2012 | | DOI:
Three Bodies of the Buddha (Trikāya)


The notion of Trikāya, or the Three Bodies of the Buddha, is an outcome of speculation by Buddhist followers on the question “What is Buddha?” that can be seen against a background of a wide variety of devotional, ritual, and other practices reflecting evolving ways of thinking and doctrinal standpoints. The development of Trikāya theory involves a process that spanned many centuries, beginning with the period after the demise of the historical Buddha Śākyamuni until about the 4th or 5th century ce. The Trikāya notion, presented in commentarial literature in at least two distinctive structural formats, provides a framework of Buddhist understanding of ultimate reality, making a threefold distinction in the Buddha’s mode of being, activity, and manifestation: dharmakāya (truth body) or svābhāvika-kāya (body of self-nature), Sāmbhoghikakāya or saṃbhogakāya (enjoyment body), and Nairmanikakāya or nirmāṇakāya (transformation body). This notion came to be a reference point in subsequent Buddhist thinking about the relationship between our mundane, earthly realm and ultimate reality.

Article.  13125 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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