The 3 Bodies of the Buddha [trikaya]
Trikaya is a Sanskrit word used in the Buddhist context to refer to levels of manifestation or activity. Tri means three and trikaya as a concept concerns three levels of buddhahood.
Shakyamuni, the historical
Buddha who is generally considered one of many buddhas to have come to the help
of sentient beings, is understood to be accessible in various ways. These
are called the dharmakaya, samboghakaya, and nirmanakya. They
have been translated into English as: truth-body, bliss- or enjoyment-body, and
The sound Aum (Om) evokes the dharmakaya. One explanation found in the Hindu Puranas is that it is the grunt of the Goddess as she gives birth to creation. In Buddhism, that which it represents is entirely unborn.
3 components of this syllable, here in a Tibetan form, can also be understood as
the kayas, and also as symbolic of the 3 Jewels.
In the Buddhist tradition which focuses on Buddha Amitabha, his pavilion is bounded by three walls each of which symbolizes one of the kayas: the rim of skulls, of the dorjes, of the lotuses.
The ancient Celts who some scholars believe originated near the Caspian Sea, had a similar belief in the Three Existences: the spiritual, symbolic and physical. Several of their myths, symbolism and practices resemble those of ancient India.
Is there a 4th kaya?
In "Transforming Poison into Nectar," Drikung Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche teaches about empowerment with reference to four kayas.
The 4th kaya is called, Svabhavikakaya (of an essence, or essential.)
A Further Example of Levels of Manifestation and Activity
Yeshe Tsogyel was once a merchant who lived during the time of a former Buddha when she went before him and swore not to be reborn except for the benefit of beings. She manifested as Ganga, the Indian goddess who sprang from Lord Shiva's topknot to flow as the Ganges, the river watering the plain of north India, and then as Saraswati, the Indian goddess of the flow of language and music. She was once a disciple of Buddha Shakyamuni, as well. Then, according to Nyingma tradition, in 8th century Tibet, Guru Padmasambhava invoked Saraswati to manifest as a woman who would help disseminate the Mantrayana.
In the same tradition, Yeshe Tsogyel is an emanation of Samantabhadri, consort of primordial Samantabhadra. Both are Samboghakaya Buddhas. In tangkas, he is depicted as dark blue in colour, and she as pure white. Due to their union, Yeshe Tsogyel was born into this world, first as an Indian princess.
Aspects of Deity
Tantric deities, which are the focus of individual practice either through assignment by the guru or through personal connection, are considered to operate in several ways, usually five: body, speech, mind, quality, and action. Sometimes, we speak of a sixth or "essence" aspect.
As a "meditational deity" or yidam, Yeshe Tsogyel is regarded as the manifestation of the speech of Vajrayogini, herself a form of Vajravarahi, who is the Sambhogakaya aspect of Samantabhadri. One of her early teachers, Kalasiddhi, is considered the quality of Vajravarahi, and Tashi Chodren, one of her early students was recognized as the activity emanation of Varahi.
The word deity is understood in a rather unique way by Buddhists; it is used for lack of a better word. The Tibetan expression is yidam (Skt. ishta.devata) and it refers to a symbolic embodiment that is the focus of mental and ritual practice. Chosen by the teacher or by the student with guidance from the teacher, this figure can act as a psychological complement or support.
Deities are also viewed as mythic figures, but they are understood to arise and return to Emptiness. Although they have no inherent reality nevertheless they do exist, according to such excellent teachers as Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche.
are not worshipped in the sense of idolatry, though certainly it may seem to be
so for example, when someone first encounters people doing full prostrations
before images on a shrine. That is one reason for not using the term 'altar,' by
Saraswati: This name is also given to a river, one that no longer exists but once watered northeast India.
Ancient Egyptian Doctrine of 3
We cannot know how the ancient Egyptians actually viewed reality, or how they applied their views in their quest for higher meaning, despite all the writing that has been translated. (Think of how it was with many of us before we were so fortunate as to have real teachers, when we only had access to Tibetan Buddhism via vaguely translated books.) They seem to have had a three-part theory of existence that seems similar to the doctrine of trikayas. At least from earliest Old Kingdom times (5,000 Before the Present) beings were considered to have a ka which was equated with the vital essence, a ba that was one's 'name' or identity, and the khu.