Discourse on the Three-Bodies of Buddha
SOME TIME after the foregoing Discourse on Repentance had been delivered to “commoners” when the Patriarch had gathered his disciples together for instruction, a senior disciple, Fat-hoi, said to the Patriarch, “Sir, will you please leave to posterity certain instruction whereby people under delusion may realise their Buddha-nature?”
“Listen to me,” replied the Patriarch. It is possible for those who are under delusion to realise their Buddha-nature, provided they acquaint themselves with the nature of ordinary sentient beings. Without such knowledge, to seek Buddhahood would be in vain, even if one spent aeons of time in doing so.
First, let me show you how to get acquainted with the nature of the sentient beings within your mind, whereby one can realise the Buddha-nature latent in everyone. Knowing Buddha means nothing else than knowing sentient beings. It is sentient beings who are blind to the fact that they are potentially Buddhas, whereas a Buddha sees no difference between himself and other beings. When sentient beings realise their Essence of Mind, they are Buddhas. If a Buddha is under delusion as to his Essence of Mind, he is then only an ordinary being. Seeing everything as equal in Essence of Mind makes ordinary beings Buddhas. Seeing inequalities in Essence of Mind transforms a Buddha into an ordinary being. When one’s mind is crooked or depraved, then he is only an ordinary being
with Buddha-nature latent within him. On the other hand, if one concentrates his mind on equality and straightforwardness, even for one moment only, then he is a Buddha.
Within our mind there is Buddha, and that Buddha within is the real Buddha. If Buddha is not to be found within our mind, then where shall we seek for the real Buddha? Doubt not that Buddha is within your own mind, apart from which nothing can exist. Since all things and phenomena are the product of mind, the Sutra says: “When mental activity rises, various things exist; when mental activity ceases, various things exist not.”
Our physical body may be likened to an inn where we can remain only temporarily, we cannot make it a refuge. The Trikaya of Buddha is to be found within our Mind-essence which is the common possession of everybody. It is because the mind of an ordinary man labors under delusion that he does not know his own inner nature, the result is that he ignores the Trikaya that is within himself and seeks for it without. Please listen; I am going to show you that you can realise the Trikaya within yourself, which being a manifestation of Mind-essence cannot be found anywhere else.
Within our physical body we take refuge in the Pure Dharmakaya (Essence-body) of Buddha;
Within our physical body we take refuge in the Perfect Sambhoga-kaya (the Empirical, or Bliss-body) of Buddha;
Within our physical body we take refuge in the Myriad Nirmanakaya (Bodies of transformation, or of incarnations of Buddha.
What is the Pure Dharmakaya? Our Mind-essence is intrinsically pure, that is, all things are manifestations of mind. Good deeds and evil deeds are but the manifestation of good thoughts and evil thoughts respectively. Thus within Essence of Mind all things, like the azure of the sky and the radiance of the sun and moon which, when obscured by passing clouds, may appear as if their brightness had been dimmed, but as soon as the clouds are blown away, their brightness reappears and all objects are again fully illuminated. Foolish thoughts may be likened to the clouds, while sagacity and Wisdom are the moon and the Sun. When we become attached to discriminated objects, our Mind-essence becomes clouded by drifting thoughts which prevent sagacity and Wisdom from sending forth their light. We were fortunate that we found learned and pious teachers to make known the orthodox Dharma to us so that we may, by our own effort do away with ignorance and delusion, and by so doing we will become enlightened both within and without, and our true nature within our Essence of Mind will manifest itself. This is precisely what happens with those who come face to face with their Essence of Mind. This is what is called the Pure Dharmakaya of Buddha.
To take refuge in the true Buddha is to take refuge in our own Essence of Mind, He who takes refuge within himself must first get rid of the evil-mind and the jealous-mind, the flattering and crooked-mind, deceit, and falsehood, and fallacious views, egotism, snobbishness, contemptuousness, arrogance, and all other evils that may arise at any time, To take refuge
within ourselves is to be always on the alert to prevent our own mistakes and to refrain from criticism of other’s faults. He who is humble and patient on all occasions and is courteous to every one, has truly realised his Mind-essence, so truly in fact that his Path is free from further obstacles. This is the way to take refuge in (the Buddha of) oneself.
What is the Perfect Sambhogakaya? Let us take the illustration of a lamp. Since the light of a lamp can dissipate darkness that has been there for a thousand years, so a ray of Wisdom can do away with ignorance that has lasted for ages. We need not bother about the past, for the past is gone and is irrecoverable. What demands our attention is the present and future, so let our thoughts, from one momentary sensation to another, be clear and pure and let us see face to face our Mind-essence. Goodness and evil are opposite to each other, but in essence they cannot be dualistic. This non-dualistic nature is called “true nature,” it can neither be contaminated by evil, nor affected by goodness. This is what is called the Sambhogakaya of Buddha. One single evil thought clouding our Essence of Mind will undo the good merit accumulated in aeons of time; while a good thought can expiate all our sins though they be as many as the sands of the river Ganges. To realise our Essence of Mind from one momentary sensation to another and without intermission until we attain Supreme Enlightenment (Bodhi) so that we are in a perpetual state of Right Mindfulness, is the Sambhogakaya.
Now, what is the Myriad Nirmanakaya? When we subject ourselves to the least differentiation or particularisation,
transformation takes place: otherwise all things would be as void as space, as they inherently are. By letting our minds dwell on evil things, hell arises. By letting our minds dwell upon good acts, paradise is manifested. Dragons and snakes are the transformations of venomous hatred; while Bodhisattvas are compassionate thoughts made manifest. The various heavens are the projection of Prajna; while underworlds are the transformations of ignorance and infatuation. Un-numbered, indeed, are the transformations of Mind-essence. People under delusion are as if asleep; they do not understand; their minds naturally turn toward evil and, as a rule, they practice evil. But should they turn their minds from evil to righteousness, even for one moment, Prajna shines forth. This is what is called the Nirmanakaya of the Buddha of Mind-essence.
The Dharmakaya is intrinsically self-sufficient. To see our own Essence of Mind clearly and without interruption, is the Sambhogakaya of Buddha. To let our mind dwell on the Sambogahakaya, so that Prajna radiates forth in manifestation is Nirmanakaya. To attain enlightenment by one’s own effort and to practise by one’s self the goodness that is inherent in our Essence of Mind, is a genuine case of “taking refuge.” Our physical body consisting of flesh and skin, etc., is nothing more than a tenement or an inn; it is no place of refuge. Let us realise the Trikaya of our own Mind-essence, then we shall know the Buddha of our own nature.
In closing let me leave with you a stanza, entitled: “The Real Buddha of Mind-essence.” Accordingly as
they heed it people of future generations who can understand its meaning will realise their Mind-essence and attain Buddhahood. This is the stanza:–
Those who understand the Mahayana teaching
And are thus able to realise Mind-essence
Should reverently and fervently seek for a realisation of Dharmakaya.
The Dharmakaya, the Sambhogakaya, the Nirmanakaya–
These three Bodies emanate from Oneness.
He who is able to realise this fact intuitively
Has sown the seed and will reap the fruit of Enlightenment.
It is from Nirmanakaya that our “pure nature” emerges;
Within the former the latter is always to be found.
Guided by its “pure nature” Nirmanakaya follows the right path,
And will some day culminate In a Body of Bliss, perfect and infinite.
Pure Nature is hidden by our sensual instincts;
By getting rid of sensuality, we realise Pure Dharmakaya.
When our temperament is such that we are no longer the slave of the five sense-objects,
And when we have realised Mind-essence, even for one moment, then Tathata is known to us.
Those who are so fortunate as to be followers of the Sudden School
Shall suddenly, in this life, see the Blessed One in their own Mind-essence. p. 273
He who has not realised Essence of Mind and seeks for Buddha without,
Is on a wrong path and is acting foolishly.
He who seeks Buddha by practising certain doctrines
Knows not the place where the real Buddha is to be found.
He who is seeking to realise Buddha within his own mind,
He only is sowing the seed of Buddhahood.