Definition - What does Trikaya mean?

Trikaya is a term in Buddhism that describes the three bodies, or levels of manifestation. The term comes from the Sanskrit, trika, meaning “threefold,” and kaya, meaning “body,” and is typically translated as “having three bodies.” It also means “buddha,” in the general sense of an enlightened one.

The trikaya consists of nirmanakaya, or the physical body; dharmakaya, or the truth body; and sambhogakaya, or the bliss body. Depending on the Buddhist tradition, the concept of trikaya is used to explain the levels of buddhahood.

Yogapedia explains Trikaya

In Mahayana Buddhism, trikaya recognizes the physical, human life of a buddha in nirmanakaya. Some believe that in the state of nirmanakaya, a buddha is fully human, while others believe the buddha has special abilities. In Tibetan Buddhism, nirmanakaya is considered the physical manifestation of enlightenment.

In dharmakaya, all things and beings are in unity. It is sometimes described as being synonymous with the Absolute or Buddha Nature.

Sambhogakaya is described in many ways, depending on the Buddhist tradition. It is sometimes called the "reward body" because this state of bliss is considered a reward for good deeds. Unlike dharmakaya, a sambhogakaya buddha, while enlightened, is not in union with all creation. This buddha is a distinctive celestial being — godlike, but not a god or human. Sambhogakaya may also be thought of as a link between the nirmanakaya and dharmakaya bodies.

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