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Four Forms of Buddhas’ Bodies


Question:

In order to save us, buddhas appear in various forms. They can be classified roughly into four categories. Write those four forms of buddhas’ bodies.


Answer:

  1. The body as truth

  2. The body as means

  3. The body as accordance

  4. The body as transformation

Explanation:

1. The body as truth Buddhas without color, shape, and smell. They are not perceivable through human wisdom. This is also called the “dharma-body as suchness”.

2. The body as means Buddhas in forms which we can perceive. If they cannot be perceived by us, they cannot form bonds with us or save us at all. Therefore, they display physical forms that can be perceived by us.

quote: There are two kinds of dharma-body with regard to the Buddha. The first is called dharma-body as suchness and the second, dharma-body as compassionate means. Dharma-body as suchness has neither color nor form; thus, the mind cannot grasp it nor words describe it. From this truth the Buddha took on a perceivable form. This is called dharma-body as compassionate means. Taking this form, the Buddha announced the name Dharmakara Bodhisattva and created the forty-eight inconceivable Vows. (Notes on Essentials of Faith Alone)

3. The body as accordance Buddhas in the form of human beings, like Shakyamuni Buddha. “Accordance” means “in accordance with beneficiaries”.

4. The body as transformation Buddhas transformed into forms other than human beings. The sutras teach of buddhas taking on forms such as doves, eagles, and man-eating demons.

(from the doctrine book 2-14)

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