As I know Buddhism, it says 'Nothing is permament'

I just came across this in Wikipedia:

...a Buddha is immortal. Even though he descends in the samsara to preach Dharma and save sentient beings from suffering, his original body remains in a transcendent realm. That body will not die upon the death of the physical body of Buddha, and hence a Buddha is beyond arising and passing away...

It is given as a Mahayana Perspective of the Lotus Sutta.

So, what does this really mean? Is it that there exists something even after Parinirvana? Or have I understood it wrong?

2 Answers 2


First, there are permanent phenomena and impermanent phenomena. All products are impermanent, whereas all negative phenomena are permanent. For instance, space, emptiness, mental images are permanent due to not being products, that is not arising due to causes and conditions.

Second, the meaning of permanent is that of not being subject to change. There are permanent phenomena that are not eternal but occasional: for instance, the emptiness of the cup no longer abides if you break the cup.

Then, there are various bodies. The Dharmakaya has two parts (bodies) :

  1. The wisdom truth body, which is the omniscient mind of a buddha. As it is a mind, it is impermanent, it is compounded
  2. The nature truth body, which is the emptiness of the omniscient mind of a buddha. As it is an emptiness - suchness without defilement - it is permanent and uncompounded

The Dharmakaya is endowed with four aspects:

  1. Permanent, in the sense of not being subject to birth [not taking even a mental body, as opposed to an arya bodhisattva who takes a menal body due to uncontaminated karma and knowledge obscurations]
  2. Constant, in the sense of not being subject to the inconceivable transformation of death [of a mental body] and therefore his enlightened deeds are un-interrupted
  3. Peace, in the sense of being free from all harm
  4. Unalterable, in the sense of being free from aging [contrary to even the arya bodhisattva on a pure ground]

Most Mahayana traditions consider Shakyamuni Buddha's body - the one ordinary being could see - as an emanation body (not a mental body), emanating from the pure dharmakaya.

For more information, See Maitreya / Asanga's Sublime Continuum and commentaries, such as Gyaltsabe Je's.

  • In summary, the "nature truth body" is permanent, because it's unconditioned, because it's empty. That seems to me the same as the reasoning which says that "nirvana" is unconditioned.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 10:50
  • 3
    The 'nature truth body' is permanent because it is an emptiness, not because it is empty (although it is empty, just like everything else). You are right to relate it to the reasoning which says nirvana is unconditioned. Usually, we say "but its achieving is conditioned; achieving it is conditioned". Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 10:55

In Tien Tai, Tendai and Nichiren Buddhism, the historical Buddha is a manifestation of the immortal Buddha. The Long Life chapter explains that the Buddha's life is stupendously long, or for all practical purposes infinite. The Expedient means chapter explains that the historical Buddha faked his death as a pedagogical device, a white lie of sorts. These are the two most chanted chapters of the Lotus Sutra in Nichiren Buddhism.

This is in keeping with Bodhisattva-yana thinking, where it is assumed that as people progress, they will inevitably switch to the Bodhisattva path, so teaching a variety of paths is just expedient means towards the goal of getting everyone on the Bodhisattva path. Once on the Bodhisattva path, Bodhisattvas progress until they almost reach nirvana, but do not pass into nirvana, instead they stay in the world to lead all sentient beings out of samsara.

The goal of this line of reasoning was to solve the problem in early Buddhism of why the Buddha, who is our compassionate teacher, would see fit to pass into parinirvana and leave us to fend for ourselves.

Sources, Mahayana by Paul Williams and various SGI books.

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