I read some articles and saw some references to the words , Dharmakaya, Samboghakaya and Nirmanakaya used by Buddha , as mentioned in the Theravada scriptures , at least a few times during His Lifetime. Has anyone come across this , too?


The Trikaya concept is a Mahayana concept although the origin to the term Dharmakaya could be found in the Pali Canon at SN 22.87:

Enough, Vakkali! What is there to see in this vile body? He who sees Dhamma, Vakkali, sees me; he who sees me sees Dhamma. Truly seeing Dhamma, one sees me; seeing me one sees Dhamma."

  • Please note that in the original Pali sutta, it actually says "Dhammakayo". – Andrei Volkov Aug 16 '18 at 22:38
  • Very good answer. – Dhammadhatu Aug 17 '18 at 0:17
  • @AndreiVolkov I don't understand this answer and your comment. The word "Dhammakayo" does exist in a few suttas, but not in SN 22.87. Maybe SN 22.87 includes something like the idea of "Dhammakayo", but not the word in question. – ChrisW Aug 17 '18 at 0:45
  • Oh no, looks like I confused sutta with its commentary @ChrisW - my apologies, apparently it was Buddhaghosa who explained Dhamma in that passage to refer to Dhammakaya. – Andrei Volkov Aug 17 '18 at 0:57
  • My search finds dhammakayo is only found in the dodgy DN 27 suttacentral.net/dn27/en/sujato – Dhammadhatu Aug 17 '18 at 1:29

In my understanding, in the Pali Canon the Buddha had used the word "Dhammakaya" to refer metaphorically to the body of his teachings. Another term that was used in the same sense was "Dhammasarira" (Dharma-sharira) - playing on the notion of Buddha's cremation relics to refer specifically to the dispersed collection of teachings left after the Buddha's parinirvana.

Since Buddha himself said that "whoever sees Dhamma sees me" and that "the Dhamma exists as a natural law whether Tathagatas arise or not", it was easy enough for the eager students to add two and two together and assume that Dhammakaya implies the eternal cosmic body of the primordial Buddha.

The other two terms presumably evolved at the later times, at least they were not found in any of the early texts.

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