Dharmakaya - the ever present Body of Enlightenment
When we think about Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, probably one of the most important things we have to understand is about its roots. Often we can meet some people having doubts, whether Mahayana Buddhism is a “real” and “authentic” Buddhism, do they follow properly the teachings and words of Buddha Shakyamuni, or have they gone astray. Who are all those light forms – Buddhas and Bodhisattvas they use to speak and how and when Buddha has given mantras.
Here we have to understand what actually we understand with word “Buddha”. Buddha means “Enlightened”. When we speak about Buddha Shakyamuni, we call him “Buddha” because his mind was enlightened. Enlightened mind means a state of mind which is completely free from all sufferings, all 5 aggregates, all obscurations and afflictions, 3 poisons of the mind – confusion, greed and anger, free from all conditional states, from influence of cause and effect. Buddha Shakyamuni used to refer to it as an Emptiness, that which is never born and will never die. That is behind all concepts and teachings and conditions. Which can be described only describing what it is not. What is not attached to a certain place or even a person. In fact Buddha Shakyamuni has been telling he is not the only Buddha. He is the fourth Buddha of our age and he predicted there are thousand Buddhas to come. He did not intend to claim any authority rights on enlightenment. Shakyamuni didn’t think he had discovered something new, he had only re-discovered what has always been there – a light of emptiness – what can be our true refuge. It is called Dharmakaya – the Body of Truth (dharma – reality, truth; kaya – the body). Dharmakaya is the Body of Enlightenment, which is characterised by emptiness and purity. When Mahayana Buddhists think about Buddha (including as a refuge) – they think about eternally present enlightened Dharmakaya, not exactly the historical figure of Buddha Shakyamuni, who was living in India 2550 years ago, born to his mother Mayadevi, reached enlightenment under Bodhi tree and turned the Dharma Wheel in Varanasi. But this very Dharmakaya is usually represented by Buddha Shakyamuni, seen as the emanation or manifestation of an eternal truth, which have always been there and manifest in different ways and persons to help sentient beings. But even if the historical Buddha Shakyamuni was not there, or may be at some age there wouldn’t be any Buddhas or people would be unable to understand Buddhist teachings – the truth of Dharmata , the ultimate reality would still be there always. Yes, indeed, Buddhism is considered a teaching on “impermanence of everything” but it wouldn’t be complete without the other part – “…composite, consisting of 5 aggreagates.” But emptiness of Dharmakaya is not a “thing” or entity.
Tibetan text Yeshe Ting Dzog says about it: before we had any idea of Buddhas or sentient beings, there was a state that was absolutely pure and uncorrupted, as well as cognizant or self-aware. This state –Dharmakaya -is the state of non-differentiation, and it is the basis or matrix for any experience. Whether one is a Buddha or a being thrown into the turmoil of a hell realm, the presence of the substratum or matrix of Dharmakaya is the same, and this undifferentiated state is the basic source for all of our conscious experiences.
Dharmakaya emptiness doesn't differ from Buddha nature
Gampopa in his fundamental treatise “The Jewel Ornament of Liberation” argument that all beings have a Buddha nature because of 3 reasons:
1.Because all beings have a nature of Dharmakaya. Because the nature of Dharmakaya is emptiness and the nature of all beings is emptiness, because there is no real “self”.
2. Because the absolute nature is inseparable from the absolute state. Because the nature of all beings is emptiness and the nature of Buddha is emptiness, it is considered they have the same nature, which is impossible to separate.
3. Because all beings have a potential.