The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Body of the Buddha -- Dhammakaya
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There has been a historic tension in Theravada between those (A) who see the Buddha’s legacy on his teaching and (B) those who venerated in Buddha’s physical presence, his body in his lifetime; representatived often as his parinibbana.
Theravada do not see the Dhammakaya and the Buddha-Dhamma as only metaphysical. “The Buddha image embodies the dhamma in a manner customarily associated with more esoteric forms of Buddhism that employ the ritual techniques of yantra and mantra.”
For a general study of Mantrayana in Theravada see L.S. Cousins “Aspects of Esoteric Southern Buddhism” in Indian Insights: Buddhism, Brahmanism and Bhakti, ed by Peter Connelly and Sue Hamilton, London: Luazac Oreintal 1997;
Swearer, Becoming The Buddha.
“In mainstream Theravada the term ‘dhammakaya’ is interpreted in an entirely non metaphysical way. It is the corpus of the Buddha’s teaching contained, preeminently, in the canonical writings of the Tripitaka.
Visualization techniques are, of course, not unknown in Theravada, and Francois Bizot sees the origins of the practice in the canonical notion of a mind-made body (manomayakaya) that may be produced by a skillful meditator.
Very similar teachings have been given new and popular currency in modern SE Asia through the Vijja Dhammakaya approach of Venerable Sot Chao Khun Phra Mongkol Thepmuni 1884-1959. The dhammakaya method is taught by the Mahanikaya Abbot of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen, Thonburi.
A recent doctrinal theses by Metanando Bhikkhu has shown that the Dhammakaya teachings of Thailand do not originate with the founder of the modern movement, for he himself drew upon earlier sources. In particular, attention is drawn to the writings of Kai Thuean (1733-1832), a forest dwelling monk (arannavasi) from near Ayutthaya who was appointed patriarch by King Rama II in 1820.
Further inforamtion on "mind-made body" (manomayakaya) can be found in the Pali cannon: Maj ii.17 where the meditator comprehends that the material body is of the nature to be dissolved and decay, while the mind “is fastened there, bound there.”
In this sutta, the Buddha says: “I have directed disciples, practices which my disciples produce from this body another mental-body, mind made (manomaya as at Dhp1.1. Ma iii263 explains manena nibbattitam), having all its major and minor parts, not deficient in any sense-organ. (D.i.77; D I 34, 186, 195), as a man might draw an arrow from a reed, and might think thus: ‘This is the reed, this is the arrow, the reed is one thing, the arrow another. It is from the reed that the arrow has been drawn.’ Or it is as a man might draw a sword from a scabbard…or like a snake might come from its hole...even so….”
The most appropriate sounds to accompany these particular visualizations are those associated with the Buddha’s teachings, more specifically the initial syllables of the titles of the books of the Tripitaka;
In the Digha Nikaya, Sammanaphala Sutta, the Buddha says one of the “fruition of the holy life” is the “mind-made body” and a section ensues on how this is achieved; also creating supernormal powers (iddhi) in the process.
It has something to do with the supernormal powers.