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Why is the Bodiless (annga) Gnostic Body (jnana kaya) Considered a Body?

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Abstract This paper analyzes the reasons for which the incorporeal ultimate reality called the ‘‘Gnostic Body’’ (jnanakaya) is categorized as a ‘‘body’’ in the Kalacakra tradition. It examines the diverse ways in which the body imagery is applied to ultimate reality within this tradition. Although conceptions of the Gnostic Body (jnanakaya) as a special category of the Buddha-body have been included in all of the unexcelled yoga-tantras (anuttara-yoga-tantras), they are most extensively elaborated upon in the Kalacakra literature. For this reason, the analysis is primarily based on the Indian Kalacakratantra literary corpus (11th century) (From among the Kalacakratantra literature, I consulted the Ka¯lacakratrantra with the Vimalaprabha¯, Na¯ropa¯’s Sekoddes´at:ı¯ka¯, Sa¯dhuputra’s Sekoddes´at:ipan: ı¯, and the Sadangayoga of Anupamaraksita.) and to the closely related Man˜jusrı namasam:

gı¯ti, Ravis´rı¯jnana’s commentary on the Manjusrı namasamgıti, the

Amr:takan: ika¯t:ippan: ı¯, and Vibhu¯ticandra’s subcommentary Amr:takan: ikodyotanibandha (12th–13th centuries). In so doing, it will bring forth the evaluative and classificatory usages of the term jnana-kaya in the aforementioned sources, and the analysis is concerned with both the heuristic and provocative functions of their discourses. It also addresses the interpretative framework through which the Kalacakra tradition constructs the notions of embodiment and suggests that Buddhist esoteric discourse can be useful in demonstrating that the concept of a body can be understood as a broader category that extends from a physical body, to an immaterial perceptible form, and to the pure nondual awareness. An analysis of the multileveled constructions of the Gnostic Body (jnana-kaya) in the Indian Vajrayana tradition opens new questions and new avenues of investigation with respect to critical assessments of the rubric of the ‘‘body,’’ while bringing to light new models of embodiment.

V. A. Wallace (&) Balliol College, University of Oxford,

Why is the Bodiless (ananga) Gnostic Body (jnanakaya) Considered a Body?


Vesna A. Wallace


Keywords Gnostic body Æ Bliss Æ Gnosis Æ Reflection of Emptiness Æ Realm of experience Æ Habitus


Introduction


In the Kalacakra tradition, the Buddha’s body (buddha-ka¯ya) is characterized as having two aspects—absolute and phenomenal—in accordance with the Maha¯ya¯na Buddhist doctrine of two truths: the ultimate and conventional. Depending upon the context in which a particular aspect is emphasized, the formless, absolute body of the Buddha is referred to by various names such as the jn˜a¯na-ka¯ya (Gnostic Body), sahaja-ka¯ya, or sahaja-tanu (Innate Body), the maha¯sukha-ka¯ya (Body of Sublime Bliss), and the vishuddha-kaya (Pure Body).1 It is conceived as a defining characteristic (laks: an: a) of all Buddha-bodies and as the essence (hr:daya) of all the Buddhas.2 In Indian Buddhist literature in general, the term ka¯ya is frequently used to convey various variations of similar meanings such as body, heap, accumulation, world, and multitude. As we will see, in the Kalacakra tradition, the term ka¯ya conveys almost all of the aforementioned meanings when referring to either the phenomenal manifestations of the Gnostic Body or to its ultimate aspects. However, it also carries the meaning of a habitus.

The Gnostic Body is said to transcend the material nature of atoms due to its freedom from spiritual ignorance (avidya¯) and resultant mental obscurations, which are the basis of corporeality. On account of being free from corporeal form, it is sheer luminosity (prabha¯sitva).3 As such, it is devoid of shape, thought, and verbal expression. In other words, being ultimately unmanifest (avyakta) and beyond the domain of the sense-faculties, it is not a condition for objectification. While this view of the immateriality of the Buddha’s absolute body accords with the Mahayanas view of nirvana without remainder (niropadhi nirvana), it is supplemented elsewhere by the Buddhist tantric interpretation of emptiness. The classical Maha¯ya¯na’s interpretation of emptiness as the absence of inherent existence (nihsvabhava), or as wisdom that perceives phenomenal and personal identitylessness, is here extended to include the absence of material constituents of the mind–body complex. When the Gnostic Body is characterized as having a ‘‘form of 1 The Vimalaprabha¯ commentary on the Kalacakratantra (1994, v. 107, p. 202): advayam: jnanamsam: vrtya¯ suddhakayah: sahajakaya ityarthah: .

2 The Amrtakan: ikodyotanibandha of Vibhu¯ticandra (1994, p. 115): parama¯ks:arajn˜a¯nam: vaks:yama¯nam: sarvetyadi buddhanam:hr:dayabhu¯ tam iti sarvatatha¯gatajn˜a¯naka¯yatva¯d man˜ jus´riyah: bodhisattva¯na¯n˜ cayato vikalpakles´a¯ bodhisattva¯na¯m: te vikalpa¯s´ ca parama¯ks:are sava¯sana¯nirundhyanta iti. 3 The Vimalaprabha¯ commentary on the Kalacakratantra (1986, p. 23): buddhatvamnama sam: sa¯rava¯sana¯cittam iti/ prakr: tiprabha¯svaram: tad eva sam: sa¯rava¯sana¯rahitam: . Cf. the Amr:takan: ikodyotanibandha of Vibhu¯ticandra (1994, p. 183): dharmata¯ru¯pam: s´u¯nyata¯ru¯pam: nira¯varan: atva¯ t prakrtiprabha¯svaram: tasma¯j ja¯tasahaja¯nandacandraprabha¯krtiryasya bhagavatahsa tatha¯. The Sekoddes´at:ı¯ka¯ of Na¯ropa¯ (2006, pp. 193–194): vajrasattvabuddhama¯tarau parama¯ks:arasukhasvabha ¯vau paraman: udharmata¯tı¯ta¯v a¯dars´apratisena¯svapnatulyau parama¯ks:arasvaru¯pa¯v iti/ . . .tatha¯para¯dhya¯tmika¯ vidya¯ prajn˜a¯pa¯ramita¯ prakr: tiprabha¯svara¯ maha¯mudra¯ sahaja¯nandaru¯pin: ı¯ dharmadha¯tunis:yandapu¯rn: a¯vastha¯ sahajatanur ityucyate jinaih: .


emptiness’’ (sunyata-rupa), or as being the reflection of emptiness (sunyata-bimba), the phrase ‘‘form of emptiness’’ is understood in both ways: as an appearance of the emptiness of inherent existence and as an absence of matter. In the context of yogic experience, the phrase ‘‘form of emptiness,’’ or ‘‘empty form’’ (sunyta-bimba) refers to a non-conceptualized appearance (a¯bha¯sa) of one’s own mind, which spontaneously emerges in empty space as 10 sequential signs (nimitta) of smoke, mirage, fireflies, and so on.4 This non-conceptualized appearance is a result of the gradual eradication of mental obscurations and dissolution of the material constituents of the body through the practice of the six-phased yoga (sadanga-yoga). In the initial phase of the practice, the appearance of the empty form is seen with the physical eyes. Eventually, through progressive attainment of extrasensory perception, Bodhisattva stages, and full and perfect awakening (samyaksam: bodhi), the yogı¯ perceives the form of emptiness with a mental eye—with the divine eye (divya-caksu), Buddha-eye, wisdom-eye (prajna¯-caksu), and with the eye of gnosis (jnana-caksu).

The space-element (akasa-dhatu) in which the appearance of the form of emptiness arises is called a ‘‘pure atom’’ (suddhanu). Here, the word ‘‘atom’’ does not designate an irreducible material unit, but is used as a metaphor for the 12 Grounds (bhumis) achieved on the path to Buddhahood. The yogı’s achievement of the 12 Grounds is marked by the purification of the five psychophysical aggregates (skandhas), elements (maha¯bhu¯ tas), and sense-bases (ayatanas) from mental obscurations (citta¯varan: a).

On account of this purification, the yogı’s material constituents vanish and the state of being in which all phenomena become of the same taste (sama-rasa) is actualized. The empty space that remains after a material substratum of the body has vanished is metaphorically called the ‘‘pure atom,’’ or a ‘‘bindu.’’ 4 Ten daytime and nighttime signs are the signs of smoke, mirage, fireflies, a lamp, a flame, the moon, the sun, the supreme form, and a bindu.

5 The Sadangayoga of Anupamaraksita (2000, pp. 95–96): atra prathamam: mamsacaksusa¯ yogy a¯dikarmiko vis´va<bimba>m: pas´yaty abhijn˜a¯bhir vina¯ / tato divyacaks:us:a¯ pas´yaty abhijn˜a¯vadhivas´a¯t/ tato buddhacaks:us:a¯ pas´yati vı¯tara¯ga¯vadhivas´atah: / tatah: prajnacaks:us:a¯ pas´yati bodhisattva¯vadhivas ´a¯t/ tato jn˜a¯nacaks:us:a¯ pas´yati samyaksambuddha¯vadhicittavas´a¯t sarvopaddhivinirmukta iti/ evam: tatha¯gatasya pan˜cacaks:u¯m: s:i ma¯m:

sa¯dı¯ny <ukta¯ni> s´u¯nyata¯dars´anam: prati/ anye sattva¯h: s´u¯nyata¯dars´anavis:aye ja¯tyandha¯ iti tattvabha¯vana¯niyamah: . 6 The Vimalaprabha¯ commentary on the Kalacakratantra (1994, Chap. 5, vs. 166ab and 167a): uktam: prajnaparamita yam: dharmodgataparivarte buddha na¯m: kutracid gamanam: va¯ agamanam: va¯ na bhu¯tam: na ca bhavis: yati na bhavatı¯ti/ tena ekarasa¯gre s´uddhaparama¯n: au siddharase sarvadha¯tuvedhake a¯dha¯re sarvabuddha¯h: samasta¯ ye s´u¯nyalaks:an: a¯ nira¯varan: a¯ iti/ buddhaks:etram: samastam akarmakam: karmava¯tarahitam: tribhuvanajanako jn˜a¯naka¯yena vı¯ks:ayitva¯ s´uddha¯n: au sarvabuddha¯s

te viharanti/ ubhayasamarase s´uddha¯n: a¯v iti . . . evam: bhu¯mya¯dyan: au ra¯garahita¯dikr: tsna¯ni sa¯ks:a¯ t kr: ta¯ny ananta¯ny acala¯dya¯m:pravis: t:a¯nı¯tyarthah: / iha¯n: us´abdena¯cala¯dayo bhu¯maya ukta¯h: na paraman:

avah:/ suddhan: us´abdena a¯dha¯rabhu¯ ta¯ dva¯das´abhu¯mayah: sarva¯varan: aks:ayata ityarthah: /. taih: sardham: vajrasattvo viharati gagane vartakalam: hi ya¯vad/. . . iha ya¯vat sattva¯na¯m: pun: yajnanasam: bha¯rau na bhavatah: ta¯vat tair buddhotpa¯do na dr: s´yate/ ato viharati gagane dharmaka¯yagata ityarthah: .

Cf. the Amr:takan: ika¯ of Ravis´rı¯jn˜a¯na (1994, p. 30): das´abhu¯mayo das´adha¯tu¯na¯m upasam: ha¯rah: / te ca va¯yus´ cittam: bodhicittam: raktamajja¯ asthı¯ni sna¯yuh: ma¯m: sam indriya¯n: i carma ceti/ tes:a¯m upasam: ha¯rah: samarası¯bhavah: . Cf. the Amr: takan: iko¯dyotanibandha of Vibhu¯ticandra (1994, p. 152): dva¯das´abhu¯mijn˜a¯nam: jn˜a¯nasam: bharah: . See also the Sekkodes´at:ı¯ka¯ of Na¯ropa¯ (2006, p. 194). Why is the Bodiless (a_nanga) Gnostic Body (jnana-kaya) Considered a Body? 47


It is called a ‘‘bindu’’ because in the advanced stages of the practice, the form of emptiness is said to appear to the yogı¯ as a bindu, from whose center radiates the ‘‘universal form’’ (vis´va-bimba), described as the body (ru¯pa) of the five unobscured (nira¯varan: a) and imperishable (aks:ara) psychophysical aggregates (skandha), or as a Buddha-body. While the form of emptiness is perceptible to the yogı¯ in this fashion, others engrossed in the dualistic mode of perception are said to see only empty space, like persons blind from birth. Although the form of emptiness is ultimately shapeless, it is nevertheless a form that is detected through the absence of apprehended phenomena.

However, the Gnostic Body of purified psychophysical aggregates transcends the duality of form and formlessness: it is not characterized by material form because it is devoid of atomic particles, and it is not characterized by formlessness because it has emptiness (s´u¯nyata¯) as its form. Since emptiness is inseparable from space, its form is the endless space in which myriads of its own reflections emerge and cease. Therefore, the form of emptiness is also called ‘‘emptiness that is endowed will all aspects’’ (sarvak¯ra-sunyata). Being all pervading like space and endowed with all aspects, the Gnostic Body is inseparable from its appearances (abhasa)—namely, the three worlds (traidha¯tuka ¯bha¯sa) and the three times.7 It is for this reason that its appearance is called the ‘‘universal form’’ (vis´va-bimba). However, although the Gnostic Body is endowed with all aspects, it is ultimately devoid of any aspects. Moreover, owing to its unhindered pervasiveness, the Gnostic Body abides in the diverse bodies of beings. As it is nondual from the sublime bliss (mahasukha) of nirvana:

a, which is present in the bodies of all beings in the form of sensual bliss, it is considered to be the Innate Body (sahaja-ka¯ya) of both the Buddhas and all embodied beings. Thus, while essentially bodiless, it is inseparable from the diverse bodies of beings throughout sam: sa¯ra, although ultimately remaining unaffected by them. Therefore, one is advised to attend to the phenomenal world in the same way one attends to the image of the Buddha created for the sake of worship.8 In this regard, the Gnostic Body can be considered a body in the sense that it is a limitless, space-like form encompassing all appearances within itself and a habitat of the corporeal world. For this reason, it is at times referred to as a bodiless (ana_nga) body.


The Gnostic Body as a Realm of Gnosis


Due to the fact that the Gnostic Body is ultimately devoid of corporality and yet endowed with all forms, its appearances are considered similar to the images in a 7 See the Sekoddes´at:ı¯ka¯ of Naropa¯ (2006, Chap. 8, v. 146a and its commentary, p. 197): bimbam: sunyodbhavam: hetuh: phalam aks:arajam: sukham. 8 The Kalacakratantra (1994, Chap. 5, v. 66, pp. 37–38): sattva¯ buddha¯ na buddhas tvapara iha maha¯n vidyate lokadha¯tau tes:a¯m a¯ra¯dhan: ena tvaparamitabhavas´ chidyate nirvikalpa¯t/ droham: kurvan hi yogı¯ vrajati hi narakam: raudrava¯dyam: maha¯ntam: tasma¯c citte vis´uddhe ‘apyabudhabudhajana¯na¯m: viruddham: na kurya¯t//.

prognostic mirror. Since the images appearing in a prognostic mirror are not reflections of actual objects that are external to the mirror, their cause is immaterial and they themselves are insubstantial. Similarly, the appearances of the Gnostic Body in the mirror of emptiness, in which all phenomena are at display, are illusory and insubstantial, for they have no existence outside that mirror. They are a mere reflection of emptiness (sunyata-bimba), which is inherently non-arisen although it has a form. Thus, one could say that Gnostic Body, which has emptiness as its form, is at the same time a mirror and an array of the reflections of non-existing objects in the mirror. As such it ultimately exceeds any perception.

While all of the appearances in the mirror of emptiness arise and cease, the Gnostic Body itself neither arises nor ceases.9 Although its wisdom aspect is primordially non-arisen, its method, or compassion aspect, is perpetually arisen, for it can be known by every individual as a nirma¯n: aka¯ya and a sam: bhogaka¯ya. On the

other hand, its empty form is not non-existent because it has arisen from space, and its imperishable bliss is not existent because it has arisen from the non-conceptualized and illusion-like, empty form.10 Thus, the Gnostic Body transcends the categories of existence and non-existence in the same way as the image in a prognostic mirror escapes such a classification. If the image that is perceived by a virgin in a prognostic mirror were existent, the virgin would see a reflection of her face instead of some other image. If the image perceived by her were non-existent, 9 The Sekoddes´at:ı¯ka¯ of Na¯ropa¯ (2006, pp. 198–200): bimbasya sarva¯ka¯rasvacitta¯bha¯sasya¯bha¯va ucchedo na¯sti/ . . . abha¯va¯c chu¯nya¯ t kevala¯malanabhastala¯d eva pratya¯tmavedyasya tryadhvatraidha ¯tukapratibha¯sasyotpatteh: / . . .ata eva ru¯pa¯rupavinirmukta ityucyate/ pratisena¯ya¯m: hidapran: a¯dyupalabhyama¯nas´arira¯ya¯m:

na ru¯palaks:an:am: parama¯n:udravyasandoha¯bha¯va¯nn a¯ru¯palaks:an:am upalabhyama¯nasya durapakramatva¯ t/ tasma¯n na bimbam: bhavam: sam: sa¯ram: a¯ya¯ti nirva¯n:

am ucchedam a¯ya¯ ti na¯ks:aram. The Sekoddes´at:ippan: ı¯ of Sa¯dhuputra S´ rı¯dhara¯nanda (1997, vs. 152–155, p, 142): prajn˜a¯hetor aja¯tatva¯t prajn˜a¯hetu¯dbhavam: phalam/ prajn˜a¯hetor aja¯tatva¯t prajn˜a¯ja¯tam: na hetujam// ato na hetujam: jn˜a¯nam: prajn˜a¯jn˜a¯nam anuttaram/ phalena hetuna¯nyonyam: na parasparamudran: am// hetuh: phalam: ca yat sarvam: tat pratı¯tyasamudbhavam/ anyonyamudritam: bimbam: notpannam: na ca nirvr: tam//

prajn˜a¯ ca¯tyantanirvr: ta¯ utpannas´ ca paro ‘ks:arah: / hetuphalavinirmuktir na parasparamudran:am: // 10 The Sekoddes´at:ippan: ı¯ of Sa¯dhuputra S´ rı¯dhara¯nanda (1997, vs. 27–30, pp. 122–123): pihita¯pihitanetra¯bhya¯m: s´u¯nye yan na¯nukalpitam/ dr: s´yate svapnavad bimbam: tad bimbam: bha¯vayet sada¯// abha¯ve bimbe bha¯vana¯ sa¯ yogina¯m: na bha¯vana¯ / bha¯vo ‘bha¯vo na cittasya bimbe ‘kalpitadars´ana¯ t// pratisena¯m iva¯dars´e pas´yet kuma¯ry avastuja¯m/ tatha¯tı¯ta¯na¯gatam: dharmam: yogy ambare ‘pi pas´yati//

asya¯ bha¯vo na bha¯vah: sya¯t vastus´u¯nya¯rthadars´ana¯ t/ vastuno ‘bha¯vato ‘pi arthah: ma¯ya¯svapnendraja¯lavat// Why is the Bodiless (a_nanga) Gnostic Body (jn˜a¯na-ka¯ya) Considered a Body? 49

On the basis of this, it was possible for the Kalacakra tradition to personify the gnosis of sublime bliss as the Adibuddha Kalacakra. The mutual pervasiveness of emptiness and bliss, of gnosis (jn˜a¯na) and the object of gnosis (jn˜eya), as ultimate

aspects of the mind and body is figuratively depicted as a couple in sexual union Kalacakra and Vis´vama¯ta¯. Their nonduality is conceived as a neuter gender state (napum: saka-pada).17 This characterization is to point out not only the nonduality of the Buddha’s mind and body but also to indicate ultimate reality as transcending any gender defining characteristics. It is said that although

the Gnostic Body is often referred to as male because of its relation to the lineage of sages (rsis) through whom it historically emanated itself in the human world, in reality, it is neither male nor female, for it is ultimately unmanifest (avyakta). This conception of the omnipresent Gnostic Body as evading the gender-based classifications has provided the foundation for the androgynous model of humanity, social order, and the cosmos as a whole, which permeates this tantric system in various ways.

The Gnostic Body encompasses various types of gnosis. It is the body of the gnosis of conventional reality (sam: vr: ti-jn˜a¯na), which sees all phenomena as being similar to an illusion; and it is the body of the gnosis of ultimate reality (paramartha-jnana), which is the non-perception (anupalambha) of any dharmas. 19 It is also understood as a bearer (dhr:k) of the vajra of gnosis of the four types of bliss (a¯nanda) inseparable from the manifestations of the four bodies of the Buddha. Hence, it is called the ‘‘Vajra-holder’’ (vajradhara) and is characterized as a collection of the four drops of gnosis (jnana-bindu-samuha). Thus, in this context, the phrase jnana-kaya is a body in so far as it is understood as an agglomerate of multifaceted knowledge. However, since the four drops of gnosis are present in their impure aspects as minute, physical bindus (‘‘drops’’) within four cakras of the embodied beings, the Gnostic Body is also an embodied human being in its phenomenal expression.


The Gnostic Body as a Realm of Experience


As mentioned earlier, Gnostic Body transcends the conceptual classifications of the subject of knowledge and the object of knowledge, because it does not apprehend external phenomena, but everywhere sees only itself. Therefore, it is a unified state of knowledge (jn˜a¯na) and the object of knowledge (jneya), which is achieved through the realization of the identitylessness (nairatmya) of one’s own mind, in which the apprehending mind (grahaka-citta), or wisdom, has merged into the 17 The Sekoddes´at:ı¯ka¯ of Na¯ropa (2006, p. 194): aka¯rasambhavah: samyaksambuddha: prajn˜opa ¯ya¯tmako vajrasattvo napum: sakapadam: sahajaka¯ya ityucyate jn˜a¯najn˜eya¯tmako hetuphalayor abhedatva¯ t/ sa ca ka¯lacakrabhagava¯n parama¯ks:arah: sukhapadam. 18 The Sekoddes´at:ippan: ı¯ of Sa¯dhuputra S´ rı¯dhara¯nanda (1997, v. 151, p. 28): bimbam: na bha¯vam a¯ya¯ti na¯pi nirvan: am aksaram/ anyonya¯ li_ngitam: s´a¯ntam: napum: sakapadam: param// 1The Am: r:takan: ikodyotanibandha of Vibhu¯ticandra (1994, p. 128): jn˜a¯naka¯ya¯ jn˜a¯nabindavah: / sam: vr: tijn˜a¯nam: ma¯yopamabha¯vabodhah: / parama¯rthajn˜a¯nam: sarvadharama¯nupalambhah: .


she would be able to see nonexistent things such as the hare’s horn, and the like, but this is not the case.11

Moreover, just as the virgin does not see the image in a prognostic mirror with her physical eyes that are covered by blinders, so the empty form of the Gnostic Body cannot be perceived by visual sense-faculty. It is perceptible only to the mind because it is nothing other than the reflection of one’s own mind, since the mind is able to perceive its own reflection due to its innate luminosity; and this very luminosity of the mind is said to be an appearance of the other three Buddha Bodies. Therefore, even though illusory forms of the Buddha-bodies such as limitless nirman:

aka¯yas and sam: bhogaka¯yas may function as the object of cognition for others, they are ultimately not a phenomenon separate from the mind that cognizes them. In this context, the term jnana-kaya seems to designate the ‘‘realm of gnosis,’’ or ‘‘the realm of mind,’’ which cannot be explained ontologically but only in terms of its appearances and their functions.


The Gnostic Body as a Collection of Bliss and Gnosis


Furthermore, an appearance of the form of emptiness is said to be the cause of the imperishable bliss (aks:ara-sukha) attained through the accumulation of 21,600 moments of bliss, which, in turn, gives rise to the gnosis (jn˜a¯na) of the perfection of wisdom (prajn˜a¯-pa¯ramita¯). The indivisible unity of these two—emptiness and bliss—is termed the Gnostic Body (jnana-kaya) and defined as the embodiment (ka¯yatva) of the gnosis of all the Tathagatas.13 The term ka¯ya here clearly subsumes the meaning of a ‘‘collection,’’ suggesting that the phrase jnana-kaya is to be interpreted here as a ‘‘set of bliss and gnosis.’’

This Kalacakra tradition’s view of a corporeal body as an extension of the afflictive and cognitive obscurations implies that even the mind and body that are characterized by physicality are not two opposing principles but extensions and expressions of each other. As indicated in the Sekoddes´at:ı¯ka¯, the psychophysical aggregates, elements, and sense-bases (a¯yatana) are nothing other than incidental 11 The Sekoddes´at:ipan: ı¯ of Sa¯dhuputra (1997, vs. 33–34, pp. 123–124): yadi pas´yati sadru¯pam: svamukham: kim: na pas´yati/

yadi pas´yaty asadru¯pam: s´as´as´r: _ngam: katham: na ca// yadi ta¯vad vastu pratibha¯ti tada¯ katham: darpan: e sam: nihitam: kuma¯rika¯ya¯ <mu>kham: vidyama ¯nam eva na pratibha¯ti/ asad vastv api na pratibha¯ti/ atyanta¯bha¯valaks:an: as´as´avis:a¯n: asya

¯pratigamyama¯natva¯ t/ na pas´yaty anyacaks:urbhya¯m: svacaks:urbhya¯m: na pas´yati/ dr: s´yama¯nam aja¯tam: tu kuma¯rya¯ ja¯takam: yatha¯// anyacaks:urbhya¯m iti lala¯t:a¯dibha¯va¯bhya¯m: svacaks:urbhya¯m: na pas´yati andhapat:apraccha¯ditatva ¯t.

12 The Amr:takan: ikodyotanibandha of Vibhu¯ticandra (1994, p. 152): dha¯tugotram: prakr: tis´ cittasya prabha¯svaretyukte/. . . prabha¯svara¯d eva ka¯yatrayaprathana¯t/ sahajodaye ks:aran: a¯sambhava¯d avyayah: / anyam apeks:ya yogivis:ayah: svayam: bhavati akr: trimatva¯t sahajah: . 13 The Amr: takan: ikodyotanibandha of Vibhu¯ticandra (1994, p. 115): sarvatatha¯gataka¯yajn˜a¯natva¯t. 50 V. A. Wallace 123 (a¯gantuka) habitual propensities of the mind (citta-va¯sana¯).14 In contrast, the Gnostic Body is considered to be a habitual propensity of nirvan: a (nirva¯n: ava

¯sana¯), which is connately present in the mind of the yogı¯. This view provides a reason for which it can spontaneously appear as a reflection of the yogı¯’s own mind in the form of various signs (nimitta).15 The mind and its reflection are said to be nondual, like the moon and the moonlight.16 Just as an eye can see its own reflection in a mirror, so the yogı¯’s apprehending mind (gra¯haka-citta), which is wisdom (prajna¯ ) that knows the emptiness of all phenomena, sees its own reflection, which is the apprehended mind (gra¯hya-citta) and characterized by the emptiness endowed with all aspects (sarvakaropeta-sunyata¯ ). The mind’s perception of its empty form (s´u¯nya-bimba) is defined as self-awareness (svasam: vedana¯). This self-awareness is said to result in the gnosis of imperishable bliss (aks:ara-sukha), which is metaphorically called the ‘‘face of the Buddha’’ (buddha-vaktra), or ‘‘the face of gnosis’’ (jnana-vaktra).

Being free from the habitual propensities of sam: sa¯ra (sam: sa¯ra-va¯sana¯ ), the gnosis of imperishable bliss liberates the mind from its obscurations and facilitates the arising of the new, imperishable psychophysical aggregates. The experience of the gnosis that is aware of its blissful nature is no longer contingent on the physical body. The newly emerged psychophysical aggregates, which are mutually pervasive and indistinguishable due to their immateriality, make up the Gnostic Body. This means that the Gnostic Body is not just a mere transcendence of the

mind–body complex characterized by materiality but also the manifestation of its purified aspect. Thus, at the full and perfect awakening, the mind–body complex is not eliminated but only sublimated. This explains why the Gnostic Body is considered capable of functioning as the fundamental source of the unlimited capacities of the body, speech, and mind that manifest as various Buddha-bodies. This, perhaps, in part explains why in Vajrayana discourse in general, mind–body imagery is projected onto ultimate reality itself, whose mind–body complex is interpreted such that emptiness is its form and the imperishable bliss is its the mind.

14 The Sekkodes´at:ı¯ka¯ of Na¯ropa¯ (2006, pp. 201–202): iha hi yad vaktavyam: mu¯rkhaih: parama¯n: usandoha¯tmakaih: skandhadha¯tva¯yatanair vina¯ cittama¯tren: a prajnajnanam: svasam: vedyam: na bhavati tan na/ kasma¯t/ a¯gantukacittava¯sana¯vas´a¯t/ iha skandhadha¯tva¯yatanam: na¯ma¯gantukacittava ¯sana¯.

15 The Kalacakratantra (1994, Chap. 5, v. 116d): sarva¯ka¯ram: svacittam: vis:ayavirahitam: na¯param: cittam eva. 16 The Sadangayoga of Anupamaraks: ita (2000, p. 113): aja¯tasya¯niruddhasya yaj jn˜eyasyeha dars´anam/ tat svacittasya na¯nyasya ba¯hyajn˜eyavibha¯gatah: // The Sekoddes´at:ipan: ı¯ of Sa¯dhuputra (1997, v. 24, p. 122): asyaiva sa¯dhanam: kurya¯ t pratibha¯sair acintitaih: / dhu¯ma¯dibhir nimittais taih: prajn˜a¯bimbair nabhah: samaih: // asyeti sarvaprapan˜carahitaka¯yacatus: t:ayaikalolı¯bhu¯ ta¯nuttaramaha¯sukhasvabha¯vasya vajrasattvasya prajn˜a¯bimbair nirvikalpa¯nuttaraprajn˜a¯svaru¯paprajn˜a¯pratibha¯sa¯ka¯rais´ ca candracandrikeva ¯bhinnaih: . Why is the Bodiless (a_nanga) Gnostic Body (jn˜a¯na-ka¯ya) Considered a Body? 51


apprehended mind (grahya-citta), or bliss. In this regard, here too, the Gnostic Body, consisting of the unified sublime bliss and gnosis, is understood as a body in the sense that it is a realm pervaded by bliss and cognitive experience. It is said that this immaterial, luminous gnosis can be still considered a ‘‘body’’ (ka¯ya) owing to the pervasiveness of its bliss (sukha-caryatva),20 which radiates limitless emanations of bliss throughout the entire cosmos. It is on account of its blissful nature that the Gnostic Body is also called the ‘‘Body of Sublime Bliss’’ (mahasukhakaya). The Body of Sublime Bliss is experienced in three different ways in accordance with different levels of the spiritual conditions of beings. In the case of ordinary people (pr: thag-jana), who engage in sexual bliss with emission, it is experienced as

an impure (samala) body.A¯ ca¯ryas experience it as their stainless (nirmala) bodies, and in the case of Buddhas, it is experienced as a completely stainless (vimala) body of the undifferentiated bliss and emptiness.21 Thus, although it is ultimately pure and incorporeal, it does not escape the possibility of being experienced as impure and corporeal. Considered as the all-pervasive sublime bliss and the realm of absolute space (dharmadhatu), it is interpreted as a cause of the origination of all other Buddha-bodies and is accordingly termed ‘‘the progenitor (praja¯pati) of the Buddhas 22’’ and the ‘‘Great Body (maha¯-ka¯ya) of all the Buddhas.’’ Thus, it is the ultimate source of both sam: sa¯ra and nirva¯n:

a: with regard to the former, it is a realm of experiences within the physical body; and in terms of the latter, it is a realm of

space-embodied bliss. Thus in each instance, it is considered a body (ka¯ya) on account of being a domain of experience.

The Gnostic Body, known also as Innate Body (sahajaka¯ya), is identified as a gnosis-vajra characterized by compassion. Therefore, it is also referred to as a pure yoga (visuddha-yoga), or as a vajra-yoga, consisting of wisdom and method. Owing to the destruction of the fourth (turya¯) state of the mind, it is purified by means of liberation through emptiness (sunyata¯-vimoksa), or by a gnosis that apprehends both emptiness as an absence of inherent existence (nihsvabhava) and the emptiness of the past and the future.

Although this innate, Gnostic Body is a single unitary reality, it is said to manifest in four different ways. In accomplishing the goals of others, it becomes the 20 The Am: r: takan: ikodyotanibandha of Vibhu¯ticandra, 1994, p. 195: ana_ngaka¯yo bodhicittavajrah: sukhacaryatva¯t ka¯yah: / . . . nirma¯n: aka¯ya¯dı¯na¯m: kot:iparyantamaha¯sukhaka¯yam: vispha¯rayati/

The Am: r: takan: ikodyotanibandha of Vibhu¯ticandra (1994, pp. 184–185): sarves:a¯m: khalu bha¯va¯na¯m: vis´uddhis tathata¯ smr: ta¯ ityukte/ s´uddhah: s´u¯nyah: / . . . trividha¯ tathata¯—samala¯ pr: thagjana ¯na¯m/ nirmala¯ a¯ca¯rya¯n: a¯m/ vimala¯ sambuddha¯na¯m: phala¯vastha¯ bhu¯takot:ih: / 22 The Am: r: takan: ikodyotanibandha of Vibhu¯ticandra (1994, p. 165): jnanaprabodha¯ t turya¯ tı¯tam: yatprabha¯svaram: tadudbhu¯tatva¯t tanmayam: jn˜a¯nasya vidyam: tannirma¯n: atvena praja¯na¯m: janana¯ t patih: praja¯patih: .

The Sekoddes´at:ı¯ka¯ of Na¯ropa¯ (2006, pp. 69–70): tatra svabha¯va¯bha¯vatah: s´u¯nyam/ tasya s´u¯nyasya bha¯vah: s´u¯nyata¯/ iha¯tı¯ta¯na¯gatam: jn˜eyam: s´u¯nyam/ tasya dars´anam: bha¯vah: s´u¯nyata¯ gambhı¯roda¯ra¯ / atı¯ta¯na¯gata¯bha¯va¯d gambhı¯ra¯/ atı¯ta¯na¯gata¯dars´ana¯d uda¯ra¯ / tayopalaks: itam: tadgra¯hakam: va¯ jn˜a¯nam: s´u¯nyata¯vimoks:ah: / tena vis´uddham: turya¯vastha¯ks:aya¯d aks:aram: maha¯sukham/ kam: sukham: tadrun: addhı¯ti karun: a¯laks:an:am: jn˜a¯navajram/ sa eva sahajaka¯yah: prajn˜opa¯ya¯tmako vis´uddho yoga ityucyate/ . . . taduktam: vimalaprabha¯ya¯m: prathamas´lokavya¯khya¯ne – sa eva sahajaka¯yah: s´u¯nyata¯ vimoks:avis´uddho jna¯navajrah: sarvajn˜ah: prajn˜opa¯ya¯tmako vis´uddhayoga iti. Cf. this citation with the Vimalaprabha¯ commentary on the Kalacakratantra (1986, Chap. 1, v. 1, p. 45.) s´uddhajn˜a¯navijn˜a¯na¯tmako acyuto binduh: . . . jnanavajrayogo vajrasattva: .


dharmakaya, which is neither one nor many.24 This dharmakaya consists of wisdom (prajna¯) that apprehends the minds of others; and it consists of method (upa¯ya), which is the apprehended mind characterized by compassion. It is the integrated body (yuganaddha-kaya), in which ultimate and conventional realities are unified.

This dharmakaya is the translucent sam: bhogaka¯ya, which is a reflected image (pratibimba) comprised of wisdom that knows the past and future of beings, and of the method that teaches them by means of unarticulated sounds that issue from it. Because it is devoid of the prajnaic winds associated with a physical body, its sounds are

like an echo, devoid of verbal expressions, and are present everywhere. To violent beings, the sambhogakaya appears as the dark Heruka or as the ferocious Vajrabhairava in order to tame them. It appears as Vairocana in order to train the deluded, as Ratnasambhava to show generosity to the suffering, as Amitabha to train impassioned beings, and as Amoghasiddhi to destroy the demons of obstacles (vighna).26 In order to mature sentient beings, this sam: bhogaka¯ya becomes a nirma¯n: aka¯ya.

It shows itself in the three worlds through the illusion (ma¯ya¯) of its limitless emanations. The illusory body of its emanation, which enters the minds of humans, 24 The Am: r: takan: ikodyotanibandha of Vibhu¯ticandra (1994, pp. 94–95): samastabuddhadharmasvabha¯vataya¯ ca tad eva satyadvaya¯dvaidhı¯bha¯vasvabha¯vam: yuganaddha ¯khya¯m ucyate/ tasma¯d yugganaddhaka¯ya eva dharmakayah: sa¯m:

bhogikasva¯bha¯vikaka¯ya¯bhya¯m:

prthagbhu¯to yogipratyaks:avedyah: / ru¯para¯s´ir ananto me nirmanakaya uttamah: /

rutara¯s´ir ananto me sambhogakaya uttamah: //

dharmara¯s´ir ananto me dharmakaya uttamah: /

sukhara¯s´ir ananto me sukhakayo ‘ks:arah: parah: // evan˜ ca s:

od: as´ı¯kala¯bodhah: paracittajn˜a¯napratis´abdasadr: s´as´abda¯dhigama¯s´es:aru¯pasandars ´anajn˜a¯nalaks:an:am: catuh: ka¯yasvaru¯pam a¯veditam/ uktan˜ ca srı¯kalacakre na prajna¯ na¯py upa¯yah: sahajatanur iyam: dharmakayo babhu¯va prajn˜opa¯yasvabha¯vah: khalu vigatatamo jn˜a¯navijn˜a¯nabheda¯ t/ so ‘yam: sam: bhogaka¯yah: pratiravaka iva¯nekasattva¯rthakartta¯ sattva¯na¯m:

pa¯kahetor bhavati punar asau buddhanirma¯n: aka¯yah: // The Vimalaprabha¯ commentary on the Kalacakratantra (1994, Chap. 5, v. 89, p. 45), where the following verse is cited from the A¯ dibuddhatantra: uddhr:tam: man˜juvajren:a a¯dibuddha¯n niranvaya¯ t/ laks:an:am: buddhaka¯ya¯na¯m: caturn: a¯m: tadvitanyate//

The Sekoddes´at:ı¯ka¯ of Na¯ropa¯ (2006, pp. 70–71): sa eva dharmaka¯yo ‘nimittavimoks:avis´uddham: cittavajram: jn˜a¯naka¯yah: prajn˜opa¯ya¯tmako dharma¯tma¯ yoga ityuktah: / sa eva sam: bhogaka ¯yo ‘pran: ihitavimoks:avis´uddham: va¯gvajram: dinakaravapuh: prajn˜opa¯ya¯tmako mantrayoga ityuktah: / sa eva nirma¯n: aka¯yo

‘nabhisam: ska¯ravimoks:avis´uddham: ka¯yavajram: padmaptra¯yata¯ks:ah: prajn˜opa¯ya¯tmakah: sam: stha¯nayoga ityukta iti.

The Sekoddes´at:ı¯ka¯ of Na¯ropa¯ (2006, p. 198): s´u¯nyata¯karun: ayor anayoh: sam: vr: tiparama ¯rthasatyasvabha¯vayoh: sam: yogo mı¯lanam: vajrayogah: / sa ca¯dvayo yuganaddha¯khyo ‘ks:aras´ cety etad eva tattvam/ 26 The Kalacakratantra and the Vimalaprabha (1994, Chap. 5, v. 90, p. 46): eko ‘sau vajrasattvah: pralayanibho heruko vai babhu¯ va/ raudra¯n:a¯m: pa¯cana¯rtham: sa ca samayajino mohita¯na¯m: sukha¯rtham: / ratnes´o duh: khita¯na¯m: sa ca kamaladharo ra¯gin: a¯m: ra¯gahetor/ vighna¯na¯m: dhvam: sana¯rtham: tv asikarakamalo ‘moghasiddhir babhu¯va//


gods, and Buddhas, is a non-arisen phenomenon, devoid of origination and cessation. Although its emanations are inseparable from various phenomena, they are not physical bodies (ru¯paka¯ya). Just as the body of a person who appears in a dream is a projection of the dreamer’s mind, so the nirma¯n: aka¯yas are mere projections of

the habitual propensities of the minds (citta-va¯sana¯) of ordinary beings. Although incorporeal, each of these bodies is androgynous in that each can project an anthropomorphic form through which it appears as simultaneously male and female to beings on different planes of existence. Thus, all perceptible forms of the Gnostic Body exist only in relation to other sentient beings and not in and of themselves.27 The Gnostic Body as a Set of Esoteric Teachings and Practices

The immateriality of all the manifestations of the Buddha-bodies is strongly emphasized throughout the Kalacakra literature, for if the Buddhas were physical bodies, they would meet their end when their material forms are vanished. The misconception of the nirmanakayas as physical forms is said to result from the incomprehension of the profound Buddha-dharma. This misconception is considered detrimental to one’s spiritual progress, for it leads one to ‘‘deviant’’ practices. Those who misconceive the Buddha’s emanations in this way are said to become


overcome by delusion and hope that their putrid bodies will become Buddha’s bodies in this life. They go for instruction to inauthentic teachers, ingest the five ambrosias (amr: ta) in the hope of making their bodies ageless and immortal, and in hope of becoming the Varjasattva himself. They believe that one should actually kill beings by means of a samadhi focused on a wrathful deity; and they lie, steal, and take other men’s wives. Others, taking the words of evil tantric masters (a¯ca¯ryas) as their authority, believe that one should follow the path of ten non-virtues by means of deity-yoga. They ingest substances that are not ritually purified and transformed into ambrosia and thereby ineffective in bringing about the qualities of Buddhahood.28 27 The Sekoddes´at:ı¯ka¯ of Na¯ropa¯ (2006, v. 151 and the commentary, pp. 198–199): bimbam: na bhavam a¯ya¯ti na¯pi nirvan: am aks:aram/

anyonya¯ li_ngitam: s´a¯ntam: napum: sakapadam: param// anyonya¯ li_ngitam: s´a¯ntam avika¯ rı¯ndriyavika¯rarahitatva¯ t/ idam evobhaya¯tmakam: napum: sakapadam: kevalaprajn˜opa¯yapaks:ayor abha¯vat. 28 The Vimalaprabha t:ı¯ka¯ commentary on the Kalacakratantra (1994, Chap. 5, pp. 71–72): ato bhgavato vacana¯d ru¯paka¯yo bhagavan na bhavati sarvabuddha¯na¯m: sama¯jitatva¯ t/ yadi ru¯paka¯ya¯ buddha¯h:

tada¯ parama¯n: uru¯pen: a¯pi mı¯lanam: na sya¯d iti/ va¯kyam: s´rutva¯ tatha¯pi sattva¯ bhagavatoktam: gambhı¯roda¯radharmam: parı¯ks:ayitva¯ na gr:hn: anti buddhatva¯ya gurum: ca parı¯ks:ayitva¯ na¯ra¯dhayanti maha¯mu¯rkha¯ lobha¯bhibhu¯ ta¯ santa ihaiva janamny asma¯kam: pu¯ tis´arı¯ram: buddhas´arı¯ram: bhavis: yatı¯ty a¯s´a¯lubdha¯ akalya¯n: amitrasam: sarga¯d asadguru¯pades´a¯d

iha vairocana¯dı¯ni pan˜ca¯mr: ta¯ni gokudahana¯dipala¯ni bhaks:ya¯n: i svabha¯vas´uddha¯ni tatha¯gatenokta ¯ni/ ebhir bhaks: itaih: s´arı¯ram ajara¯maram: bhavis:yati vajrasattvo ‘pi varado bhavis: yatı¯ti/ anyatra vajrakule krodhara¯jasama¯dhina¯ pra¯n: ino gha¯tya¯h:

/ khad: gakule ‘moghasiddhisama¯dhina¯ ‘satyam: vaktavyam: / ratnakule vairocanasama¯dhina¯ parasvam: ha¯ryam: / padmakule ‘mita¯bhasama ¯dhina¯ parastrı¯ gra¯hya¯/ cakrakule vairocanasama¯dhina¯ pan˜ca¯mr: tapala¯ni bhaks:a¯n: ı¯ya¯nı¯ti/ apare

‘pi das´a¯kus´aladharmapatha¯ devata¯yogena yogina¯ kartavya¯ iti/ evam: dus: t:a¯ca¯ryavacanam: prama ¯n: ı¯kr: tya das´a¯kus´ala¯n karmapatha¯n kurvanti as´odhita¯ny abodhita¯ny apradı¯pita¯ny anamr: tı¯kr: ta¯ni bhaks:yanti/ ta¯ni ca bhaks: ita¯ni pan˜ca¯mr: ta¯ni na tes:a¯m: bhaks:aka¯na¯m:

buddhatvagun:

ada¯yaka¯ni bhavantı ¯ti tatha¯gatavacana¯prabhodhatva¯d iti. Why is the Bodiless (a_nanga) Gnostic Body (jnana-kaya) Considered a Body? 55


When the secret Vajrayana is properly understood, one knows the Vajrayana to be itself the unified state of the body, speech, and mind,29 which results from bliss and gives rise to the gnosis of bliss. Vajrayana itself is said to be the Gnostic Body for a number of reasons. The gnosis of sublime bliss is such that it expands (tanyate) as a great tantra (maha¯tantra), as an extended discourse (prabandha);30 and the sounds and meanings of its mantras are nothing other than the sublime bliss of the Gnostic Body, which protects the mind of the yogı¯.31 Thus, here, the Gnostic Body is considered to be a body in the sense of being a set of esoteric teachings and practices that have issued from it, point to it, and lead one to its realization.


The Gnostic Body as a Habitus of All Divine Forms


Since there is nothing separate from the Gnostic Body, one is told that even various nirgun: a and sagun: a divine forms, which are sought after and worshipped by the proponents of the Brahmanic tradition, are contained in it. The Gnostic Body is a knower of brahman (brahma-vid), as its blissful gnosis is declared to be brahman on the basis of the statement that the nature of brahman is bliss (a¯nando brahman: o ru¯pam).32 In that regard, the Gnostic Body is characterized as liberation (moks:a), the fourth pursuit of men. It is also said to be the Brahma¯ of the Brahman: as, for it is the body of sublime passion and the nature of Brahma¯’s four faces, characterized by the four Divine Abidings (brahmaviharas). It is the very nature of Visnu, Rahu, Indra, Tryambaka, and other deities,33 although unrecognized as such by the Brahman:

ic sages who consider the older Vedic Dharma to be 29 The Amr:takan: ika¯ of Ravis´rı¯jn˜a¯na (1994, p. 4): guhyam: sravakapratyekabuddhaya¯nayor uttaram: vajraya¯nam: ka¯yava¯kcittajn˜a¯naikalolı¯bhu¯ to va¯ tatra maha¯sukharu¯pataya¯ ra¯jata iti guhyara¯ t:. 30 The Amr: takan: ika¯ of Ravis´rı¯jn˜a¯na (1994, p. 8): ma¯ya¯ja¯le ma¯ya¯ja¯la¯bhisambodhilaks:an: e tanyate vyutpa¯dyata iti tantram/ . . . maha¯tantram: maha¯sukhajn˜a¯nam: ity arthah: / uktan˜ ca tantram: prabandham a¯khya¯tam: sam: sa¯ram: tantram is:yate/ tantram: guhyam: rahasya¯khyam uttaram: tantram ucyate// 31 The Vimalaprabha¯ commentary on the Ka¯lacakratantra (1994, Chap. 3, v. 1, p. 2): mantram iti jn˜a¯nam/ manastra¯n:

abha¯vatva¯t/ Cf. the Amr:takan: ika¯ of Ravis´rı¯jn˜a¯na (1994, p. 28): maha¯mantram: maha¯sukhajn˜a¯nam: tenottamo niravadyah: tadru¯pa ity arthah: / 32 The Man˜ jus´rı¯na¯masa_ngı¯ti and the Am: r: takan: ika¯ of Ravis´rı¯jn˜a¯na (1994, v. 19, p. 67): brahmavid bra¯hman:o brahma¯ brahmanirva¯n: am a¯ptava¯n

muktir moks:o vimoks:a¯_ngo vimuktih: s´a¯ntita¯ s´ivah: prakr: tiprabha¯svaras´u¯nyata¯karun: a¯bhinnajn˜a¯nam: brahma tatta¯da¯tmyena vetty anubhavatı¯ti brahmavit/ . . . a¯ka¯s´a¯saktacittataya¯ pratya¯ha¯ra¯dis:ad: a_ngasam: ks:epacatura_ngabrahmaviha¯racaturdhya ¯nacaturmukhasvabha¯vatva¯d brahma¯/ bra¯hman:o nirva¯n: am a¯nandah:/ a¯nandam:

brahman:o ru¯pam iti vacana¯ t/ tada¯ptava¯n/ s´u¯nyata¯vinirbha¯gavarttitva¯n muktih: / . . . samyagjn ˜a¯na¯gnibhasmı¯kr: tasattvarajastamaskandhatvena vimoks:a eva¯_nga suru¯pam: yasya sa tatha¯.

33 The Am: r: takan: ikodyotanibandha of Vibhuticandra (1994, p. 199): deva¯na¯m apy atis´ayena divyatı ¯ti/ vis:an: a¯d vis:n:

u¯cyate ity ukter upendra ity arthah: /. . . jagadasya pra¯des´ikaskandhama¯ra¯deh: prathamo vina¯yakah: / ka¯ya¯der ana¯sravata¯/ muktis tadvis´uddhya¯ tryambko mahes´varah: /


natural and innate (sahaja) and the later Buddha-Dharma as artificial (kr: taka).34 In this way, the Kalacakratantra’s conception of the Gnostic Body as a single, indivisible, and omnipresent ultimate reality has allowed for the appropriation and reinterpretation of the Brahman: ic conceptions of absolute reality and its divine manifestations. Thus, as the ultimate body of all Buddhist and Bra¯man: ic deities, the Gnostic Body is understood as a habitat of all divine forms.


We are told, the Buddhas abide in their empty form (s´u¯nya-bimba) whether they enter the mother’s womb in order to mature ordinary people, whether they arise in a heaven to eliminate the ego-grasping (aham: kara-grahan: a) of the Sravakas dwelling in heavens, or whether they manifest in the syllable evam: in order to establish the great Bodhisattvas—such as Subhu¯ti, Maitreya, and others—in complete and perfect Buddhahood, instructing them in the fourth, Gnostic Body.35 Thus, the Gnostic Body is not to be seen as static, for although peaceful (santa), it is continually operative through its luminosity, bliss, and compassion. The phenomenal aspect of the Gnostic Body—whether cosmic, social, or individual— is an appearance of spiritual ignorance whereby one perceives a material form where there is none and identifies it as ‘‘I’’ or ‘‘mine.’’ A phenomenal body is not a thing in and of itself, but rather a series of experiential events taking place in con- 34 See the Vimalaprabha¯ commentary on the Kalacakratantra (Chap. 5, 1994, p. 95): atha brahmars:

dus: t:avacanam iha pra¯gvedadharmah: sahajah: pas´ca¯t sarvajn˜ades´ito dharmah: kr:takah: /
tasma¯d vedadharmo jyes: t:a iti.
35 The Kalacarkatantra and the Vimalaprabha¯ (1994, Chap. 5, v. 92, p. 48):
pan˜caskandhasvabha¯vair kr:paya¯ vajrayos:idbhages:u/
sattva¯na¯m:
pa¯cana¯rtham: tv avihitaniyama¯na¯m apun: ya¯ rjita¯na¯m/
s´uddha¯va¯sa¯dike yadviharati bhagava¯n s´ra¯vaka¯n:
a¯m:

nimittam/
evam: ka¯re sthitir ya¯ paramaniyamina¯m uttare stha¯pana¯rtham//
iha yat kles´a¯dya¯varan: arahita¯n:
a¯m:

garbha¯vakraman:am: pan˜caskhandagrahan:am: vajrayos:idbhages:
u strı¯garbhe sambhava¯ya viharan:am: tat kr:paya¯ avihitaniyama¯na¯m:
pra¯kr: tajana¯na¯m:
apun: ya¯rjita¯na¯m:
pacana¯ya/ tatha¯ —
vajraka¯yas´arira¯n:
a¯m:

buddha¯na¯m:
yadanityata¯/
kadalı¯garbhatulyes:u ka¯ cinta¯ ‘nyes:u jantus:u//
itya¯dina¯ ‘nityava¯dina¯m:
pa¯cana¯ya/ punah: s´uddha¯va¯sa¯dike yadutpa¯dah: sa s´ra¯vaka¯n:
a¯m:

devatvam:
gata¯na¯m aham: ka¯ravina¯s´a¯ya/ idam: devatvam: cyavanaka¯le mahad duh:kham iti des´anaya
¯ tes:a¯m:

pa¯canam/ evam: ka¯re sthitir ya¯ s´u¯nyata¯ya¯m:
sa¯ paramaniyamina¯m:
subhu¯tya¯dı¯na¯m:

maitreyaprabhr: tı¯na¯m uttare samyaksambuddhatve stha¯pana¯ya caturthaka¯yades´ana¯yeti/
Cf. the Man˜ jus´rı¯na¯masam: gı¯ti and the Amr:takan: ika¯ of Ravis´rı¯jn˜a¯na (1994, p. 55, v. 3):
aru¯po ru¯pava¯n agryo na¯na¯ru¯po manomayah: /

sarvaru¯pa¯vabha¯sas´rı¯r as´es:apratibimbadhr: k//
a¯ka¯s´anis: t:hataya¯ sarvacittacaita¯sika¯vidya¯pratibha¯sanirodha¯n na vidyate prakr: tisvaru¯pa¯tiriktam:
ru¯pam: yasya sa tatha¯ / dharmaka¯yaru¯paka¯yaikalolı¯bhha¯va¯d ana¯vilaru¯patva¯d ru¯pava¯n/ . . .
dva¯saptatina¯d:

ı¯sahasres:u prakr: tiru¯pen: a sukhadharmadha¯turu¯panispandaru¯patva¯n na¯na¯ru¯pah: /
ekaks:an: a¯bhisambodhiru¯patva¯nmanomayah: /. . .vis´vabimbadars´anena kr:s:
n:

arekha¯ya¯mananta¯-
ntajn˜a¯naka¯ya¯bhinnasambhogaka¯yapratibha¯sana¯d as´es:apratibimbadhr:k.
Why is the Bodiless (a_nanga) Gnostic Body (jn˜a¯na-ka¯ya) Considered a Body? 57


secutive moments. Until the mental obscurations are removed and the material nature
of the mind–body complex sublimated, the phenomenal manifestations of the Gnostic Body are experienced as the source of bondage and suffering on account of grasping
onto them as real.

Just as a human being is a phenomenal aspect of the unitary Gnostic Body, which
has the capacity for transformation, so is human society. Social hierarchies based on
social class and blood lineages are rooted in the ignorance of social ego, with its
attachments to class distinctions, race, and social status. When a social hierarchical
order is deconstructed through the uprooting of the social ignorance, and when a
new integrated society is constituted, the Gnostic Body is instantiated in the from of
a social body united by gnosis. In this regard, the Gnostic Body is a body in the
sense of a social habitus of gnosis.

Even though the Kalacakra tradition’s discourse on the Gnostic Body points to
liberation as freedom from a corporeal body and to spiritual progress as a process of
disembodiment, it does not propound a duality between the corporeal body and the
immaterial Gnostic body. The corporeal body is able to function as a soteriological
instrument through which liberation is achieved only because its ultimate nature does
not rest in the transitory psychophysical aggregates and incidental mental obscurations
but in the all-encompassing gnosis of bliss. Thus, as we have already seen, the
Gnostic Body is at the same time immaterial and corporeal.


Conclusion


In concluding reflections, I would like to point to the broader theoretical implications
of this analysis of constructions of the Gnostic Body in this tantric tradition. Its
various interpretative characterizations of the Gnostic Body show that not only the
material form that provides the basis for physical experiences can be considered a
body but also the domain of mental experiences. According to the Kalacakra literature,
empty space can be taken as a grand body. An event, in which knowledge and the
object of knowledge are non-differentiated can also be a body, and so too can pure
bliss be a body. As indicated earlier in this paper, this model of embodiment challenges
the prevailing views of what makes up a body by introducing new categories of
embodiment and expanding the existing definitions of the body.

One can also say that while the Kalacakra tradition takes up the body as a useful
category for structuring its practice and constructing its complex theory, it ends
deconstructing the entire category by positing the Gnostic Body as inconceivable
and inexpressible ultimate reality that transcends any categorizations. The tradition
seems to suggest that being an experiential reality, the Gnostic Body cannot be
reduced to any definition but can be only experienced.36 Since the Gnostic Body can
mean a wide variety of different things, it gives way to different conceptualizations,
36 The Sekoddes´at:ippan: ı¯ of Sa¯dhuputra S´ rı¯dhara¯nanda (1997, v. 137, p. 26):
evam: na s´akyate vaktum: sama¯dhirathitaih:
sukham/

sama¯dha¯v aks:aram: pra¯pya svato vetti maha¯sukham//
58 V. A. Wallace


none of which is able to encompass it in its entirety.37 Likewise, when grasped in
cognitive terms, it is difficult to definitely determine what the Gnostic Body actually
is, for it can be anything and everything, and ultimately it is neither a thing nor an
absence of the thing, only an experience. In this way, the Kalacakra tradition’s
exposition of the Gnostic Body confronts us with a paradoxical need to apprehend in
cognitive terms that which by nature evades any cognition, and yet, it itself is selfcognizant.



References



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37 The Ka¯lacakratantra (1994, Chap. 5, v. 249, pp. 151–152):
eko naiko ‘pi caikah: samavis:amasamah: savyava¯ma¯grapr:s:
t:ha

u¯rdva¯dho vai samanta¯t sitaharitamaha¯vis´vavarn: aikaru¯pah: /
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na sanna¯san na sadasan na ca¯pyanubhaya¯tmakam/
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udharma¯tı¯tah: s´u¯nyadharmavivarjitah: /
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nirva¯n:

arahitam: bimbam: sam: sa¯ra¯ tı¯tam: aks:aram/
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abha¯vo na¯ sti bimbasya abha¯vodbhu¯ talaks:an: a¯ t/
bha¯vo na¯sty aks:arasya¯pi bha¯vasambhu¯talaks:an: a¯ t//
bha¯va¯bha¯vasama¯yogo vajrayogo ‘dvayo ‘parah: /
ru¯pa¯ru¯pavinirmuktah: pratiseneva darpan: e//
38 The Ka¯lacaktratantra (1994, Chap. 5, v. 98, p. 49):
buddha¯na¯m apy agamya¯ tv apramitagun: a¯ buddhanirma¯n:
ama¯ya¯

a¯tmanam: dars´ayantı¯ tribhuvananilaye s´akraja¯lam: yatha¯iva/
na¯na¯bha¯vair vibhinna¯ sajinasuranr:n:

a¯m:
svasvacitte pravis: t:a¯

es:a¯nutpannadharma¯ payasi nabha iva bhra¯ntidotpattir atra//
Why is the Bodiless (a_nanga) Gnostic Body (jn˜a¯na-ka¯ya) Considered a Body? 59
123

Vimalaprabha¯t:ı¯ka¯ of Kalkin S ´ rı¯pun:d:
arı¯ka on S ´ rı¯laghuka¯lacakratantrara¯ja by S ´ rı¯man˜jus´rı¯yas´as.
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60 V. A. Wallace


Source