How to Transform a Human Body into a Buddha Body
Yogi C. M. Chen
The terms "human body" and "Buddha body" occur rather frequently in Buddhist texts dealing with various stages of mental development and different qualities of materialistic sublimation. The Theravada teaches its disciples to purify the human body in which there are thirty-six items of impurity. The Mahayanists and the Vajrayanists lay more stress on the sublimation of voidness and the function of wisdom-energy. All have their merits and are correlated in certain order with definite aspects of Truth.
Without the purification of the human body, the transformation into the Buddha body would not be possible. Most disciples who rebuked the doctrine of the Theravada found it difficult to attain satisfactory results in their Mahayanist or Vajrayanist practices.
The philosophy behind the sublimation of voidness in the Tathata and the function of wisdom energy in the consequential position of Buddhahood is described in voluminous and lengthy writing which cannot be elaborated on in detail here due to want of space.
The Tung (note: Tang) Dynasty Tantra and Japanese Tantra include a system called "The Five Forms of the Accomplishment of the Buddha Body". Many disciples often neglect the philosophy governing this system which will be touched upon briefly in this essay.
Mantras, mudras and some simple visualizations are well described in this ritual, but if one lacks the proper philosophical and practical foundation and meditates only on those fragments by fits and starts, it is like grabbing a handful of antique Chinese coins without properly stringing them: the transformation from human body to Buddha body will not be accomplished. I intend to present here, according to my own experience, the philosophy governing this system of the Five Forms and the connection between any two successive forms. These connections will link the five forms as one.
First of all one should thoroughly recognize "The Original Mind" as the first form is named. This means to disciples that besides Truth there is neither mind which the Idealistic School emphasizes nor matter which the Indian materialism and the modern materialism asserts. The truth is that the Dharmakaya is formless, colorless, and timeless. Before this yoga is practiced, this truth which is in changeless Tathata Samadhi or in the meditation of the seed mantra AH must be mastered in both its philosophical aspect and its concrete realization.
A penetrating recognition absorbed into the four dimensions of the dimensionlessness of the truth is not a common visualization to be seen through the worldly eyes of flesh of a disciple with a self-centered desire of attainment deriving from the sixth consciousness, along with the egoism of the seventh consciousness of the Avidya system. It is to be seen only through the Dharma-eyes of the Vidya system beyond the sixth consciousness and the seventh consciousness. The disciple gets, at least, a vivid vision of the outline of the Dharmakaya in an edgeless sphere full of pure, holy, quiet, serene and victorious significance with luminous light in which there is neither the idea of self nor the idea of the existence of ones own body of flesh. Yet it is embracing everybody good or bad, in heaven or in hell, during the Buddha-Dharma period, the Symbol-Dharma period, or the Non-Dharma period. Thus at any time, on any occasion everybody shares it, although not everybody is aware of it. This is the head of the connection between the first and second forms.
Though the ritual emphasizes that there is a Buddha who sees the Disciple absorbed in the stable Samadhi of the original mind and being unaware of the great service of salvation of the Buddha who loudly calls him to awake, a disciple who is not thoroughly absorbed in Samadhi will be unable to detect this merciful calling. Nevertheless, as it is a method leading one towards consequential attainment, one should practice it with diligence. On the other hand, one who has developed the Bodhicitta in this lifetime, or who had practiced the Bodhicitta in many past lives, may recollect the original mind in his Samadhi. One will also visualize the Bodhicitta mind which is the second form, in the symbol of a full moon with a diameter of about eight inches. This is the end of the connection between the first and the second forms.
Our Bodhicitta mind consists of two great elements. One is the wisdom which is derived from the Truth of the Dharmakaya with which the first form is concerned. The other is the great compassion which one should develop here during the time when the second form is taking place in meditation.
When the insight of realization of the first form appears, one eventually knows that it is homogeneous in everybody. But, "Why have I seen it in such a quiet, happy meditation whereas many others who are suffering from different severe pains in the endless cycles of transmigration, could not obtain it? says one to oneself. As soon as such a question arises, the disciple may meditate in the following manner:
The disciple directs the holy light which is radiating from the moon of wisdom upon the heavens. With tears in his eyes, the disciple springs out from his Bodhicitta, and meditates on the following five signs of decay of the heavenly beings: i.e., uncontrolled discharges, flowers on the head withered, unpleasant odor, sweating armpits, and uneasiness. He also throws this holy light upon the Asuras, on their sorrows of anger and pride, with which they fight with the heavens. Again he throws this holy light upon human beings, every single one bothered by the five sorrows, eight pains, eighty-eight delusions and four hundred and four diseases; he then throws the holy light upon the animals, on their calamities by nets, traps, poisons, guns, arrows, and knives; again he throws the holy light to the hungry ghosts, on their small throats, big bellies and food of blood and pus; again he throws the holy light into the hells and hell-beings, on hills of knives, forests of swords and calamities of ox-headed and horse-faced demon-messengers; thus the disciple baths himself in tears and earnestly prays for his unfortunate fellow beings with a ray of hope to save them.
After the six worldly Dharmadhatus have had holy light thrown upon them, been meditated on, and prayed for, the moon light should be visualized as an offering to the four enlightened Dharmadhatus (Arhats, Pratyeka Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas) and prayers for saving sentient beings should be observed in very profound devotion. When the light is drawn back, the disciple should believe that all four kinds of enlightened sages have blessed him with their wisdom, compassion and supernatural power. Thus development of the Bodhicitta may be completely formed. Only devas, asuras, and ghosts or spirits of the higher rank who may read others?minds could know some of the good wills springing from the Bodhicitta of the disciple. Other sentient beings who are hidden by five obstacles, surrounded by five Kasayas or impurities, who indulge in the five Chandas, are perplexed by the five poisons and threatened by four demons, have no ability to accept the holy moon light which is so subtle and imponderable, so secret and inexplicable, and so holy and intangible. In fact, a disciple practicing such a form is not capable of saving them. This is the head of the connection between the second and the third forms.
To subdue all demons, to increase a disciples power to control all holy elements, to concentrate all wisdom and to purify all desires, there is an instrument in Tantra consisting of the five Buddhas?wisdom in its upper part, five holy elements in its lower part and the essence of the five Bodhicittas in its middle part. All form a Vajra which is material yet spiritual, and philosophic yet pragmatic. It is comparable to the diamond in such characteristics as hardness, essential indestructibility, power, infrangibility, and rigidity. The disciple should realize such a Vajra Mind, as the third form has been named. Here the mind should be expounded as the essence of truth and not as the sixth consciousness which the Idealistic School asserts.
Traditionally, this is never imparted by the ancients. However, when one corner of an object is shown, the other three corners of the same object would be inferred. In the Samadhi of the second form, a disciple might be spoken too loudly by the Buddha, "Without the attainment of Vajra-mind, you are incapable of saving sentient beings." This is the end of the connection between the second and the third forms.
After the Samapatti of this Vajra-form has been visualized firmly in its original size which is as ones own fist with the thumb erect, one should practice its several enlargements. Ones body, hermitage, the visible sky, and the invisible Dharmadhatu should be visualized in their respective order. This sequence has been established dialectically and philosophically by the writer through experience for the following reasons:
- The Chinese term "Hsin" has many meanings. It refers to the "heart" when it is used in the physical sense. It refers to the "mind," "will," or "wish" when it is used in the psychological sense. It means "center" when it is used geometrically. It means "soul" or "consciousness" when it is used in the spiritual sense. It means "essence" or "truth" when it is used in the philosophical sense. As it may mean something rather opposite, its relevant meaning depends on context and should be carefully discriminated and comprehended. For the purpose of inducing ones thought into the whole truth, one should take the word as a whole with all its implications. But for other occasions, it should pertain to its appropriate meaning in each specific instance. The meaning of the word "Hsin" as used in connection with the size of the Vajra implies "harmonization", thus it embraces all its meanings. The reasons for the protoplasmic size of the Vajra to be meditated upon in the same place as where the physical heart lies are as follows: to give an origin to all its enlarged sizes; to impart its wisdom to the life-energy of the heart; to transform the soul or the eighth consciousness into the gnostic life of Buddhahood; to present a concrete embodiment of good will or wish and to strengthen the Bodhicitta of the second form. All the above reasons are relevant to the different meanings of the word "Hsin."
- Of the five forms in this Yoga, the first three forms have in their names the word "Hsin" which has been translated as "mind" while the subsequent two forms have the word "body" in their names. Naturally, besides the mind, the body is second in importance. The main subject of this Yoga is primarily connected with the body. Hence the enlargement of the Vajra should be identical with the size of ones own body. The five holy elements in the organs and five kinds of wisdom in the brain symbolized by the Vajra would gnosticize the organs and the brain of the human body and sublimate the body.
- It is said that all sentient beings of the six realms from the hells up to the heavens are under sky. Though it is not attempted at this point to measure the actual distance between the heavens and earth, the visualization of the Vajra should fill up all the space between the heavens and the earth. Hence all sentient beings of the six realms are blessed with this Vajra.
- When the size of the Vajra is visualized as equal to the Dharmakaya, the four enlightened realms mentioned previously would be inter-related. Arhats and Pratyeka Buddhas would feel that their Samadhis are now capable of attaining the Samyak Sambodhi, while the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas would bless the disciple as their true inheritor.
Furthermore, all the four different sizes of Vajras are in a permutable connection with one another as Cricoid rings linked outwardly and harmonized inwardly. When the heart Vajra is extended to the body Vajra, mentality and materiality are identified. When it is extended to the hermitage or mandala, its subjectivity and objectivity are identified. When it is extended to the Dharmadhatu Vajra, Garbhadhatu and Vajradhatu are identified.
When any one of the four Vajras is taken as the Chief, all Vajras of other sizes would encircle it as its retinue and a great interwoven function will take place.
When the Heart Vajra is chief, with its Bodhicitta mainly functioning, the unconditional compassion and the great mercy of the entities which exist in the Dharmakaya, the unlimited merits of all Gods in the skies, the Gurus, Yidams, Dakinis and Protectors in the hermitage or Mandala and the 32 forms of the incarnation of a Buddha-body, all function with the Heart Vajra with their good wishes and great vows.
When one takes the Body Vajra as the master, the other three sizes of Vajras are its subordinates and may be identified with one another. The more one emphasizes the negation of ones own human body, the better is the body in Buddhahood and the permeation and harmonization with the other three kinds of Vajra bodies. Thus the Buddha body in the Dharmadhatu, the bodies of Gods in the skies, the bodies of Gurus, of Yidams, of Dakinis, of Protectors in the Mandala of hermitage, the bodies of sentient beings who are pitied by the Vajra heart, are all identified permutably. There is neither any Buddhahood to be newly achieved nor any sentient being to be saved hereafter.
When one visualizes the Hermitage and its Mandala as the main Vajra taken as the head, the other three sizes of Vajra may be taken as the limbs. The Gurus, Yidams, Dakinis, Protectors and their Dharmakayas which refer to the fourth size, that of the Dharmadhatu, their great mercy which sheds tears coming from the first size of the heart, and their merits of Sambhogakaya which developed from the second size of a human body, are also co-existing and simultaneously functioning.
At last, if the utmost size of Dharmadhatu Vajra is visualized as the main source and the other three sizes as its subordinates, it will play at the great Indra net of Vajras and form a vast macrocosm of the Buddha world. And the function therefrom might be one as many, many as one. United yet separate, separate yet united; with the other three sizes of Vajra yet beyond all of them, beyond all of them yet in all of them; extensive as well as intensive; all behind it, yet all manifested in it; abstract as well as concrete; present, yet past and future act within it. Today is the tomorrow of yesterday, and it is also the yesterday of tomorrow. In short, one minute includes all three periods of past, present and future. Thus the powers of the Buddhas in the three periods are working at the task of salvation at once without procrastination. Space and time are both under its control. The highest theory of exoteric philosophy and the highest practice of Yogic Tantra called Six-Element-Yoga here get the final chance of achievement; and all four sizes of Vajra Mind as the third form is named, have their function synthesized, identified, interreflected, interpenetrated, interpermeated and, at last, harmonized.
No matter how powerful the Vajra may be and how ingenious a disciple may be in his practice with the Vajra, it does not function as sound for preaching. That is why the Vajra is always accompanied with the Vajra-Bell. "Who will hold this powerful couple of Vajra and Bell?", the disciple will ask himself. Hence the practice of personification of the Buddha body should be carried out next. The Buddha would then call the attention of his disciple again. This is the head of the connection between the third and the fourth forms.
On the one hand, the "Vajra-Body" realization, as the fourth form is named, should accumulate all merits of the three kayas of Buddhahood. On the other hand, the three secrets of body, speech and mind are only available when the body is formed but not in the symbol of the Vajra. Hence, the personification is a crying need and the end of the connection between the third and fourth forms.
After the extension of the Vajra has been drawn back to the size of the disciples human body, a Vajra body of personification will be embodied. When the Vajra transforms itself into ones body, the upper part of the Vajra becomes his hair-tuft and the lower part of the Vajra becomes the medium nerve which is the main source of every part of the Buddha body. From the medium nerve, instead of the spinal column, the brain system arises and the blood circulatory system works, and all the inner and outer organs form. All these systems and organs outwardly appear to resemble those of a human body, but inwardly it is full of the wisdom and compassion of Buddhahood. Hence it is quite different from a human body which is formed by evil karmas only.
Some of the rituals emphasize the personification of Vairocana, others emphasize that of Samantabhadra. In the opinion of the writer, for practicing the basic Samadhi the former is better; for practicing the karma-function to benefit others, the latter is better as the position of a Bodhisattva is much closer to sentient beings than that of a Buddha. This Yoga lays more stress on the transformation into Buddha which should be like Vairocana. When the Buddha body is achieved and if the disciple wants to be a savior, Samantabhadra will do.
The term "body" has many purports: it means the entity that is the Dharmakaya; or it means the very Yidam himself, that is, the Sambhogakaya; or it means the body of the practitioner that is the Nirmanakaya in whose heart is the Bodhicitta. The body of entity pursues the truth of voidness; the body of the Yidam presents his characteristics such as his great pleasure and supernatural power. All Gurus, Yidams, Dakinis and Protectors are under his control. Thus the practice of the fourth form has accumulated all the merits of the previous three forms. The disciple should not mistake the body as the flesh one only; thus the synthesis of the whole Yoga would be wrongly recognized.
As the personification of the Vajra Body is from the wisdom Vajra, the 36 impurities are not in it. As the Vajra lives in the Mandala, there are no objects of attachment to lure it; as it manifests the Dharmakaya, there is no Satkayadrsi (a view that thinks of the flesh body as real) or ego-infatuation in it; and as it teaches gods and men, there is no demon who could harm it.
Furthermore, when such a personification is achieved by anyone who is in an entity of Tathata, he is always in the Dharmakaya. He possesses the same characteristics of a Guru, a Yidam, a Dakini, and a Protector, and is in a perfect and joyful Sambhogakaya. He is worshipped by every god and divinity, surrounded by sentient beings, and appears in the merciful Nirmanakaya.
According to ones complete development of the five forms, we may say that from the first form of Original Mind, which is the basis of Enlightenment, one has got the result of the position of Buddhahood; from the second form of Bodhicitta, which comes out of great compassion, one has got the foundation of salvation; from the third form of Vajra-Mind, a Buddhas karma might be carried out through its powerful functioning; from the fourth form of Vajra Body which is the embodiment of a Buddha body, one has got the perfect evolution of Buddha body; from the fifth form of the Perfection of Buddha Body which possesses all the merits of a Buddha, one will vividly achieve the transformation into Buddha body with all his values which will be elaborated later on.
As the Vajra has induced everything in its body when it personified objectivity and subjectivity, both being identified in the meantime, the macrocosm is in the body as microcosm. The spinal column is the Mount Sumeru; the four limbs are the four continents; two eyes are the sun and the moon; the urinary bladder is the ocean of milk; and so on. In the upper part of the body are sentient beings of the three higher realms; in the lower part of the body are those of the three lower realms. Outside the body are deities of every religion standing as protectors. Inwardly 24 mandalas of Mahadeva Heruka arises from the 24 nerves which are derived from the right and the left great nerve. Secretly, there are the five Buddha departments in the five wheels (chakras); most secretly, there is the permanent and quiet holy-light realm of the Dharmakaya which is implied by the medium nerve. Hence every powerful God and Buddha have been included in the body.
Mencius said, "Where there is the meritorial quality within, it manifests itself without." The embodiment of the real Buddha in a person should constitute of all the inward qualities of a Buddha as well as all the identical signs of a Buddha. Hence, every merit of ones salvational virtue would manifest itself as plainly as the nose on ones face. The consequential position of Buddhahood, as it is so called in the Tantra, is achieved when one has attained the thorough realization of Buddha personification both within and without. One then is undoubtedly a real Buddha with all the inward qualities and outward signs.
The preceding four forms have achieved the great conditions of those of a Buddha body. It is only the details of its adornment needed now. This is the upper connection, where all adornments are perfectly visualized through the last form. Its name being the "Buddha Body Perfection," then there is nothing left. This is the end of the connection between the 4th and 5th forms.
A Buddha in the capacity of a savior is called the king of the revolving wheel of Dharma. All great merits and virtues which had been accumulated would appear as the 32 remarkable physical characteristics. These are the adornments of a Buddha body (Dvatrimsat-varalasana). They are:
- Level soles, indicating his attitude of equality towards anyone, anywhere.
- Thousand-spoke-wheel sign on soles, indicating the countless means of performance of good karmas.
- Long, slender fingers, indicating his good character of non-killing and non-stealing.
- Pliant hands and feet, indicating his service of washing and massaging his parents and patients.
- Finely webbed toes and fingers, indicating his excellent guidance to Buddhahood for all sentient beings.
- Full-sized heels, indicating his concentration on the Right Dharma.
- Arched insteps, indicating his kindness towards servants and maids.
- Thighs like those of a royal stag, indicating his thorough knowledge of all subjects.
- Hands reaching below the knees, indicating his far reaching almsgiving.
- Well retracted male organ, indicating his chastity.
- Height equal to the stretch of arms, indicating his faithful duty to others not less than that to himself.
- Dark colored roots of hair, indicating his power of Dhyana without signs of old age and decay.
- Graceful and curly bodily hair, indicating his honesty.
- Golden hued body, indicating his noble virtue in entity.
- A ten foot halo around him, indicating his holy light of Samadhi.
- Soft smooth skin, indicating his great compassion.
- Seven places (two soles, two palms, two shoulders and crown) well rounded, indicating his good karmas without prejudice.
- Well filled armpits, indicating his amiable bonhomie.
- Lion-shaped body, indicating his fearlessness in saving others and in subduing the demons.
- Body erect, indicating his straightforwardness.
- Full shoulders, indicating his dutifulness.
- Forty teeth, indicating his faithful speech without lies.
- White, even and close teeth, indicating his truthful, credible, immutable and unexcessive teachings.
- Pure white canine teeth, indicating his practice of the four infinite powers of interpretation.
- Lion jaws, indicating his ability to subdue outsiders.
- Saliva capable of improving the taste of all foods, indicating his accomplishment of Dhyana.
- Long and broad tongue, indicating his excellence of praising all Buddhas.
- Deep and resonant voice, indicating his realization of the truth of voidness.
- Deep blue eyes, indicating his right view in Tathata.
- Eyelashes like those of a royal bull, indicating his forbearance and perseverance in keeping his right view.
- A white urna or curl, fifteen feet long, between the eyebrows emitting holy light, indicating the source of his pure and bright Dharma; and
- A usnisa or fleshy protuberance on the crown of his head, of which no god could see the maximum, indicating his highest consequential position of Buddhahood.
Along with these 32 good forms of a Buddha-body, there are eighty handsome symbols on the Buddha-body to indicate his good characteristics in detail. Besides all the 80 handsome symbols and the 32 excellent forms of the Nirmanakaya, there are some important marks of the Sambhogakaya, i.e., the crown with the images of the five Buddhas to symbolize his five kinds of wisdom and the holy-light of silence surrounding him infinitely; there are also realization signs of his Dharmakaya, i.e., the Vajra and the Vajra-bell held in his hands, the sign of Vajradhara or Vajra Vidyadhara who is the Guru of the five Buddhas. Thus the complete Buddhas virtues are manifested on the Buddha-body and the holy work, the highest yoga of transformation from a human body to a Buddha-body, results in a successful process. Whenever the disciple is in his Samadhi of this yoga, he is quite of Buddha, as it were; whenever he is in his Samadhi, if any human nature appears, he would reflect upon it himself and change it immediately until his fundamental static Samadhi and his dynamic daily Yoga are identified.
To sum up the five forms of this yoga with similes: the first form of the Original Mind is like the seeds under the soil; the second form of Bodhicitta signifies the root; the third form of the Vajra Mind is likened to the trunk of the Bodhi tree; the fourth form of the Vajra Body is likened to the leaves and flowers; and the fifth form of the Perfect Buddha Body is likened to the fruit of full Enlightenment.
Nevertheless, this yoga is in the Yogic Tantra. There is the Anuttara Tantra with many lofty methods of transformation of the Buddha-body. As the Yogic Tantra involves only the practice of mentality together with the theory of Six-Element-Yoga, it is not a practice of wisdom-energy. The elaborate practice of visualization such as that of the Evolutional Yoga (utpatti krama) has not been included in the Yogic Tantra, much more so the nispanna krama which is never known to Japanese Tantrists. Those readers who are interested are advised to learn them from Tibetan Buddhism. For a complete and systematic study of the transformation of a Buddha-body, I have written a brief essay as Part II, based upon the doctrine of Anuttarayoga of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism.
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[Related works: Buddhist Meditation Systematic and Practical Appendix IV