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rūpakāya (T. gzugs sku གཟུགས་སྐུ་; C. seshen 色身) refers to the physical body of a buddha. This term is used to distinguish a buddha's physical body from the buddha's "dharma body" (dharmakāya).
Rūpakāya is identified as:
- one of the two kayas described in the early Buddhist teachings
- one of the three kayas described in the Mahayana teachings
It is said that the rūpakāya arises from the accumulation of merit and the dharmakāya from the accumulation of wisdom.
Two kayas of early Buddhism
Early Buddhism described two bodies (kāyas) of a buddha:
- rūpakāya - the form (rupa) body or "physical body"
- dharmakāya - the body or corpus of the buddha's marvelous qualities
Three kayas of Mayahana Buddhism
The Sanskrit Mahayana tradition identified two aspects of the rūpakāya:
- sambhogakāya or enjoyment body which is a body of bliss or clear light manifestation, and which is visible only to advanced bodhisattvas
- nirmāṇakāya or emanation body which manifests in time and space and is visible to ordinary beings
Hence, the Mahayana posits a system of three bodies (trikāya): the two types of rūpakāya along with the dharmakāya.
In the Sanskrit term rūpakāya:
- rūpa is typically translated as "form"; it generally refers to material form, including both the body and external matter.
- kāya literally means ‘body’ but can also signify dimension, field or basis.
- ↑ Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. rūpakāya.
- ↑ rupakaya