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The Sambhogakāya is a "subtle body of limitless form". Both "celestial" Buddhas such as Bhaisajyaguru and Amitābha, as well as advanced bodhisattvas such as Avalokiteśvara and Manjusri can appear in an "enjoyment-body." A Buddha can appear in an "enjoyment-body" to teach bodhisattvas through visionary experiences.
Those Buddhas and Bodhisattvas manifest themselves in their specific pure lands. These worlds are created for the benefits of others. In those lands it is easy to hear and practice the Dharma. A person can be reborn in such a pure land by "the transfer of some of the huge stock of 'merit' of a Land's presiding Buddha, stimulated by devout prayer.
One of the places where the Sambhogakāya body appears is the extra-cosmic realm or pure land called Akaniṣṭha. This realm should be not confused with the akanistha of the pure abodes, for is a realm that completely transcends it.
Access by advanced practitioners
Sambhogakaya also refers to the luminous form of clear light the Buddhist practitioner attains upon the reaching the highest dimensions of practice.
According to tradition, those skilled in meditation, such as advanced Tibetan lamas and yogis, as well as other highly realized Buddhists, may gain access to the Sambhogakaya and receive direct transmission of doctrine.
Understanding in Buddhist tradition
There are numerous Sambhogakāya realms almost as numerous as deities in Tibetan Buddhism. These Sambhogakaya-realms are known as Buddha-fields or Pure Lands.
One manifestation of the Sambhogakaya in Tibetan Buddhism is the rainbow body. This is where an advanced practitioner is walled up in a cave or sewn inside a small yurt-like tent shortly before death. For a period of a week or so after death, the practitioners' body transforms into a Sambhogakaya light body, leaving behind only hair and nails.
Think not of the past but of the future. Constantly maintain the future thoughts to be good. This is what we call the Sambhogakāya.
Just one single evil thought could destroy the good karma that has continued for one thousand years; and just one single good thought in turn could destroy the evil karma that has lived for one thousand years.
If the future thoughts are always good, you may call this the Sambhogakāya. The discriminative thinking arising from the Dharmakāya (法身↔fashen "Truth body") is called the Nirmanakāya (化身↔huashen "transformation body"). The successive thoughts that forever involve good are thus the Sambhogakāya.
- Sambhogakaya has also been translated as the "deity dimension", "body of bliss" or "astral body"
- Harvey, Peter (1995), An introduction to Buddhism. Teachings, history and practices, Cambridge University Press
- Namdak, Lopon Tenzin; Vajranatha (editor) (1991), The Attaining of Buddhahood, retrieved March 18, 2009CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Snellgrove, David (1987). Indo-Tibetan Buddhism (Vol.1). Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-87773-311-2
- Snellgrove, David (1987). Indo-Tibetan Buddhism (Vol.2). Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-87773-379-1
- Yampolski, Philip (1967), The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. Translated by Philip Yampolsk (PDF)