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Dharmakaya (devanāgarī: धर्म काय dharmakāya) is a Sanskrit word meaning "truth body" or "reality body". In Mahayana Buddhism it is one of the three bodies (Trikayas) of the Buddha. Dharmakaya constitutes the unmanifested, "inconceivable" aspect of a Buddha, out of which Buddhas arise and to which they return after their dissolution.

In Mahayana Buddhism

David Reigle wrote about the Buddhist concept of dharmakaya as follows:

The dharma-kāya, "dharma body" or "body of dharmas," is a kind of ultimate in Buddhism. . . . An authoritative description of it is given in the first verse of the Kāya-traya-stotra, "Praise of the Three Bodies," attributed to Nāgārjuna. . . . My English translation:

What is not one and not many, is the great basis of perfect benefit for self and others, is not non-existent and not existent, is of the same taste like space, whose nature is hard to be realized, is stainless, is immutable, is quiescent, is equal to the unequaled, is [all-]pervading, is without diversification, is [only] to be known inwardly, I praise that incomparable dharma-kāya of the victors.[1]

In Theosophy

In Theosophical literature, the term dharmakāya has being used mainly in two ways: a) as a "glorified spiritual body", in terms of the Mahayana Buddhist teaching of the trikāya, and b) as a universally diffused essence, similar to the concept found in some schools of Vajrayana Buddhism.

In one instance Mme. Blavatsky used the term as an adjective, to point out to the quality of the intellect in which ālaya, the universal soul, can be reflected:

Ālaya, or Nying-po, being the root and basis of all, invisible and incomprehensible to human eye and intellect, it can reflect only its reflection—not Itself. Thus that reflection will be mirrored like the moon in tranquil and clear water only in the passionless Dharmakâya intellect, and will be distorted by the flitting image of everything perceived in a mind that is itself liable to be disturbed.[2]

Glorified spiritual body

In The Theosophical Glossary Mme. Blavatsky wrote:

Dharmakâya (Sk). Lit., “the glorified spiritual body” called the “Vesture of Bliss”. The third, or highest of the Trikâya (Three Bodies), the attribute developed by every “Buddha”, i.e., every initiate who has crossed or reached the end of what is called the “fourth Path” (in esotericism the sixth “portal” prior to his entry on the seventh). The highest of the Trikâya, it is the fourth of the Buddhakchêtra, or Buddhic planes of consciousness, represented figuratively in Buddhist asceticism as a robe or vesture of luminous Spirituality.

In popular Northern Buddhism these vestures or robes are:

(1) Nirmanakâya (2) Sambhogakâya (3) and Dharmakâya the last being the highest and most sublimated of all, as it places the ascetic on the threshold of Nirvâna.[3]

However, she says this is the exoteric teaching. A more esoteric view is offered in the Glossary of The Voice of the Silence:

The Dharmakâya body is that of a complete Buddha, i.e., no body at all, but an ideal breath: Consciousness merged in the Universal Consciousness, or Soul devoid of every attribute. Once a Dharmakâya, an Adept or Buddha leaves behind every possible relation with, or thought for this earth.[4]

Those who attain the Dharmakâya are Jîvanmuktas or Nirvâṇîs "without remains";[5] they are "the pure Arupa, the formless Breaths".[6] The "perfect Initiate" who during Samādhi separates his Higher Self entirely from his body, can attain momentarily the Dharmakâya, experiencing a state of Nirvāṇa “without remains”.[7]

Universally diffused essence

Samuel Beal, a scholar of late nineteenth century, wrote in 1871:

So again, when the idea of a universally diffused essence (dharmakaya) was accepted as a dogmatic necessity, a further question arose as to the relation which this 'supreme existence' bore to time, space, and number. And from this consideration appears to have proceeded the further invention of the several names Vairochana (the Omnipresent), Amitabha (for Amirta) the Eternal, and Adi-Buddha (yih-sin) the 'one form of existence.'[8]

In one of the Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, Master K.H. defines Dharmakāya in a similar way, as "the mystic, universally diffused essence", and also identifies it with Yin Sin ("the one form of existence") and "Adi-Buddhi".[9] In letter No. 111 we find a similar reference to Yih-sin but now it is said to be "the child of Dharmakaya".[10] This view of Dharmakāya is related to the idea of the "one element" in Theosophy.

A similar correlation has been shown to exist in the Jonangpa school of Tibetan Buddhism by David Reigle. He quotes the text Ratna-gotra-vihhaga about "the element" or dhatu (which is permanent, stable, quiescent, and eternal), and adds:

As noted earlier, this one thing, dhatu or element, may be called tathagata-garbha or Buddha-nature when obscured, and dharma-kaya or body of the law when unobscured.[11]


Mme. Blavatsky says that the Dhyāni-Buddhas are the Dharmakāyas from previous manvantaras:

. . . a “Son of Light” from a still higher sphere, Who being Arupa, has no personal astral body of His own fit for this world. Such “Sons of Light,” or Dhyâni-Buddhas, are the Dharmakâyas of preceding Manvantaras, who have closed their cycles of incarnations in the ordinary sense and who, being thus Karmaless, have long ago dropped their individual Rūpas, and have become identified with the first Principle.[12]

In another passage, she states that they are in the Dharmakaya state:

The Âtmic or Auric state or locality. It radiates directly from the periodical manifestation in ABSOLUTENESS, and is the first something in the Universe. Its correspondence in Kosmos is the hierarchy of non-substantial primordial beings, in a place which is no state. This hierarchy contains the primordial plane, all that was, is, and will be, from the beginning to the end of the Mahâmanvantara; all is there. This statement should not, however, be taken to imply fatality, kismet: the latter is contrary to all the teachings of Occultism. Here are the hierarchies of the Dhyâni-Buddhas. Their state is that of Para-Samâdhi, of the Dharmakâya; a state where no progress is possible. The entities there may be said to be crystallized in purity, in homogeneity.[13]


  1. See "Dharmakāya ceased" by David Reigle
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XIV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1995), 439.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 100.
  4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1992), 96-97.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XIV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1995), 376.
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XIV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1995), 436.
  7. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XIV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1995), 439, fn.
  8. Samuel Beal, A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese (London: Trubner & Co., 1871), 373.
  9. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 67 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 182.
  10. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 111 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 378-379.
  11. Theosophy in Tibet: The Teachings of the Jonangpa School by David Reigle
  12. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XIV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1995), 397.
  13. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 665.

Further reading