“Actualization of the three kayas is the result of applying the three wisdoms. Dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya represent three inseparable aspects of the Buddha. According to the Inner Tantras, the three kayas have no objective existence. They are not localized, but are all-pervasive, encompassing both mind and appearances. This means that everything is always in a condition of perfect enlightenment.
All phenomena are the display of the kayas. The three kayas are never separate from each other, but exist primordially within the true nature. The trikaya is what we and all external phenomena essentially are. When you fully realize what you are, you will know that you never had to do anything or go anywhere in order to be enlightened or see a pure land. The pure lands are the trikaya, and all six bardos arise within these kayas. The display, activity, and true nature of the kayas are all within us. It’s not a matter of escaping from “this horrible place” to somewhere else that is fancy and beautiful where the three kayas dwell. We must realize the three kayas as the true nature and reality of all phenomena.
Infinite and uncreated, the true nature of mind is great emptiness—the inconceivable openness known as dharmakaya. Great emptiness is not blank, empty space, a void, or nothingness. It is very luminous, clear, and full. Brightness and clarity shine forth spontaneously. This unceasing luminosity of the true nature is known as sambhogakaya.
The mind is always active, radiating a world of transformations. Due to its natural responsiveness, it never stays the same for two instants. Each sparking, radiant moment of manifest existence is never separate from the original state of the true nature. Each spark is the union of emptiness and clarity. That radiance manifesting as momentary events in space and time is known as nirmanakaya.
Guru Padmasambhava taught that the three kayas are inherent in the nature of mind. Many people don’t know this and are always wandering, looking for something outside of themselves. This search opens them to many experiences: good and bad, high and low, deep and shallow, and sequences of gain and loss. But in every case, these experiences are concepts that are created by the mind. None of these qualities exist in a solid, objective sense. The present flows and changes, and this impermanence indicates that there is no inherent existence in objects and events.
All perception and conscious experience is nothing other than the expression of our minds. Everything we see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and touch is mind. What does mind really refer to? Mind is open, empty, and pure from the beginning. Mind is also the embodiment of the three kayas. Our practice is to discover and express the true nature of the mind. We must study, contemplate, meditate on, and ultimately actualize the trikaya realization. If we are devoted and one-pointed in our efforts, all phenomena reveal the trikaya. When the moment of death comes, we will recognize this event as a lucid display of the three kayas—another expression of the true nature. There is no conflict when we understand that this is part of a natural process.
The bardo of birth and life is a very special circumstance for practice. Since everything is pervaded by the three kayas, we must come to recognize that our present vision and perception are ultimately not any different from the original nature of the mind. The understanding of the innate purity of all perception is the highest teaching of the Inner Tantras. All of our dualistic conceptions, such as self and other, good and bad, assisting friends and avoiding enemies, arise as thoughts in our minds. Mind creates all of these fabrications. There’s nothing among all of those names that has any solid existence, yet the mind creates notions and projects visions that we are inclined to believe and act on. Distracted and unmindful, we habitually grasp and cling.
What is grasping? To grasp means to be attached to what we think. It is to believe that things actually exist the way conditioned mind perceives them. That is called “grasping.” We continually cling to beliefs and create artificial divisions. We’ve decided that some things are good and others are not. This clinging to concepts is based on the assumption of permanence. Even though phenomena are constantly changing, the mind projects a fixed image and holds on to it, assuming things are a certain way all the time. Trying to see the world as we’d like it to be, and holding on to that image is referred to as “ego-clinging.” It’s like we’re suffocating in a tight cocoon. Trapped by attachments, we miss opportunities to release our grasping and grow.
Being confined to a small room with no space to move back and forth creates a contraction in the body. When we want to shift our position there is no room, so we suffer. We move a little to one side, but it’s still uncomfortable. We suffer at every turn because our movements are constricted. This is the effect that ego-clinging and grasping have on both body and mind. We create a small, cramped space for ourselves and others by withholding love and compassion. Ego-clinging, grasping, and dualistic thinking make us narrow and uptight so that we automatically communicate these qualities to others. They tend to make everybody uncomfortable.
Actually, the door in the room is wide open. But if we don’t walk through it, it may as well be sealed. We suffer because we’re convinced of our limitations. Yet when we open our hearts and minds and love all beings equally, we are liberated into the infinite expanse, the reality beyond all limits, the original, primordial nature of our mind which is forever open and free. By releasing ego-clinging, we are merely returning to our primordial nature as it already is, as it always has been.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
The Essential Journey of Life and Death, Vol. 1 (pgs 95-98)
Photo of Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche at Padma Samye Ling in 2008.
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