Masaharu Anesaki on the Buddhological Trinity

4 Jun

(To be Completed)

In his Nichiren the Buddhist Profet Masaharu Anesaki writes of the Buddhological Trinity:

“The universal  Buddahood is calledDharma-kaya, or “Truth-body,” while the personal Buddha is Nirmana-kaya, or “Condescension-bdy”; and these two, together with another, the Sambhoga-kaya, or “Bliss-body,” gthespiritual manifestation of Buddhahood, make up the Buddhological Trinity. This doctrine of the Grinity is a very old one in Buddhism, and Tendai emphasizes the unity of the three, ecause the three aspects, onsidered as a unity, constitute the only right view of Buddha’s person,and of the true reality exemplified inhis person.

The Trinity of Buddha’s person, however, is not limited to him alone, but in each of us is inherent the corresponding Trinity, or, as we may conveniently express it, the unity of the universal foundation and the particular manifestation. A concrete human being is a reality, but his full meaning is based on humanity in general. There is a man and he is the man who would emobody in his person the essential nature of humanity, not in the abstract, but oncretely. The univeral “humanity” is the “Truth-body” of every human being, and his life under particular conditoins is his “Condescension-body,” while his ownself-consciousness, and the finfuence that he means to exert upon his fellow-beings constitute his “Bliss-body.” In short, the unity of the universal man and the aprticular man is the reality of man.” (Anesaki, Nichiren 152)

In his History of Japanese Religion, he writes:

“However, this very fundamental naure of our life is too subtle and abstract for most of us; and hence the Truth-revealer condescends for our sake; he has appeared among us to arouse our soul to communion with him and to lead us on his path. The historical Buddha, Sakya-muni is but one of those adaptive manifestations; he is a Buddha in the Nirmana-kaya (Jap. Wo-jin), the ‘Condescension-b0dy,’ the concrete object of our faith. Yet he is the Buddha par excellence for us living in this world and in this world-period, because of the moral and metaphysical bond connectng a being and the world he lives in. Besides this condescending manifestation, Buddha reveals his wisdom and power, exhibiting them in the blissful glories of celestial existence. This supernal revelation is, again, adapted to the respective heights fo enlightenment on the part of those who have made a certain advance in moral purity and spiritual vision. Hence the infinite varieties of Buddha’s Sambhoga-kaya (Jap. Ho-jin), the “Bliss-body,” and hence the varieties of celestial abodes for different  blissful lives. Among those abodes of bliss, however, Tendai Buddhism gives a special preference to the ‘Paradise of Vulture Peak’ (Jap. Rhyozen-Jodo), an idealization of the Vulture Peak where Buddha Sakya-mun is said to have revealed the truth of the Lotus Based on the metaphysical conception of the connection between the world and the individual, already referred to.

In sum, these three ‘bodies,’ or aspects of Budddha’s being, make up the Buddhological Trinity, which is identical with the triune nature of our own life, the corporeal, the spiritual, and the metaphysical, so to speak. Thus, faith means the communion of our soul with the Buddha-soul in its triune nature, our participation in his dignity and work. In other words, communion in faith presupposes a basic unity existing beween the worshipper and the worshipped. One who realizes this fundamental oneness of our being with that of Buddha cannot but proceed to save others by leading them along the same pathway of Buddhist enightenment. This exertion is moral life, the life of the Bodhisattva, the Buddha-to-be. Faith is perfected by moral life, as morality is based on faith.” (Anesaki, History 117-118.)

Here are two basic questons cocerning the possible way Eliot evaluated Buddhism.

1) How did T. S. Eliot placed the Buddhological Trinity especially around the time when he was seriously considering to become a Buddhist in the earliest 1920s?

2) In what way Eliot compared Unitarianism with Buddhism?

*An Interim Note: Did TSE give up to be a Buddhist due to the conclusion he draw in the early twenties that Buddhism has intrinsic affinity to Unitarianism from which he always wanted to move away? Did Anesaki’s presentation of Buddhism remind TSE of a part of the Unitarianism he had been familiar with?


  • Anesaki, Masaharu. Nichiren, the Buddhist Prophet. Harvard University Press, 1916.
  • ——. History of Japanese Religion: With Special Reference to the Social and Moral Life of the Nation (1928?) Tuttle, 1963.
  • Tsuchiya, Hiromasa. “Yuniterian-shugi to Arai Osui,” Shirarezaru Inochi-no Shisoka: Arai Osui-wo Yomitoku. Tokyo: Shunpusha.

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