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Nirmāṇakāya (Sanskritनिर्माणकाय "manifested body, emanation body"; Tibetan: སྤྲུལ་སྐུ Tulku, also Trülku or Trulku, transcription according to Wylie: sprul sku; Mongolian: Kuutuktu), also translated as "living Buddha", is the supersensible body through which a Buddha, after he has completed his last earthly incarnation and passed through death, from now on only has an effect on earthly events in ethereal or astral form. In Buddhism, the nirmanakaya is also regarded as an emanation or manifestation body that can not only be perceived by initiates or bodhisattvas, but under certain conditions can also become visible to people who have not undergone conscious training of the mind. High initiates with fully developed nirmanakaya, who do not need another earthly incarnation for their own development, can nevertheless decide to descend to a new earthly life for the benefit of humanity. For example, according to the teachings of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, high Buddhist masters can consciously decide for a certain rebirth on earth. The respective Dalai Lama is considered the highest Trulku here. The current 14th Dalai Lama is the Buddhist monk Tenzin Gyatso.

Rudolf Steiner primarily refers to the astral body that has been fully transformed into manas and leaves no remains in the kamaloka after death as nirmanakaya:

„Man dies, soon after death the etheric body is detached, an extract remains. Man goes through Kamaloka, there the unprocessed shell is detached; what is processed goes in the I through all eternity, it is brought back to the new incarnation. The more perfect a man is, the less will be these remnants which he leaves behind in the astral world, until at last he is so far advanced that nothing of his astral body remains in Kamaloka, until he is so far advanced that he cannot, so to speak, be harmful to anyone on earth through the remnants which he leaves behind in Kamaloka. Such a person then has the possibility of looking into the spiritual worlds. For it is not possible to reach this state without having attained a certain degree of clairvoyance in the astral. The whole astral body is then spiritualised, has become spirit-self, the whole astral body is taken along. In former times what was bad had to be left behind, now the whole astral body can be taken along into the whole subsequent time. And at the moment when the astral body is so far worked through, the whole new form of the astral body, of the spirit self, is pressed into the etheric body, so that the etheric body is then an imprint of this astral body which has thus been reworked. It does not need to be completely reworked itself, but what could be worked into the astral body is printed into the etheric body. In short, you see, we have thus described a particularly high being, which has come far in the most eminent sense by having developed the whole spirit-self. This being is now called Nirmanakaya in Eastern science, for its astral body, its astral kaya, has reached the stage where it leaves no remains. That is a Nirmanakaya.“ (Lit.:GA 110, p. 149ff)

The Buddha's members are then shaped similarly to those of an Angel.

According to Rudolf Steiner, however, an etheric body that is completely preserved after death can also be called a Nirmanakya:

„An etheric body that is acquired through various incarnations can remain preserved as a single one; one that is dispersed gives copies, imprints. An etheric body that preserves itself as a single one may be called Nirmanakaya, and such an etheric body that comes forth from division, Dharmakaya.“ (Lit.:GA 109, p. 295)

When etheric body and astral body are preserved, the Nirmanakaya has reached its most perfect stage of development. Such a Nirmanakya is comparable to the supersensible body of an Archangel.

The Nirmanakaya can also appear as a multiplicity of beings. Thus, as Rudolf Steiner explains, the host of Angels who announced the birth of the Nathanian Jesus boy to the shepherds in the field was in fact the Nirmanakaya of Buddha Shakyamuni:

„The Nirmanakaya of the Buddha appeared to the shepherds in the form of the angelic hosts. Then the Buddha shone forth in his Nirmanakaya and thus revealed himself to the shepherds.“ (Lit.:GA 114, p. 72)

Later, when the Nathanian Jesus was in his 12th year and, with sexual maturity, shed his youthful astral mother-shell, the Nirmanakaya of the Buddha joined and permeated it and was itself rejuvenated. Through his rejuvenated supersensible body, the Buddha was able to give his teaching in a completely new, childlike, fresh way, thus inspiring the writer of the Gospel of Luke.

„We know that in spiritual science we distinguish several "births". In what is called the physical birth, the human being strips off the physical mother's shell, as it were. At the age of seven he strips off the etheric covering which surrounds him until the change of teeth, just as the physical mother's covering surrounds him until the physical birth; and at sexual maturity, i.e. in our day at the age of fourteen or fifteen, the human being strips off what he has had until then like an astral covering. Therefore, the etheric body of the human being is not born as a free body until the seventh year, and the astral body of the human being is born at sexual maturity; the outer astral cover is then cast off.

Let us now consider what is shed at sexual maturity. In those regions in which the Palestinian event took place, this moment occurred somewhat earlier, under normal conditions at the age of twelve. In ordinary life this covering is stripped off and handed over to the outer astral world. In the case of the child who came from the priestly line of the Davidic lineage, something else happened. At the age of twelve, the astral sheath was cast off; but it did not dissolve into the general astral world, but as it had been as the protective astral sheath of the young boy with all the vitalising forces that had flowed into it between the time of the change of teeth and sexual maturity, it now flowed together with that which had descended as the Nirmanakaya of the Buddha. What had appeared in the angelic host united with what had been released as an astral shell in the twelve-year-old Jesus boy, united with all the youthful forces that keep one youthful in the time between the change of teeth and sexual maturity. The Nirmanakaya of the Buddha, which outshone the infant Jesus from birth, became one with that which detached itself from this child at sexual maturity as its youthful astral mother-shell; this it took up, united with it and thereby rejuvenated itself. And through this rejuvenation it was possible for that which he had formerly given to the world to reappear in the child Jesus as in childlike simplicity. This child thus took up the possibility of speaking childlike about the high teachings of compassion and love, which we have presented today in this complication. At the time of the presentation of Jesus in the temple, the boy spoke in such a way that his surroundings were surprised, because the Nirmanakaya of the Buddha was hovering around him, refreshed as if from a fountain of youth by the astral mother shell of the boy.

This is something that the spiritual researcher can know and that the writer of Luke's Gospel has hidden in the strange scene of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple, where he suddenly becomes someone else. That is why in the Gospel of Luke Buddhism is taught in a way that is understandable to the most childlike simplicity. We have to understand this. Then we will know why the boy no longer speaks as he used to speak. The way he used to speak is the way he speaks now, at this time, who, as King Kanishka in ancient India, calls together a synod and has the old Buddhism proclaimed there as an orthodox doctrine. But the Buddha himself had advanced in the meantime. He had absorbed the powers of the astral mother shell of the infant Jesus, and through this he has become able to speak in a new way to the minds of men.“ (Lit.:GA 114, p. 72f)

The Nirmanakaya of the Buddha had an awakening effect on the I of John the Baptist. His sermons were inspired by Buddha and are, in a renewed form, continuations of Buddha's sermons:

„We know from the Gospel itself that we have to understand John the Baptist as the reborn Elijah (Matthew 17:10–13). But we are dealing here with an individuality which, from its earlier incarnations, was not accustomed to develop through the forces inherent in the normal course of life itself all that should come forth. In the normal course of life, while the human physical body is developing in the maternal body, the inner power of the I is stirring. What is inwardly connected with this, Elijah's individuality had not yet gone through in earlier times, it had not yet descended so far. The I had not been set in motion by its own forces, as in normal circumstances, but from outside. That had to happen again now. More out of the spiritual world, closer already to the earth, is the I of this being, which is now much more connected with the earth than the beings which formerly guided Elijah. The transition should now be made to the connection between the Buddha and Zarathustra currents. Everything was to be rejuvenated. Now that very entity had to act from outside which had so connected itself with the earth and its affairs as the Buddha, who was now connected in his Nirmanakaya with the Nathanian Jesus. This being, which on the one hand was connected with the earth, but on the other hand was raptured again, because it only worked in the Nirmanakaya, which lived "beyond" the earth, because it ascended again and now hovered over the head of the Nathanian Jesus, it now had to work in from outside and unfold the I-power of John the Baptist.

Thus it was the Nirmanakaya of the Buddha that had an effect on the unfolding of John's I-power in the same way as the spiritual powers had formerly had an effect on Elijah. At that time, the Elijah-being was raptured at certain times into ecstatic states; then the god spoke, filled his I with a real power, which it could then communicate to the outer world. Now there was again a spiritual entity that hovered over the Nathanian Jesus as the Nirmanakaya of the Buddha; it had an effect on Elizabeth when John was to be born, stimulated the germ of John in Elizabeth's body in the sixth month of pregnancy and awakened the I there. Only this power, because it was now closer to the earth, did not merely cause an inspiration, but really brought about the formation of the I of John. Under the influence of the visit of the one who is called Mary, the I of John the Baptist stirred. Thus, the Nirmanakaya of the Buddha has an awakening and redeeming effect on the I of the former Elijah, on the present I of John the Baptist, right down to the physical substance. What can we hope for now?

Just as Elijah had once spoken his mighty words in the ninth century before our era, just as these were actually God's words and just as what his hand indicated was God's gesture, so it must now be similar with John the Baptist, in that what was present in Elijah came to life again. What was in the Nirmanakaya of the Buddha had an inspirational effect on the ego of John the Baptist. What was proclaimed to the shepherds, what hovered over the Nathanian Jesus, extended its power into John the Baptist. And the preaching of John the Baptist is first of all the resurrected Buddha-preaching. Something very peculiar appears here which must have a deep effect on our soul when we remember the sermon of Benares, when Buddha spoke of the suffering of life and of the salvation from the suffering of life through the eightfold path which the soul should seek. At that time, the Buddha preached what he recognised as the eight-limbed path; at that time, he also continued his sermon more often by saying: 'You have had the teaching of the Brahmins until now; they attribute their origin to Brahma himself. They say they are something more excellent than other people because they are descended from this noble origin. These Brahmins say that man is worth something by his descent. But I say to you: Man is worth something by what he makes of himself, and not by what is put into him by his descent. He is worthy of the great wisdom of the world through what he makes of himself as an individual human being. - In this way the Buddha aroused the very wrath of the Brahmin world by pointing to the individual quality and saying, "Verily I say unto you, it may be that one may call himself a Brahmin, that is not what matters, but what matters is that you make a purified man out of your own personal powers. - This was, if not literally, the meaning of many of the Buddha's discourses. And then he usually continued this teaching by showing how man, if he understands the world of suffering, can feel compassion, become a comforter and helper, how he will just participate in the fate of others because he knows that he feels the same suffering and pain with them.

Now the Buddha was in his Nirmanakaya, outshone the Nathanian infant Jesus and then continued his sermon by sounding the words from the mouth of John the Baptist. What the mouth of John spoke was under the inspiration of the Buddha. And it sounds to us like a continuation of the discourse once delivered by the Buddha when, for example, John says: "You who build much on the fact that you call yourselves descended from those who, in the service of the spiritual powers, are called the 'children of the serpent', and call yourselves on the 'wisdom of the serpent', who then has brought you to this? Only in this way do you think you are bringing worthy fruits of repentance, saying, "We have Abraham for a father. -

But now John continued the Buddha's sermon: "Do not say that you have Abraham for a father, but become truthful people where you stand in the world. A true man can be awakened in the place of the stone on which your foot stands. Truly the God is able to raise up children for Abraham out of the stones (Luke 3:7–8). And then, rightly continuing the preaching of the Buddha, he said: "He who has two skirts, let him divide them with him who has none" (Luke 3:11). They came to him and asked, "Master, what shall we do?" (Luke 3:12), just as the monks had once come to Buddha and asked, "What shall we do?" These are all words that sound like the words of the Buddha, or like a continuation of them.

Thus do these beings appear on the physical plane through the ages, and thus do we come to understand the unity of the religions and spiritual proclamations of humanity. We learn what the Buddha was not by clinging to the traditional, but by listening to what the Buddha really spoke. Buddha spoke five to six centuries before our era as we hear from the sermon of Benares. But the Buddha's mouth has not fallen silent. He speaks even where he is no longer embodied, where he is inspired by the Nirmanakaya. From the mouth of John the Baptist we hear what the Buddha had to say six centuries later, after he had lived in a physical body. Such is the "unity of religions". We must seek out each religion at the right point in the course of human development and look for the living in it, not the dead; for everything continues to develop. We must learn to understand and comprehend this. But anyone who does not want to hear the Buddha-saying from the mouth of John the Baptist seems like a person who has seen the germ of a rosebush and some time later, after the rosebush has sprouted and is bearing blossoms, does not want to believe that this rosebush has arisen from this rosebush, and who would now say: That is something else. - What was alive in the seed now blossoms in the rosebush. And what was alive in the preaching of Benares blossomed in the preaching of John the Baptist at the Jordan.“ (Lit.:GA 114, p. 123ff)

See also


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.