The Meaning of ‘Mind-made Body’ (S. manomaya-kaya, C. yisheng shen) in Buddhist Cosmological and Soteriological systems


  • Sumi Lee University of California, Los Angeles



manomaya-kāya, mind, body, Buddhist cosmology and soteriology


The ‘mind-made body’ (S. manomaya-kaya, C. yisheng shen) is seen as a subtle body attained by a Buddhist adept during meditative practice. Previous research has elucidated this concept as having important doctrinal significance in the Buddhist cosmological system. The Pali canonical evidence shows that the manomaya-kaya is not merely a spiritual byproduct of meditative training, but also a specific existential mode of being in the system of the three realms. Studies of the manomaya-kaya to date, however, have focused mostly on early Pali materials, and thus do not encompass theoretical development and soteriological significance of this notion in later tradition. As a beginning step to fill this gap, this article explores the meanings of the manomaya-kaya represented in the Srimaladevi Sutra and the two treatises of the Ratnagotravibhaga Sastra and the Foxing lun, which are doctrinally based on the Srimaladevi Sutra in their discussion of the manomaya-kaya. Through the observation of the manomaya-kaya in these Mahayana texts, this article seeks to demonstrate how the concept is used in the broader cosmological and soteriological system of Mahayana tradition. For this purpose, I first review the meanings of the manomaya-kaya in early Buddhist texts and then observe the cosmological and soteriological meaning of the notion by analyzing the theoretical connection between the three Mahayana texts.


T 99 Za ahan jing

T 353 Shengman jing

T 1152 Za apitan xinlun

T 1545 Apidamo da piposha lun

T 1558 Apidamo jushe lun

T 1585 Cheng weishi lun

T 1595 She dashenglun shi

T 1610 Foxing lun

T 1611 Jiujing yisheng baoxing lun

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How to Cite

Lee, S. (2014). The Meaning of ‘Mind-made Body’ (S. manomaya-kaya, C. yisheng shen) in Buddhist Cosmological and Soteriological systems. Buddhist Studies Review, 31(1), 65–90.