Tibetans hold that human beings are generally not capable of seeing the whole of reality
at once. Rather, spiritual awakening must awaken in stages. Even if the fullness of real-
ity were to be displayed , people could only see what their current level of maturity
would allow. In consideration of this quality of human nature, the Buddha gave a vast
array of teachings and practices, each of which addresses a particular stage on the path
They believe, as well, that, as a realized being, the Buddha manifests himself on many
different levels. Following Indian tradition, they divide these levels into three primary
bodies. (See 'Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines', W.Y. Evans-Wentz; or, 'Secret of the
Vajra World', R.A. Ray). They see the Buddha's enlightenment at Bodhgaya from the per-
spective of each of these bodies. At his most advanced level, the dharmakaya, the Bud-
dha has always been enlightened, and his mind has never departed from that complete
and perfect realization. On the sambogakaya level, his enlightenment was essentially a
tantric one, the union of male and female aspects of reality. Out of respect for the li-
mitations of ordinary people, the Buddha showed to most people only his nirmanakaya
body, that of a person acheiving enlightenment as a human being.
For the same reasons, when the Buddha rose from underneath the tree, he refrained from talking about the full measure of his realization. Instead, he taught the more exoteric doctrine, the four noble truths, as most immediately accesible and appropriate for the people of his day. Throughout the course of his life, however, the Buddha gave progressively deeper and more sophisticated teachings sometimes in nirmanakaya, sometimes in the 'spiritual body', sambogakaya. By the time of his passing, he had presented 84,000 dharmas, to address the various types of situations and levels of maturity experienced by sentient beings. On these occasions, he deemed that the world was not ready for these more advanced teachings, and so they were kept hidden until such time as people were ready to receive them - around 100 AD, according to modern historians.
Subsequently, in sambhogakaya form, the Buddha presented the culminating teaching to
a very small audience of his most advanced disciples. In this form, his nonphysical form of light, he reveals himself to highly attained people. These lineages were passed down
from one teacher to one, or a few, disciples, and kept hidden from outside view for cen-
turies. At the end of the 7th century, however, it began to become visible within Indian
history as a dynamic religious movement defined by its intense focus on meditation and
personal transformation. This is a path of radical renunciation in which one leaves behind
conventional comforts, and lives in solitude, perhaps under a tree, in a cave, or in the op
en subsisting on small quantities of food, and meditating day and night.