Embodied transcendence: the buddha’s body in the pāli nikāyas

Eviatar Shulman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This article reassesses the role of the body in advanced meditation as it is presented in the early Buddhist Pāli discourses, showing that certain theorizations of liberation held that it contained a marked corporeal element. The article also reflects upon the understanding of the Buddha’s body in this textual corpus, and demonstrates that for important strands of the early tradition, the Buddha’s liberation was thought to manifest in his body, so that liberation impacted his physical presence and the quality of his movement. There are also marked metaphysical dimensions to the Buddha’s body, so that its nature transcends the material. Common approaches that take liberation to be a purely psychological transformation thus ignore important aspects of the traditional understanding, which also directs us to think of a plurality of approaches to liberation.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number179
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Body
  • Buddha
  • Early Buddhism
  • Liberation


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