Three classes of Buddhas

From Anthroposophy

At each evolutionary stage there are various cohorts at different stages of development. This was and is also the case in the epochs such as the Lemurian upto the current Postatlantean epoch.

Souls that reached their normal development on Old Sun or Old Moon developed to varying degrees and incarnate upto now in human bodies. (see 1904-11-01-GA089 quote on Man in the Lemurian epoch)

The cohorts of advanced beings that are ahead of those developments are directly connected with a being from the third hierarchy at the levels of the higher bodily principles (see Man's higher triad, and eg Schema FMC00.312A), so they are ensouled and receive direct inspiration from such higher being: an angel, archangel or archai. Such beings are then called, by Eastern names, respectively: a Buddha, a Bodhisattva, or a Dhyani-Buddha.

See also the White Lodge and Bodhisattva for more info.

More background on the various cohorts of beings is given on: Planets hosting beings at various stages of evolution


Schema FMC00.313 provides an overview of the beings that provide spiritual guidance of mankind in the current Postatlantean epoch, comparing it with the categories of beings and the state of 'ensoulment' by a being from the third spiritual hierarchy H3 in the Lemurian epoch (upper right).


Lecture coverage and references


This section below follows a description of the evolutionary cohorts and three types of beings in the Lemurian epoch, see lecture extract on Man in the Lemurian epoch, and continues with the beings that bring the budhi spark:

... Then we have those which threw the spark of budhi into the human being. These dhyani, which live on higher plane, are the ones which are called the Buddhas in a higher sense, or Christos in Christian terms. They are the fourth dhyani, the budhi dhyani. They are real gods.

We have now widened our horizon. The spark, which the budhi dhyani are there to give, can first of all be thrown into the solar pitris. Such a solar pitri, into whom the spark of budhi has been thrown, is called a bodhisattva.

At a much later time the spark of budhi was able to descend as far as the lunar pitris. The first lunar pitri who was filled with budhi and in whom human and godhead were united, was Jesus Christ. And there we have to consider that in Jesus Christ the budhi divinity had descended to the lowest level.

The budhi spark can descend as far as the kama manasic principle. The human being would then be a teacher. Buddha, Zarathustra, Krishna, Moses, Hermes and others were such teachers. Such individuals are born destined to be teachers.


In Postatlantean times men had not yet advanced so far that they could do without help from above, inspiration was still necessary; and a sort of ensouling still took place from above.

  • have seen how such ensouling occurred in Lemurian times, because an Archai ensouled the physical body;
  • in the Atlantean times the physical and the etheric bodies were ensouled by Archangels,
  • and now the great leaders of the Postatlantean times were ensouled through an Angel descending into their physical, etheric and astral bodies.

The great leaders of humanity in the post-Atlantean times did not possess merely a physical, etheric and astral body, but an Angel also lived within them. Therefore, these great leaders could look back into their former incarnations. The ordinary man cannot do so as yet, because he has not yet developed his Manas; he must himself first become an Angel. These leaders, who were born out of the ordinary inhabitants, carried an Angelic Being within their physical, etheric and astral bodies, who ensouled and, interpenetrated them. This is again Maya, again we have Beings who are something different from what they appear to be on earth. The great leaders of humanity of grey antiquity were quite different from what they outwardly seemed to be. They were personalities in whom an Angel dwelt and gave what they needed, so that they might become Teachers and Leaders of men. The great founders of religions were men possessed by Angels. Angels spoke through them. The affairs of the world have to be described indeed as entirely regular, but the processes of development always slide one within the other, they overlap. That which we describe as exhibiting complete regularity does not work itself out with such regularity.

It is certainly true that, as a general principle, Archai did speak through human entities in the Lemurian times, Archangels in the Atlantean, and Angels in the post-Atlantean times.

However also existed:

  • But such beings arose, also even in the Postatlantean times, who were penetrated by an Archai down to their physical body, who, therefore, were in the same position, although they lived in the Postatlantean times, as were those beings through whom in Lemuria the Archai spoke. Thus it was possible to have men also in the Postatlantean times, who bore externally all the characteristics of their nation, but who, because humanity still needed such great leaders, carried within them an Archai (Spirit of Personality) - and who were the external incarnation of such a Spirit.
  • Then there were also men in the Postatlantean times who had an Archangel, a Spirit of Mercury, within them, who ensouled their physical and etheric bodies.
  • And lastly, a third category of men was ensouled, inspired in their physical, etheric and astral bodies by an Angel Being, one through whom an Angel spoke. In the spirit of the Eastern Teaching such personalities received particular names.

Thus a personality who outwardly resembles a man of our Postatlantean times, but who really is the bearer of an Archai, who is ensouled by that Spirit down to his physical body, is called Dhyani-Buddha in the Eastern Teaching. Dhyani-Buddha is a generic name for human individualities in whom the Spirits of Personality are active, even as far as their physical body.

  • Those personalities who are ensouled down to their etheric body, who were bearers of Archangels in the post-Atlantean times, are called Bodhi-Sattva
  • And those who are the bearers of an Angel, who are, therefore, ensouled in their physical, etheric and astral bodies, are called human Buddhas

Thus we have three degrees: that of the Dhyani-Buddha, the Bodhi-Sattva and the human Buddha.

This is the true teaching of the Buddhas, of the classes and categories of Buddhas, which we have to recognise in connection with the whole manner and means by which the Hierarchies fulfil their ends. This is the marvel which meets us, when we look back to earlier undeveloped men, that among these men we find those, through whom the Hierarchies speak The great Hierarchies speak out of the Cosmos downwards into the Planets, and only by degrees do these Spirits of the higher Hierarchies, who were active before the appearance of our earth, emancipate the planetary men who live down here, when they have reached the necessary degree of ripeness. Here we gaze into unfathomable depths of wisdom. And what is of extraordinary importance is, that we understand this wisdom exactly as it was taught in all the ages, when primeval wisdom was taught to men.

Thus, when you hear of the Buddhas, for they do not speak of the one Buddha only in the Eastern teaching, but of many, among whom there are naturally different grades of perfection — give attention to the fact: a Buddha walks on earth, but behind the Buddha, was the Bodhi-Sattva and even the Dhyani-Buddha.

Matters, however, might be so, that the Dhyani-Buddha or the Bodhi-Sattva did not reach so far as to ensoul the physical body, but that the Bodhi-Sattva descended only as far as to be able to ensoul the etheric body, so that you can imagine a Being who does not reach so far as to ensoul and inspire the mans physical body, but only the etheric body.

It can, however, happen when such a Bodhi-Sattva is not physically visible (for when he appears only in an etheric body he is not physically visible, and there were such Bodhi-Sattva who were physically invisible) that he can, as a higher Being, inspire quite exceptionally the human Buddha. So that we have the human Buddha, who is already inspired by an Angelic Being, being further inspired in his etheric body by an Archangel Being.

It is essential that we should look into this wonderful complexity of the human nature. Many Individualities to whom we look back into former times can only be understood, when we accept them as the meeting point of different higher Beings, who proclaim and express themselves through the man. For, in truth, many periods do not possess a sufficient number of great men to be inspired by the Spirits who have to be active. Thus sometimes one single personality has to be ensouled by different individualities of the higher Hierarchies. And sometimes it is not only the inhabitants of Mercury who speak with us, when we have a certain personality standing before us, but the inhabitants of Venus also.

Such ideas lead us to the understanding of human evolution, so that we may recognise the true nature of those personalities who, when met as physical men, represent merely Maya. Tomorrow we shall begin by trying to comprehend the origin of each individual planet, which up to now we have considered only as boundary marks, and then we shall gain an idea of them as the dwelling-places of the corresponding spiritual beings.


Nirmanakaya and the bodies of a Bodhisattva

To be added: the Trikaya or three bodies of a Bodhisattva

  • Nirmanakaya (see also workings of Buddha and John the Baptist)
  • as well as Dharmakaya and Sambhogakaya

References oa :


When the astral body is completely transformed the etheric body becomes a counterpart of it. This is Nirmana Kaya when no remnants are left in the astral world. Zarathustra penetrated the astral body of Hermes Dharmakaya.


Of a Being such as the Bodhisattva who became Buddha, we said — and this is the teaching of all who know: When a Being passes through this stage he has had his last incarnation on the Earth, for his whole nature is contained within a human body. Such a Being never again incarnates in this sense. Hence when the Buddha became aware of the significance of his present existence, he could say: ‘This is my last incarnation; I shall not again incarnate on the Earth!’ — It would however be erroneous to think that such a Being then withdraws altogether from Earth-existence. True, he does not enter directly into a physical body but he assumes another body — of an astral or etheric nature — and so continues to send his influences into the world. The way in which such a Being who has passed through the last incarnation belonging to his own destiny continues to work in the world, may be understood by thinking of the following facts. An ordinary human being, consisting of physical body, etheric body, astral body and I, can be permeated by such a Being. It is possible for a Being of this rank, who no longer descends into a physical body but still has an astral body, to be membered into the astral body of another human being. This man may well become a personality of importance, for the forces of a Being who has already passed through his last incarnation on the Earth are now working in him. Thus an astral Being unites with the astral nature of some individual on the Earth. Such a union may take place in a most complicated way. When the Buddha appeared to the shepherds in the picture of the ‘heavenly host’, he was not in a physical body but in an astral body. He had assumed a body in which he could still send his influences to the Earth. Thus in the case of a Being who has become a Buddha, we distinguish three bodies:

1. The body he has before he attains Buddhahood, when he is still working from above as a Bodhisattva; it is a body that does not contain in itself all the powers at his command; he still lives in spiritual heights and is linked with his earlier mission as was the Bodhisattva before his mission became the Buddha's mission. As long as such a Being is living in a body of this nature, his body is called a ‘Dharmakaya’;

2. The body which such a Being builds as his own and through which he brings to expression, in the physical body, everything he has within him. This body is called the ‘body of perfection’, ‘Sambhogakaya’.

3. The body which such a Being assumes, after he has passed through the stage of perfection and can work from above in the way described. This body is called a Nirmanakaya’.

We can therefore say that the ‘Nirmanakaya’ of Buddha appeared to the shepherds in the picture of the angelic host. Buddha appeared in the radiance of his Nirmanakaya and revealed himself in this way to the shepherds. But he was to find further ways of working into the events in Palestine at this crucial point of time.

Related pages

References and further reading