6. The Inconceivable Liberation, cont’d
Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti said to the crown prince, Manjusri, “Manjusri, you have already been in innumerable hundreds of thousands of buddha-fields throughout the universes of the ten directions. In which buddha-field did you see the best lionthrones with the finest qualities?” Manjusri replied, “Noble sir, if one crosses the buddha-fields to the east, which are more numerous than all the grains of sand of thirty-two Ganges rivers, one will discover a universe called Merudhvaja. There dwells a Tathagata called Merupradiparaja. His body measures eighty-four hundred thousand leagues in height, and the height of his throne is sixty-eight hundred thousand leagues. The bodhisattvas there are forty-two hundred thousand leagues tall and their own thrones are thirty-four hundred thousand leagues high. Noble sir, the finest and most superb thrones exist in that universe Merudhvaja, which is the buddha-field of the Tathagata Merupradiparaja.” At that moment, the Licchavi Vimalakirti, having focused himself in concentration, performed a miraculous feat such that the Lord Tathagata Merupradiparaja, in the universe Merudhvaja, sent to this universe thirty-two hundred thousand thrones. These thrones were so tall, spacious, and beautiful that the bodhisattvas, great disciples, Sakras, Brahmas, Lokapalas, and other gods had never before seen the like. The thrones descended from the sky and came to rest in the house of the Licchavi Vimalakirti. The thirty-two hundred thousand thrones arranged themselves without crowding and the house seemed to enlarge itself accordingly. The great city of Vaisali did not become obscured; neither did the land of Jambudvipa, nor the world of four continents. Everything else appeared just as it was before.
Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti said to the young prince Manjusri, “Manjusri, let the bodhisattvas be seated on these thrones, having transformed their bodies to a suitable size!” Then, those bodhisattvas who had attained the superknowledges transformed their bodies to a height of forty-two hundred thousand leagues and sat upon the thrones. But the beginner bodhisattvas were not able to transform themselves to sit upon the thrones. Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti taught these beginner bodhisattvas a teaching that enabled them to attain the five superknowledges, and, having attained them, they transformed their bodies to a height of forty-two hundred thousand leagues and sat upon the thrones. But still the great disciples were not able to seat themselves upon the thrones. The Licchavi Vimalakirti said to the venerable Sariputra, “Reverend Sariputra, take your seat upon a throne.” He replied, “Good sir, the thrones are too big and too high, and I cannot sit upon them.” Vimalakirti said, “Reverend Sariputra, bow down to the Tathagata Merupradiparaja, and you will be able to take your seat.” Then, the great disciples bowed down to the Tathagata Merupradiparaja and they were seated upon the thrones. Then, the venerable Sariputra said to the Licchavi Vimalakirti, “Noble sir, it is astonishing that these thousands of thrones, so big and so high, should fit into such a small house and that the great city of Vaisali, the villages, cities, kingdoms, capitals of Jambudvipa, the other three continents, the abodes of the gods, the nagas, the yaksas, the gandharvas, the asuras, the garudas, the kimnaras, and the mahoragas – that all of these should appear without any obstacle, just as they were before!”
The Licchavi Vimalakirti replied, “Reverend Sariputra, for the Tathagatas and the bodhisattvas, there is a liberation called ‘Inconceivable.’ The bodhisattva who lives in the inconceivable liberation can put the king of mountains, Sumeru, which is so high, so great, so noble, and so vast, into a mustard seed. He can perform this feat without enlarging the mustard seed and without shrinking Mount Sumeru. And the deities of the assembly of the four Maharajas and of the Trayastrimsa heavens do not even know where they are. Only those beings who are destined to be disciplined by miracles see and understand the putting of the king of mountains, Sumeru, into the mustard seed. That, reverend Sariputra, is an entrance to the domain of the inconceivable liberation of the bodhisattvas. “Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, the bodhisattva who lives in the inconceivable liberation can pour into a single pore of his skin all the waters of the four great oceans, without injuring the water-animals such as fish, tortoises, crocodiles, frogs, and other creatures, and without the nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, and asuras even being aware of where they are. And the whole operation is visible without any injury or disturbance to any of those living beings. “Such a bodhisattva can pick up with his right hand this billion-world-galactic universe as if it were a potter’s wheel and, spinning it round, throw it beyond universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, without the living beings therein knowing their motion or its origin, and he can catch it and put it back in its place, without the living beings suspecting their coming and going; and yet the whole operation is visible.
“Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, there are beings who become disciplined after an immense period of evolution, and there are also those who are disciplined after a short period of evolution. The bodhisattva who lives in the inconceivable liberation, for the sake of disciplining those living beings who are disciplined through immeasurable periods of evolution, can make the passing of a week seem like the passing of an aeon, and he can make the passing of an aeon seem like the passing of a week for those who are disciplined through a short period of evolution. The living beings who are disciplined through an immeasurable period of evolution actually perceive a week to be the passing of an aeon, and those disciplined by a short period of evolution actually perceive an aeon to be the passing of a week. “Thus, a bodhisattva who lives in the inconceivable liberation can manifest all the splendors of the virtues of all the buddha-fields within a single buddha-field. Likewise, he can place all living beings in the palm of his right hand and can show them with the supernatural speed of thought all the buddha-fields without ever leaving his own buddhafield. He can display in a single pore all the offerings ever offered to all the Buddhas of the ten directions, and the orbs of all the suns, moons, and stars of the ten directions. He can inhale all the hurricanes of the cosmic wind-atmospheres of the ten directions into his mouth without harming his own body and without letting the forests and the grasses of the buddha-fields be flattened. He can take all the masses of fire of all the supernovas that ultimately consume all the universes of all the buddha-fields into his stomach without interfering with their functions. Having crossed buddha-fields as numerous as the sands of the Ganges downward, and having taken up a buddha-field, he can rise up through buddha-fields as numerous as the sands of the Ganges and place it on high, just as a strong man may pick up a jujube leaf on the point of a needle. “Thus, a bodhisattva who lives in the inconceivable liberation can magically transform any kind of living being into a universal monarch, a Lokapala, a Sakra, a Brahma, a disciple, a solitary sage, a bodhisattva, and even into a Buddha. The bodhisattva can transform miraculously all the cries and noises, superior, mediocre, and inferior, of all living beings of the ten directions, into the voice of the Buddha, with the words of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, having them proclaim, ‘Impermanent! Miserable! Empty! Selfless!’ And he can cause them to recite the words and sounds of all the teachings taught by all the Buddhas of the ten directions.
“Reverend Sariputra, I have shown you only a small part of the entrance into the domain of the bodhisattva who lives in the inconceivable liberation. Reverend Sariputra, to explain to you the teaching of the full entrance into the domain of the bodhisattva who lives in the inconceivable liberation would require more than an aeon, and even more than that.” Then, the patriarch Mahakasyapa, having heard this teaching of the inconceivable liberation of the bodhisattvas, was amazed, and he said to the venerable Sariputra, “Venerable Sariputra, if one were to show a variety of things to a person blind from birth, he would not be able to see a single thing. Likewise, venerable Sariputra, when this door of the inconceivable liberation is taught, all the disciples and solitary sages are sightless, like the man blind from birth, and cannot comprehend even a single cause of the inconceivable liberation. Who is there among the wise who, hearing about this inconceivable liberation, does not conceive the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment? As for us, whose faculties are deteriorated, like a burned and rotten seed, what else can we do if we do not become receptive to this great vehicle? We, all the disciples and solitary sages, upon hearing this teaching of the Dharma, should utter a cry of regret that would shake this billion-worldgalactic universe! And as for the bodhisattvas, when they hear of this inconceivable liberation they should be as joyful as a young crown prince when he takes the diadem and is anointed, and they should increase to the utmost their devotion to this inconceivable liberation. Indeed, what could the entire host of Maras ever do to one who is devoted to this inconceivable liberation?” When the patriarch Mahakasyapa had uttered this discourse, thirty-two thousand gods conceived the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment.Then the Licchavi Vimalakirti said to the patriarch Mahakasyapa, “Reverend Mahakasyapa, the Maras who play the devil in the innumerable universes of the ten directions are all bodhisattvas dwelling in the inconceivable liberation, who are playing the devil in order to develop living beings through their skill in liberative technique. Reverend Mahakasyapa, all the miserable beggars who come to the bodhisattvas of the innumerable universes of the ten directions to ask for a hand, a foot, an ear, a nose, some blood, muscles, bones, marrow, an eye, a torso, a head, a limb, a member, a throne, a kingdom, a country, a wife, a son, a daughter, a slave, a slave-girl, a horse, an elephant, a chariot, a cart, gold, silver, jewels, pearls, conches, crystal, coral, beryl, treasures, food, drink, elixirs, and clothes – these demanding beggars are usually bodhisattvas living in the inconceivable liberation who, through their skill in liberative technique, wish to test and thus demonstrate the firmness of the high resolve of the bodhisattvas. Why? Reverend Mahakasyapa, the bodhisattvas demonstrate that firmness by means of terrible austerities. Ordinary persons have no power to be thus demanding of bodhisattvas, unless they are granted the opportunity. They are not capable of killing and depriving in that manner without being freely given the chance. “Reverend Mahakasyapa, just as a glowworm cannot eclipse the light of the sun, so reverend Mahakasyapa, it is not possible without special allowance that an ordinary person can thus attack and deprive a bodhisattva. Reverend Mahakasyapa, just as a donkey could not muster an attack on a wild elephant, even so, reverend Mahakasyapa, one who is not himself a bodhisattva cannot harass another bodhisattva, and only a bodhisattva can tolerate the harassment of another bodhisattva. Reverend Mahakasyapa, such is the introduction to the power of the knowledge of liberative technique of the bodhisattvas who live in the inconceivable liberation.”
Perhaps if you’ve been following this Vimalakriti series right along, by now you (in particular with this chapter) might be feeling a lot like Alice tumblin’ down the ol’ rabbit hole. I swear that Lewis Carroll was somehow privy to this chapter of the sutra—with Alice suddenly growing as tall as those Lion Thrones. One thing is for sure, if you decide to stay with Vimalakriti he will show you just how far down the rabbit hole goes. So, like the major protagonist Neo in the movie, The Matrix, you will have to decide to either take the Blue pill—where you will just forget about Vimalakriti’s wild twisting of your normal traditional-spiritual frames of reference and just settle back in the malaise of materialism…or take the Red pill—wherein your “normal” frames of perception will be turned inside-out, thereby freeing you from your skandhic prison and awakening to your true essential Buddha-nature. Beware! If you take the Red-pill that heightens your own bodhi-mind-power, there is no turning back to those archaic and useless bones of conventionalism as your mind will be thrust through the Inconceivable Gateless-Gate to Liberation.
Essentially, those miraculous feats of unimaginable distortions of size and dimensions depicted by Vimalakriti are allegorical representations of transforming a normative mind into a bodhi-mind, of, as Lewis Carroll would say, “Believing the impossible before breakfast.” But the power behind Bodhi is more than just wishful thinking. It’s the real juice behind Jesus’ saying, “If you had the faith the size of a mustard seed, you could move mountains…as well as implanting all those universes inside this self-same seed.” Why? Because it’s the very Immaculate Seed this side of Suchness. The seed of potential Buddhahood, from which all potentiality emanates from within a given Buddha-field. For the Sravakas, mere surface dwellers on the Buddha-field (like Śāriputra as depicted in the sutra) the real bodhi-potential never comes to fruition—they can never “size-up” to that Lion Throne. Like all conventional traditionalists, their bodhi-potential is running at a modem speed of about 2500 baud… with lagging-behind dogmas and spiritualities that are set in very rigid-preset parameters (like the patriarch Mahakasyapa, “whose faculties are deteriorated, like a burned and rotten seed”) —attempting to go beyond those parameters will blow-out all the outmoded circuitry. The children of Bodhi, on the other hand, soar like Nuclear Birds and are able to shape and reshape the Buddha-field at will. Why they even have the power to appear as a Mara to defeat a Mara. They are the Dragon-Minds whose luminous bodhipower far outshines any feeble imitations circulating from the fields of lesser bhūmis.