The House that Vimalakirti Built

7 The Goddess, Cont’d

Thereupon, a certain goddess who lived in that house, having heard this teaching of the Dharma of the great heroic bodhisattvas, and being delighted, pleased, and overjoyed, manifested herself in a material body and showered the great spiritual heroes, the bodhisattvas, and the great disciples with heavenly flowers. When the flowers fell on the bodies of the bodhisattvas, they fell off on the floor, but when they fell on the bodies of the great disciples, they stuck to them and did not fall. The great disciples shook the flowers and even tried to use their magical powers, but still the flowers would not shake off. Then, the goddess said to the venerable Sariputra, “Reverend Sariputra, why do you shake these flowers?” Sariputra replied, “Goddess, these flowers are not proper for religious persons and so we are trying to shake them off.”
The goddess said, “Do not say that, reverend Sariputra. Why? These flowers are proper indeed! Why? Such flowers have neither constructual thought nor discrimination. But the elder Sariputra has both constructual thought and discrimination. “Reverend Sariputra, impropriety for one who has renounced the world for the discipline of the rightly taught Dharma consists of constructual thought and discrimination, yet the elders are full of such thoughts. One who is without such thoughts is always proper. “Reverend Sariputra, see how these flowers do not stick to the bodies of these great spiritual heroes, the bodhisattvas! This is because they have eliminated constructual thoughts and discriminations. “For example, evil spirits have power over fearful men but cannot disturb the fearless. Likewise, those intimidated by fear of the world are in the power of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures, which do not disturb those who are free from fear of the passions inherent in the constructive world. Thus, these flowers stick to the bodies of those who have not eliminated their instincts for the passions and do not stick tothe bodies of those who have eliminated their instincts. Therefore, the flowers do not stick to the bodies of these bodhisattvas, who have abandoned all instincts.”
Then the venerable Sariputra said to the goddess, “Goddess, how long have you been in this house?”
The goddess replied, “I have been here as long as the elder has been in liberation.”
Sariputra said, “Then, have you been in this house for quite some time?”
The goddess said, “Has the elder been in liberation for quite some time?”
At that, the elder Sariputra fell silent.
The goddess continued, “Elder, you are ‘foremost of the wise!’ Why do you not speak?
Now, when it is your turn, you do not answer the question.”
Sariputra: Since liberation is inexpressible, goddess, I do not know what to say.
Goddess: All the syllables pronounced by the elder have the nature of liberation. Why? Liberation is neither internal nor external, nor can it be apprehended apart from them. Likewise, syllables are neither internal nor external, nor can they be apprehended anywhere else. Therefore, reverend Sariputra, do not point to liberation by abandoning speech! Why? The holy liberation is the equality of all things!
Sariputra: Goddess, is not liberation the freedom from desire, hatred, and folly?
Goddess: “Liberation is freedom from desire, hatred, and folly” that is the teaching of the excessively proud. But those free of pride are taught that the very nature of desire, hatred, and folly is itself liberation.
Sariputra: Excellent! Excellent, goddess! Pray, what have you attained, what have you realized, that you have such eloquence?
Goddess: I have attained nothing, reverend Sariputra. I have no realization. Therefore I have such eloquence. Whoever thinks, “I have attained! I have realized!” is overly proud in the discipline of the well-taught Dharma. Sariputra: Goddess, do you belong to the disciple-vehicle, to the solitary-vehicle, or to the great vehicle?
Goddess: I belong to the disciple-vehicle when I teach it to those who need it. I belong to the solitary-vehicle when I teach the twelve links of dependent origination to those who need them. And, since I never abandon the great compassion, I belong to the great vehicle, as all need that teaching to attain ultimate liberation. Nevertheless, reverend Sariputra, just as one cannot smell the castor plant in a magnolia wood, but only the magnolia flowers, so, reverend Sariputra, living in this house, which is redolent with the perfume of the virtues of the Buddha-qualities, one does not smell the perfume of the disciples and the solitary sages. Reverend Sariputra, the Sakras, the Brahmas, the Lokapalas, the devas, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, and mahoragas who live in this house hear the Dharma from the mouth of this holy man and, enticed by the perfume of the virtues of the Buddha-qualities, proceed to conceive the spirit of enlightenment.
Reverend Sariputra, I have been in this house for twelve years, and I have heard no discourses concerning the disciples and solitary sages but have heard only those concerning the great love, the great compassion, and the inconceivable qualities of the Buddha.

A Goddess, (devī), appears on the scene and begins to stir things up. Her miraculous flowers cling to those who are filled with conventional conceit. The “Elders” become fixated on the flowers within their own minds, within their own outward, discriminative faculties. They are supposed to be the great “renouncers” of the things of the world, yet these material-manifestations—representative of all conceptual conceits—are not befitting them. The true fit ones (yukta) are those who do not cling to any conceptual associations. The Bodhisattvas are those who do not cling to these associations…they have dropped them all. The Elders attempt to rid themselves of these conceits through their magical powers, but are unable to do so—indicative of those who attempt to remove obstacles through their own power and resolve will be brought to naught; they are always held spellbound and entrapped through their distinctive faculties—they even make up rules and regulations that dictate how certain behavioral norms must be obeyed. For instance, for centuries Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays (during Lent this still holds true)…so fish became their normative diet; yet, are the fish the ones who made up these distinctions? The Bodhisattvas have completely dissolved any discriminative thought patterns. This also includes any cultural associative behavior that borders on the hysterical—like the inordinate fear of demons within a particular cultural milieu…like Catholic demons—fearful forms that have taken shape and rootedness within the catholic imagination, yet truly become “manifested” due to the “mark” of these associations. A Buddhist, for example, will not be haunted by those particular frightful associations—although they have ones that are peculiarly their own. For a Bodhisattva, none of these type of associations have any power over them. Unless one dissolves all thought-constructs the flowers will continue to cling to them.

In a vain attempt to put this devī off guard, Śāriputra asks her, “Have you been here long?” But she cuts-him-to-the-quick by stating, “Just as long as your own state of liberation…” He’s immediately speechless—dumbfounded—but his silence is not the same as the upcoming Grand and Noble Silence of Vimalakriti…no, his is the silence of a dull and stupid clown. Stupefied as to the nature of Liberation, the devī assures Śāriputra that it’s not associable with any fixed-patterns of recognition—it’s neither here or there, nor in-between, but everywhere for those who can behold it with imageless eyes. But Śāriputra just doesn’t get it—he just stands there with his dull clown-face; his is the wisdom of the book-learners, full of rust and roaches. Those who have the proclivity (Bodhisattvas) in such matters are perfumed with the Mahabodhicitta…they are naturally repugnant to the stale, dust-like odor of the Elders. Śāriputra asks the devī, “Well, how did you attain such eloquence?” She makes it unequivocally clear that it is not a matter of attainment. Like Buddha Gotama, nothing is attained or attainable. Seeing with the Dharma-eye the essential sameness of all dharmatas is what constitutes Holy Deliverance (āryavimuktī).

Reverend Sariputra, eight strange and wonderful things manifest themselves constantly in this house. What are these eight?
1) A light of golden hue shines here constantly, so bright that it is hard to distinguish day and night; and neither the moon nor the sun shines here distinctly. That is the first wonder of this house.
2) Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, whoever enters this house is no longer troubled by his passions from the moment he is within. That is the second strange and wonderful thing.
3) Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, this house is never forsaken by Sakra, Brahma, the Lokapalas, and the bodhisattvas from all the other buddha-fields. That is the third strange and wonderful thing.
4) Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, this house is never empty of the sounds of the Dharma, the discourse on the six transcendences, and the discourses of the irreversible wheel of the Dharma. That is the fourth strange and wonderful thing.
5) Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, in this house one always hears the rhythms,songs, and music of gods and men, and from this music constantly resounds the sound of the infinite Dharma of the Buddha. That is the fifth strange and wonderful thing.
6) Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, in this house there are always four inexhaustible treasures, replete with all kinds of jewels, which never decrease, although all the poor and wretched may partake to their satisfaction. That is the sixth strange and wonderful thing.
7) Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, at the wish of this good man, to this house come the innumerable Tathagatas of the ten directions, such as the Tathagatas Sakyamuni, Amitabha, Aksobhya, Ratnasri, Ratnarcis, Ratnacandra, Ratnavyuha, Dusprasaha, Sarvarthasiddha, Ratnabahula, Simhakirti, Simhasvara, and so forth; and when they come they teach the door of Dharma called the “Secrets of the Tathagatas” and then depart. That is the seventh strange and wonderful thing.
8. Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, all the splendors of the abodes of the gods and all the splendors of the fields of the Buddhas shine forth in this house. That is the eighth strange and wonderful thing. Reverend Sariputra, these eight strange and wonderful things are seen in this house. Who then, seeing such inconceivable things, would believe the teaching of the disciples?

The House that Vimalakriti built is a most astounding one indeed. It has been frequented by innumerable Buddhas since the beginningless past—wherein they ascertain all the hidden gnosis of the Tathagatas. It is illumined with the Light of Bodhipower outshining the sun! It contains inexhaustible treasures that bring endless satisfaction to the palate of the Shining Noble Ones. Yes, the House that Vimalakirti built stands like an Oasis in the impure-field of our present saha-realm. The deathless Wonder of the Universe.

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