12.Vision of the Universe Abhirati and the Tathagata Aksobhya
Thereupon, the Buddha said to the Licchavi Vimalakirti, “Noble son, when you would see the Tathagata, how do you view him?” Thus addressed, the Licchavi Vimalakirti said to the Buddha, “Lord, when I would see the Tathagata, I view him by not seeing any Tathagata. Why? I see him as not born from the past, not passing on to the future, and not abiding in the present time. Why? He is the essence which is the reality of matter, but he is not matter. He is the essence which is the reality of sensation, but he is not sensation. He is the essence which is the reality of intellect, but he is not intellect. He is the essence which is the reality of motivation, yet he is not motivation. He is the essence which is the reality of consciousness, yet he is not consciousness. Like the element of space, he does not abide in any of the four elements. Transcending the scope of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, he is not produced in the six sense-media. He is not involved in the three worlds, is free of the three defilements, is associated with the triple liberation, is endowed with the three knowledges, and has truly attained the unattainable.
“The Tathagata has reached the extreme of detachment in regard to all things, yet he is not a reality-limit. He abides in ultimate reality, yet there is no relationship between it and him. He is not produced from causes, nor does he depend on conditions. He is not without any characteristic, nor has he any characteristic. He has no single nature nor any diversity of natures. He is not a conception, not a mental construction, nor is he a nonconception. He is neither the other shore, nor this shore, nor that between. He is neither here, nor there, nor anywhere else. He is neither this nor that. He cannot be discovered by consciousness, nor is he inherent in consciousness. He is neither darkness nor light. He is neither name nor sign. He is neither weak nor strong. He lives in no country or direction. He is neither good nor evil. He is neither compounded nor uncompounded. He cannot be explained as having any meaning whatsoever. “The Tathagata is neither generosity nor avarice, neither morality nor immorality, neither tolerance nor malice, neither effort nor sloth, neither concentration nor distraction, neither wisdom nor foolishness. He is inexpressible. He is neither truth nor falsehood; neither escape from the world nor failure to escape from the world; neither cause of involvement in the world nor not a cause of involvement in the world; he is the cessation of all theory and all practice. He is neither a field of merit nor not a field of merit; he is neither worthy of offerings nor unworthy of offerings. He is not an object, and cannot be contacted. He is not a whole, nor a conglomeration. He surpasses all calculations. He is utterly unequaled, yet equal to the ultimate reality of things. He is matchless, especially in effort. He surpasses all measure. He does not go, does not stay, does not pass beyond. He is neither seen, heard, distinguished, nor known. He is without any complexity, having attained the equanimity of omniscient gnosis. Equal toward all things, he does not discriminate between them. He is without reproach, without excess, without corruption, without conception, and without intellectualization. He is without activity, without birth, without occurrence, without origin, without production, and without nonproduction. He is without fear and without subconsciousness; without sorrow, without joy, and without strain. No verbal teaching can express him. “Such is the body of the Tathagata and thus should he be seen. Who sees thus, truly sees. Who sees otherwise, sees falsely.”
The noble Tathagata-kaya (body of a Tathagata) rips-apart all dichotomous associations. The Tathagata-kaya is beyond the three times (past, present, future); it is neither marked nor unmarked; it cannot be comprehended by the skandhas or by any elements of consciousness itself. Thus, a Tathagata is nothing conceivable nor perceivable. The foot of a Tathagata is neither on this shore or the other shore, neither within nor without, nor anywhere in-between. The Tathagata is also non-relational with any moral or unmoral attributes. The truth behind the Tathagata-kaya is certainly not truth in the conventional sense of the word. Thus come, thus gone essentially means that the Tathagata has not gone, will not go and does not go; he has not come, will not come and does not come. Anyone reading this with “conventional eyes” will say, “Well, then, what the hell is a Tathagata????” Such is the body of a Tathagata that it is not perceivable or conceivable through conventional lens. It is seen through imageless eyes and is therefore beyond thingness and no-thingness . One who sees the Tathagata through imageless eyes sees correctly (samyak paśyati); anyone vainly trying to see the Tathagata through conventional eyes does so in vain (mithyā paśati). This brings to mind a comment that was made here recently that the Sanskrit language is just a lot of hocus-pocus from some dead Indians from long ago. In reality, terms like Tathagata forever shine on in “deathless wonder”. For the vain, coarse and vulgar-minded these terms will appear as meaningless as a janitor trying to make head or tails out of a Nuclear Physicist’s manual. And that’s the point of the sutras in general—they are not meant for the shallow appetite of popular consumption. Yet, anyone with a pure mind and effort, like Hui-neng (the sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism)—who heard through dharma–ears (dhammasota) the words of the Diamond Sutra—“Let your minds function freely, without abiding anywhere or in anything”—can and will become Bodhi-minded. This IS the language of the Bodhi-Spirit and is not meant for the spirit of this world.