Seventeen: True Bodhisattvahood
At that time Subhuti addressed Buddha, saying: World-honored One, if good men and good women seek the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment, by what criteria should they abide and how should they control their thoughts?
Buddha replied to Subhuti: Good men and good women seeking the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment must create this resolved attitude of mind: I must liberate all living beings, yet when all have been liberated, verily not any one is liberated. Wherefore? If a Bodhisattva cherishes the idea of an ego-entity, a personality, a being, or a separated individuality, he is consequently not a Bodhisattva, Subhuti. This is because in reality there is no formula which gives rise to the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment.
Subhuti, what do you think? When the Tathagata was with Dipankara Buddha was there any formula for the attainment of the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment?
No, World-honored One, as I understand Buddha’s meaning, there was no formula by which the Tathagata attained the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment.
Buddha said: You are right, Subhuti! Verily there was no formula by which the Tathagata attained the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment. Subhuti, had there been any such formula, Dipankara Buddha would not have predicted concerning me: “In the ages of the future you will come to be a Buddha called Shakyamuni”; but Dipankara Buddha made that prediction concerning me because there is actually no formula for the attainment of the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment. The reason herein is that Tathagata is a signification implying all formulas. In case anyone says that the Tathagata attained the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment, I tell you truly, Subhuti, that there is no formula by which the Buddha attained it.
Subhuti, the basis of Tathagata’s attainment of the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment is wholly beyond; it is neither real nor unreal. Hence I say that the whole realm of formulations is not really such, therefore it is called “Realm of formulations.”
Subhuti, a comparison may be made with [the idea of] a gigantic human frame.
Then Subhuti said: The World-honored One has declared that such is not a great body; “a great body” is just the name given to it.
Subhuti, it is the same concerning Bodhisattvas. If a Bodhisattva announces: I will liberate all living creatures, he is not rightly called a Bodhisattva. Wherefore? Because, Subhuti, there is really no such condition as that called Bodhisattvaship, because Buddha teaches that all things are devoid of selfhood, devoid of separate individuality.
Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva announces: I will set forth majestic Buddha-lands, one does not call him a Bodhisattva, because the Tathagata has declared that the setting forth of majestic Buddha-lands is not really such: “a majestic setting forth” is just the name given to it.
Subhuti, Bodhisattvas who are wholly devoid of any conception of separate selfhood are truthfully called Bodhisattvas.
I must liberate all living beings, yet when all have been liberated, verily not any one is liberated: a reiteration of this classic verse which was proclaimed earlier. In light of the Authentic Buddhadharma, a Bodhisattva makes a vow to liberate all sentient reality; yet in light of the Dharmadhatu, there are no sentient beings and hence there is no need of liberation. Quite a paradoxical assertion. Yet, the salvific Action of the Bodhisattva is in itself the necessary actuositatis of Mind’s recovery from slipping into the amnesia of self-imposed duality; it’s truly “turning-about” from the separation of Self and reasserting its True undifferentiated and Stainless Stature in the Unborn.
Tathagata is a signification implying all formulas: the formula for actualizing Tathagahood is Mind’s Ten-fold Ascendancy (covered in detail in our recent expose of The Lankavatarian Book of the Dead) towards Absolute Self-recognition (Cittidhatu); yet, this formulation in and of itself is no attainment—it’s a Recollection of Absolute Actuositas (Mind’s reveling in It’s own Luminos Artifex.) Indeed, Mind is Itself It’s own formulae; there are no outside formulations that can attest to Mind’s Ascendancy to Self.
Subhuti, Bodhisattvas who are wholly devoid of any conception of separate selfhood are truthfully called Bodhisattvas: in light of the above, true Bodhisattvahood is devoid of any mass exodus (conceptualizations) from the Undivided Awareness (Bodhi) that alone is sufficient in Mind’s Self-Ascendancy. (Tozen’s own admonitus: Know Thyself before the Arisal and Cessation of All Things.)