Mind As Absolute Suchness



The part on outline has been given; next the part on interpretation [of the principle of Mahayana] will be given. It consists of three chapters:

(1) Revelation of the True Meaning; (2) Correction of Evil Attachments; (3) Analysis of the Types of Aspiration for Enlightenment.

Chapter One

Revelation of True Meaning 


The revelation of the true meaning [of the principle of Mahāyāna can be achieved] by [unfolding the doctrine] that the principle of One Mind has two aspects. One is the aspect of Mind in terms of the Absolute (tathatā; Suchness), and the other is the aspect of Mind in terms of phenomena (saṃsāra; birth and death). Each of these two aspects embraces all states of existence. Why? Because these two aspects are mutually inclusive.

*Hakeda posits that Fa-tsang highlights the One Mind as = (eka-citta; Ch., Yixin); as the Tathagata-garbha. In this respect Fa-tsang follows suit with Wŏnhyo, although there are some differences as will be portrayed shortly.

Suzuki emphasizes the ‘Soul as Suchness’ wherein ITs Totality is the Realm of the Real, or Dharmadhātu. ITs Essential Self-Nature is Uncreate and Eternal. Deathless-Suchness. Mind AS Unborn-Dharmakaya. He states that if one but could overcome confused notions of subjectivity (smrti) all signs of defiled and apparent individuation would cease; his footnote further clarifies his position:

The term is usually rendered by recollection or memory, but Aśvaghosha uses it apparently in a different sense. It must mean subjectivity, or the perception of particularity, or that mental activity which is not in accordance with the suchness of things; if otherwise, the whole drift of the present Discourse becomes totally unintelligible. Smrti is in some degree obviously synonymous with Avidya (ignorance) which is more general and more primordial than the former. Ignorance appears first and when it starts the world-process, “subjectivity” is evolved, which in its turn causes particularisation to take place. Particularisation does not annihilate suchness, but it overshadows the light of its perfect spiritual wisdom.

The mutually-inclusive aspect of the Primordial Order and Its ‘particularized overflows’ become ontologically recognized in Tathagata-garbha. The Wŏnhyo stance:

The mind aspect of ‘true thusness’ is enlightenment. It is also the manifestation of the ‘dharmakaya,’ embodiment of Truth and Law, and that is why there is no production as it is completely liberated from ‘samsara’ cycles of life and death. However in the mind’s ‘arising and ceasing,’ there is this productive character that cyclically arises and ceases. This repetition of production and extinction is what we call ‘dependent co-arising.’ Since ‘tathagata-garbha’ plays a main role in that process, we call it ‘Dependent Co-arising from Tathagatagarbha (如來藏 緣起). Wonhyo speaks of this in his comment on the Lankavatara-sutra (入楞伽經):

“Nirvana (calmness and extinction) is One Mind (一心) and One Mind is tathāgatagarbha.” 

Wonhyo explains that this teaching combines the two aspects of mind, which are True Thusness Aspect of the Mind (心眞如門) and Arising and Ceasing Aspect of the Mind (心生滅門):

“Here the True Thusness Mind Aspect (心眞如門) is interpreted the perfect stillness of the mind (寂滅), as One Mind (一心), while the Arising and Ceasing Aspect of the Mind (心生滅門) is interpreted as ‘tathāgatagarbha, One Mind.” (Wonhyo’s Buddhism from the Perspective of Tathāgatagarbha-vāda, Pyong-rae Lee, pg. 38-39)

For Wŏnhyo ‘dependent co-arising’ is thus from the Tathagata-garbha perspective, whereas for Fa-tsang it’s a matter of direct ‘production from suchness through action of causation.’ (ibid, pg.39)


The Mind in terms of the Absolute is the one World of Reality (dharmadhātu) and the essence of all phases of existence in their totality. 

That which is called “the essential nature of the Mind” is unborn and is imperishable. It is only through illusions that all things come to be differentiated. If one is freed from illusions, then to him there will be no appearances ( lakshana) of objects [regarded as absolutely independent existences]; therefore all things from the beginning transcend all forms of verbalization, description, and conceptualization and are, in the final analysis, undifferentiated, free from alteration, and indestructible. 

They are only of the One Mind; hence the name Suchness. All explanations by words are provisional and without validity, for they are merely used in accordance with illusions and are incapable [of denoting Suchness]. The term Suchness likewise has no attributes [which can be verbally specified]. The term Suchness is, so to speak, the limit of verbalization wherein a word is used to put an end to words. But the essence of Suchness itself cannot be put an end to, for all things [in their Absolute aspect] are real; nor is there anything which needs to be pointed out as real, for all things are equally in the state of Suchness. It should be understood that all things are incapable of being verbally explained or thought of; hence, the name Suchness.

Appropriately stated, the Essential-Nature of the Mind-Self is ‘unborn and deathless.’ It is only through the veil of illusion that Its Unborn and Essential  Stature is lured into both form and formless realms. In the final run of things, ITs Essential Self-Nature is an Undifferentiated One. The name Suchness is a ‘provisional’ mark on THAT which is Markless, Imageless and Unborn. Hakeda nicely juxtaposes Wŏnhyo and Fa-tsang on this point:

In regard to the sentence “The term Suchness is, so to speak, the limit of verbalization wherein a word is used to put an end to words,” a Korean monk, Wŏnhyo, in his commentary on this text written in the early part of the eighth century says: “It is just as though one stops the voices with a voice.” Following this comment by Wŏnhyo, Fazang explains: “It is just like saying ‘Be quiet!’ If this voice were not there, other voices would not be made to cease.”

Wŏnhyo says the same for Mahayana in general:

“I do not know how to speak of it, but as I am compelled now to name it, I call it Mahāyāna.”

Wŏnhyo’s whole position is illustrated as follows:


[From: The Essence-Function Formula as a Hermeneutic Device: Korean and Chinese Commentaries on Awakening Mahāyāna Faith, Sung-bae Park]

Question: If such is the meaning [of the principle of Mahayana], how is it possible for men to conform themselves to and enter into it?  

Answer: If they understand that, concerning all things, though they are spoken of, there is neither that which speaks nor that which can be spoken of, and though they are thought of, there is neither that which thinks nor that which can be thought of, then they are said to have conformed to it. And when they are freed from their thoughts, they are said to have entered into it. 

Next, Suchness has two aspects if predicated in words. One is that it is truly empty (śūnya), for [this aspect] can, in the final sense, reveal what is real. The other is that it is truly nonempty (a-śūnya), for its essence itself is endowed with undefiled and excellent qualities.  

(Suzuki’s take: Again there is a twofold aspect in suchness if viewed from the point of its explicability. The first is trueness as negation (śūnyatā) in the sense that it is completely set apart from the attributes of all things unreal, that it is the real reality. The second is trueness as affirmation (a-śūnyatā), in the sense that it contains infinite merits, that it is self-existent. 

And again by trueness as negation we mean that in its [metaphysical] origin it has nothing to do with things defiled [i. e., conditional], that it is free from all signs of distinction existing among phenomenal objects, that it is independent of unreal, particularizing consciousness.)

*Suzuki’s blends nicely with Wŏnhyo’s equation of Mahayana as = complete negation (via negativa) and complete affirmation (via positiva).

According to Wŏnhyo’s philosophy of negation, the first thing we have to attain is self-negation, i.e., ‘Great Death’. To be more specific, life should die and, paradoxically, even death should die.  

What is Wŏnhyo trying to do by continually negating our most familiar concepts? He is trying to crush everything that is struggling to survive. He is trying to show us that in order to live, we must kill the self. This negation is the most distinct characteristic of a true religious faith. (Wŏnhyo’s Faith System, as Seen in His Commentaries on the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith, Sung-bae Park, pg.31)

*Note that Wŏnhyo is referring to killing off the False-self, the no-Self Beast. In order to live freely unhindered in the Unborn this false-self must at first be subdued and then annihilated. This process is amplified here in these blogs as the Great Dhyani-Buddha’s Sublimation and Transfiguration of the Skandhic mind.

From Wŏnhyo’s t’i-yung formulation everything that arises is simply part of Mahayana’s function. In this sense no-thing need be discarded since one would be discarding no-thing-ness to begin with; everything pre-exists As Such in the Suchness of Mind. This is his via-positiva position.

The stage of Buddhahood that accepts everything presupposes that we will throw away our narrow minds first. That negation, to discard oneself, is the affirmation that embraces everything. (ibid, pg.41)

Hence Wŏnhyo’s Great Affirmation is the complete negation of the false-self beast in order to see the All IN All.

Suzuki’s translation marvelously sums this up:

By the so-called trueness as affirmation, we mean that [as soon as we understand] subjectivity is empty and unreal, we perceive the pure soul manifesting itself as eternal, permanent, immutable and completely comprising all things that are pure. On that account we call it affirmation [or reality, or nonemptiness, a śūnyatā’]. Nevertheless, there is no trace of affirmation in it, because it is not the product of a confused subjectivity, because only by transcending subjectivity (smrti) can it be grasped.


  1. Truly Empty 

[Suchness is empty] because from the beginning it has never been related to any defiled states of existence, it is free from all marks of individual distinction of things, and it has nothing to do with thoughts conceived by a deluded mind. 

It should be understood that the essential nature of Suchness is neither with marks nor without marks; neither not with marks nor not without marks; nor is it both with and without marks simultaneously; it is neither with a single mark nor with different marks; neither not with a single mark nor not with different marks; nor is it both with a single and with different marks simultaneously.

In short, since all unenlightened men discriminate with their deluded minds from moment to moment, they are alienated [from Suchness]; hence, the definition “empty”; but once they are free from their deluded minds, they will find that there is nothing to be negated. 

*Great summation of negating the differentiated-mindset that the Lankavatara Sutra forewarns about. Also, in true Nāgārjuna-fashion the multifold-predication are negated simultaneously.

  1. Truly Nonempty 

Since it has been made clear that the essence of all things is empty, i.e., devoid of illusions, the true Mind is eternal, permanent, immutable, pure, and self-sufficient; therefore, it is called “nonempty.” And also there is no trace of particular marks to be noted in it, as it is the sphere that transcends thoughts and is in harmony with enlightenment alone. 

*Mind is *Full* of ITs own boundless-actuosity.

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