raison d’être



  1. The Characteristics of Beings in Sasāra 

In analyzing the characteristics of beings in sasāra, two categories may be distinguished. The one is “crude,” for [those who belong to this category are] united with the [crude activities of the defiled] mind; the other is “subtle,” for [those who belong to this category are] disunited from the [subtle activities of the defiled] mind. [Again, each category may in turn be subdivided into the cruder and the subtler.] The cruder of the crude belongs to the range of mental activity of ordinary men; the subtler of the crude and the cruder of the subtle belong to that of bodhisattvas; and the subtler of the subtle belongs to that of buddhas. 

These two categories of beings in the phenomenal order come about because of the permeation of ignorance; that is to say, they come about because of the primary cause and the coordinating causes. By the primary cause, “nonenlightenment” is meant; and by the coordinating causes, “the erroneously represented world of objects.” 

When the primary cause ceases to be, then the coordinating causes will cease to be. Because of the cessation of the primary cause, the mind disunited [from the represented world of objects, etc.] will cease to be; and because of the cessation of the coordinating causes, the mind united [with the attachment to 1tman, etc.] will cease to be. 

This distinguishes two-phases of mind as Alaya-vijñāna in causation-mode—birth and death (samsara). The first is rendered crude as being in interrelationship with the defiled nature of the alaya-vijñāna. The second is a subtle-variable as being disengaged from the soiled vehicle. The lower-crude is the subjective-phase of ordinary-folk (puthujjana); the more refined subtle variable is the subjective state of a Bodhisattva, whilst the subtler of the subtle belong to the Buddhas. It needs to be noted that these two subjective phases of the Alaya-soiled mind originate through the “perfuming power of ignorance.” (Suzuki)

When the primary cause (raison d’être) ceases its function (mode of beingness in samsara), then all coordinating-phases of the defiled mind will also cease.  In this instance vincible enlightenment is the raison d’être and the external environment (samsara) is the subjective condition. When this raison d’être is extinguished, all conditioning forces are also extinguished.

Question: If the mind ceases to be, what will become of its continuity? If there is continuity of mind, how can you explain its final cessation? 

Answer: What we speak of as “cessation” is the cessation of the marks of [the deluded] mind only and not the cessation of its essence. It is like the case of the wind that, following the surface of the water, leaves the marks of its movement. If the water should cease to be, then the marks of the wind would be nullified and the wind would have no support [on which to display its movement]. But since the water does not cease to be, the marks of the wind may continue. Because only the wind ceases, the marks of its movement cease accordingly. This is not the cessation of water. So it is with ignorance; on the ground of the essence of Mind there is movement. If the essence of Mind were to cease, then people would be nullified and they would have no support. But since the essence does not cease to be, the mind may continue. Because only stupidity ceases to be, the marks of the [stupidity of the] mind cease accordingly. It is not that the wisdom [i.e., the essence] of Mind ceases. 

Cessation refers only to the differentiated mind-modes and not the Essence Itself. These have to do with the defining “marks” of the defiled essence; the Essential Self exhibits no marks.

Because of the four kinds of permeation, the defiled states and the pure state emerge and continue uninterrupted. They are (1) the pure state, which is called Suchness; (2) the cause of all defilements, which is called ignorance; (3) the deluded mind, which is called “activating mind”; (4) the erroneously conceived external world, which is called the “objects of the five senses and of mind.” 

The meaning of permeation. Clothes in the world certainly have no scent in themselves, but if man permeates them with perfumes, then they come to have a scent. It is just the same with the case we are speaking of. The pure state of Suchness certainly has no defilement, but if it is permeated by ignorance, then the marks of defilement appear on it. The defiled state of ignorance is indeed devoid of any purifying force, but if it is permeated by Suchness, then it will come to have a purifying influence. 

Defiling marks are the scent of ignorance. When the Such prevails, then the perfuming-essence is like rose-water permeating the soiled regions of the unwholesome.

  1. Permeation of Ignorance 

How does the permeation [of ignorance] give rise to the defiled state and continue uninterrupted? It may be said that, on the ground of Suchness [i.e., the original enlightenment], ignorance [i.e., nonenlightenment] appears. Ignorance, the primary cause of the defiled state, permeates into Suchness. Because of this permeation a deluded mind results. Because of the deluded mind, [deluded thoughts further] permeate into ignorance. While the principle of Suchness is yet to be realized, [the deluded mind], developing thoughts [fashioned in the state] of nonenlightenment, predicates erroneously conceived objects of the senses and the mind. These erroneously conceived objects of the senses and the mind, the coordinating causes in [bringing about] the defiled state, permeate into the deluded mind and cause the deluded mind to attach itself to its thoughts, to create various [evil] karma, and to undergo all kinds of physical and mental suffering. 

The permeation of the erroneously conceived objects of the senses and the mind is of two kinds. One is the permeation that accelerates [deluded] thoughts, and the other is the permeation that accelerates attachments.  

The permeation of the deluded mind is of two kinds. One is the basic permeation by the “activating mind,” which causes arhats, Pratyeka-buddhas, and all bodhisattvas to undergo the suffering of sasāra, and the other is the permeation that accelerates [the activities of ] the “object-discriminating consciousness” and makes ordinary men suffer from the bondage of their karma. 

The permeations of ignorance are of two kinds. One is the basic permeation, since it can put into operation the “activating mind,” and the other is the permeation that develops perverse views and attachments, since it can put into operation the “object-discriminating consciousness.” 

Defiled states of consciousness are the permeations that strike at the heart of Suchness. As a result vincible ignorance is born and its own defiling children are the “erroneously conceived objects of the senses and the mind.” This is the principle of delusion and its effects are karmic-induced leading to all manner of dukkha. This is further divided into two forms of permeations. The first strengthens the very “fundamental-activity consciousness” of the more advanced arhats, Pratyeka-buddhas, and bodhisattvas who themselves have to undergo the angst of samsara. The other is the permeation that distracts the “phenomenally discriminating mindset” of the puthujjanas, thus heightening their karmic bondage.

     2. Permeation of Suchness 

How does the permeation [of Suchness] give rise to the pure state and continue uninterrupted? It may be said that there is the principle of Suchness, and it can permeate into ignorance. Through the force of this permeation, [Suchness] causes the deluded mind to loathe the suffering of sasāra and to aspire for nirvāa. Because this mind, though still deluded, is [now] possessed with loathing and aspiration, it permeates into Suchness [in that it induces Suchness to manifest itself ). Thus a man comes to believe in his essential nature, to know that what exists is the erroneous activity of the mind and that the world of objects in front of him is nonexistent, and to practice teachings to free himself [from the erroneously conceived world of objects]. He knows what is really so—that there is no world of objects in front of him—and therefore with various devices he practices courses by which to conform [himself to Suchness]. He will not attach himself to anything nor give rise to any [deluded] thoughts. Through the force of this permeation [of Suchness] over a long period of time, his ignorance ceases.

Because of the cessation of ignorance, there will be no more rising of the [deluded activities of ] mind. Because of the nonrising [of the deluded activities of mind], the world of objects [as previously conceived] ceases to be; because of the cessation of both the primary cause (ignorance) and the coordinating causes (objects), the marks of the [defiled] mind will all be nullified. This is called “gaining nirvāa and accomplishing spontaneous acts.”  

The permeation [of Suchness] into the deluded mind is of two kinds. The first is the permeation into the “object discriminating consciousness.” [Because of this permeation], ordinary men and the Hinayānists come to loathe the suffering of sasāra, and thereupon each, according to his capacity, gradually advances toward the highest enlightenment (Ch., dao). The second is the permeation into mind. [Because of this permeation], bodhisattvas advance to nirvāa rapidly and with aspiration and fortitude.

The conformation to Suchness induces the defiled mindset to fully recognize its unfortunate state and to begin the process of Recollection wherein Mind once again owns its pure staturehood. The Lankavatara Sutra sums this up as:

“Perceiving that the triple existence is by reason of the habit energy of erroneous discrimination and false reasoning that has been going on since beginningless time, and also recollecting the state of Buddhahood that is imageless and unborn, the Bodhisattva (dormant garbha-child) will become thoroughly conversant with the noble truth of self-realization; will also become a perfect master of one’s own mind, will conduct oneself without effort, will be like a gem reflecting a variety of colors, will be able to assume the body of transformation, will be able to enter into the subtle minds of all beings, and because of one’s firm belief in the truth of Mind Only, will, by gradually ascending the stages, become established in Buddhahood.”

This essential conformation deactivates the principle of ignorance as Mind once again acts spontaneously (wu-wei) while Recollecting the Nirvanic-Principle: the very pinnacle of the kingdom of Selfhood. The TAOF parcels this out as a “gradual recognition” in the minds of the lesser able (who begin to loathe their samsaric confines) and as the more advanced permeation of bodhi-beings on their nirvanic-aspiration.

Two kinds of permeation of Suchness [into ignorance] can be identified. The first is the “permeation through manifestation of the essence [of Suchness],” and the second is “the permeation through [external] influences.”  

Hakeda’s comment highlights this as:

The phrase “the permeation through manifestation of the essence [of Suchness]” can perhaps be rendered literally as “the permeation through manifestation of essence on its own accord.” Following Fazang’s comment, this permeation has traditionally been understood as “internal permeation” (Ch., neixun). It is the inner urge of Suchness in man to emerge, so to speak, from the state of unawareness to the state of awareness, or from the unconscious to the conscious.

It is an internal movement of Suchness within, from potential to actual, or from essence to existence, so that essence permeates into existence, or nirvāṇa into saṃsāra. Suchness within, i.e., original enlightenment, is constantly asserting itself in order to be actualized by breaking through the wall of ignorance. This intrinsic inner dynamics of Suchness is suggested by the term “internal permeation.”

1. Permeation Through Manifestation of the Essence of Suchness 

[The essence of Suchness] is, from the beginningless beginning, endowed with the “perfect state of purity.” It is provided with suprarational functions and the nature of manifesting itself. Because of these two reasons it permeates perpetually [into ignorance]. Through the force of [this permeation] it induces a man to loathe the suffering of sasāra, to seek bliss in nirvāna, and, believing that he has the principle of Suchness within himself, to make up his mind to exert himself. 

Suchness as unmanifesting Essence-perfect purity AS SUCH

Suchness as function wherein its manifesting-side bleeds over into Its defiled outflows as the principle of ignorance. Instilled with the perfect mindfulness of the True, the mind adept aspires through exalted mind generation (cittotpāda) towards Self-discipline.

Question: If this is so, then all sentient beings are endowed with Suchness and are equally permeated by it. Why is it that there are infinite varieties of believers and nonbelievers, and that there are some who believe sooner and some later? All of them should, knowing that they are endowed with the principle of Suchness, at once make an effort utilizing expedient means and should all equally attain nirvāa. 

Answer: Though Suchness is originally one, yet there are immeasurable and infinite [shades of] ignorance. From the very beginning ignorance is, because of its nature, characterized by diversity, and its degree of intensity is not uniform. Defilements, more numerous than the sands of the Ganges, come into being because of [the differences in intensity of] ignorance, and exist in manifold ways; defilements, such as the belief in the existence of ātman and the indulgence in passion, develop because of ignorance and exist in different ways. All these defilements are brought about by ignorance, in an infinitely diversified manner in time. The Tathāgatas alone know all about this. In Buddhism there is [a teaching concerning] the primary cause and the coordinating causes. When the primary cause and the coordinating causes are sufficiently provided, there will be the perfection [of a result]. It is like the case of wood: though it possesses a [latent] fire nature which is the primary cause of its burning, it cannot be made to burn by itself unless men understand the situation and resort to means [of actualizing fire out of wood by kindling it]. In the same way a man, though he is in possession of the correct primary cause, [Suchness with] permeating force, cannot put an end to his defilements by himself alone and enter nirvāa unless he is provided with coordinating causes, i.e., his encounters with the buddhas, bodhisattvas, or good spiritual friends. Even though coordinating causes from without may be sufficiently provided, if the pure principle [i.e., Suchness] within is lacking in the force of permeation, then a man cannot ultimately loathe the suffering of sasāra and seek bliss in nirvāa. However, if both the primary and the coordinating causes are sufficiently provided, then because of his possession of the force of permeation [of Suchness from within] and the compassionate protection of the buddhas and bodhisattvas [from without], he is able to develop a loathing for suffering, to believe that nirvāa is real, and to cultivate his capacity for goodness. And when his cultivation of the capacity for goodness matures, he will as a result meet the buddhas and bodhisattvas and will be instructed, taught, benefited, and given joy, and then he will be able to advance on the path to nirvāa. 

*Most crucial section that elucidates on the perennial question of why some “get” their inherent Suchness Principle and others fall by the wayside. Its answerable here that “ignorance” has many diversified strands, some even deeply ingrained in karmic-threads since time immemorial—all of these strands are recognized only by the Tathagatas, who have a form of sixth-sense about such matters. Gautama Buddha experienced these strands as he sat beneath the bodhi-tree. This also heavily implies that one cannot divest themselves from these strands without the intercession from Buddhas and bodhisattvas from infinite dharma-realms, as well as deep and abiding spiritual friends. One still needs though a great awakening of the primary “pure-principle” accompanied with these secondary aids from Bodhi-beings. It goes without saying that once the primary pure-principle is acknowledged, then those supernal meetings will be activated with those Noble Shining One’s who will instruct through proper dharma-gnosis the path to the Nirvanic-Mind.

(2) Permeation Through Influences This is the force from without affecting men by providing coordinating causes. Such external coordinating causes have an infinite number of meanings. Briefly, they may be explained under two categories: namely, the specific and the general coordinating causes. 

(a) The Specific Coordinating Causes. A man, from the time when he first aspires to seek enlightenment until he becomes an Enlightened One, sees or meditates on the buddhas and bodhisattvas [as they manifest themselves to him]; sometimes they appear as his family members, parents, or relatives, sometimes as servants, sometimes as close friends, or sometimes as enemies. Through all kinds of deeds and in calculable performances, such as the practice of the four acts of loving kindness, etc., they exercise the force of permeation created by their great compassion, and are thus able to cause sentient beings to strengthen their capacity for goodness and are able to benefit them as they see or hear [about their needs]. This [specific] coordinating cause is of two kinds. One is immediate and enables a man to obtain deliverance quickly; and the other is remote and enables a man to obtain deliverance after a long time. The immediate and remote causes are again of two kinds: the causes which strengthen a man in his practices [of expedient means to help others], and those which enable him to obtain enlightenment (Ch., dao). 

Quite a remarkable passage pertaining to the exact-nature of the Shining Ones in their diversified manifestations; indeed, some may even be family members unawares and even in the form of enemies. What is crucial to realize here is not the “personal forms”, but the Spirit of Bodhi activated in and through them. In this sense the Buddhadharma can be channeled through many and diverse mediums. Some are secondary revelations on the path to self-awakening, like simple acts of charity; the primary revelations are those that strike an immediate and Self-recognizable chord in the Heart of Suchness.

(b) The General Coordinating Causes. The buddhas and bodhisattvas all desire to liberate all men, spontaneously permeating them [with their spiritual influences] and never forsaking them. Through the power of the wisdom that is one [with Suchness], they manifest activities in response to [the needs of men] as they see and hear them. [Because of this indiscriminately permeating cause], men are all equally able, by means of concentration (samādhi), to see the buddhas. 

This permeation through the influence of the wisdom whose essence is one [with Suchness] is also divided into two categories [according to the types of recipients]. The one is yet to be united [with Suchness]. Ordinary men, the Hīnayānists, and those bodhisattvas who have just been initiated devote themselves to religious practices on the strength of their faith, being permeated by Suchness through their mind and consciousness. Not having obtained the indiscriminate mind, however, they are yet to be united with the essence [of Suchness], and not having obtained [the perfection of ] the discipline of free acts, they are yet to be united with the influence [of Suchness]. 

After the intercession from various and sundry Bodhi-beings, one still needs to cultivate the Dharma that was expedited to them, in particular through Deep Samadhis. It is only in this fashion that what was mystically conveyed can be translated through the awareness principle: the agency of awakening. External religious practices are secondary means to awakening; the primary means must always be through *Direct* and unhindered Union with the very Mind of Tathata Itself.

The other is the already united [with Suchness]: Bodhisattvas who realize Dharmakāya have obtained undiscriminating mind [and are united with the essence of the buddhas; they, having obtained free acts,] are united with the influence of the wisdom of the buddhas.

They singly devote themselves with spontaneity to their religious disciplines, on the strength of Suchness within; permeating into Suchness [so that Suchness will reclaim itself ], they destroy ignorance. Again, the defiled principle (dharma), from the beginningless beginning, continues perpetually to permeate until it perishes by the attainment of buddhahood. But the permeation of the pure principle has no interruption and no ending. The reason is that the principle of Suchness is always permeating; therefore, when the deluded mind ceases to be, the Dharmakāya [i.e., Suchness, original enlightenment] will be manifest and will give rise to the permeation of the influence [of Suchness], and thus there will be no ending to it. 

This is the fully activated Dharmakaya-Principle THAT is directly honed within the undiscriminating mind of those who have ascended through the Ten Bhūmis; see Tathagatagarbhatara Tantra.

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