- THE ESSENCE ITSELF AND THE ATTRIUBUTES OF SUCHNESS, OR THE MEANING OF MAHĀ
A.The Greatness of the Essence of Suchness
[The essence of Suchness] knows no increase or decrease in ordinary men, the Hīnayānists, the bodhisattvas, or the buddhas. It was not brought into existence in the beginning nor will it cease to be at the end of time; it is eternal through and through.
Mind is Perfect-Suchness in an endless bravura of actuosity. In IT is no beginning or end. It is not diminished or enhanced in any form of the created order; in effect, Its Essence is unchangeable. IT is Absolute Quintessence (Bhūtatathatā).
B.The Greatness of the Attributes of Suchness
From the beginning, Suchness in its nature is fully provided with all excellent qualities; namely, it is endowed with the light of great wisdom, [the qualities of ] illuminating the entire universe, of true cognition and mind pure in its self-nature; of eternity, bliss, Self, and purity; of refreshing coolness, immutability, and freedom. It is endowed with [these excellent qualities], which outnumber the sands of the Ganges, which are not independent of, disjointed from, or different from [the essence of Suchness], and which are suprarational [attributes of ] buddhahood. Since it is endowed completely with all these, and is not lacking anything, it is called the Tathāgata-garbha [when latent] and also the Dharmakāya of the Tathāgata.
IT has the universal illumination of the dharmadhātu (Suzuki). Its Bodhi-field is an inconceivable fountain overflowing with exuberant fertility (Buddhist Bible). In such stature IT is the Tathagata’s Dharmakaya, the Womb of Suchness—the Tathāgata-garbha.
*I disagree with Hakeda here when he qualifies the Tathāgata-garbha as being latent. His is the only translation that inserts this qualifier. The Dharma-Womb is never dormant but rather FULL of Its own Liberating Potential that IS ALWAYS READY to fertilize the Bodhi-Seed AS IT is the very receptacle of Vivifying Suchness. Rather, it is the Seed (Buddha-nature) that remains dormant until fertilized as such.
Question: It was explained before that the essence of Suchness is undifferentiated and devoid of all characteristics. Why is it, then, that you have described its essence as having these various excellent qualities?
Answer: Though it has, in reality, all these excellent qualities, it does not have any characteristics of differentiation; it retains its identity and is of one flavor; Suchness is solely one.
Question: What does this mean?
Answer: Since it is devoid of individuation, it is free from the characteristics of individuation; thus, it is one without any second.
Question: Then how can you speak of differentiation [i.e., the plurality of the characteristics of Suchness]?
Answer: In [contrast to] the characteristics of the phenomena of the “activating mind” [the characteristics of Suchness can] be inferred.
Question: How can they be inferred?
Answer: All things are originally of the mind only; they in fact transcend thoughts. Nevertheless, the deluded mind, in nonenlightenment, gives rise to [irrelevant] thoughts and predicates the world of objects. This being the case, we define [this mentality] as “the state of being destitute of wisdom” (avidyā, ignorance). The essential nature of Mind is immutable [in that it does not give rise to any deluded thoughts, and, therefore, is the very opposite of ignorance]; hence, [it is spoken of as having the characteristic of] “the light of great wisdom.” When there is a particular perceiving act of the mind, objects [other than the objects being perceived] will remain unperceived. The essential nature of Mind is free from any partial perceiving; hence, [Suchness is spoken of as having the characteristic of ] “illuminating the entire universe.”
*All of this is indicative of the Unmoving Principle. Mind (In Itself) remains immutable despite instances when it engages in its pluralized obstructions.
When the mind is in motion [stirred by ignorance], it is characterized by illusions and defilements, outnumbering the sands of the Ganges, such as lack of true cognition, absence of self-nature, impermanence, blisslessness, impurity, fever, anxiety, deterioration, mutation, and lack of freedom. By contrast to this, the essential nature of Mind, however, is motionless [i.e., undisturbed by ignorance]; therefore, it can be inferred that it must have various pure and excellent qualities, outnumbering the sands of the Ganges. But if the mind gives rise to [irrelevant thoughts] and further predicates the world of objects, it will continue to lack [these qualities]. All these numberless excellent qualities of the pure principle are none other than those of One Mind, and there is nothing to be sought after anew by thought. Thus, that which is fully endowed with them is called the Dharmakāya [when manifested] and the Tathāgata-garbha [when latent].
This depicts Mind in motion, when the phenomenal outflows usurp the throne of Suchness. Once again here Hakeda tries to “differentiate” between the Dharmakāya and Tathāgata-garbha. The True Dharmakāya IS the True Tathagata Womb. This is clearly indicative of a faulty assumption on the part of scholars that is some form of Objective qualifier, one that is somehow a separate “unit of suchness”, albeit one that is dormant unless activated by some kind of creative impetus. There is no bifurcation here. The Sea of Suchness and Its Dharma-Womb are one in the same.
C. The Greatness of the Influences of Suchness
The Buddha-Tathāgatas, while in the stages of bodhisattvahood, exercised great compassion, practiced pāramitās, and accepted and transformed sentient beings. They took great vows, desiring to liberate all sentient beings through countless aeons until the end of future time, for they regarded all sentient beings as they regarded themselves. And yet they never regarded them as [separate] sentient beings. Why? Because they truly knew that all sentient beings and they themselves were identical in Suchness and that there could be no distinction between them.
*Magnificent passage that, in effect, translates the Great Bodhisattvic resolve of “saving all sentient beings.” This is in league with the Diamond Sutra that “best” asserts that in actuality there are no “formal beings” to be saved, that in truth they are all ‘identical in Suchness’. What in essence the true “mission” consists of is awakening one to their own self-nature as bodhi-beings, devoid of any nominalistic qualifies as “being a person” who is somehow in need of salvation. That’s all just a mad dream of the skandhic-persona, when in essence, the skandhas themselves need to be dropped.
Because they possessed such great wisdom [which could be applied] to expedient means [in quest of enlightenment], they extinguished their ignorance and perceived the original Dharmakāya. Spontaneously performing incomprehensible activities, exercising manifold influences, they pervade everywhere in their identity with Suchness. Nevertheless, they reveal no marks of their influences that can be traced as such. Why? Because the Buddha-Tathāgatas are no other than the Dharmakāya itself, and the embodiment of wisdom. [They belong to the realm of] the absolute truth, which transcends the world where the relative truth operates. They are free from any conventional activities. And yet, because of the fact that sentient beings receive benefit through seeing or hearing about them, their influences [i.e., of Suchness] can be spoken of [in relative terms].
Striking passage of the ‘Buddha-Tathāgatas’ whose Essence is not distinct from the Dharmakāya but an Absolute manifestation of It. This depicts the Best of the Best utilizing Inconceivable Wisdom expediently in relative realms while, at the same time, not being part and parcel of any conventional environment. Thus Suchness is won in relative realms even though its Absolute success is measured through relative terms.
The influences [of Suchness] are of two kinds. The first is that which is conceived by the mind of ordinary men and the followers of Hīnayāna [i.e., the influence of Suchness as reflected] in the “object discriminating consciousness.” This is called [the influence of Suchness in the form of] the “Transformation-body” (Nirmānakāya). Because they do not know that it is projected by the “evolving mind,” they regard it as coming from without; they assume that it has a corporeal limitation because their understanding is limited.
The second is that which is conceived by the mind of the bodhisattvas, from the first stage of aspiration to the highest stage, [i.e., the influence of Suchness as reflected] in the mentality that regards external objects as unreal. This is called [the influence of Suchness in the form of ] the “Bliss-body” (Saṃbhogakāya). It has an infinite number of corporeal forms, each form has an infinite number of major marks, and each major mark has an infinite number of subtle marks. The land of its abode has innumerable adornments. It manifests itself without any bounds; [its manifestations are] inexhaustible and free of any limitations. It manifests itself in accordance with the needs [of sentient beings]; and yet it always remains firm without destroying or losing itself.
These excellent qualities were perfected by the pure permeation acquired by the practice of pāramitās and the suprarational permeation [of Suchness]. Since the influence is endowed with infinite attributes of bliss, it is spoken of as the “Bliss-body.”
What is seen by ordinary men is only the coarse corporeal forms [of the manifestation of Suchness]. Depending upon where one is in the six transmigratory states, his vision of it will differ. [The visions of it conceived by] the unenlightened beings are not in a form of Bliss; this is the reason why it is called the “Transformation-body” [i.e., the body appearing in the likeness of the conceiver].
A nice succinct analysis of the Trikayaic-Formula:
The Nirmānakāya: the Transformation Body wherein Suchness is conceived and perceived through skandhic lens—since it is a mental projection it is assumed to be a remotely objective reality.
The Saṃbhogakāya: the “Bliss Body” as perceived by the Bodhisattvic mind in various stages of development; it takes on innumerable forms the best being Buddhaic-Truths revealed on the Saṃbhogakāyic Plane, i.e. through Sutra composition as well as through sundry meditational and yogic enterprises.
The Dharmakāya: the Absolute Truth Body, well-bracketed throughout TAOF.
The bodhisattvas in their first stage of aspiration and the others, because of their deep faith in Suchness, have a partial insight into [the nature of the influence of Suchness]. They know that the things [of the Bliss-body], such as its corporeal forms, major marks, adornments, etc., do not come from without or go away, that they are free from limitations, and that they are envisioned by mind alone and are not independent of Suchness. These bodhisattvas, however, are not free from dualistic thinking, since they have yet to enter into the stage [where they gain complete realization] of the Dharmakāya. If they advance to the “stage of pure-heartedness,” [the forms] they see will be subtler and the influences [of Suchness] will be more excellent than ever. When they leave the last stage of bodhisattvahood, they will perfect their insight [into Suchness]. When they become free from the “activating mind” they will be free from the perceiving [of duality]. The Dharmakāya of the buddhas knows no such thing as distinguishing this from that.
Although Bodhisattvas in advanced stages of Mind Development have an acute awareness of the inner-workings of Suchness through the Trikayic-vehicle, they still are subjected to dualistic thought-imprints since they have not yet reached the Tenth Bhumi, or Dharma-megha stage, (The Virtuous Cloud of the Tathagatas) wherein they are anointed by Tathagatas from the Ten Directions—in this sense they are freed from all discriminatory thoughts and bathe unerringly in Perfect Suchness; they now partake in the ‘Dharmakāya of all Buddhas’.
Question: If the Dharmakāya of the buddhas is free from the manifestation of corporeal form, how can it appear in corporeal form?
Answer: Since the Dharmakāya is the essence of corporeal form, it is capable of appearing in corporeal form. The reason this is said is that from the beginning corporeal form and Mind have been nondual. Since the essential nature of corporeal form is identical with wisdom, the essence of corporeal form which has yet to be divided into tangible forms is called the “wisdom-body.” Since the essential nature of wisdom is identical with corporeal form, [the essence of corporeal form which has yet to be divided into tangible forms] is called Dharmakāya pervading everywhere. Its manifested corporeal forms have no limitations. It can be freely manifested as an infinite number of bodhisattvas, buddhas of Bliss-body, and adornments in the ten quarters of the universe. Each of them has neither limitation nor interference. All of these are incomprehensible to the dualistic thinking of the [deluded] mind and consciousness, for they result from the free influence of Suchness.
All is Mind-only, even when Mind is in pluralized obstruction mode. In this Reality the Dharmakāya pervades everywhere and yet nowhere. The old Heart-Sutra adage hangs true here: form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Thus there is no contradiction in the Realm of Suchness (Dharmadhātu). The essence of what is manifested remains the same. This is incomprehensible in the mind of dualistic-thinking. The dualistic-mind thinks that Mind’s Essence is in things, where in reality thingness IS IN the Dharmakāya.
III. FROM SAMSĀRA TO NIRVĀNA
Lastly, how to enter into the realm of Suchness from the realm of saṃsāra will be revealed. Examining the five components, we find that they may be reduced to matter (object) and mind (subject). The objects of the five senses and of the mind are in the final analysis beyond what they are thought to be. And the mind itself is devoid of any form or mark and is, therefore, unobtainable as such, no matter where one may seek it. Just as a man, because he has lost his way, mistakes the east for the west, though the actual directions have not changed place, so people, because of their ignorance, assume Mind (Suchness) to be what they think it to be, though Mind in fact is unaffected [even if it is falsely predicated]. If a man is able to observe and understand that Mind is beyond what it is thought to be, then he will be able to conform to and enter the realm of Suchness.
The realm of samsara is littered with the five components (Skandhas)—form, sensation, thought, volition, mortal consciousness. Mind’s Suchness is not obtainable, because *anything obtainable* is a byproduct of the Five Skandhas. The Absolute Mind is Unborn, Uncomposed and Undying. IT is not a product of the Skandhas. Once the skandhic perceptional apparatus is discarded, then one begins to see with the very Eyes of Suchness Itself, where all is seen AS SUCH by the SUCH. Thus the Realm of Suchness is won.