The Bodhisattva of Pure Wisdom arose from his seat in the sacred assembly, bowed and then prostrated himself at the feet of the Tathagata and then circumambulated about him three times to the right. He then knelt down and with hands clasped in a manner depicting sublime devotion, invoked the Blessed One.
“Most compassionately World-Honored One! You have benevolently expounded to the assembly the nature of inconceivable things which we have never heard nor spoken of before. Due to your superb supervision we have become greatly composed in body and mind. I implore you for the sake of all who have gathered here, to please once again instruct us on the nature of the Dharma Lord’s Primordial Enlightenment. How does the actualization and attainment of these truths vary between sentient beings, Bodhisattvas, and World Honored Tathagatas? Please continue to teach us so that all sentient beings in the degenerate-age, upon hearing this sacred teaching, may truly conform to it and once awakened, may also gradually enter the Realm of the Buddhas.”
After invoking his pleas in three-fold fashion, he then once again prostrated himself on the ground before the feet of the Blessed One.
Bodhisattva of Pure Wisdom: while not directly specified this Bodhisattva would appear to have qualities connected with Mahāsthāmaprāpta, who represents the Power of Wisdom. Wisdom is normally reserved for Mañjuśrī but here we have a Bodhisattva whose resolve is to remove the stain of ignorance by stressing the clarity of truth so that minds may conform to the omniscient qualities of the Tathagatas.
Mahāsthāmaprāpta is believed to be the deification of Maudgalyāyana, the right-hand disciple of Gautama. He is mentioned with Avalokiteśvara in the Lotus of the Good Law as well as in the Sukhāvatī-vyūha, which is dated from the first century A.D. In China, however, one frequently finds him in a triad at the right of Om-i-to Fo (Amitabha), with Kwan-yin (Avalokiteśvara) at the left, which is the place of honour in China. In Japan he is looked upon as the manifestation of the wisdom of Amida. (Alice Getty,The Gods of Northern Buddhism, their history, iconography, and progressive evolution through the northern Buddhist countries, pg.100)
Presently, the World-Honored One addressed the Bodhisattva of Pure Wisdom: “Most outstanding, most outstanding indeed! Noble One, for the sake of the assembly you have asked the Tathagata about the successive stages of practice. Listen-well, as I shall now reveal it before you.”
Bodhisattva of Pure Wisdom became filled with great joy and listened silently along with the rest of the assembly.
“Virtuous ones, while the essential-nature of Primordial Enlightenment is not in strict conjunction with the various other natures described before, all of them are still endowed with characteristics of the Primordial Source. Since this is a matter of non-duality, what is there to attain or actualize? When it comes to Absolute Reality, there are no Bodhisattvas or sentient beings. Why? Because apart from the Absolute, Bodhisattvas and sentient beings are mere illusionary projections. Hence, when those projections cease, there is no one there to attain or actualize. It is like the eye attempting to see itself in an equal manner, this is not a matter of any equalization.”
“Sentient beings are utterly in a state of confusion and are thus unable to rid themselves of illusory appearances. They have not erased the mark of cessation, thus in their illusory activity they manifest marks of distinction. If they could but enter into accordance with the Tathagata’s quiescent mind, they would realize that there really is “no one there” who “experiences” this quiescence.”
“Virtuous ones, all sentient beings since time immemorial have conceived of a “false-self” and attachments to that self. Hence, they have never known the successive arising and perishing of thoughts.
[*“The succession of arising and perishing thoughts” refers to the sixth consciousness (di liu shi). The mind or self is just the continuous stream of deluded thoughts (wang nian). “That which grasps on to the self” refers to the seventh consciousness (di qi shi). Because of attachment, this continuous flux of thoughts creates karmic seeds (ye zhong) which are planted in the eighth consciousness (di ba shi), the alaya (a lai ye shi). Although the alaya cannot grasp itself – it is just a storehouse of karmic seeds – the seventh consciousness attaches to the alaya as the self. –notes from the Ven. Guo-go Bhikshu edition]
As a result, they give rise to all manner of indulgences in the five desires.”
[There are two sets of five desires (wu yu). The most obvious or coarse desires are for wealth, sex, food and drink, fame, and sleep. The subtle desires refer to the five sense objects. In themselves the sense objects are not defilements, but they are potential objects of desire. Ibid.]
If they happen to encounter a True Teacher of the Buddhadharma, they will awaken to the realization of Primordial Enlightenment. They will soon recognize the nature behind arising and cessation, and thus come to know the origin of all manner of vexations. If one were to successfully sever all anxieties, there would be an instant recognition of the pure-nature of the Dharmadhātu. Yet, if one were to become obsessed with this realization, it would soon become a hindrance to spiritual development. In so doing, the attempt to reach Primordial Enlightenment would be severely curtailed. This is known as ‘the wordlings’ accordance with the nature of enlightenment.”
[This stage is equivalent to an ordinary person’s realization of emptiness. In the Ch’an tradition, it is referred to as seeing one’s self-nature (jian xing). In the doctrinal system, this is referred to as the Path of Seeing (jian dao wei) within the stages of Ten Faiths (shi xin). After perceiving emptiness, usually one’s realization is not deep enough to eradicate all vexations. Therefore, one is still an ordinary person and still needs to continue ones practice. However, after reaching the position of Ten Faiths, one’s faith will never regress (xin bu tui). Beyond the position of Ten Faiths are the Ten Abodes (shi zhu), Ten Practices (shi xing), and Ten Transferences (shi bui xiang), which elevate one to the level of sagehood (xian wei). After one fulfills all the practices and realizations in the position of Ten Faiths, one enters the position of Ten Abodes, which is the beginning of Path of Practice (xiu dao wei). When one fulfills the three stages of Ten Abodes, Ten Practices, and Ten Transferences, one enters the position of Ten Grounds (shi di) or bhumis and moves to the position of sainthood (sheng wei). This is referred to as the Path of Ultimate Attainment (jiu jing wei). The above are gradual levels of realization and practice. However, depending on the depth of one’s realization of emptiness, it is possible for a practitioner to ascend to the highest position, bypassing (dun chao) the lower stages. Ibid]
“Virtuous ones, even for Bodhisattvas this realization would also become a hindrance—thus they do not have the freedom associated with unobstructed awakening. This is called the bodhisattva before the stage of the first bhumi’s accordance with the nature of enlightenment.
[This is the attainment of one of the three positions (san xian wei), of Ten Abodes, Ten Practices, and Ten Transferences, depending on one’s realization. These three positions are all subsumed under the Path of Practice (xiu dao wei). Ibid]
“Virtuous ones, since the possession of both illumination and enlightenment can be a hindrance and an obstruction, a Bodhisattva is still capable of being enlightened without some form of abidance. Hence, both illumination and the illuminator concurrently dissolve-away. This can be likened to someone who cuts-off their own head, there is no executioner present after the severation. Similarly, the elimination of all vexations with a vexatious mind: when the vexations have dissipated, there is no liquidator. The teachings of the sutras can be likened unto the finger that points to the moon. When one observes the moon in itself, one then realizes that the finger is not the moon. In like fashion, all the expedient teaching methods of the Tathagata’s instructing Bodhisattvas is similar. This is called ‘the bodhisattva above the stage of the first bhumi’s accordance with the nature of enlightenment.’”
[This section refers to the attainment of at least the first stage of the Ten Grounds. At this stage, one’s practice will never regress (xing bu tui). If one attains the eighth ground or bhumi, one’s position will never regress again (wei bu tui). Ibid]
“Virtuous ones, all hindrances are therefore [the nature of] ultimate enlightenment. Whether one realizes Right Mindfulness or loses it, there is no non-liberation. Either in the establishment of the Dharma or in its refutation, both are nirvana. Wisdom and Ignorance are equally prajna. The Dharma that is accomplished by seasoned practitioners or mere beginners, is the same Bodhi. Avidya or Suchness are not separate realms. Sila, samadhi and prajna, as well as the three poisons of desire, greed and delusions are all pure activities. Sentient beings and the lands they dwell in share in one Dharma-nature. Both heavens and hells are all Pure-Lands. Those who have come to recognize their innate Buddha-nature and those who have not, are equally accomplished in the Buddhadharma. All mind-defilements are ultimate liberation. The Tathagata’s Oceanic Wisdom that fully encompasses the Dharmadhātu, recognizes all phenomena as empty-space. This is called the Tathagata’s accordance with the nature of enlightenment.”
“Virtuous ones, all Bodhisattvas and sentient beings in the degenerate age should never give rise to deluded thoughts. Yet, if delusion should arise they should not attempt to extinguish it. If they discover themselves in the midst of making deluded concepts, they should in no way add any discriminations. In the midst of non-discrimination, they should never attempt to distinguish True Reality. Sentient beings, upon hearing these teachings, should attempt to assimilate all of it without the arousal of doubts and fears. In doing so, they would be in complete accord with the “nature of enlightenment.”
“Virtuous ones, you should know that all sentient beings in the ten directions have already made offerings to myriads of millions of Buddhas and Maha-Bodhisattvas as innumerable as all the sands of the Ganges, and thus have planted the roots of great merits. They are all thus fully accomplished in Omniscience (Wisdom of all aspects).”
[Wisdom of All Aspects (yi qie zhong zhi) is one of three wisdoms of a Buddha. Wisdom of All Things (yi qie zhi), sarvajnata in Sanskrit, is the omniscient wisdom that realizes the emptiness of all things. Wisdom of the Path (dao zong zhi), margajnata in Sanskrit, refers to the wisdom of knowing all there is to know about the conventional realm, especially with regard to saving sentient beings. Wisdom of All Aspects, or Universal Wisdom, sarvakarajnata in Sanskrit, refers to the perfect knowledge of Reality as it is. Ibid]
In order to reinforce this Mind-teaching, the World-Honored One spoke thus in verse:
Pure Wisdom, you should know
the nature of perfected-Bodhi
is devoid of attainment or actualization.
It is absent of Bodhisattvas or sentient beings.
Yet, when times of enlightenment and non-enlightenment occur,
there are present distinct and progressive stages.
Sentient beings become obstructed in their narrow understanding,
yet Bodhisattvas, too, are not free from their hindrance of knowing enlightenment.
In entering the Bodhisattva stages, they are perfectly tranquil,
and never exhibit any debilitating marks.
Primordial Enlightenment encompasses everything
and is thus called “all-pervasive”.
Sentient beings in the degenerate age
whose minds do not enter into false notions,
are capable of appearing in the saha-realm as Bodhisattvas.
Thus having made offerings to myriads of Buddhas and Maha-Bodhisattvas,
they are already perfected with innumerable merits.
Though there are many expedient teaching methods,
all are in accordance with Perfect Wisdom.