Then the Bodhisattva of Universal Enlightenment 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 Compassionate World Honored One! You have clearly revealed the nature of the many pitfalls that can befall one in meditation, thus allowing Bodhisattvas to discern what they had not yet fully comprehended. Their minds are now at ease and they have realized great tranquility in their own practice.”
“World Honored One, sentient beings in the degenerate age are fast becoming far distant from the Buddha and his teachings; the great sages and saints now seldom appear thus encouraging heretical teachings to flourish in their absence. What manner of teachers should sentient beings follow? What kind of Dharma should they depend upon? What kind of meditation practices should they partake in? What form of imperfections should they seek to remedy? How can they best arouse the Bodhi-mind thus avoid falling into erroneous views?”
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 Universal Enlightenment: this Bodhisattva seeks to enlighten minds that are afflicted with the darkness of ignorance. His many qualities reflect those found in the Gandavyūha-sūtra—part of the larger Avataṃsaka Sūtra. This has much to do with the Hua-yen connection in that sutra. It’s all about aspiring to ‘supreme Perfect Enlightenment’ on the part of its main protagonist, Sudhana:
The monk Meghashri replied to Sudhana, “It is good that you ask about the practice of enlightening beings, having set your mind on supreme perfect enlightenment. It is difficult, most difficult, to seek the practice of enlightening beings, to seek the sphere of enlightening beings, to seek the purification of emancipation of enlightening beings, to seek the purification of the path of enlightening beings, to seek the far-ranging purification of the conduct of enlightening beings, to seek the purification of the accomplishment of mystic knowledge of enlightening beings, to show the liberation of enlightening beings, to show enlightening beings’ exercise of compassion for the world, to oblige people according to their mentalities in the manner of enlightening beings, to show enlightening beings’ mundane and transcendental faces, to seek the thought and action of enlightening beings undefiled by the ills and fears of the created and the uncreated.”
The kind readers of this series hopefully have grasped the dynamic significance of Sudhana’s quest for ‘supreme perfect enlightenment’ amidst the vast array of noble spiritual benefactors. After each visitation he grows exponentially in Noble Wisdom. Let us observe and break down what he has thus accumulated in today’s opening stanzas. As we do so, bear in mind that what is being transmitted accounts for a proper foundation for all who aspire towards Bodhisattvahood.
1. Being immersed in the endless vision of Buddhas.
2. Is in an endless stream-of-communication with Bodhi-Beings.
3. Is illumined with an endless display of expedient means utilized by the Shining Ones.
4. One’s mind is broadened and made sure by the endless principles being exhibited by them.
5. One is made pure by remaining steadfast in devotion to them.
6. The mind-adept is imbued with Infinite Light of the faculties of Enlightened Beings.
7. Is made-secure and indissoluble in the indestructible will-power of Bodhi-Beings.
8. One follows the infinite divine-practices of Bodhi-Beings.
9. One generates the unshakable vows and thus infinite power of the Shining Ones.
10. Is endowed with the unbounded invincibility of the Bodhi-Beings.
11. Thoroughly abides in the immeasurable light of Buddha-gnosis displayed by them.
12. Being eternally-aware of the Holy Dharma of Enlightened-Beings.
Spiritual benefactors save me from falling into evil ways; they guide me according to the principle of equality of things; they show me which paths are safe and which dangerous; they elucidate the way of universal enlightenment; they explain to me universally good enlightening conduct; they tell me the way to the citadel of omniscience; they lead me into the stronghold of omniscience; they plunge me into the ocean of principles of the cosmos.
Maitreya also makes another bold proclamation concerning Sudhana’s spiritual advancement, one that Lankavatarians are most familiar with, since they too partake in such spiritual riches of the Dragon Mind and Womb untold:
Born of the dragon of the mind of enlightenment, ascended into the sky of reality,
Raining the teachings everywhere, he fosters all good fruits.
He will light the lamp of truth, the pure wick,
Dispelling the darkness of defilement,
The lamp in a strong vessel of love and awareness,
Glowing with the pure flame of the spirit of enlightenment.
From the embryo of the aspiration for enlightenment, compassion, and love,
Gradually developing the limbs of enlightenment, this baby buddha is growing.
He will develop the embryo of virtue and clarify the path of knowledge;
He is recognized as an embryo of knowledge, developed in accord
With the womb of vows…
Presently, the World-Honored One addressed Bodhisattva of Universal Enlightenment: “Most outstanding, most outstanding indeed! Most Enlightened-One, you have enquired from the Tathagata about those expedient methods of practice which will impart to sentient beings in the degenerate age the Fearless Eye of the Unborn thus empowering them to partake in the holy path. Listen attentively and I shall explain it all before you.”
Bodhisattva of Universal Enlightenment became filled with reverential silence and listened intently along with the rest of the assembly.
“Virtuous ones, sentient beings in the degenerate age who aspire to arouse the Great Mind of the Unborn should seek out a Genuine Teacher. Those who aspire to Right Practice should seek out one who has achieved Right Insight, whose mind never abides in conflicting characteristics, and who has no attachments or interest in the mind realms of the sravakas and pratyekabuddhas, and whose mind remains pure and unsoiled while becoming invested in alleviating worldly afflictions. While pointing out one’s faults he at the same time praises practices that are pure and never leads one into unsafe and undisciplined conduct. If one should encounter such a Genuine Teacher, one will come to realize unexcelled Primordial Enlightenment.”
“If sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age encounters such a teacher, they should not hesitate to make offerings, even at the expense of one’s own life—including one’s property and spouse and retinue. Such a Genuine Teacher of the Buddhadharma exhibits a pure spirit in the four modes (walking, standing, sitting, and lying down) of conduct. Although he points out all manner of misdeeds and excesses, his own mind is devoid of pride. Yea, if you show no signs of antagonism with such a mind, you will ultimately come to know correct enlightenment. Such mind-flowers will fully blossom and illuminate all the worlds in the ten directions.”
“Virtuous ones, the wondrous Buddhadharma that will be exhibited by such a Genuine Teacher will be free from the four kinds of maladies. What are they? The first is the liability of contrivance. If one should say, ‘If I fully apply myself in all manner of practices based on the purity of my own mind in order to contract Primordial Enlightenment,’ this is clearly not true, since the nature of this enlightenment is never attained through contrivance.
“The second is the malady of simply allowing things to be as they are. For example, if one were to say, ‘We should never wish to sever samsara nor seek out nirvana since there never are any conceptions of neither one arising nor cessating; I simply allow everything to take its course with the various natures of dharmas in my quest for Primordial Enlightenment.’ This is not a true statement since the real-nature of this enlightenment never comes about simply by accepting the nature of dharmas in themselves.”
“The third is the malaise of “stopping”. If someone were to state, ‘In my quest for Primordial Enlightenment I shall simply stop my mind from having wandering thoughts, thus attaining quiescence and equanimity in the nature of all dharmas.’ Such an approach is a defective one, since the Absolute Nature of Primordial Enlightenment is never brought about by simply “stopping” all thoughts.”
“The fourth is the liability of bringing about annihilation. For example, if someone were to say, ‘In my quest for Primordial Enlightenment I shall permanently annihilate all vexations. Afterwards body and mind will be empty, not to mention all the illusory realms of the sensory apparatus, thus everything will be in a perfect state of equanimity.’ This is clearly a false assertion since the Absolute Nature of Primordial Enlightenment is not annihilation.”
“Thus, one who is free from these four maladies will know absolute purity of Mind and Spirit. To clearly discern these falsities is known as Right Discernment. Failing in this, all other forms of discernment are erroneous.”
“Virtuous ones, sentient beings in the degenerate age who wish to attain Right Cultivation, should continually, throughout their life cycle, make offerings to virtuous friends of the Buddhadharma and serve Genuine Teachers. When a Genuine Teacher approaches, never exhibit traits of pride and arrogance, and when that teacher leaves you, never exhibit resentment nor hatred. Be mindful that the states of pleasantness and unpleasantness are to be likened unto the empty sky. Come to realize that your own body and mind is no different from other sentient beings, since in “essence”, they are the same. If you practice in this fashion, you will come to realize Primordial Enlightenment.”
“Virtuous ones, when sentient beings in the degenerate age fail to practice the singular Way of the Unborn, it is the direct result of seeds hidden in the alaya-consciousness bearing traits of love towards themselves and others. Hence, they are not liberated. If one comes to regard their enemies as their own parents, devoid of duality, then all maladies will be relinquished. Within all dharmas, self and other, likes and dislikes will likewise be eradicated.”
“Virtuous ones, sentient beings in their quest for Primordial Enlightenment should give rise to the Bodhi-mind, proclaiming, “I vow to lead all sentient beings in the universe into the Realization of Primordial Enlightenment. Within that primordial singularity there is no attachment to “enlightenment” nor any traces of an ego-mind or person. Hence, if you make this firm resolve you will never fall into any erroneous habits.”
In order to reinforce this Mind-teaching, the World-Honored One spoke thus in verse:
Universal Enlightenment, you should know
that sentient beings in the degenerate age
who sincerely seek out a Genuine Teacher
should find one who is singularly aligned with Right View,
and whose mind is far divorced from the Two Vehicles.
The Holy Dharma he proclaims should be free
from the four maladies of
contrivance, allowing things to remain as they are,
stopping and annihilation.
If such a teacher approaches you,
never be arrogant or proud.
If that teacher should leave you,
never be hateful nor resentful.
When observing various realms as revealed
by the teacher,
one should regard them as rare Bodhi-pearls,
like a Tathagata manifesting in the world.
If you leave your abode like such Shining Ones,
you will save all sentient beings,
empowering them to be freed from traces
such as Ego-mind and person.
When relying on such Wisdom of the Holy Correct,
they will transcend all erroneous viewpoints,
actualize Primordial Enlightenment,
and thus enter parinirvana.