“Master, please tell me. What is the difference between the material body-mind
and the spiritual one? I know I am supposed to cut through the dialectical mind
with your koans, directly seeing for myself what truth is, but I would
appreciate a basic simple explanation to my dilemma, which i share with my
lesser able brothers and sisters in the sangha. Is a fair answer to this inquiry
possible at all?”
“You pose a fair question which deserves a good answer.
Lets see now…(ponders a moment)…In this mind-field our samsaric consciousness
reveals a seamless frame by frame realm and body that is both frightening and
yet very alluring . It is one that resonates faster than our senses can notice.
We are basically walking around in a deep dream because we are dealing with a
spiritual being caught up in the biological imperative. In other words, we
as spiritual beings are caught in the matrix of the skandhas, dealing with
something that demands constant attention or action, granting pleasure and
pain depending on concurrent conditions very hard to see through for what they
are. Pure illusion.
This is an evil circle. One created by the evil one (Mara) where some of us
strive to desperately break free from. Luckily others, before us, have done just
that by the direct realization of their true self-nature. This great awakening
is produced by a force (of Buddhas) that is immaterial. It is uncreated, unborn
and as such free from any mark of corruption or decay that signifies all
Among us, whom by the aid of this pure light of the Unborn Mind (The Mind of the
Buddhas) have broken free from the shackles of the evil one, we return
to samsara, now fully conscious of our true body of pure spirit/light
(Bodhi-sattva) which is free from the previous psychophysical one.
We can now as a self awakened fully self-aware spirit (maha-bodhisattva) steer
around the biological suit or in special cases myriad suits, like it /they were
a robot/s, driven by virtue of a good remote (right thought) among sentient
beings caught in the spiritually numbing consciousness of their own “biological
We become thus bringers of light, arised from the noble wisdom found in this
deathless body of truth. We fulfill in a way a beginningless vow to those
shining ones that aided us in our struggle to break free and awake and in this
awakening and cultivation of the deathless principle that guides all things in
any universe, aid sentient beings in a myriad ways, although in truth there
are no actual sentient beings to save.
As the Lankavatara sutra states to us whom solved its mystery; It’s all illusion in the great mind field of the One Mind. Thus we call our profound dharma, one of Mind Only. The last four words effectively solving the raised dilemma each practitioner encounter in the last of the four noble truths.”
This past month studying and commentating on the new Red Pine edition of the Lankavatara Sutra has truly been an auspicious time for me; my hope is that this may prove of some benefit for present and future students of the Buddhadharma.
At the beginning of this blog series I remember writing how I hoped that this new translation would be the definitive Lanka for new generations of dharma-students. Red Pine is to be highly commended for rendering this new and vibrant translation for readers of the 21st century; his choice of utilizing a reductionist approach, i.e., breaking the verse structure down so that it is inviting and comforting for the modern reader will prove to be invaluable for all newcomers to what is considered to be a difficult Mahayana/Yogacara Text. It was indeed an enjoyable and smooth read, quite different from the former Suzuki effort, yet, it would be most inopportune to toss that former scholarly effort into the waste bin. Suzuki’s grasp of significant qualifiers, like arya-jnana, is more faithful to the original intent of the Lanka—and that is primarily addressing this text to the “Noble Ones”, the advanced Maha-Bodhisattvas who were spiritually ready to hear the immeasurable gnosis of the Buddhadharma. Red Pine’s decision to render this as exclusively buddha-jnana makes this reading an all-inclusive endeavor, yet its underlying current of “personal revelation” as opposed to “Noble self-realization” truly weakens the authentic Lankavatarian import of the message. In this sense, his effort cannot be considered as the “definitive-translation”, but side by side with Suzuki’s work it stands as a faithful, if more energetic, twin of these renditions.
It was well-worth the wait for Red Pine’s excellent gift for all students of the Buddhadharma. It will also, I’m sure, be worth it as we await others to also venture-forth into the noble waters of the Lanka and bring home their own crafted catch.
As the Lanka winds-down, we are left with some very constructive impressions. Red Pine masterfully translates the great malady that affects all sentient beings—the diurnal wheel of samsara and its accompanying dependent origination:
“Fools let their thoughts wander among the names and appearances of convention to which they are attached. And as they wander among the multitude of shapes that appear, they fall prey to views and longings concerning a self and what belongs to a self, and they become attached to excelling. And once they are attached, they are blinded by ignorance and give rise to passion. And once they are inflamed, the karma produced by desire, anger, and delusion accumulates. And as it accumulates, they become enveloped in their own projections, like silkworms in cocoons, or submerged in boundless states of existence in the sea of birth and death, as if they were on a waterwheel. But because of their ignorance, they do not realize that their own existence is an illusion, a mirage, a reflection of moon in the water, and without a self or what belongs to a self, that is devoid of the origination, duration, or cessation of what characterizes or what is characterized, and that rises from the projections of their own mind and not from a creator, time, motes of dust, or a supreme being. Thus do they wander among names and appearances.” (Red Pine, pg. 245)
Nothing exceeds the Lanka in this assessment of what characterizes apparent life in the saha-realm—what a concise summation of the relentless ignorant wandering, confined to the prison of one’s own mind projections, yearning and even worshipping the animations rather than turning-about and Recollecting That which animates. In contrast, the sweetness of the bodhichild avoids “dualistic views of assertion or denial because [It] knows that names and appearances do not arise. This is what is meant by ‘suchness’. (Red Pine, pg. 245) Even the gods are awestruck as they witness this unsurpassed transformative bodhipower. The seeds of samsara no longer take root, and even all former belief-systems are mere child’s play when seen through Unborn Eyes That reflect no time-bound reality, but the unbounded bodhirealm of suchness. This self-realization of Noble Wisdom defies any comparison, “Mahamati, those who establish their own understanding [the self-realization] are beyond worldly expectations, and ordinary people find it hard to believe them, for there is nothing to which the realm of personal realization of buddha knowledge can be compared. Tathagatas are truly beyond the characteristics perceived by the mind, the will, or conceptual consciousness. They are beyond comparison.” (Red Pine, pg. 249) Truly the Way of the Lankavatarian is not a popular one—it will never win a popularity contest and it never desires to do so as it is “beyond worldly expectations”; it has broken all former ties to samsara and has severed the strings of the puppetmaster. (i.e, mind, will, conceptual consciousness.)
It’s all a Magical Mystery Tour after all, where “nothing is real, nothing to get hungabout”, just Strawberry Fields forever in the karmadhatu of the vijnanas. What is Real, is the dharmadathu, where the Real looks at the Real and no-thing else. (Suchness) In true Bodhisattvic spirit, the Lankavatarian practices the six transcendent paramitas of wisdom:
“Not letting their mind become attached to material appearances, they engage in the transcendent practice of the paramita of charity for the happiness of all beings. Not giving rise to the restrictions regarding the projection of objective conditions, this is the paramita of morality. Not giving rise to the projection of patience while knowing what grasps and what is grasped, this is the paramita of forbearance. Not giving rise to the projection of practice while practicing with zeal during the three periods of the night, this is the paramita of vigor. Not becoming attached to the nirvana of the shravakas when projections cease, this is the paramita of meditation. And examining the nonexistence of the projections of one’s mind with insight without falling into dualities, and transforming one’s karmic body into an indestructible one, and reaching the realm of the personal realization of Buddha knowledge, this is the paramita of wisdom.” (Red Pine, pg. 257) Not being attached or unattached is key here. All former karmic afflictions and attachments and associations are forever silenced as the undivided power of Bodhi fills one with peaceful quietude. Even the concluding segment on vegetarianism is a reminder of just how compassionate this Lankaian stance is, “Because of my past acts of great compassion, I look on all beings as I would a child. And why would I approve eating the flesh of children?” (Red Pine, pg. 265)
The long and winding road of the Lanka leads to the imageless door of the Tathagatas which opens to the other shore of deathlessness. On your own journey to the Undiscovered Shore of the Unborn, through untold hours of disciplined dhyana and faithful study of this Sutra, may this auspicious gift awaken you to Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.
Let us conclude with the Lankavatara Dharani Blessing…may it truly lead to liberation from all Maras:
Tutte, tutte—vutte, vutte—patte, patte—katte, katte—amale, amale—vimale, vimale—nime, nime—hime, hime—vame, vame—kale, kale, kale, kale—atte, matte—vatte, tutte—jnette, sputte—katte, katte—latte, patte—dime dime—cale, cale—pace, pace—badhe, bandhe—ance, mance—dutare, dutare—patare, patare—arkke, arkke—sarkke, sarkke—cakre, cakre—dime, dime—hime, hime—tu tu tu tu –du du du du –ru ru ru ru–phu phu phu phu–svaha.
Section LXXXII of the Lanka delineates the nature of the Tathagata-garbha and the Alaya vijnana (repository consciousness). This can be quite confusing because although apparently different—one pure, one defiled—they are also essentially synonymous in nature. A good analogy to break this down is the nature of “twins”; while they may be different in temperament and personality, they are a product of the same seed-bed, or womb. In UnbornMind Zen the bodhichild is the developing light-bearer, or bodhisattva within the womb (garbha) of tathata (Absolute Suchness); yet there is another alongside it, a “dark-side” whose “habit-energy of beginningless fabrications…gives birth to fundamental ignorance…”(Red Pine, pg. 241) If the bodhichild were to exclusively “tune-into” this dark-side, thus neglecting its rightful affinity with the Unborn Buddha Mind through the Recollective resolve, the waves of the vijnanas (defiled body consciousness) become stirred into motion within its alaya (receptacle)—which is really all those stored defiled-seeds since beginningless time. If left alone and not stirred through the act of grasping, the alaya would remain calm, like the surface of the ocean—just reflecting its pure-essential stature as the Tathagata-garbha. The way, of course, to avoid this release of all that stored habit energy, is to initiate the “turn-about” (paravrtti) and keep one’s sight devotedly fixated on one’s Original Self-Nature. Another way of expressing this is what Sutton states, “Being closely associated with the system of the Sense perceptions (Vijnanas), it is only through its purification, or reabsorption (paravrtti—or turn-about) that the Embryo-of-Buddhahood may emerge in its original state.” (Existence and Enlightenment in the Lanka, p.86)
Sutton also underscores the important “connection between the Tathagata-garbha and the Alaya component of the Vijnana system. One important point needs to be emphasized…while the Garbha taken as “embryo” is associated with the seven evolving Vijnanas (i.e., the five Sense-perceptions, the Manas, and the Manovijnana), the Garbha as “womb” is virtually identical with Alaya-vijnana. This is said to be the deepest stratum of consciousness, in itself pure and tranquil, and from which all the other Vijnanas emerge.” (Existence and Enlightenment in the Lanka, p.67) Sutton makes a fascinating observation and helps to pinpoint the precise “connection” between the Tathagata-garbha and the Alaya vijnana—and it has to do with the “Garbha”; when, as he says, it is taken as “embryo”—this indicates something “evolving” and hence the potentiality for all defiled phenomena to become activated from within the Alaya…however, when taken as “womb”—this indicates that “deepest stratum of consciousness” which is in itself pure and tranquil…and hence the womb of suchness, or the Tathagata-garbha. So, in this sense, the gotra or bodhichild can never be considered as a developing “embryo”—since that reflects a sense of defiled association with the evolving seven vijnanas, which are a springboard for the continuous formation of habit-energy (phenomena); rather, its development within the womb of Absolute suchness (Tathagata garbha) is an imageless affair that will hopefully culminate in full Tathagatahood.
There was a great movie released in 1972 entitled, “The Other”, that revolves around the intricate relationship between twin brothers—the one “apparently” good, and [the other] “apparently” evil. Apparent is the word. Not wanting to be a spoiler here if one hasn’t seen the movie (well worthwhile), suffice to say that the apple doesn’t fall very far away from the symbiotic tree as one is intricately linked and dependent upon the other for identity and psychic survival. This directly relates to what Red Pine writes, “The Buddha explains this relationship, if it can be called that, between the tathagata-garbha and the alaya-vijnana, whereby the former is the cause of the latter but whereby the latter is an illusion.” (Red Pine, pg. 240)
*It’s interesting to note here that Red Pine apparently makes a misinterpretation of the following line:
“Mahamati, if there were nothing called the repository consciousness, the tathagata-garbha would neither arise nor cease.” (Red Pine, pg. 243) Apparently, he interprets this as, “If there were no repository consciousness, there would be no tathagata-garbha and, thus, no liberation or path leading to liberation.” (pg. 242) He misses the mark here by implying that the tathagata-gabha is somehow dependent upon the alaya vijnana for some kind of “existence”. The Lanka is stating that, when self-deprived of the Unmoving Principle, the tathagata-garbha “arises and cessates” as a result of the Moving Principle within the alaya vijnana.
Sections LXXX-XC entitled “Final Questions” by Red Pine actually combines the former Suzuki chapters 4-9 into one chapter, 4.
At the beginning of this Lanka series mention was made concerning the various stages that comprise the Bodhisattva path, and that “stages are provisional and are meant to be transcended if not abandoned.” Section LXXX reveals these stages to be just that—provisional—in that it provides the developing bodhisattva a focusing device to measure their ascent to full self-realization of Noble Wisdom, but in the final run the “sequence of stages and all the phenomena in the three realms are nothing but perceptions of one’s own mind. But fools are unaware of this. And because they are unaware, I and other buddhas talk about a sequence of stages and talk about the phenomena of the three realms.” (Red Pine, pg.235) Wonderful revelation here that, in the absolute sense, these stages are not some set of concreted realities, but are, in reality, further—if refined—mind perceptions. Even the ideation at the apparent 6th stage, wherein one discerns the Samadhi of Cessation—thereby opening the door to final nirvana for those of lesser abilities—this “cessation” is really just another “perception”… a further perception that this “nirvana thing” is somehow self-existent. Yet, the Maha Bodhisattva is not obstructed with this mere ideation, “And because conceptions of nirvana do not arise, they transcend projections of grasping and what is grasped and realize that these are nothing but perceptions of their own mind.” (Red Pine, pg. 235) The Lanka goes even further here by asserting that anything that arises or ceases—any phenomenal perception (dharmas)—is not conducive to the Buddhadharma. As their self-realization becomes enhanced, the Maha Bodhisattva awakens to the state-less state of what Suzuki terms, “absolute-solitude.” This absolute solitude is synonymous with the noble realm of Tathagata-garbha, or UnbornMind Zen—wherein the Undivided Awareness Power of the Unborn Mind and Spirit fully recognizes Its pure suchness, or Tathata—and is no longer hindered by the constrictive grasp of the body consciousness and its accompanying perfumed traces of habit energy, all the “sights, sounds, smells, feelings, emotions and thoughts from the beginningless past” appearing and disappearing in the dreaming dungeon of the perceiving and projecting mind. Hence, “And because they transcend the mind, the will, and conceptual consciousness, they achieve the forbearance of non-arising. Mahamati, the ultimate truth includes no sequence of stages. The absence of all projections, this is what is meant by detachment from dharmas.” (Red Pine, pg. 237)
The concluding gathas (verses) in this section is a real eye-opener, “The tenth stage thus becomes the first/ the first becomes the eighth/ the ninth becomes the seventh/ and the seventh becomes the eighth, ect…but which is free from projections?” (Red Pine, pg. 237) It’s as if the Buddha is playing Mind Games with Mahamati (as well as with the reader). Any “linear” gradation is not important where “imagelessness” (what Red Pine calls projectionless) prevails. The truth of “absolute solitude” occurs when the “discrimination of all images it quieted.” There are no real “stages” then…just the stuff that dreams are made of…
The Lanka once again makes reference to not equating words with meaning:
“Mahamati, if one person points to something with their finger, and a foolish person looks at their finger, they won’t know what they really mean. In the same manner, foolish people become attached to the finger of words. And because they never look away from it, they are never able to discover the true meaning beyond the finger of words.” (Red Pine, pg. 220)
Love the allusion, “finger of words”, reminiscent of the classic Ch’an/Zen metaphor of the “Finger pointing to the Moon.” Indeed, one must not mistake the finger for the Source ITself. Any “truth” that is dependent on “letters”(words) is mere “prattling” since “truth is beyond letters”. An adept, therefore, is not to become attached even to the words of the Buddhist canonical texts—for if one day those texts were to totally disappear where would the truth be then? That’s why the Blessed One states, “For this reason, Mahamati, it is declared in the canonical text by myself and other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that not a letter is uttered or answered by the Tathagatas”. One can see from this how the foundation of Bodhidharmas’ mission of Mind-only was formulated. Indeed, it represents the inner-essence of the Lanka’s essential teaching: That one comes to the Truth not through words but through the self-experiential awakening of self-realization—thus, Noble Wisdom.
The Lanka hones-in on the exact nature of the struggle, that “every mind-world arises from Avidya (ignorance), desire, karma, and projection.” Critical of what neither arises nor ceases, the Blessed One assures Mahamati that his teaching “does not fall prey to such categories of existence or nonexistence. Mahamati, mine transcends the categories of existence and nonexistence. It is not subject to arising or ceasing. Neither does it exist, nor does it not exist. (Red Pine, pg.222) It’s all about these mind-projections—a conjures trick, all illusory; all
phenomenal reality can be likened to a Disney-like creation, where the imaginative fancy rules the day and perpetually sends one down the rabbit hole with Alice. To rely upon these thought-forms is to assure oneself an endless ride on the diurnal wheel of rebirth, samsara, and the accompanying pain of dependent origination that accompanies it. Whereas, once instilled with Noble Wisdom, one is assured of nirvana itself:
“What neither arises nor ceases is what I call nirvana. Mahamati, nirvana is to see the meaning of what is truly so and to get free from the net of thoughts of previous projections. To attain the personal realization of the noble knowledge of a tathagata, this is what I call nirvana.” (Red Pine,pg. 223)
Hence the very cycle of causation is broken, since all causality is in reality a hallucinatory episode within the clouded mind. This is known as concatenation—essentially meaning the “linking together” of all discriminatory reality—meaning in this context that all phenomenal reality is linked together through the chains of dependent origination.
Being entrapped in “the net of thoughts of previous projections” can be likened to karma. Karma is always dependently originated; there is no escape from instant-karma for the sensory-bewitched mind that is incessantly ensnared in that linkage to all previous projections. The way to break-free from karma is brought to light in the final section (LXXIX) of Chapter Three, i.e., to cease discriminating, as best relayed through Suzuki’s translation:
“[When] one ceases to cherish the discrimination of existence and non-existence which rises out of one’s own mind; one sees that things, either of this world or of a higher world, or of the highest, are not to be described as permanent or impermanent, because one does not understand the truth that there is nothing in the world but what is seen of the Mind itself.”
Materialism is the great bane of all Lankavatarists. The Lanka pulls no punches in relaying the dangers of materialism:
“Materialists employ all manner of expressions, arguments, metaphors, and embellishments to attract and deceive foolish people. They do not accept the personal understanding of what is real, nor are they aware that their projection of what exists is a delusion. Falling prey to dualities, they confuse simpleminded people and also harm themselves and cannot escape their continuation in other forms of existence. Unable to understand what are nothing but perceptions of their own mind, they do not get free of their attachments to projections of external existence. Thus, those who engage in materialist eloquence do not escape deception and confusion or the sorrows and afflictions of birth, old age, illness, and death.” (Red Pine, pgs. 202-03)
The Lanka warns that one should “keep your distance from materialists because they are able to promote the causes of suffering. Don’t associate with them.” (Red Pine, pg. 203) Mahamati next proceeds to ask the Blessed One the distinction between “embracing desires of the flesh or the Dharma.” (Red Pine, pg. 207) The Buddha responds by stating that all desires of the flesh “refer to clutching or letting go, touching or tasting, attachment to external sensation, addiction to dualistic views, and rebirth once more in a suffering body along with the anxiety, grief and affliction of birth, old age, and death.” (Red Pine, pg. 207) The Dharma refers to “understanding what are nothing but perceptions of one’s own mind, seeing that beings have no self and that dharmas have no self, not giving rise to projections, becoming versed in the higher stages, transcending the mind, the will, and conceptual consciousness, having one’s forehead anointed with wisdom by all the buddhas, embracing and fulfilling the ten inexhaustible vows, and gaining mastery of all teachings…it means not falling prey to any view, any fabrication, any projection, any existence or duality.” (Red Pine, pg. 207) It’s interesting to note that in one of the concluding gathas concerning materialism the Lanka states that “the slightest movement of mind” is an indication of materialism, while being “unmoved” by all these projections one is able to Recollect Mind as Mind, devoid of all these phenomenal outflows. Also, in that concluding gatha (verse) we see the essential nature of the Tathagata (Thus Come, Thus Gone): no longer appearing or disappearing—no longer concerned with what “comes or goes” (Moving principle), thus ceasing (Unmoving Principle) the ebb and flow of all mind projections.
The Lanka next expounds upon the notion of liberation from the world: Nirvana. It makes it clear in unequivocal terms, that nirvanva does not mean the extinction of anything:
“For followers of some paths it is the cessation of the skandhas, the dhatus, and the ayatanas, or the absence of worldly desires, or the impermanence of everything they see, or the non-arising of any and all mental activity, or not thinking about past, future, or present states, or putting an end to all sensation, like the extinguishing of a lamp or a fire or the destruction of a seed, or not giving rise to projections.” (Red Pine, pg. 209) All of these are but notions of the discriminating mind. What it all boils down to, says the Lanka, is that all these false notions suffer from duality. And so, what is Nirvana? “Nirvana means fully understanding that it is nothing but the perceptions of one’s own mind…it is seeing what is real without falling prey to dualistic projections that are pwerceptions of one’s own mind and that are devoid of perceiver or perceived.” (Red Pine, pg. 211) Reinforcing here once again what was written about nirvana in an earlier blog: Nirvana is the Noble self-realization that there is no independent entity that needs salvation from an abstracted and defiled representation that masquerades as apparent existence; in this sense, nirvana is the annihilation of this false no-self representation, thus rendering it extinct. The meaning of nirvana is thus: Annihilation of the false, abstracted, no-self and giving full recollection to the undivided awareness power of the unborn mind.
A day in the “apparent” life of a Lankavatarian is just that…it transcends all notions of apparency that usually dwarfs most people between the ironclad mountains of realism and nihilism. As such, a Lankavatarian is “marked with the mark of suchness.” “I focus on the personal realization of detachment, on transcending deluded views, on transcending the views of what exists or does not exist that are perceptions of one’s own mind, on obtaining the threefold liberation, on being marked with the mark of suchness, on examining self-existence based on personal realization, and on transcending the views of the existence or nonexistence of what is real.” (Red Pine, pg. 195) Suzuki marvelously breaks this understanding down in his monumental work, Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra:
“…the difference between the wise and the ignorant is that the former are free from the Viparysa while the latter are not. Viparysa literally means “inversion” or “error”; it means imagining things as they are not, taking error for truth. The wise not hampered by this imagination see that the world is like Maya and has no reality, but at the same time they know that it is there, that it is not pure nothingness. Why? Because they have gone beyond the relativism of being and non-being…the wise have a correct view of things for they are free from errors in their perception of an objective world, which exists only in relation to their own mind. An objective world is really an error in so far as it is discriminated as existing externally and individually. Or we may say that an external, particularized world is an illusion as long as the ignorant are unable to break through the fetters of wrong discrimination; whereas to the wise the phenomenal world is true in its suchness (tathata). What, therefore, is an error to one is truth to the other, because the latter is entirely free from all forms of discrimination.” (Studies in the Lanka, p.118)
With this realization, the Lankavatarian does not fall into the phenomenal trap that something needs to be attained: “I am not concealing anything when I say that knowledge is not obtained from an objectified world because it would consist in nothing but the assertion of projections. When you perceive that what exists or does not exist is nothing but a perception of your own mind and that external existence does not exist, you know without perceiving objects. It is because nothing is perceived that the knowledge of something knowable does not arise. Even among the three liberations, knowledge is not obtained. Those whose discriminations consist in the habit-energy of beginningless fabrications of existence and nonexistence would not know something like this. They are unaware of such knowledge.” (Red Pine, pg. 199) This helps to clarify the confusion that occurs when faced with “attainment”; attainment is predicative of thingness—someTHING needs to be attained in order for attainment to function as a qualifier. Within the realm of the Lanka’s Transcendental Knowledge, therefore, noTHING is “attained” since “there is nothing in the world but what is seen of the mind ITself.” So, any mention of “attainment” places one squarely in the face of discrimination that falsely equates self-realization with defiled phenomena in any form. What the Lankavatarian cultivates is Noble self-realization, what Red Pine translates as personal attainment: “The way of personal attainment is for practitioners who free themselves from the different projections that are the perceptions of their own minds.” (Red Pine, pg. 201) So, a day in the life of a Lankavatarian is a perception-less one. It is not held spellbound by the phantasmagoric voyage of samsara. Rather, it makes a station-stop along the truly free and deathless shore of suchness (tathata).
The Lanka places a great premium on the nature of perceptions—what a fool believes he sees or does not see, i.e., existence or non-existence. It also reinforces again and again that the Tathagatas are free from all these discriminations, even going beyond the attempt to render their very “existence” and accompanying afflictions as somehow being nonexistent, their “teaching does not [even] recognize the [very] existence of afflictions much less their annihilation. To Hui-k’o, bodhidharma said, “Show me this mind of yours, and I will calm it for you.” (Red Pine, pg.176) The Noble truth of self-realization is totally beyond all dualistic categories. It’s all about an “inner-perception”, or “undivided” awareness: “the way of attainment refers to the distinctive characteristics of personal realization that transcend the projections of speech and words, that lead to the passionless realm and the stages marked by self-awareness, that are free from erroneous speculations, that overcome the maras of other paths, and that shine forth from inner awareness.” (Red Pine, pg.179) As seen through the lens of UnbornMind Zen, this is the route wherein Mind reclaims (Recollects) the Nirvanic Element of Its True Nature.
Another factor leading to all erroneous discriminations is “words”. Words, in themselves, are vastly overrated. “Words are not connected to anything other than the imagination that gives rise to them…” (Red Pine, pg.134) Love how the Lanka goes even further by stating that they are not even “essential for communication, in this or other worlds: Nor, Mahamati, do words exist in every world. Words are simply fabrications. In other buddhalands, the Dharma is expressed by staring or by facial expressions, or by lifting the eyebrows, or by blinking the eyes, or by smiling, or by opening the mouth, or by clearing the throat, or by thinking about something, or nodding…a simple stare enables bodhisattvas to attain the forbearance of non-arising and incomparable samadhis.” (Red Pine, pgs. 134-35) Gautama Buddha’s greatest communication was manifested through a simple twirling of a Lotus Flower, yet it expressed a whole universe of meaning for Maha Kashapa who simply “smiled” in return. “From the night I attained perfect enlightenment until the night I enter nirvana, between the two, I do not speak, nor have I spoken, nor will I speak a single word, for not speaking is how a Buddha speaks.” (Red Pine, pg.175) This is the very pillar upon which Zen teachings are based. Akin to words is meaning. “And what is meaning? It is what transcends all the characteristics of projections and the characteristics of speech. This is what is meant by meaning. It is thus in regard to meaning, Mahamati, that bodhisattvas dwell in solitude and proceed toward the city of nirvana as a result of their own understanding of wisdom from learning, reflection, and meditation. And once they have transformed their habit-energy, they contemplate the distinctive characteristics of the meaning of the various stages leading to the realm of personal realization.” (Red Pine, pg.185) So, the Lankavatarian notion of meaning is not what is constituted within the “Worldling” view of the word, where an undue infatuation with the “meaning behind things” only induces a quagmire, from which there is no escape since it produces further karmic propensities in the mind of the one who is obsessed with “meaning”—as we have seen, the Lanka goes so far as to state that one will even be creating a self-made hell. So, the nominal quest for meaning is a discriminatory one and lags far behind the awakening “into the exalted state of Nirvana”—which is not a quest but a self-realization.
Consciousness itself is perhaps the main culprit when it comes to discriminatory formulations since it is the main carrier (like a virus) through which all phenomenal activity arises and ceases. “Mahamati, what arises and ceases is consciousness. What neither arises nor ceases is knowledge.” (Red Pine, pg.187) A better translation here for knowledge is “Buddha-gnosis”. It is the very Gnosis of the Buddha wherein all “movable feasts” truly cessate, empowering the Maha-Bodhisattva to Recollect the Unmovable, THAT which “neither goes in nor out—like the Moon in the water.” (Lanka) It is a Gnosis that penetrates even projectionless (imageless) realms thereby attaining mystical powers of the Tathagatas. Without the proper Buddha-gnosis to guide one through the vast maze of samsara, one is left enveloped in the thread of ongoing discrimination (dependent origination), like fools “wrapping themselves in cocoons of delusion.” (Red Pine, pg.190) Yes, the alternative is the “solitude of the inner” and a deep and abiding self-realization that, through the stage of imagelessness where Mind-only is, one will awaken with eyes that hear and ears that see that “neither being nor non-being is taken hold of.” (Lanka)
Chapter three of the Lanka kicks-off with the three-fold nature of the “projection body”, or manomayakaya. “There are three kinds of projection bodies. And what are these three kinds? They are the projection body that experiences the bliss of samadhi, the projection body that realizes the essential nature of the dharmas, and the projection body that whose natural state is motionless.” (Red Pine, pg 167) The first is present when the waves of the vijnana are brought to rest, making FULL STOP to discriminatory phenomena; Mind is at rest in IT’s true Unborn Nature and one’s former samsaric will takes a back-seat as the Super-essential Will of the Unborn Mind rises and takes full precedence. The second is present when the yogin, or adept, enters the eighth stage of recollecting liberation, or Right Concentration: here the realization dawns that although “empty” of all phenomena, the Super-essential Self (Unborn Mind), has the creative power to animate all the varied-realms of dharmatic reality. The third is present when the Yogin, or adept, has a thoroughgoing grasp of the exact “nature” of the “Unmoving Principle” behind the manomayakaya–it is suprapositional and always utterly dynamic, but indeed “motionless” which is the antithesis to the “moving principle” that is mired in all the obstructions of phenomena. In this fashion, the ultimate teachings of all the Buddhas are brought to bear in the bliss of this Noble self-realization, expediently rising to the fore for the benefit of all sentient beings. The concluding gathas (verses) drive home a keen awareness that these Mahayanic teachings, which in themselves are reflections of the Total Unborn Mind Realm, or dharmadhatu—is not represented through any sound, form, projection (image), nor EVEN the “realm of imagelessness”!!! (Suzuki) On the other hand, it is a teaching vehicle through which the Creativeness of the Unborn Will expediently musters activities that are born out of deep Samadhis for the sake of sentient beings.
Red Pine brilliantly makes mention of the nuance concerning “the five immediacies” (or Five Deadly Sins) “Gunabhadra alone has people committing the five avici deeds and not falling into Avici Hell. All other translators (including Suzuki) and the Sanskrit have the expected: “Those who commit the five avici deeds fall into Avici Hell. The Buddhas explanation, however, clearly supports Gunabhadra.” (Red Pine, pg 168) Red Pine is right on the mark because the Lanka turns these traditional Buddhist evil deeds upside down and gives an inverse interpretation: 1.The mother of all beings: Any regenerative and procreative desire (trishna) with its accompanying greedy pleasures is said to be like a nursing mother.
2.The father of ignorance: The seeds of ignorance (avidya) incurs “rebirth” into the six villages (the six senses) of the sense world. [when the “roots” (motherhood and fatherhood) of these two are cut-off it is called the slaying of mother and father]
3.When the passions, like anger, ect.,–those nasty habitual vexations that gnaw at one like a ravenous rat—are exterminated, then this is said to be the murder of the Arhat.
4.The Breaking-up of the Brotherhood: The slaying of the five Skandhas.
5. Making the Buddha bleed with an evil motive: Essentially, when the eight Vijnanas are given full-sway with their discriminatory power of individuality and generality—called by the Lanka the “faulty mentality of the Vijnana Buddha” which is made to “bleed”.
Very interesting how the Lanka plays with language here…for the inverse signification of such noble terms as mother, father, Arhat, Brotherhood, even Buddha is used to “wake the adept up” and not place such total allegiance on such terms, terminology that can actually hinder one from reaching Tathagatahood. This is similar to what Jesus once said about “turning one’s back on one’s father and mother” if one wants to reach the Kingdom of God.
The conclusion of this section more or less indicates that one will surely “fall into Avici Hell”, Red Pine translates Avici as “unrelenting”, if one does not come to the self-realization that external phenomena is nothing but perceptions (projections) of one’s own mind: “However, those who keep committing avici deeds cannot avoid what is unrelenting. Only if they become aware that these are nothing but the perceptions of their own mind, and they abandon projections of a body and what belongs to a body and attachments to a self and what belongs to a self, or they eventually meet a good friend, can escape their projections of continuity in another existence.” (Red Pine, pg 171) I like Red Pine’s translation except, “attachments to a self and what belongs to a self”—Suzuki translates self as, “the notion of an ego and its belongings”, thereby avoiding falling into the trap and heresy of anātmanism. As the Lanka drives home again and again, “what the mind focuses on determines its reality”, so it can easily create its own self-made hell if it owes any semblance of allegiance to the unrelenting “moving principle”. In this sense, Dante’s words ring true: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” The one safeguard in all this is to remain faithful to the truth (paramartha) and to keep one’s mind fixed, not on passing phenomena, but on the ever present “Dharma Realm”, the dharmadhatu—the True, Unmoving Body of Reality.