Monthly Archives: January 2012

Abandon all hope Ye who enter here

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. read more

Posted in The Lankavatara Sutra, Zen | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

You have Anointed Me

When a bodhisattva ascends into higher modes of advancement, the Tathagatas themselves appear to procure their progress: “Moreover, Mahamati, the tathagatas employ two kinds of powers for the support of bodhisattvas who come before them for instruction. And which two supporting powers? The power to appear in bodily form and speak to those in Samadhi and the power to anoint their foreheads.” (Red Pine, pg 130) Suzuki goes even further and refers to these as “sustaining” powers: “Further, Mahamati, there are two kinds of the sustaining power which issues from the Tathagatas who are Arhats and Fully-Enlightened Ones; and sustained by this power the Bodhisattvas would prostrate themselves at their feet and ask them questions. What is this twofold power that sustains the Bodhisattvas? The one is the power by which they are sustained to go through the Samadhis and Samapattis; while the other is the power whereby the Buddhas manifest themselves in person before the Bodhisattvas and baptize them with their own hands.” Interesting how Suzuki employs “baptism” in reference to “anointing”—almost as if this is some kind of Christian initiation, yet the terms are interchangeable. The Lanka describes a beautiful mystical transformation that occurs when the bodhisattvas reaches the tenth-stage, or dharmamegha (dharma-cloud): “As they work their way through the easy and difficult aspects of the various stages, they finally reach the dharma cloud stage, where they dwell inside a magnificent lotus flower palace seated upon a jeweled lotus flower throne surrounded by a retinue of their fellow bodhisattvas adorned with necklaces of jewels that shine like the sun or the moon or golden champaka flowers. The great victors of the ten directions then appear before their thrones in this lotus flower palace and anoint their foreheads…this is what is meant by the power to anoint the foreheads of bodhisattvas. Mahamati, this is what is meant by the two powers that support bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas who rely on these two powers will meet the tathagatas. Otherwise, they will not.” (Red Pine, pg 131) Quite a revelation here as the Lanka portrays a mystical anointing that needs to occur for initiation into the Tathata family. read more

Posted in The Lankavatara Sutra, Zen | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dream Weaver

A study on the Lanka would be remiss without focusing on one of its more prominent terms: manomayakaya. Red Pine describes it as, “a projection body—because it travels quickly and without obstruction, like a thought…endowed with higher powers and spiritual masteries obtained in the Samadhi of the Illusory, the different projection bodies of bodhisattvas appear simultaneously, like unobstructed projections, in whatever realms they recall having vowed to bring those beings to perfection who delight in the personal realization of Buddha knowledge.” Once again, his over-reliance on the word “projection” essentially “projects” a misleading understanding as to the nature of the term…like it’s some kind of an “astral-projection” appearing at will wherever it desires. Suzuki translates it as, “Mind-made body”, or “Will” body; I believe that he’s closer to the mark because the manomayakaya is a manifested Mind-Body of undivided awareness power that is revealed only through a perfected state of Samadhi. Manomayakaya is essentially a Mind-revelation initiating creative vibratory nodes within an otherwise constricted body-consciousness. It is not a ghost or an apparition or a corporal entity nor a spirit, and certainly NOT the stuff that dreams are made of—but rather an awakened resonance that emanates from the dark and luminous body of the Tathagatas. read more

Posted in The Lankavatara Sutra, Zen | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Children of the Buddha

Having been graced with a full understanding of the Noble Wisdom of self-realization, the perfected bodhisattvas (mature garbha, or bodhichild) enter into deep and unfathomable samadhis for the benefit of all sentient beings: “And they enter hundreds of thousands of samadhis, countless hundreds of thousands of samadhis. And as they do so, they travel to other buddhalands and venerate other buddhas and are reborn in celestial palaces, where they praise the three treasures and appear as buddhas themselves surrounded by assemblies of sharvakas and bodhisattvas, and where they liberate beings by explaining to them that what they perceive is nothing but their own mind and that external existence does not exist, thus enabling them to transcend such views as existence and nonexistence.” Perfected in this fashion, these noble champions of Unborn Light empower the blind to see with imageless eyes that all dualistic manifestations are nothing more than fata morganas on the plane of emptiness (sunyata); devoid of self-awakening and recollection of the true and Primordial Self-hood in the dharmatic womb of suchness—tathata—these unwholesome projections of the deluded mind can even lead to the extremes of eternalism and nihilism, the awful curses of believing that some-thing (apart from the Unborn Mind) can exist forever—while simultaneously a belief that this thing-ness is basically a form of nothingness. The Lanka teaches that it is always best to avoid all forms of discriminatory assertions and denials—and also to never cling to the “word-ness” of things since this can lead to extreme wordiness and thus utter dependence upon words (vs. what words are pointing to) in themselves. read more

Posted in The Lankavatara Sutra, Zen | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Magical Mystery Tour

Rabbit horns and Gandharvic Castles in the air; the mind, will and consciousness; the five dharmas and modes of reality; long and short, is and isn’t, I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob, ect—all are nothing more than a magician’s conjuring trick, designed to keep the great Ferris Wheel of Samsara turning round and round. Red Pine states, “Just as a magician fabricates forms that people imagine as being what they are not, thus does our repository consciousness produce our world of objects as well as our sensory bodies, both of which we imagine to be real, out of the seeds of habit-energy from past discriminations that we once more imagine as being what they are not.” Interesting take on how the defiled seeds of the alaya vijnana, if stirred into motion, create our apparent reality as such–thus initiating that magical mystery tour. One continuous action that dependently originates from all the accumulated habit-energy since time immemorial; as the Lanka itself expounds, “it is based on a dependent reality that the myriad projections of an imagined reality arise—the myriad projections of appearances that are the habit-energy of attachment to projections.” How does one stop all the spinning? How does one prevent the Mad-Hatter from sprouting unremitting discriminatory associations and attachments? read more

Posted in The Lankavatara Sutra, Zen | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

And the Truth shall set you free

After inundating the Blessed One (Buddha), as well as the reader, with an incessantly long litany (108 questions) concerning literally everything under the Buddhist sun, Red Pine states that the Buddha “mercifully” (for both Mahamati and the reader) attempts to put to rest the obsessive workings of the meandering mind. It’s all “mind-stuff”—projections of an overly active cognitive apparatus (conceptual consciousness) trying to appease its voracious habit-energy since beginningless time. Rather than pursuing this futile and inadequate mind-game, one should focus on the highest reality—or paramartha: “It is by means of this…higher truth that the transcendental teachings of tathagatas are formed…by means of their wisdom eye…” This wisdom eye—the Eye of Tathata—transcends all phenomena by remaining “detached” from it; it sees Reality As It Is—Yathabhutam. In light of this, the Buddha is not concerned with “philosophical arguments as he is putting an end to suffering, which arises from projection and which ceases upon understanding the true nature of one’s perceptions.” The main cause of all dukkha (suffering) is that people, through avidya (ignorance) are constantly being led by their own “disordered beliefs”. As the Lanka states: “once the perceptions of their own minds are free of projections, they are able to dwell in the perfection of wisdom and to let go of their life and their practice and to enter the Diamond Samadhi that accompanies a tathagata’s body and that accompanies the transformation of suchness…thus transcending the mind, the will, and conceptual consciousness, these bodhisattvas gradually transform their body into the body of a tathagata.” read more

Posted in The Lankavatara Sutra, Zen | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

All the world’s a stage…

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
read more

Posted in The Lankavatara Sutra, Zen | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Blessed Be: A New Lanka

For a Lankavatarian, the arrival in the mail of Red Pine’s new translation of the Lankavatara Sutra was like receiving the Holy Grail. This long anticipated release was well-worth the wait. Readers will not be disappointed as this contemporary rendition, through the skillful writing ability of Bill Porter, breathes new life into what is considered a difficult text. I found myself being mesmerized as soon as I opened the book. Often I find myself skipping through a book’s preface to get to the content, but not this time. Red Pine weaves a masterful synthesis of the Sutra’s origins—from the text itself to wonderful anecdotes revolving around key Zen players who were instrumental in the Lanka’s promulgation. One such anecdote relates how Shen-Hsiu, who lost that famous poetry contest with Hui-neng, was actually a greater admirer of the Lanka than the Sixth Patriarch himself; he was even buried beneath a hillock that he affectionately named Mount Lanka. read more

Posted in The Lankavatara Sutra, Zen | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Coming soon…

I can remember on a warm day this past August being excited after pre-ordering a copy of Red Pine’s (Bill Porter) newly translated edition of the Lankavatara Sutra.
This was long in the making as he had been working on this translation for many years and so there has been eager anticipation as to its release. Originally, the publication date was set for late February, 2012. About a month ago I received an alert from Amazon that it would now be available by the end of January; then a few days ago another notice indicating that it would be shipping soon and one today notifying that it has been shipped and would arrive at my residence in a few days. read more

Posted in The Lankavatara Sutra, Zen | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments


Writing about Colin Wilson’s, The Outsider, recently reinforced for me a main pericope within its pages—that this “Outsider” is someone who sees “too deep and too much” into the nature of reality and as a result suffers from a lingering existential crisis. Wilson’s main protagonists are prominent figures in literature like the early Romantics, Blake, Keats and Wordsworth; also with philosophers like Nietzsche, and artists like the dancer Nijinsky and Van Goth the painter and visionaries like H.G. Wells. In his subsequent publication, Religion and the Rebel, Wilson says that these “Outsiders” are like “pimples appearing on the face of civilization” and that they are never prone to resigning themselves to the “insider” malaise of conventionality, or what the Zennist recently described as “consensus reality.” As a result, many of them succumbed to the depths of despair—some falling into madness like Nietzsche and Nijinsky, and some even committing suicide like Van Goth. What is it about the essential nature of these “Outsiders”, possessing great creative talent and keen insight into what really makes things tick, while at the same time feeling the eternal pangs of seeing “too deep and too much.” There was a term very much in vogue one time in creative circles that aptly describes this “Outsider” condition, and that is Melancholia. read more

Posted in Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments