I have chosen Robert Thurman’s translation of the Vimalakirti Sutra for our 40-day Dharma study. Charles Luk’s version is fine, but Thurman’s version seems to resonate more for me. Also, Luk’s subtitle of his published translation of the sutra is “Ordinary Enlightenment”. As we shall see, there is nothing Ordinary or Extraordinary when it comes to Vimalakirti (Vimalakirti supersedes all known categorical imperatives).
1. Purification of the Buddhafield
Purification: interesting title-head by Thurman, although we shall discover within the sutra that really no-thing needs to be purified, just being purified from purification itself is enough.
Buddha-field: the alternate to “Buddha-land”; I prefer Thurman’s choice—buddha-land somehow brings to mind a semblance of location—like the traditional notion of Amitābha’s Pure-Buddha-land. Whereas Buddha-field can be indicative of location (like the present Saha-realm), but also location-less at the same time—neither within nor without, yet encompassing the ten directions…cosmic in scope, exhibiting many dimensions and dimension-less realms—inhabited with diverse sentient forms—recollect that the Buddha-gnosis is transmitted primarily through “hearing”…thus there are other voices amidst other rooms that are also simultaneously listening to this discourse of the Buddhadharma.
Thus have I heard at one time. The Lord Buddha was in residence in the garden of Ambapali, in the city of Vaisali, attended by a great gathering. Of bhikshus there were eight thousand, all saints. They were free from impurities and afflictions, and all had attained self-mastery. Their minds were entirely liberated by perfect knowledge. They were calm and dignified, like royal elephants. They had accomplished their work, done what they had to do, cast off their burdens, attained their goals, and totally destroyed the bonds of existence. They all had attained the utmost perfection of every form of mind control.
Saints: derived from the Skt, arhat; also from the Latin, sanus. Essentially, one who is purified (cleansed) from all phenomenal defilements. On this Ash Wednesday, those in the Catholic-world will have their foreheads smeared with ashes—accompanied with the priest’s admonition, “You are dust and unto dust you shall return.” This ritual is saying that you are just like dirt without the animating principle (spirit)…just walking, animated corpses. It is the Animating Principle that breathes and sustains the Life-Force energy. The priest’s other option is, “turn-away from sin and believe the good news”, essentially saying in our context, turn-about from all defilements and experience a true metanoia (inward-conversion) in the Good News of the Buddhadharma.
Self-mastery: one who has cast-off the power of the Skandhas—no longer held spellbound by the vijnanas.
Done what they had to do: i.e., attained the Self-Realization of Noble Wisdom as portrayed in the Lankavatara Sutra…thus casting off all lingering traces of defiled garbha and transcending samsara itself.
Mind control: self-mastery of the siddhis, culminating in Bodhidharma’s technique of Pi-Kuan—one-pointedness of mind; meaning as a wall gazes, and NOT gazing at a wall as misinterpreted by modern Zennists.
Of bodhisattvas there were thirty-two thousand, great spiritual heroes who were universally acclaimed. They were dedicated through the penetrating activity of their great superknowledges and were sustained by the grace of the Buddha. Guardians of the city of Dharma, they upheld the true doctrine, and their great teachings resounded like the lion’s roar throughout the ten directions. Without having to be asked, they were the natural spiritual benefactors of all living beings. They maintained unbroken the succession of the Three Jewels, conquering devils and foes and overwhelming all critics.
Spiritual heroes: Bodhisattvas—bearers of salvific Unborn Light—true “spiritual” heroes in the best sense of the word, not just some type of enlightened-being.
Superknowledges: psychic powers—able to penetrate the energy signatures of all sensate reality.
Sustained by the grace of the Buddha: as we learned in the Lanka, Maha-Bodhisattvas are anointed and thus sealed with the grace of the Buddhas.
Guardians of the dharma: there are specialized Bodhisattvas whose exclusive mission is to guard and to promulgate (upholding the true doctrine) the Buddhadharma—like the Black Dragons and Naga-Serpents of old.
Like a lion’s roar: as we read in the blog, Born Free—proudly proclaiming the Buddhadharma in all ten-directions.
Without having to be asked: prefer this to Luk’s, “They were not invited”. Indeed, the true Bodhisattva never expects any kind of recompense in return for their buddhaic mission—they are the natural spiritual benefactors of all sentient reality—freely bestowing the beloved Buddhadharma. They are the Shining Ones—forever hoisting the banner of the three jewels (Illuminative Buddha, Buddhadharma, Mystical Sangha) and overcoming all evil Maras by overwhelming them with Buddha-gnosis.