A Man for all Seasons

2. Inconceivable Skill in Liberative Technique

Thurman masterfully translates upaya (expedient tool) as a liberative method skillfully employed by Vimalakirti, who cleverly deploys many and diverse expedient means for the liberation of sentient beings.

At that time, there lived in the great city of Vaisali a certain Licchavi, Vimalakirti by name. Having served the ancient Buddhas, he had generated the roots of virtue by honoring them and making offerings to them. He had attained tolerance as well as eloquence. He played with the great superknowledges. He had attained the power of incantations and the fearlessnesses. He had conquered all demons and opponents. He had penetrated the profound way of the Dharma. He was liberated through the transcendence of wisdom. Having integrated his realization with skill in liberative technique, he was expert in knowing the thoughts and actions of living beings. Knowing the strength or weakness of their faculties, and being gifted with unrivaled eloquence, he taught the Dharma appropriately to each. Having applied himself energetically to the Mahayana, he understood it and accomplished his tasks with great finesse. He lived with the deportment of a Buddha, and his superior intelligence was as wide as an ocean. He was praised, honored, and commended by all the Buddhas and was respected by Indra, Brahma, and all the Lokapalas. In order to develop living beings with his skill in liberative technique, he lived in the great city of Vaisali.

Vimalakirti is truly a man for all seasons as he shatters the barrier of being unable to become all things to all people. Vimalakirti is a true hero (see blog, The Hero). He has all the attributes, and then some, for breaking any modern-day record of anyone who has the uncanny ability to enter into the all-inclusive sentient-dilemma and truly make a difference. He is a friend and benefactor to both old and young alike. While being able to take-on the baggage of others, he was not a crazed eccentric like the one in Woody Allen’s movie, Zelig. Spiritually, his fortitude and Recollective Resolve was monastic in nature, yet he is also considered to be a Cosmopolitan Man. An astute businessman, but his real business was the Buddhadharma; a fashionable dresser, though he never once flaunted his style. He was determined to always meet people “where they were at”—either spiritually or mentally or even emotionally. Being a gambling-man he was not afraid to risk his own reputation by even frequenting the houses of ill-repute—although not to chastise and condemn the working-girls and their clients, but rather to teach them the evils of the Five-Whores of Mara—pride, greed, fear, ignorance (avidya) and dark desires (lust). He was no stranger to sexual intercourse, but chose instead to cultivate chastity. Vimalakirti lived in the Material-World while at the same time living exclusively in inner-Solitude—so totally himself, yet also comfortable in mixed-company. His bread and butter were the Dharma. Even among great Brahmins, his Buddha-gnosis was unexcelled. Like a Black Dragon, he was able to discern someone’s energy-signature and level of Buddha-gnosis even before they spoke.

Rupakaya vs. Buddhakaya

Vimalakirti always encouraged everyone not to focus on what is temporal and decaying, but rather upon THAT which is Undying, Uncreated and Unborn:

This body is inert, like the earth; selfless, like water; lifeless, like fire;impersonal, like the wind; and nonsubstantial, like space. This body is unreal, being a collocation of the four main elements. It is void, not existing as self or as self-possessed. It is inanimate, being like grass, trees, walls, clods of earth, and hallucinations. It is insensate, being driven like a windmill. It is filthy, being an agglomeration of pus and excrement. It is false, being fated to be broken and destroyed, in spite of being anointed and massaged. It is afflicted by the four hundred and four diseases. It is like an ancient well, constantly overwhelmed by old age. Its duration is never certain – certain only is itsend in death. This body is a combination of aggregates, elements, and sense-media, which are comparable to murderers, poisonous snakes, and an empty town respectively. Therefore, you should be revulsed by such a body. You should despair of it and should arouse your admiration for the body of the Tathagata.

For Vimalakirti, the physical body (rupakaya) was just a decaying composite of the five Skandhas (form, sensation, thought, volition, mortal consciousness); a mere Fata-Morgana to attempt to quell the ravenous thirsts of sensate desire. He is also unequivocally clear here—you shouldn’t glorify such a body; in fact, in sharp contrast to the body of the Tathagata, you should feel repugnance towards it. In order to drive this point home for folk, he would oftentimes feign illness; since he was so well-loved and respected, many would come to visit and attempt to bring him comfort in his time of need, yet his intention was to always put them at ease so that they would be in a receptive mode to receive the Buddhadharma.

Friends, the body of a Tathagata is the body of Dharma, born of gnosis. The body of a Tathagata is born of the stores of merit and wisdom. It is born of morality, of meditation, of wisdom, of the liberations, and of the knowledge and vision of liberation. It is born of love, compassion, joy, and impartiality. It is born of charity, discipline, and self-control. It is born of the path of ten virtues. It is born of patience and gentleness. It is born of the roots of virtue planted by solid efforts. It is born of the concentrations, the liberations, the meditations, and the absorptions. It is born of learning, wisdom, and liberative technique. It is born of the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment. It is born of mental quiescence and transcendental analysis. It is born of the ten powers, the four fearlessnesses, and the eighteen special qualities. It is born of all the transcendences. It is born from sciences and superknowledges. It is born of the abandonment of all evil qualities, and of the collection of all good qualities. It is born of truth. It is born of reality.It is born of conscious awareness.

In true Maha-Bodhisattvic Resolve and Spirit, Vimalakirti teaches the Nature and True Buddha-body (buddhakaya)—the Dharmakaya. True liberation does not consist in finding ways to comfort the tortured no-self—which in actuality is a non-entity—just a fleeting shadow against the canvas of samsara. Rather, liberation is turning the spotlight behind the curtain, directly on THAT which is animating the movement—not the movement itself. Following the Moving Principle is like following Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, who even in death—impaled on the hump of the Great White Whale beckons one to incessantly hunt and attempt to destroy the white and unseen (imageless) mystery behind it all—the Unmoving Principle behind that curtain. It cannot happen. IT simply IS AS IT IS. Liberation is finally abandoning the hunt—the endless searching and yearning for the meaning behind it all, when in Reality there is no meaning…no understanding…just deathless suchness…the true pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—the Real and Only Self…the Dharmakaya. Vimalakirti concludes here by stating that there is no greater task or goal in life than to strive after anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi— Unequaled Perfection in undividable Bodhi—Ultimate Enlightenment.

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4 Responses to A Man for all Seasons

  1. It makes me think of the white path. Only go forward, ltnienisg to Amida’s call instead of turning left or right into the distractions of the rivers of fire and water, ego-based desire, anger, fear, self-pity. The path through our troubles really is there, right ahead of us. Another way to put it is that with trust in the unflagging support of the buddhas, every footfall will land on the path. The rivers won’t disappear, but we are enabled to move forward.

  2. Bodhichild says:

    Thank-you for that 🙂

  3. Gerome Soriano says:

    Thanks so much for putting up this series of post about the Vimalakirti Sutra. Really appreciate it 🙂

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