A Phantasmagoric Voyage

3. The Disciples’ Reluctance to Visit Vimalakirti, cont’d

The Buddha then said to the venerable Mahakatyayana, “Katyayana, go to the Licchavi Vimalakirti to inquire about his illness.” Katyayana replied, “Lord, I am indeed reluctant to go that good man to inquire about his illness. Why? Lord, I remember one day when, after the Lord had given some brief instruction to the monks, I was defining the expressions of that discourse by teaching the meaning of impermanence, suffering, selflessness, and peace; the Licchavi Vimalakirti came there and said to me, ‘Reverend Mahakatyayana, do not teach an ultimate reality endowed with activity, production, and destruction! Reverend Mahakatyayana, nothing was ever destroyed, is destroyed, or will ever be destroyed. Such is the meaning of “impermanence.” The meaning of the realization of birthlessness, through the realization of the voidness of the five aggregates, is the meaning of “suffering.” The fact of the nonduality of self and selflessness is the meaning of “selflessness.” That which has no intrinsic substance and no other sort of substance does not burn, and what does not burn is not extinguished; such lack of extinction is the meaning of “peace.”‘ “When he had discoursed thus, the minds of the monks were liberated from their defilements and entered a state of nongrasping. Therefore, Lord, I am reluctant to go to that good man to inquire about his illness.”

Katyayana was attempting to expound the Dharma through the use of his samsaric mind—something akin to the moving-principle that is the action of regeneration and eventual extinction. Whereas, as seen through the non-action of the Unmoving Principle, all dharmatas are neither acts of regeneration or extinction—this is essentially referred to as impermanence. The five-skandhas (form, motion, thought, volition, mortal consciousness) are void of self-nature, they are the non-self, and the non-self is the harbinger of all suffering. All phenomena are essentially void (devoid of self-actualization, hence empty of True-Self—sunyata.) All dharmatas in and of themselves have no intrinsic substance (whereas the Dharmakaya is the primary substance, the immutable Absolute)—it does not burn with the eternal flame of vidyaa that is never extinguished, the hallmark of the quiescence of the Unborn Buddha Mind…profoundly motionless and at peace.

The Buddha then said to the venerable Aniruddha, “Aniruddha, go to the Licchavi Vimalakirti to inquire about his illness.” “My Lord, I am indeed reluctant to go that good man to inquire about his illness. Why? I remember, Lord, one day when I was taking a walk, the great Brahma named Subhavyuha and the ten thousand other Brahmas who accompanied him illuminated the place with their radiance and, having bowed their heads at my feet, withdrew to one side and asked me, ‘Reverend Aniruddha, you have been proclaimed by the Buddha to be the foremost among those who possess the divine eye. To what distance does the divine vision of the venerable Aniruddha extend?’ I answered, ‘Friends, I see the entire billion-world-galactic universe of the Lord Sakyamuni just as plainly as a man of ordinary vision sees a myrobalan nut on the palm of his hand.’ When I had said these words, the Licchavi Vimalakirti came there and, having bowed his head at my feet, said to me, ‘Reverend Aniruddha, is your divine eye compounded in nature? Or is it uncompounded in nature? If it is compounded in nature, it is the same as the superknowledges of the heterodox. If it is uncompounded in nature, then it is not constructed and, as such, is incapable of seeing. Then, how do you see, O elder?’ “At these words, I became speechless, and Brahma also was amazed to hear this teaching from that good man. Having bowed to him, he said, ‘Who then, in the world, possesses the divine eye?’ “Vimalakirti answered, ‘In the world, it is the Buddhas who have the divine eye. They see all the buddha-fields without even leaving their state of concentration and without being affected by duality.’ “Having heard these words, the ten thousand Brahmas were inspired with high resolve and conceived the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment. Having paid homage and respect both to me and to that good man, they disappeared. As for me, I remained speechless, and therefore I am reluctant to go to that good man to inquire about his illness.”

From this exchange, it’s apparent that Aniruddha has blinding sand in his eyes rather than his purported mastery of the Dharma-eye; he’s ridiculously flamboyant in his phantasmagoric stupor of claiming to see—through the ken of ordinary vision—the “entire-billion-world-galactic universe of the Buddha.”. Vimalakiriti sees right through his blindness and inquires whether his sight is of form or formlessness; if of form, then it’s a compounded, heretical sight…if of formlessness, than its still of the nature of something uncompounded and devoid of viewing. Vimalakirti asserts that the Buddhas alone have the true Dharma-eye—with nothing arising nor cessating, truly imageless in stature, and hence devoid of any dualistic outflows of phenomenal manifestations…seeing with the imageless eyes of the Tathagatas and not secondary sight as seen through the soiled lens of the skandhas.

The Buddha then said to the venerable Upali, “Upali, go to the Licchavi Vimalakirti to inquire about his illness.” Upali replied, “Lord, I am indeed reluctant to go to that good man to inquire about his illness. Why? Lord, I remember that one day there were two monks who had committed some infraction and were too ashamed to appear before the Lord, so they came to me and said, ‘Reverend Upali, we have both committed an infraction but are too ashamed to appear before the Buddha. Venerable Upali, kindly remove our anxieties by absolving us of these infractions.’ “Lord, while I was giving those two monks some religious discourse, the Licchavi Vimalakirti came there and said to me, ‘Reverend Upali, do not aggravate further the sins of these two monks. Without perplexing them, relieve their remorse. Reverend Upali, sin is not to be apprehended within, or without, or between the two. Why? The Buddha has said, “Living beings are afflicted by the passions of thought, and they are purified by the purification of thought.”

This is reminiscent of a priest in the confessional giving someone an inadequate penance for their sins—instead, really messing-up someone’s mind and making them worse off before they even entered the confessional—aggravating their anxiety rather than helping to alleviate it. Vimalakriti rightly asserts that all apparent “sin” is really neither within nor without, or even in-between—it’s all a ejaculatory mess of a mind that is turned-inward upon itself—entrapped with the roving karma that is restlessly spinning-round-and-round inside their head. The solution? Disolvement of the thought-construct itself.

“‘Reverend Upali, the mind is neither within nor without, nor is it to be apprehended between the two. Sin is just the same as the mind, and all things are just the same as sin. They do not escape this same reality. “‘Reverend Upali, this nature of the mind, by virtue of which your mind, reverend, is liberated – does it ever become afflicted?’ “‘Never,’ I replied.
“‘Reverend Upali, the minds of all living beings have that very nature. Reverend Upali, passions consist of conceptualizations. The ultimate nonexistence of these conceptualizations and imaginary fabrications – that is the purity that is the intrinsic nature of the mind. Misapprehensions are passions. The ultimate absence of misapprehensions is the intrinsic nature of the mind. The presumption of self is passion. The absence of self is the intrinsic nature of the mind. Reverend Upali, all things are without production, destruction, and duration, like magical illusions, clouds, and lightning; all things are evanescent, not remaining even for an instant; all things are like dreams, hallucinations, and unreal visions; all things are like the reflection of the moon in water and like a mirror-image; they are born of mental construction. Those who know this are called the true upholders of the discipline, and those disciplined in that way are indeed well disciplined.'” “Then the two monks said, ‘This householder is extremely well endowed with wisdom. The reverend Upali, who was proclaimed by the Lord as the foremost of the upholders of the discipline, is not his equal.’ “I then said to the two monks, ‘Do not entertain the notion that he is a mere householder! Why? With the exception of the Tathagata himself, there is no disciple or bodhisattva capable of competing with his eloquence or rivaling the brilliance of his wisdom.’ “Thereupon, the two monks, delivered from their anxieties and inspired with a high resolve, conceived the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment. Bowing down to that good man, they made the wish: ‘May all living beings attain eloquence such as this!’ Therefore, I am reluctant to go to that good man to inquire about his illness.”

As someone said, “Show me this mind and I will heal it for you.” Sin itself is a product of the mind—a mind projection. Stopping movement of this mind will forestall the crawling about of these mind constructs—always prowling around looking for someone to devour. Will any defilements remain after this awakening to the Real nature of That which animates the carnal-mind? Vimalakriti says that it’s all just pollution floating around in the un-liberated mind—a real phantasmagoria. Uptali assures the contrite monks that the eloquence of Vimalakriti is reflective of the Tathagatas themselves. (Indeed, as we shall later discover, Vimalakirti emanates from a most heightened Mind-field of the Tathagatas.)

The Buddha then said to the venerable Rahula, “Rahula, go to the Licchavi Vimalakirti to inquire about his illness.” Rahula replied, “Lord, I am indeed reluctant to go to that good man to inquire about his illness. Why? Lord, I remember that one day many young Licchavi gentlemen came to the place where I was and said to me, ‘Reverend Rahula, you are the son of the Lord, and, having renounced a kingdom of a universal monarch, you have left the world. What are the virtues and benefits you saw in leaving the world?’ “As I was teaching them properly the benefits and virtues of renouncing the world, the Licchavi Vimalakirti came there and, having greeted me, said, ‘Reverend Rahula, you should not teach the benefits and virtues of renunciation in the way that you do. Why? Renunciation is itself the very absence of virtues and benefits. Reverend Rahula, one may speak of benefits and virtues in regard to compounded things, but renunciation is uncompounded, and there can be no question of benefits and virtues in regard to the uncompounded. Reverend Rahula, renunciation is not material but is free of matter. It is free of the extreme views of beginning and end. It is the path of liberation. It is praised by the wise, embraced by the saints, and causes the defeat of all Maras. It liberates from the five states of existence, purifies the five eyes, cultivates the five powers, and supports the five spiritual faculties. Renunciation is totally harmless to others and is not adulterated with evil things. It disciplines the heterodox, transcending all denominations. It is the bridge over the swamp of desire, without grasping, and free of the habits of “I” and “mine.” It is without attachment and without disturbance, eliminating all commotion. It disciplines one’s own mind and protects the minds of others. It favors mental quiescence and stimulates transcendental analysis. It is irreproachable in all respects and so is called renunciation. Those who leave the mundane in this way are called “truly renunciant.” Young men, renounce the world in the light of this clear teaching! The appearance of the Buddha is extremely rare. Human life endowed with leisure and opportunity is very hard to obtain. To be a human being is very precious.’
“The young men complained: ‘But, householder, we have heard the Tathagata declare that one should not renounce the world without the permission of one’s parents.’ “Vimalakirti answered: ‘Young men, you should cultivate yourselves intensively to conceive the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment. That in itself will be your renunciation and high ordination!’ “Thereupon, thirty-two of the Licchavi youths conceived the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment. Therefore, Lord, I am reluctant to go to that good man to inquire about his illness.”

It appears that Rahula was really on his high-horse in relaying the attributes of the renunciate life. As Vimalakrti explains, true renunciation is the absence of everything—even the benefits of virtues. Renunciation is total freedom from everything under the sun—including all mind-constructs. It is free of grasping and hence attachment. Those who are truly “renunciates” leave behind everything—even what constitutes the precious understanding of what they conceive to be a “self”. The Light of the Buddha is truly irreproachable in the darkness of the world; one needs a true Metanoia (inward turn-about wherein one turns in the direction of the True Light of the Unborn). The final cultivation of anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi is when one receives the high ordination from the blessed hands of the Tathagatas.

The Buddha then said to the venerable Ananda, “Ananda, go to the Licchavi Vimalakirti to inquire about his illness.” Ananda replied, “Lord, I am indeed reluctant to go to that good man to inquire about his illness. Why? Lord, I remember one day when the body of the Lord manifested some indisposition and he required some milk; I took the bowl and went to the door of the mansion of a great Brahman family. The Licchavi Vimalakirti came there, and, having saluted me, said, ‘Reverend Ananda, what are you doing on the threshold of this house
with your bowl in your hand so early in the morning?’ “I replied: ‘The body of the Lord manifests some indisposition, and he needs some milk. Therefore, I have come to fetch some.’ “Vimalakirti then said to me, ‘Reverend Ananda, do not say such a thing! Reverend Ananda, the body of the Tathagata is tough as a diamond, having eliminated all the instinctual traces of evil and being endowed with all goodness. How could disease or discomfort affect such a body? “‘Reverend Ananda, go in silence, and do not belittle the Lord. Do not say such things to others. It would not be good for the powerful gods or for the bodhisattvas coming from the various buddha-fields to hear such words.
“‘Reverend Ananda, a universal monarch, who is endowed only with a small root of virtue, is free of diseases. How then could the Lord, who has an infinite root of virtue, have any disease? It is impossible. “‘Reverend Ananda, do not bring shame upon us, but go in silence, lest the heterodox sectarians should hear your words. They would say, “For shame! The teacher of these people cannot even cure his own sicknesses. How then can he cure the sicknesses of others?” Reverend Ananda, go then discreetly so that no one observes you.
“‘Reverend Ananda, the Tathagatas have the body of the Dharma – not a body that is sustained by material food. The Tathagatas have a transcendental body that has transcended all mundane qualities. There is no injury to the body of a Tathagata, as it is rid of all defilements. The body of a Tathagata is uncompounded and free of all formative activity. Reverend Ananda, to believe there can be illness in such a body is irrational and unseemly!'”When I had heard these words, I wondered if I had previously misheard and misunderstood the Buddha, and I was very much ashamed. Then I heard a voice from the sky: ‘Ananda! The householder speaks to you truly. Nevertheless, since the Buddha has appeared during the time of the five corruptions, he disciplines living beings by acting lowly and humble. Therefore, Ananda, do not be ashamed, and go and get the milk!’ “Lord, such was my conversation with the Licchavi Vimalakirti, and therefore I am reluctant to go to that good man to inquire about his illness.”

Lastly, we come in this chapter to Ananda—the most beloved of all Buddha Shakyamuni’s disciples; while innocently proceeding to give his Lord some nourishment, Vimalakriti intercepts him and severely scolds him for assuming that he could possibly bring some kind of sustenance to a Buddha-body that is already self-sustained. How could the resilient-diamond-like body of the Tathagata ever be soiled with any kind of phenomenal defilement? For shame! He even says to Ananda that no-thought of such a thing should ever pass his lips. Ananda begins to walk away forlornly, when suddenly from above the divine spirit of bodhi, descending like a dove from the tushita heavens, assures him that his actions are not in vain, since the present manifested body (Nirmanakaya) of the Tathagata—partaking in the lowly stature of the worldlings—is in need of daily nourishment.

The following video is a little Bodhi-Pearl offered for your consideration in light of today’s blog…

This entry was posted in The Vimalakirti Sutra, Zen and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Enter Captcha Here : *

Reload Image