4. The Reluctance of the Bodhisattvas
Then, the Buddha said to the bodhisattva Maitreya, “Maitreya, go to the Licchavi Vimalakirti to inquire about his illness.” Maitreya replied, “Lord, I am indeed reluctant to go to that good man to inquire about his illness. Why? Lord, I remember that one day I was engaged in a conversation with the gods of the Tusita heaven, the god Samtusita and his retinue, about the stage of non-regression of the great bodhisattvas. At that time, the Licchavi Vimalakirti came there and addressed me as follows: “‘Maitreya, the Buddha has prophesied that only one more birth stands between you and unexcelled, perfect enlightenment. What kind of birth does this prophecy concern, Maitreya? Is it past? Is it future? Or is it present? If it is a past birth, it is already finished. If it is a future birth, it will never arrive. If it is a present birth, it does not abide. For the Buddha has declared, “Bhikshus, in a single moment, you are born, you age, you die, you transmigrate, and you are reborn.” “‘Then might the prophecy concern birthlessness? But birthlessness applies to the stage of destiny for the ultimate, in which there is neither prophecy nor attainment of perfect enlightenment. “‘Therefore, Maitreya, is your reality from birth? Or is it from cessation? Your reality as prophesied is not born and does not cease, nor will it be born nor will it cease. Furthermore, your reality is just the same as the reality of all living beings, the reality of all things, and the reality of all the holy ones. If your enlightenment can be prophesied in such a way, so can that of all living beings. Why? Because reality does not consist of duality or of diversity. Maitreya, whenever you attain Buddhahood, which is the perfection of enlightenment, at the same time all living beings will also attain ultimate liberation. Why? The Tathagatas do not enter ultimate liberation until all living beings have entered ultimate liberation. For, since all living beings are utterly liberated, the Tathagatas see them as having the nature of ultimate liberation.
After leaving the reluctant disciples, we now turn to the reluctant Bodhisattvas. At the top of the list is none other than Maitreya—the future Buddha-elect. In the Mahayana world, Maitreya is the Bodhisattva par-excellence—no other can match him in stature since he will eventually come to expound the dharma in these very saha-realms. Since he is unapproachable in his anointed Bodhisattvahood, it seems inconceivable that anyone would even consider challenging his Buddha-gnosis; yet, here comes Vimalakrti once again and puts even this most auspicious one to the test. This leaves one to ponder that the true identity of Vimalakriti is one of such significance that his own bodhi-signature far eclipses that of any other Bodhisattva in the Buddhist canon.
We find Vimalakriti confronting Maitreya in the very realm of the Tushita heavens. He begins his interrogation by inquiring about the “prophesy” of the World-honored-One (present Nirmanakaya Buddha). Prophesy, even in our own sense of time, is a most misunderstood and misused term. We can see how its utilization concerning the notion that Maitreya requires one-more-birth in order to achieve anuttara-samyak-sambodhi is a compounded dilemma; indeed, is this referring to past, future, or present birth? We can see how prophesy itself is confined to the three-times and is therefore an inadequate tool to forecast that which is so far beyond this limited realm—not in-it-self ever subject to the laws and dimensions of time-bound reality. In the eyes of the Tathagatas—all time is as One…at-one-ment. Reality in this sense is a boundless realm—as Vimalkriti states one moment you are apparently born, then what seems like a blink of an eye you grow old and soon pass-away into oblivion; we are really just passing reflections in this boundless primordial Sea of Suchness. Time-bound reality is all relative and hence inadequate to behold the Absolute Stature of Suchness where there is no need of any form of attainment as All is AS ONE in the Milieu of the Undivided Mind and Spirit. So, Maitreya will never have to actually attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi since It has already happened yet it was, and is not, nor will be an actual occurrence.
“‘Therefore, Maitreya, do not fool and delude these deities! No one abides in, or regresses from, enlightenment. Maitreya, you should introduce these deities to the repudiation of all discriminative constructions concerning enlightenment. “‘Enlightenment is perfectly realized neither by the body nor by the mind. Enlightenment is the eradication of all marks. Enlightenment is free of presumptions concerning all objects. Enlightenment is free of the functioning of all intentional thoughts. Enlightenment is the annihilation of all convictions. Enlightenment is free from all discriminative constructions. Enlightenment is free from all vacillation, mentation, and agitation. Enlightenment is not involved in any commitments. Enlightenment is the arrival at detachment, through freedom from all habitual attitudes. The ground of enlightenment is the ultimate realm. Enlightenment is realization of reality. Enlightenment abides at the limit of reality. Enlightenment is without duality, since therein are no minds and no things. Enlightenment is equality, since it is equal to infinite space. ” “Enlightenment is unconstructed, because it is neither born nor destroyed, neither abides nor undergoes any transformation. Enlightenment is the complete knowledge of the thoughts, deeds, and inclinations of all living beings. Enlightenment is not a door for the six media of sense. Enlightenment is unadulterated, since it is free of the passions of the instinctually driven succession of lives. Enlightenment is neither somewhere nor nowhere, abiding in no location or dimension. Enlightenment, not being contained in anything, does not stand in reality. Enlightenment is merely a name and even that name is unmoving. Enlightenment, free of abstention and undertaking, is energyless. There is no agitation in enlightenment, as it is utterly pure by nature. Enlightenment is radiance, pure in essence.Enlightenment is without subjectivity and completely without object. Enlightenment, which penetrates the equality of all things, is undifferentiated. Enlightenment, which is not shown by any example, is incomparable. Enlightenment is subtle, since it is extremely difficult to realize. Enlightenment is all-pervasive, as it has the nature of infinite space. Enlightenment cannot be realized, either physically or mentally. Why? The body is like grass, trees, walls, paths, and hallucinations. And the mind is immaterial, invisible, baseless, and unconscious.’ “Lord, when Vimalakirti had discoursed thus, two hundred of the deities in that assembly attained the tolerance of birthlessness. As for me, Lord, I was rendered speechless. Therefore, I am reluctant to go to that good man to inquire about his illness.”
This leads us to the tired old question that is so often asked—are you enlightened? We shall discover that enlightenment is unequivocally not some kind of “personal-realization”…as if some kind of apparent, “personal”, entity gets-enlightened. Anyone who is always stumped by this is entrapped within a didactic-inversion—an apt outcome for the so-called discriminatory personality (true cognitive dissociation). Even entertaining such a notion finds oneself being “marked” by what Thurman translates as, “discriminative-constructions”; whereas enlightenment—or rather the Bodhi-Mind is “markless”. It is also position-less yet takes delight in the “fullness” of Its deathless body—the Dharmadhatu. Hence, having the Mind of Bodhi is seeing clearly the Dharmadhatu—AS IT IS (yathabhutam). Seeing through the imageless eyes of bodhi=enlightenment. This Beloved bodhi-realization is not something that can be created, destroyed, or even transmitted. Yet, the Bodhi-mind is freely bestowed (em-bodhi-ment) by the Dharmata-Buddha—the great shadow-slayer of all discriminatory associations. To consider “enlightenment” as something otherwise is an adulteration of Bodhi-gnosis.