4. The Reluctance of the Bodhisattvas, cont’d
After a whole host of disciples and the greatest super-hero of the Bodhisattvas, Maitreya, were reluctant to go and visit Vimalakriti, the Buddha—perhaps wondering just who is left—turns to the young Licchavi Prabhavyuha, a boy. Perhaps the innocence of youth is willing to undertake this daunting task…but alas, the young lad, too, apparently lacks the skill necessary to be up to the task.
The Buddha then said to the young Licchavi Prabhavyuha, “Prabhavyuha, go to the Licchavi Vimalakirti to inquire about his illness.” Prabhavyuha replied, “Lord, I am indeed reluctant to go to that good man to inquire about his illness. Why? Lord, I remember one day, when I was going out of the great city of Vaisali, I met the Licchavi Vimalakirti coming in. He greeted me, and I then addressed him: ‘Householder, where do you come from?’ He replied, ‘I come from the seat of enlightenment.’ I then inquired, ‘What is meant by “seat of enlightenment”?’ He then spoke the following words to me, ‘Noble son, the seat of enlightenment is the seat of positive thought because it is without artificiality. It is the seat of effort, because it releases energetic activities. It is the seat of high resolve, because its insight is superior. It is the seat of the great spirit of enlightenment, because it does not neglect anything. “‘It is the seat of generosity, because it has no expectation of reward. It is the seat of morality, because it fulfills all commitments. It is the seat of tolerance, because it is free of anger toward any living being. It is the seat of effort, because it does not turn back. It is the seat of meditation, because it generates fitness of mind. It is the seat of wisdom, because it sees everything directly. “‘It is the seat of love, because it is equal to all living beings. It is the seat of compassion, because it tolerates all injuries. It is the seat of joy, because it is joyfully devoted to the bliss of the Dharma. It is the seat of equanimity, because it abandons affection and aversion. “‘It is the seat of paranormal perception, because it has the six superknowledges. It is the seat of liberation, because it does not intellectualize. It is the seat of liberative technique, because it develops living beings. It is the seat of the means of unification, because it brings together living beings. It is the seat of learning, because it makes practice of the essence. It is the seat of decisiveness, because of its precise discrimination. It is the seat of the aids to enlightenment, because it eliminates the duality of the compounded and the uncompounded. It is the seat of truth, because it does not deceive anyone. “‘It is the seat of interdependent origination, because it proceeds from the exhaustion of ignorance to the exhaustion of old age and death. It is the seat of eradication of all passions, because it is perfectly enlightened about the nature of reality. It is the seat of all living beings, because all living beings are without intrinsic identity. It is the seat of all things, because it is perfectly enlightened with regard to voidness. “‘It is the seat of the conquest of all devils, because it never flinches. It is the seat of the triple world, because it is free of involvement. It is the seat of the heroism that sounds the lion’s roar, because it is free of fear and trembling. It is the seat of the strengths, the fearlessnesses, and all the special qualities of the Buddha, because it is irreproachable in all respects. It is the seat of the three knowledges, because in it nopassions remain. It is the seat of instantaneous, total understanding of all things, because it realizes fully the gnosis of omniscience. “‘Noble son, when bodhisattvas are thus endowed with the transcendences, the roots of virtue, the ability to develop living beings, and the incorporation of the holy Dharma, whether they lift up their feet or put them down, they all come from the seat of enlightenment. They come from the qualities of the Buddha, and stand on the qualities of the Buddha.’ “Lord, when Vimalakirti had explained this teaching, five hundred gods and men conceived the spirit of enlightenment, and I became speechless. Therefore, Lord, I am reluctant to go to that good man to inquire about his illness.”
The seat of enlightenment refers to the bodhimanda, which Thurman states literally means the essence of enlightenment. Thurman also goes on to mention that this term should not be confused with bodhimandala, which means “circle of enlightenment”. Bodhimanda can be taken to mean a place of concentrated learning and meditation—like a monastery or a hermit’s hut; although its origin has to do with the place where Buddha Gotama became initiated with the power of Bodhi—beneath the bodhi-tree. So mystically and spiritually it means taking the same bodhi-seat as the Buddha. This has a lot to do with the arising of bodhicitta—the real mystical juice and power behind the Mind and essence of bodhipower. With bodhicitta everything happens spontaneously and effortlessly (anābhoga) as exhibited in the above passages wherein all of the sundry qualities of the six pāramitās (charity dāna; discipline śīla; vigour vīrya; patience ksānti; meditation dhyāna and Intuitive Wisdom prajñā) are present. Of course for the Bodhisattva, prajnā-pāramitā is most paramount; this Intuitive Wisdom is initiated through bodhicitta. In this sense, “whether they lift their feet up or put them down”—literally all that they do is initiated from within this inner-chamber of the Buddha’s bodhi-seat…indeed, it is the Spirit of Bodhi that now animates their every resolve.