Physician, heal thyself

5. The Consolation of the Invalid, cont’d

“The sick bodhisattva should recognize that sensation is ultimately nonsensation, but he should not realize the cessation of sensation. Although both pleasure and pain are abandoned when the buddha-qualities are fully accomplished, there is then no sacrifice of the great compassion for all living beings living in the bad migrations. Thus, recognizing in his own suffering the infinite sufferings of these living beings, the bodhisattva correctly contemplates these living beings and resolves to cure all sicknesses. As for these living beings, there is nothing to be applied, and there is nothing to be removed; one has only to teach them the Dharma for them to realize the basis from which sicknesses arise. What is this basis? It is object-perception. Insofar as apparent objects are perceived, they are the basis of sickness. What things are perceived as objects? The three realms of existence are perceived as objects. What is the thorough understanding of the basic, apparent object? It is its nonperception, as no objects exist ultimately. What is nonperception? The internal subject and the external object are not perceived dualistically. Therefore, it is called nonperception. “Manjusri, thus should a sick bodhisattva control his own mind in order to overcome old age, sickness, death, and birth. Such, Manjusri, is the sickness of the bodhisattva. If he takes it otherwise, all his efforts will be in vain. For example, one is called ‘hero’ when one conquers the miseries of aging, sickness, and death. “The sick bodhisattva should tell himself: ‘Just as my sickness is unreal and nonexistent, so the sicknesses of all living beings are unreal and nonexistent.’ Through such considerations, he arouses the great compassion toward all living beings without falling into any sentimental compassion. The great compassion that strives to eliminate the accidental passions does not conceive of any life in living beings. Why? Because great compassion that falls into sentimentally purposive views only exhausts the bodhisattva in his reincarnations. But the great compassion which is free of involvement with sentimentally purposive views does not exhaust the bodhisattva in all his reincarnations. He does not reincarnate through involvement with such views but reincarnates with his mind free of involvement. Hence, even his reincarnation is like a liberation. Being reincarnated as if being liberated, he has the power and ability to teach the Dharma which liberates living beings from their bondage. As the Lord declares: ‘It is not possible for one who is himself bound to deliver others from their bondage. But one who is himself liberated is able to liberate others from their bondage.’ Therefore, the bodhisattva should participate in liberation and should not participate in bondage. “What is bondage? And what is liberation? To indulge in liberation from the world without employing liberative technique is bondage for the bodhisattva. To engage in life in the world with full employment of liberative technique is liberation for the bodhisattva. To experience the taste of contemplation, meditation, and concentration without skill in liberative technique is bondage. To experience the taste of contemplation and meditation with skill in liberative technique is liberation. Wisdom not integrated with liberative technique is bondage, but wisdom integrated with liberative technique is liberation. Liberative technique not integrated with wisdom is bondage, but liberative technique integrated with wisdom is liberation.
“How is wisdom not integrated with liberative technique a bondage? Wisdom not integrated with liberative technique consists of concentration on voidness, signlessness, and wishlessness, and yet, being motivated by sentimental compassion, failure to concentrate on cultivation of the auspicious signs and marks, on the adornment of the buddha-field, and on the work of development of living beings it is bondage. “How is wisdom integrated with liberative technique a liberation? Wisdom integrated with liberative technique consists of being motivated by the great compassion and thus of concentration on cultivation of the auspicious signs and marks, on the adornment of the buddha-field, and on the work of development of living beings, all the while concentrating on deep investigation of voidness, signlessness, and wishlessness – and it is liberation. “What is the bondage of liberative technique not integrated with wisdom?
The bondage of liberative technique not integrated with wisdom consists of the bodhisattva’s planting of the roots of virtue without dedicating them for the sake of enlightenment, while living in the grip of dogmatic convictions, passions, attachments, resentments, and their subconscious instincts. “What is the liberation of liberative technique integrated with wisdom? The liberation of liberative technique integrated with wisdom consists of the bodhisattva’s dedication of his roots of virtue for the sake of enlightenment, without taking any pride therein, while forgoing all convictions, passions, attachments, resentments, and their subconscious instincts. “Manjusri, thus should the sick bodhisattva consider things. His wisdom is the consideration of body, mind, and sickness as impermanent, miserable, empty, and selfless. His liberative technique consists of not exhausting himself by trying to avoid all physical sickness, and in applying himself to accomplish the benefit of living beings, without interrupting the cycle of reincarnations. Furthermore, his wisdom lies in understanding that the body, mind, and sickness are neither new nor old, both simultaneously and sequentially. And his liberative technique lies in not seeking cessation of body, mind, or sicknesses. “That, Manjusri, is the way a sick bodhisattva should concentrate his mind; he should live neither in control of his mind, nor in indulgence of his mind. Why? To live by indulging the mind is proper for fools and to live in control of the mind is proper for the disciples. Therefore, the bodhisattva should live neither in control nor in indulgence of his mind. Not living in either of the two extremes is the domain of the bodhisattva.
“Not the domain of the ordinary individual and not the domain of the saint, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of the world yet not the domain of the passions, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. Where one understands liberation, yet does not enter final and complete liberation, there is the domain of the bodhisattva. Where the four Maras manifest, yet where all the works of Maras are transcended, there is the domain of the bodhisattva. Where one seeks the gnosis of omniscience, yet does not attain this gnosis at the wrong time, there is the domain of the bodhisattva. Where one knows the Four Holy Truths, yet does not realize those truths at the wrong time, there is the domain of the bodhisattva. A domain of introspective insight, wherein one does not arrest voluntary reincarnation in the world, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. A domain where one realizes birthlessness, yet does not become destined for the ultimate, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. Where one sees relativity without entertaining any convictions, there is the domain of the bodhisattva. Where one associates with all beings, yet keeps free of all afflictive instincts, there is the domain of the bodhisattva. A domain of solitude with no place for the exhaustion of body and mind, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of the triple world, yet indivisible from the ultimate realm, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of voidness, yet where one cultivates all types of virtues, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of signlessness, where one keeps in sight the deliverance of all living beings, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of wishlessness, where one voluntarily manifests lives in the world, such is the domain of the bodhisattva.”A domain essentially without undertaking, yet where all the roots of virtue are undertaken without interruption, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of the six transcendences, where one attains the transcendence of the thoughts and actions of all living beings, such is the domain of the bodhisattva.The domain of the six superknowledges, wherein defilements are not exhausted, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of living by the holy Dharma,without even perceiving any evil paths, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of the four immeasurables, where one does not accept rebirth in the heaven of Brahma, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of the six remembrances, unaffected by any sort of defilement, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of contemplation, meditation, and concentration, where one does not reincarnate in the formless realms by force of these meditations and concentrations, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of the four right efforts, where the duality of good and evil is not apprehended, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of the four bases of magical powers, where they are effortlessly mastered, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of the five spiritual faculties, where one knows the degrees of the spiritual faculties of living beings, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of living with the five powers, where one delights in the ten powers of the Tathagata, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of perfection of the seven factors of enlightenment, where one is skilled in the knowledge of fine intellectual distinctions, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of the holy eightfold path, where one delights in the unlimited path of the Buddha, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of the cultivation of the aptitude for mental quiescence and transcendental analysis, where one does not fall into extreme quietism, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of the realization of the unborn nature of all things, yet of the perfection of the body, the auspicious signs and marks, and the ornaments of the Buddha, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of manifesting the attitudes of the disciples and the solitary sages without sacrificing the qualities of the Buddha, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain of conformity to all things utterly pure in nature while manifesting behavior that suits the inclinations of all living beings, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. A domain where one realizes that all the buddha-fields are indestructible and uncreatable, having the nature of infinite space, yet where one manifests the establishment of the qualities of the buddhafields in all their variety and magnitude, such is the domain of the bodhisattva. The domain where one turns the wheel of the holy Dharma and manifests the magnificence of ultimate liberation, yet never forsakes the career of the bodhisattva, such is the domain of the bodhisattva!” When Vimalakirti had spoken this discourse, eight thousand of the gods in the company of the crown prince Manjusri conceived the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment.

The remainder of this chapter can be considered a Bodhisattvas’ great manual of Liberation Technique—the heart and soul of the prajnā-pāramitā. The manual indicates that erasing the effects of samsara is a Bodhisattvas’ bodhi-business; if this is not the measure of that business, then all of his efforts will be devoid of wisdom. One can gleam from these concluding verses that the old adage, Physician, heal thyself, also holds true. The Bodhisattva will be of no use to others unless his own bondage is loosened. The Bodhisattva liberates out of Liberation and never out of bondage. The Bodhisattvas’ soteriological mission is not littered with sentimentality. This is reminiscent of a story about a young divinity-student, who, reeking with moral sentiment found himself in tethers when ministering alongside some of Mother Teresa’s young Sisters of Charity; the only thing that eventually ravaged his mind was that he wanted to “make babies” with a young and attractive member of that order. Moral sentiments alone will not lead one down the garden path to liberation. In this regard, this manual teaches that a Bodhisattva should have neither a controlled or uncontrolled mind…either extreme will eventually be “cancelled-out” by the unrelenting effects of the other. There is no extremism on this path. The Bodhisattva is neither a sinner nor a saint and is thus freed from an aura of a “sickly-saint” reeking of mothballs. The Bodhisattva also discovers that there are no short-cuts in this quest; the bodhisattvic resolve must be attuned with the Bodhi-spirit…otherwise one will seek wrong injunctions in inappropriate moments. The Bodhisattva walks that razors-edge between samsara and nirvana, neither being in-or-out of either. In this fashion, the nature of Dharmadhatu is never sullied. Never ruled by passions, the Bodhisattva is nevertheless resolute in the aroused bodhisattvic determination. One maintains one’s associations, but is never afflictively attached. The Bodhisattva rides the Dharma-wheel of Liberation, but never forsakes the cries of sentient beings. Vulnerability here is not the same as sentimentality. Being willing to become vulnerable is not the same as being weak. It is the ability to be empathically open to the sufferings of others and thus to be in solidarity with them, while at the same time avoiding both affection and aversion. If the Bodhisattva remains true to this manual, then he/she will experience the true Dharma-joy of equanimity.

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2 Responses to Physician, heal thyself

  1. orz says:

    one looks for a spiritual path to get rid of egotism .. finds something, and makes it serve his own ego, arrogance and cleverness … fills his empty head with various ideas

    when an ordinary being (like me) fills his ideas with spiritual concepts, the situation is almost hopeless

    the savior here is life itself that always teaches us lessons in humility. “thank god” for impermanence and dukkha

    all the clever props don’t serve anything.and the debt for past karma, for past pride and vanity, has to be paid in full until the last penny

    when this beating down of the ego goes on on can either react and create more karma or try to patiently endure it

    usually i’ve always done the former let’s try with the latter for once

  2. Bodhichild says:

    Knowing that impermanence is swift, and birth and death is an important matter, you have come specially to ask about the Path. This is indeed the conduct of a real man…Still: who is the one who recognizes impermanence and birth and death like this? And who is the one who has come specially to ask about the Path? If you can discern truly here, Layman, then as we say, “The visage is unique and wondrous: the light shines on the ten directions. We have just made an offering: now we return to our kin.”

    –From, A Buddha from Korea

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