The Undiscovered Country: Bardo 3, Yathabhutam

One of my favorite short stories is HG Wells’ “The Country of the Blind”, first published circa 1904. In a nutshell, an explorer discovers a hidden “mystical” valley wherein all the inhabitants lack the faculty of sight. Sensing that in the land of the blind the “one-eyed man is king”, he tries to convert them into the ways of cognitive “seeing”; they just scoff at him although later he falls in love with a lovely blind young woman, yet when he also tries to encourage her to understand what it means to be able to “see”, she tells him that he’s just using a very vivid imagination. Later, he agrees to become blinded so that he can marry her, but decides to flee the Country of the Blind (in the original 1904 version) becoming lost in a mountainous terrain and eventually succumbing to the elements. Quite a striking metaphor for assessing one’s journey through all the “Bardo” stages, as one naturally succumbs at the end of the journey to the skandhic elements. One thinks one sees and knows what the journey is all about but is actually quite “blind” to the True Reality (Paramartha) behind what animates the volatile journey in the first place. The Lanka states that Mind simply becomes lost and blinded to the apparent reality behind its own animations; like the man in Wells’ short story, the faculty of the imagination rules the roost in samsara. He trusted exclusively in his Skandhic faculty of proper cognition yet his young blind lover saw right through this fallacy. Like the aging and blind poet, John Milton, the young woman saw and realized more behind apparent reality with the supramundane eyes of spiritual and transcendent awareness and insight—an “inner” faculty of which *Milton wrote in “Paradise Lost”, “There Plant Eyes”. He was referring to seeing Reality AS IT IS—Yathabhutam. If one goes groping around in the Country of the Blind (Samsara) one will never see the light of day at the end of the tunnel. Success in navigating the turbulent waters of the Bardo and transcending avidya (blinding ignorance) depends on utilizing the proper Buddhagnosis—or the right compass that leads one to the Luminous Other Shore of the Dharmakaya. The Word is the compass. Under this Right Direction the country of the blind becomes supplanted with the Undiscovered Country of the Unborn. The Country of Yathabhutam.

As is emphasized elsewhere within these blog posts, one of the Buddha’s greatest axioms is ehipassiko, meaning “come and see”. He’s not referring to that nominal faculty of sight that truly blinded the man in Wells’ short story, but rather to look and experience the Undiscovered Country of the Unborn via awakening to this Absolute Reality AS IT IS—Yathabhutam. In light of this the Mahabodhisattva awakens to the Noble Realm of Self-Realization as fully expounded in the Lankavatara Sutra; in doing so the Mahabodhisattva transcends the nominalized categories of Being and Non-Being. There is no longer the entrapment of dualism. The Ariyan Mind truly sees through imageless eyes Reality (Dharmadhatu) AS IT TRULY IS. The images of samsara no longer hold any weight. The man in Wells’ story was blinded by his dualistic trajectory of cognitive-conceptual reality and succumbed to it in that lonely mountain pass—symbolic of when Mañjuśrī himself was once dwarfed by those two iron mountains. It is through Yathabhutam that the Mahabodhisattva learns to “see” with the Wisdom Eye—the Eye of Tathata—of the Tathagatas themselves. Thus, they fully engage in that First Stage of Mind Development—seeing the Nature of Buddhi AS IT IS: Yathabhutam. As the Lanka states: “once the perceptions of their own minds are free of projections, they are able to dwell in the perfection of wisdom and to let go of their life and their practice and to enter the Diamond Samadhi that accompanies a tathagata’s body and that accompanies the transformation of suchness…thus transcending the mind, the will, and conceptual consciousness, these Mahabodhisattvas gradually transform their body into the body of a tathagata.” They now have the proper “in-sight” to journey forward and embrace the Undiscovered Country of the Unborn. The following video from the Dragon Mind of Zen series further articulates the nature of this transcendent self-realization.

*The following are the complete verses from Milton:

HAIL holy light, ofspring of Heav’n first-born,
Or of th’ Eternal Coeternal beam
May I express thee unblam’d? since God is light,
And never but in unapproachèd light
Dwelt from Eternitie, dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.
Or hear’st thou rather pure Ethereal stream,
Whose Fountain who shall tell? before the Sun,
Before the Heavens thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a Mantle didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.
Thee I re-visit now with bolder wing,
Escap’t the Stygian Pool, though long detain’d
In that obscure sojourn, while in my flight
Through utter and through middle darkness borne
With other notes then to th’ Orphean Lyre
I sung of Chaos and Eternal Night,
Taught by the heav’nly Muse to venture down
The dark descent, and up to reascend,
Though hard and rare: thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sovran vital Lamp; but thou
Revisit’st not these eyes, that rowle in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quencht thir Orbs,
Or dim suffusion veild. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt
Cleer Spring, or shadie Grove, or Sunnie Hill,
Smit with the love of sacred song; but chief
Thee Sion and the flowrie Brooks beneath
That wash thy hallowd feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit: nor somtimes forget
Those other two equal’d with me in Fate,
So were I equal’d with them in renown.
Blind Thamyris and blind Mæonides,
And Tiresias and Phineus Prophets old.
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntarie move
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful Bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest Covert hid
Tunes her nocturnal Note. Thus with the Year
Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of Ev’n or Morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or Summers Rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But cloud in stead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the chearful waies of men
Cut off, and for the Book of knowledg fair
Presented with a Universal blanc
Of Natures works to mee expung’d and ras’d,
And wisdome at one entrance quite shut out.
So much the rather thou Celestial light
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate, there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.

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