Sans Skandhas, Part 1



In the midst of the great assembly, the World Honored One then extended his golden arm, rubbed Ananda’s crown, and said to Ananda and the great assembly, “There is a samadhi called the King of the Foremost Shurangama at the Great Buddha’s Summit Replete with the Myriad Practices; it is a path wonderfully adorned and the single door through which the Tathagatas of the ten directions gained transcendence. You should now listen attentively.” Ananda bowed down to receive the compassionate instruction humbly.

After extending a sealing anointment upon Ānanda’s head, the Tathatagata boldly proclaims that the root source of the mantra that forestalled Ānanda’s fall and revived his own faithful power of Recollection can be likened unto a Supreme Mind-Portal, from which emanates all the sundry samadhis. It is the portal through which all must pass one day in order to affect the full stature of Tathagatahood.

The Buddha said to Ananda, “You and I are of the same family and share the affection of a natural relationship. At the time of your initial resolve, what were the outstanding characteristics which you saw in my Dharma that caused you to suddenly cast aside the deep kindness and love found in the world?”

Ananda said to the Buddha, “I saw the Tathagata’ s thirtytwo characteristics, which were so supremely wonderful, so incomparable, that his entire body had a shimmering transparence just like that of crystal.

“I often thought to myself that these characteristics cannot be born of desire and love. Why? The vapors of desire are coarse and murky. From foul and putrid intercourse comes a turbid mixture of pus and blood which cannot give off such a magnificent, pure, and brilliant concentration of purple-golden light. And so I thirstily gazed upward, followed the Buddha, and let the hair fall from my head.”

The Buddha said, “Very good, Ananda. You should all know that all living beings are continually born and continually die, simply because they do not know the everlasting true mind, the bright substance of the pure nature. Instead they engage in false thinking. It has been so since time without beginning. Their thoughts are not true, and so the wheel keeps turning.

“Now you wish to investigate the unsurpassed Bodhi and actually discover your nature. You should answer my questions with a straightforward mind, because that is exactly the way the Tathagatas of the ten directions escaped birth and death. Their minds were all straightforward, and since their minds and words were consistently that way, from the beginning, through the intermediate stages to the end, they were never in the least evasive.

The Tathagata asserts that Ānanda grasps the initial understanding that all sentient beings trapped within the diurnal spin of samsara are far from the markless-mark of Pure Mind, yet he still has a long way to go before he even begins to grasp the nirvanic-faculty that is required to answer within the Bodhi-Mind Itself. Hence, what transpires next will reveal to Ānanda what is needed before fully cultivating the Way.

We are now entering into a lengthy, step by step breakdown—that “mind-surgery” that was foretold in the first blog of this series—in effect, peeling back the Skandhic-layers of false consciousness that expose the unreality of the ego-mind. The surgical tools utilized are of a syllogistic-nature—using deductive reasoning that begins with a proposition and leads to a conclusion based on experiential applications.

“Ananda, I now ask you: at the time of your initial resolve, which arose in response to the Tathagata’s thirty-two characteristics, what was it that saw those characteristics and who delighted in them?”

Ananda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, this is the way I experienced the delight: I used my mind and eyes. Because my eyes saw the Tathagata’s outstanding characteristics, my mind gave rise to delight. That is why I became resolved and wished to removed myself from birth and death.”

The Buddha said to Ananda, “It is as you say, that experience of delight actually occurs because of your mind and eyes. If you do not know where your mind and eyes are, you will not be able to conquer the wearisome dust.

“For example, when a king’s country is invaded by thieves and he sends out his troops to suppress and banish them, the troops must know where the thieves are.

“It is the fault of your mind and eyes that you flow and turn. I am now asking you specifically about your mind and eyes: where are they now?”

Ananda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, all the ten kinds of living beings in the world alike maintain that the conscious mind dwells within the body; and as I regard the Tathagata’s blue lotus-flower eyes, they too are on the Buddha’s face.

“I now observe that these prominent organs, four kinds of defiling objects, are on my face, and so, too, my conscious mind actually is within my body.”

Ānanda is falling into the same trap that has been his downfall all along—he relies too heavily upon assumptive-discriminative perceptions that lead him to believe that there is some kind of material-location for “seeing” mind; thus his seeing is solely of a skandhic nature.

The Buddha said to Ananda, “You are now sitting in the Tathagata’s lecture hall looking at the Jeta Grove. Where is it at present?” “World Honored One, this great many-storied pure lecture hall is in the Garden of the Benefactor of the Solitary. At present the Jeta Grove is in fact outside the hall.”

“Ananda, as you are now in the hall, what do you see first?” “World Honored One, here in the hall I first see the Tathagata, next I see the great assembly, and from there, as I gaze outward, I see the grove and garden.”

“Ananda, why it is you are able to see the grove and the garden as you look at them?” “World Honored One, since the doors and windows of this great lecture hall have been thrown open wide, I can be in the hall and see into the distance.”

The Buddha said to Ananda, “It is as you say. When one is in the lecture hall and the doors and windows are open wide, one can see far into the garden and grove. Could there be someone in the hall who does not see the Tathagata and yet sees outside the hall?” Ananda answered: “World Honored One, to be in the hall and not see the Tathagata, and yet see the grove and fountains is impossible.” “Ananda, you are like that too.

“Your mind is capable of understanding everything thoroughly. Now if your present mind, which thoroughly understands everything, were in your body, then you should be aware first of what is inside your body. Can there be living beings who first see inside their bodies before they observe things outside?

“Even if you cannot see your heart, liver, spleen, and stomach, still, the growing of your nails and hair, the twist of your sinews, and the throb of your pulse should be clearly understood. Why don’t you perceive these things? If you cannot perceive what is inside at all, how can you perceive what is outside?

“Therefore you should know that you state the impossible when you say that the aware and knowing mind is in the body.”

The Tathagata has begun to dissect Ānanda’s shallow skandhic-reasoning; if the “location of mind” is “inside”, how is it that one cannot perceive one’s own inner-organs at work? Ānanda then tries to reverse his inadequate equation.

Ananda bowed his head and said to the Buddha, “Upon hearing such a Dharma-sound as the Tathagata has proclaimed, I realize that my mind is actually outside my body.

This betrays the fact that Ānanda has not yet procured the True hearing of Dhammasota; if Dhammasota had been procured, then his “Dharma-ear” would have already discerned the Pure-Mind Essence that is locationless.

“Why? For example, a lamp alight in a room will certainly illumine the inside of the room first, and only then will it pour through the doorway to reach the recesses of the hall. For all living beings who do not see within their bodies but only see outside them, it is as if the lighted lamp were placed outside the room, so that it cannot illumine the room.

“This principle is certainly clear: it is absolutely beyond all doubt and exactly the Buddha’s entire meaning, and so it isn’t wrong is it?” The Buddha said to Ananda, “All these bhikshus who just followed me to the city of Shravasti to beg in sequence for food have returned to the Jeta Grove and are rolling their food into balls as they eat. I have already finished eating, but consider the bhikshus: when one person eats, does everyone get full?” Ananda answered, “No, World Honored One. Why? These bhikshus are Arhats, but their individual lives differ. How could one person’s eating cause everyone to be full?”

The Buddha told Ananda, “If your mind which understands, knows, sees and is aware were actually outside your body, your body and mind would be mutually exclusive and would have no relationship to one another. The body would be unaware of what the mind perceives, and the mind would not perceive the awareness within the body.

“Now as I show you my tula-cotton hand, does your mind distinguish it when your eyes see it?” Ananda answered, “So it is, World Honored One.” The Buddha told Ananda, “If the mind and eyes create a common perception, how then can the mind be outside?

“Therefore you should know you state the impossible when you say that the mind which knows, understands, and is aware is outside the body.”

The Tathagata thus shatters the illusion that Mind is inside or outside—there is no bifurcation when it comes to the Awareness mechanism; It’s discerning-agency is panoramic in scope, while at the same time It does not emanate from “someplace” in particular.

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