Seeds of Faith




Analysis of the Types of Aspiration for Enlightenment, or The Meanings of Yāna 

All bodhisattvas aspire to the enlightenment (bodhi; Ch., dao) realized by all the buddhas, disciplining themselves to this end, and advancing toward it. Briefly, three types of aspiration for enlightenment can be distinguished. The first is the aspiration for enlightenment through the perfection of faith. The second is the aspiration for enlightenment through understanding and through deeds. The third is the aspiration for enlightenment through insight. 

Suzuki’s translation includes a critical term for aspiration: cittotpāda. His footnote reads:

Aspiration which does not exactly correspond to the Chinese fah hsin and Sanskrit cittotpāda, has been retained for lack of a fitter term. It has a technical sense in Buddhism. Literally, fall or utpāda means producing, raising, or awakening, while hsin or citta as noticed elsewhere is mind, thought, or consciousness. Cittotpāda, however, is more than the raising of one’s thought to a higher religious life ; it means the recognition of the truth that one is in possession within oneself of the highest perfect knowledge {samyaksambodhi) ; it is the birth within oneself of a higher ethical impulse constituting the essence of religion.

I. The aspiration for enlightenment through the perfection of faith 

Question: By whom and through what kind of discipline can faith be perfected so that the aspiration for enlightenment may be developed? 

Answer: Among those who belong to the group of the undetermined, there are some who, by virtue of their excellent capacity for goodness developed through permeation, believe in the [law of ] retribution of karma and observe the ten precepts. They loathe the suffering of sasāra and wish to seek the supreme enlightenment. Having been able to meet the buddhas, they serve them, honor them, and practice the faith. Their faith will be perfected after ten thousand aeons.

Their aspiration for enlightenment will be developed either through the instruction of the buddhas and the bodhisattvas, or because of their great compassion [toward their suffering fellow beings], or from their desire to preserve the good teaching from extinction. Those who are thus able to develop their aspiration through the perfection of faith will enter the group of the determined and will never retrogress. They are called the ones who are united with the correct cause [for enlightenment] and who abide among those who belong to the Tathāgata family. 

This passage hits a high note for the series as a whole: the faith that is observed is a supernal one, placing those who adhere to it firmly in league with the Tathāgata family Itself. The observation of the ten precepts refers to the following (from Suzuki’s footnote):

The ten virtues [daśakucalāni)) consist in not committing the ten evils (daśākuśalāni)  which are as follows : (i) Killing a living being (prānātipāda) ; (2) Stealing {adattādāna) ; (3) Committing adultery (kāmamithyācāra) ; (4) Lying (mrshāvāda) ; (5) Slander (paiśunya) ; (6) Insulting speech (pārushya) ; (7) Frivolous talk (sambhinnapralāpa) ; (8) Avarice [abhidhya) ; (9) Evil intent (vyāpāda); (10) False view (mithyādrshthi)

Notice how one also firmly adheres to the Law of Karma. The adherents of cittotpāda faithfully serve all Buddhas either through unwavering devotion to the Buddhadharma, as well as entering into union with them during their dhyana-practice. The statement that their faith will be perfected “after ten thousand aeons” does not indicate consecutive lifetimes, but rather that the strength of their resolve is likened unto devotion weighing centuries-worth of faithful and abiding conduct. Their faith (meaning determined and devoted resolve) empowers them to never retrogress again as children of Mara, since they are now resilient children of the Buddha.

Suzuki’s translation marvelously sums-up this section as: “always abiding in the essence of the Buddha-seed and identifying themselves with its excellent principle.” Lankavatarians recognize this Buddha-seed as the developing gotra, or Bodhi-Child.

There are, however, people [among those who belong to the group of the undetermined] whose capacity for goodness is slight and whose defilements, having accumulated from the far distant past, are deep-rooted. Though they may also meet the buddhas and honor them, they will develop the potentiality merely to be born as men, as dwellers in heaven, or as followers of the Hīnayāna. Even if they should seek after the Mahāyāna, they would sometimes progress and sometimes regress because of the inconsistent nature of their capacity. And also there are some who honor the buddhas and who, before ten thousand aeons have passed, will develop an aspiration because of some favorable circumstances.

These circumstances may be the viewing of the buddhas’ corporeal forms, the honoring of monks, the receiving of instructions from the followers of the Hīnayāna, or the imitation of others’ aspiration. But these types of aspiration are all inconsistent, for if the men who hold them meet with unfavorable circumstances, they will relapse and fall back into the stage of attainment of the followers of the Hīnayāna.

There are those whose faith in the Buddha (and Buddhadharma) is merely superficial, such as honoring only the external trappings (processing monks, ect) and not the supernal principles of the faith (Mindfully being AS ONE with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas). This can be likened to those who are considered as Catholics in name only. They bear their Catholicism like patches on their clothes but not being inwardly transformed by the Christ-Principle. Once again, Lankavatarians know the full import of this section—unless the supernal Buddha-seed (Bodhichild) takes root, then all potential Bodhisattvas-to-be fall by the wayside. Once that Buddha-seed is fully nurtured and matures, then recognition with the Tathata-family will be assured.

Now, in developing the aspiration for enlightenment through the perfection of faith, what kind of mind is to be cultivated? Briefly speaking, three kinds can be discussed. The first is the mind characterized  by straightforwardness, for it correctly meditates on the principle of Suchness. The second is the mind of profoundness, for there is no limit to its joyful accumulation of all kinds of goodness. The third is the mind filled with great compassion, for it wishes to uproot the sufferings of all sentient beings. 

The three roots of Mind-cultivation:

  1. Perpetually Mindful of the Principle of Suchness, being As One with the Unborn Mind.
  1. Rejoicing in Mind’s virtue as manifested in a life of endless Good-Merits.
  1. A Mind of infinite Compassion, thus fulfilling the Bodhisattavic Resolve.

Question: Earlier it has been explained that the World of Reality is one, and that the essence of the buddhas has no duality. Why is it that people do not meditate [of their own accord] on Suchness alone, but must learn to practice good deeds?  

Answer: Just as a precious gem is bright and pure in its essence but is marred by impurities, [so is a man]. Even if he meditates on his precious nature, unless he polishes it in various ways by expedient means, he will never be able to purify it. The principle of Suchness in men is absolutely pure in its essential nature, but is filled with immeasurable impurity of defilements. Even if a man meditates on Suchness, unless he makes an effort to be permeated by it in various ways by applying expedient means, he certainly cannot become pure. Since the state of impurity is limitless, pervading throughout all states of being, it is necessary to counteract and purify it by means of the practice of all kinds of good deeds. If a man does so, he will naturally return to the principle of Suchness.  

The Uttaratantra Shastra devotes its energies (as a whole) to systematically unraveling the core message of this section. One’s Essential Buddha-nature is there all the time, like a precious gem waiting to be discovered. But the discovery in itself is not enough to warrant ownership; one must first constantly employ expedient measures to cleanse the impurities that have marred the True Jewel since time immemorial. Once faithful measures have been employed, then sitting in the Seat of Suchness is assured.

As to the expedient means, there are, in short, four kinds: The first is the fundamental means to be practiced. That is to say, a man is to meditate on the fact that all things in their essential nature are unborn, divorcing himself from deluded views so that he does not abide in sasāra. [At the same time] he is to meditate on the fact that all things are [the products of ] the union of the primary and coordinating causes, and that the effect of karma will never be lost. [Accordingly] he is to cultivate great compassion, practice meritorious deeds, and accept and transform sentient beings equally without abiding in nirvana, for he is to conform himself to [the functions of ] the essential nature of Reality (dharmatā), which knows no fixation. 

Hakeda’s commentary:

The last clause in the immediately preceding paragraph, “for he is to conform himself to . . . ,” can be translated literally as “because he is to follow the nonabiding of the essential nature of Reality (dharmatā).” The term “nonabiding” (a-pratistha) suggests freedom, spontaneity, nonattachment, nondogmatism, etc. It is a way of life, a practical application of “emptiness” (śūnyatā) in a life situation encompassing both intellectual and affectional aspects.  In this paragraph, three ideas are presented: first, faith in the Absolute order; second, the legitimate recognition of the phenomenal order where the law of causality operates; third, the synthesis of these two orders in a way of life for men.

The second is the means of stopping [evils]. The practice of developing a sense of shame and repentance can stop all evils and prevent them from growing, for one is to conform oneself to the faultlessness of the essential nature of Reality.  

The nature of the Dharmadhatu is such that IT transcends both categories of good and evil. 

The third is the means of increasing the capacity for goodness that has already been developed. That is to say, a man should diligently honor and pay homage to the Three Treasures, and should praise, rejoice in, and beseech the buddhas. Because of the sincerity of his love and respect for the Three Treasures, his faith will be strengthened and he will be able to seek the unsurpassed enlightenment. Furthermore, being protected by the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, he will be able to wipe out the hindrances of evil karma. His capacity for goodness will not retrogress because he will be conforming himself to the essential nature of Reality, which is free of hindrances produced by stupidity. 

Conforming oneself to the Three Treasures assures infinite security by all protectors of the Dharma. Once this protection is won by the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, where’s the defiling karma to cling? This is confirmation with the Dharmadhatu—the Essential Realm of Faith that is eternally free from all projections and productions of samsaric stupidity.

The fourth is the means of the great vow of universal salvation. This is to take a vow that one will liberate all sentient beings, down to the last one, no matter how long it may take to cause them to attain the perfect nirvana, for one will be conforming oneself to the essential nature of Reality, which is characterized by the absence of discontinuity. The essential nature of Reality is all-embracing and pervades all sentient beings; it is everywhere the same and one without duality; it does not distinguish this from that, because it is, in the final analysis, in the state of quiescence.

In the Dharmadhatu all dualistic distinctions are erased; it is the Realm of Quiescent Suchness Itself.

When a bodhisattva develops this aspiration for enlightenment [through faith], he will be able, to a certain extent, to realize the Dharmakāya. Because of this realization of the Dharmakāya, and because he is led by the force of the vow [that he made to liberate all sentient beings], he is able to present eight types of manifestation of himself for the benefit of all sentient beings. These are: the descent from the Tushita heaven; the entrance into a human womb; the stay in the womb; the birth; the renunciation; the attainment of enlightenment; the turning of the wheel of the Dharma (doctrine); and the entrance into nirv1âa. However, such a Bodhisattva cannot be said [to have perfectly realized] the Dharmakāya, for he has not yet completely destroyed the outflowing evil karma that has been accumulated from his numberless existences in the past. He must suffer some slight misery deriving from the state of his birth. However, this is due not to his being fettered by karma, but to his freely made decision to carry out the great vow [of universal salvation in order to understand the suffering of others]. 


“The eight types of manifestation” reflect the historio-mythic account of the life of Śākyamuni Buddha. In the usual account, however, a phase called the “subduing of Māra, the tempter,” appears after “the renunciation,” and “the stay in the womb” is omitted. “To turn the wheel of the Dharma” means to preach. The first sermon of the Buddha at Benares is known as “the turning of the wheel of the Dharma.” The form given here is commonly known as the “eight types of manifestation of Mahāyāna.”

It is said in a sūtra that there are some [bodhisattvas of this kind] who may regress and fall into evil states of existence, but this does not refer to a real regression. It says this merely in order to frighten and stir the heroism of the newly initiated bodhisattvas who have not yet joined the group of the determined, and who may be indolent. 

Furthermore, as soon as this aspiration has been aroused in the bodhisattvas, they leave cowardice far behind them and are not afraid even of falling into the stage of the followers of the Hīnayāna. Even though they hear that they must suffer extreme hardship for innumerable aeons before they may attain nirvana, they do not feel any fear, for they believe and know that from the beginning all things are of themselves in nirvana 

After bodhisattvas have Self-realized the ten stages of Mind Development there is little chance that they would ever again slip into the consciousness of the unannointed. Yet there are sūtras (like the Śūrańgama) that indicate regression is still possible if one becomes slack in their diligent study and faithful dhyana exercises. This is primarily a warning for aspiring bodhisattvas to never regress in their own practice. Once cittotpāda has been won, the faithful and abiding aspirant knows full well that nirvana is not some separate reality, but one that is already all-encompassing for those with little sand in their eyes.

II. The aspiration for enlightenment through understanding and deeds  

It should be understood that this type of aspiration is even more excellent than the former. Because the bodhisattvas [who cherish this aspiration] are those who are about to finish the first term of the incalculable aeons since the time when they first had the correct faith, they have come to have a profound understanding of the principle of Suchness and to entertain no attachment to their attainments obtained through discipline.

Knowing that the essential nature of Reality is free of covetousness, they, in conformity to it, devote themselves to the perfection of charity. Knowing that the essential nature of Reality is free of the defilements that originate from the desires of the five senses, they, in conformity to it, devote themselves to the perfection of precepts. Knowing that the essential nature of Reality is without suffering and free of anger and anxiety, they, in conformity to it, devote themselves to the perfection of forbearance. Knowing that the essential nature of Reality does not have any distinction of body and mind and is free of indolence, they, in conformity to it, devote themselves to the perfection of zeal. Knowing that the essential nature of Reality is always calm and free from confusion in its essence, they, in conformity, devote themselves to the perfection of meditation. Knowing that the essential nature of Reality is always characterized by gnosis and is free from ignorance, they, in conformity to it, devote themselves to the perfection of wisdom. 

Being conformed to the Principle of Suchness is no small prize. One now does see distinctly as in an imageless mirror that the Reality of the Dharmadhatu is devoid of all imperfections that harbor the marks of dukkha. Unassailable Buddha-gnosis has now been conferred and all that lies ahead is the perfection of Noble Wisdom Itself.

III. The aspiration for enlightenment through insight 

[As for the bodhisattvas of this group, who range] from the “stage of pure-heartedness” to the “last stage of bodhisattvahood,” what object do they realize? They realize Suchness. We speak of it as an object because of the “evolving mind,” but in fact there is no object in this realization [that can be stated in terms of a subject-object relationship]. There is only the insight into Suchness [transcending both the seer and the seen]; we call [this the experience of] the Dharmakāya. 

Suzuki’s version on this “evolving mind”:  

What is the object of which the Bodhisattva from the stage of pure-heartedness up to the height of Bodhisattvahood has attained an intellectual intuition? The object is no less than suchness itself. We call it an object on account of the evolving-consciousness (pravrtti-vijñāna). But in truth there is no object in perfect intellectual intuition, neither is there a subject in it; because the Bodhisattva by means of his wisdom of non-particularisation intuitively perceives suchness (bhutatathata) or Dharmakaya, which is beyond the range of demonstration and argumentation. 

This helps to fine-tune the realization that Dharmakayic Reality is totally devoid of Subjective-self and Objective other; in other words when Suchness Realizes Suchness there is no “seer” or “seen”. It is a totally imageless affair devoid of all particularizations.

The bodhisattvas of this group can, in an instant of thought, go to all worlds of the universe, honor the buddhas, and ask them to turn the wheel of the Dharma. In order to guide and benefit all men, they do not rely on words. Sometimes, for the sake of weak-willed men, they show how to attain perfect enlightenment quickly by skipping over the ages [of the bodhisattva]. And sometimes, for the sake of ancient men, they say that men may attain enlightenment at the end of numberless aeons. Thus they can demonstrate innumerable expedient means and suprarational feats. But in reality all these bodhisattvas are the same in that they are alike in their lineage, their capacity, their aspiration, and their realization [of Suchness]; therefore, there is no such thing as skipping over the stages, for all bodhisattvas must pass through the three terms of innumerable aeons [before they can fully attain enlightenment]. However, because of the differences in the various worlds of beings, and in the objects of seeing and hearing, as well as in the capacity, desires, and nature of the various beings, there are also different ways of teaching them what to practice. 

At the level of Premier Suchness the Bodhi-being is instantaneously in league with countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas from all ten directions. Amongst themselves there is no need of any words, as ALL that is encountered in the Realm of the Such is an imageless, and thus wordless affair. Expedient measures are mustered for the sake of the unenlightened. No one Bodhisattva of this stage is somehow superior to the others, as all have to undergo the Ten Stages of Mind Development before incurring this new and exclusively intuitive, and thus undivided, awareness power; in this sense they all share the same bodhipower, none higher or lower. Like all Bodhi-beings, they can demonstrate sundry expedient means proportionate to needs of their audience.

The characteristics of the aspiration for enlightenment entertained by a bodhisattva belonging to this group can be identified in terms of the three subtle modes of mind. The first is the true mind, for it is free from [false intellectual] discrimination. The second is the mind [capable] of [applying] expedient means, for it pervades everywhere spontaneously and benefits sentient beings. The third is the mind [subject to the influence] of karma [operating] in subconsciousness, for it appears and disappears in the most subtle ways. 


Of these “three subtle modes of mind,” Fazang says: “The true mind is the basic wisdom free from discrimination [of subject and object]. The mind of expedient means is the wisdom that, after having obtained enlightenment, functions spontaneously to help save others. The third, the subconsciousness, is the Storehouse Consciousness which is the basis of these other two kinds of wisdom.”

If the third is the Storehouse Consciousness, as Fazang says, then the expression “appearing and disappearing,” literally “birth and cessation,” is the characterization of the Storehouse Consciousness, which is explained by Vasubandhu as being analogous to the flow of a river that changes from moment to moment and yet retains its identity. The implication may be that, though these bodhisattvas are enlightened and actively engaged in the work of helping others, they have yet to be perfected, being subject to the influence of the “activating mind,” which is stirred by ignorance in the Storehouse Consciousness.

Again, a bodhisattva of this group, when he brings his excellent qualities to perfection, manifests himself in the heaven of Akanishta as the highest physical being in the world. Through wisdom united with [original enlightenment or Suchness] in an instant of thought, he suddenly extinguishes ignorance. Then he is called [the one who has obtained] all-embracing knowledge. Performing suprarational acts spontaneously, he can manifest himself everywhere in the universe and benefit all sentient beings.  

*Vimalakirti from the Vimalakirti Sutra is a perfect example of this Bodhisattva-type.

Question: Since space is infinite, worlds are infinite. Since worlds are infinite, beings are infinite. Since beings are infinite, the variety of their mentalities must also be infinite. The objects of the senses and the mind must therefore be limitless, and it is difficult to know and understand them all. If ignorance is destroyed, there will be no thoughts in the mind. How then can a comprehension [that has no content] be called “all-embracing knowledge”? 

Answer: All objects are originally of One Mind and are beyond thought determination. Because unenlightened people perceive objects in their illusion, they impose limitations in their mind. Since they erroneously develop these thought determinations, which do not correspond to Reality (dharmatā), they are unable to reach any inclusive comprehension. The Buddha-Tathāgatas are free from all perverse views and thoughts [that block correct vision; therefore,] there are no corners into which their comprehension does not penetrate. Their Mind is true and real; therefore, it is no other than the essential nature of all things. [The buddhas], because of their very nature, can shed light on all objects conceived in illusion. They are endowed with an influence of great wisdom [that functions as the application] of innumerable expedient means. Accommodating themselves to the capacity of understanding of various sentient beings, they can reveal to them the manifold meanings of the doctrine. This is the reason they may be called those who have “all-embracing knowledge.”  

The following segment from the Complete Suzuki Lankavatara Sutra and Discussion (found in Library) highlights the aforementioned in the following manner:  

Ravana boldly asks the Buddha why “dualism” exists…in particular through the use of the terms dharma and adharma… 

The Buddhist Compendium defines Dharma as follows: 

“Dharma refers to all the methods of cultivation taught by the Buddha which lead to ultimate enlightenment. They are means to an end, not an end in themselves.”  

Hence, “Adharma” is the exact antithesis of Dharma and completely “negates” the affirmative sense of the former; indeed, in the Sanskrit it is defined as “Breach of Duty”…the duty to openly embrace the Dharma as taught by the Buddha. 

The Blessed One responds to Ravana thus:  

“It is due to discrimination cherished by the ignorant that there exists the differentiation of dharmas and adharma. Noble Wisdom (aryajnana), however, is not to be realized by seeing things this way.”  

Sutton has a wonderful analysis of what the Buddha was saying to Ravana concerning the use of all “expedient terms”:  

“The terms, according to the text, are only utilitarian devices, temporal tools to assist the student to better understand his experience as he progresses toward the higher states of cognition. Once having arrived at the peak of his journey, all conceptual “crutches” will be abandoned, just as a raft is discarded after crossing a river, having served its purpose…this purpose, according to the Lankavatara, is the attainment of higher Wisdom, or insight (Aryajnana)…Sutton, Existence and Enlightenment in the Lankavatara Sutra: pg.209″ 

The Buddha then goes through a lengthy analysis of the nature of discriminatory reality–as depicted through both conceptual and visual understandings of the ordinary and everyday-mind that perceives reality through empirical lenses. The chapter then concludes with further insight on the nature of discriminatory reality and that the way to attain tranquility is by entering into the very womb of Tathagatahood…indeed, that “inner-nursery” of the Bodhi-child which is the very Realm of Noble Wisdom “in one’s inmost Self.”

Question: If the buddhas are able to perform spontaneous acts, to manifest themselves everywhere, and to benefit all sentient beings, then the sentient beings should all be able, by seeing their physical forms, by witnessing their miracles, or by hearing their preachings, to gain benefit. Why is it then that most people in this world have not been able to see the buddhas?  

Answer: The Dharmakāya of all the buddhas, being one and the same everywhere, is omnipresent. Since the buddhas are free from any fixation of thought, their acts are said to be “spontaneous.” They reveal themselves in accordance with the mentalities of all the various sentient beings. The mind of the sentient being is like a mirror. Just as a mirror cannot reflect images if it is coated with dirt, so the Dharmakāya cannot appear in the mind of the sentient being if it is coated with the dirt [of defilements].  

Similar to the aforementioned in that when sentient beings attempt to discern the Dharmakaya through the dualistic-lens of defiled garbha, then the Dharmakaya, like trying to see the forest through the trees, will never be properly discerned.

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