Contemplating the Buddha


Mañjuśrī addressed the Buddha, saying, “Bhagavān, I will now speak further about the meaning of Prajñāpāramitā.” The Buddha said, “As you wish.” “Bhagavān, when cultivating Prajñāpāramitā, there is no seeing dharmas in which one should dwell or not dwell, nor seeing the appearance of a realm that may be obtained or relinquished. Why? This is because all tathāgatas as such do not see the appearance of a realm of dharmas, not even seeing the buddha realms. It is also such as this for the attainment of the śrāvaka, pratyekabuddha, and mundane realms. There is no grasping characteristics of thought and also no grasping characteristics of no-thought. Not seeing the existence of various characteristics of dharmas, self-realization of the emptiness of dharmas is inconceivable. Thusly, all bodhisattva-mahāsattvas provide offerings to innumerable hundreds of thousands of myriads of buddhas, planting every good root, and are therefore able to be without alarm and fear of the extremely profound Prajñāpāramitā. Moreover, when cultivating Prajñāpāramitā, seeing neither fetters nor liberation, and not distinguishing between characteristics of ordinary people and even those of the Three Vehicles, is cultivating Prajñāpāramitā.” 

The cultivation of Prajñāpāramitā is a no-cultivation of any apparent dharma-realms that need to be developed or dismantled. As such the Tathagatas never perceive these apparent realms that are administered by the discriminating-mind. This is the same non-perception for Buddhaic forms and the formalizations of the ordinary consciousness. In this realization there is no recognition of the archaic mind-constructions of the no-self beast. With this cognizance there are neither conceivable nor inconceivable mind-created realms that need to be reckoned with.

The Buddha addressed Mañjuśrī, saying, “How many offerings have you made to the buddhas?” Mañjuśrī said, “I even regard the buddhas as having an illusory appearance, seeing neither a provision of offerings nor one who accepts them.” The Buddha said to Mañjuśrī, “Do you dwell in the Buddha Vehicle?” Mañjuśrī said, “Just such is my contemplation, not seeing even a single dharma, so who could dwell in the Buddha Vehicle?” The Buddha said, “Mañjuśrī, have you attained the Buddha Vehicle?” Mañjuśrī said, “Such a Buddha Vehicle is merely a name which can be neither obtained nor seen, so what could I obtain?” The Buddha said, “Mañjuśrī, have you attained unimpeded wisdom?” Mañjuśrī said, “I am the unimpeded itself. How could the unimpeded attain non-obstruction?” The Buddha said, “Have you sat at the bodhimaṇḍa?” Mañjuśrī said, “All the tathāgatas do not sit at bodhimaṇḍas, so why should I alone now sit at a bodhimaṇḍa, and for what purpose? I now see that all dharmas abide in the realm of reality.” 

Apparent and formalized ‘Buddhas’ are also wrongly conceived images of the active imagination. What need of offerings; offerings to what or to whom? There are no-single dharmas and hence no-need for any Vehicles harboring any wrongly-conceived notions of a Buddha. Such a vehicle is merely a naivety and nominalized construct. Mañjuśrī is unimpeded Wisdom Itself; does the unimpeded ever crave non-obstruction?

Have you sat at the bodhimaṇḍa: the awakened seat of the Buddha wherein he attained Enlightenment beneath the Bodhi-Tree. In context of the question, Mañjuśrī indicates that Tathagatas have no further need to sit in such a fashion. This also strongly indicates that Mañjuśrī’s Spirit is strongly in league with the Tathagatas.

the realm of reality: the Dharmadhatu.

The Buddha said, “What is it that you call the realm of reality?” Mañjuśrī said, “The body of the manifestation of equality is the realm of reality.” The Buddha said, “Of what bodily appearance is the realm of reality?” Mañjuśrī said, “The body which neither comes nor goes, the body that is not a body, is called the realm of reality.” Śāriputra addressed the Buddha, saying, “Bhagavān, if one understands the meaning of this principle decisively, then this is one to be called a bodhisattva-mahāsattva. Why? Being able to hear the characteristics of the extremely profound Prajñāpāramitā thusly, the mind is unshaken and unafraid, neither turning back nor in regret.” Maitreya Bodhisattva addressed the Buddha, saying, “Bhagavān, one who is able to hear Prajñāpāramitā thusly is endowed with the characteristics of the Dharma, and is close to the seat of the Buddha. Why? This is because the Tathāgata’s manifestation of Bodhi is the cause for the manifestation of the Dharma.” Mañjuśrī addressed the Buddha, saying, “Bhagavān, if one is able to hear the extremely profound Prajñāpāramitā, capable of being unshaken and unafraid, neither turning back nor in regret, it should be known that this person is perceiving the Buddha.”  

What is it that you call the realm of reality?: Mañjuśrī’s response is that the Dharmadhatu is the Realm of Equanimity Itself. The Dharmadhatu neither comes nor goes, reveals neither self nor non-self—an imageless body Absolute, dharmadhātujakāya. One who clearly discerns this principle is indeed a bodhisattva-mahāsattva—one has the spirit of Prajñāpāramitā:

The Prajñāpāramitā is not an entity of metaphysical order, an absolute existent to which one could become attached; rather, it is a state of mind, a mental turning of mind which assures a radical neutrality to the person who adopts it. Transcending the categories of existence and non-existence, lacking any characteristic, the Prajñāpāramitā can be neither affirmed nor denied: it is faultless excellence. The bodhisattva adheres to it by not grasping it or, to use the time-honored expression, “he adheres to it by not adhering to it” (tiṣṭaty asthānayogena). Confident in this point of view which is equally distant from affirmation and negation, he suspends judgment on everything and says nothing whatsoever. Practiced in this spirit, the virtues which, among the religious heretics and śrāvakas, are of ordinary and mundane (laukika) order, become supramundane perfections (lokottarapāramitā) in the bodhisattva. Besides, since the bodhisattva refuses to conceive of the said virtues and to establish distinctions amongst them, to practice one pāramitā is to practice them all; not to practice them is also to practice them. (THE TREATISE ON THE GREAT VIRTUE OF WISDOM OF NĀGĀRJUNA (MAHĀPRAJÑĀPĀRAMITĀŚĀSTRA) VOL II, ÉTIENNE LAMOTTE, pg.491)

At that time, Without Appearances Upāsikā addressed the Buddha, saying, “Bhagavān, the Ordinary Person Dharma, the Śrāvaka Dharma, the Pratyekabuddha Dharma, and the Buddha Dharma, are all dharmas entirely without characteristics. Therefore, those who are able to hear Prajñāpāramitā are in each case unalarmed and unafraid, neither turning back nor in regret. Why? All dharmas are  fundamentally without characteristics.” The Buddha told Śāriputra, “If a good man or good woman hears the extremely profound Prajñāpāramitā thusly, with a mind understanding it decisively, unalarmed and unafraid, neither turning back nor in regret, it should be known that this person is now standing upon the ground of non-regression. If a person hears this extremely profound Prajñāpāramitā, unalarmed and unafraid, neither turning back nor in regret, he or she is presently endowed with Dānapāramitā, Śīlapāramitā, Kāntipāramitā, Vīryapāramitā, Dhyānapāramitā, and Prajñāpāramitā, and also able to make distinctions when speaking of cultivation practice.”  

Without Appearances Upāsikā: a female lay Buddhist.

This passage clearly articulates Lamotte’s stance above; when one is attuned with the spirit of Prajñāpāramitā then one, in practicing one pāramitā, practices them all.

The Buddha said to Mañjuśrī, “What do you say that it means to obtain Anuttarā Samyaksabodhi, and abide in Anuttarā Samyaksabodhi?” Mañjuśrī said, “I do not have an Anuttarā Samyaksabodhi to obtain, nor do I abide in a Buddha Vehicle. Why should I obtain Anuttarā Samyaksabodhi? The appearance of Bodhi is just as I have explained.” The Buddha praised Mañjuśrī, saying, “Excellent, excellent! You are thus able to speak so skillfully of the meaning of the extremely profound Dharma. From the times of previous buddhas, you have long planted the seeds for good roots, purely cultivating the brahmacarya of the Dharma of no appearances.” Mañjuśrī said, “If the existence of appearances is perceived, then it follows that the speech is without appearances. I do not see the existence of appearances, nor the absence of appearances. Why then do you speak of purely cultivating the brahmacarya of the Dharma of no appearances?”  

In the same manner Mañjuśrī does not need to attain Unexcelled and Perfect Enlightenment: Anuttarā Samyak saṃbodhi. HE IS inseparable Bodhi Itself.

Brahmacarya: self-restraint, in particular over the sexual drive; embracing a virtuous lifestyle.

Mañjuśrī does not need to cultivate Brahmacarya with either appearances or non-appearances as he is impervious to the whole affair.

The Buddha said to Mañjuśrī, “Do you observe the precepts?” He replied, “They are observed.” The Buddha said, “What is this observing?” Mañjuśrī said, “I do not observe as an ordinary person, nor do I observe as a noble one; I do not observe as one with more learning or as one beyond learning; I perceive neither large nor small, perceiving neither regulation nor non-regulation, neither perceiving nor not perceiving.” Śāriputra spoke to Mañjuśrī saying, “You observe the Śrāvaka Vehicle thusly, but how do you observe the Buddha Vehicle?” Mañjuśrī said, “I do not perceive a dharma of Bodhi, a cultivation practice of Bodhi, or even one who realizes Bodhi.”  

Mañjuśrī is an embodiment of the precepts and thus does not have to observe them as an ordinary or even a noble person. The act of perception does not exist or non-exist for him. It’s the same with the handling of bodhi: he does not practice it since he IS the inseparable bodhipower Itself.

Śāriputra spoke to Mañjuśrī, saying, “What do you call the Buddha? How do you contemplate the Buddha?” Mañjuśrī said, “What do you take to be the self?” Śāriputra said, “The self merely exists as a name, and names are empty of characteristics.” Mañjuśrī said, “Thusly, thusly! Just as the self is merely a name, the Buddha is also merely a name. Names are empty of characteristics, and this is itself Bodhi. One should seek Bodhi without regarding names, as the appearance of Bodhi is silent and wordless. Why? Words and speech of Bodhi are both completely empty. Moreover, Śāriputra, you ask, ‘What is it that you call the Buddha? How do you contemplate the Buddha?’ That which is neither created nor destroyed, neither comes nor goes, and is without name and form, is called the Buddha. This is the pure contemplation of the body of true appearance, and contemplation of the Buddha is also such as this. Only the wise are able to understand that this is what is called contemplating the Buddha.”  

The Buddha-self is nameless and (self)-less. The Bodhi-mind is the Self THAT is beyond appearances. IT is Unborn, Uncreated, Uncomposed and Undying. Right Contemplation is purely Such and no-thing more. The Ariyan Mind alone contemplates the Buddha.

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6 Responses to Contemplating the Buddha

  1. Mahasidhra says:

    “Thusly, thusly! Just as the self is merely a name, the Buddha is also merely a name. Names are empty of characteristics, and this is itself Bodhi.”

    The Buddha is formless, but without the form and name “Buddha”, sentient beings would be lost in the forest of birth-and-death forever.

    The Tathagata has two attributes; wisdom (formlessness) and compassion (form). In order to make itself known to us, wisdom appears as form.

    That is its compassionate activity.

    There are many forms through which he appears. The Lanka Sutra lists them:

    Self-existing One (svayambhuva) … Buddha, Rishi, Bull-king, Brahma, Vishnu, Isvara [God], the Originator (pradhana), Kapila, the Destroyer (bhutanta), the Imperishable (arishta), Nemina, Soma (moon), Fire, Rama, Vyasa, Suka, Indra, the Strong One (Balin), or Varuna; there are others who know me as Immortality (anirodhanutpada) …. Emptiness, Suchness, Truth (satyata), Reality (bhutata), Limit of Reality (bhutakoti), Dharmadhatu [Realm of Dharma], Nirvana, Eternity (nitya), Sameness (samata), Non-Duality (advaya), the Imperishable (anirodha), Formless (animitta), Causality [pratyaya), Teaching the Cause of Buddhahood (buddha-hetupadesa), the All-Knowing (sarvajna), the Conquering One [or Conqueror] (jina), or the Will-body (manomayakaya).

    Interestingly, even Indian gods are in the list, not just “Buddhist names”, but also “Hindu names”. Without question, we could add other deities to the list, deities of non-Vedic origin. The formless appears as different forms according to the spiritual maturity of the observer. To an immature observes, the formless absolute appears as a childish god that is vengeful, throws tantrums, kills on a whim, etc.

    To those who are spiritually mature it appears as an Infinite Light that shines on all sentient beings incessantly, without discriminating.

    • Vajragoni says:

      What you say cannot be denied. Yet in context of this particular sutra there are no “sentient beings would be lost in the forest of birth-and-death forever.” In context of this particular sutra, there is no ‘forest of birth and death’. The opening blog of this sutra indicated that what is being taught here by Mañjuśrī is indicative of “High Gnosis”; in this context it needs to be read with such a lens. This is the context of Prajñāpāramitā wherein nothing is affirmed or denied.

  2. n. yeti says:

    It seems this is the sticking point for so many Buddhists, most especially those who discard some portion or another of the teachings, without certifying to the fruits of practice. In the dhammapada this is likened to sharp grass, which cuts the hands if handled improperly. Reading much of Zen literature, old or new, one eventually stumbles over the delusion that Buddha’s teachings should be dispensed with — that scripture burning is the same as mastering the scriptures. But just as truth is not “brought down” by Buddha, it cannot be “dispensed with” nor treated recklessly. The sword of Manjusri is two edged!

    • Mahasidhra says:

      Arya Nāgārjuna anticipated the sickness you mentioned, saying: emptiness exists as a provisional cure, but attachment to the doctrine of emptiness itself is truly incurable.

      When a student of inferior capacity reads “burn the scriptures” or “kill the buddhas”, she interprets: “this is telling us to abandon Buddhist scripture and to stop revering devas, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas.”

      When a student of medium capacity reads “burn the scriptures” and “kill the buddhas”, she interprets: “this is warning us to not attach to scripture, and to not worship with self-attachment in mind.”

      When a student of high capacity reads “burn the scriptures” and “kill the buddhas”, she interprets: “this is the highest reverence to the scriptures; this is the most sincere and humble homage to the buddhas!”

      • Mahasidhra says:

        When a student of superior capacity reads “burn the scriptures” and “kill the buddhas”, she intuitively recognizes that which uttered those phrases (the origin) and unites with the source of all buddhas and all scriptures: the ratnagotra.

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