Invincible Ascetics

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Bhishmottaranirghosha

At that time Bhishmottaranirghosha was sojourning in a retreat, a pleasant
place with countless diverse trees and plants, shaded by the leaves of
various trees, with flowering trees perpetually blooming in various colors
and fruit trees perpetually bearing, the ground made of the finest jewelfruits
from various jewel trees, well distributed with great sandalwood trees,
graced with fragrance constantly coming from pleasant aloeswood trees,
adorned with trumpet-flower trees distributed in the four directions, with
beautifully formed fig trees, with perpetually ripe fruits raining from rose
apple trees, beautified by fresh water lilies and lotus blossoms.
Sudhana saw the seer Bhishmottaranirghosha wearing matted hair, sitting
on a seat of bark, rags, fragrant grass, and antelope skin on a layer of
straw in a but built at the foot of a sandalwood tree, surrounded by ten thousand seers…

In encountering the exotic ascetic, Bhishmottaranirghosha, Sudhana expounds on the nature of a true spiritual-benefactor: as those opening the door to omniscience, because they “illumine the principle of the inherent nature of phenomena,” and they serve as a bridge that unites spiritual sojourners to this spiritual torch of Buddhagnosis. Bhishmottaranirghosha immediately discerns something omniscient in Sudhana as well:

The seer Bhishmottaranirghosha looked at the ten thousand people surrounding him and said, “This youth has set his mind on supreme perfect enlightenment and has invited all sentient beings to fearlessness. He is aiming for the welfare and happiness of all beings; he is facing the of knowledge; he wants to spread the clouds of teaching of all buddhas; he wants to plunge into the ocean of all principles of the Teaching; he wants to live by the light of knowledge; he wants to bring the cloud of great compassion near; he wants to cause the rain of the great Teaching to shower; he wants to have the moon of great knowledge rise in the world and extinguish the burning of all afflictions; he wants to develop the roots of goodness of all sentient beings.”the burning of all afflictions; he wants to develop the roots of goodness of all sentient beings.”

The “ten-thousand” people surrounding Bhishmottaranirghosha break-out in jubilant celebration at his announcement and flamboyantly shower Sudhana with fragrant flowers, exclaiming that he “will be a savior; he will extinguish all the hellish torments of all beings and that he will dispel the darkness of ignorance.” Bhishmottaranirghosha then says to Sudhana, “I have attained an enlightening liberation called ‘unsurpassed banner.” When Sudhana queries about the nature of this liberation, Bhishmottaranirghosha does not reply verbally, but esoterically reaches out to him in the following superlative fashion:

Bhishmottaranirghosha stretched forth his right hand and rubbed
Sudhana’s head, then took Sudhana by the right hand. At that moment
Sudhana saw in the ten directions as many buddha-lands as atoms in ten hundred thousand buddha-lands, and in them he perceived himself at the feet of as many buddhas as atoms in ten hundred thousand buddha-lands…
He also saw the radiant mass of the marks and embellishments of the buddhas’ bodies in the midst of the congregations…
Thus did he perceive himself with the buddhas, illumined by the light of
knowledge of the liberation “unsurpassed banner,” imbued with the light of
the concentration filled with sunlike radiance, reaching absorption in liberation of endless knowledge, imbued with the light of the mystic formulation of the structure of the universe, his mind illumined by the mystic formulation of the indestructible sphere, abiding in absorption in the realm of well-ordered bodies of knowledge, intent on the state of transcendent wisdom of the path of adornment of all planes, illumined by the light of concentration on the sphere containing the space of the enlightened, his mind illuminated by concentration on the circumference of the wheel of teaching of all buddhas, imbued with the light of absorption in the inexhaustible sphere of jewels of knowledge of past, present, and future…
Then the seer let go of Sudhana, who found himself once again standing
before the seer Bhishmottaranirghosha. The seer said, “Do you remember?”
Sudhana said, “I remember, noble one, by the empowerment of the
spiritual benefactor.”

Bhishmottaranirghosha, upon touching Sudhana’s head and then grasping his hand, has conferred upon him a profound mystical empowerment. Sudhana was suddenly transported into the Total Realm of the Dharmadhātu—he was thus empowered to see Reality AS IT IS. Upon making this transition, Sudhana was able to accomplish this mystical feat at his discretion under his own power in the future. Hence, when questioned by the ascetical-spiritual benefactor if he fully remembered what had just transpired, Sudhana was empowered to answer in the affirmative. Bhishmottaranirghosha then sends Sudhana off to visit with the ascetical priest, Jayoshmayatana.

 

Jayoshmayatana

Sudhana, his attention on spiritual benefactors, gradually made his way to the priest Jayoshmayatana in the land of Ishana…
At that time the priest was practicing an ascetic exercise of enduring fierce
heat, with his mind on omniscience; on four sides were huge bonfires like
mountains ablaze. Rising above appeared a great mountain precipice, a
razor-edge path.

Jayoshmayatana is found practicing an ascetical-discipline we have fully covered in other series: the generation of the inner-yogic heat (Tumo). The scene demonstratively depicts a classic-ascetic setting. The priest then emboldens Sudhana to “jump” straight into the fiery ambience, “Climb this razor-edge-path mountain and jump from there into the fire—thus will your enlightening practice be purified.” At first, Sudhana thinks the request quite mad, “Might this not be a demon, or someone possessed by a demon, or a cohort of the devil, or an imitation spiritual teacher, or a false enlightening being, who has undertaken to impede my roots of goodness, who is out to destroy my life?” To quieten his anxious mind, another Transcendent Exposure appears on the scene, “ten thousand Brahma gods appeared in the sky and said to him, “Do not get fixed on such thoughts. This sage has attained the light of the concentration of adamantine flame. He has unrelenting energy and has begun the great undertaking of salvation….To further enhance this admonition, the demons themselves appear on the scene:

Ten thousand demons also stood in the sky, showered celestial jewels,
and said, “The light emitted from the flames used by this priest in his
heat mortification obscures our abodes, our ornaments, and our paraphernalia. Terrified, we and our cohorts go to the priest, who teaches in
such a way that, coming to ourselves and getting back our right minds,
we aspire to enlightenment and become irreversible on the way to
supreme perfect enlightenment.”

This is reminiscent of a scene in Tozen’s Dharmakaya Sutra, wherein demons appear to reveal their own role of “skillfully teaching” about their necessary linkage to the path of liberation by revealing how the Light transforms their “deeds of great suffering” into proper testimony on the ways of the Blessed One’s Compassion, yea inspiring them, too, to turn-about and seek supreme perfect enlightenment. A countless host of other Celestial Beings appear and encourage Sudhana to “take the great plunge.”

Then Sudhana, pleased, enraptured, transported, overjoyed, happy, having
heard this teaching, considered the priest Jayoshmayatana to be a true
spiritual benefactor, and prostrated himself at the priest’s feet and said, “I
confess my error, noble one, in not recognizing you as a spiritual benefactor.”
Thereupon the priest spoke a verse to Sudhana:

“An enlightening being who follows instructions
Has no doubts, his mind at one with the teachers.
All benefits will be his, and they will be auspicious;
Sure of buddha-knowledge too, he awakens at the foot of the enlightenment
tree.”

Then Sudhana climbed the path up the cliff of the mountain, a mass of
razor edges, and threw himself into the fire. As he was falling he attained an
enlightening concentration called “well established.” On contact with the
fire he attained an enlightening concentration called “mystic knowledge of
the bliss of tranquility.” He said, “How wonderful is the pleasant feeling of
this fire and this razor-edge mountain.”

Hence, Sudhana undergoes a form of shamanistic initiation similarly described in the blog series, Notes from the Iron Sutra, although his own initiation here is less severe. What has transpired is that Sudhana has become part of the Living Flame of Tathatic-Tranquility—one that is most settling and completely impervious to all attacks from the evil one. Sudhana, like the priest Jayoshmayatana, has been fully initiated into the school of Invincible Ascetics.

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