While searching for his next Spiritual Benefactor, Sudhana takes account of its full meaning:
Looking for Vidvan, his whole being perfumed by the sight of spiritual
benefactors, finding strength in spiritual benefactors, relying on spiritual
benefactors, striving to follow spiritual benefactors, with tireless vigor in
attending spiritual benefactors, all his roots of goodness due to spiritual
benefactors, all his stores of virtue sustained by spiritual benefactors, his
practice of skill in means developed by spiritual benefactors, all his roots of
goodness growing by skill in attendance of spiritual benefactors without
depending on others…
Sudhana will soon discover that his meeting with Vidvan (a householder known as “The Knower) will enhance this realization a thousand-fold.
Sudhana saw Vidvan at a crossroads in the middle of the city, on a seat on a high pedestal made of innumerable jewels, set on legs of diamonds and emeralds, with a web of white cowries on golden strings, set in pure jewels, with five hundred ornamental jewel figurines, arrayed with multicolored celestial cloth, with celestial banners and pennants flying above, covered with many nets of jewels, overspread with a great canopy of jewels, with garlands of gold and jewels hanging from it. A golden parasol with a handle of pure lapis lazuli was held over Vidvan, and he was being fanned by plumes made of
pure white goose feathers while various incenses perfumed the air around
him. He was attended by ten thousand people of equally virtuous past conduct, finer in appearance than celestials or humans, perfect in the will of
enlightening beings, adorned with ornaments superior to those of the
gods, playing music sweeter than that of the heavens to please all the people
in the city, and showering celestial flowers.
As we know from the introductory blog of this series, the Gandavyūha-sūtra places a high premium on the nature of Spiritual Benefactors. Vidvan represents them here showered in a splendid array of ornaments that are “superior to those of the gods.” Whenever the vast array of similar ornaments are portrayed in this sutra and series—yea they are a billion-fold—they’re not meant to be mistaken for any material value. They are highly charged representations of the very ornate Treasury of Mind Itself; the “key” to the entry to the Treasury of Mind lies in the hands of the Spiritual Benefactors. Vidvan declares unto Sudhana:
“It is good that you have aroused the aspiration for supreme perfect enlightenment. Rare are those who aspire to supreme perfect
enlightenment, and rare are those who, having aspired to enlightenment,
are tireless in seeking the practices of enlightening beings by meeting
spiritual benefactors, who do not weary of going to spiritual benefactors,
who are not pained by attendance on spiritual benefactors, who are not
depressed by the difficulty of approaching spiritual benefactors, who do not
give up seeking spiritual benefactors, who do not turn away from the sight
of the countenance of spiritual benefactors, who do not get discouraged in
the path taught by spiritual benefactors, who do not tire in the service of
spiritual benefactors. Do you see my companions? I inspired them all to seek
supreme perfect enlightenment; I caused them to be born in the family of
buddhas; I nourished them by providing them with the ways of transcendence; I got them to live in good ways; I developed them in the ten powers of buddhas; I lifted them out of worldliness; I established them in the ranks of the enlightened; I removed them from the circle of mundane states; I started them in the cycle of enlightening teaching; I saved them from falling into bad conditions; I led them to realization of equality of things: for thus do
enlightening beings become saviors of all sentient beings.
“[Thus], I have attained good works produced from the treasury of mind…
Vidvan assures Sudhana that all who are drawn towards Spiritual Benefactors will not be disappointed, in fact they will be “born into the family of Buddhas.” The reader needs to have it reinforced in their mind that “the key” to all these Buddhaic Treasures does indeed rest in the hands of Spiritual Benefactors; they are the doorkeepers to the Treasury of Mind. Blessed are they, who after immeasurable kalpas have been left devoid of any spiritual advantage, encounter a true Spiritual Benefactor of the Buddhadharma. The road to the Self-Realization of Blessed Noble Wisdom is aligned with these auspicious mentors. Be mindful and give them your wholehearted and undivided attention when they make their appearance known.
Sudhana made his way to Simhapota city. Looking all over for the religious eminent Ratnachuda, he saw him in the middle of the marketplace.
According to Li Tongxuan, Ratnachuda “used meditation to embody the ten transcendent ways and the eight-fold path, so he is represented as living in a building with ten stories and eight doors”:
Ratnachuda took Sudhana to his house and showed it to him, saying, “Look at my house.” Looking it over, Sudhana saw that the house was radiant, made of gold, wide and high, surrounded by silver walls, adorned with crystal terraces, embellished with hundreds of thousands of lapis lazuli turrets, on coral pillars; there was a lion seat arrayed with red pearls, flying lion banners made of starry jewels, covered with a canopy of radiant jewels, draped with a net of wish-fulfilling jewels, arrayed with countless gemstones. There was a lotus pond, with cool water, made of emeralds. Surrounded by trees of all kinds of jewels, the house was large, ten stories high, with eight doors.
Sudhana asks Ratnachuda how he acquired such an achievement. Ratnachuda then relays to him the following charming story:
Ratnachuda said, “I remember that in the past, eons ago, more than as
many eons ago as atoms in a buddha-land, in a world called Wheel of Many
Colors, a buddha named King of Teaching Adorning the Cosmos with Infinite
Rays of Light emerged in the world, tamer and leader of people, teacher
of celestials and humans, accomplished in knowledge and action, blissful,
supreme knower of the world, enlightened, blessed. Together with a billion
disciples led by Radiance of Knowledge, and a trillion enlightening beings
led by Energy of the Sun of Knowledge, he went to a royal park at the invitation of the king Master of the Law. I played music for that buddha in the middle of the marketplace of the city and burned one ball of incense as an offering to the buddha and the enlightening beings and disciples. By the burning of that one ball of incense, the whole continent was covered by infinitely various fragrant clouds in the forms of all sentient beings for seven days, and from those clouds emerged such sounds as these—`Inconceivable is the Buddha, possessed of a body of knowledge extensive as past, present, and future, omniscient, free from all obstructions, rid of all afflictions and habit energies, raised by all enlightened ones, sincere, giver of the fruits of measureless omniscience, concentration of all knowledge.’ Such utterances came from the incense clouds by the power of Buddha to develop my roots of goodness to maturity and to rapidly generate roots of goodness in inconceivable numbers of beings. I dedicated the root of goodness in that miraculous vision of the Buddha’s power to three points: to forever ending all poverty, to always hearing truth, and to meeting all enlightened and enlightening spiritual benefactors.
What I find fascinating in this account is “the ball of incense”. Li Tongxuan writes, “The ball of incense represents one kind of “scent,” the fivefold spiritual body consisting of discipline, concentration, insight, liberation, and the knowledge and vision of liberation.” (Entry into the Realm of Reality, The Guide, pg.44)
This is also indicative of how this fivefold spiritual body is the exact antithesis of the five-skandhas. Imagine this occurring each time you light that incense which helps to induce the Right Environment during your own time of meditation.