Then Sudhana went to Veshthila’s house in the city of Shubhaparamgama…
Veshthila said, “I have attained an enlightening liberation called ‘not ultimately exhausted.’ To my way of thinking, no buddha in any world ever has, does, or will become finally extinct, except as a docetic device. When I
opened the door of the shrine of the buddha Sandalwood Throne, I attained
an enlightening concentration called ‘manifestation of the endless lineage
of buddhas.’ I enter this concentration in each mental moment, and every
moment understand many kinds of excellence.”
docetic device: a doctrine that states the Buddha had no human-form, just an “appearance of one”—like a rainbow in the sky. Quite contrary to the Theravadin anthropocentric and historical accounts of the Buddha’s human form, it’s a doctrine that states he had a mind-borne appearance—much like the manomayakaya, or mind-made body; hence, the Blessed One has a peace-of-mind that is never disturbed, never exhausted, an equanimity that is never marred by pain or suffering. Of course, the Buddha’s Truth Body—his Dharmakaya—will always transcend any mere human appearance, being the Absolute and Imageless Essence of Transcendence itself; it is this latter context that best describes the householder, Veshthila, and his marvelous sandalwood altar that bears no icon—no image—which best demonstrates how the Buddha(s) have no visible sign of origination, or destruction. Li Tongxuan expounds:
When you understand that essence is space-like and find that appearances are like projections, you open up enlightened knowledge and vision; then there is no beginning and no end, no present and no past. Thus Veshthila said that when he opened the shrine he attained liberation without complete extinction, absorbed in the infinity of the lineages of buddhas. (ibid, pg. 57)
Veshthila states that when he is in this supra-essential mindset, he visits all subsequent and successive Buddhas of every world-system: “I immediately become aware of the succession of appearance of untold numbers of buddhas, of as many buddhas as atoms in the continent, as many as atoms in untold buddha-lands.” He continues:
“I also perceive the successive buddhas of the future, beginning with
Maitreya, seeing a hundred buddhas in a single mental instant, then a thousand, and so on, uninterruptedly seeing as many buddhas as atoms in untold buddha-lands. I also see the order of their aspiration and preparation and so on, and distinctly remember their teachings, take them up mindfully, examine them, follow them, and elucidate them. And just as I see the succession of past, future, and present buddhas in this world-system, so do I also comprehend the succession of all buddhas in as many past and future
world-systems in the ten directions as atoms in untold buddha-lands. I also
comprehend the order of the aspiration and preparations of those buddhas,
and I comprehend the unbroken continuity of the successive incarnations of
“I am also aware of the succession of buddhas of the present in all worlds
in the ten directions, beginning with Vairocana, incomparable, accessible to
faith and the vigorous resolution of enlightening beings, increasing the
energy of enlightening beings, unsurpassed by any worldlings, individual
illuminates, or enlightening beings who have not reached that sphere. In a
single mental instant I see a hundred buddhas; in the next instant of awareness I see a thousand buddhas, continuing thus without interruption until I meet as many buddhas as atoms in untold buddha-lands.
“I see whatever buddhas I wish, whenever I wish, and I hear all that has
been, is being, and will be spoken by those buddhas I meet, and I take up,
what I hear, remember it, examine it in action, analyze it, follow it with discernment, and elucidate it with wisdom.
Quite a potpourri of Transcendent-Exposures highlighting “this enlightening liberation of ultimate nonextinction.”
Certainly no stranger to the great pantheon of Preeminent Bodhisattvas, Avalokiteshvara is without question THE Bodhisattva of Universal Compassion. Sudhana’s encounter with him amidst his long litany of Spiritual Benefactors is quite an auspicious one. The following poetic-verse-segment best sums up this most auspicious visit; it is truly worth inclusion here in its entirety.
Having respectfully rendered honor and praise,
Sudhana, well controlled, went south.
On a cliff of a mountain he saw Avalokiteshvara,
the seer who abides in compassion.
On a diamond slope, adorned with jewels,
Sitting on a lion seat in a lotus calyx, the Steadfast,
Surrounded by various creatures and enlightening beings,
Expounds the Teaching to them.
Seeing this, Sudhana, his joy unequaled,
Went and bowed to the feet of the Ocean of Virtue
And said, “Teach me, noble one, with compassion,
To attain this good conduct.”
Extending his undefiled arm of a hundredfold auspicious splendor,
Radiating far-reaching pure light,
Avalokiteshvara, the purified being, the sage,
Laid his hand on Sudhana’s head and spoke:
“I know a gate of liberation, the embryo of knowledge
Of clouds of compassion of all buddhas,
Born of my own love and operating everywhere
To protect and care for all beings.
“I protect all beings from many disasters;
Those caught in the grip of enemies,
Physically injured, and imprisoned
Are freed from their bonds on hearing my name.
“Arrows shot at the condemned do not wound them,
Weapons break and swords are deflected
If they remember my name.
“In disputes among kings, those who remember my name
Defeat their adversaries and gain what is good,
Increase in repute among friends and relatives,
And their property becomes inviolable.
“Any who remember my name
Go without fear
To forests infested with bandits and wild animals,
Conquering all enemies.
“For those who are thrown from a mountain into burning coals
By malefactors to harm them,
The flames become lotus sprouts in a pond of water
If they remember my name.
“Thrown into the sea, they will not die,
Nor will they be swept away by a river or burned in fire:
No harm will come to them, but rather benefit instead,
If they remember my name, even for a while.
“From fetters, chains, and beatings,
Scorn, humiliation, and constraint,
Abuse, whipping, threats, and scolding,
Those who remember my name will gain release.
“The inimical, faultfinders,
Those who always maliciously slander,
Become friendly on sight
When they hear my name remembered.
“Evil magicians trying to kill them are appeased,
And no poison can injure those who remember my name.
“Malicious spirits, fiends, demons, and goblins, life-sapping, dangerous,
Are all quelled, even in dreams, once my name is recalled.
“One will not be separated from family and friends
Or be joined with the unfriendly
Or become materially destitute,
If one remembers my name, even for a while.
“Those who remember my name will not go to hell
Or become animals or ghosts
Or fall into other unfavorable states;
They will be reborn as celestial or human, purified beings.
“People remembering my name will not
Be blind, deaf, or infirm;
They will not be violent, but friendly
And sound in mind and body for countless ages.
“Those who scatter a handful of flowers over me,
Calling my name, go to my refuge of bliss;
Those who give me offerings with a clear mind
Will be worthy of receiving offerings in my buddha-land.
“Purified beings, passing away, are born here,
Face to face with the buddhas of all worlds;
Those who remember my name see the buddhas
And hear their teaching.
“By this and infinite other means
I guide sentient beings in the world;
I have developed one liberation,
And cannot know all the virtues of the virtuous.
“Sudhana has attended spiritual benefactors
In the worlds of the ten directions
And has not tired of hearing the teaching of the offspring of Buddha;
Why would joy not arise while hearing the Teaching?”