Impressed with the immaculate virtues of the first Night Goddess, Vasanti, Sudhana sets out to meet with Eight other Night Goddesses. These meetings constitute a hefty portion of the Gandavyūha-sūtra but for our purposes, in these next two blogs, we will be encapsulating them in the following snapshots; their names constitute lengthy Sanskrit compounds. Such “Buddhist epithets integrates them into the Mahayana salvational scheme and commends them as advanced beings well on their way to enlightenment, worthy of reverence and discipleship.” (Mirenda Shaw: Goddesses of India, pg. 160).
Samantagambhirashrivimalaprabha informs Sudhana that she has “attained the enlightening liberation ‘bliss of tranquil meditation boldly going everywhere’. She generously extends this liberation to sentient beings, for example:
I develop sentient beings to maturity by a variety of means. In people engrossed in sex play in the still of the night I induce the thought of impurity, the thought of disappointment, the thought of weariness, the thought of trouble, the thought of bondage, the thought of bedevilment, the thought of impermanence, the thought of pain, the thought of selflessness, the thought of ownerlessness, the thought of offense, the thought of old age and death, and the thought of indifference to all objects of desire…
Quite a revealing measure of aiding sentient beings who are too engrossed in their own sexuality; it details the inevitable results of these unwholesome yearnings. Hence, this Goddess appears to people in the night not to stimulate “wet dreams”, but rather dreams of hard-awakening-truths if these rabid desires are incessantly pursued.
It’s interesting how most of these Goddesses reveal how they had previous incarnations serving innumerable Buddhas; Pramuditanayanajagadvirocana states:
“I served ten decillion buddhas with faith while desiring celestial and
human enjoyments in the mundane. The first buddha was Ocean of Glory,
next was Lamp of Virtue, third was Jewel Brightness, fourth was Spacelike
Wisdom, fifth was Flower Calyx, sixth was Moon of Unattached Intellect,
seventh was Power King of the Moon of Truth, eighth was Light of the
Sphere of Knowledge; ninth was Jewel Flame Mountain Lamp, and tenth
was Light and Sound of All Times. I served all the buddhas, beginning with
these, but had not yet attained the eye to enter this ocean of wisdom.”
One of Pramuditanayanajagadvirocana’s salient features is that she was once incarnated as the wife of a king who was, in actuality, Manjushri:
“That king named Lord of the People, the world ruler who was determined
to prevent the dying out of the lineage of buddhas, was none other
than Manjushri, who had become a king, successful in perpetuating the family of buddhas. The night goddess by whom I was awakened was emanated
by the enlightening being Universally Good. The wife of the king was me.
When I was awakened by the night goddess, I was caused to see Buddha; this
was when I first aspired to enlightenment. Ever since that inspiration, for as
many eons as atoms in a buddha-land, I have never fallen into bad states but
have always wound up in celestial and human states. Wherever I have been, I
have never been apart from the sight of buddhas; then when I saw the Buddha
Paragon of Virtue Radiant As a Jewel, I attained this enlightening
liberation characterized by the immense pure energy of the joy of universal
good, by the attainment of which I have come to develop and guide all sentient beings in this way…
The “Night Goddess” by whom she was “awakened” in this passage was the Spirit of the Primordial Buddha, Samantabhadra. This awakening inspired in her an “enlivening enlightening liberation characterized by the immense pure energy of the joy of universal good.”
The Night Goddess, Samantasattvatranojahshri, enjoys the “enlightening liberation showing guidance to beings in all worlds.” Thus, Sudhana perceives her as such:
He saw her standing before all sentient beings without division to free beings
in hells from the pains and fears of hell, to free beings in brutish states from
the perils of mutual predation, to free beings in the realm of ghosts from the
pains and perils of hunger and thirst, to free beings in the realm of dragons
from all the pains and perils of the dragon realm, to free all beings in the
realm of desire from all the pains and perils of the realm of desire, to free all
beings in the human realm from all the fears and perils of darkness, to free
beings from all fear of ill repute, to free beings from intimidation by groups,
to free beings from fear of death, to free beings from fear of falling into states
of misery, to free beings from fear of not being able to make a living, to free
beings from fear of loss of virtue, to free beings from fear of loss of the determination for enlightenment, to free beings from the danger of association with bad companions, to free beings from fear of separation from spiritual benefactors, to free beings from fear of falling into the stages of individual salvation, to free beings from fear of suffering the pains of the various mundane states, to free beings from fear of all association with the uncongenial, to free beings from fear of coming on bad times, to free beings from fear of being born among bad people, to free beings from fear of doing evil, to free beings from fear of obstruction by deeds, to free beings from fear of bondage by attachment to various notions.
The Goddess explains to Sudhana how she had obtained her liberation from “one hundred and ten Buddhas in the past.” She learned to discern that when one’s Buddha-gnosis is complete one’s mind is then likened unto a Buddha; this is known as perceiving “buddhas as numerous as atoms in all lands.” Hence, to perceive anything other than being in a Buddha-field is a false, illusory perception.
Prashantarutasagaravati has attained “an enlightening liberation of supernal manifestations of a moment of consciousness producing floods of immense joy.” Observe how communion with her can foster the spirit of equanimity in all things:
“I have attained equanimity through purification of the ocean of
mind. I have attained indestructible adornment undefiled by the taint of all
worldly passion. My mind is unregressing and unswerving from its object.
My mind is unshakable, adorned with virtues like a mountain of jewels. My
mind is not fixed on anything, not dependent on anything. My mind is
intent on serving all beings. My mind is tireless in seeing all buddhas. My
desire for the powers of all enlightening beings is pure. My mind dwells in
the ocean of mindfulness of the manifestations of great knowledge. I have
set out to overcome the sorrows of all beings and am devoted to removing
the suffering and sadness of all beings. I have undertaken to stop all beings’
preoccupation with objects of sense…hence I have undertaken to stop all sentient beings’ sadness, lamentation, suffering, depression, and mental
disturbance occasioned by birth, old age, and death.
It is stated in these passages that “this liberation is unborn, because its practice is like magic.” Thus, it illustrates the all-pervasiveness of freedom of spirit encountered in Right Meditation, one which adorns the Unborn Principle that, through supernal-gnosis (Right Magic), eradicates the illusion of unwholesome phenomena.