Before commencing to the sutra, an exegesis of the very term Vajra-Samādhi is in order. Let us turn, then, to the skilled technician in dharma-samādhi itself, the Korean scholar-monk, Wŏnhyo. We have covered “Vajra” in many previous blogs, the term essentially meaning an adamantine diamond-like hardness and resiliency. It can bore-through everything, even deficient dharmas. Wŏnhyo breaks it down in the following manner:
The word vajra is a term that is used metaphorically: solidity is its essence; “to string together” is its quality. Vajrasamādhi also should be understood to have these two [aspects]: the edge of reality is its essence; its efficacy is to string together. “The edge of reality is its essence” means that it realizes the principle and probes the fountainhead [of the mind]. As a later passage says, “[It] realizes the meditative absorption [that knows] the true reality of dharmas” (KSGN, p. 608b).49 “Its efficacy is to string together” has these two senses: first, it shatters all doubts; second, it strings together all concentrations.
“It shatters all doubts” means that it provides explanations that resolve doubts. As a later passage says, “[It] is certain to excise doubts and regrets”; “It strings together all concentrations” means that this concentration can catalyze the functioning of all other samādhis in the same way that stringing together precious gems can make them functional [as jewelry, etc.]. As the Perfection of Wisdom in Twenty-Five Thousand Lines) says, “Why is it called vajrasamādhi? [Because] by abiding in this samādhi, one can shatter all samādhis.” Its Commentary says in explanation:
“Vajrasamāhi”: Just as there is nothing that adamant (vajra) cannot bore through, so too is it with this samādhi: among all dharmas, there are none that it does not penetrate. It can catalyze the functioning of all other samādhis in the same way that only Vajra can bore through amber, cornelian, and beryl.
As the Yogācāra[bhūmi-śāstra] says, “ ‘Samādhi’ means that there is meticulous investigation and one-pointedness of mind (cittaikāgratā) with regard to the sense-spheres…
“Vajrasamādhi.” This [samādhi] can shatter all dharmas and [thereby allow students] to access the nirvāṇa that is without remainder (anupadiśeṣanirvāṇa), where they will never again be subject to rebirth. It is just like real vajra, which can shatter all mountains, obliterating them completely without remainder. (Buswell: Cultivating Original Enlightenment: Wŏnhyo’s Exposition of The Vajrasamādhi Sutra pg. 50-52.)
The Vajrasamādhi Sūtra (Book of Adamantine Absorption)
(Taisho Tripitaka, No. 273)
We will be utilizing the translations suggested by JB, which includes (when appropriate) the translation by Buswell, all of which were originally translated by an Anonym during the Northern Liang Dynasty.
Chapter One: Prologue
Thus have I heard. The Buddha was once in the great city of Rajagrha (King’s House), on Mount Grdhrakuta (Vulture Peak), together with a great assembly of some ten thousand bhiksus (ordained monks), all of whom had attained the [full] arhat path. They included arhats Sariputra, Mahamaudgalyayana, Subuti, etc. Also present were some two thousand bodhisattvas, mahasattvas (adepts on their way to full enlightenment). Their names were Liberation (Vimukti) Bodhisattva, Mind King (Cittaraja) Bodhisattva, Non-Abiding (Apratisthita) Bodhisattva, etc.
Furthermore, there were eighty thousand elders (grhapati). Their names were Elder Chastity (Brahmacarya), Elder Great Chastity (Mahabrahmacarya), Elder Luminary (Jyotiska), etc.
In addition, there were devas, dragons, yaksas (demons), gandharvas (demigodmusicians), asuras (titans), garudas (mystical birds), kinnaras (half horses/half men), mahoragas (great snakes), humans and nonhumans Some six hundred million of them.
A most familiar setting on Vulture Peak which we have exegeted numerous times throughout these sutra-series; Wŏnhyo breaks it down as follows:
In this generic prologue [I], there are six components. The first three clarify that [the sūtra] was conveyed through the personal transmission [of the buddha himself]; the latter three authenticate the instructions of the Great Master. The first three aspects are (1) “thus,” (2) “have I heard,” (3) “at one time.” What are the latter three aspects? They are (1) the instructor [the Buddha], (2) the place and setting [Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa near Rājagṛha], (3) the congregation of followers.The congregation of followers includes these four types: (1) the śrāvaka congregation, (2) the bodhisattva congregation, (3) the congregation of elders [viz. the laity], (4) the congregation of various classes of beings. (ibid, pg. 58)
At that time the Lord was surrounded by the great assembly. He expounded a Mahayana sutra to them, entitled ‘The Practice and Benediction of the Single-Taste, Definite, Signless, Beyond-Creation, Absolute Reality of Self-Enlightenment’ (Vajrasamadhi Sutra). If one hears this sutra or retains only one four-line stanza of it, that person will be able to access the Buddha’s wisdom [in future]. He will be able to liberate, with appropriate expedients, sentient beings [who, in turn, can] become great spiritual mentors to all sentient beings.
Right up front we get a taste for the singular-function of this sutra that we covered in the recent blogs of this series. The Vajrasamādhi Sūtra is that singular vehicle that expounds on the singular nature of the One Dharma-Mind Vehicle Itself, yea, the very “fountainhead of the tathāgatagarbha that has a single taste.”
After the Buddha expounded this sutra, he folded [his legs] into full-lotus pose and entered into diamond absorption (vajrasamadhi), with his body and mind motionless. At that time, a bhiksu (ordained monk) in the assembly named Agada, rose from his seat [to pay respects to the Buddha]. He joined his palms together, with his right knee on the ground. Reiterating the essence [of the sutra expounded], he recited the stanza:
entered into diamond absorption (vajrasamadhi): We get the first sense here that the vajrasamādhi also connotes a meditational/contemplative praxis.
a bhiksu (ordained monk) in the assembly named Agada: Wŏnhyo expounds, “The name Agada means either “expeller” or “eliminator.” It is the name of an herb. Because it can completely cure any kind of illness, it is therefore called “expeller.” This bodhisattva is also just the same: he is named after this herb because he can cure all the illnesses—the defilements—of sentient beings.” (ibid, pg. 60
The Lord, the embodiment of compassion, With wisdom penetrating without obstruction, In order to ferry sentient beings across [to the other shore],Has explained the essence of the One-Truth. All this was accomplished via the path of Single-Taste,
Never by means of the Hinayana (incomplete realization). Where the taste of the essence has been spoken, It enabled all to abandon the unreal.
The sutra expounds that there is only one-taste of liberation, one that emanates from the One Unborn Buddha-mind Alone.
Accessing the wisdom-base
of all the buddhas,
That Absolute Reality,
The entire audience (now) knows how to transcend the world,
With no one unable to attain liberation (ultimately).
All the innumerable bodhisattvas,
Know how to ferry all sentient beings across (to the other shore).
For the assembly, they inquired extensively and profoundly,
On the calm-void
characteristics of all dharmas.
They accessed the Absolute domain [of enlightenment].
The Tathagata, through his wisdom and expedients,
Speaks so that [all beings] will be able to access Reality,
In accordance with the One-Vehicle,
Without extraneous tastes.
Like the soaking by a single rain…
The One Dharma of the Unborn Buddha Mind is the sole-vehicle that permeates all dharmata like a gentle soaking-rain shower.
Multitudes of plants grow verdantly.
According to the differences in their natures,
Being soaked by the Dharma of Single-Taste,
Everyone is completely fulfilled.
Just as being soaked by a single rain,
All their bodhisprouts
Accessing the Diamond-Taste
[of the diamond samadhi],
They realized the absorption of the Reality of dharmas.
They are determined to transcend doubts and regrets,
Through the seal of the One-Dharma.
Most pertinent verse for Lankavatarians who are privy to the singular-bodhiseed that grows within the Womb of Suchness Itself. The One-Dharma Mind Seal is thus made operative for all time. This has much to do symbolically with today’s accompanying image of the Buddha sitting on the Lotus (One Vehicle), his breast adorned (in the same fashion within the Lankavatara-sutra) with the Srivatsa. This is an inverted Swastika and signifies the One-Mind-Dharma-Seal of the Tathāgatas. Apart from that tragic and nefarious 25-year span of history in the early 20th century, this truly auspicious symbol continues to stand on its own, as it has throughout the millennium, in terms of universal-dharma-harmony. Thus, a true Lankavatarian need never fear nor feel ashamed in honoring it.