The Generation and Cultivation of the Bodhi-Seed


Chapter Six: The True Nature of the Void, Con’t

Sariputra said, “[As the spiritual path of] all sentient beings begin as iccantikas (persons blocked from enlightenment). In order to attain the [level of] the tathagatas’ and the tathagatas’ absolute characteristics [of anuttara-samyaksambodhi (complete, perfect enlightenment)] how should the mind of an icchantika abide?”

The Buddha said, “From the mind of the icchantika upwards, until one reaches the tathagata’s and the absolute characteristics of the tathagata’s, one passes through five levels.

Wŏnhyo makes the following breakdown considering the “types” of icchantikas:

Those who have yet to arouse the mind of supreme bodhi are called icchantikas because they do not have decisive faith in the Mahāyāna. However, icchantikas are, in brief, of two types. Icchantikas who have make a great vow: they are those who refuse ever to access nirvāṇa. (2) Icchantikas who do not have great faith, which are also in two subtypes. One, disjoined icchantikas, meaning those who, by generating great perverse views, have eradicated their wholesome faculties (samucchinnakuśalamūla) [and fallen into the hells]. Two, conjoined icchantikas, meaning those who have not yet aroused the great mind [the thought of enlightenment] and thus lack great faith; everyone [at stages] up through the four fruitions of two-vehicle adherents [viz. stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner, arhat] is included at this level of icchantikas. Now, because this passage is given from the standpoint of this very last [type, the conjoined icchantikas], it states, “From the [level of] the icchantika’s mind up until one reaches the tathāgatas, [there are] five ranked levels.” This is because anyone who has not yet accessed the ten faiths is called an icchantika. [ibid. pg. 225]

From Wŏnhyo’s view, “conjoined icchantikas” covers all spiritual aspirants who have not yet gasped the One-Vehicle; also those who have not yet ascended through the Ten-Bhūmis.

It’s begs great consideration how the next five paragraphs in actuality depicts the growth and cultivation of the Bodhi-Child (hence, its spiritual career)—truly an amazing execution in this most marvelous sūtra.

“First is the attainment of [the ten] faith[s]. [A follower who has no faith previously,] now has faith that within his body is a seed of the Absolute-Thusness, which is being obscured by delusions. By relinquishing and abandoning the deceptive thoughts, the [primordially endowed] mind will be pure and taintless and one will know that all the sense-realms are only the discriminations of the mind and speech.

The Ten Faiths:

1. the mind that resides in faith,
2. the mind that resides in mindfulness,
3. the mind that resides in vigor,
4. the mind that resides in wisdom,
5. the mind that resides in samadhi,
6. the mind that resides in irreversibility,
7. the mind that resides in protecting the dharma,
8. the mind that resides in making transferences,
9. the mind that resides in the precepts,
10. the mind that resides in vows.

Once the foundation is laid, the Bodhi-seed is implanted—“a seed of Absolute-Thusness.” In its early stages this developing spiritual gotra is at first inflicted with a myriad obscurations. Gradually, in the self-realization of the Bodhi-Mind [primordially-endowed Spirit of Absolute Integrity in the Unborn] discrimination dissipates and deceptive thoughts and speech in the realms of impurity are brought to naught. The progress of this ascent are irreversible in themselves, yet an unwary adept, through excessive and perverse inclinations, can revert to the state of the disjoined icchantikas—thus aborting the developing fetus.

“Second is the attainment of contemplation [comprising the ten abidings, ten practices, and ten transferences,] where one is aware that all the sense-realms are nothing more than the mentation and verbalization [of the mind]. They manifest according to the mind’s discriminatory mentation and verbalization [tendencies]. The sense-realms perceived are not my (the tathagata’s) Absolute (base) consciousness. Understand that the Absolute (base) consciousness is not: a dharma, an essence, the sense-objects to which one clings, or the mind and the other sense-organs which cling.


Initially, a clarification of the contemplation on the [four] aspirations (paryeṣaṇā), which involves signlessness; subsequently, an elucidation of the [four] wisdoms that accord with reality (yathābhūtaparijñāna), which involves nonproduction. [pg. 227]

Being in accord with Absolute Wisdom-Reality AS-IT-IS (yathābhūtaparijñāna), nonproduction occurs which is the beginning of the dissipation of the skandhas. Thus, the sense-realms (body-consciousness) are realized to be not part of the Tathāgatas Absolute (base) Consciousness.


The preceding has been a generic elucidation of the aspirations that involve signlessness and the wisdoms that accord with reality. From here onward is a [specific] clarification [of the wisdoms that accord with reality, which involve] the principle of non-production [I.D.2.b.ii.a.2]. “I know that the foundational consciousness is neither a dharma, nor its object” means that it is neither a dharma, which is description, nor an object, which is the described, for he knows that concept and object are both subjective. “Nor [is the foundational consciousness . . . the perceived objects] to which one clings, nor that [perceiving subject] which clings”: since the dusty sense-objects, the perceived objects, are nonexistent, [mentality], the perceiving subject, cannot occur. The perceiving subject is perforce dependent on the perceived objects, and since there are no objects that are dependent, there is in fact no subject that is dependent. [pg. 228] 

“Third is the attainment of cultivation [from first to seventh bhumi]. Cultivation involves the constant generation [of bodhicitta, a mind set on awakening of the six paramitas] and training thereof. Both the generation and training are to be carried out at the same time. Initially [one should be guided by wisdom (preparatory view) to overcome all hindrances and difficulties. This is [how] one leaves and abandons all hindrances (sensual desire, hatred, sloth and torpor, restlessness and remorse, and doubt) and shackles (shamelessness, apathy, jealousy, miserliness, regret, sleepiness, excitement, lethargy, anger, and belligerence). 

In ascending the bhūmis [eventual maha] bodhicitta is cultivated: see blog that mystically translates this present stage of cultivation.

“Fourth is the attainment of practice. Practice means abandoning all practices. The mind is free from both acceptance and rejection, [manifesting] the extremely pure, fundamental benediction [of Self-Enlightenment].

The thusness of the mind is motionless, and one’s Absolute nature is being realized. This is the great parinirvana where [amongst the six elements (earth, water, fire, wind, void, and consciousness)] the void is the biggest (most powerful).

Wŏnhyo states that “the passage ‘to leave behind all the stages of practice’ means that this practice has surmounted all ten bhūmis.” [ibid, pg. 229] Hence, all further spiritual practices are now abandoned as mind’s development supersedes all secondary expedients in favor of the fundamental benediction that ushers in the “thusness of mind THAT is motionless.” The Bodhi-Child has now procured a Signless-generation—yea, the very pinnacle of the vajrasamādhi. Wŏnhyo notes that the Benye jing says, “Upon accessing the vajrasamādhi, its one characteristic is to be signless. Calm extinction is uncompounded, and it therefore is called the immaculate stage.” [ibid, pg. 230]

“Fifth is the attainment of detachment (perfect enlightenment buddhahood). Without abiding by its void nature, wisdom proper flows freely. Great compassion is characterized by thusness but that characteristic does not linger in thusness. The samyaksambodhi being void in nature, is therefore, nothing to be realized. [Such a] mind has no boundary and without focus. This is how tathagatahood is being arrived at.

The Bodhisattvas [developing gotra—Bodhichild] spiritual career now reaches its apex. Wŏnhyo says that “the great compassion that is free of conditions does not cling to the discriminative signs of person and dharmas; therefore, it says it is characterized by thusness.” [ibid, pg. 230] Nothing further needs to be self-realized. In the Thus ALL is relinquished—one does not even linger in the Thus. Tathāgatahood is not arrived at in any other fashion.

“Good man, [all] the five attainments arise from the One-Enlightenment and are accessed through the Self-Benediction [of primordial enlightenment]. [When one] helps transform sentient beings it must be from that Self-Base [of enlightenment].”

Sariputra asked, “How does one go about ‘from that Self-Base’?”

The Buddha replied, “Basically there is no origin. The functioning of [thusness] is without base. This Absolute void is the base-Reality [responsible for the manifestation] of everything. By generating bodhicitta (leading to realization of void nature of the mind that culminates in all the merits therein) one completes the sagely path (journey). Why? Good man! Like a hand grabbing air, enlightenment] is neither attainment, [as all dharmas are void of nature,] nor non-attainment [as all dharmas, being void of nature, arise out of co-origination].”

The Self-Base is the only base from which the spiritual transformation of sentient beings is self-effected. The Absolute [Unborn] Void “is the base-Reality” from which springs the generation of [Maha] Bodhicitta—the Great and Enlightened Mind Stream of the Tathāgatgas.

Sariputra remarked, “As the Lord has explained, at the beginning of one’s journey [of the five attainments], one should aim at the Self-Benediction of Self [Enlightenment]. Such a [state of] mind is calm and non-fabricating, and that calm non-fabrication is thusly. [Thusness] holds all the merits [of full enlightenment] and embraces all the Dharmas. This is perfect, nondual, fusion. It is inconceivable! We should know this Dharma is the mahaprajnaparamita (perfection of great wisdom). It is the great spiritual mantra, the mantra of great clarity, the unexcelled mantra, the unequalled mantra.”

The Buddha said, “So it is, so it is! This void-nature of the Dharma is thusly. As its nature is void, it is the fire of wisdom that incinerates all knots (defilements and sufferings). [Knowing all dharmas are void of nature] they are equal in every respect. The three [final] stages of complete enlightenment and the three bodies (dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, nirmanakaya) of sublime  enlightenment shine brilliantly, without shadows, in the ninth consciousness.

The One Spiritual and Unexcelled Mantra sings of the clarity of the void-nature of all dharmatas. To be one with the Trikaya is to shine brilliantly (through direct union with the Amala-consciousness) in the Supreme Imageless Realm of no-shadows—Nirabhasagocara.

“Good man, this Dharma is beyond cause or co-origination, since it is wisdom functioning of its own. It neither moves nor is it still, as its functioning is void in nature. Its essence neither exists nor does not exist, since the  haracteristic of the void is void [itself].

“Good man, when liberating sentient beings, one should guide them to access this essence [of the Absolute void] through contemplation. One who accesses this essence will meet the tathagatas [by virtue of the realization of the single dharmabody (dharmakaya) of all buddhas].”

Contemplation in its strictest sense here is “to instantly dwell in the dharmakaya is to instantly see, to instantly know and to instantly believe, without any fear of corruption or doubt, that what shines simply and clearly as itself, is simply itself and nothing else. [Yea] its awakening in the permanent kingdom of [ones] own absolute reality, the dharmakaya” [Tozen, Dharmakaya Sutra].

Sariputra remarked, “The essence of the contemplation of the tathagata means not lingering in any [mind-prompted] currents. One should abandon the four [ordinary] dhyanas (mental absorptions generated through concentration) as well as their limiting tops (heavenly states of such absorptions).”

The Buddha said, “So it is. Why? Because all dharmas are [merely] names and classifications. The four [ordinary] dhyanas [being object-based concentrations] are the same. [On the other hand,] if one meets the tathagatas (the realization of the single-body, the dharmakaya of all buddhas) [one’s own] tathagata-mind

[being the thusness, without coming or going] is [totally] liberated, eternally in a state of extinction, neither away from [that state] nor accessing it. [This is] because there is equality (no difference) inside or outside [the tathagata-mind].

Within the Dharmakaya of all Buddhas one enjoys the Supreme Contemplation without any coming or going. Wŏnhyo further expounds, “Neither withdrawing from [that state] nor accessing it” means that the mind-essence’s principle of thusness neither arises nor is extinguished. [ibid, pg. 238]

“Good man, similarly, all [types of ordinary] dhyana contemplations are absorptions directed towards the cessation of perception. But thusness contemplation, is not the same as those [types of dhyana]. Why? One who contemplates thusnes-upon-thusness has no perception (sign) that he is contemplating thusness. All the characteristics relating to thusness are already calm and extinct. Calm-extinction is the essence of thusness.

“The dhyana absorption [directed towards] the cessation of perception is, in fact, mental activity and is not [true] dhyana. Why? The nature of dhyana [proper] is detached from all [mental] activities. It neither taints nor is being tainted. It is neither a dharma nor its shadow. It is beyond all differentiations, since its essence is that of Self-Benediction. Good man! This contemplative absorption of thusness is to be called dhyana [proper].”

“Dhyana proper”, then, is not involved with the cessation of phenomena; it is rather a total and unequivocal “absorption of thusness.” Beyond all mental deficiencies and differentiations—neither the shadow nor the shadow-maker.

Sariputra asked, “It is inconceivable! The Tathagata constantly employs Reality which accords with the essence of thusness in liberating sentient beings. [Since] the essence has many meanings and is vast [in scope], only sentient beings with sharp faculties are able to cultivate it. Sentient beings of dull faculties will find it difficult to understand its meaning. Through what expedient means can those of dull faculties be led to access this Truth?”

The Buddha replied, “One should encourage those of dull faculties to receive and maintain one four-line stanza; [this will ultimately allow them] to access the truth of Reality. All Buddha-Dharmas can be condensed within a single four-line stanza.”

Sariputra asked, “What is the four-line stanza? I beg [the Lord] to proclaim it.”

Thereupon, the Lord recited the stanza:

The essence of everything created by causes and originations,
Such essence [being void] is extinct, beyond creation.
Essence that extinguishes all that is subject to creation-extinction,
Such essence [being void] exists and not extinct (beyond co-origination).

When the great assembly heard the proclamation of this stanza, all were joyous. Everyone awakened to the state where creations (phenomenal illusions) cease to arise [through their understanding of extinction and creation]. All [now having their mind silenced] awakened to the wisdom-sea of prajna on the nature of the void [as it is within the silent void that the inherent Self-Wisdom manifests].


Objects that are produced by causes and conditions”: this alludes to all dharmas that are associated with conventional truth. “Those objects are extinguished” fuses conventional with absolute; this means that the aspect of production is originally calm and extinct. “Unproduced” elucidates the reason why the aspect of production in fact involves extinction. Since the aspect of production is in fact “unproduced,” one will never succeed in discovering this aspect of production. Therefore, the aspect of production is identical to calm extinction (viz. nirvāṇa). “Extinguish all objects subject to production and extinction”: this refers to the dharma of calm extinction, which is associated with absolute truth. “And those objects will be produced” fuses absolute with conventional; this means that the dharma of calm extinction is produced from conditions. “Unextinguished” elucidates why this calm extinction is in fact production. Since this calm extinction is not calm and extinct, one may try to discover this aspect of calm extinction, but it can never be ascertained. For this reason, calm extinction is produced from conditions. “This calm extinction is in fact production” refers to the production that is unproduced. “The aspect of production is in fact extinction” refers to the extinction that is unextinguished. Because it is the extinction that is unextinguished, extinction is in fact production. Because it is the production that is unproduced, production is in fact extinction. To describe them synthetically (hap), while production is in fact calm extinction, it does not validate [lit. guard] that extinction; and while extinction is in fact production, it does not linger in production. Production and extinction are nondual; action and calmness are undifferentiated. It in this wise comes to be called the dharma of the one mind. Although in reality they are nondual, they do not “guard the one.” Thus, this suggests that the essence produces action in accord with conditions and, in accord with conditions, the essence becomes calm extinction. For this reason, production is calm extinction and calm extinction is production. They are unobstructed and unhindered, not one and not different. This is what is meant by the comprehensive and specific aspects of this one gāthā. [ibid, pg. 242]

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