The Jewel of the Buddha

The Ratna next turns to a comprehensive overview of the Three Jewels. First up: The Buddha as the First Vajra-point. The segment on the Buddha begins with a direct homage to the Tathāgata by highlighting prominent aspects of Buddhahood. Then it enumerates the eight qualities of a Buddha.

Takasaki:

(Kārikā 1)
I bow to the one, who has realized the Buddhahood
Which has neither beginning, middle nor end, and is quiescent,
And who, having realized himself, taught the Path,
Fearless and eternal, in order to enlighten the ignorant
And who, having in hand the excellent sword and thunderbolt
Of Wisdom and Mercy, cuts in pieces all sprouts of Sufferings,
And breaks the wall of doubts concealed
In the forest of various views.

The following translation of the text, The Changeless Nature—translated by Ken & Katia Holmes, is perhaps more mystical (Dharmakayic) in its import:

I bow down to the beginningless,
to the centreless and infinite,
to the perfect peace, the buddha,
fully self-awakened and self-blossomed,
who, once purified and expanded,
shows the fearless, permanent path
to bring realization to those with no realization
and who, wielding the supreme sword and vajra
of knowledge and compassionate love,
hews down the seedlings of suffering
and destroys the walls of doubt
surrounded by the dense forests of mistaken views.

Tozen, in his The Dharma of the Unborn Buddha Mindhighlights these verses in the singular-fashion of the Unborn:

Taking exclusive refuge in this distinctive realm of tatahagatahood, one is imperious to the great roaring wall of the evil one, that incessantly summons and seeks to entrap one in the diurnal wail of suffering and dissatisfaction in the forest of illusions.

This unsurpassed dharma, known to but a few in these days, is an unparalleled instrument in the skillful hands of a diligent one. 

One who has vanquished the illusion of the linear and has begun to understand the nature of the non-linear… 

Thereby defeating the illusion of time and believing wholeheartedly that one’s awakened passion and skill, will inevitably be the proper compass in exploring the vast Body of Truth within. 

A body that precedes one’s own temporal existence before every breath and every thought that one becomes aware of. 

In effect, slaying the false body consciousness with the great Manjushri’s imageless sword…

Takasaki:
§ 1. The Eightfold Quality of the Buddhahood.
What is shown by this [śloka]? (i.e.,verse)
Being immutable, free from efforts
And not being dependent upon the others,
[Also] Being endowed with Wisdom, Compassion and [supernatural]
Power [imparted by both],
The Buddhahood has two kinds of benefit.

By this verse there has been briefly explained the Buddhahood as being contracted by eight qualities. Which are the 8 qualities? Namely, 1) Immutability (asamskrtatva), 2) being free from any effort (anābhogatā), 3) Enlightenment, not dependent on others (aparapratyayâbhisambodhi) 4) Wisdom (jñāna), 5) Compassion (karunā) 6) [supernatural] power (śakti), 7) fulfilment of self-benefit (svârthasampad), and 8) fulfilment of benefit for others (parārthasampad).

Obermiller:

Āryāsanga on the Jewel of the Buddha

“Immutable” we know to be the reverse of that which is caused or conditioned. Now, caused (or conditioned) is that with which origination, stability, and destruction are experienced. The Buddha, being devoid of these 3 distinctive features is eternal, immutable, that which has neither beginning, middle, nor end. As such he represents the Unity of the Cosmos.

Through the perfect Quiescence of all Plurality and the Extinction of all thought-construction, (this Cosmical Body) is motionless and without effort. As it can be cognized only by means of the Introspective Transcendental Wisdom, it is not accessible to the cognition from without. Here the word “udaya” is to be understood in the sense of “thorough cognition,” but not in that of origination. The Buddha, having such an immutable and motionless character, nevertheless exercises his activity as long as the world exists, without effort, unhindered and uninterruptedly.’

The Buddha has thus come to the full Supreme Enlightenment, (the intuition) of this marvellous, unthinkable sphere of Buddhahood, this by means of his introspective Transcendental Wisdom, himself, without hearing from others and without the help of a teacher, and has cognized it in its unutterable nature. After that, in order that the other living beings who, being deprived of this knowledge, are like born blind, may likewise perceive the Truth, he has demonstrated the Path leading to this perception. On account of this we know him to be possessed of the Highest Wisdom and Commiseration. The Path (shown by him) is free from danger, as it leads out of this world and (is peculiar to one who attains) the Irretrievable State. The examples of a sword and a thunder-bolt illustrate both the Wisdom and the Commiseration of the Buddha as having the power of, respectively, annihilating the source of Phenomenal Life and that of Moral Defilement. Now, the root of Phenomenal Existence are the physical and the mental elements, as they become originated in the (3) spheres of this world. The root of Moral Defilement are the false doctrines and doubt which are preceded by the views maintaining the existence of a real individuality.

Here the Phenomenal Life, as consisting of the physical and mental elements, has the character of growth and can through this be compared with a sprout. The power of the Buddha’s Wisdom and Commiseration cuts down this sprout; it may accordingly be illustrated by the example of a sword. (The Obscuration of) Moral Defilement which is to be removed by means of intuition and which consists in doubt and incorrect views, cannot be pierced, that is to say cognized by the ordinary worldly knowledge. It is therefore like a wall surrounded by dense thickets, and the Buddha’s Wisdom and Commiseration which break down this wall have here the resemblance with a thunder—bolt.

The text next makes reference to the āna-āloka-alakāra-sūtra. Takasaki makes reference that this sutra, and others like it “expound on one hand the eternity of the Buddha and his acts which corresponds to the all-pervadingness of the buddhajñāna and form the basic idea of the Absolute.” (Takasaki, pg.36) In this sense, therefore, the Buddha as the Ultimate Reality, “is not something external that has to be achieved or attained, but a potential (emphasis mine) ability, called Buddha-nature, that has to be awakened (i.e., to be realized). And this Buddha-nature is inherent not only in human beings but also in every specific being and every concrete matter.”  (G.P. Malalasekera, from the intro to E. Obermiller, Uttaratantra: The Sublime Science of the Great Vehicle to Salvation, being a Manual of Buddhist Monism, pg.9) Takasaki makes reference earlier in his study on the basis for the Absolute-Realization:

Thus the absolutization of the Buddha consists in making the Buddha impersonal and this Buddha as the Absolute is called ‘dharmakāya’. At the same time, the term ‘buddha’ is originally applicable to any person as an adjective. Namely, anybody can become ‘buddha’ if he experiences and practices what the Gautama Buddha did; in other words, the state of ‘buddha’ is attainable as the result of practice. In this sense, the existence of an innumerable number of Buddhas is possible and even ordinary beings, though they are actually not the Buddha, are postulated to have the same nature as the Buddha. This same nature is called ‘gotra’ or ‘dhātu’ and the existence of this nature is explained by the expression ‘dharmakāyapa-rispharanatā’ or ‘buddhajñānântargama’-tva.

Besides ‘buddha’ and ‘bodhi’, there is another important term for the Buddhist Absolute. It is ‘nirvana’. This term was absolutized even in the Pali and in the Adhidharma Buddhism as an idea contrary to samsara and is stated to be the realm of peace (‘śāntipatha’). Mahāyāna Buddhism rebelled against the dualistic conception of Nirvana and Satnsāra and emphasized the oneness of both in the sense that Nirvana is the only reality; and Nirvana was regarded as synonymous with ‘dharmatā’, ‘dharmadhātu’, or ‘dharmakāya’.

And when Buddhism developed itself into Mahāyāna Buddhism, it could not but take the appearance of Monism as a result of Absolutization of the Buddha, and approach the Upanisadic thinking in its philosophy.

In this last point lies the significance of the tathāgatagarbha theory of this text. This theory is in one sense an inevitable result of the development of Mahāyānistic Monism in its religious expression. (Takasaki, pg.27-28)

Thus, we can discern that all of these attributes of the Buddha are bracketed by a Monistic-Absolute factor, without which Mahayana Buddhism itself would fall flat on its face. Yea, the True-Face is an Absolute One—the Dharmakayic Element from whose radiance reveals Its Essential Suchness inside all sentitalia—the Lord’s grace is deposited in everyone, yet few there are who dare make the effort to find and embrace it. Thus “the Jewel” of the Buddha is that Dharmakayic element.

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