The Acts of the Buddha

In this fourth chapter we have arrived at the seventh and last Vajra-point—Ktya-kriyās, or the acts/functions of the Tathāgata.

Kṛtya literally means ‘what should or ought to be done, ‘right and proper’. Kriyā means ‘performance, doing or act’. Thus Tathāgata’s Kṛtya-kriyās would mean ‘the right and proper acts of the Tathāgata (Buddha) which he performs spontaneously for the welfare of all sentient beings.’ These are the activities of the Buddha or the “active means” through which he works for the welfare of beings, ultimately establishing them in Bodhi itself. The sole aim of the Tathāgata is that “every living creature without exception must achieve total understanding of ultimate truth.”

(C.D. Sebastian in his Metaphysics and Mysticism in Mahayana Buddhism: An Analytical Study of the Ratnagotravibhagomahayanottaratantra-sastram)

The chapter itself is divided into “spontaneous” Buddha activity that occurs innately and without any effort, and “unceasing” Buddha activity occurring ad finitum. Thus, Tathāgata-kṛtya-kriyās, or the Buddha’s “activity” remains continuous so long as the samsaric realm remains. His [actions] are continuous along the continuum of beingness. There are nine examples that illustrate this Tathāgata-kṛtya-kriyās:


(Kārikā 3)

Like Indra, like the divine drum,
Like clouds, like Brahma, and like the sun,
Like the wish-fulfilling gem, like an echo,
Like space and like the earth,—
Such is the Buddha [in his acts].

(1) The example illustrating the body is the appearance of the reflection of Indra in a lapis lazuli ground.

(2) The example for the speech exhorting [beings to practice] the
sacred Dharma is the drum of the gods.

(3) Clouds are the example for the way in which knowledge and
compassionate love pervade everything.

(4) The example illustrating the various illusory manifestations of
the body is Brahma, who without moving away from his own abode brings about the benefit of the gods of the realm of desire by means of an illusory appearance.

(5) The way in which light rays issue from the sun is the example
for the spreading radiance of primordial wisdom.

(6) The example for the inconceivable secret aspect of mind is a
precious [wish-fulfilling] gem that brings forth any necessities that are desired.

(7) The example for the inconceivable secret aspect of a tathagata’s speech is an echo resounding from a rock—the way in which an echo is not real and yet demonstrates various articulate sounds.

(8) The example for the inconceivable secret aspect of the body is
space, which is in no way existent and yet appears everywhere.

(9) The example for compassion fulfilling the benefit of others is the earth providing the basis for everything else.

(From The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra, by Arya Maitreya, translated by Rosemarie Fuchs)

It goes without saying that this chapter reinforces the Ratna’s emphasis upon how the Blessed Tathāgata always has the well-being of all sentitalia at heart. It is for the total-liberation of beingness that the Tathāgata undertakes the unceasing Kṛtya-kriyās, for the Tathāgata IS present in all AS the Essence of the Tathāgata-garbha. This also has much-ado about the all-pervasiveness of the Dharmakaya. IT is [Both] transcendent and immanent. IT is transcendent as the imageless and Ultimate Reality, but is also very much [present] in beingness as the innermost ground and perfect essence. Thus, although perfect In-Itself, It also [engages] Its [activity] Kṛtya-kriyās, in a spirit of effortless actuosity as long as conditioned-existence spins its samsaric-wheel. As long as Tathāgata-kṛtya-kriyās continues, the saving potential of [Bodhi] is translucently active in the heart of all.

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