Bodhisattva of Universal Vision

Then the Bodhisattva of Universal Vision arose from his seat in the sacred assembly, bowed and then prostrated himself at the feet of the Tathagata and then circumambulated about him three times to the right. He then knelt down and with hands clasped in a manner depicting sublime devotion, invoked the Blessed One.

“World Honored One, I humbly beseech thee on behalf of all Bodhisattvas in this sacred assembly and all sentient beings stricken by the degenerate age to please reveal the gradual stages by which Noble Bodhisattvas practice. How do they contemplate? By what do they abide in and fervently uphold? What expedient devices are employed to awaken the dormant bodhiseed in those who have not yet awakened?”

“World Honored One, if sentient beings lack these expedient measures and contemplation, then their minds will not comprehend the samadhi through which all things are recognized as mere illusions and thus never awaken to Primordial Enlightenment. I implore you to arouse your compassion and guide us through these expedient means of liberation.”

After invoking his pleas in three-fold fashion, he then once again prostrated himself on the ground before the feet of the Blessed One.

This chapter is the longest of the sutra and begins the process of directing the gradual stages by which one’s mind is aroused to awaken. Contemplation is the key element in this chapter and is actualized as a dharma-tool for proper cultivation of awakening. The name Bodhisattva of Universal Vision bespeaks the Light of Illumination that shines upon the clouded minds of all the composed. This Light pierces through the veils of darkest illusion by walking through step by step what needs to be expediently employed in order for this supernal illumination to take hold. Hence, Bodhisattva of Universal Vision implores the Blessed One to reveal the very methods that will initiate the best course of practice. The response occurs in the tone of a guided meditation that fine-tunes the process of Right-Contemplation.

Presently, the World-Honored One addressed the Bodhisattva of Universal Vision: “Most outstanding, most outstanding indeed! Noble One, for the sake of the assembly you have masterfully enquired about the gradual stages of cultivation, the use of Right Contemplation, and the expedient means that are to be employed for both. Listen-well, as I shall now reveal it before you.”

Bodhisattva of Universal Vision overflowed with joy and listened attentively with the rest of the assembly.

“Virtuous ones, those newly initiated Bodhisattvas and sentient beings in this degenerate age that aspire towards the Tathagata’s Primordial Enlightenment must first transcend their illusory realms by partaking in the Shining One’s practice of śamatha, as well as adhering to the precepts. Thus is the stage set for practicing with like-minded resilient ones, retiring to a secluded room for contemplation.”    

Śamatha: śamatha (Skt.; Pāli, samatha; calming). One of the two main types of meditational technique taught in *Buddhism, the other being *vipaśyanā or insight meditation. It is normally recommended that the two techniques be developed in tandem since they complement one another. The primary aim of śamatha is to achieve the state of mental absorption known as ‘one-pointedness of mind’ (*citta-ekāgratā), in which state the mind remains focused unwaveringly on its meditation subject. When the mind is calm and focused in this way it can successively attain the eight *dhyānas (Pāli, jhānas) or trances. By contrast, vipaśyanā meditation leads to the intellectual understanding of doctrine and depends upon the mind being in a state of conscious awareness. Methods employed include focusing on an external object, known in *Pāli sources as a *kasina, or by concentrating on any of the 40 traditional meditation subjects. These practices lead to physiological changes in the body and an altered state of consciousness which is amenable to spiritual development. The practice of śamatha frees the mind from distractions and removes mental impurities such as the five hindrances, which are left behind on the attainment of the first dhyāna.

(Keown, Damien. A Dictionary of Buddhism (pp. 246-247). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.)

Essentially, śamatha is a preliminary exercise aimed at achieving Right Concentration. Once this is activated then deeper one-pointedness of Mind in Deep Samadhis can occur unhindered.

“Always be mindful that your mortal carcass is composed of the four elements. It is constructed with such things as hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, marrow, and brain, all belonging to the earth element. Spittle, mucus, pus, blood, saliva, sweat, phlegm, tears, semen, urine, and excrement all belong to the element of water. Warmth belongs to the element of fire. Motion belongs to the element of wind. When the four elements are disbanded, where is this illusory body? Thus one knows that the psychophysical construction ultimately has no substance and owes its appearance to the union [of the four elements]. In reality it is not different from a phantasmagoria.

As these four factors temporarily form as a composite, the six sensate faculties come into play, which is a false cognition of conditionality. All of this becomes bundled together and forms into a false image of mind. If this phantom mind is lacking in its six objects, it ceases to function. Thus, when all the elementals are rendered vacuous, the false and dependently arisen mind-construction dissolves away.”

“Virtuous ones, when the illusory body of sentient beings dissolves away, the false mind-constructs likewise vanishes. When the illusory mind-constructs fade, just so does the six sense objects. When all false-mind constructs are disbanded, illusory disbandment itself vanishes. That which is not subject to disbandment does not vanish. It is similar in fashion to the polishing of a mirror: when all the defilements are wiped away, its natural brightness appears. Remember that both the body and its false-body consciousness masquerading as mind are extinguished, then the Clear Light of the Unborn Mind shines through.

There is a similar formulation found within the Vajrasamādhi Sutra series:

“If a person conceives that the mind exists, he should be led to abandon [the view that] the nature [of the mind] is subject to creation. If a person conceives that the mind can be extinguished, he should be led to abandon [the view that] the nature [of the mind] is subject to extinction. Once all the views about the nature of the mind are extinguished, he immediately accesses Reality. Why? Because whatever that is basically unborn (not subject to the process of birth/creation) is beyond extinction [since everything arises and diminishes through co-origination]; and whatever that is extinct [being devoid of nature] is beyond creation. This is the same with all the dharmas.”

“Virtuous ones, it can be likened unto the beloved mani-pearl that can reflect the full colors of the spectrum, depending upon its immediate surroundings. The worldlings perceive the mani-pearl as being dependently constitutive of these colors whereas in reality it is not. Similarly, the Unborn nature of Primordial Enlightenment also can manifest as its surroundings, such as body and mind and sentient beings; yet the foolish ones consider the essential purity of the Unborn Mind as also being dependently constitutive of mind and its false body-consciousness. Hence, they are unable to detach from their own illusory mind. The carnal mind with its body consciousness only reflects its own illusory defilements. Whereas Bodhisattvas are able to shed their illusory sheaths of both body and mind. The result is that once the defiling opposition is removed there is also no corresponding carnal agent there to name any false distinguishments.  

mani-pearl: the old books reference it best as, “A fabulous pearl (v. Sapta ratna) which is ever bright and luminous, therefore a symbol of Buddha and of his doctrines.” (Eitel, handbook of Chinese Buddhism).

Also, if the Mani Pearl is put into unclean water, the water changes and becomes pure. In one-pointed concentration of mind and spirit, focusing on the beloved Mani-Pearl of the Unborn Mind, all manner of soiled dharmata vanishes and the surrounding ambience is nothing but pure clarity.

Kihwa states, “The reason he uses the mani-pearl as a metaphor is to show that enlightenment is originally pure and that it is body and mind which are illusory filth. After he causes them to be free from defilement, he also causes them to be completely free from any sentiment of freedom from defilement. Therefore, he says: ‘When filth is gone, its opposition is removed …’”

Our series on Bodhidharma states:

Liberation is a twofold affair: an awakening bodhi-seed within a mortal transient-mind liberates the hidden Bodhisattva whose potentiality culminates in Buddhahood. As stated earlier, suffering-afflictions can be the catalyst that sparks the awakened-drive for bodhipower; in like fashion, once the bodhi-seed is activated affliction is negated. Affliction/Awareness are both impartial characteristics since their shared, undifferentiatiated root is sunyata. One is the catalyst for liberation and the other is liberation self-realized. Perhaps the greatest paradox in all this is that the path to Buddhahood is not a self-induced affair, but rather is mysteriously and indelibly linked with soiled elements that contain the hidden mani-pearls of Noble Wisdom—much like the Lotus rising from the depths of the dung-heap in order to blossom.

“Indeed, the Unborn Buddha Mind is the great mani-pearl that does not enslave, but rather luminously eradicates the dark evil one, Mara, whose own dictatorial and materialistic hold can render impotent one’s spirit that has forgotten its True Primordial Source. The Place of this Precious Mani-Pearl of Noble Wisdom is location-less, It is not determined in terms of any measurable quotient within the creative sphere; It is spacelessness and timelessness Itself.”

From Tozen:

The true lotus free to blossom on its own accord Mind unbound, uncreated, radiating in all ten directions perfectly illuminating a thousand dharmas. How can petty desire or delusion of the worldling recollect such a thousand-fold instant wisdom? This most sacred and unborn mani-pearl is always radiant and clear. Who is he to defile its original bright nature with notions of good or evil? The pure desire to awake is what drove Prince Gautama to recollect what was always there for him, guided by the light of countless Tathagatas.

“Virtuous ones, when Bodhisattvas and worthy sentient beings in this Dharma-ending age can give full witness to the Real by dispelling all images, then they shall experience boundless purity in mind and spirit. Because Primordial Enlightenment is marvelously illuminating, it reveals the secrets of Pure Bodhimind. When the Clear Light of Mind shines through, all surrounding dharmata is discerned as pure. When vision is pure, the eye faculty is pure. Hence, it follows that the rest of the faculties become pure when bracketed by the Unborn.

“Virtuous ones, when the six sense objects become pure, then all of the elements likewise is discerned as pure. Hence, when the four elements are pure, the twelve entrances, the eighteen realms, and the twenty-five existences are pure. Because these are all pure, it follows that the ten powers, the four kinds of fearlessness, the four unhindered wisdoms, the eighteen exclusive attributes of the Buddha, and the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment are also pure. The same holds true for the purity of everything all the way up to the eighty-four thousand dharani doors.”

*Muller’s notes run as follows:

The Twelve Loci and the Eighteen Realms are closely related concepts developed in Buddhist epistemology. The Twelve Loci are the six sense organs and their objects. The Eighteen Realms are the six sense faculties, their six objects, and the six consciousnesses that link the faculties and the objects.

The Twenty-Five Kinds of Existence are a subdivision of the three realms that sentient beings transmigrate through into twenty-five further specific states of being.

There are fourteen of these existences in the Desire realm, seven in the Form realm, and four in the Formless realm. These are grouped into: the Four Evil Destinies, the Four Continents, the Six Heavens of Desire, the Four Meditation Heavens, the Heavens of the Five Pure Abodes, and the Four Spheres of the Formless Realm.

The Ten Powers are ten kinds of powers of awareness specially possessed by the Buddha, which are perfect knowledge of the following: (1) distinguishing right and wrong; (2) knowing the karmas of all sentient beings of the past, present, and future; (3) knowledge of all forms of meditation; (4) knowledge of the relative capacities of sentient beings; (5) knowledge of what sentient beings desire and think; (6) knowledge of the different levels of their existence; (7) knowledge of the results of various methods of practice; (8) knowledge of the transmigratory states of all sentient beings and the courses of karma they will follow; (9) knowledge of the past lives of all sentient beings and the nirvanic state of nondefilement; (10) knowledge of the methods of destroying all evil passions.

The Four Kinds of Fearlessness, or utter conviction in preaching the dharma, that are possessed by a buddha are: (1) fearlessness in asserting that he has attained Perfect Enlightenment; (2) fearlessness in asserting that he has destroyed all defilements; (3) fearlessness in showing people those elements that hinder the realization of the dharma, and (4) fearlessness in expounding the method of liberation.

The Four Types of Unobstructed Wisdom are: (1) no mistake in teaching; (2) no lack in regard to understanding the internal meaning of the teaching; (3) “unhindered speech,” that is, the understanding of all languages; and (4) “unhindered ease in explanation,” which is the free use of the above three in the effort of saving all sentient beings.

The Eighteen Distinctive Characteristics of the Buddha in East Asian Buddhism are unmistaken thought, word, and deed; mind of equality toward all beings; stable mind in meditation; all-embracing mind that rejects nothing; the power of not backsliding in terms of the aspiration, diligence, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom toward the salvation of all beings; the power of not falling back from freedom into bondage; the manifestation of wisdom power in thought, word, and deed for the purpose of saving all beings; immediate total knowledge of all affairs of past, present, and future.

The Thirty-seven Aids to Enlightenment are thirty-seven kinds of practices for the attainment of enlightenment. They are: the Four Bases of Mindfulness, the Four Right Efforts, the Four Occult Powers, the Five Roots of Goodness, the Five Powers, the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, and the Eightfold Holy Path.

The 84,000 Dharani-Entrances, means “all the Buddhist teachings.” Eighty-four thousand should be understood to mean an infinitely large amount, due to the limitless possibilities of explanation of reality to sentient beings.

“Virtuous ones, since the nature of Absolute Reality is pure, all the multitudes of bodies are pure. As a reflection of this, all the sentient beings in the ten-directions are primordially enlightened with the purity of the Unborn. Similarly, the multitude of worlds are inherently pure. Hence, nothing is exhausted in the vast emptiness of space; the three times are impartially equal and primordially motionless.”

“Virtuous ones, since the emptiness of space is equalized and unmoving, as well as everything up to the eighty-four thousand dharani-entrances are also as such, you should realize that the Primordially-Enlightened Mind is equally unmoving.”

“Virtuous ones, the Primordially-Enlightened Mind pervades everything, including the six faculties and the four elements and the accompanying dharani-entrances—all-pervading the pure-field of the Dharmadhātu”.

“Virtuous ones, the indestructible light-fields of the Dharmadhātu are indestructible. This can be likened unto hundreds of thousands of lamps illuminating a room—the illumination pervades all.”

These verses are reminiscent of our series on Vasubandhu and the Absolute:

Absolute Reality is a Universal. Its essence is Monism. It appertains to all the separate Elements (of Relative Reality which in their ultimate essence are not divided in the two parts of subject and object). Since it is impossible otherwise to demonstrate the varieties (of what is unique in itself), its division into varieties is made from the standpoint of those (phenomenal) objects (in which Reality is concealed).


The Bodhisattva absorbed in deepest meditation during a fit of transic enlightenment intuits the Absolute Reality behind the veil of the phenomenal Relativity of the four categories of these cognizable objects (viz. the sense faculties, the sense objects, the body and the world); (he intuits directly the unique Reality concealed by the manifoldness of phenomena). But (when the trance is over and) he realizes the same Absolute by attentive discursive (conceptual) thought, a new form of the objectivizing habit manifests itself.

[The Dharmadhātu should be understood as the actual matrix in which these all-pervading qualities arise—inclusion mine]

“Virtuous ones, since the enlightenment of Bodhisattvas is fully perfected, they are thus never bound nor freed from dharmas. The Bodhisattva never loathes the samsaric-nature of birth and death nor ever clings to a notion of nirvana. They never venerate those who uphold the precepts nor condemns those who violate them. They never hold in awe experienced practitioners nor look down upon those who are novices. And why? Because originally all sentient beings are already One with the Primordial Mind of Enlightenment. Thus is the perfect clarity of the Unborn vision. Its clarity is non-dual and thus has neither likes nor dislikes.

Again, from Vasubandhu and the Absolute:


This means that when a Bodhisattva has attained Omniscience a complete revulsion in the foundations of his personality has taken place, he is another being, a Superman {Advanced Yogin-Yogini}. In accord with this Fundamental Transubstantiation, (in accord with) whether it has not yet taken place or already taken place, the Absolute is distinguished as being either impure or pure.

(Ordinary men) are bereft of (transcendent) knowledge, they are in the grips of the habit, of distinguishing object from subject, their mentality is infected by emotional and (intellectual) blemishes, they fail to understand or they misunderstand (the problem of the Absolute). To them the Absolute is not revealed. For them it is distinguished as being impure.

But in respect of the Noble Ārya who have attained Omniscience, whose intellect is infallible, the Absolute Reality appears (eternally) without any interruption as pure, as dustless pure ether; for them it is declared to be free from all (phenomenal) impurity.

“Virtuous ones, these Bodhisattvas and sentient beings in the degenerate age who have mastered Mind-cultivation have, in Absolute actuality, never cultivated anything. Primordial Enlightenment is pervasively illuminating and remains perfectly still, without duality. Countless Buddha-realms as innumerable as the grains of sand in the Ganges, are likened unto flowers appearing in the sky—arising and then perishing. There is neither bondage nor liberation as one awakens to the realization that sentient beings are already perfected-Buddhas; notions of samsara and nirvana are likened unto yesterday’s daydream. Since they are “the stuff that dreams are made of”, samsara and nirvana neither arise nor cease. Hence, in what is actualized nothing is gained nor lost, neither grasped nor rejected.  Ultimately, though, there is neither actualization nor one who self-actualizes. Thus, the True Nature of all Dharmas is equal and indestructible.”

“Virtuous ones, thus should one practice, progressing through these gradual stages, thus engaging in Right-Contemplation, upholding and utilizing expedient methods, and in turn becoming enlightened. If one engages in this form of Dharma, then they will never be bewildered ever again.”

In order to reinforce this Mind-teaching, the World-Honored One spoke thus in verse:

Universal Vision, you should know
full-well that the bodies and minds of
sentient beings are in Truth only illusion.
The body is composed of the four elements
and the mind is reducible to the six objects.
When the four elements dissolve,
what could possibly be left as the unifier?
If one practices in this gradual manner,
all will be seen as Primordially-Pure.
The nature of Primordial Enlightenment
Is unmoving and is all-pervasive like the Dharmadhātu.
Recognizing all dharmata in their True Nature,
there is no separate-one who self-actualizes.
All chimeric-Buddha realms are like flowers in
the Sky of Mind.
The three-times are impartially equal,
with no coming nor going.
All newly initiated Bodhisattvas and sentient beings
In the degenerate-age who excel in the Buddhadharma,
should cultivate themselves in this manner.

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