Then the Bodhisattva of Marvelous Ease in Majestic Virtue 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.
“Blessed Honored One of Infinite Compassion! For the sake of this assembly you have finely articulated and clarified the sundry ways of being in accordance with the precise nature of Enlightenment, thusly empowering the Enlightened Mind of Maha-Bodhisattvas to become Illumined in your presence. Hearing your Majestic Voice, we all have gained great merit that is not dependent upon any form of religious practice.”
“World Honored One, it is similar to a great city exhibiting four gates, in such a marvelous fashion that it affords diverse sentient beings arriving from different directions to have more than one entrance. Similarly, all the Bodhisattvas that grace all the Buddha-lands and realize the Bodhi-mind are not limited to just one expedient method. World Honored One, my sole longing is that you expound to us all the various expedient methods and stages wherein Bodhisattvas in the assembly and all sentient beings in the Dharma-ending Age may quickly aspire to the Great Vehicle and Awakening, may also roam freely within the Tathagata’s Ocean of quiescent-rest.”
After invoking his pleas in three-fold fashion, he then once again prostrated himself on the ground before the feet of the Blessed One.
Bodhisattva Majestic Virtue: this particular Bodhisattva would be in great company with other ones who adorn the Great Avatamsaka Sutra; the following are just a few of such Noble Ones who are designated in that magnificent sutra:
Virtue Mountain Energy
Light of the Supreme Lamp of Universal Virtue
Light of Inexhaustible Virtue of Universal Purity
Great Light of Sovereign Virtue
Deep Beautiful Sound of Great Enlightened Virtue
Born of Wisdom with the Light of Great Virtue
Matrix of Virtues
Torch of Virtue
Born of a Polar Mountain of Virtue
Born of Radiance of Virtues
Light of Virtue
Star of Virtue
All of these Bodhisattvas embody Virtue through the purity of their intellectual powers. The most common attribution is embodying the Great Ocean of Pure Virtues, as the oceans are of water, so they become repositories of all virtues. Hence, enlightening beings are an ocean, a repository of endless treasures of virtue.
In the Entry into the Realm of Reality, part of the larger Avatamsaka Sutra, Sudhana expounds upon the virtuous nature of such benefactors:
Weeping as he thought of his memories of spiritual benefactors, he thought,”Meeting spiritual benefactors is a mine of jewels of all virtues; it brings about the purification and fulfillment of all enlightening practices; it purifies the mindfulness of all enlightening beings; it purifies all enlightening beings’ sphere of mental command; it generates the light of concentration of all enlightening beings; it fosters accomplishments of the vision of all buddhas; it causes the clouds of teachings of all buddhas to rain; it reveals the principles of the vows of all enlightening beings; it generates the inconceivable light of wisdom and knowledge; it strengthens and develops the sprouting faculties of enlightening beings.”
Certainly what Sudhana illustrates conveys a similar spirit in this present sutra.
Great city exhibiting four gates: although this clearly articulates the importance of various expedient paths to enlightenment, it is also foreshadowing something far more profound. Although there may be different paths, the one unifying factor is the One Mind that houses the sundry expedients. This is of course referring to what the Entry into the Realm of Reality proclaims as the Blessed Citadel of Mind:
Sudhana is address by a “city goddess named Jewel Eyes.” Here she exhorts Sudhana (and all authentic Mind Adepts) to guard the Blessed Citadel of Mind: “You should guard the city of mind, by not dwelling on enjoyment of mundane objects. You should adorn the city of mind, by concentrating on the ten powers of the enlightened. You should clean the city of mind, by getting rid of jealousy, envy, and guile. You should extinguish the burning of the city of mind, by meditating on all truths. You should expand the city of mind, by increasing the flow of great energy in preparing for omniscience. You should protect the dwellings, storehouses, and facilities of the city of mind, by command of the vast spiritual palace of all concentrations, attainments, meditations, and liberations.
You should illumine the city of mind, by absorbing universal transcendent wisdom in the assemblies gathered around all buddhas. You should make the city of mind firm, by putting the paths of means produced by all buddhas into the city of your own mind. You should build strong walls about the city of mind, by purification of mind in carrying out the vow of practice of universal good. You should make the city of mind invincible and impregnable, by being invulnerable to all afflictions and bad influences. You should light up the city of mind, by illumining all beings with the knowledge of the enlightened. You should irrigate the city of mind, by receiving the clouds of teaching of all buddhas.
You should firmly brace the city of mind, by absorbing into your own mind the oceans of virtues of all buddhas. You should broaden the city of mind, by suffusing all beings with great love. You should provide shelter, by producing the shield of all good ways in the vast canopy of the Teaching. You should water the city of mind, by feeling great compassion for all beings. You should open the doors of the city of mind, by giving of yourself and giving goods to all beings.
You should purify the city of mind, by turning away from passion for ephemeral things. You should make the city of mind steadfast and strong, by excluding all unhealthy elements from your body-mind continuum. You should energize the city of mind, by maintaining the energy to produce the provisions for omniscience.
You should illuminate the city of mind, by the illumination of recollection of the spheres of the buddhas of past, present, and future. You should know how to stock the city of mind, by examination, learning, and higher knowledge of the various doors of truth in the scriptures of the cycles of teaching of all buddhas.
You should know how to govern the city of mind, by showing all beings the path of entries into omniscience in various ways. You should know how to support the city of mind, by perfection of accomplishment of the vows of all buddhas of past, present, and future. You should know how to increase the power to provide for the city of mind, by increasing the great stores of virtue and knowledge from all realms of truth. You should know how to emanate light throughout the entire city of mind, by higher knowledge of the science of stripping away defilements from the minds, senses, and interests of all sentient beings. You should know how to control the city of mind, by embracing all the principles of the realm of reality. You should make the city of mind light, by the light of mindfulness of all Buddhas. You should know the essence of the city of mind, by penetrating the principle of non-substantiality of all things. You should observe the illusoriness of the city of mind, by going to the spiritual city of omniscience.”
* Yea, the Citadel of Mind is an Invincible Fortress; yet all of these wondrous attributes are but mere “illusoriness” in light of the “spiritual city of omniscience.”
THAT Spiritual City is the very Blessed Sanctum Santorum of the Unborn Mind wherein all sense of “otherness” is wholly eradicated in the impregnable and Deathless Face of imagelessness.
Maitreya also makes another bold proclamation concerning Sudhana’s spiritual advancement: He will develop the embryo of virtue.
Presently, the World-Honored One addressed Bodhisattva of Marvelous Ease in Majestic Virtue: “Most outstanding, most outstanding indeed! Reverent Virtuous One, for the sake of the assembly and sentient beings in the degenerate age you have masterfully queried the Tathagata concerning such expedient measures. Listen attentively and I shall explain it all before you.”
Bodhisattva of Marvelous Ease in Majestic Virtue became filled with reverential silence and listened intently along with the rest of the assembly.
“Virtuous ones, unequaled astounding enlightenment encompasses the ten directions. Due to its marvelous splendor there arises the Tathagatas and the Buddhadharma; thus in reference to the sundry practices there is no duality. Although there are apparently countless expedient measures for becoming completely attuned with the Bodhi-mind, if one were to categorize them according to the inclinations of each practitioner, generally there are three varieties.”
“Virtuous ones, upon awakening to Primordial Enlightenment it would fare well for Bodhisattvas to engage in the cultivation of stillness, as it would quell any lingering patterns of thought. In such fashion they will become aware of the nature of the agitated motion of consciousness, thus inducing the stillness of quiescent wisdom. They will see that their mind and its body-consciousness is composed of accidental particles of dust and can be properly extinguished. Because of this cessation the minds of all the Tathagatas in the ten directions are revealed like reflections in a mirror. This expedient is called śamatha (a preliminary exercise aimed at achieving Right Concentration—see Bodhisattva of Universal Vision for full definition).
“Virtuous ones, upon awakening to Primordial Enlightenment Bodhisattvas will realize the True Nature of the Bodhi-mind and clearly see that the six sense faculties and its projected objects are mere trinkets of illusion. They discern that by generating the trick-handle of illusions is a means of thereby eradicating them. By playing the role of the trick-master they will be able to enlighten the minds of sentient beings (being empowered to thus see the process behind these imaginary tricks) who are otherwise entrapped within their dream creations. Practicing in such fashion, Bodhisattvas gradually advance in their practice. In this manner all illusory marks are slowly dissolved, this cultivation is like a tiny seed sprouting forth from the soil. This expedient is called samāpatti.
Samāpatti: Attainment or equipoise; a state where the body and mind abide in a state of tranquil composure. Often, samāpatti refers to the four trances (*dhyānas), the four levels of the Formless Realm (*arūpya-dhātu), and the state of cessation (*nirodha-samāpatti)
Keown, Damien. A Dictionary of Buddhism (p. 246). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Some commentators equate it with samādhi, but this is not really correct. A correct rendering would be the stage prior to samādhi.
“Virtuous ones, upon awakening to Primordial Enlightenment Bodhisattvas use their newfound Bodhi-mind as a measure to no longer become attached to illusory movement, thus realizing the false mind and its body-consciousness to be mere obstructions. No longer becoming attached to the illusory movements of the carnal-mind, they permanently transcend both realms of hindrance and non-hindrance, thus using the former-movements of the false body-mind in whatever expedient measures they see fit. They are thus able to manifest in the phenomenal world without being pinned-down by its impediments. It can be likened to the wave-sounds of a ringing bell that penetrates all manner of phenomena. In this way both vexations and nirvana no longer hinder each other. Instead, they directly facilitate the quiescent stillness of extinction within. Thus is the awakened Bodhi-mind beyond the reach of the carnal mind and its body-consciousness. All sentient beings and phenomena are like passing driftwood upon the sea of vexatious intoxications. The use of this expediency is called dhyāna.
Dhyāna: (Skt., trance, absorption; Pāli, jhāna). A state of deep meditative absorption characterized by lucid awareness and achieved by focusing the mind on a single object (see CITTA-EKĀGRATĀ). A prerequisite for its attainment is the elimination of the five hindrances (*nīvaraṇa). A scheme of eight stages of dhyana was gradually evolved, with four lower assigned to the *rūpa-dhātu and four higher ones assigned to the *ārūpya-dhātu. In dhyāna all sense-activity is suspended, and as the meditator passes from the lower to the higher levels, mental activity becomes progressively more attenuated. Thus, in the first dhyāna, conceptualization (*vitarka) and reflection (*vicāra) occur, but in the second they do not. In the fifth dhyāna various supernormal powers can be attained (see ṚDDHI). The names of the *Ch’an and *Zen schools are both derived from the word dhyāna.
Keown, Damien. A Dictionary of Buddhism (p. 76). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
“Virtuous ones, these three practices are in perfect accordance with Primordial Enlightenment. The Blessed Tathagatas in all ten-directions Self-realize Buddhahood through these means. Similarly, the myriad expedient measures utilized by Bodhisattvas in all ten-directions, regardless of any similarity or differences, are activated by these three activities. If one can actualize all of these, then one is confecting Primordial Enlightenment.”
“Virtuous ones, if in one’s practice one should cultivate the sagely path thereby guiding hundreds of thousands of millions of people into arhatship and pratyekabuddhahood, one would never be equal to those who have heard this unobstructed Dharma-teaching of the Way of Primordial Enlightenment; this would be the same if this unsurpassed Way were only practiced for an instant.”
In order to reinforce this Mind-teaching, the World-Honored One spoke thus in verse:
Majestic Virtue, you should discern
that the unsurpassed Mind of
Primordial Enlightenment is fundamentally non-dual.
Even though the expedient measures
that are in accord with it are limitless,
the salient teachings of the Tathagatas
are essentially three in number.
In quiescent śamatha,
the mind is like a still-mirror reflecting the myriad of shapes.
Samāpatti, wherein all that is seen in phenomenal realms are illusory,
is likened unto a bud growing gradually.
Dhyāna leads to a quiescent spirit,
yet its functions can be likened to the wave-sounds of a ringing bell.
Thus, these three marvelous methods
are in full-accord with Primordial Enlightenment.
The Tathagatas and Bodhisattvas in all ten-directions,
come to realize Buddhahood through such measures.
The full-actualization of these three Dharma-methods
is referred to as “Absolute-Nirvana”.