Bodhisattva of Thorough Discernment

The Bodhisattva of Thorough Discernment 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 of Infinite Compassion, your guidance concerning these rare Dharma-techniques is wondrous indeed!”

“World Honored One, for all the Bodhisattvas engaged in the instruction and discipline of Primordial Enlightenment, how many different forms of expedient measures are there in awakening to this noble enterprise? For the sake of all present in this assembly, please expediently teach us in a similar fashion so that we may all be awakened to Absolute Reality.”

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 of Thorough Discernment: this Bodhisattva is graced with the ability to transform mental vexations into subtle discernment. This is done through Para-citta-jñāna, or the discernment or knowledge of the mind or the thoughts of others:

If a bodhisattva has acquired this abhijñā, his mind can truly discern the thoughts of other creatures and individuals. He discerns the mind that is subject to sensual desire, and the mind that is free from it. He discerns the mind that is full of hate, and the mind that is free from it. He knows the deluded mind as such and the enlightened mind as such, the sinful mind as such and the sinless mind as such, the small mind as such and the great mind as such. In the same way, he knows exactly if the mind of another person is or is not lofty, boundless, attentive, diffused, concentrated or un-concentrated, liberated or un-liberated, pure or impure, noble or ignoble.

(Har Dayal, The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature)

*The source quoted is an indispensable tool for aspiring bodhisattvas and is available in our Unborn Mind Library.

Attributes in conjunction with the disciplined and discerning mind:

Right Discernment:

This is renouncing literally “anything” that is less than full and unequivocal union with the Unborn. A complete “turn-about” from all forms of material and even spiritual satisfaction. All desire is killed-off, or as John of the Cross would say the “darkening of all desire.” Guided by the Light of Discernment we are set-free from all desires that are not centered on the Unborn. This also empowers us to be capable of a gnosis that is serene and an undivided awareness power (Bodhi) that is incorruptible. This is freedom from all illusion that is attained through the discipline of Right Discernment.

The Seven-fold Wisdom of Discernment:

There are seven-factors of mind modifications that need to be discerned:

Yearning for gnosis: the drive for the inner-knowledge that leads one to freedom.

Longing for freedom: there is no greater ideation than the longing to be freed from the diurnal wheel of samsara.

Desire for blissfulness: once the nirvanic quest is initiated, one yearns for the joy of consummation.

Finding satisfaction in active service: when the Bodhisattvic Resolve dawns in the mind of the adept, thus empowering others to acquire the same taste and thirst for liberation.

Transcending sorrow: once one applies the Wisdom of the Four Noble Truths to the equation of Self-Realization, then sorrow is placed in proper perspective and no longer becomes a determinative agency.

Conquering fear: the greatest ignorance that needs to be overcome; in particular the fear-generating agency of an imagination run amok.

A question of doubt: along the way to spiritual fulfillment, healthy doubt concerning obstacles standing in the way can be a good thing. Yet, once the Self-Recognition dawns, doubt about it can become your worst enemy.

Discernment Meditation (vipaśyanā):

vipaśyanā (Skt., insight; Pāli, vipassanā). One of the two main types of meditational technique taught in Buddhism, the other being *śamatha, or calming meditation. The technique leads to the direct personal apprehension and verification of the truth of Buddhist teachings, such as the cognition that all formations (*saṃskāra) bear the ‘three marks’ (*trilakṣana), namely that they are impermanent (*anitya), without self-essence (*anātman), and sorrowful (*duḥkha). This insight leads to entry into the *supermundane paths and to *nirvāṇa. Vipaśyanā thus leads to an intellectual understanding of doctrine, in contrast to śamatha which leads to a transic state of rapt absorption. It is normally recommended, however, that the two techniques be developed in tandem, since insight is hard to attain if the mind is distracted.

Keown, Damien. A Dictionary of Buddhism (p. 332). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

Presently, the World-Honored One addressed Bodhisattva of Thorough Discernment, ““Most outstanding, most outstanding indeed! Discerning one, for the sake of the assembly and sentient beings in the degenerate age you have aptly enquired from the Tathagata concerning such methods. Listen well, and I shall unfold it all before you.”

Bodhisattva of Thorough Discernment listened in reverent-silence with the rest of the assembly. 

“Virtuous ones, the innate purity of Primordial Enlightenment of the Tathagatas originally has no need of cultivation nor the one who cultivates. Those bodhisattvas and sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age who have not yet been enlightened depend upon illusory exertions in their cultivation. Hence, there are twenty-five various methods that are employed in hopes of initiating purity of mind.”

[The Tathagata next employs 25 meditative techniques revolving around the different variations of śamatha, samapatti, and dhyāna. This is due to the various dispositions of a practitioner. The adept is called upon to discern which method best corresponds to the inner-workings of their own spirit.]

“If Bodhisattvas engage exclusively in utter silent quiescence, thus severing all afflictions and centering unperturbed in the Unborn, they will successfully encounter Nirvana by practicing the technique of one-pointedness of mind derivative of śamatha.”

“If Bodhisattvas exclusively contemplate “all-as-illusion”, they will transform all worldly functions through the power of the Bodhi-mind. By maintaining mindfulness in deep quiescence, they will acquire the wisdom and equipoise that is derived by the spirit of silence. As such, these Bodhisattvas practice samapatti.

“If Bodhisattvas exclusively engage in extinguishing all illusions through non-action, they will successfully sever all vexations. With all vexations being completely severed, they will come to actualize Absolute Reality. These Bodhisattvas practice dhyāna.”

“If Bodhisattvas firstly engage in Absolute Quiescence, with the resultant Bodhi-mind being begotten in stillness, they will be empowered to shed illumination on all illusions and thus perform Bodhisattvic deeds. Hence, they practice śamatha first followed by samapatti.”

“If Bodhisattvas perfect quiescent nature through the innate wisdom of the Mind of Stillness, then all vexations are laid waste thus opening the deathless-door that transcends birth and death. Thus they practice śamatha first followed by dhyāna.”

“If Bodhisattvas utilize the wisdom that is begotten through stillness, and then begin to manifest all manner of illusory visions that induce beneficial transformations in the minds of sentient beings, they thus sever vexations by the power of the Mind of Stillness. Hence, they practice śamatha first, which is then followed by samapatti and ending in dhyāna.”      

“If Bodhisattvas firstly utilize the perfectly Quiescent Mind to sever all afflictions, and then secondly perform transformative techniques to free sentient beings, they then practice śamatha first followed by dhyāna and ending in samapatti.”

“Some Bodhisattvas use the Mind of Stillness to quell vexations; they liberate sentient beings and become established in the world. These practice śamatha first and subsequently samapatti and dhyāna.”

“Other Bodhisattvas use the power of quiescence to initiate transformations and then subsequently sever all vexations; they thus practice śamatha and samapatti combined followed by dhyāna.”

“Some Bodhisattvas utilize their quiescent-spirit to quieten the mind-flow, which in turn helps to transform the deafening-world. They are practitioners of synchronized śamatha and dhyāna, followed by samapatti.”

“There are some Bodhisattvas that utilize transformative-manifestation ability in accordance with various sentient needs, and in so doing perfect a quiescent spirit. They first practice samapatti followed by śamatha.”

“There are those Bodhisattvas whose transformative abilities help to create various realms, and in so doing realize a quiescent-spirit. These practice samapatti first followed by dhyāna.”

“If Bodhisattvas first utilize their transformational abilities performing Buddha-works, and then afterwards dwell in quiescence followed by severing vexations, then they practice samapatti first, followed by śamatha and then ending in dhyāna.”

“Other Bodhisattvas with their powers of transformation and manifestation are able to perform Bodhisattvic activities without anything hindering them; they then sever vexations and dwell in Stillness. These practice samapatti first, followed by dhyāna and then śamatha.”

“There are those Bodhisattvas that use their transformational abilities as expedient teaching methods; afterwards they dwell within with both utter stillness and a quiescent spirit simultaneously. They are called practitioners of samapatti, followed by śamatha and dhyāna in unison.”

“Some Bodhisattvas use their transformative powers to induce a quiescent spirit, and thereafter sever all attachments. They are known as practitioners of synchronized samapatti and śamatha followed by dhyāna.”

“If Bodhisattvas use their transformative powers as aids for severing all vexations, whilst simultaneously abiding in perfect quiescence, they first practice synchronized samapatti and dhyāna followed by śamatha.”

“Other Bodhisattvas utilize the power of severing all ills as an aid to perfect quiescence and afterwards dwell in the Mind of Stillness. They are called practitioners of dhyāna followed by śamatha.”

“Some Bodhisattvas utilizing quiescence give rise to Bodhisattvic-functions, yet are in perfect synonymous accord with both quiescence and function. These Bodhisattvas practice dhyāna first and samapatti next.”

“Other Bodhisattvas, with the aid of quiescence, can abide in the con-templation of stillness of mind right in the midst of vexatious phenomenal activity while still confecting their transformational abilities. They practice dhyāna first, followed by śamatha and then samapatti.”

“If Bodhisattvas use their quiescent abilities to engage in activity, then they can help purify the objective realm while at the same time returning to the contemplation of the Mind of Stillness. Hence, they practice dhyāna, followed by samapatti and concluding with śamatha.”

“There are those Bodhisattvas that firstly utilize their quiescence power, then abide in perfect mental equipoise thereby becoming empowered to induce transformational abilities. They practice dhyāna, followed by synchronized śamatha and samapatti.”

“Some Bodhisattvas utilizing quiescence-power, engage in utter Stillness of mind, and afterwards give rise to powers of transformational-manifestations. They practice synchronized dhyāna and śamatha and followed by samapatti.”

“Other Bodhisattvas, with their quiescence-power as a support, can thereby engage in transformational abilities that can purify and illuminate the world; as a result Luminous Stillness supervenes. These Bodhisattvas practice synchronized dhyāna and samapatti which in turn is followed by śamatha.”

“Some Bodhisattvas, using the Absolute Wisdom of Primordial Enlightenment, can harmoniously combine all these stated characteristics without never separating from Mind’s Enlightened Nature. These Bodhisattvas are known as perfected-practitioners in three-fold accordance with the intrinsic nature of the Unborn Spirit.”

“Virtuous ones, these are thus known as the twenty-five practices of Bodhisattvas. All Bodhisattvas practice as such. If all Bodhisattvas and sentient beings in the degenerate age wish to practice in such fashion, they must first uphold their Noble Spirit and abiding quiescently, contemplate and turn-about their mind from evil inclinations. Upon completing twenty-one days, you can settle upon whichever method best accords with your own manner of discernment. In accordance with whatever method best corresponds to your own spirit, you will become aware of whether your chosen practice is sudden or gradual. If however at such time you still contemplate one moment of doubt, then you will not be able to embrace your particular method.”

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

Most Thorough Discernment, you should discern,
that the pure and unobstructed Bodhi-mind
arises from deep samadhis.
The so-called śamatha
samapatti and dhyāna—
the three techniques of sudden and gradual practices,
has twenty-five variations.
All the Tathagatas in the ten directions,
as well as all practitioners in the three times,
come to realize the Bodhi-Mind through this Dharma—
the only exceptions being those of sudden enlightenment
and those who turn a blind eye to the Dharma.
Thus all Bodhisattvas and sentient beings
of the Degenerate Age
need to practice evermore diligently
in full accordance with these methods.
Hence, relying fully on the Tathagata’s Great power of Compassion,
before long they will fully awaken to the Nirvanic Mind.

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