The Celestial Palace of Akanishṭha

  1. [Cleary]: For mind is the womb of what’s in the triple world, for this wandering mind is seen here and yon; knowing the state of this world to be thus, unreal, one should not imagine the world.

Oftentimes I would find myself being uncomfortable with the Lanka’s admonition to silence the faculty of imagination. From time to time I’ve used this faculty in many a creative fashion, like on my YouTube Bodhichild channel. After much reflection on this, I’ve come to the realization that the Lanka is not saying to banish forever the creative-side of this faculty; indeed, the very composers of the Lanka oftentimes drew heavily upon their active-imagination to illustrate the Buddhadharma. Imagination, for the Lanka, means the incessant yearning to create image after image after image. Of course, [image] entails much here—like the intellect, the use of all the sensate faculties, memory, etcetera…anything apparently concretized in this wooden-world we live in but in reality is only fleeting and eventually dissolving away like a mirage in the sultry desert wastelands of Samsara. Hence, the discriminative-side of imagination needs to be curtailed. If not, then the possibility of a million Chimeric Realms will descend and keep you preoccupied in its discriminating-grasp for many eons to come.

  1. The ignorant because of their stupidity see [an objective world] as taking its rise and disappearing, but he who has transcendental knowledge sees it neither rising nor disappearing.

One instilled with Buddhagnosis considers the world and all sentitalia for what they truly are—phantasms. The focus needs to be on THAT which never arises nor cessates.

  1. Those who are always above discrimination, in conformity with truth and removed from mind and its belongings, are in the celestial palace of Akanishtha where all evils are discarded.

Akanishṭha is the highest realm of the Buddhaic-heavens. It is the abode of the Adi-Buddha—for a good overview of Adi-Buddha, or Samantabhadra, see The Tathāgatagarbhatārā Tantra which describes it as THE Mind-realm, or heaven of Samantabhadra; indeed, the Highest-Mind Realm within the Buddhaic Cosmology. Further references points to it being the highest Elysian Fields of Adi Buddha. For the ancient Greeks the Elysian-Fields were the highest light-heavens in which mortals or demigods would ascend.

In another sense, Akanishṭha can serve as a metaphor pointing to all manner of Light-Domains that await those who are spiritually diligent. Jesus talked about it as being “many rooms in my Father’s House.” In similar fashion, there are an infinite number of Buddha-fields being specially-prepared for those who are astute and sincere in their studies and meditations.

  1. Such attain the powers, psychic faculties, and self-control, are thoroughly adept in the Samadhis, and are there [in the heaven] awakened to enlightenment; but the transformed ones are awakened here [on earth].

Cultivation on this spiritual path can be long and arduous for most, yea they may even become fully adept and graced with great Siddhis. But their Ultimate and Undivided Enlightenment (Anuttara ssamyak sambodhi) awaits them on a different plane. Whereas, says the Lanka, those transformed ones (transformed by the thusness of the Tathagata) find themselves self-naturally Buddhas even in this present saha-realm. The Dhammapada in Light of the Unborn describes these as those Noble Shining Ones, those who have crossed-over to the farther shore of the Law of Illumination, who have transcended both form and no-form and thus dwell in Nirabhasagocara. (the Imageless Realm of no-shadows) Suzuki also highlights their spiritual progress in his Studies in the Lanka:

“0 Mahamati, by deeds of great love (mahdkarund), skilful means (updya), and effortlessness (andbhogacaryd), a Bodhisattva reviews all beings and knows that they are like maya, they resemble shadows, they are not produced by causes; and, further, knowing that the world exists not outside the mind, he leads a life of formlessness (animitta).

As he gradually goes up the higher stages (bhumi), he will realise a state of Samadhi where he comes to the understanding that the triple world is Mind itself (cittamdtra). The Samadhi he attains is called Maya-like (mdyopama). He will further free himself from all images, perfect his knowledge, and realise that things are unborn, and entering upon the Samadhi called Vajravimbopama, will obtain the Buddhabody.

He will, always abiding in the suchness of things, manifest himself in transformed bodies, he will be endowed with the ten Powers, the six Psychic Faculties, and the ten fold Self-mastery. 0 Mahamati, adorned with Upaya (skilful means), he will visit all the Buddha-lands; and disengaged from the philosophical doctrines as well as from the Citta, Manas, and Vijnana, he will experience a revulsion (paravritti) within himself and by degrees will attain the Tathagata-body.” (Suzuki, Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra, pg, 97-98)

Thomas Clearly nicely combines numbers 40 & 41: For countless tens of millions of projections of Buddhas issue forth;  everywhere the undeveloped listen to them, hearing the truth, free of beginning, middle, and end, beyond being and nonbeing, all-pervasive, immovable, pure, unvaried, source of variety,  concealed by a multitude of representations, dwelling in all living creatures.

Of course the Sutras themselves are filled with references when a given transformation-body is expediently manifested given the local circumstances of sentient beings. It does depend on the audience and the way a particular teaching-stance is presented. Mañjuśrī articulates this best during his monology in the Lotus Sutra:

Mañjuśrī goes on to explain that this Buddha employed different expedient means for each of the three vehicles:

To those seeking for the śrāvaka vehicle he taught the Dharma with respect to the Four Noble Truths, causing them to overcome birth, old age, illness, and death and to attain nirvana. He taught the Dharma with respect to dependent origination to the pratyekabuddhas; and to the bodhisattvas he taught the Dharma with respect to the six perfections (pāramitās), causing them to attain highest, complete enlightenment and perfect all-knowledge (sarvajnātā).

Śrāvaka: this is the “voice-hearers”, the early followers of the Blessed One who were taught the outward form of the Four Noble Truths; thus they are known as followers of the Śrāvakayāna, or Vehicle of the Hearers.

Pratyekabuddhas: these are those solitary practitioners who come to know the Buddhadharma primarily through their own efforts without the outside aid of any teacher.

Bodhisattvas: the awakened Bodhi-beings of the Buddhadharma, who are formed through the six perfections, or pāramitās.

  1. There is an essence entirely covered by thought-constructions and hidden inside all that has body; because of perversion there is Maya; Maya [however], is not the cause of perversion.

Remember, illusion itself is not the cause of your ignorant choices. A Tozen teaching nicely observes:

If you ever get lost on your path, it is because you are caught up in an endless fight with the images in every layer of this wall of ignorance, not the wall itself.

  1. [Cleary] It is by confusion of mind that anything seems to be there, veiled in two natures projected by the receptacle consciousness, the world consisting of representation, the flood of views, phenomena and personality.

The two-natures represented here is in reference to the two Svabhāvas: parikalpita, imagination and paratantra, reality (Suzuki).

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