A Phantom Elephant

  1. If such errors were granted, it would not be possible to talk about the non-existence of self-substance; as the nature of reality is erroneously understood, there is something perceived where there is really no self-substance; all is indeed non-existent.

When the Lanka uses the term substance, it does not denote the stuff that makes up the apparent base of the material world. It has more significant value as an esoteric-metaphor reflecting the unconditioned Mind. The real-stuff of the Mind-set is an imageless substance. This is why Huang Po once warned not to utilize the Mind-set to conceptualize, in essence being encased in formal-ideations, but rather to stay perpetually-present to the Substance of the One and Undivided Unborn Buddha Mind. As the Zennist eloquently writes:

I am aware of the difficulty of what it takes to see this substance in light of the fact that what is going on inside our heads is a conceptual performance that has never been stopped for even a split second.  We have even learned to deceive ourselves believing that half of us is already the unconditioned Mind or Buddha Mind while the other half (the conceptual part) we only need to overpower or suppress which can be done by the practice of meditation or xichan (習禪) which we understand to be a physical practice.  But such an approach while helpful is less important than first understanding our “mission impossible” which is to inwardly see pure Mind, the substance.

Thus, in Lankavatarian phraseology, Absolute Substance reveals the Pure Mind in its [Suchness], for such is the Mind-stuff so marvelously arrayed.

  1. What is seen as multiplicity is the mind saturated with the forms of evil habits; because of mental delusions one clings to forms and appearances regarding them as objective [realities].

The Lanka is adamant about the nature behind the apparent multiplicity of existence—it eventually becomes absorbed with all manner of evil habits. And once held spellbound by these jailors of the mind, nothing but self-destruction will be the end result. By removing the shrouds of these maleficent agencies, the unconditioned Mind-set can reconstitute its primordial-staturehood in the Unborn.

  1. Discrimination is cut asunder by non-discriminating discrimination; the truth of emptiness is seen into by non-discriminating discrimination.

What first appears here to be Orwellian double-speak, in fact it’s stating something significant in terms of [discernment] that we covered in our last blog. Once again, non-discriminating discrimination is about developing the fine art of Right Discernment that accurately distinguishes the true from the false.

  1. Like an elephant magically created, the golden leaves in a painting, the visible world is to the people whose minds are saturated with forms of ignorance.

Although cast in a negative light here as a “Phantom Elephant”, the Elephant in fact has quite the Regal-bearing within Buddhism. It’s a magnificent symbol for the solitary-practitioner—steady, poised, and determined. It is also most singular and unique, that figure of a solitary Elephant sitting alone in an empty-field—most quiescent.  Yea, his Wisdom is so Self-perfected that it far transcends the mental capacities that all creatures and gods can grasp. Resplendent also is his mental concentration wherein he has an omniscient stamina. This Royal-Stamina is likened unto that of an immovable Elephant.

In the story of Devadatta, the Buddhist Judas, an elephant is called upon to trample the Blessed one, but instead, royally and reverently bows at the ground in front of him—like a good and faithful and solid spiritual-companion. Perhaps most profound of all is when Queen Māyā dreams of a beautiful White Elephant—signifying fertility and wisdom.

  1. (Chapter II verse 168) The wise do not see [the?] error, nor is there any truth in its midst; if truth is in its midst, [the?] error would be truth.

Suzuki was apparently struggling with the translation of this one. It seems that its main thrust concerns what Cleary translates as, “One who is wise does not see confusion, or any truth in it; confusion too would be truth, if there were truth in it.”  Simply stated, the Mind of the Noble One never enters into confused states of mind. If a Noble One did so, then confusion itself would seem to consist of some element of truth.

  1. [Cleary]: If a sign occurs after confusion is all cleared away, it’s not being cleared will also be confusion, like darkness.

Sign here represents some element of form (nimitta). Hence, if some [negative] formal-base continues to reside in a situation after all confusion cessates, then it’s apparent [form]ality allows a confused state to linger on, like an obstructing spirit of darkness.

  1. [Cleary]: Just as one with dim eyesight misapprehends a visual distortion, so does the grasping of sense objects by the naïve begin.

All this has much to do with spiritual vs carnal sight. For the Lanka, the dim-witted, a one with poor eyesight, cannot see below the surface of apparent reality. Whereas one with the Dharma-Eye of Tathata can see the difference between truth an illusion. Ironically, this has to do with trusting (the inner spiritual reality) what you cannot see more than what you see in through the clouded skandhic-prism which is sunya.

130. (Chapter II verse 150) The triple world resembles a hair-net, or water in a mirage which is agitated; it is like a dream, Maya; and by thus regarding it one is emancipated.

See #80

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