Chapter Eight: The Dharma-body of the Tathagatas
(JK) At that time the great Bodhisattva Mañjuśri questioned the Buddha and said: “World-honored One, you have taught about the Dharma body of a Tathagata. How is this Dharma body to be characterized?”
Mañjuśri: Mañjuśrī best captures the epitome of Wisdom. Mañjuśrī is undoubtedly synonymous with and the very embodiment of the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā)
Dharma body of a Tathagata: in this context, the Truth or Reality Body, or the functional aspect of the Dharmakaya.
(JP) The Bhagavan replied: “Mañjuśrī, the characteristics of the Dharmakāya of the Tathāgatas are the well-established transformation of the basis through renunciation, the complete cultivation of the [ten] stages and the [six] perfections. Moreover, know that this [Dharmakāya] has an inconceivable characteristic for two reasons: because it is free from elaborations and free from manifest activity; and because sentient beings very strongly adhere to elaborations and manifest activity.”
well-established transformation of the basis: āśraya-paravritti—a “turning about at the base of consciousness”. This was discussed in our series, The Secret Golden Light of the Unborn, essentially, “turning the light around”, as revealed by the Shining Ones in the minds of exceptional mediums of True Light. Here, it specifically references the Tathagatas, who are of a special character of the Dharmakaya, that of being totally and irrevocably established in an exalted wisdom of the Magnificent Real Body of Perfect-Suchness that is changeless and unalterable. The Tathāgatas refer to it as remaining still and centered within the inner-recesses of the One Mind, or today’s blog title, The Dharma-mind of the Absolute. Also, as the Avataṃsaka Sutra teaches, “The bodies of all [Tathagatas] are only one Dharmakaya. They possess one and the same mind and wisdom. Their powers and fearlessness are equally the same.”
(JP) “Bhagavan, is the transformation of the basis of Srāvakas and Pratyekabuddhas also suitably referred to as ‘Dharmakāya’?”
“Mañjuśrī, they are not spoken of [in this way].”
“Bhagavan, in that case, what should they be called?”
“Mañjuśrī, they are liberation bodies. Mañjuśrī, in terms of liberation bodies, Tathāgatas, Śrāvakas, and Pratyekabuddhas are similar and equal. In terms of the Dharmakāya, [Tathāgatas] are superior. Since the Dharmakāya is superior, [Tathāgatas] are also superior in terms of immeasurably good qualities. It is not easy to provide examples of that.”
Liberation bodies: Power’s footnote:
“Liberation bodies” (vimukti-kāya) are “bodies liberated from the arising of afflictive obstructions. Asvabhāva states that liberation bodies result from mere separation from the bonds of the afflictions. He compares this to a common person who, upon being released from shackles, experiences the cessation of the suffering they had caused. By contrast, the Dharmakāya is compared to a prince who, upon being released from prison, not only experiences the cessation of suffering, but is also crowned king and obtains dominion over the entire kingdom, (commentary to MS 1.48, P 5552, vol. li :262b.6-263a.2)
“The Dharmakāya, which has immeasurable distinctively superior qualities, is not to be known through examples and so forth.” Because the Dharmakāya is incomparable, nothing else remotely resembles it.
(JP) “Bhagavan, how should one know the characteristics of a Tathāgata’s genesis?”
“Mañjuśri, the characteristics of the Nirmanakaya are like the arising of worldly realms. You should see the characteristics of the Nirmānakāya as characteristics that are empowered by all the types of adornments displaying the qualities of the Tathāgatas which arise. The Dharmakāya has no genesis.”
“Bhagavan, how should one know the characteristics of a Tathāgata’s mental factors?”
“Mañjuśrī, Tathāgatas are not distinguished by mind, thought, or consciousness. Indeed, you should know that a Tathāgata’s mind arises free from manifest activity; it is like an emanation.
“Mind” refers to the basis-consciousness. “Thought” refers to afflicted thought. “Consciousness” refers to the six consciousnesses: the five sense consciousnesses and mental consciousness. “Tathāgatas do not have conceptual mental activity, but—due to the power of wisdom from the previous causal periodmental phenomena arise without exertion: like emanations, for instance. [Tathāgatas] manifest [whatever is suitable] in accordance with their thought due to the power of samādhi, and not due to the power of conceptual mental activity.”
(JP) “Bhagavan, do Tathagatas have emanation minds or not?”
“Mañjuśrī, the minds do not exist, nor do the minds not exist; these minds lack autonomy and are empowered by [the Tathagatas’] minds.
It is not suitable to say that these emanations have minds, and it is not suitable to say that they do not. That they are not autonomous means that they arise in dependence upon the seeds of types of views of different sentient beings in accordance with their natures. According to YB, the Sambhogakāya and Nirmānakāya manifestations do not have real minds and mental factors, but do have phenomena that appear like minds and mental factors. The emanations of Tathāgatas are like things having minds, but the minds controlling them are external to them, and so the emanations themselves cannot be said to have real minds.
Fascinating assessment. The Tathagatas have the power to “project” thoughts and images, but these emanations in and of themselves do not have any real-essence–just like the images on a movie screen have no essence apart from the projective originator.
(JK) The Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī addressed the Buddha and said:
“World-honored One, is there any difference between the field of a Tathagata and the sphere of a Tathagata?”
The Buddha answered the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī and said: “Good son, the field of a Tathagata refers to pure Buddha lands adorned with that assembly of incalculable good qualities common to all Tathagatas. The sphere of a Tathagata refers to the five different kinds of realms [known by a Tathagata]: sentient beings, [the surrounding] world, doctrine, discipline, and skillful methods of discipline. This is the difference between the two.”
field of a Tathagata: The Buddha-field of a Tathagata reflects the Absolute Purity of their domain. Therein the purity of their gnosis mirrors the Absolute Purity of their Doctrine. The Absolute Purity of their Doctrine has bearing upon their Transcendental Practices. The Absolute Purity of their transcendental practices reveals the Absolute purity of their Unborn Buddha Mind.
(JK) The Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī addressed the Buddha and said:
“World-honored One, in all defiled lands and in all pure lands what are those things easy to find? What are those things difficult to find?”
The Buddha answered the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī and said:
“Good son, in defiled lands there are eight things easy to find and two difficult to find. The eight things are heretics, suffering sentient beings, the differences in the rising and falling of houses of high lineage in the world, the doing of evil actions, the breaking of discipline, evil destinies, and shallow commitment. The two things difficult to find are the implementation by bodhisattvas of a high commitment and effort, and the appearance of a Tathagata in the world. Mafijusri, understand that the case is exactly opposite in pure lands.”
(JP) Then the Bodhisattva Mañjuśn asked the Bhagavan:
“Bhagavan, what is the name of this form of Dharma discourse that explains your thought? How should it be apprehended?”
The Bhagavan replied: “Mañjuśrī, this is ‘the definitive instruction establishing the deeds of Tathāgatas’. Mañjuśrī, it should be apprehended as ‘the definitive instruction establishing the deeds of Tathāgatas’.”
When this definitive instruction establishing the deeds of Tathāgatas was explained, seventy-five thousand Bodhisattvas attained correct and perfect knowledge of the perfect Dharmakāya.
After the Bhagavan had spoken, the youthful Mañjuśrī, the entire assembly, and the worlds of gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas praised this teaching of the Bhagavan.
This concludes ‘Ascertaining the Tathāgatas’ Collection of Qualities’, the [final] chapter of the Ārya Samdhinirmocana Mahāyāna-nāma Sūtra.
During this series we have seen how the Saṃdhinirmocana Sutra does indeed bridge the gap between the Prajñāpāramitā scriptures and the teachings of the Abhidharma and Madhyamika schools, and hence culminating in a Yogarcara enterprise that reflects them all. Perhaps most unique (in our particular joint-series) is how it invested a lengthy Abhidharmaic methodology in its study of the Alayavijñana, strongly indicating that the Abhidharma discipline should never be neglected or abandoned, but rather well-integrated within all Buddhaic vehicles.