[Section 4: Questions]
Question: The passages you have been citing [5.18] pertain to the attainments reached by the buddhas themselves. Of what relevance could these things be for the mental states reachable by an ordinary being such as yourself?
Answer: The realization [5.19] of the mind of the Buddha is actually something that practitioners can reach by way of their own mental activity. The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom calls this “contemplation resulting in [5.20] realization.” And, further, as the Contemplation Sutra says: “The ocean of correct wisdom of the buddhas emerges from one’s own mind and mental activity.”
The focus in this blog is that Quiescence is a reciprocal affair. What the Buddha’s in the limitless bodhifields enjoy is never meant exclusively and selfishly for themselves, but rather it is given freely to sentient beings—both enjoy the Blessings of Quiescence. Thus, when the adept engages within their own Bodhimanda, they come into contact with Buddhaic agencies wherein Quiescence is freely reciprocated.
Question: [5.21] A scripture says: “Those who see me as a visible form or seek me in audible sounds are following [5.22] the heterodox path; they are unable to [truly] see the Buddha.”101 Yet you now would have people grasp visible forms, which is what this scripture calls [5.23] “Mara’s doings.”
Answer: Even though you can recite the scriptures, you don’t understand their meaning. These words refer to [5.24] voice-hearers (sravaka) who do not know that there is a formless Dharma body and who cling to the thirty-two bodily marks of the Buddha as being what is truly [5.25] ultimate. That is why [the scripture you cite] gives that criticism, and why the *Mahayanabhisamaya Sutra says that the Buddha has three bodies.
[But in fact] the teaching of formless quiescence [5.26] is shared by both the Great and the Lesser Vehicles. Thus, Kasyapa the Hinayanist said in the “Faith and Understanding” chapter of the Lotus Sutra: “I remained in my seat, my body [5.27] tired and worn out, thinking only of emptiness and signlessness. In the bodhisattva activities of wielding supernatural powers with playful ease, [5.28] purifying one’s buddha-land, and instructing living beings, I took no joy at all.” And then later, in verse, he says: “All dharmas [6.1] neither arise nor cease. Thinking thusly, I gave rise to neither happiness nor [6.2] joy.” And in the Great Vehicle teachings, too, the Dharma Body is said to neither arise nor cease.
By severing conceptual thought and realizing [6.3] this truth [of formless quiescence], one gains great advantage. First is the quiescence that is a matter of essential nature. Second, there is the quiescence within activity (yongji). A small portion of practitioners these days, [6.4] if they study for a long time, achieve this quiescence within activity.
A great caution is necessary here. The author is not absolutely equating the Greater with the Lesser Vehicle, indeed this would be a heterodox teaching in light of the Mahayana; yet, common ground can be found in that this formless-quiescence is shared by both in the experiential field. Quiescence does not discriminate. It is freely given when the adept [in any school] opens-up and receives the blessing that is bestowed by countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Question: “Activity arises in dependence on essence. How, then, could [6.5] one acquire the activity [of quiescence] without first having attained the essence?
Answer: When in the Scripture on the Ten Stages it says “internally, by the power of correct aspiration one sees the [6.6] Buddha in the form of the Dharma Body,” this refers to essence. When it says “[wielding] supernatural powers and transforming oneself miraculously, one sees the Buddha in the form of the material body,” this refers to activity. “Internally by the power [6.7] of correct aspiration” refers to when first-stage bodhisattvas, through non-discriminating wisdom, realize thusness, which is the inexpressible truth.
The realization of [thusness] is also an eternal affair and does not discriminate.
Question: When nowadays people say “I have attained the inexpressible [6.9] truth,” why don’t you believe them?
Answer: When one has attained the inexpressible truth, then, as the Sutra on the Ten Stages [6.10] says, “one can move hundreds of buddha-lands, one’s supernatural powers and miraculous transformations fill hundreds of buddha-lands, and one can teach [6.11] the living beings of hundreds of buddha-lands.”So it’s not that I don’t believe them, it’s just that they can’t do these things.
Among present-day [6.12] practitioners, only a portion acquire “quiescence within activity.” But one should not [easily] believe even that they merely see dust or see emptiness, much less [that they have attained] “quiescence within [6.13] activity.” These things are like the coolness of water, which one knows only by confirming it for oneself. [Translator’s note: That attainment is like the coolness of water, in being known only to one who experiences it, was in the seventh century a well-known aphorism.]
If a practitioner has [really] obtained the emptiness contemplation, when he imagines [6.14] the Tathagata seated on the lion throne in the Amra gardens as described in the Vimalakirti Sutra he will be able to see this scene with [6.15] perfect clarity. He will also be able to successfully imagine [the scene from that text in which] the five hundred sons of prominent families each present a parasol to the Tathagata, who gathers them [6.16] into a single parasol within which appear all the things in the universe. When [the practitioner] further imagines the thrones [from the world of] the Buddha named King Sumeru [6.17] Lamp [which Vimalakirti makes appear in this world], then just as many as the practitioner wishes to make appear will appear. He will also further be able to successfully imagine Mount Sumeru entering into a mustard seed. [6.18] He will further manage to imagine that as much earth, water, fire, and wind as fills the sky enters into his own belly. Whatever inconceivable things [6.19] are described in the sutras—such as that “each mote of dust contains the worlds of the ten directions” from the Flower Adornment Sutra”—he will be able to successfully [see] them all.
[6.20] Some people are greatly skeptical about this teaching, yet they do not even look in the sutras and treatises [where it is confirmed]! Not practicing it themselves, [6.21] it is no wonder they doubt and reject it. I do not have the space to record all their many skeptical comments.
The attributes above are only [attainable] by advanced bodhisattvas who have profoundly engaged the principle of emptiness within their own contemplations. This is known as the realization of inconceivable siddhis.