The Puppeteer

“Wise Protector, a wooden puppet strung up somewhere can give a variety of performances, such as walking, prancing, jumping, throwing, playing, and dancing. What do you think? By whose power can the wooden puppet do so?”

Wise Protector said to the Buddha, “I am not intelligent enough to know the answer.”

The Buddha told Wise Protector, “You should know that it is by the power of the puppeteer. The puppeteer is out of sight; only the operation of his intelligence can be seen. Similarly, the body does everything by the power of consciousness. Ṛṣis, gandharvas, dragons, gods, humans, asuras, and other beings in the various planes of existence all depend on the power of consciousness to act. The body is exactly like the wooden puppet. Consciousness is devoid of form and substance, but it upholds all in the dharmadhatu; it is fully endowed with the power of wisdom and can even know events of past lives.

Ṛṣis: refers to the authors and seers of the hymns of the Rigveda.

Gandharvas: A Sanskrit term whose folk etymology is “fragrance eaters”; in Buddhist cosmology it is most often translated as “celestial musicians”.

Dragons: connotation referring to the nagas.

Asuras: In Sanskrit and Pāli, lit., “nongods,” also translated rather arcanely as “demigod” and “titan,” referring to both a class of divinities and the destiny where those beings reside in the sensuous realms.

Dharmadhatu: Literally, “the realm of dharmas.” However, in Buddhist texts it has four meanings:

  1. The nature or essence of dharmas (the same as tathata), which is the unifying, underlying reality regarded as the ground of all things, both noumenal and phenomenal.
  2. lnfinity; the all-embracing totality of the infinite universes as revealed before the Buddha’s eyes.
  3. ln certain sutras, denotes one of the eighteen elements: the dharma-element: that is, the mental objects (dharmas).
  4. The infinite universe per se.

The reader should bear in mind that ‘dharmadhatu’ may have any of the above four meanings. (From the glossary of the text)

Like a puppeteer, consciousness is the force that moves all fields of dharmatas. It is also the field of knowing that empowered the Buddha to remember all of his past lives.

Sunlight impartially illuminates evildoers and such filthy things as stinking corpses without being tainted by their foulness. Similarly, consciousness may reside in a pig, a dog, or a being of another miserable plane who eats dirty food, but is stained by none of them.

“Wise Protector, after leaving the body, the consciousness [takes birth again] with its good and evil karmas to undergo other karmic results. The wind becomes fragrant if it enters a grove of fragrant campaka flowers after coming out of a deep valley. However, if the wind passes through a stinking, dirty place where there are excrement and corpses, it catches an offensive smell. If the wind passes through a place which is permeated with both a fragrant odor and an offensive one, it carries good and bad odors at the same time, but the stronger of the two predominates. The wind is devoid of form or substance. Fragrance and stench, too, have no shape: however, the wind can carry both fragrance and stench far away. The consciousness takes good and evil karmas with it from one body to another to undergo different karmic results.

“Just as a person who is dreaming sees many images and events without knowing that he is lying asleep, so, when a blessed, virtuous person is dying and his consciousness departs, he is peaceful and unaware [of his death]; he passes away fearlessly as if he were dreaming.”

“The consciousness does not leave from the throat or any other orifice. No one knows where it departs or how it goes out. “

Campaka: A kind of fragrant yellow flower.

The consciousness does not leave from the throat or any other orifice: In other scriptures, such as the Mahāyānasaṃgraha Śāstra, we do find statements that the consciousness leaves the body through a specific orifice. For instance, if the being is destined to take rebirth in heaven, the consciousness will leave through the pure orifice of the head; if the being will fall to hell, the consciousness will leave through the anus or feet, ect.  (notes from the text)

Consciousness becomes perfumed with whatever sensate matter and psychic-form it encounters. As such it is the bearer of the residual of karma created during one’s lifespan.

The Elder Wise Protector bowed down with his head at the Buddha’s feet and asked him, “World-Honored One, the egg-shell of hen, a goose, or the like is airtight all around when the egg has not hatched. How can the consciousness get into it? If the embryo dies in the egg and the egg-shell does not break, how can the consciousness get out of the egg-shell, which has no opening at all?”

The Buddha answered, “Wise Protector, after being perfumed by campaka flowers, castor beans yield a fragrant oil called campaka oil, which smells much better than ordinary castor oil. By itself, castor oil is not fragrant; it becomes fragrant only because the beans have been perfumed by campaka flowers. The fragrance does not get into or out of the beans by breaking them. Though it is in the oil, the fragrance has no form or substance. It is the power of causes and conditions that moves the fragrance into the oil to make it aromatic. In the same way, the consciousness of a chicken or gosling enters and leaves the egg.

“The consciousness tranmigrates [into a new body] just as the sun sheds light, as a pearl shines, or as wood produces fire. [Transmigration [is also like the sowing of a seed. After a seed undergoes transformation in the soil, sprouts, stems, and leaves emerge. Then come flowers of various colors, such as white or red, manifesting a variety of powers and scents at maturity.

“This same great earth provides nutrients composed of all the four elements to nourish plants, but different seeds will produce different crops. In the same way, from the same consciousness that upholds the entire dharmadhatu come all the samsaric beings with bodies of different colors, such as white, black, yellow, and red; and with different dispositions, such as gentleness and irascibility.

Consciousness is all-inclusive, from the natural selection of plants and animals to the Cosmic-Force underlying all sentient beings.

“However, Wise Protector, consciousness has no hands, no feet, no members, and no language.

“The power of memory is very strong in the dharmadhatu, so when the consciousness leaves a sentient being’s body at his death, it combines with the power of memory to become the seed of his next life. Apart from consciousness, there is no dharmadhatu, and vice versa.

“The consciousness is reincarnated together with the prajñā element, and the elements of subtle memory, feelings, and dharmas.”

Without consciousness, no dharmadhatu can be discerned. Hence the Element of Truth is prior to consciousness.

Prajñā element: in this instance (but not exhaustive), intuitive wisdom, also as vitality. This intuitive wisdom spurs one on to Self-realize One’s own Buddha-nature.

Wise Protector asked the Buddha, “If so, why does the World-Honored One say that consciousness is formless?”

The Buddha answered, “Wise Protector, form is of two kinds: one is internal; the other, external. Visual consciousness is internal, while the eye external. Similarly, auditory consciousness is internal, while the ear is external; olfactory consciousness is internal, while the nose is external; gustatory consciousness is internal, while the tongue is external; tactile consciousness is internal, while the body is external.

“Wise Protector, suppose a man born blind sees a beautiful woman in a dream. Her hands, feet, and features are all extremely pretty, so in the dream the blind man becomes greatly delighted with her. When he wakes up, there is nothing to be seen. In the daytime, among the crowd, the blind man speaks of the pleasant event in his dream, saying, ‘I saw a gorgeous woman in a magnificent garden, together with hundreds of thousands of people, all well-adorned and making merry. Her skin was lustrous, her shoulders plump, and her arms long and round like the trunk of an elephant. [Seeing these] in the dream, I was filled with joy, comfort, and admiration.’

“Wise Protector, this man, blind from birth, has never seen anything in his life. How can he see those forms in the dream?”

Wise Protector said to the Buddha, “May you explain this to me!”

The Buddha told Wise Protector, “The forms seen in the dream are the internal objects of the eye. It is through the discrimination of intellect, not the physical eye, that the internal objects of the eye are seen. Because of the power of memory, the internal objects of the eye appear for a moment in the dream of the blind man. Also because of the power of memory, the blind man remembers them when he wakes up. Thus do the internal forms relate to the consciousness.

“Furthermore, Wise Protector, when a body dies, the consciousness leaves the body to be reincarnated. As an illustration, consider a seed: after being sown in the soil and supported by the four elements, it will gradually grow into sprouts, stems, branches, and leaves. In like manner, the consciousness leaves the dead body to be reincarnated under the control of four things-memory, feeling, wholesome dharmas, and unwholesome dharmas. “

Common sense tells us that a man born blind does not see colors or shapes in dreams. However, this passage may refer to one who can remember his past lives. It is through his memory of past lives that the man born blind can see forms in a dream. (notes from text)

Left to its own devices, consciousness is bound to the last memory and feelings it had before passing from this life to the next. Which goes to say in the absolute scheme of things that the [body] consciousness needs to be abandoned in order for Mind to properly Recollect Its True Nature lest the wheel of karma resume its relentless course in another round and form of re-becoming.

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