Category Archives: The Lankavatara Sutra

That’s a Wrap!

This past month studying and commentating on the new Red Pine edition of the Lankavatara Sutra has truly been an auspicious time for me; my hope is that this may prove of some benefit for present and future students of the Buddhadharma. read more

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The Long and Winding Road

As the Lanka winds-down, we are left with some very constructive impressions. Red Pine masterfully translates the great malady that affects all sentient beings—the diurnal wheel of samsara and its accompanying dependent origination: read more

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The Other

Section LXXXII of the Lanka delineates the nature of the Tathagata-garbha and the Alaya vijnana (repository consciousness). This can be quite confusing because although apparently different—one pure, one defiled—they are also essentially synonymous in nature. A good analogy to break this down is the nature of “twins”; while they may be different in temperament and personality, they are a product of the same seed-bed, or womb. In UnbornMind Zen the bodhichild is the developing light-bearer, or bodhisattva within the womb (garbha) of tathata (Absolute Suchness); yet there is another alongside it, a “dark-side” whose “habit-energy of beginningless fabrications…gives birth to fundamental ignorance…”(Red Pine, pg. 241) If the bodhichild were to exclusively “tune-into” this dark-side, thus neglecting its rightful affinity with the Unborn Buddha Mind through the Recollective resolve, the waves of the vijnanas (defiled body consciousness) become stirred into motion within its alaya (receptacle)—which is really all those stored defiled-seeds since beginningless time. If left alone and not stirred through the act of grasping, the alaya would remain calm, like the surface of the ocean—just reflecting its pure-essential stature as the Tathagata-garbha. The way, of course, to avoid this release of all that stored habit energy, is to initiate the “turn-about” (paravrtti) and keep one’s sight devotedly fixated on one’s Original Self-Nature. Another way of expressing this is what Sutton states, “Being closely associated with the system of the Sense perceptions (Vijnanas), it is only through its purification, or reabsorption (paravrtti—or turn-about) that the Embryo-of-Buddhahood may emerge in its original state.” (Existence and Enlightenment in the Lanka, p.86) read more

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Mind Games

Sections LXXX-XC entitled “Final Questions” by Red Pine actually combines the former Suzuki chapters 4-9 into one chapter, 4. read more

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Instant Karma

The Lanka once again makes reference to not equating words with meaning:

“Mahamati, if one person points to something with their finger, and a foolish person looks at their finger, they won’t know what they really mean. In the same manner, foolish people become attached to the finger of words. And because they never look away from it, they are never able to discover the true meaning beyond the finger of words.” (Red Pine, pg. 220) read more

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Living in the Material World

Materialism is the great bane of all Lankavatarists. The Lanka pulls no punches in relaying the dangers of materialism: read more

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A Day in the Life

A day in the “apparent” life of a Lankavatarian is just that…it transcends all notions of apparency that usually dwarfs most people between the ironclad mountains of realism and nihilism. As such, a Lankavatarian is “marked with the mark of suchness.” “I focus on the personal realization of detachment, on transcending deluded views, on transcending the views of what exists or does not exist that are perceptions of one’s own mind, on obtaining the threefold liberation, on being marked with the mark of suchness, on examining self-existence based on personal realization, and on transcending the views of the existence or nonexistence of what is real.” (Red Pine, pg. 195) Suzuki marvelously breaks this understanding down in his monumental work, Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra: read more

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What a Fool Believes

The Lanka places a great premium on the nature of perceptions—what a fool believes he sees or does not see, i.e., existence or non-existence. It also reinforces again and again that the Tathagatas are free from all these discriminations, even going beyond the attempt to render their very “existence” and accompanying afflictions as somehow being nonexistent, their “teaching does not [even] recognize the [very] existence of afflictions much less their annihilation. To Hui-k’o, bodhidharma said, “Show me this mind of yours, and I will calm it for you.” (Red Pine, pg.176) The Noble truth of self-realization is totally beyond all dualistic categories. It’s all about an “inner-perception”, or “undivided” awareness: “the way of attainment refers to the distinctive characteristics of personal realization that transcend the projections of speech and words, that lead to the passionless realm and the stages marked by self-awareness, that are free from erroneous speculations, that overcome the maras of other paths, and that shine forth from inner awareness.” (Red Pine, pg.179) As seen through the lens of UnbornMind Zen, this is the route wherein Mind reclaims (Recollects) the Nirvanic Element of Its True Nature. read more

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Abandon all hope Ye who enter here

Chapter three of the Lanka kicks-off with the three-fold nature of the “projection body”, or manomayakaya. “There are three kinds of projection bodies. And what are these three kinds? They are the projection body that experiences the bliss of samadhi, the projection body that realizes the essential nature of the dharmas, and the projection body that whose natural state is motionless.” (Red Pine, pg 167) The first is present when the waves of the vijnana are brought to rest, making FULL STOP to discriminatory phenomena; Mind is at rest in IT’s true Unborn Nature and one’s former samsaric will takes a back-seat as the Super-essential Will of the Unborn Mind rises and takes full precedence. The second is present when the yogin, or adept, enters the eighth stage of recollecting liberation, or Right Concentration: here the realization dawns that although “empty” of all phenomena, the Super-essential Self (Unborn Mind), has the creative power to animate all the varied-realms of dharmatic reality. The third is present when the Yogin, or adept, has a thoroughgoing grasp of the exact “nature” of the “Unmoving Principle” behind the manomayakaya–it is suprapositional and always utterly dynamic, but indeed “motionless” which is the antithesis to the “moving principle” that is mired in all the obstructions of phenomena. In this fashion, the ultimate teachings of all the Buddhas are brought to bear in the bliss of this Noble self-realization, expediently rising to the fore for the benefit of all sentient beings. The concluding gathas (verses) drive home a keen awareness that these Mahayanic teachings, which in themselves are reflections of the Total Unborn Mind Realm, or dharmadhatu—is not represented through any sound, form, projection (image), nor EVEN the “realm of imagelessness”!!! (Suzuki) On the other hand, it is a teaching vehicle through which the Creativeness of the Unborn Will expediently musters activities that are born out of deep Samadhis for the sake of sentient beings. read more

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You have Anointed Me

When a bodhisattva ascends into higher modes of advancement, the Tathagatas themselves appear to procure their progress: “Moreover, Mahamati, the tathagatas employ two kinds of powers for the support of bodhisattvas who come before them for instruction. And which two supporting powers? The power to appear in bodily form and speak to those in Samadhi and the power to anoint their foreheads.” (Red Pine, pg 130) Suzuki goes even further and refers to these as “sustaining” powers: “Further, Mahamati, there are two kinds of the sustaining power which issues from the Tathagatas who are Arhats and Fully-Enlightened Ones; and sustained by this power the Bodhisattvas would prostrate themselves at their feet and ask them questions. What is this twofold power that sustains the Bodhisattvas? The one is the power by which they are sustained to go through the Samadhis and Samapattis; while the other is the power whereby the Buddhas manifest themselves in person before the Bodhisattvas and baptize them with their own hands.” Interesting how Suzuki employs “baptism” in reference to “anointing”—almost as if this is some kind of Christian initiation, yet the terms are interchangeable. The Lanka describes a beautiful mystical transformation that occurs when the bodhisattvas reaches the tenth-stage, or dharmamegha (dharma-cloud): “As they work their way through the easy and difficult aspects of the various stages, they finally reach the dharma cloud stage, where they dwell inside a magnificent lotus flower palace seated upon a jeweled lotus flower throne surrounded by a retinue of their fellow bodhisattvas adorned with necklaces of jewels that shine like the sun or the moon or golden champaka flowers. The great victors of the ten directions then appear before their thrones in this lotus flower palace and anoint their foreheads…this is what is meant by the power to anoint the foreheads of bodhisattvas. Mahamati, this is what is meant by the two powers that support bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas who rely on these two powers will meet the tathagatas. Otherwise, they will not.” (Red Pine, pg 131) Quite a revelation here as the Lanka portrays a mystical anointing that needs to occur for initiation into the Tathata family. read more

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