Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lankavatara Sutra: Mahayana Scripture

Traditional text with explanatory notes by WQ editors
See unmodified text by Suzuki and Goddard

There are many Mahayana "discourses" that were not literally-historically uttered by the Buddha but rather were synthesized by teachers into a dialogue involving him, fitted to the cultures they were being taught in, expounding ideas and teachings of the Mahayana school. This is one such discourse, fictional perhaps, but aimed at a higher truth, explaining how one is to succeed in the Path of the Bodhisattva Ideal. (See many more such texts at PurifyMind).

Lankavatara Sutra (

Mahamati asked the Blessed One: "Pray tell us, Blessed One, what is the fruition that comes with self-realization of Noble Wisdom?"

The Blessed One replied: "First, there will come a clearing insight into the meaning and significance of things, and following that will come an unfolding insight into the significance of the spiritual ideals (paramitas, "ways to cross," listed below) by reason of which the bodhisattvas (beings bent on becoming buddhas to save others) will be able to enter more deeply into the abode of "imagelessness" (animitta, signless, state of concentration transcending the use of a meditative counterpart sign) and be able to experience the higher samadhis (states of utmost singlemindedness yielding superlative bliss, the dhyanas, Ch'ans, Seons, Samtens, Zens), gradually to pass through the higher stages of bodhisattvahood.

"After experiencing the 'turning about' in the deepest seat of consciousness, they will experience other samadhis even up to the highest, the vajra-vimbopama, which belongs to the Tathagatas (fully enlightened buddhas) and their transformations.

"They will be able to enter into the realm of consciousness that lies beyond the consciousness of the mind-system, even the consciousness of Tathagatahood.

"They will become endowed with all the powers, psychic faculties, self-mastery, loving compassion, skillful-means, and ability to enter into other Buddha Lands.

"Before they attained self-realization of Noble Wisdom, they had been influenced by the self-interests of egoism. But after they attain self-realization, they will find themselves reacting spontaneously to the impulses of a great and compassionate heart endowed with skillful and boundless means and sincerely and wholly devoted to the emancipation of all beings."
Mahamati said: "Blessed One, tell us about the sustaining power of the Tathagatas by which the bodhisattvas are aided to attain self-realization of Noble Wisdom."

The Blessed One replied: "There are two kinds of sustaining power, which issue from the Tathagatas and are at the service of the bodhisattvas, sustained by which the bodhisattvas should prostrate themselves before them and show their appreciation by asking questions.

"The first kind of sustaining power is the Bodhisattva's own adoration and faith in the Buddhas by reason of which the Buddhas are able to manifest themselves and render their aid and to ordain them with their own hands.

"The second kind of sustaining power is the power radiating from the Tathagatas that enables the bodhisattvas to attain and to pass through the various samadhis and samapattis (attainments) without becoming intoxicated by their bliss.

"Being sustained by the power of the Buddhas, the bodhisattva even at the first stage will be able to attain the [dhyana (jhana), meditative-absorption] known as the "Light of Mahayana." In that samadhi, bodhisattvas will become conscious of the presence of the Tathagatas coming from all their different abodes in the ten directions to impart to the bodhisattvas their sustaining power in various ways.

"As the bodhisattva Vajra-garbha was sustained in his samadhis, and as many other bodhisattvas of like degree and virtue have been sustained, so all earnest disciples and masters and bodhisattvas may experience this sustaining power of the Buddhas in their samadhis and samapattis.

"The disciple's faith and the Tathagata's merit are two aspects of the same sustaining power and by it alone are the bodhisattvas enabled to become one with the company of the Buddhas.

"Whatever samadhis, psychic faculties, or teachings are realized by the bodhisattvas, they are made possible only by the sustaining power of the Buddhas. If it were otherwise, the ignorant and the simpleminded might attain the same fruition.

"Wherever the Tathagatas enter with their sustaining power, there will be music. Not only music produced by human lips and played by human hands on various instruments, there will be music among the grasses and shrubs and trees, and in mountains and towns and palaces and hovels.

"Much more will there be music in the hearts of those endowed with sentiency. The deaf, dumb, and blind will be cured of their deficiencies and will rejoice in their emancipation. Such is the extraordinary virtue of the sustaining power imparted by the Tathagatas.

"By the bestowal of this sustaining power, the bodhisattvas are enabled to avoid the evils of passion, hatred, and enslaving karma. They are enabled to transcend the dhyana [jhana] of the beginners and to advance beyond the experience and truth already attained. They are enabled to demonstrate the Ten Perfections (paramitas) and, finally, to attain the stage of Tathagatahood.
"Mahamati, if it were not for this sustaining power, they would relapse into the ways and thoughts of the contentious philosophers, easygoing disciples, and the evil-minded, and would thus fall short of the highest attainment. For these reasons, earnest disciples and sincere Bodhisattvas are sustained by the power of all the Tathagatas."

Prajnaparamita, the "perfection of prajna (wisdom)"
The Ten Perfections (paramitas)
  1. generosity
  2. self-discipline
  3. patience
  4. diligence
  5. concentration
  6. wisdom
  7. skillful-means
  8. aspiration
  9. spiritual power
  10. knowledge

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