Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Lankavatara Sutra, Chapter 2, Sections I - III

Sorry, there's no short summary here today; you have to go through the questions to get to the answer. Again, I'm not certified teacher of anything; the purpose of this is for me to try to read the sutras, and consider my thoughts about them.

Nobody authorized me to do anything; so just think of this as some blogger blogging about something which has to do with Mahayana Buddhism.

The Buddha promises to answer questions such as these (and more):

(22) At that time Mahāmati the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva praising the Blessed One with such verses as these, made his own name known to the Blessed One.

9. I am Mahāmati, Blessed One, and am well versed in the Mahāyāna. I wish to ask one hundred and eight questions of thee who art most eloquent.

10. Hearing his words the Buddha, the best knower of the world, looking over the whole assembly, spoke to the son of the Sugata thus:

11. Ask me, sons of the Victorious, and Mahāmati, you ask and I will instruct you in self-realisation.

At that moment Mahāmati the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva who was given by the Blessed One the opportunity to speak, prostrated himself at the feet of the Blessed One and asked:

(24) 12. How can one be cleansed of false intellection? Whence does it arise? How can one perceive errors? Whence do they arise?

13. Whence come lands, transformation, appearance, and philosophers? Wherefore is the state of imagelessness, the gradations, and whence are the sons of the Victorious?

14. Where is the way of emancipation? Who is in bondage? By what is he redeemed? What is the mental state of those who practise the Dhyānas? Whence is the triple vehicle?

15. What is that which is born of causation? What is effect? What is cause [or that which works]? Whence the doctrine of duality? Whence does it arise?

16. Wherefore is the tranquilising exercise of formlessness? And that of complete extinction? Wherefore the extinction of thoughts? And how is one awakened from it?

17. How does action rise? Whence is the behaviour of those who hold the body? Whence [this] visible [world]? Whence the conditions? Whence the entrance upon the stages?

18. Who is it that breaks through this triple existence? What is the abode? What is the body? Where does that which is abiding arise? Whence comes the son of the Buddha?

19. Who attains the psychic faculties, the self-masteries, the Samādhis? How is the mind tranquilised? Pray tell me, O Bull-like Victor?

20. What is the Ālaya? And whence the Manovijñāna? (25) How does the visible [world] rise? How does it cease from being visible?

21. Whence are families and no-families? What is meant by Mind-only? The setting up of marks? And whence [the doctrine of] egolessness?

22. Why is there no being? What kind of teaching is in accordance with popular thinking? How can one cease cherishing eternalism (śāśvata-darshana) and nihilism (uccheda-darshana)?

23. How is it that you do not differ from the philosophers as regards appearance? Tell me, whence is the rise of the Nyāya school? Its future?

24. What is meant by emptiness? What do you understand by momentary destruction? Whence is the Womb? And whence is the stability of the world?

25. Why is the world like a vision and a dream? How does it resemble the city of the Gandharvas? Why it is to be regarded as like a mirage, or like the moon reflected in water? Pray tell me.

26. What are the elements of enlightenment? Whence are the constituents of enlightenment? Wherefore is a revolution, and the disturbance of a kingdom? And how does the realistic view of existence (bhavadṛishṭi) take its rise?

27. What is meant by the world being above birth and death? or being like the flower in the air? How do you understand it? Why do you regard it as being beyond words?

28. How is it not subject to discrimination? How is it like the sky? Of how many sorts is suchness? How manifold is the Mind? How many Pāramitās are there?

29. Whence is the gradation of the stages? What is the state of imagelessness? (26) Wherefore is the twofold egolessness? How is one cleansed of [the hindrance of] knowledge?

30. Of how many kinds is knowledge (jñāna)? O Leader! How many moral precepts are there? and forms of being? Whence are the families born of gold and jewel and pearl?

31. Of whom is speech born? Whence is the differentiation of beings? Whence are the sciences, offices, arts? and by whom are they made manifest?

32. Of how many sorts are gāthās? What is prose? What is metre? Of how many sorts is reasoning and exegesis?

33. How many varieties of food and drink are there? Whence does sexual desire originate? Whence are there kings, sovereigns, and provincial rulers?

34. How does a king protect his dominion? Of how many groups are heavenly beings? Whence are the earth, stars, constellations, the moon, and the sun?

35. How many kinds of emancipation are there? of the Yogins? How many kinds of discipleship? And how about the masters?

36. How many kinds of Buddhahood are there? And how many of the Jātaka Tales? How numerous are the evil ones? How numerous are the heretics?

37. What is meant by [the doctrine] that there is nothing but thought-construction? Pray tell me, thou Most Eloquent One?

(27) 38. Whence are the clouds in the sky? the wind? What is meant by recollection? by wisdom (medhā)? Whence are trees and vines? Pray tell me, Lord of the Triple World?

39. How do horses, elephants, and deer get caught? Wherefore are there fools and despicable people? Pray tell me, thou Charioteer of the Mind?

40. Wherefore are the six seasons mentioned? What is meant by the Icchantika [one who is without Buddha-nature]? Pray tell me whence is the birth of a man? of a woman? of a hermaphrodite?

41. How does one retrograde in the Yoga exercises? How does one make progress in them? How many exercises are there? and how are men kept abiding in them? Pray tell me.

42. Beings are born in the various paths of existence, what are their specific marks and forms? How is abundance of wealth acquired? Pray tell me, thou who art like the sky?

43. Whence is the Śākya family? And the one born of Ikshvāku? Whence is the Rishi Long-Penance? What is taught by him?

44. How is it that thou art thus apparent everywhere in every land, surrounded by such Bodhisattvas of such various names and forms?

45. Why is meat not to be eaten? Why is it forbidden? Whence was the carnivorous race born, who eats meat?

46. Why are the lands shaped like the moon, the sun, the Sumeru, the lotus, the swatika, and the lion? Pray tell me.

Here the translator's first footnote is telling:

This verse is probably to be separated from the foregoing ones as it forms a sort of introduction to what follows. The one hundred and eight questions (praśna) so called are not to be necessarily identified with the one hundred and eight statements (pada) which are uniformely negated in the paragraph that comes after. Some subjects are common to the Questions and the Negations, but others are not. I do not think there is any organic relationship between the two sections. What strikes one in both the Questions and the Negations is that trivial subjects are mixed up with important ones as equally constituting the content of self-realisation. The Sutra proper which is supposed to concern itself with them is also devoid of an intimate connection with them.

I think it's not so mysterious as to why the profound and trivial are mixed in: because in a certain sense they're both "made" of the same "non-stuff" to the extent that these all have no intrinsic essence, and must go through the mind-gate to be experienced as phenomena or questions anyway.

And the answer, well, you see:

The Blessed One said: A statement concerning birth is no statement concerning birth; a statement concerning eternity is no statement concerning eternity. [The topics thus negated are as follows:1] the characteristic marks, abiding and changing, moment, self-nature, emptiness, annihilation, mind, the middle, permanence, causation, cause, the passions, desire, (35) means, contrivance, purity, inference [or conclusion], illustration, a disciple, a master, a family, the triple vehicle, imagelessness, vows, the triple circle, form, duality of being and non-being, bothness, the noble wisdom of self-realisation, the bliss of the present world, lands, atoms, water, a bow, reality, numbers and mathematics, the psychic powers, the sky, clouds, the arts and crafts and sciences, the wind, the earth, thinking, thought-constructions, self-nature, the aggregates, being, insight, Nirvana, that which is known, the philosophers, disorder, a vision, a dream, (36) a mirage, a reflection, a circle made in the dark by a fire-brand, the city of the Gandharvas, the heavens, food and drink, sexuality, philosophical views, the Pāramitās, morality, the moon and the sun and stars, truth, effect, annihilation and origination, medical treatment, the characteristic marks, the limbs, arts and sciences, Dhyāna, error, the seen [world], protection, dynasty, Ṛishi, kingdom, apprehension, treasure, explanation, the Icchantika, man, woman, and hermaphrodite, taste, action, the body, false intellection, motives, sense-organs, the Samskrita,2 cause and effect, the Kanishṭha,3 the seasons, a luxuriant growth of trees, vines and shrubs, (37) multiplicity, entering into the teaching, systems of morality, the Bhikshus, the powers added [by the Buddha], the lutes. These are the one hundred and eight statements recounted by the Buddhas of the past.

With translator's footnotes saying:

1 To avoid repetitions, the subjects alone are mentioned which are systematically negated in the text.

2 Anything that produces an effect.

3 A class of deities.

If I am speaking of the Tao it is not the Tao of which I'm speaking.

A statement concerning phenomena is a product of the mind and its interaction with the phenomenon, not the phenomenon itself.

Just like, you know, science, dealing tentatively with phenomena as observations, and without metaphysics.

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