The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra recounts a teaching primarily between the Buddha and a bodhisattva named Mahāmati ("Great Wisdom"). The most important doctrine issuing from the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra is that of the primacy of consciousness (Skt. vijñāna) and the teaching of consciousness as the only reality. In the sūtra, the Buddha asserts that all t...
(1) Om! Salutation to the Triple Treasure! Salutation to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas!
Here is carefully written down the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra in which the Lord of the Dharma discourses on the egolessness of all things.
Thus have I heard. The Blessed One once stayed in the Castle of Laṅkā which is situated on the peak of Mount Malaya on the great ocean, and which is adorned with flowers made of jewels of various kinds. He was with a large assembly of Bhikṣus and with a great multitude of Bodhisattvas, who had come together from various Buddha-lands. The Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, headed by the Bodhisattva Mahāmati, were all perfect masters of the various Samādhis, the [tenfold] self-mastery, the [ten] powers, and the [six] psychic faculties; they were anointed by the hands of all the Buddhas; they all well understood the significance of the objective world as the manifestation of their own Mind; (2) they knew how to maintain [various] forms, teachings, and disciplinary measures, according to the various mentalities and behaviours of beings; they were thoroughly versed in the five Dharmas, the [three] Svabhāvas, the [eight] Vijñānas, and the twofold Non-ātman.
At that time, the Blessed One who had been preaching in the palace of the King of Sea-serpents came out at the expiration of seven days and was greeted by an innumerable host of Nāgakanyās including Śakra and Brahma, and looking at Laṅkā on Mount Malaya smiled and said, "By the Tathagatas of the past, who were Arhats and Fully-Enlightened Ones, this Truth was made the subject of their discourse, at that castle of Laṅkā on the mountain-peak of Malaya, —the Truth realisable by noble wisdom in one's inmost self, which is beyond the reasoning knowledge of the philosophers as well as the state of consciousness of the Śrāvakas and Pratyekabuddhas. I, too, would now for the sake of Rāvaṇa, Overlord of the Yakṣas, discourse on this Truth.”
[Inspired] by the spiritual power of the Tathagata, Rāvaṇa, Lord of the Rākṣasas, heard [his voice]. Indeed, the Blessed One, surrounded and accompanied by an in-numerable host of Nāgakanyās including Śakra and Brahma, came out of the palace of the King of Sea-serpents; and looking at the waves of the ocean and also at the mental agitations going on in those assembled, [he thought of] the ocean of the Ālayavijñāna where the evolving Vijñānas [like the waves] are stirred by the wind of objectivity. While he was standing there [thus absorbed in contemplation, Rāvaṇa saw him and] uttered a joyous cry, saying: "I will go and request of the Blessed One to enter into Laṅkā; for this long night he would probably profit, do good, and gladden (3) the gods as well as human beings."
Thereupon, Rāvaṇa, Lord of the Rākṣasas, with his attendants, riding in his floral celestial chariot, came up where the Blessed One was, and having arrived there he and his attendants came out of the chariot. Walking around the Blessed One three times from left to right, they played on a musical instrument, beating it with a stick of blue Indra (saphire), and hanging the lute at one side, which was inlaid with the choicest lapis lazuli and supported by [a ribbon of] priceless cloth, yellowish-white like Priyaṅgu, they sang with various notes such as Saharshya, Riṣabha, Gāndhāra, Dhaivata, Niṣāda. Madyama, and Kaiśika, which were melodiously modulated in Grāma, Mūrchana, etc.; the voice in accompaniment with the flute beautifully blended with the measure of the Gāthā.
1. "The truth-treasure whose principle is the self-nature of Mind, has no selfhood (nairātmyam), stands above all reasoning, and is free from impurities; it points to the knowledge attained in one's inmost self; Lord, show me here the way leading to the Truth.
2. "The Sugata is the body in whom are stored immaculate virtues; in him are manifested [bodies] trans-forming and transformed; he enjoys the Truth realised in his inmost self; may he visit Laṅkā. Now is the time, Muni!
3. (4) "This Laṅkā was inhabited by the Buddhas of the past, and [they were] accompanied by their sons who were owners of many forms. Lord, show me now the highest Truth, and the Yakṣas who are endowed with many forms will listen.”
Thereupon, Rāvaṇa, the Lord of Laṅkā, further adapting the Totaka rhythm sang this in the measure of the Gāthā.
4. After seven nights, the Blessed One leaving the ocean which is the abode of the Makara, the palace of the sea-king, now stands on the shore.
5. Just as the Buddha rises, Rāvaṇa, accompanied by the Apsaras and Yakṣas numerous, by Śuka, Sārana, and learned men,
6. Miraculously goes over to the place where the Lord is standing. Alighting from the floral vehicle, he greets the Tathagata reverentially, makes him offerings, tells him who he is, and stands by the Lord.
7. "I who have come here, am called Rāvaṇa, the ten-headed king of the Rākṣasas, mayest thou graciously receive me with Laṅkā and all its residents.
8. "In this city, the inmost state of consciousness realised, indeed, by the Enlightened Ones of the past (5) was disclosed on this peak studded with precious stones.
9. "Let the Blessed One, too. surrounded by sons of the Victorious One, now disclose the Truth immaculate on this peak embellished with precious stones; we, together with the residents of Laṅkā, desire to listen.
10. "The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra which is praised by the Buddhas of the past [discloses] the inmost state of consciousness realised by them, which is not founded on any system of doctrine.
11. "I recollect the Buddhas of the past surrounded by sons of the Victorious One recite this Sutra; the Blessed One, too, will speak.
12. "In the time to come, there will be Buddhas and Buddha-Sons pitying the Yakṣas; the Leaders will discourse on this magnificent doctrine on the peak adorned with precious stones.
13. "This magnificent city of Laṅkā is adorned with varieties of precious stones, [surrounded] by peaks, refresh-ing and beautiful and canopied by a net of jewels.
14. "Blessed One, here are the Yakṣas who are free from faults of greed, reflecting on [the Truth] realised in one's inmost self and making offerings to the Buddhas of the past; they are believers in the teaching of the Mahāyāna and intent on disciplining one another.
15. “There are younger Yakṣas, girls and boys, desiring to know the Mahāyāna. Come, Blessed One, who art our Teacher, come to Laṅkā on Mount Malaya.
16. (6) "The Rākṣasas, with Kumbhakarṇa at their head, who are residing in the city, wish, as they are devoted to the Mahāyāna, to hear about this inmost realisation.
17. "They have made offerings assiduously to the Buddhas [in the past] and are to-day going to do the same. Come, for compassion's sake, to the Laṅkā, together with [thy] sons.
18. "Mahāmati, accept my mansion, the company of the Apsaras, necklaces of various sorts, and the delightful Aśoka garden.
19. "I give myself up to serve the Buddhas and their sons; there is nothing with me that I do not give up [for their sake]; Great Muni, have compassion on me!”
20. Hearing him speak thus, the Lord of the Triple World said, "King of Yakṣas, this mountain of precious stones was visited by the Leaders in the past.
21. "And, taking pity on you, they discoursed on the Truth revealed in their inmost [consciousness]. [The Buddhas of] the future time will proclaim [the same] on this jewel-adorned mountain.
22. "This [inmost Truth] is the abode of those Yogins who stand in the presence of the Truth. King of the Yakṣas, you have the compassion of the Sugatas and myself."
23. The Blessed One accepting the request [of the King] remained silent and undisturbed; he now mounted the floral chariot offered by Rāvaṇa.
24. Thus Rāvaṇa and others, wise sons of the Victorious One, (7) honoured by the Apsaras singing and dancing, reached the city.
25. Arriving in the delightful city [the Buddha was] again the recipient of honours; he was honoured by the group of Yakṣas including Rāvaṇa and by the Yakṣa women.
26. A net of jewels was offered to the Buddha by the younger Yakṣas, girls and boys, and necklaces beautifully ornamented with jewels were placed by Rāvaṇa about the neck of the Buddha and those of the sons of the Buddha.
27. The Buddhas together with the sons of the Buddha and the wise men, accepting the offerings, discoursed on the Truth which is the state of consciousness realised in the inmost self.
28. Honouring [him as] the best speaker, Rāvaṇa and the company of the Yakṣas honoured Mahāmati and requested of him again and again:
29. "Thou art the asker of the Buddha concerning the state of consciousness realised in their inmost selves, of which we here, Yakṣas as well as the sons of the Buddha, are desirous of hearing. I, together with the Yakṣas, the sons of the Buddha, and the wise men, request this of thee.
30. "Thou art the most eloquent of speakers, and the most strenuous of the Yogins; with faith I beg of thee. Ask [the Buddha] about the doctrine, O thou the proficient one!
31. "Free from the faults of the philosophers and Pratyekabuddhas and Śrāvakas is (8) the Truth of the inmost consciousness, immaculate and culminating in the stage of Buddhahood.”
32. Thereupon the Blessed One created jewel-adorned mountains and other objects magnificently embellished with jewels in an immense number.
33. On the summit of each mountain the Buddha himself was visible, and Rāvaṇa, the Yakṣa, also was found standing there.
34. Thus the entire assembly was seen on each mountain-peak, and all the countries Were there, and in each there was a Leader.
35. Here also was the King of the Rākṣasas and the residents of Laṅkā, and the Laṅkā created by the Buddha rivaling [the real one].
36. Other things were there, too, —the Aśoka with its shining woods, and on each mountain-peak Mahāmati was making a request of the Buddha,
37. Who discoursed for the sake of the Yakṣas on the Truth leading to the inmost realisation; on the mountain-peak he delivered a complete sutra with an exquisite voice varied in hundreds of thousands of ways.
38. [After this] the teacher and the sons of the Buddha vanished away in the air, leaving Rāvaṇa the Yakṣa himself standing [above] in his mansion.
39. Thought he, "How is this? What means this? and by whom was it heard? What was it that was seen? and by whom was it seen? Where is the city? and where is the Buddha?
40. "Where are those countries, those jewel-shining Buddhas, those Sugatas? (9) Is it a dream then? or a vision? or is it a castle conjured up by the Gandharvas?
41. "Or is it dust in the eye, or a fata morgana, or the dream-child of a barren woman, or the smoke of a fire-wheel, that which I saw here?”
42. Then [Rāvaṇa reflected], "This is the nature as it is (dharmatā) of all things, which belongs to the realm of Mind, and it is not comprehended by the ignorant as they are confused by every form of imagination.
43. "There is neither the seer nor the seen, neither the speaker nor the spoken; the form and usage of the Buddha and his Dharma—they are nothing but discrimination.
44. "Those who see things such as were seen before, do not see the Buddha; [even] when discrimination is not aroused, one does not see the Buddha; the Buddha being fully-enlightened is seen where the world itself is not evolved.
The Lord of Laṅkā was then immediately awakened [from his reflection], feeling a revulsion (parāvṛti) in his mind and realising that the world was nothing but his own mind: he was settled in the realm of non-discrimination, was urged by the stock of his past good deeds, acquired the cleverness of understanding all the texts, obtained the faculty of seeing things as they are, was no more dependent upon others, observed things excellently with his own wisdom (buddhi), gained the insight that was not of discursive reasoning, was no more dependent upon others, became a great Yogin of the discipline, was able to manifest himself in all excellent forms, got thoroughly acquainted with all skilful means, had the knowledge of the characteristic aspects of every stage, by which he would surmount it skilfully, was delighted to look into the self-nature of Citta, Manas, Manovijñāna, got a view whereby he could cut himself loose from the triple continuation, had the knowledge of disposing of every argument of (10) the philosophers on causation, thoroughly understood the Tathāgata-garbha, the stage of Buddhahood, the inmost self, found himself abiding in the Buddha-knowledge; [when suddenly] a voice was heard from the sky, saying, "It is to be known by oneself.”
"Well done, well done, Lord of Laṅkā! Well done, indeed, Lord of Laṅkā, for once more! The Yogin is to discipline himself as thou doest. The Tathagatas and all things are to be viewed as they are viewed by thee; otherwise viewed, it is nihilism. All things are to be comprehended by transcending the Citta, Manas, and Vijñāna as is done by thee. Thou shouldst look inwardly and not become attached to the letter and a superficial view of things; thou shouldst not fall into the attainments, conceptions, experiences, views, and Samādhis of the Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and philosophers; thou shouldst not have any liking for small talk and witticism; thou shouldst not cherish the notion of self-substance, nor have any thought for the vainglory of rulership, nor dwell on such Dhyānas as belong to the six Dhyānas, etc.
"Lord of Laṅkā, this is the realisation of the great Yogins: to destroy the discourses advanced by others, to crush mischievous views in pieces, to keep themselves properly away from ego-centered notions, to cause a revulsion in the depths of the mind fittingly by means of an exquisite knowledge. Such are sons of the Buddha who walk in the way of the Mahāyāna. In order to enter upon the stage of self-realisation as attained by the Tathagatas, the discipline is to be pursued by thee.
"Lord of Laṅkā, conducting thyself in this manner, let thee be further purified in the way thou hast attained; (11) by disciplining thyself well in Samādhi and Samāpatti, follow not the state realised and enjoyed by the Śravakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and philosophers, which rises from the imagination of those who discipline themselves according to the practices of the puerile philosophers. They cling to the individual forms of the world created by their egotistical ideas; they maintain such notions as element, quality, and substance; they cling tenaciously to views originating from ignorance; they become confused by cherishing the idea of birth where prevails emptiness; they cling to discrimination [as real]; they fall into the way of thinking where obtains [the dualism of] qualifying and qualified.
"Lord of Laṅkā, this is what leads to various excellent attainments, this is what makes one grow aware of the inmost attainment, this is the Mahāyāna realisation. This will result in the acquirement of an excellent condition of existence.
"Lord of Laṅkā, by entering upon the Mahāyāna discipline the veils [of ignorance] are destroyed, and one turns away from the multitudinous waves of the Vijñāna and falls not into the refuge and practice of the philosophers.
"Lord of Laṅkā, the philosophers' practice starts from their own egotistic attachments. Their ugly practice arises from adhering to dualistic views concerning the self-nature of the Vijñāna.
"Well done, Lord of Laṅkā; reflect on the signification of this as you did when seeing the Tathagata before; for this, indeed, is seeing the Tathagata."
At that time it occurred to Rāvaṇa: "I wish to see the Blessed One again, who has all the disciplinary practices at his command, who has turned away from the practices of the philosophers, who is born of the state of realisation in the inmost consciousness, and who is beyond [the dualism of] the transformed and the transforming. He is the knowledge (12) realised by the Yogins, he is the realisation attained by those who enjoy the perfect bliss of the Samādhi which they gain by coming to an intuitive understanding through meditation. May I see thus [again] the Compassionate One by means of his miraculous powers in whom the fuel of passion and discrimination is destroyed, who is surrounded by sons of the Buddha, who has penetrated into the minds and thoughts of all beings, who moves about everywhere, who knows everything, who keeps himself away from work (kṛyā) and form (lakṣaṇa); seeing him may I attain what I have not yet attained, [retain] what I have already gained, may I conduct myself with non-discrimination, abide in the joy of Samādhi and Samāpatti, and attain the ground where the Tathagatas walk, and in these make progress."
At that moment, the Blessed One recognising that the Lord of Laṅkā is to attain the Anutpattikadharmakṣānti showed his glorious compassion for the ten-headed one by making himself visible once more on the mountain-peak studded with many jewels and enveloped in a net-work of jewels. The ten-headed King of Laṅkā saw the splendour again as seen before on the mountain-peak, [he saw] the Tathagata, who was the Arhat and the Fully-Enlightened One, with the thirty-two marks of excellence beautifully adorning his person, and also saw himself on each mountain-peak, together with Mahāmati, in front of the Tathagata, the Fully-Enlightened One, putting forward his discourse on the realisation experienced by the Tathagata in his inmost self, and, surrounded by the Yakṣas, conversing on the verbal teachings and stories [of the Buddha]. Those (13) [Buddha]-lands were seen with the Leaders.
Then the Blessed One beholding again this great assembly with his wisdom-eye, which is not the human eye, laughed loudly and most vigorously like the lion-king. Emitting rays of light from the tuft of hair between the eyebrows, from the ribs, from the loins, from the Śrivatsa on the breast, and from every pore of the skin, —emitting rays of light which shone flaming like the fire taking place at the end of a kalpa, like a luminous rainbow, like the rising sun, blazing brilliantly, gloriously—which were observed from the sky by Śakra, Brahma, and the guardians of the world, the one who sat on the peak [of Laṅkā] vying with Mount Sumeru laughed the loudest laugh. At that time the assembly of the Bodhisattvas together with Śakra and Brahma, each thought within himself:
"For what reason, I wonder, from what cause does the Blessed One who is the master of all the world (sarva-dharma-vaśavartin), after smiling first, laugh the loudest laugh? Why does he emit rays of light from his own body? Why, emitting [rays of light], does he remain silent, with the realisation [of the Truth] in his inmost self, and absorbed deeply and showing no surprise in the bliss of Samādhi, and reviewing the [ten] quarters, looking around like the lion-king, and thinking only of the discipline, attainment, and performance of Rāvaṇa?"
At that time, Mahāmati the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva who was previously requested by Rāvaṇa [to ask the Buddha concerning his self-realisation], feeling pity on him, (14) and knowing the minds and thoughts of the assembly of the Bodhisattvas, and observing that beings to be born in the future would be confused in their minds because of their delight in the verbal teaching (deśanāpāṭha), because of their clinging to the letter as [fully in accordance with] the spirit (artha), because of their clinging to the disciplinary powers of the Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and philosophers, —which might lead them to think how it were that the Tathagatas, the Blessed Ones, even in their transcendental state of consciousness should burst out into loudest laughter —Mahāmati the Bodhisattva asked the Buddha in order to put a stop to their inquisitiveness the following question: "For what reason, for what cause did this laughter take place?"
Said the Blessed One: "Well done, well done, Mahāmati! Well done, indeed, for once more, Mahāmati! Viewing the world as it is in itself and wishing to enlighten the people in the world who are fallen into a wrong view of things in the past, present, and future, thou undertakest to ask me the question. Thus should it be with the wise men who want to ask questions for both themselves and others. Rāvaṇa, Lord of Laṅkā, O Mahāmati, asked a twofold question of the Tathagatas of the past who are Arhats and perfect Buddhas; and he wishes now to ask me too a twofold question in order to have its distinction, attainment, and scope ascertained—this is what is never tasted by those who practise the meditation of the Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and philosophers; and the same will be asked by the question-loving ten-headed one of the Buddhas to come."
Knowing that, the Blessed One said to the Lord of Laṅkā, thus: "Ask, thou Lord of Laṅkā; the Tathagata has given thee permission [to ask], delay not, whatever questions thou desirest to have answered, I will answer each of them (15) with judgment to the satisfaction of your heart. Keeping thy seat of thought free from [false] discrimination, observe well what is to be subdued at each stage; ponder things with wisdom; [seeing into] the nature of the inner principle in thyself, abide in the bliss of Samādhi; embraced by the Buddhas in Samādhi, abide in the bliss of tranquillisation; going beyond the Samādhi and understanding attained by the Śrāvakas and Pratyekabuddhas, abide in [the attainment of the Bodhisattvas] in the stages of Acalā, Sādhumatī, and Dharmameghā; grasp well the egolessness of all things in its true significance; be anointed by the Buddhas in Samādhi at the great palace of lotus-jewels. Surrounded by the Bodhisattvas who are sitting on lotuses of various sorts each supported by the gracious power of the Buddhas, thou shalt find thyself sitting on a lotus and each one of the Bodhisattvas looking at thee face to face. This is a realm beyond the imagination. Thou shouldst plan out an adequate plan and establish thyself at a stage of discipline by planning out such a plan as shall include [all kinds of] skilful means, so that thou comest to realise that realm which is beyond imagination; and thou shouldst attain the stage of Tathagatahood in which one is able to manifest oneself in various forms, and which is something never seen before by the Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, philosophers, Brahma, Indra, Upendra, and others. ''
At that moment the Lord of Laṅkā being permitted by the Blessed One, rose from his seat on the peak of the jewel-mountain which shone like the jewel-lotus immaculate and shining in splendour; he was surrounded by a large company of celestial maidens, and all kinds of garlands, flowers, perfumes, incense, unguents, umbrellas, banners, fiags, necklaces, half-necklaces, diadems, tiaras, (16) and other ornaments whose splendour and excellence were never heard of or seen before, were created; music was played surpassing anything that could be had by the gods, Nāgas, Yakṣas, Rākṣasas, Gandharvas, Kinnaras, Mahoragas, and men; musical instruments were created equal to anything that could be had in all the world of desire and also such superior musical instruments were created as were to be seen in the Buddha-lands; the Blessed One and the Bodhisattvas were enveloped in a net of jewels; a variety of dresses and high banners was made rising high in the air as high as seven tāla trees to great [the Buddha], showering great clouds of offerings, playing music which resounded [all around], and then descending from the air, [the Lord of Laṅkā] sat down on the peak of the jewel-mountain ornamented with magnificent jewel-lotus whose splendour was second only to the sun and lightning. Sitting he made courtesy smiling first to the Blessed One for his permission and proposed him a twofold question: " It was asked of the Tathagatas of the past, who were Arhats, Fully-Enlightened Ones, and it was solved by them. Blessed One, now I ask of thee; [the request] will certainly be complied with by thee as far as verbal instruction is concerned as it was by the Buddhas [of the past]. Blessed One, duality was discoursed upon by the Transformed Tathagatas and Tathagatas of Trans-formation, but not by the Tathagatas of Silence. The Tathagatas of Silence are absorbed in the blissful state of Samādhi, they do not discriminate concerning this state, nor do they discourse on it. Blessed One, thou assuredly wilt discourse on this subject of duality. Thou art thyself a master of all things, an Arhat, a Tathagata. The sons of the Buddha and myself are anxious to listen to it."
The Blessed One said, "Lord of Laṅkā, tell me what you mean by duality?"
The Lord of the Rākṣasas, (17) who was renewed in his ornaments, full of splendour and beauty, with a diadem, bracelet, and necklace strung with vajra thread, said, "It is said that even dharmas are to be abandoned, and how much more adharmas. Blessed One, why does this dualism exist that we are called upon to abandon? What are adharmas? and what are dharmas? How can there be a duality of things to abandon—a duality that arises from falling into discrimination, from discriminating self-substance where there is none, from [the idea of] things created (bhautīka) and uncreated, because the non-differentiating nature of the Ālayavijñāna is not recognised? Like the seeing of a hair-circle as really existing in the air, [the notion of dualism] belongs to the realm of intellection not exhaustively pur-gated. This being the. case as it should be, how could there be any abandonment [of dharmas and adharmas]?"
Said the Blessed One, "Lord of Laṅkā, seest thou not that the differentiation of things, such as is perceived in jars and other breakable objects whose nature it is to perish in time, takes place in a realm of discrimination [cherished by] the ignorant? This being so, is it not to be so understood? It is due to discrimination [cherished by] the ignorant that there exists the differentiation of dharma and adharma. Noble wisdom (āryajñāna), however, is not to be realised by seeing [things this way]. Lord of Laṅkā, let it be so with the ignorant who follow the particularised aspect of existence that there are such objects as jars, etc., but it is not so with the wise. One flame of uniform nature rises up depending on houses, mansions, parks, and terraces, and burns them down; while a difference in the flames is seen according to the power of each burning material which varies in length, magnitude, etc. This being so, why (18) is it not to be so understood? The duality of dharma and adharma thus comes into existence. Not only is there seen a fire-flame spreading out in one continuity and yet showing a variety of flames, but from one seed, Lord of Laṅkā, are produced, also in one continuity, stems, shoots, knots, leaves, petals, flowers, fruit, branches, all individualised. As it is with every external object from which grows [a variety of] objects, so also with internal objects. From ignorance there develop the Skāndhas, Dhātus, Āyatanas, with all kinds of objects accompanying, which grow out in the triple world where we have, as we see, happiness, form, speech, and behaviour, each differentiating [infinitely]. The oneness of the Vijñāna is grasped variously according to the evolution of an objective world; thus there are seen things inferior, superior, and middling, things defiled and free from defilement, things good and bad. Not only, Lord of Laṅkā, is there such a difference of conditions in things generally, there is also seen a variety of realisations attained innerly by each Yogin as he treads the path of discipline which constitutes his practice. How much more difference in dharma and adharma do we not see in a world of particulars which is evolved by discrimination? Indeed, we do.
"Lord of Laṅkā, the differentiation of dharma and adharma comes from discrimination. Lord of Laṅkā, what are dharmas? That is, they are discriminated by the discriminations cherished by the philosophers, Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and ignorant people. They think that the dharmas headed by quality and substance are produced by causes—[these are the notions] to be abandoned. Such are not to be regarded [as real] because they are appearances (lakṣaṇa). It comes from one's clinging [to appearances] that the manifestations of his own Mind are regarded as reality (dharmatā). (19) Such things as jars, etc., are products of discrimination conceived by the ignorant, they exist not; their substances are not attainable. The viewing of things from this viewpoint is known as their abandonment.
"What, then, are adharmas? Lord of Laṅkā, [dharmas] are unattainable as to their selfhood, they are not appearances born of discrimination, they are above causality; there is in them no such [dualistic] happening as is seen as reality and non-reality. This is known as the abandoning of dharmas. What again is meant by the unattainability of dharmas? That is, it is like horns of a hare, or an ass, or a camel, or a horse, or a child conceived by a barren woman. They are dharmas the nature of which is unattainable; they are not to be thought [as real] because they are appearances. They are only talked About in popular parlance if they have any sense at all; they are not to be adhered to as in the case of jars, etc. As these [unrealities] are to be abandoned as not comprehensible by the mind (vijñāna), so are things (bhāva) of discrimination also to be abandoned. This is called the abandoning of dharmas and adharmas. Lord of Laṅkā, your question as to the way of abandoning dharmas and adharmas is hereby answered.
"Lord of Laṅkā, thou sayest again that thou hast asked [this question] of the Tathagatas of the past who were Arhats and Fully-Enlightened Ones and that it was solved by them. Lord of Laṅkā, that which is spoken of as the past belongs to discrimination; as the past is thus a discriminated [idea], even so are the [ideas] of the future and the present. Because of reality (dharmatā) the Tathagatas do not discriminate, they go beyond discrimination and futile reasoning, they do not follow (20) the individuation-aspect of forms (rūpa) except when [reality] is disclosed for the edification of the unknowing and for the sake of their happiness. It is by transcendental wisdom (prajñā) that the Tathagata performs deeds transcending forms (animittacāra); therefore, what constitutes the Tathagatas in essence as well as in body is wisdom (jñāna). They do not discriminate, nor are they discriminated. Wherefore do they not discriminate the Manas? Because discrimination is of the self, of soul, of personality. How do they not discriminate? The Manovijñāna is meant for the objective world where causality prevails as regards forms, appearances, conditions, and figures. Therefore, discrimination and non-discrimination must be transcended.
"Lord of Laṅkā, beings are appearances, they are like figures painted on the wall, they have no sensibility [or consciousness]. Lord of Laṅkā, all that is in the world is devoid of work and action because all things have no reality, and there is nothing heard, nothing hearing. Lord of Laṅkā, all that is in the world is like an image magically transformed. This is not comprehended by the philosophers and the ignorant. Lord of Laṅkā, he who thus sees things, is the one who sees truthfully. Those who see things otherwise walk in discrimination; as they depend on discrimination, they cling to dualism. It is like seeing one's own image reflected in a mirror, or one's own shadow in the water, or in the moonlight, or seeing one's shadow in the house, or hearing an echo in the valley. People grasping their own shadows of discrimination (21) uphold the discrimination of dharma and adharma and, failing to carry out the abandonment of the dualism, they go on discriminating and never attain tranquillity, By tranquillity is meant oneness (ekāgra), and oneness gives birth to the highest Samādhi, which is gained by entering into the womb of Tathagatahood, which is the realm of noble wisdom realised in one's inmost self."
Here Ends the First Chapter Called "Rāvaṇa Asking for Instruction."
Footnotes and references:
These Gothic numerals in parentheses refer to pages of the Sanskrit edition.
Much more fully described in Bodhiruci (Wei).
Literally, "sporting" (vikrīḍita).
The Sanskrit text is here certainly at fault; there ought to be a negative particle somewhere in this passage, which is the case in the Chinese translations.
Neither Bodhiruci nor Sikṣānanda refers so specifically to these various notes.
Verses 20-28, inclusive, are in prose in T'ang.
From this verse T'ang is in prose again.
Thus according to Bodhiruci and Śikṣānanda. The Sanskrit text has: "hundreds of thousands of perfect sutras.”
T'ang has: "He who sees in the way as was seen before, cannot see the Buddha; when no discrimination is aroused, this, indeed, is the seeing." According to Wei: "If he sees things and takes them for realities, he does not see the Buddha. Even when he is not abiding in a discriminating mind, he cannot see the Buddha. Not seeing anything doing [in the world]—this is said to be seeing the Buddha. If a man is able thus to see [things], he is the one who sees the Tathagata. When the wise observe all experiences in this manner, they are transformed assuming an exquisite body—this is the Enlightenment [attained by] the Buddha."
This does not appear in T'ang, nor in Wei.
T'ang: to go beyond.
Wei and T'ang: Do not hold the views maintained in the Vedas.
There is surely a discrepancy here in the text. T'ang reads: "In all the Buddha-lands in the ten quarters were also seen such events going on, and there was no difference whatever." Wei is quite different and has the following: "Besides, he saw all the Buddha-lands and all the kings thinking of the transitoriness of the body. As they are covetously attached to their thrones, wives, children, and relatives, they find themselves bound by the five passions and have no time for emancipation. Seeing this, they abandon their dominions, palaces, wives, concubines, elephants, horses, and precious treasures, giving them all up to the Buddha and his Brotherhood. They now retreat into the mountain-woods, leaving their homes and wishing to study the doctrine. He [Rāvaṇa] then sees the Bodhisattvas in the mountain woods strenuously applying themseves to the mastery of the truth, even to the extent of throwing themselves to the hungry tiger, lion, and Rākṣasas. He thus sees the Bodhisattvas reading and reciting the sutras under a tree in the woods and discoursing on them for others, seeking thereby the truth of the Buddha. He then sees the Bodhisattvas seated under the Bodhi-tree in the Bodhi-maṇḍala thinking of the suffering Beings and meditating on the truth of the Buddha. He then sees the venerable Mahāmati the Bodhisattva before each Buddha preaching about the spiritual discipline of one's inner life, and also sees [the Bodhisattva] surrounded by all the Yakṣas and families and talking about names, words, phrases, and paragraphs." This last sentence is evidently the translation of the Sanskrit deśanāpāṭhakathām, which is contrasted in the Laṅkāvatāra throughout with pratyātmāryajñānagocara (the spiritual realm realised by noble wisdom in one's inmost consciousness).
This is wanting in the Chinese translations.
The following sentence is done by the aid of T'ang, as the Sanskrit does not seem to give any sense. Literally translated it reads: "There by the becoming lotuses, by those lotuses that are blessed variously by the benediction of his own person.... " Wei has: "O King of Laṅkā, thou wilt before long see thy person, too, thus sitting on the lotus-throne and continuing to abide there in a most natural manner. There are innumerable families of lotus-kings and innumerable families of Bodhisattvas there, each one of whom is sitting on a lotus-throne, and surrounded by those thou wilt find thyself and looking face to face at one another, and each one of them will before long come to abide in a realm beyond the understanding."
That is, as far as the teaching could be conveyed in words. Deśanāpāṭha stands in contrast with siddhānta, or pratyātmagati in the Laṅkāvatāra.
In T'ang and Wei: "Original Tathagatas."
This is one of the most important sections in this first introductory chapter, but singularly all the three texts, perhaps excepting T'ang, present some difficulties for clear understanding. Wei: "Lord of Laṅkā, what you speak of as past is a form of discrimination, and so are the future and the present, also of discrimination. Lord of Laṅkā, when I speak of the real nature of suchness as being real, it also belongs to discrimination; it is like discriminating forms as the ultimate limit. If one wishes to realise the bliss of real wisdom, let him discipline himself in the knowledge that transcends forms; therefore, do not discriminate the Tathagatas as having knowledge-body or wisdom-essence. Do not cherish any discrimination in [thy] mind. Do not cling in [thy] will to such notions as ego, personality, soul, etc. How not to discriminate? It is in the Manovijñāna that various conditions are cherished such as forms, figures, [etc. ]; do not cherish such [discriminations]. Do not discriminate nor be discriminated. Further, Lord of Laṅkā, it is like various forms painted on the wall, all sentient beings are such. Lord of Laṅkā, all sentient beings are like grasses and trees, with them there are no acts, no deeds, Lord of Laṅkā, all dharmas and adharmas, of them nothing is heard, nothing talked...." T'ang: "Lord of Laṅkā, what you speak of as past is no more than discrimination, so is the future; I too am like him. [Is this to be read, "the present, too, is like it"!] Lord of Laṅkā, the teaching of all the Buddhas is outside discrimination; as it goes beyond all discriminations and futile reasonings, it is not a form of particularisation, it is realised only by wisdom. That [this absolute] teaching is at all discoursed about is for the sake of giving bliss to all sentient beings. The discoursing is done by the wisdom transcending forms. It is called the Tathagata; therefore, the Tathagata has his essence, his body in this wisdom. He thus does not discriminate, nor is he to be discriminated. Do not discriminate him after the notion of ego, personality, or being. Why this impossibility of discrimination? because the Manovijñāna is aroused on account of an objective world wherein it attaches itself to forms and figures. Therefore, [the Tathagata] is outside the discriminating [view] as well as the discriminated [idea]. Lord of Laṅkā, it is like beings painted in colours on a wall, they have no sensibility [or intelligence]. Sentient beings in the world are also like them; no acts, no rewards [are with them]. So are all the teachings, no hearing, no preaching."
It is noteworthy that the chapter endings are not the same throughout the entire text. Generally, reference is made to the Sutra itself at the end of a chapter, stating that the chapter bears such a title belonging to such a Sutra. But in the present case there is no mention at all of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra as if this Rāvaṇa section were something quite independent. While there is no doubt about its being a later addition, seeing what a complete piece of narrative it forms by itself, and again seeing that the rest of the text makes no further reference to Rāvaṇa, the trend of the discourse as presented by the Buddha shows that it is closely related to the Sutra, especially when it emphasises at the end the importance of self-realisation against the inanity or futility of the verbal teaching ordinarily given out by a master.