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...
(211) At that time again Mahāmati the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva said this to the Blessed One: Pray tell me, Blessed One, about the state of perfect tranquillisation (nirodha) and its further development as attained by all the Bodhisattvas, Śrāvakas, and Pratyekabuddhas; for when this further development is thoroughly understood by myself and other Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas all may be saved from being confounded by the happiness which comes from the attainment of perfect tranquillisation and also from falling into the confused state of mind of the Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and philosophers.
Said the Blessed One: Then listen well and reflect well within yourself; I will tell you.
Certainly, Blessed One, said Mahāmati the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva and gave ear to the Blessed One.
The Blessed One said this to him: Those Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas who have reached the sixth stage as well as all the Śrāvakas and Pratyekabuddhas attain perfect tranquillisation. At the seventh stage, the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, giving up the view of self-nature as subsisting in all things, attain perfect tranquillisation in every minute of their mental lives, which is not however the case with the Śrāvakas and Pratyekabuddhas; for with them there is something effect-producing, and in their attainment of perfect tranquillisation there is a trace [of dualism], of grasped and grasping. Therefore, they do not attain perfect tranquillisation in every minute of their mental lives which is possible at the seventh stage. They cannot attain to [the clear conviction of] an undifferentiated state of all things (212) and the cessation of [all] multiplicities. Their attainment is due to understanding the aspect of all things in which their self-nature is discriminated as good and as not-good. Therefore, until the seventh stage there is not a well-established attainment of tranquillisation in every minute of their mental lives.
Mahāmati, at the eighth stage the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, Śrāvakas, and Pratyekabuddhas cease cherishing discriminative ideas that arise from the Citta, Mana and Manovijñāna. From the first stage up to the sixth, they perceive that the triple world is no more than the Citta. Manas, and Manovijñāna, that as it is born of a discriminating mind there is no ego-soul and what belongs to it, and that there is no falling into the multitudinousness of external objects except through [the discrimination of] the Mind itself. The ignorant turning their self-knowledge (svajñāna) towards the dualism of grasped and grasping fail to understand, for there is the working of habit-energy which has "been accumulating since beginningless time owing to false reasoning and discrimination.
Mahāmati, at the eighth stage there is Nirvana for the Śrāvakas and Pratyekabuddhas and Bodhisattvas; but the Bodhisattvas are kept away by the power of all the Buddhas from [being intoxicated by] the bliss of the Samādhi, and thereby they will not enter into Nirvana. When the stage of Tathagatahood is not fulfilled there would be the cessation of all doings, and if [the Bodhisattvas] were not supported [by the Buddhas] the Tathagata-family would become extinct. Therefore, the Buddhas, the Blessed Ones, point out the virtues of Buddhahood which are beyond conception. (213) Therefore, [the Bodhisattvas] do not enter into Nirvana, but the Śrāvakas and Pratyekabuddhas, engrossed in the bliss of the Samādhis, therein cherish the thought of Nirvana.
At the seventh stage, Mahāmati, the Bodhisattva properly examines into the nature of the Citta, Manas, and Manovijñāna; he examines into [such subjects as] ego-soul and what belongs to it, grasped and grasping, the egolessness of persons and things, rising and disappearing, individuality and generality; he skilfully ascertains the fourfold logical analysis; he enjoys the bliss of self-mastery; he enters successively upon the stages; he knows the differences obtaining in the various elements of enlightenment. The grading of the stages is arranged by me lest the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, not knowing what is meant by individuality and generality and failing to understand the continuous development of the successive stages, should fall into the philosophers' wrong way of viewing things. But, Mahāmati, there is really nothing rising, nothing disappearing, all is nothing except what is seen of the Mind itself; that is, the continuous development of the successive stages and all the multiple doings of the triple world [—they are all of Mind itself]. This is not understood by the ignorant. I and all the Buddhas establish the doctrine of the stages which develop successively as do all the doings of the triple world.
Further, Mahāmati, the Śrāvakas and Pratyekabuddhas at the eighth stage of Bodhisattvahood are so intoxicated with the happiness that comes from the attainment of perfect tranquillisation, and, failing to understand fully that there is nothing in the world but what is seen of the Mind itself, they are thus unable to overcome the hindrances and habit-energy growing out of their notions of generality and individuality; and adhering to the egolessness of persons and things and (214) cherishing views arising therefrom, they have the discriminating idea and knowledge of Nirvana, which is not that of the truth of absolute solitude. Mahāmati, when the Bodhisattvas face and perceive the happiness of the Samādhi of perfect tranquillisation, they are moved with the feeling of love and sympathy owing to their original vows, and they become aware of the part they are to perform as regards the [ten] inexhaustible vows. Thus, they do not enter Nirvana. But the fact is that they are already in Nirvana because in them there is no rising of discrimination. With them the discrimination of grasped and grasping no more takes place; as they [now] recognise that there is nothing in the world but what is seen of the Mind itself, they have done away with the thought of discrimination concerning all things. They have abandoned adhering to and discriminating about such notions as the Citta, Manas, and Manovijñāna, and external objects, and self-nature; however, they have not given up the things promoting the cause of Buddhism; because of their attainment of the inner insight which belongs to the stage of Tathagatahood; whatever they do all issues from their transcendental knowledge.
It is like a man crossing a stream in a dream. For instance, Mahāmati, suppose that while sleeping a man dreams that he is in the midst of a great river which he earnestly endeavours with all his might to cross by himself; but before he succeeds in crossing the stream, he is awakened from the dream, and being awakened he thinks: "Is this real or unreal?" He thinks again: "No, it is neither real nor unreal. By reason of the habit-energy of discrimination which has been accumulated by experience ever since beginningless time, as multiplicities of forms and conditions are seen, heard, thought, and recognised, there is the perception and discrimination of all things as existent and nonexistent; and for this reason my Manovijñāna experiences even in a dream all that has been seen by myself."
In the same way, Mahāmati, the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas of the eighth stage of Bodhisattvahood, (215) after passing through the first up to the seventh stage, observe that "there is no more rising in them of discrimination since all things are seen as like Māyā, etc., when they have an intuitive understanding of the [true] nature of all things, and [further] observing that, therefore, there is the cessation of all things as to grasped and grasping which rise from one's ardent desire for things, and also observing how the mind and what belongs to it carry on their discrimination, the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas never relax their efforts to practise the teachings of the Buddhas. Mahāmati, they will exercise themselves to make those who have not yet attained the truth attain it. For the Bodhisattvas, Nirvana does not mean extinction; as they have abandoned thoughts of discrimination evolving from the Citta, Manas, and Manovijñāna, there is for them the attainment of the recognition that all things are unborn. And, Mahāmati, in ultimate reality there is neither gradation nor continuous succession; [only] the truth of absolute solitude (viviktadharma) is taught here in which the discrimination of all the images is quieted. So it is said:
1. The abodes and the stages of Buddhahood are established in the Mind-only which is imageless—this was told, is told, and will be told by the Buddhas.
2. The [first] seven stages are [still] of the mind, but here the eighth is imageless; the two stages, [the ninth and the tenth,] have [still] something to rest themselves on; the [highest] stage that is left belongs to me.
3. Self-realisation and absolute purity—this stage is my own; it is the highest station of Maheśvara, the Akanishtha [heaven] shining brilliantly.
4. Its rays of light move forward like a mass of fire; they who are bright-coloured, charming, and auspicious transform the triple world.
5. Some worlds are being transformed, while others have already been transformed; there I preach the various vehicles which belong to my own stage.
(216) 6. But [from the absolute point of view] the tenth is the first, and the first is the eighth; and the ninth is the seventh, and the seventh is the eighth.
7. And the second is the third, and the fourth is the fifth, and the third is the sixth; what gradation is there where imagelessness prevails?
The Fourth Chapter, "On Intuitive Understanding."