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...
(240) At that time again, Mahāmati the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva said this to the Blessed One: [How was it that] the Arhats were given assurance by the Blessed One of their attainment of supreme enlightenment? [How can] all beings attain Tathagatahood without realising the truths of Parinirvana? [What does it mean that] from the night when the Tathagata was awakened to supreme enlightenment until the night when he entered into Parinirvana, between these times the Tathagata has not uttered, has not pronounced, a word. [What is the meaning of this] that being always in Samādhi the Tathagatas neither deliberate nor contemplate? [How do] Buddhas of transformation, being in the state of transformation, execute the works of the Tathagatas? How is the succession of momentary decomposition explained which takes place in the Vijñānas?
[Further, what do these statements mean] that Vajrapāṇi is constantly with [the Tathagata] as his personal guard; that the primary limit is unknown and yet cessation is knowable; that there are evil ones, their activities, and left-over karma? Blessed One, [facts of] karma-hindrance are said to be shown [by the Tathagata in the incident of] Cañcā the daughter of a Brahmin, of Sundarī the daughter of a mendicant, an empty bowl, etc.; how can the Blessed One with these unexhausted evils attain all-knowledge?
The Blessed One replied: Then, Mahāmati, listen well and reflect well within yourself; I will tell you.
Certainly, Blessed One; (241) said Mahāmati the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva and gave ear to the Blessed One.
The Blessed One said this to him: The realm of Nirvana where no substratum is left behind is according to the hidden meaning and for the sake of the practisers who are thereby inspired to exert themselves in the work of the Bodhisattvas. Mahāmati, there are Bodhisattvas practising the work of the Bodhisattva here and in other Buddha-lands, who, however, are desirous of attaining the Nirvana of the Śrāvakayāna. In order to turn their inclination away from the Śrāvakayāna and to make them exert themselves in the course of the Mahāyāna, the Śrāvakas in transformation are given assurance [as to their future Buddhahood] by the Body of Transformation; but this is not done by the Dharmatā-Buddha. This giving assurance to the Śrāvakas, Mahāmati, is declared according to the hidden meaning. Mahāmati, that the abandonment of passion-hindrance by the Śrāvakas and Pratyekabuddhas is not different [from that by the Tathagatas] is due to the sameness of the taste of emancipation, but this does not apply to the abandonment of knowledge-hindrance. Knowledge-hindrance, Mahāmati, is purified when the egolessness of things is distinctly perceived; but passion-hindrance is destroyed when first the egolessness of persons is perceived and acted upon, for [then] the Manovijñāna ceases to function. Further, dharma-hindrance is given up because of the disappearance of the habit-energy [accumulated in] the Ālayavijñāna, it is now thoroughly purified.
There is an eternally-abiding reality [which is to be understood] according to the hidden meaning, because it is something that has neither antecedents nor consequents. The Tathagata points out the Dharma without deliberation, without contemplation, and by means of such words that are original and independent. Because of his right thinking and because of his unfailing memory, he neither deliberates nor contemplates, he is no more at the stage of the fourfold habit-energy, (242) he is free from the twofold death, he has relinquished the twofold hindrance of passion and knowledge.
Mahāmati, the seven Vijñānas, that is, Manas, Manovijñāna,, eye-vijñāna, etc., are characterised with momentariness because they originate from habit-energy, they are destitute of the good non-flowing factors, and are not transmigratory. What transmigrates, Mahāmati, is the Tathāgata-garbha which is the cause of Nirvana as well as that of pleasure and pain. This is not understood by the ignorant whose minds are torn asunder by the notion of emptiness.
Mahāmati, the Tathagatas who are accompanied by Vajrapāṇi are the Tathagatas transformed in transformation and are not the original Tathagatas, Arhats, Fully-Enlightened Ones. The original Tathagatas, Mahāmati, are indeed beyond all sense and measurement, beyond the reach of all ignorant ones, Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and philosophers. [These Tathagatas] are abiding in the joy of existence as it is, as they have reached the truth of intuitive knowledge by means of Jñānakṣānti. Thus Vajrapāṇi is not attached to them. All the Buddhas of Transformation do not owe their existence to karma; in them there is no Tathagatahood, but apart from them there is no Tathagatahood either. Like the potter who is dependent on various combinations, [the Buddha of Transformation] does his work for sentient beings; he teaches the doctrine meeting conditions, but not the doctrine that will establish the truth as it is, which belongs to the noble realm of self-realisation.
Further, Mahāmati, on account of the cessation of the six Vijñānas the ignorant and simple-minded look for nihilism, and on account of their not understanding the Ālayavijñāna they have eternalism. The primary limit of the discrimination of their own minds (243) is unknown, Mahāmati. Emancipation is obtained when this discrimination of Mind itself ceases. With the abandonment of the fourfold habit-energy the abandonment of all faults takes place.
So it is said:
1. The three vehicles are no-vehicle; there is no Nirvana with the Buddhas; it is pointed out that the assurance of Buddhahood is given to all that are freed from faults.
2. Ultimate intuitive knowledge, Nirvana that leaves no remnant, —this is told according to the hidden meaning in order to give encouragement to the timid.
3. Knowledge is produced by the Buddhas, and the path is pointed out by them: they move in it and not in anything else, therefore there is no Nirvana with them.
4. Existence, desire, form (rūpa), theorising—this is the fourfold habit-energy; this is where the Manovijñāna takes its rise and the Ālaya and Manas abide.
5. Nihilism and the idea of impermanency rise because of the Manovijñāna, the eye-vijñāna, etc.; eternalism rises from [the thought that] there is no beginning in Nirvana, intelligence, and theorisation.
Here Ends the Seventh Chapter, "On Transformation."
Footnotes and references:
The following gāthās do not seem to have any specific relation to the prose section.