Chapter II — Sakra (RiBa)

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Chapter II

SAKRA

1. PREAMBLE

At this time, many Gods are coming to the assembly and taking their seats: Sakra, Chief of Gods, with forty thousand Gods of the Thirty-three; the four world-guardians, with twenty thousand Gods belonging to the retinue of the four Great Kings; Brahma, ruler of this world system, with ten thousand Gods belonging to the company of Brahma; and five thousand Gods of the Pure Abode. And yet...the might of the Buddha with his majesty and authority surpasses even the splendor of these Gods, a reward for the deeds these have done here, even in this past.

Sakra: These many thousands of Gods, Subhuti, have come to this assembly, and taken seats, as we want to hear about perfect wisdom from the Holy Subhuti, and to listen to his advice to the Bodhisattvas, to his instruction and admonition how these Bodhisattvas stand in perfect wisdom, how train in it, how one devotes oneself to it?

Subhuti: Let me now explain it to you, through the Buddha's might, majesty and authority. The Gods, not yet aspiring to full enlightenment should do so. Any however, being certain to have got safely out of this world [i.e., the Arhats having reached their last birth, and thinking to have done with it all] are unfit for full enlightenment as these are not willing to go, from compassion, back into birth-and-death. And why? The flood of birth and death hems these ones in. Incapable of repeated rebirths, these ones are unable to aspire to full enlightenment. And yet, these may still aspire to full enlightenment, and I confirm such as these also. I do not obstruct their wholesome root. For one should uphold distinguished dharmas above all others.

The Lord: Well said, Subhuti. You well encourage Bodhisattvas.

Subhuti now says to the Lord: We are grateful to the Lord, and not ungrateful. For the Lord, in presence of Tathagatas leads for our sake the holy life with enlightenment as his view. Even as he definitely develops Bodhisattva realization [as being dedicated to a thought of enlightenment], disciples still instruct and admonish him in these perfections, and by his coursing herein is revealing utmost cognition, to and for beneficence of unlimited beings. So also do we help, champion, aid and sustain Bodhisattvas, as these Bodhisattvas we help, champion, aid and sustain, soon come to know full enlightenment.

2. HOW TO STAND IN EMPTINESS, OR THE PERFECTION OF WISDOM

So, now Subhuti says to Sakra: Listen now, Kausika, and attend well as I teach you how a Bodhisattva stands in perfect wisdom. Through standing in emptiness, one stands in perfection of wisdom. Armed with great armor, the Bodhisattva thus develops so one does not take one's stand on any of these: not on form, feeling, perception, impulses, consciousness; not on eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; not on forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables, mind-objects; not on eye-consciousness, etc., until we come to: not on mind-consciouness, etc., until we come to: not on the elements, i.e., earth, water, fire, wind, ether, consciousness: not on the pillars of mindfulness, right efforts, roads to psychic power, faculties, powers, limbs of enlightenment, limbs of the Path; not on the fruits of Streamwinner, Once-Returner, Never-Returner, or Arhatship; not on Pratyekabuddhahood, nor on Buddhahood. One does not take one's stand on the idea, 'this is form', 'this is feeling', etc., to: 'this is Buddhahood'. One does not take one's stand on any ideas like 'form, feeling, perception, impulse, or consciousness, is permanent, or impermanent'; 'form, etc., is ease or ill'; 'form, etc., is self, or not self', 'form, etc., is lovely or repulsive', or even that 'form, etc., is empty, or apprehended as something'. One does not take one's stand on any notion such as the fruits of the holy life derive their dignity from something called 'Unconditioned'. Or this - a Streamwinner is worthy of gifts, and will be reborn seven times at the most. Or, a Once-Returner is worthy of gifts and, as one has not yet quite realized through to any end, one makes an end of ill after one has once more come into this world. Or, a Never-Returner is worthy of gifts and, without once more returning to this world, realizes Nirvana elsewhere. Or, an Arhat is worthy of gifts and just here in this very existence will win Nirvana in the realm of Nirvana leaving nothing behind. Or, a Pratyekabuddha is worthy of gifts, and will win Nirvana after rising above the level of a Disciple, but without having attained any level of a Buddha. Or even, a Buddha is worthy of gifts, and will win Nirvana in the Buddha-Nirvana, in the realm of Nirvana leaving nothing behind, once one rises above the levels of a common being, of a Disciple, and of a Pratyekabuddha, wroughts the weal of countless beings, leads to Nirvana countless hundreds of thousands of niyutas of kotis of beings, assures countless beings of Discipleship, Pratyekabuddhahood and full Buddhahood, is standing [!] on the stage of a Buddha and does a Buddha's work, -even now on this a Bodhisattva does not take one's stand.

Hereupon the Venerable Sariputra thought to himself: If even here upon this one does not take one's stand, how does one stand, and train oneself? The Venerable Subhuti, through the Buddha's might, read his thoughts and said: What do you think, Sariputra, where does Tathagata stand?

Sariputra: Nowhere does Tathagata stand. A Tathagata mind neither seeks nor relies upon support. Ones such as these stand neither in what is conditioned, nor in what is unconditioned, nor do these emerge from such.

Subhuti: Even so a Bodhisattva stands and trains oneself. One decides this, "as the Tathagata does not stand anywhere, nor not stand, nor stand apart, nor not stand apart, so also I stand." Just so one trains oneself, "as Tathagata is stationed, so also I stand, and train myself." Just so one trains oneself, "as the Tathagata is stationed, so do I stand, well in place as without a place to stand upon." Even so Sariputra, a Bodhisattva stands and trains oneself. As one trains thus, one adjusts oneself to perfection of wisdom, and never ceases from taking it to heart.

3. THE SAINTS AND THEIR GOAL ARE ILLUSIONS

So, now here comes this thought to some of the Gods in this assembly: "What the fairies talk and murmur, we understand this though mumbled. But, Subhuti is just telling us what we do not understand." Subhuti read these thoughts, and said: "Here is no-thing to understand, nothing at all to understand. Nothing in particular is indicated, nothing in particular is explained."

Hereupon the Gods thought: "May the Holy Subhuti enlarge on this! May the Holy Subhuti enlarge on this! What the Holy Subhuti here explores, demonstrates and teaches, is remoter than remote, subtler than subtle, deep beyond depth." Subhuti read these thoughts, and said: "No one can attain any fruit of holy life or keep it, - from the Streamwinner's fruit to full enlightenment - unless one patiently accepts this... - the elusiveness of dharma."

Now these Gods thought: "What could one wish any beings to be like who are worthy to listen to the doctrine from the Holy Subhuti?" Subhuti read these thoughts, and said: "These learning doctrine from me one might wish to be like an illusory magical creation, for these neither hear my words nor experience the facts which are here and now expressed."

Gods: Beings like a magical illusion, are these not in truth just an illusion?

Subhuti: Like a magical illusion are these beings, like a dream. For not two different things are magical illusion and beings are dreams and beings. Any and all objective facts also are like a magical illusion, like a dream. The various classes of saints, from Streamwinner to Buddhahood, also are like a magical illusion, like a dream.

Gods: A fully enlightened Buddha also, you say, is like a magical illusion, is like a dream? Buddhahood also, you say, is like a magical illusion, is like a dream?

Subhuti: Even Nirvana, I say, is like a magical illusion, is like a dream. How much more so anything else?!

Gods: Even Nirvana, Holy Subhuti, you say, is like an illusion, is like a dream?

Subhuti: If perchance here could be anything even more distinguished, of such too I say is like an illusion, like a dream. For not two different things are illusion and Nirvana, are dreams and Nirvana.

Hereupon the Venerable Sariputra, the Venerable Purna, son of Maitrayani, the Venerable Mahakoshthila, the Venerable Mahakatyayana, the Venerable Mahakashyapa, and the other Great Disciples, together with many thousands of Bodhisattvas, said: "Who, Subhuti, are these grasping this perfect wisdom as here explained?"

Hereupon the Venerable Ananda said to these Elders: "Bodhisattvas incapable of falling back grasp this, or beings, persons reaching sound views, or Arhats in whom the outflows are realized as dried up."

Subhuti: No one grasps this perfect wisdom as here explained [i.e. explained in such a way as really no explanation at all]. For no dharma at all is being indicated, lit up, or communicated. So here too, is not even one grasping it.

4. SAKRA'S FLOWERS

Now this thought comes to Sakra: Let me now, in order to do worship to this discourse on dharma which is being taught by the Holy Subhuti, conjure up some flowers, and scatter them over the Holy Subhuti. Sakra conjured up flowers, and scattered them over the Venerable Subhuti. The Venerable Subhuti thought to himself by the way of reply: These flowers which [now] appear among the Gods of Thirty-three I had not noticed before. These flowers, which Sakra scatters, are magical creations. They are not issued from trees, shrubs or creepers. These flowers which Sakra is scattering are mind-made. Sakra replied: "These flowers are not issuing forth at all. For here are really no flowers whether they issue forth from mind, trees, shrubs, or creepers." So, Subhuti now says to him: "As you say, Kausika, 'these flowers do not issue forth at all, neither from mind, nor from trees shrubs or creepers', for this which never issues forth is not a flower."

Note to interpolation: [any numbers appearing in square brackets refer to the versified version of Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines.]

5. TRAINING IN PERFECT WISDOM

So now the thought occurs to Sakra, Chief of Gods: Profoundly wise, surely, is the Holy Subhuti, as he explains this merely nominal existence [of all separate things], and yet even so does not bring it into conflict with any norm of truth, but enlarges on such and quite simply expounds it. Sakra now says to the Venerable Subhuti: "So it is. The Bodhisattva so trains oneself [in this insight] as Holy Subhuti points out."

Subhuti: Truly one so dedicated does. As one thus trains, one does not train to achieve any results of a Streamwinner, nor in any other fruits of the holy life, even up to Buddhahood. For as one trains oneself on any of these stages, one trains oneself in, or as buddha-nature, or toward pure and undifferientiated cognition of all-knowledge; and so in the immeasurable and incalculable Buddha-dharmas. So in this, one trains oneself neither for the increase of form, feeling, perception, impulse, or consciousness, nor yet for their decrease; [43] neither to appropriate form, etc., nor to let them go. Nor does one train oneself to get hold of any other dharma even up to all-knowledge, nor to produce one, or make one disappear. As one thus trains, a Bodhisattva trains in all-knowledge, and dedicated thusly, goes forth to all-knowledge.

Sakra: Does a Bodhisattva go forth to all-knowledge, even though one does not train oneself to get hold of any dharmas, -even of all-knowledge, -nor to produce one, or make one disappear?

Subhuti: One such as this does. [44]

Sakra now says to Sariputra: How or where does a Bodhisattva search for perfect wisdom?

Sariputra: In the exposition of the Venerable Subhuti.

Sakra: Through whose might, and on whose authority, does the Holy Subhuti teach perfect wisdom?

Sariputra: Through the Tathagata’s might, and on his authority.

Subhuti: It is indeed the Tathagata’s might, Sakra, by which such perfect wisdom is taught. And as you ask, ‘How or where does a Bodhisattva search for perfect wisdom?’, the answer is: One should not search for such in form, nor in any other skandhas; nor in any thing which is other than form, or other than any other skandhas. Because, perfect wisdom is not one of these skandhas, nor yet other than these. [45]

6. THE INFINITUDE OF PERFECT WISDOM

Sakra: This perfection of wisdom, Subhuti, is a great perfection, unlimited, measureless, infinite.

Subhuti: So it is. And why? Perfect wisdom is great, unlimited, measureless and infinite because form, feelings, etc., are so. Hence one does not settle down in any such conviction that this is a ‘great perfection,’ and ‘unlimited perfection,’ a ‘measureless perfection,’ or ‘infinite perfection.’ This is how and why perfect wisdom is a great perfection, unlimited, measureless and infinite. [46] Perfect wisdom is an infinite perfection because objects as well as [individual] beings are infinite. Perfect wisdom is an infinite perfection because one cannot get at the beginning, middle, or end of any objective fact [since as a dharma, such have no own-being]. Moreover, perfect wisdom is infinite perfection as all objective facts are endless and boundless, and any beginning, middle, or end are not apprehended. For one cannot apprehend the beginning, middle and end of form, or any such skandhas. In such a way as this perfect wisdom is infinite perfection by reason of this infinitude of objects. And further still, any being is endless and boundless as one cannot get at any beginning, middle or end. Thus perfect wisdom is infinite perfection by reason of this infinitude of beings.

Sakra: How is it, Holy Subhuti, this perfect wisdom is an infinite perfection by reason of this infinitude of beings?

Subhuti: It is not so because of their exceedingly great number and abundance.

Sakra: So, how now Holy Subhuti, is perfect wisdom an infinite perfection by reason of the infinitude of beings? [47]

Subhuti: Well Kausika, what factual entity does the word ‘being’ denote?

Sakra: The word ‘being’ denotes no dharma or non-dharma. It is a term which is added on [to any of this which is really here]...as something adventitious, groundless, as no-thing in itself, unfounded in any objective fact whatsoever.

Subhuti: Is herein [i.e., by uttering this word ‘being’] any being showing up [as an ultimate fact]?

Sakra: No indeed, Holy Subhuti!

Subhuti: So, as no being whatsoever is showing up, how is herein an infinitude of these beings? For, if any Tathagata, with a voice of infinite range, with this deep thunder of a voice, pronounces, for aeons countless as the sands of the Ganges, this word ‘being,’ ‘being,’ – would this Tathagata hereby produce or stop any being whatsoever, either in this past, future or present?

Sakra: No indeed, Holy Subhuti! Because any being is pure from beyond even any beginning, perfectly pure.

Subhuti: In this way also perfect wisdom is this infinitude of perfection by reason of this identical infinitude of beings. In this manner also any infinitude of perfect wisdom can be known from this infinitude of beings. [48]

7. CONFIRMATION

Hereupon these Gods around Indra, Brahma and Prajapati, and these hosts of men and women around Rishis as well thrice shouted forth in triumph: Hail the Dharma! Hail the Dharma! Hail the Dharmahood of Dharma! Also these added: Beautifully does Subhuti the Elder even just now indicate, demonstrate, show and clarify how thusly any Tathagata comes to be manifest. As potential Tathagatas we henceforth regard any Bodhisattva possessing fullness of this perfection of wisdom and who here so dwells within.

The Lord now speaks: So it is, O Gods! So do I, as I met a Tathagata, Dipankara, in the bazaar of Dipavati, the royal city, possess the fullness of this perfection of wisdom, so Dipankara, a Tathagata predicted one day I am to be fully enlightened, and said to me: “You, young Brahmin, in this future period, after incalculable aeons, become a Tathagata, Sakyamuni by name, - endowed with knowledge and virtue, Well-Gone, a world-knower, unsurpassed, tamer of beings to be tamed, teacher of Gods and people, a Buddha, a Blessed Lord!”

The Gods replied: This is wonderful, O Lord, this is exceedingly wonderful, O Well-Gone, how much all-knowledge is nourished and promoted in these Bodhisattvas, these great beings, by this perfection of wisdom!


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