Chapter XX — Discussion of Skill in Means (RiBa)

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Chapter XX


Emptiness and Reality-Limit

Subhuti: How does a Bodhisattva coursing in perfection of wisdom come to reveal to self, another, and countless beings, these humbled revelations as the non-limitedness of emptiness, or, how does one enter into concentration on emptiness?

The Lord: One contemplates form, etc., [skandhas], as empty. However, one contemplates this with an undisturbed continuum of thought resulting from nonconceptual awareness thusly: as one contemplates this universal law..."form, feeling, perception, impulse and consciousness is empty," doesn't regard any dharma [phenomena] as any 'thing' [phenomena] which as a result of emptiness is any separate entity [because it IS it's true nature]. So, as one does not, and logically can not regard any nature -AS- any specific dharmas being any real thing, one cannot realize any reality-limit (which is 'a point' where reality 'as we know it' comes to an end, because the knowing itself thereof comes to be revealed as this non-limitedness, synonymous with all-knowledge, or emptiness.) As such, this can be viewed intellectually from many different angles and almost grasped, BUT still cannot be known and stated experientially in some conventional discursive fashion because 'where' this comes to be definitively beyond thought, word, and concept...'where' no-thing exists. Here or abouts, one comes to say with the greatest conviction and knowing..."I know nothing!", and joins the ranks of the exceedingly rare minority who can say this with any truth whatsoever behind it.

Subhuti: In reference to the Lord saying, "a Bodhisattva does not realize emptiness," how does a Bodhisattva who stands firmly in [this continuing practice of] this concentration [on emptiness] not realize emptiness?

The Lord: A Bodhisattva contemplates emptiness which yields it's inherency of the naturalness of all modes (of the six perfections). Yet, one does not contemplate this: "I shall realize," or "I should realize," but one contemplates this: "this is time for complete discomfiture, and not realization." [371] So, without losing oneself in this concentration, one ties one's thought to any objective support [for one's compassion] and determines to yield one self to the infinitely apparent perfect wisdom [which is essentially skill in means], and one determines within this, one will not realize emptiness [as it's realization is not any 'final goal']. Yet the Bodhisattva does not lose any dharmas which act as the 37 wings of enlightenment. [These are the 4 foundations of mindfulness, the 4 restraints, the 4 bases of accomplishment, the 5 faculties, the 5 powers, the 7 limbs and the 8 fold path.] One does not affect the extinction of outflows [which prevent renewed rebirths], yet one 'achieves' no limitations. As a Bodhisattva dwells in concentration as emptiness - which is one of the doors to deliverance - one also dwells in concentration on Signlessness, but without realizing the Signless. Endowed with dharma of this wholesome root which is thus in place, one contemplates "this is time for nurturing beings, and not for realization." Taken hold of by perfect wisdom one does not realize any reality limit.

Three Similes

The Lord: Suppose, Subhuti, one excellent, of noble qualities...very vigorous, of high social position, attractive and most fair to behold, of many virtues, in possession of all the finest virtues, virtues which spring from the very height of sovereignty, discipline and morality, learning, renunciation and so on. This person is judicious, able to express with ease, to formulate views clearly, to substantiate one's claims; one who always knows the suitable time, place and situation for everything. In archery this one has gone as far as one can go, is successful in warding off all manner of attack, most skilled in all arts, and foremost, through fine achievements, in all crafts. Of good memory, this one is intelligent, clever, steady and prudent, versed in all the treatises, has many friends, is wealthy, strong of body, with large limbs, with all faculties complete, [372] generous to all, dear and pleasant to many. Any work undertaken is managed to completion. This one also speaks methodically, shares great riches with the many, honors what should be honored, reveres what should be revered, worships what should be worshipped. Would such a person, Subhuti, feel every increasing joy and zest?

Subhuti: Yes indeed, O Lord.

The Lord: Now suppose as well, this person so greatly accomplished, takes one's family on a journey, one's mother and father, sons and daughters. By some circumstances, these find themselves in a great, wild forest. The foolish ones among them feel fright, terror and hair-raising fear. This one, however, fearlessly says to this family: "Do not be afraid! I shall soon take you safely and securely out of this terrible and frightening forest. I shall soon set you free!" Then more and more hostile and inimical forces rise up in this forest, would this noble person decide to abandon this family, and to take oneself alone out of that terrible and frightening forest - this one who is not one to draw back, who is endowed with all the force of firmness and vigor, who is wise, exceedingly tender and compassionate, courageous and a master of many resources? [373]

Subhuti: No, O Lord. This person, who does not abandon this family, has at one's disposal powerful resources, both within and without. On this one's side forces arise in this wild forest which are quite a match for the hostile and inimical forces, and these stand up for and protect these one's. These enemies and adversaries, who look for a weak spot, who seek for a weak spot, do not gain any hold over these one's. This one is competent to deal with the situation, and is able, unhurt and uninjured, soon to take out of that forest both this family and oneself, and securely and safely these reach a village, city or market-town.

The Lord: Just so, Subhuti, is it with a Bodhisattva which is full of pity and concerned with the welfare of all beings, which dwells in friendliness, compassion, sympathetic joy and impartiality, is taken hold of by skill in means and perfect wisdom, which has been taken over by one's wholesome roots, employing the kind of transformation which is the Buddha's sanction. Although one enters into this concentration which proffers just these doors to deliverance, -being concentrated contemplation on; emptiness, signlessness and wishlessness- this one nevertheless just does not realize any reality-limit, such as one has a tendency toward on levels of Sravaka Disciple, or on these of a Pratyekabuddha. This one has at this one's disposal very strong and powerful helpers, in perfect wisdom and skill in means. Since this one does not abandon all beings, this one is thus able to have revealed full enlightenment, safely and securely.

At such a time as a Bodhisattva makes all beings an object for one's thought of friendliness, and with this highest friendliness ties oneself to these, at this time one rises above the factiousness of the defilements and of Mara, one rises above the level of Sravaka Disciple and Pratyekabuddha, [374] and one abides in this concentration [on friendliness]. This is not one who has attained the extinction of the outflows, yet achieves a complete consummation of emptiness, which [in this case] is endowed with these highest perfections. At such a time as a Bodhisattva dwells in this concentration on emptiness, which is but one door to freedom, one yet does not dwell in concentration as Signlessness, nor does this one realize concentration on the Signless. This is just like a bird which on its wings courses in the air. It neither falls to the ground, nor does it stand anywhere on any support. It dwells in space, just in the air, without being either supported or settled herein.

Just so a Bodhisattva dwells as this dwelling of emptiness, realizes this total permeance of emptiness. Just so this one dwells AS this dwelling of Signlessness and Wishlessness, and such comes to be revealed as this specific consummation as Signless and Wishless. But one does not fall into emptiness, neither into Signlessness, nor Wishlessness, with one's Buddha-dharmas remaining incomplete. It is as with a master of archery, strong, well-trained, perfectly trained in archery. He first shoots one arrow upwards. He now sends after this another arrow which checks the fall of the first. By a regular succession of arrows he would not permit that first arrow to fall to the ground, and that arrow is kept in the air until he decides it falls to the ground. In this same way a Bodhisattva which courses in perfection of wisdom and which is upheld by skill in means, does not realize the farthest reality-limit until one's wholesome roots are matured, well matured as full enlightenment. Only as one's wholesome roots are matured, well matured as full enlightenment, [375] does this one realize this farthest reality-limit. A Bodhisattva which courses in perfection of wisdom, which develops revelations as perfect wisdom, here now contemplates and meditates on this limitless true nature of these dharmas, but still one does not realize perfect wisdom as goal or conquest. Such as these come to exude wise (or, purely natural) humility.

Doors to Deliverence and Vows about Beings

Subhuti: A doer of what is difficult is the Bodhisattva, a doer of what is most difficult, as one courses and dwells as emptiness, one enters into this concentration as emptiness, and yet does not realize any reality-limit! Exceedingly wonderful is this, O Well-Gone!

The Lord: So it is, Subhuti. For the Bodhisattva does not abandon beings. We have made these special vows to reveal this process to freedom from defilement and obscurations to buddha-nature for themselves, for all beings. As the mind of a Bodhisattva forms this aspiration not to abandon beings but to set this freeing technique and process in front of these beings, and in addition one aspires AS this concentration on emptiness, Signlessness, Wishlessness, this being the three doors of deliverance...such a Bodhisattva is known as one which is endowed with skill in means, and does not realize any reality-limit midway, before Buddha-dharmas are complete. It is just this skill means which protects such a one. Any thought of enlightenment, for a Bodhisattva, [376] consists in just this fact -- one does not leave beings behind. As one is thus endowed with this thought of enlightenment and with skill in means, one does not midway realize any reality-limit, hereby stopping as any result of any thing whatsoever. In addition to this, as a Bodhisattva either actually contemplates these limitless stations, being the three doors to deliverance, or aspires to contemplate these, in this mind one forms this following aspiration: "For a long time beings such as these have a notion of existence, and course in apprehension of basis. [birth, life, death and any and all dharmas in-between]. As in realizing these coursings toward full enlightenment, dharma only too naturally comes to be revealed and demonstrated to these beings so these too, may forsake whatever erroneous views may be harbored about any basis."

As a free agent one now enters this concentration on Emptiness, on Signlessness, on Wishlessness. A Bodhisattva revealing to oneself one's natural endowment with this thought of enlightenment and skill in means does not midway realize or give way to some reality-limit. On the contrary, one does not lose concentration on friendliness, compassion, sympathetic joy and impartiality. Upheld as skill in means, one increases pure dharma more and more. One's faith, etc., developes as keener and keener, one acquires siddhis, revealing to self and others the limbs of enlightenment, and this path. [Here are 7 Limbs: mindfulness, investigation of dharmas, vigor, tranquility, rapture, concentration, and evenmindedness] [377]

Even so, a Bodhisattva reflects this..."for a long time beings as these perceive dharmas, course in the apprehension of a basis,"...and develops this aspiration as the former one, entering concentration as emptiness. Also, one reflects this..."as perceiving a sign, these beings coursed for a long time in these signs",...and this one deals with this aspiration thusly, entering concentration as Signlessness. And, a Bodhisattva reflects: "For a long time these beings are perverted by these perceptions of permanence, of happiness, of some self, of loveliness." This one now acts in such a way as dharma is demonstrated so these may forsake these perverted views of any perception of permanence, of happiness, of self, of loveliness, and in order that these may learn this: "impermanent is all this, not permanent; ill is all this, not happiness; without self is all this, not with a self; repulsive is all this, not lovely."

Endowed with this thought of perfection of wisdom, [378] and with the previously described skill in means, here and now taken hold of by perfect wisdom, one does not realize any reality-limit midway, before all one's Buddha-dharma are complete. One dwells thus, and one enters on concentration as Wishlessness, but one does not lose one's concentration as friendliness, etc. Upheld by skill in means, one increases more and more one's pure dharmas. Faith, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, discernment [as the five faculties] develop as keener and keener, and one acquires siddhis, the limbs of enlightenment, and the path. A Bodhisattva raises the following thought: "These beings for a long time are in the habit of coursing in the apprehension of a basis, and even just now these do so. These are for a long time in the habit of coursing in the perception of signs, in perverted views, in perception of material objects, in perception of unreal objects, in wrong views, and even now these continue to do so. Thusly it may be that these faults in each and every way may cease to be in these, and these faults come to be revealed as inconceivable in them." As a Bodhisattva has all beings in mind in such a way, is endowed with this recollection of all beings, with this production of thought, and as skill in means, as one is taken hold of by perfect wisdom and, as endowed with all these qualities, one thus contemplates the true nature of these unfathomable dharmas - through Emptiness, or Signlessness, or Wishlessness, or through these being unaffected, unproduced, without birth, [379] without any positivity - it is quite impossible such a Bodhisattva, which is endowed with such pure cognition, could either fall into the Unaffected, or become intimate with anything belonging to the triple world. This cannot possibly be.


A Bodhisattva is asked by another Bodhisattva wanting to win full enlightenment: "Over which dharmas does one come to consummation of realization? What kind of aspiration does one form in one's mind, aspirations which enable a Bodhisattva to not settle in realization of Emptiness, or Signlessness, or Wishlessness, or Unaffectedness, or non-production, or non-positivity, but to go on developing perfection of wisdom?" As the answering Bodhisattva answers - just emptiness is attended to, -just Signlessness, -just Wishlessness, -just Unaffectedness, -just non-production, -just no-birth, -just non-positivity, and does not make manifest this production of the thought of the non-abandonment of all beings, or not manifest or indicate skill in means in this answer, one can know this Bodhisattva is not in irreversibility predicted to full enlightenment by the Tathagatas previously. This one does not indicate this special dharma of an irreversible Bodhisattva [i.e. the non-abandonment of all beings], does not make much of this, does not make this manifest, does not wisely know this, does not include this in one's answer, and does not induce others to enter into this stage [of skill in means] which is the true stage of an irreversible Bodhisattva. [380]

Subhuti: And how can a Bodhisattva, in regard to this question, be regarded as irreversible?

The Lord: One is known as an irreversible Bodhisattva as, whether one hears this perfection of wisdom or not, one hits upon the correct answer.

Subhuti: Here are many who course towards enlightenment, but a few only could give the correct answer.

The Lord: As few only are these Bodhisattvas which are predicted to this irreversible stage on which this cognition is possible. But these who are predestined for it, these give the correct answer. One can be sure that these have planted splendid wholesome roots in the past, and the whole world, with its Gods, persons and Asuras, cannot possibly and ultimately overwhelm these.

Dream Experiences and the Mark of Irreversibility

So, as a Bodhisattva even dreams and beholds, "all dharmas are like a dream," but does not realize this experience, regarding it as final, too this is known as the irreversible mark of an irreversible Bodhisattva. This is another even in dreams, neither the level of Sravaka Disciple nor Pratyekabuddha, nor anything which belongs to any triple world, is seen or known as an object of any longing, or appears advantageous. It is another even in dreams, one sees oneself as a Tathagata, -in the middle of an assembly of many hundreds of thousands of niyutas of kotis of persons, [381] seated in a circular hall with a peaked roof, surrounded by a community of monks, revered by the community of Bodhisattvas, demonstrating dharma.

It is another mark, as, even in dreams, one rises into the air and demonstrates dharma to beings, as one perceives the halo round the Buddha, one conjures up monks who go into different directions to fulfil the functions of Buddhas on other world systems and demonstrate dharma here. Even as one dreams one has such perceptions.

It is another mark as one dreams and remains unafraid when a village, town, city, or kingdom is sacked; or sees a huge conflagration spreading; or sees wild beasts or other offensive animals; or one's head is about to be cut off, or as one is subjected to other great fears and terrors, and also one sees these fears and terrors to which other beings are subjected. In no case do fear and terror arise in one such as this, and one remains unafraid. And immediately as one awakes from this dream, reflects how "like a dream is all this which belongs to any triple world. And in this sense should I demonstrate dharmas, as one which demonstrates dharma correctly."

It is again another mark of irreversibility as a Bodhisattva, on seeing in dreams [382] the beings which are in these hells, reflects: "Thus as in this Buddha-field are no states of woe at all!" This also is known as a mark of an irreversible Bodhisattva as never having to be reborn in such states of woe.

And how does one know here are no states of woe in a Buddha-field of any particular Bodhisattva? As a Bodhisattva, on seeing in dreams the beings reborn in the hells, as 'animals', or as Pretas, sets up mindfulness and a Buddha-field without such states of woe, this is known as the mark which shows one can never again need to be reborn in the states of woe. Also, a Bodhisattva may dream a prophetic dream to the effect that a town or village is on fire, and as one wakes up considers thusly: "The attributes, tokens and signs in these dreams, are the attributes, tokens and signs which an irreversible Bodhisattva bears in mind. This Truth, as of utterance of this Truth, let this town fire or village fire, which is taking place here, be appeased, cooled, extinguished." As the fire is extinguished, one can know [383] this Bodhisattva is predicted to full enlightenment by Tathagatas in this past; as it is not extinguished, one should know this is not so predicted. Again Subhuti, if instead of being appeased, this conflagration passes beyond all bounds and spreads from house to house, from road to road, one should know this Bodhisattva has in some past collected karma consisting in refusal of dharma, conducive to weakness in wisdom, or, specific abilities to maintain a state of naturalness. From this refusal and conductivity results karma which led to this experience in this present life [i.e. to this distress at being unable to control this fire], which is just a result of karma left over from refusal of dharma. For, as is known, a Bodhisattva's past lives condition the [absence or presence of the] mark of irreversibility later on. A Bodhisattva which succeeds in controlling this fire is, on this other hand, borne in mind as irreversible.

Irreversibility and the Magical Power of Veracity

And now Subhuti, are demonstrated attributes, tokens and signs by which an irreversible Bodhisattva is borne in mind. Listen well and attentively to this teaching.

Subhuti: So be it, O Lord, speak on.

The Lord: As a person, -man or woman, boy or girl, - is seized or possessed by a ghost, a Bodhisattva, which comes across one such as this, performs this Act of Truth, and says: "As it is true by Tathagatas of this past, [384] and it is true these intentions are perfectly pure, - to the extent this attention to this is perfectly pure, to this extent I leave behind thoughts of Sravaka Disciples and Pratyekabuddhas. It is this nature to reveal full enlightenment. Not to not reveal full enlightenment! Just revealing full enlightenment! Here is nothing which the Buddhas and Lords which reside in countless world systems do not cognize, see, feel and fully know. These Buddhas and Lords which know this earnest intention also reveal full enlightenment. As this is truth, as this is utterance of Truth, may this one depart which seizes and possesses this person with this ghostly seizure!" So, as a result of these words of this Bodhisattva, if this ghost does not depart, one can know the Bodhisattva has not had one's prediction yet; but as this being departs, one can know this Bodhisattva has this prediction to full enlightenment.

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