The Definitive Instructions on the Deeds of the Enlightened, Part I 

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Tenshin Reb Anderson
Samdhinirmonchana Sutra (Part XIV),
Chapter Ten, Afternoon Dharma Talk
No Abode Saturday October 15, 2010, P.M.


Transcribed by: Karen Mueller


I’d like to say again that when Manjusri asked the Buddha about the transformation of the basis in the two kinds of sages, those who are become awakened and liberated by hearing the Buddha’s teaching and those who are somehow awakened and liberated without even hearing the Buddha’s teaching in the present life. So Manjusri says is their transformation of the basis suitably referred to as the Dharma Body? And the Buddha says they are not spoken of in this way. How are they spoken of? Their transformation of the basis is referred to as bodies of liberation. And again, I could ask you, are the bodies of liberation of these sages the same kind of body of liberation as the Buddha. Yes, the body of liberation of these sages is similar and equal to the body of liberation of the Buddhas. But then the example of the difference is like between a person who is,.. their main problem is that they feel their life is in bondage to birth and death. They are caught in this process of coming and going. They’re caught in the suffering of birth and death. And then they are released and the body they have then is their liberation body. The Buddha however is more like a great sovereign who is in bondage and it’s not so much,… they are in bondage to birth and death, but their bondage to birth and death is more importantly hindering them from performing their great job. So they have problems with birth and death too, but that they also can’t do their work of serving the nation. So when the Dharma Body is realized, not only are they free birth and death, but the hindrance to their serving all beings is also removed. That’s the difference between the Dharma Body and the liberation body. That’s why the Dharma Body is inconceivably superior and has unlimited qualities for benefiting beings. That’s why one might aspire to be a Buddha rather than just a liberated sage. Liberated sages are also happy and they are also very beneficial in this world and we wish them to help us. They can help us. They can show us a lot. But we also may aspire to be Buddhas. I also wanted to bring up another question by Manjusri which is, “Bhagavan, what are the characteristics of manifest complete enlightenment of the Tathagathas (the Buddhas). What are the characteristics of their turning of the wheel of teaching? And what is their great parinirvana?” (Powers p 303 has it “what are the characteristics of the manifest complete enlightenment of the Tathagathas, their turning the Wheel of Dharma and their great parinirvana”) And the Buddha says, Manjusri, their manifest complete enlightenment, their turning of the Dharma Wheel and their great parinirvana all have a non-dual character. These means that, “They are neither manifestly completely enlightened, nor are they not manifestly completely enlightened. They neither turn the Wheel of Dharma, nor do they not turn the Wheel of Dharma. They neither have great parinirvana nor do they lack great parinirvana. This is because the Dharmakaya (the Dharma Body of the Buddhas) is very pure and the Nirmanakaya are fully revealed.” (Powers p 303 ) This is because,.. the Dharma Body is very pure so it’s pure of…, it makes the Buddhas pure in the sense that they are neither completely enlightened nor not completely enlightened. They are pure. They are undefiled by complete enlightenment. They are that pure. I mean not so much that they are that pure, but that the Dharma Body is that pure. But also, another reason why you can’t say that in their purity they are not completely enlightened because there’s all these transformation bodies revealed that are many kinds of enlightenment, many kinds of manifesting for the welfare of beings, many kinds of turning Dharma Wheels for the welfare of beings. So the enlightenment of the Buddha is pure and free of the enlightenment of the Buddha. The Dharma Body is so pure that it’s free of enlightenment, of perfect nirvana and of turning the Dharma Wheel . But also it’s free of not turning the Dharma Wheel. It doesn’t have not turn the Dharma Wheel. It doesn’t have to exclude turning the Dharma Wheel. It doesn’t have to not have perfect enlightenment. It doesn’t have to not have parinirvana. Matter of fact, transformation bodies do have parinirvana, all kinds of perfect nirvana to encourage people, all kinds of teachings to encourage people. The Dharma Body allows the Nirmanakaya. The Nirmanakaya keeps the Dharma Body pure so you can’t even say the Dharma Body does or does not have complete enlightenment because it doesn’t really have either. Yes? Ambo: So when I hear this teaching I think “ah the meaing of this teaching is that the Dharma Body has no characteristics”. It’s pure of anything, any way we would characterize it because it is characterless. And I would like to check that out with you that there are no characteristics of the Dharma Body and also, it’s kind of interesting that, if that is so, that it’s something without characteristics, we think it’s pretty terrific. Reb: If it doesn’t have characteristics? Ambo: That which has no characteristics is great. It’s the cat’s meow. Reb: Well, I hope you don’t feel disappointed that it does have characteristics. Ambo: Actually I’m almost relieved. Reb: But,.. and its characteristics are the well established transformation of the basis, based on previous completely cultivating the bodhisattva practices in the ten stages. But also it has the characteristic of being inconceivable, and the characteristic of “inconceivable” is very similar to like not being a characteristic. It’s not really not a characteristic; it’s characterized by inconceivability so that it’s almost like that’s not a regular characteristic. Then Manjusri says, “Bhagavan, how is it that the transformation body in Nirmanakaya are known to come forth from the Tathagatha so that sentient beings generate merit through viewing, hearing and revering them?” (Powers p 303) How is it that the Nirmanakay come forth from the Tathagatha,… and the Tathagatha, what’s the Tathagatha?.. The Tathagatha is the well-established complete transformation of the basis and the Tathagatha is that and that is the characteristic of the Dharmakaya. So how is it that this Tathagatha, this Dharma Body, sends forth this transformation body so that sentient beings can have something to generate merit through viewing, hearing and revering these bodies. And the Buddha says, “Manjusri, a transformation body comes forth due to intensely observing the Tathagatha and also because the transformation bodies are the blessing of the Tathagatha”. (Powers p 303 ) So this transformation body comes forth because somebody is intensely viewing the Tathagathas and also because the Tathagathas wish to give the blessing. It isn’t just that the transformation body comes forth from this reality body as a blessing. It’s also that somebody is intently observing the Tathagatha. Is intently observing the what? The Dharmakaya. Is intently observing the well-established transformation of the basis. It’s the intense observation together with the blessing of the Tathagatha that brings forth something in the world for us to relate to and generate merit and virtue. And this point is here in this Indian text, but in Chinese Buddhism this point becomes, I would say, more well-known and more highlighted than I’ve seen it in Indian Buddhism. And it’s very important in Zen and this is called sometimes “the crossing of the paths of the inquiry and response”. Literally it’s “inquiry and response paths cross”. The inquiry, or the intense interest and observation on the part of living beings, the intent focus on the Buddha, the Buddha’s teaching, on the possibilities of realizing this great reality body,.. that interest crosses paths with the beneficence of the Buddhas. The crossing of that path is what brings forth into the world things like transformation body Buddhas which brings forth the Three Treasures. All the teachings and all the practices that we can see in the world come forth from this interaction. The Buddhas don’t just send it. I mean there are sending it but it doesn’t have any effect unless somebody is looking at it. So the combination, the spiritual communion, is highly observed in East Asian Buddhism. More so than I can tell at least in the traces that we have of Indian Buddhism. This is one of the places where I can find it but I don’t see it that much, this interactive side. Sometimes even Buddhism is presented…. it’s just represented as the Buddha just sending these light rays into the world. Well there’s that side too. But the light rays is one thing, but when the light rays come it’s really because somebody’s interested in the Buddha and the Buddha is wishing to send these light rays. It’s that interaction in the background of these light rays. Otherwise we don’t see them, because the Dharmakaya is beyond the coming and going of light rays. It’s beyond the appearance and disappearance of light rays. And so there’s more but I want to give you time to respond to this outrageous and amazing suggestion. Yes? Speaker A: What you just were talking about is that practice realization. Is the intense inquiry, is that related to practice? Reb: Yeah, well in a way. The practice of a sentient being and the realization of the Buddha, when they cross, we see Buddha in the world. We see the Buddha’s teaching in the world because we see the meeting of the focus on practice and realization. It’s one way to talk about it. Yes? Speaker B: I was thinking about a distinction you made in another context and I wonder if it applies to this relationship of process and presence. If we can see the Nirmanakaya as a process body and the Dharmakaya as a presence body so its presence is elicited by the process. Reb: Its presence is elicted by the process? No. The process interacting with the presence manifests things and manifests activities. But the presence is there even if there is not this request. Its just vast purity, vast reality, full of bodhisattva vows. Its a presence, but this presence doesn’t really manifest. It never manifests. However it responds to certain processes to cause manifestations which are completely in accord with it. It “wants” these manifestations because people need them but we never lose the pure uncommitted Reality Body. It never gets involved in coming and going. It doesn’t descend from coming and going or arise from coming and going. It continues to be beyond any kind of fabrication. And this beyond any kind of fabrication is the fruit of somebody working through fabrication for a long time by practicing these perfections in all of these stages that produces this ability to be totally unfabricated and unmoving and unelaborated. But this thing also… the thing that made this happen was a commitment to the welfare of beings and a willingness to deal with the problems of being, through these practices, to produce this fruit, this true Reality Body. Now this Reality Body is a resource and somebody has to contact it to produce this other body which is the part which is an emanation or brought forth from this pure body which you can’t…which is inconceivable. And then the pure body doesn’t change into something conceivable. It produces another body which is conceivable. It gets transformed but it doesn’t stop being that way. So the Dharmakaya and the Nirmanakaya coexist. The Nirmanakaya is the part we can relate to and by focusing on that we are indirectly focusing on the Dharmakaya. And that brings forth more Nirmanakaya for us. This interaction is worthy of further investigation. And Case 53 of the Book of Serenity, (Book of Serenity, p 219-222) our ancester, the ancestor in our lineage, named Caoshan, disciple of Dongshan, he’s asked,…or he asks somebody..or does somebody ask him? The Dharma Body is like vast space, but it can respond to living beings like the moon reflected in the water. Now here the moon reflected in the water applies so people have a reflection to work with. And then he asks, how do you understand the principle of response? How does this Dharma Body that is like vast space, how does it respond to beings? Jacqui: Is that about the pillow at night? Reb: That’s a different one. So, I think the person who was asked says.. No, I think the monk was asking the question. Some monk is asking Caoshan. Because everybody knows the Dharmakaya is like vast space, completely free of elaboration and any kind of fabrication, right? You all know that. That’s well known. Well if that’s the case, and I’ve heard it also that this vast pure Dharma Body can respond to the needs of beings, what’s the principle of response? So now I think that’s Caoshan’s question and the monk gives a really good answer. And the old answer used to be “It’s like the donkey looking in the well”. That’s the old answer. Now it turns out that that was a scribal error, which has been discovered, and it turns out that the word for “donkey” is similar to the word for “pulley”… Now “donkey looks in the well”…..on the top of walls you often have a pulley and a rope goes over it and you pull on it and the bucket comes up and down. So there’s the pulley that’s very similar to the character for donkey. So now it’s been suggested that it should be, the answer should be, “it’s like the pulley looking at the well” and that’s the answer that the monk gives Caosan and Caosan says that’s pretty good, that’s 80%. And the monk says, “well what about you, teacher?” And Shaosan said, “it’s like the well looking at the pulley.”
Jacqui: I like the donkey. Reb: I also have some really nice drawings of donkeys with my calligraphy on the bottom which I have to…. Now what am I gonna do with these? Catherine: Don’t believe the new fabrications. Reb: So now your meditation on the principle of response is enriched. Those of you who have become familiar with the working of donkeys and wells and wells and donkeys can now open your mind to pulleys and wells. Those of you who have never heard of wells and donkeys or pulleys… So, I hope to discuss with you this principle of response more at future meetings.
I thank the people at Tassajara for letting me leave the monastery and coming to meet with you. Excuse me for saying this but I do hope that you flourish in my absence. And I hope flourish in my presence. But how much absence is the right amount, that is the question. I thought three months was maybe was a little long so I came back. Catherine: We thank the people at Tassajara. Reb: You might tell them that. So I’ll come back again to meet with you on Nov 6th. …………… And I’ll keep working on this chapter, this amazing,… this chapter about this amazing thing… this chapter about the Reality Body of the Buddha, the deeds of the Buddha, the definitive instruction about the deeds of the Tathagatha. I’ll keep working on this a little more and maybe next time we can talk more about it.