Giving and Receiving Dharma in Samadhi

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A talk given to the No Abode Community on October 7th, 2023


AI Summary: 

The talk delves into the profound themes of samadhi and the interconnected experiences of bodhisattvas across myriad worlds within the purview of the Buddha’s influence. It explores how bodhisattvas, through the power bestowed by the Buddha, enter samadhi and perceive not only the Buddha but numerous Buddhas, leading to enlightened wisdom and the strengthening of their spiritual resolve. This collective entry into samadhi by bodhisattvas named Samantabhadra underscores the notion that the enlightenment journey, while personal, also encompasses a universal dimension reflective in the shared spiritual experiences across the cosmos.

Key texts and concepts discussed include:
- The role of Samantabhadra and the metaphysical lion throne in the context of samadhi.
- The profound, simultaneous experience of seeing Buddhas across different realities pointing towards a unified, multidimensional understanding of enlightenment.
- The translation challenges of discerning whether bodhisattvas 'see' or 'experience' Buddhas, potentially altering the interpretation of their spiritual engagements and perceptions.

AI Suggested Title: "Samadhi and the Universal Journey of Bodhisattvas"


Chapter 3 is called the Samadhi of Samantabhadra, and it starts off by saying, at that time, and what time is that? Well, it's the same time as everything that's gone before in the Sutra. It's at the time all those things happened, at that time Samantabhadra sat down on a lion throne, on a lotus flower dais in front of the Buddha, and inheriting, receiving, imbued by the awesome power of the Buddhas, the Bodhisattva entered the Samadhi, and then we discussed the magnificent, the wondrous


inconceivable function of this Samadhi. And again, the last thing about this Samadhi is that this Samadhi protects and maintains the Buddha teaching, the Buddha Dharma. And I told you that sometimes when I'm sitting, I offer this sitting to the Samadhi, which is protecting and maintaining the Buddha Dharma so that it will not be cut off. My body is a statement about the protection and maintenance of the Buddha Dharma. This body is offered for the sake of that, which the Samadhi is the way it is protected and is not cut off. So that's one of the reasons I might go to the Zen door every morning,


is to again testify this teaching is not going to be cut off because I'm here to express the wish to maintain and protect it by sitting. And then basically the next paragraph, just to make it simple for now, is that it says, just as in this world, in this world, and this world, the world of the sutra, is primarily the flower treasury or the flower dais, ocean of worlds. That's this world. In this world, just as in this world, Samantabhadra sat on the lion throne on top of this lotus flower dais, just like that, in front of the Buddha,


empowered by the Buddha, entered the Samadhi, just like that, in worlds in ten directions, innumerable bodhisattvas named Samantabhadra sat on the lion throne on top of the lotus dais, in front of the Buddha, and empowered by the Buddha's awesome spiritual powers, they all entered this Samadhi. So the bodhisattva, not only did the bodhisattva not enter by her own power, the bodhisattva enters by placing herself on this earth in the presence of Buddha and receives Buddha's power and thereby enters the Samadhi. When she enters,


all the other bodhisattvas enter with her. Not only does she do it by her own power, but she does it for the sake of all bodhisattvas, all Samantabhadras, all Samantabhadras. Maybe not all bodhisattvas are ready to sit in front of the Buddha, but Samantabhadra is and does and that sets up this Sutra of Samadhi. And the next thing it says is, at that time, same time, it starts out by saying, at that time, and then at that time when all these bodhisattvas have entered the Samadhi, each of the Samantabhadras, each of the universally good ones, saw the Buddhas of ten directions appearing before them. So now we have all


the bodhisattvas have sat in front of the Buddha, but with the Buddha's support they have received, they have inherited the Buddha's powers, entered the Samadhi, and now all of them are seeing innumerable Buddhas, not just one Buddha now, now they all see innumerable Buddhas in front of them. Yes? If that's happening in all lands, would you say it's happening in this one as well? Pardon? If that's happening in all lands ... This is a principle of the Sutra. When you sit in front of the Buddha and you receive the Buddha's gift, the Buddha's powers, and enter the Samadhi, then at that time that's happening all over. And the next thing that happens is a topic which maybe


we'll discuss, I think we probably should discuss at our next meeting, and between now and the next meeting it will be discussed all over the place, but maybe at this next meeting we should bring this group, who's not in all the other groups, up to deal with this next sentence, which is, at that time all these Samantabhadras, all these universally good ones, saw the Buddhas. Now, the other translation said, experienced the Buddhas, and so I haven't had a chance to see what is the Chinese character, but I think it's probably saw, and in many translations of these, not just this sutra but other sutras, like for example, the Lotus Sutra says about people seeing the Buddha right now, and we


have in Zen history, we have the first Zen story, in a way, is that the Buddha once sat and raised up a flower and twirled it and winked. The Buddha twirled the flower and winked, or blinked. Winked is one eye, right? So, one translation says winked, another translation says blinked. Anyway, right now you're doing what Mahakasyapa did, you're smiling. The senior student smiled. The senior student saw the Buddha. Everybody was seeing the Buddha, but now he really saw the Buddha and smiled. He finally said, oh, he's funny. And so that's the Zen version of this seeing the Buddha. And then the Lotus Sutra says that many people


are in the presence of the Buddha but do not see the Buddha, but if they would practice being flexible, harmonious, upright, and honest, they will see the Buddha right now. And actually, there's another preface to that. If they practice all virtue, are flexible, relaxed, harmonizing, upright, and honest, they'll see the Buddha. And by the way, Dogen comments on the first line about those who practice all virtues, he says that means to go into the mud and water for the sake of beings. In other words, you engage the mud, you go into the mud and get


dirty in order to help beings, and then you enter the mud and then you're relaxed with the mud, harmonious with the mud, upright in the mud, and honest in the mud. Then you see the Buddha. So the big question here is, number one, the translation of experiencing the Buddha in a way is maybe easier to understand, but see the Buddha? How do you see the Buddha? And I guess we've already read quite a bit, right? So we know that the way that the beings will see the Buddhas has to do with where they're at, but they will see the Buddha in the samadhi. Not only one Buddha, but they'll see many Buddhas. So that's another big event in the beginning of this chapter on the samadhi. The next thing that happens in the samadhi is that the Buddhas praise these bodhisattvas


who have entered the samadhi and seen the Buddha. Extensive praise, which we can get into later and you can read about at your enjoyment. See the Buddhas and the Buddhas say, good, good, you see us, and then the praise goes on quite a bit. I'm sure you might find it quite a bit. This is the Buddhas, all the Buddhas in one voice praising all the Samantabhadras. Then after the praise, they bestow the Dharma, they bestow all the knowledges upon these bodhisattvas. And then they all extend their right hand and pat the crown of the head of the bodhisattvas.


Pat or rub, pat or rub the head. In the samadhi, we see the Buddha, the Buddha praises us, the Buddha transmits the Dharma to us in the samadhi, and then the Buddha extends her right hand and pats us on the head. And then, with this Samantabhadra, it also happens with all the Samantabhadras. And then the funny thoughts are on your mind, did they all put their hands on at the same time or did they take turns? Anyway, if they take turns, they're going to have to take much time to rub because these infinite Buddhas are going to be involved in this. So, this is that all the Buddhas lovingly pat the bodhisattvas on the head. And then,


the next thing that happens is the bodhisattva arises from samadhi. For the time being, the samadhi has done its job. Now, the bodhisattva arises from the samadhi. In samadhi, the bodhisattva is not talking. And actually, it doesn't say that the Buddhas are in the samadhi, it just ... because they talk. The bodhisattva is not talking so far in this. Now, they arise from this samadhi and then it says, and then it describes what happens when they arise is that all the other bodhisattvas arise with them and then they get into amazing, just an amazing array of things that happen when they arise. And then, each samantabhadra is in a big assembly and there are many bodhisattvas in


the assembly with them, they're like the leading bodhisattva in these huge assemblies, then all the bodhisattvas turn and face the samantabhadra and express their deep appreciation for samantabhadra. And then, they ask samantabhadra some questions. And then, the next chapter, samantabhadra starts answering the questions. They ask samantabhadra who's coming out of this samadhi and who has been well-educated in the samadhi, they ask samantabhadra about the formation of worlds. So, at the beginning of the next chapter, we have this new event where somebody says, �I�, for the first time somebody says, �I� and that somebody is samantabhadra. At the beginning of chapter 4, he's been asked to talk about something, so the next chapter he does.


Upon request, he delivers chapter 4. And so, maybe that's enough to get an overview. Or maybe one more thing to say is that in chapter 4, again, for the first time somebody says, �I�. So, the first thing he tells us is that the way the Buddhas know how the worlds are formed, it is inconceivable. And I'm remembering correctly, there are 28 inconceivable aspects of how Buddhas know about the world. And then, after he tells you about this inconceivable, how the Buddha's knowledge about the world is so thoroughly and multidimensionally inconceivable, it's inconceivable this way, that way, then he says, �And I now will fully explain.� So, again, that's kind of just maybe I shouldn't have told you that because it's kind of a punchline that he says,


�This is all inconceivable and I'm going to fully explain it to you.� So, we have this strange thing in this sutra is that we have people explaining things that are inconceivable. Yes, Suchitra? Do I think he thinks there's an �I�? Do I think he thinks there's an �I�? I think he understands what the �I� is. He's received transmission and teaching. He knows what I and you and they, he knows what things are. They are thus. He knows that. The one who comes from thusness,


they have transmitted the nature of I. So, when he uses I, he knows what he's using, the nature of the word and any other aspects of I he knows, and he uses I as a skillful device to talk to people who just ask him to talk. Yeah, that might help people relate to him. And he's been asked to relate to people and he's been educated about how to do it. And the first way he does it is this amazing chapter, which I'm studying in another group


who's a little ahead of you, and that group is starting to resist that chapter. What? Thank you. Thank you so much for telling me that I'm getting not just softer but maybe a little too soft. Okay, so it's not soft for now on, or at least for the next half an hour, not soft. How's that? All right. So, sometimes the sutra talks about seeing the Buddha and sometimes it speaks about seeing the Buddha body. What's being seen? Yeah, right, so this is the big question for us now to think about, for a month at least, what does it mean to see the Buddha and what is it that's being seen? So, can you see something that is ungraspable? So, the first verse of this sutra


says, the Buddha body pervades thoroughly, thoroughly pervades the Great Assemblies. So that means, for example, this one, it thoroughly pervades this Great Assembly, means it thoroughly pervades you and me and everybody else, and thoroughly pervades means it pervades every atom of everybody. What does it mean to see that? That's kind of like, how could you see that? You couldn't see it with your ordinary eye. The ordinary eye can't see inconceivable things. The ordinary eye sees things that are like put together and done. So what does it mean to see? And that's why the other translation says �experience�, and I'll find the character and see what it looks like. So, it's very important in this teaching and in Mahayana Buddhism beyond this teaching,


like the Lotus Sutra, is that bodhisattvas need to see Buddhas, we need that in order to progress as bodhisattvas. But what does it mean to see that? What does it mean to see that the Buddha body pervades everything? And then it also says, but it also can appear, that first thing, so also the Buddha body can appear as a person which they can see with their eyes. So this will be something to think about, what does it mean that they see the Buddha? It is said over and over, and it is said that this is very important because we need to meet the Buddha, we need to see the Buddha and meet the Buddha. But what does the seeing mean? This is my homework assignment for all of us, what does it mean to see the Buddha?


There is a chapter in this, if you want to, there's a chapter in the Shobo Genzo called Seeing Buddha. So yeah, thank you. Let's look, let's meditate on what does it mean for bodhisattvas to see Buddhas. Sonia? What do you think? And also, what is it that they see? Well, if they see Buddha, they see Buddha. If they see Buddha, they see the Buddha body pervading all things, they see that. But how do they see it? How do we see it? How do we experience it? Yes? I guess I'm wondering, I'm trying to taste... Was I not, was I quieting down again? You're really quiet, yes. I'm so sorry, thank you, thank you, thank you. Just raise your hand and I will speak up. Yes, Sonia?


Okay, I hear you. Great. Great, because we have to hear you as well as see the Buddha. Ah, all the better to hear you, yes. Yeah. I notice myself having resistance or trying to understand what this patting on the head is. There's many things one could say, but I wonder if there's some ancient symbol about patting on the head or how you understand that. Yeah, good question. Good question, Sonia. So, one story is that in India, thousands of years ago or 1,600 years ago and before, people were going around patting each other on the head. And the patting on the head was like transmission of the teaching. It's like, I'm giving it to you now, my friend,


you've got it. So, it's a physical act of anointment into a teaching. That was going on before the sutra was written, so you can say, so the sutra picked it up. But did that patting on the head come from historical examples or was it discovered in Samadhi? Because after the Buddha Shakyamuni passed away, there was no Buddha to pat people, so if they're going to be patted on the head, it's going to have to be in Samadhi. Yeah, yes. So, okay. Linda. It's still the practice in India to put your hand on the head as a gesture of blessing. Yeah. And sometimes as a transmission of yogic power. So, it's just done. It's just done, yeah. It's just done, and some people might say,


don't miss it, I mean, don't skip it. If you want to have the transmission of the Dharma, don't skip the head patting, because it's kind of like part of the deal. And also, right hand, not left. You say, oh, that's an Indian thing. Yeah, India is an Indian thing. Anyway, it's a little different from Abhisheka, but it comes with Abhisheka. But Abhisheka is not mentioned at this point in the chapter. There's other places in this sutra where Abhisheka is mentioned, where the bodhisattvas are sprinkled with the holy water. There's other parts of the sutra that mention that part. This part's just doing the ... maybe the Abhisheka has occurred earlier, we don't know. Anyway, this is the head patting. Ananda and Linda and Homa. Ananda. Sorry, sorry to change your name. Okay, Amanda.


I honestly feel just like a fool right now that I might not be able to speak, because I don't know how long I'm going to do this. But I'm feeling very supported, and I was just thinking about how kind of the concentration that you're speaking of this morning, about how kind of concentrated and collected, and then also fully supported and open. You can be not concentrated, but you're not holding to that. You're open and flexible and able to move and receive and have a change. And you can do that by the power that's not your own self-power, but the power of the Buddhas. You can actually open, and it's kind of like a sight. I think it's kind of like something that's given to you. So I feel like that word experience is kind of like something that's given to you. And by the power of the Buddhas, by one's own self-awareness, by sitting down and


basically becoming still and open, and trusting, like deeply trusting, welcoming the Buddhas. Yeah, and John said also, what is it that's seen? So like you could be sitting and you could feel like you hear this teaching, which is that this sitting is sitting which is protecting and maintaining the Buddhadharma, and hearing that teaching you might feel uplifted and feel like it's so easy to sit now. I'm not just doing it to do some above-average thing. This sitting is being uplifted by all the Buddhas to perform this great service. That could be called experience in the Buddhas, how the Buddhas,


in receiving their teachings, we feel uplifted and encouraged and nourished. We feel that. That's kind of like seeing a Buddha, or all Buddhas. And that seems like what Amanda, I mean Amanda also, Ananda is. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah, and somebody said to me that this teaching is like filling her sails. Filling her sails, you know, and also filling the sails, you know, kind of puffs you up and lifts the ship out of the up and send it forward, but also in order to up you need some flexibility in how you interact with, so you can't be rigid, it's not a rigid filling up, it's constantly changing and uplifting. Yeah, yes, let's see. I think next was Homa and then maybe Jeff, huh?


Homa, Linda? Homa, Linda? It's a hard act to follow. It's a hard act to follow. Well, that's one good way to follow it. Homage to Amanda. She's demurring. Okay, okay, okay, Homa. Excuse me, I'm not referring to any I's. I'm just quoting Simantapadra who said I, and I don't think necessarily Simantapadra was referring to anything.


A view of I? A view. You can bring up a view. You can bring up a view. But it might not be a view. It could be like, it's not that I see Buddha, it's that I'm uplifted. Being uplifted is not necessarily a view, it is this big encouragement, so big encouragement could be called seeing Buddha, or I don't know what, something else, like being thirsty. You know, some experience you feel like, oh my, this is seeing Buddha. So it could be a view, but not necessarily. Okay, I'm going to say word. The word that is equal to all that is.


The word that is equal, in the equalness of all that is. When I get I, I get lost between, I get lost in between the what is and the view of what is versus what is. There is a discrepancy, there is a lack of attunement. I hear you say that there's a discrepancy, and you know that if there's a discrepancy, there's a lack of attunement. Attunement. So, no discrepancy allowed when it comes to the Buddha. Jeff and Danan? Would it be helpful in thinking about seeing the Buddha body and what we see,


think about what the Buddha said about, he said if you see dependent origination, you see the Dharma, if you see the Dharma, you see me? Yeah. Is that a helpful clue? It's helpful, it's a helpful clue, thank you. And dependent origination is inconceivable. That's the next chapter. When you see the inconceivable, you see the Dharma. Imagination is something that dependently co-arises. When you see the dependent co-arising of imagination, you see the Dharma. So, imagination is one of the things which dependently co-arises, and when you see the dependent co-arising, you see the Dharma. And when you see the Dharma, you see the Buddha. Do you want to go ahead, Danan? Well, it's sort of a comment on what he just said. Yes? You want to? Okay.


I'm remembering in the Diamond Sutra, it talks about four eyes, and one of them is the Dharma eye. There's the eye that sees form, there's the eye that imagines, there's an eye that sees... There's the fleshy eye? Fleshy eye? Fleshy? There's Dharma, there's wisdom, and Buddha. Buddha eye. Dharma eye, Buddha eye, wisdom eye, fleshy eye, and Buddha eye. It seems to fit into that. It does fit really well. Danan? Oh, I was just appreciating this conversation with Amanda, and thinking that something I came across that said something like, the time comes when true nature is revered, and I was thinking that's the Buddha body, that time when one reveres true nature. So, the time when something's revealed?


Revered. Revered. The time when Buddha nature is revered is seeing the Buddha. Yes. Okay. Or the Buddha body. Or seeing the Buddha body, yes. And Amanda, I mean... Amanda? Amanda called Sonia. Yeah, I was just wanting you to offer that to everybody instead of just Danan. Oh, I see. I just said yes. Yes. Yes. I just heard yes, but I was sort of thinking about what I wanted to say. Okay. He said that at the time of revering the Buddha body, maybe that's seeing the Buddha. When there's reverence for the Buddha body, that may be seeing Buddha. And now your comment? Just about seeing. So, just like a couple days, just yesterday, I'm talking to my collaborator on the translation


project that I'm doing, and the word is seeing. And he says it means more than ordinary seeing. It means understanding. In English it means that, right? Oh, I see. Yes. And then it means all the way up to the total incomprehensible. But the thing I wanted to say was, at the same time, it means seeing your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, right? Because those two things are always together. They're always together. Yep. And did you want to say something, Erin? Yeah, I wanted to share something. It's quite personal. But I wanted to say, I feel like, even though I know you've been offering me so much compassion all the whole time I've known you, I'm not sure that time has been like, I couldn't let


it in, I couldn't see it in the way you normally would. And there was a time in Dokusan when I was just crying and feeling self-compassion. And I looked up at you, and I saw your smile, and I could feel, it was like for the first time, I could feel the love and compassion that you've been offering me all along. And I felt like, and I pictured you twirling a flower. And I was like, oh! And then I felt so much joy for a few days after. And I was like, oh, not just you, but all of the Zen Masters have been offering me this all along. And it's just like, it's not true at all. Thank you. Thank you. Well, it's getting close to the bewitching hour, and I wanted to thank all of you for


making this day happen. It was a big effort under heated conditions. I want to thank you all for your big effort you made to make this day a day. Thank you so much.