The Ultimate Transcends Difference and Unity

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Samdhinirmochana Mahayana Sutra Chapter 3, part 2

Transcript: 

The Buddha says, suvisudhimati, in this way I have completely and perfectly realized the ultimate, which is subtle, supremely subtle, supremely profound, difficult to realize, supremely difficult to realize, and this ultimate has a character that completely transcends difference and non-difference. Having completely and perfectly realized this, I have proclaimed it and made it clear, opened it up, systematized it and taught it comprehensively. Then the Bhagavan spoke these verses, the character of the compounded realm and of the ultimate is a character devoid of sameness and difference.

[01:13]

Those who impute sameness and difference are improperly oriented. We may notice our minds, we may notice the arising of the imputation of sameness and difference. It sounds like, when we notice this, we are noticing that we are improperly oriented. It's not to say we should stop that, necessarily, but just notice that we are improperly oriented. Perhaps this means that when I look at you and I think I'm the same as you, there's an improper orientation. When I think I'm different from you, there's an improper orientation.

[02:18]

If I think that our practice is the same as the ultimate truth, there's an improper orientation. And if I think our practice is really different from ultimate truth, there's an improper orientation. And also I understand that something is being taught which transcends sameness and difference and non-difference. And this thing we have an opportunity to study, the ultimate truth. Cultivating shamatha and vipassana, that is, tranquility and wisdom or insight, beings will be liberated from the bonds of errant tendencies and the bonds of signs. Or another way to put it is, the Buddha says, I am truly aware of the characteristic of ultimate truth,

[03:41]

which is very subtle, extremely subtle, very deep, extremely deep, difficult, excuse me, transcending sameness and difference of things. Having realized this, furthermore, I explain it, reveal it, analyze it, define it and clarify it for others. The realm of actions and ultimate truth are beyond sameness and difference. Those who discriminate sameness and difference are not acting rightly. People are bound by formed and gross materiality. They should practice tranquility and insight and attain release. At this point, I invite your feedback on this teaching.

[04:53]

Thank you. I'm listening to both what you've read just now as well as earlier today, and the concept of not the same and not different. The examples in the text you read earlier today I had an easier time with. Can't separate the pepper from the heat of the pepper? Can't separate the pepper from the heat of the pepper? It's difficult to. And it's also difficult to say that the heat of the pepper and the pepper are different, and it's difficult to say they're the same.

[06:34]

And that make sense to you? More than the notion that I'm either the same as you or anyone else in the world. Oh, I see. Am I different? It's not to say that you are not the same, and it's not to say that you are not different. It's to say that when you're discriminating sameness and difference, your orientation is off. This is a new statement. Before I was saying a couple of things. One is a saying that the ultimate transcends sameness and difference. And then it gives some examples of things that are not ultimate things, ordinary things like peppers and heat of peppers.

[07:40]

So it's mentioning that when you look at a pepper, it's actually hard to say that the heat of the pepper, when the pepper is hot, it's actually kind of hard to say that the heat and the pepper are the same. And it's also difficult to say that the heat of the pepper and the pepper are different. It's saying that. Now with this new statement, kind of new, it's saying, if you look at the pepper and you see sameness and difference, sameness or difference, there's something off in your orientation to look at peppers that way. So taking the example you think is not so difficult, namely the example that it's hard to say that the hotness of the pepper and the pepper are the same, and it's hard to say that they're different. Now another step is, when you do impute sameness to pepper and pepper heat,

[08:46]

when you impute sameness there, when you discriminate sameness, something's off in your orientation. And if you impute difference, something's off in your orientation. Does that make sense? So it's making an additional statement. First of all, it's saying it's hard, namely, in other words, it's hard for me, the Buddha, talking to you, it's hard for me to do this. Now if you're able to do this, your orientation, even if your orientation's off. So you could say it's hard for me to do that without being disoriented. Maybe the Buddha could say, well, I could do it, but then I'd be a disoriented Buddha. And I have a hard time being a disoriented Buddha, because I've got this job being a Buddha-oriented Buddha. So it's hard for me to do this. I know people can do it, but it's hard. And people can do hard things.

[09:48]

But, now we're just happening to mention at the end of the chapter, if you're able to discriminate this way, even though it's hard, in some cases, your orientation is off. And when you do it in easier cases, like you say, these two peppers are different, it's the same. You're imputing difference. You've got two peppers, here, pepper one, pepper two. They're like, you know, there's a pepper sitting there. And then we put difference on them. They're just sitting there being peppers, little peppers. And we say, oh, those are the same, those peppers. They're both jalapeno. And they come from Mexico, where there's a city named Jalapa, where they have a jalapeno festival. Okay, so now we have, like, we have Jeralina and we have Silvia. You know, there they are. And I can go up to them and say, you guys are the same.

[10:49]

But they're not the same. They've got a life. But that's not good enough for me. I've got to say, you guys are the same. I put that on them. That isn't on them. They don't walk around, you know, I'm the same as Jeralina. I mean, maybe she says that, but then she's doing it. You know, that sameness between us is imputation. I can say, okay, they're different. That's an imputation upon them. But it's not to say that they're not different. That would be another discrimination, that they're not different. And if you say, can you get the picture now? So you can watch your mind do that. To perfectly decent people, who you're living together with, and you don't leave them alone. You go, the same, the same, different, the same. You can do that. It's hard, but you can do it. Because you're powerful. However, you're disoriented when you're doing that.

[11:52]

Okay, Amanda. Is this disorientation, do we call it not correctly oriented, because it's one side of the story? Can you say that louder, please? Is it called not oriented correctly, because it's one side of the story? Well, it's not exactly one side of the story. Because even if you did both. Okay, you guys are the same, and you guys are different. I did both sides. I did double imputation. Two sided imputation. Got the two imputations going here. And if you need any more, let me know. I can impute on situations pretty much indefinitely. But they're imputations. They're not leaving things as they are. Which in the way they really ultimately are,

[12:54]

is they transcend all the imputations we can put on them. For example, imputations of sameness and difference. There's other imputations we can do too, which we had in previous. You can impute on them controversy, in the previous example, and argue about them. But people are not actually controversial. You're not walking around same as me. You're not walking around different from me. So, you can balance them, but they're all imputations. The way we really are transcends anything we can impute to things. Could you correct my thinking about Vipassana and the practice of that, and how you're cultivating Vipassana? How do you cultivate Vipassana? Well, how do you cultivate insight? It's interesting, because this translation says, cultivating Samatha and Vipassana, cultivating tranquility and insight,

[13:55]

beings will be liberated from the bonds of errant tendencies, and the bonds of signs. So, part of the way you study Vipassana is you study signs. And how are signs different from imputations? They're a type of imputation. They're imputing this image on things. They're putting an image on things. And I happen to have a poem right here, which just happened to fall out of the book, which goes like this. I am moved by fancies that are curled around these images and cling. The notion of some infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing. T.S. Eliot. So, Vipassana is to study the process of signing, the way our mind projects signs onto things, which we got to do.

[14:56]

We got to do it. We got to do it. We got to do it. We got to do it in order to perceive things. We got to like package them, sign them, and then we can perceive them. So, when we're studying the Sutra, we spent quite a long time, about a year, in the pre-seminar studying the Sutra, studying semiology, signology. We studied various theories of how the mind puts signs on things, and how that creates bondage. Or, like I was saying last weekend, human beings make tools, like, for example, images. And then if we use these images, that we shaped, then using the images shapes us. And then us, who are shaped by the images, then we make new images, and if we use them, they shape us. So, Vipassana is to study this process of sign-making and sign-using

[15:58]

and being transformed by the use of signs. Language-making, language-using, and being transformed by language. Because you have to impute something in order to have a basis for making verbal designations. You have to impute onto the situation in order to be able to talk about it. And so we do. But, now we have some things saying, we're doing it, but we can be aware, oh, there's something off in my orientation when I see two people as different. Okay? So I see you, and I see you. So far, so good. But to see you as different? I'm disoriented from being with you. See you the same? I'm imputing something on the situation, which is not there. But it gives me an opportunity to do various things

[17:01]

based on your difference. So, you do this, and you do that. How else am I going to give you work assignments? Or not. Who else had their hand raised? Oscar? Here? I've heard this teaching, and I read the logic statements demonstrating that things are neither the same, nor are they not the same. And I find them somewhat convincing, and I find the analogies about the heavers and so forth enlightening, illuminating. But I'm not fully in the place

[18:06]

that the Buddha is pointing to in this teaching. And I'm not sure how best to continue to relate to this teaching in order to let it work on me most effectively. Oh, well, you say you're not sure how to practice in such a way as to let this teaching work on you? Yes. So the way you do it, this book, this sutra teaches, after considerably more preparation, it's going to teach tranquility and insight. This teaching, this sutra? Yes, this sutra. Chapter 8, the biggest chapter, is about how to practice with all this information you're getting. So you're going to get all these teachings during the first seven chapters. You get all these teachings, and then after all those teachings, you can say,

[19:06]

well, now how do I practice to let these teachings in? And then Chapter 8 says, this is how you do it. Then it gives you the instruction about tranquility and insight. So part of the way you would let this teaching in would be to practice tranquility, to practice calm. Johnny? What I hear is that the act of the mind of comparing and contrasting is a level of complexity that is not necessarily present in simple observing. Yeah, especially when you would then not only compare things, but then designate them, you know, don them, you know, render them as the same. So this compounding process is disorientation. Yeah, it disorients you to what you're looking at. So to be able to look at one thing

[20:08]

and then look at another, you can do that without saying they're the same or different. You can do it for a while, but then after a while you go, oh, they're the same. Or someone could even impute on you, please tell me whether these two things are the same. And you could look at them, but not be able to do it for a while maybe. At that point you're in some ways not disoriented yet. You haven't found a landing pad for your imputation. You'd like to, you're invited to do it, but you can't do it. In some ways when you can't do that, you're kind of like not, you're kind of oriented correctly almost. Even though you're trying to get disoriented, you haven't been able to yet. You're kind of like a Buddha. Is this person the same as you or different? To really like not know yet is pretty good. It's like very close to enlightenment. When you really look at somebody and you don't know that they're the same or different, it's very close to the way Buddha sees things.

[21:11]

Buddha doesn't actually see people as separate from her, I mean as different. She actually sees them, and also Buddha doesn't see them as same either. Buddha sees them as Buddha. Not same, not different, but simply as who Buddha is, without making that same or different. But that's hard for us to learn that. So that's what we have the sutra for, to learn this amazing orientation. Yes and yes, or yes and yes, yes and yes, yes. Is it hard, or are we making it hard, or what's this hardness about?

[22:14]

Well, for example, it's hard for a Buddha to be unkind to people. It's really hard. I mean, it just goes against the way they are. It's like they don't have the ability. So it's very difficult for people to do things that they are unable to do. It's kind of difficult. You can try to do things that you're unable to do. Have you noticed? Like, you know, try to fly. I would say from standing on the ground, try to fly. It's hard. And you can work at it more and more, you know, but it's hard. So it's hard for Buddha to tell, to impute difference and sameness to things. The Buddha is speaking for himself. It's hard for me. I know you guys can do it. It's hard for me. But even when I tell you this, and you hear that it's hard for me, then you kind of maybe start having a hard time doing it too.

[23:19]

Like my grandson, if I say this to my grandson, he says, I can tell the difference between the hotness of the pepper and the pepper. That's easy. He would say, stupid granddaddy. But the Buddha has a hard time doing what she can't do. It's similar to impossible. But this is mission impossible. And we've succeeded. We've succeeded where Buddhas have failed. There's this stillness, but I'm just hoping at least Buddha can be that. If I'm not that, I mean, if Buddha has a hard time to be absolutely still. No, Buddha has an easy time being absolutely still. That's Buddha's thing, being still. Buddha is like still and silent.

[24:24]

He looks at you, and he's silent with you. He looks at Homa, he hears about Homa, and he's silent with her. And he doesn't impute anything on her. He gets some other people to do that for him. I'm glad Buddha can do what I cannot. Okay, yes. I was wondering if we're going to study Chapter 8 together. Are we going to do it together? Well, we won't be around later today. But there may be some people who will study Chapter 8, and we might be related to those people. We might be those people's ancestors. It sounds like there are some things in it that would be good to study together. Yeah. And maybe you've already done it, but I missed it. Well, you know, you're working on a book that's going to be working on that chapter.

[25:28]

But what? I want it now. What? I want it soon. Oh, you want it soon. Well, yes, that's fine that you want it soon. You are totally welcome to want it soon. Yeah. Great, I'm glad you do. So let's keep our eyes peeled for when that happens. Let's not miss out on that. Let's see. You're on. The Sutra says... One of the things it says is that Aryas that have experienced indirectly things, then set forth imputations, basically, for those who didn't use a sign...

[26:29]

It didn't say imputations, it said conventional designations. Are they different? Yeah. Yeah. What is it? The imputation of sameness upon two people is the basis for the conventional designation they are the same or they are different. Conventional designation is the words they're the same or they're different. You impute this image of sameness upon them and based on that... So it's possible that... It's possible... But it's also possible that in order to make the conventional designations in order to help people, they do make the imputation. They might do that. Because you need imputation sometimes to make conventional designations. So they get wrongly oriented

[27:32]

in order to tell people about how to disconnect from the conventional designations and the imputations and the improper orientations. Yes. So one way I can see that or one way I have to look at this thing is to say what the Buddha says now is it's not... I don't take it so much as don't look at signs. You can look at signs but you look at signs to see where they point at and know that as long as you're looking at the signs you're not looking at the things they're pointing at. That in a way is... The way I'm understanding what you just read about what Buddha said now versus what you said a couple of months ago,

[28:35]

what you read a couple of months ago. Does this understand? I mean, is it a reasonable understanding? I think what you just alluded to is an example of what's called studying signs. That example you just gave. If you would look at that and learn about that, that would be part of studying signs, which is part of insight work in this scripture. After you study signs, you become, as it says here, you become liberated from the bonds of the signs. And you can become properly oriented. Yeah. And also you become liberated from the bonds of errant tendencies,

[29:36]

from improper orientations. And then after that you would... And this book, at this point, it doesn't tell you, the sutra hasn't told you yet that in order to make conventional designations, in order to have language, you have to impute something onto things and hold to the imputation long enough to speak. So, the sutra is teaching us how we have to impute in order to speak, and then it's also teaching us how to dismantle the process of signing and imputation. And those who have understood it and gone through it, go back and use the whole process again in order to teach others how to study it. But before, in the previous chapter, all we heard was that the Aryans and the Buddhas have realized freedom from, or detachment from, words. Therefore, they teach others in words

[30:37]

so that they can become detached from words and realize the truth. They've realized the truth because they've become detached from words. Somebody who got detached from words taught them how to study in order to detach from words and realize the truth. Now we learn more, and we'll learn more, particularly in Chapter 6, you learn that the disorienting imputations that we do on things are necessary in order to make conventional designations. So we've accomplished that. We have this disorientation and it's useful because we can talk, we can have language. But the price of it is that we're disoriented, we're in bondage to the signs, and also we're in a cycle to perpetuate this. Because we're in a cycle, it's a bondage to this process, this useful process. The Sutra is about how to get in there and reverse the process.

[31:38]

Karen wants to soon learn more about this. So again, for your information, a manuscript may come into this community, which is an edited version of talks on these various chapters. And at that point there might be an opportunity for some people to look at the Sutra in relationship to the commentary, but also some other people, me for example, will be looking at the commentary to see if it's helpful. I think the Sutra is helpful, but is the commentary helpful? It would be something of an adjustment to find out that the commentary was not helpful, that the edited version of the commentary was not helpful. Then one would be sort of challenged to figure out what to do about this manuscript

[32:46]

that's not helpful. Is there some way to work on it so that it becomes helpful? Or is this huge project one unhelpful project? But I'm open to this possibility that it will be one unhelpful process, which was piled on top of this potentially helpful Sutra. It's a Sutra which is definitely intended to help, but is it actually helpful? That's not necessarily completely clear yet. Was this a Sutra delivered by the Buddha or subsequently? How would I say? Kind of that's a question which I'm just as enthusiastic about responding to that question in detail as Karen is about studying Chapter 8.

[33:48]

But it's kind of a complicated answer is sort of appropriate and a simple one like yes or no isn't really appropriate to that your question. So I'm not saying yes and I'm not saying no, but I'm saying I'd love to give a detailed response to that, but it's 5.30. And yeah, so maybe if you ask it again earlier in the day, I would be happy to say some things about where did this come from? Also, where did the original Sanskrit come from? How did that appear in the world? And we don't have it anymore. We only have Tibetan and Chinese. I want to thank you very much for your almost completely wholehearted presence today.

[34:50]

I mean, if you were completely wholehearted, I'm grateful for that, and if you're almost wholehearted, that's great too. And I want to draw your attention to the lovely earrings on the altar now, which Laurie and Jane and Steph reconstructed out of a box of trash. And also thank Breck for repairing the electrical system which was just about ready to burn the building down. And thanks to the muscle men, the hunks, thanks to the hunks for moving that million pound piece of metal. And thanks to everybody else for cleaning the place up and painting it up. Thank you very much.

[35:57]