The Ultimate transcends Difference and Unity
Samdhinirmochana Mahayana Sutra Chapter 3, part 1
Tenshin Reb Anderson
Samdhinormonchana Sutra (Part VI),
Chapter Three, Morning Dharma Talk
Saturday June 14, 2009, A.M.
Transcribed by: Karen Mueller
(Have question throughout about capitalization of Arhant, Path, ultimate and practice..used caps for Path, Arhant, lower case for ultimate and for practice, except for one place where I thought it was it was “the Practice”.)
…And this afternoon I’d like to talk about one of the Chapters of the Samdhinirmochana Sutra, which in the Tibetan translation is called “Questions of Suvisuddhamati”, Suvisuddhamati. A Bodhisattva by that name. Vishuddhi means purity. I think Suvisuddhi means purification and “Mati” is intelligence or a certain level of wisdom. And this Bodhisattva, Purified Intelligence, spoke to the Bhagavan, “Bhagavan, regarding what the Bhagavan formerly said ‘The ultimate profound and subtle, having a character completely transcending sameness and difference is difficult to realize”. (Repeats) “The Ultimate profound and subtle, having a character completely transcending sameness and difference is difficult to realize. What the Tatagatha has spoken so eloquently in this way is truly wondrous. “Bhaghavan, concerning this, once at a certain place I saw a great many Bodhisattvas who had entered the stage of engagement through conviction. They had gathered together to set about considering the difference or non-difference of the compounded and the ultimate”. In the previous Chapter there was a discussion of the compounded and the uncompounded. Those two categories exhaust all phenomena. And another way to translate it is, created and uncreated. Some phenomena are created and some are uncreated. Here, it’s the consideration between the created and the ultimate. The ultimate is actually one of the uncreated. But there’s other uncreated besides the ultimate. The ultimate Truth, the ultimate Reality and compounded, created things. So some Bodhisattvas had gotten together to consider the difference, the issue of the difference between the Ultimate and compounded or the non-difference of ultimate and compounded. And I would like to say at this point that one of the most important compounded things for disciples of the Buddha is the practice of the Buddha Way. Practice is a compounded thing, a created thing. So this Chapter is looking at the relationship between our practice and other compounded things and the ultimate, ultimate Reality. And right away, we’re told by the Buddha, by the Bhagavan, that the ultimate transcends it being the same as compounded things, like practice, and also transcends it being different. The Sutra goes on saying that, “Once [these Bodhisattvas] had assembled a certain Bodhisattva said, ‘The character of the compounded and the character of the ultimate are not different.’” Again you could say the character of practices and the character of the Ultimate are not different. Another [Bodhisattva] said, ‘It is not the case that the character of the compounded and the character of the Ultimate are not different”, (Repeats) [Excuse me] “It is not the case, that the character of the compounded and the character of the ultimate are not different. The character of the compounded and the character of the Ultimate are different”. Ok? So one Bodhisattva says the character of these two is that they’re not different; another Bodhisattva says the character of these two is that they are different. The practice we do, one says is different from the ultimate; another one says the practices we do are not different from the ultimate. Another way to say it is, that the ultimate character of the practices we do transcends difference between the ultimate character and these practices. But, one Bodhisattva says the practices we do are not different from their ultimate character. And another one says, the practices we do are different from their ultimate character. And then the Bodhisattva Purified Intelligence goes on to say to the Bhagavan, “Another became uncertain and full of doubts and said, ‘There are those who say, ‘The character of the compounded and the character of the ultimate are different’ and there are those who say, ‘The character of the compounded and the character of the Ultimate are not different.’ Which of these Bodhisattvas is truthful, which is mistaken? Which is properly oriented [and] which is improperly oriented?” “Bhagavan having seen these things, I thought this: ‘All these sons and daughters of good lineage have not sought out the ultimate, the subtle character completely transcending difference and non-difference from compounded things.” [The character of the Ultimate completely transcending difference and non-difference from practices.] “These people] are childish, obscured, unclear, unskilled and they are not properly oriented.’” “The Bhagavan replied to the Bodhisattva [Purified Intelligence], ‘So it is! [Purified Intelligence], so it is! All these sons and daughters of good lineage do not understand the ultimate, the subtle character of which completely transcends difference and non-difference from compounded things. They are childish, obscured, unclear and unskillful and not properly oriented. “[How] is this? (text says “why is this?) [Purified Intelligence], it is because those who investigate the compounded in that way neither realize the ultimate, nor do they manifest the ultimate.” If they realized the ultimate and manifested the ultimate, they would understand and express that practices and the ultimate, their actual relationship, transcends sameness and difference. This whole issue is really important in the tradition called Soto Zen, particularly as it manifests in the last 800 years or so in China or, excuse me, in Japan and in the United States and in Europe and so on, because the founder of the school in Japan said, “to think that practice and realization are not one is a heretical view.” (Direct quote or not?) He didn’t say however, right away, to think that practice and enlightenment, practice and realization, are one is also a heretical view. He didn’t say that. Matter of fact, he said in Buddhism, practice and realization are one. In the condition of Buddhism, in Buddha Dharma, practice and realization are one. And this oneness completely transcends sameness and difference. It’s that kind of one-ness. Now here’s some nice reasoning now, that the Sutra offers, about how this is so. “[How] is this? (text says “why is this?) [Purified Intelligence] if the character of practices, of compounded practices, and the character of the ultimate were not different at all, then because of that every, all ordinary childish being would see the truth and, while still ordinary beings, would attain [the highest achievement] and would even achieve the highest bliss of nirvana. Moreover, they would completely and perfectly realize unsurpassed perfect enlightenment.” Is that clear. Hmm? Yes? Speaker A: So your thinking that Dogen’s realization has not, (can’t hear) evolved is not a compounded thing? Reb: Can you say it a little louder, please? A: That when we talk about Dogen (can’t hear) practice-realization as (can’t hear) something that’s they ultimate, we’re equating realization with the iltimate? Reb: Yeah. I equate realization with iltimate. Right. A: I guess I would have thought from the opening lines of the Genjo koan that realization was another compounded thing. Reb: Yeah. Realization is not a compounded thing. A: (Can’t hear) The way that Dogen is using realization I took to be as a compounded thing. Reb: Yeah. And I would say realization is not a compounded thing and Dogen doesn’t mean it’s a compounded thing. A: Ok. Then why does he say, “as the myriad things are without embodied self there’s no (can’t hear) no realization?” The ultimate… Reb: Yeah. In, when, in the non-abiding, in things not having a Self, there’s also, there’s also no realization. In emptiness, there’s also no emptiness. A: So the construction, the usage of this word “realization” almost has to make it a compounded thing. The usage of this word “realization”, like it doesn’t make sense to me that there’s a realization that’s not compounded. That’s the Ultimate, right? In some ways, Dogen’s use of ‘realization’ is identical to this Sutra’s use of the word ‘ultimate’.
Reb: I think we can say it’s pretty identical, yeah. So I don’t.. When you see the ultimate listed, when you see realization listed along with other compounded things, it doesn’t mean it’s a compounded thing. And also Buddhas are not necessarily compounded things but they can be compounded things. Buddhas can be compounded or uncompounded. But I’m using ‘realization’ in Dogen’s words, to be a synonym for the ultimate. And practice to be an example of compounded things. But in the Sutra, what I just read, it said that ..It said that if compounded and the ultimate were not different then all the activities of an ordinary person would be the ultimate. In other words, all the practices of an ordinary person would be the practice of a Buddha. Because they would be the ultimate; they would be realization. If compounded were the same as the ultimate. Speaker B: So what would be the problem with that? So what’s wrong with that? Reb: It’s not true. Not all activities of all ordinary people are nirvana. Not all activities of ordinary people are going alone with them having complete realization of unsurpassed, perfect Enlightenment. It’s not the case. B; Ok. Reb: If that were the case, if the compounded was not different from the Ultimate. Then everything you do… If the compounded was the same as the Ultimate, then everything you do would be the practice of a Buddha. Because the Buddha is the practice of the ultimate. Or it’s the practice based on the ultimate. It is the practice which expresses the ultimate in compounded form. And, yeah, and so it’s also.. The practice and realization are not different in the case of a Buddha. So sometimes the ultimate and compounded things are the same. They transcend sameness, partly by being the same sometimes. It’s one of the ways they transcend it. They transcend difference by being the same and they transcend sameness by being different. Their relationship. It’s free. It’s free of either one of them. The first example is the one of if they were the same you’d have this situation, “If the character of the compounded [of practices] and the character of ultimate [realization] were [totally] different, then because of that, even those who see the truth would not be free from the signs [or the forms] of the compounded, [or the signs and the forms of practices]” So if they’re the same, everybody would be perfectly enlightened, which is not the case. And if they were different, if they were like you know totally different, then those who realize the truth through practices, would be stuck in the practices they use to realize the truth. Those who practice in such a way that realizes Enlightenment would be bound by the form of practice. Because the freedom of the ultimate would be totally different from their practices. So the sages would not be free. But the sages are free. Because their practice is not totally different from realization. Their practice is not totally different from the ultimate. Their practice is practice based on realization and their realization is the realization of practice. Not sure if Reb is intending to quote the Sutra here. Voice sounds like he is quoting. I think this is a close paraphrase of the first sentences of second paragraph on page 39. Since they would not be free from the signs or the forms of the practices, the compounded practices, even those who see the Truth would not be liberated from bondage to the forms and signs of practice. If they were not liberated from bondage of forms of practice; then they would also not be liberated from the bondage of errant tendencies. “If they were not liberated from from the two bonds, then those who see the truth would not attain the highest achievement, and would not achieve the highest bliss of nirvana. Furthermore, they would not be,.. they would not completely and perfectly realize perfect enlightenment.” So again, in summary, if the practices and the ultimate were not different at all, everybody would attain, would already all be attaining nirvana by everything they do. And if they were totally different, none of the sages who have ever supposedly been sages would have been able to attain enlightenment. So no enlightenment would be possible if they were totally different. And, everybody would be enlightened already if they were totally the same. Reb: Ok. Oscar? Oscar: Would you remind us of the signs of the compounded?Reb: Signs of the compounded? For example, joining your palms together like this and bowing to co-practitioners and teachers, that’s a form, a compounded form. It has a sign a shape. That’s one. Sitting cross-legged. Another one. Taking a walk is another one. And walking has a different sign from sitting and so on. Different shape. Different form. So all these practices have forms and ah, yeah. Another parenthetical thing I would mention is that in an analysis of phenomena, there’s the made and the unmade, and the constructed and the unconstructed. And all of the constructed phenomena have outflows, or are impure. Except one. Which is called the Path. The Path is the one compounded thing that doesn’t have outflows. The unconstructed are pure, like nirvana is an unconstructed phenomenon; and space is an unconstructed phenomenon. The Ultimate character of things, unconstructed and pure. But all constructed things are impure except one, which is the practice, the Path, and that is totally composed of constructed things. So when we, when we practice together, like here, where the constructed elements of experience moment-by-moment are put together in a certain way called ‘practice’, then there’s no outflow. Then there’s not impurity. And in that case, our constructed, compounded activity is like the uncompounded. They are both pure. Speaker C: Could you define purity? Reb: Purity in this case means no outflows. In other words, no concern with gain and loss, existence and non-existence. There’s not sense of …yeah, there's no sense of you have an experience and you gain something from it or you have an experience and you lose something from it. You’re. It’s living…Pure is like you’re living in the middle way, not veering in the psycho-physical-energetic disturbance of when the mind is involved in gain and loss, existence and non-existence. And all phenomena, to some extent, when they arise they’re vulnerable to like a sense of gain or loss. And when they cease, they’re vulnerable to a sense of gain and loss. They’re a partial circuit of the whole pattern of the moment. The total pattern of the moment in the way that it doesn’t have any gain or loss, that’s practice. At a given moment. The total exertion. The total way that things are coming together for us moment by moment, that’s the practice. That’s the path. But it’s all made of constructed things. The path is not usually spoken of as the ultimate. But it doesn’t have outflows. However, although it’s not spoken of as the ultimate, it needs to be based on the ultimate. So it’s not totally different from the ultimate. Yes? Karen: I’m struck by a thought that, if the activity of common people, that sentence,.. And I guess I find the idea,.. Maybe I just find it very attractive.. The idea that enlightenment is already here. It’s just that we don’t see it or we’re not receptive to it, but it’s already here. Reb: Yeah? Karen: It seems contradictory. It seems like that sentence is contradictory. Reb: Well, part of the sense that enlightenment is already here is the statement that.. The second statement that if compounded and the ultimate were totally different, then it wouldn’t be possible for there to be enlightenment here. Because any kind of enlightenment, you would have would be separate, Any way that it would manifest, would be separate from the ultimate, because any kind of practice,.. You’d be stuck in the practice.
But what’s implied here is, enlightenment is here. There is, there are Buddhas right now and there always have been. They don’t last but the Buddha way of being is here now. But it’s not the way of ordinary people. Ordinary people have outflows. They’re still a little bit into gain and loss, existence and non-existence. But they’re not…so they’re not totally the same as the ultimate. But, then also they’re not totally separate from the ultimate, because the ultimate is the character of their ordinariness. Yes? John: If what you’re describing is the practice of the path, what’s the role of intentionality? And specifically whether it’s mindfulness or wholeheartedness? Reb: What’s the role of intentionality? Well, the first thing that comes to my mind, not necessarily the best thing to say but, in a given moment of life of a sentient being, ‘intentionality’ describes the pattern of the constructed, of the compounded phenomena which are their, are their life. So intentionality is part of the compounded. Always. There’s some pattern to the compounded in a given moment. And, certain types of intentionality tend to making that pattern not have outflows. When the pattern doesn’t have outflows, the pattern becomes virtually the same as the ultimate. But not completely, because the ultimate is not stuck in the form that’s virtually the same as the ultimate. Now you have more questions, John? John: No, thank you. Reb: That take care of it? John: Yes. Reb: Ok. Yes, Huoma? Huoma: If not seeing the enlightenment comes maybe from not accepting things as it is and making something out of nothing? Reb: Yeah right. Making something out of nothing. Or making something without,,,,,whaddayacallit..It’s not exactly out of nothing, but making something up, fabricating something, that’s the compounded. That’s the..that’s the..yeah, that’s the compounded. But there’s ways of making something, constructing something such that it becomes the practice. To construct, for example, a life of the Middle Way, a life where you’re actually investigating the ultimate, the ultimate character of the practice. Or, that you’re mindful that the practice is based on the ultimate. Or that the practice is the practice of the ultimate. Or that your practice is based on realization so that your practice is the practice of realization. It’s not completely the same as realization; it’s the practice of realization. And it’s not completely different from realization. But the funny thing is that the practice would be different from…yeah, the practice being different from realization would mean that there would be no realization possible. The practice being the same as realization would mean that everybody is realized; rather than what is the realization of everybody? Yes? Speaker D: So if while I’m practicing, I notice feeling gain or loss.. Reb: Yes? D: is there not outflow then when I’m practicing? Reb: Is noticing the outflow the end of outflows? D: Yes. Reb: Well, you can check it out. I think you’ll find that, probably not. D: I thought you said that while we were practicing there are no outflows. Reb: Yeah, when I say practicing, I mean the Practice, the Path. (caps?) So if you’re meditating on, if you’re being mindful of your state and you notice, for example, that your intentionality has gain and loss in it or it’s leaning towards existence and non-existence, it would be..This would be…you could be mindful of that and notice this imbalance. This wouldn’t quite yet be the path, however the path in that case would require probably some kind of awareness like that. What would make it the path? How would it be then not just awareness of an outflow, but the end of outflows? Well, that would be in the.. You could say…we were recently studying this expression, “Follow the stream to the source” but another, a more accurate translation would be, “Follow the stream to the place where the water ends.” So if you would follow the pattern of outflow, the pattern of gain and loss, to the end of gain and loss then you would be at the place of the Practice. You would exhaust that activity. And in exhausting that activity, it’s kind of like there’s no more gain and loss. There’s no more being into existence and non-existence. Then it’s the path. But it’s still a compounded thing. It’s just that it’s the totality, the fullness of the compounded activity. And that practice, that practice is the practice of the Sages, which is not totally different from the realization. And not totally different. And it is a practice based on the realization of the exhaustion of all the forms. And not only the exhaustion of them, not only the following through completely on them, but the end of them where you can’t get them any more. And that’s good because we don’t want to be stuck in the forms, because if we’re stuck in the forms, these practices are not really freedom. So the sages exhaust the forms of practice to realize the ultimate, but also an incidental aspect of that is that they don’t need these forms anymore at the moment. They don’t need them---they are not bound by them. So gain and loss is one. But even, even a form, yeah, a form like hands together, does it exist? Does a cross-legged posture exist? Do you think it exists? Are you practicing in a way that you think exists? Are you sitting upright? Do you think it exists? Do you think it doesn’t exist? Are you in the middle between those two extremes? If you’re in the middle between those two extremes when you’re sitting, in the form of sitting there, and you’re not leaning into it existing and you’re not leaning into it not existing, then that’s the practice. To sit without delving into existence or non-existence. And that’s called wholeheartedly sitting. You sit so wholeheartedly; you exercise the form so wholeheartedly, that you’re not leaning into its existence, and, of course, probably not its non-existence. If you might be leaning into the non-existence of you being in a different posture, however. You might say, “I’m not walking now” if someone asks you. Yeah? That’s a form. You’re doing the form of not-walking while you’re sitting. But are you into the non-existence of walking then? And if you would exert that completely, then what you’re doing would be the path. And you wouldn’t be bound by the form. You wouldn’t be stuck in the form, which is characteristic of those on the path and characteristic of those who realize the ultimate. Yes? Connie: I’m curious about your use of the word ‘sages’, “the way of the sages”?
Reb: Yeah? Connie: I thought we were…I thought the path of the sages was the path of the Arhant not the Bodhisattva. Reb: I’m talking about Bodhisattva sages. Some Bodhisattvas are not yet sages. And some Arhants are sages. Connie: I thought all Arhants were sages. Reb: Hmm? Connie: I thought Arhants were.. Reb: So Arhants are sages and Bodhisattvas can be sages too. But they’re on the Bodhisattva path, the path to Buddhahood. And Arhants are on the path to arhantship But Arhants can be sages and Bodhisattvas can be sages too. The Buddha is …one of the epithets of Buddha is “Arhant” “Arhanto”. The Buddha, among other things, is an Arhant. Connie: Was an Arhant. Reb: The Buddha was an Arhant. Yeah. And generally speaking that’s one of the.. generally speaking,…generally speaking, Budhhas are, that’s one of the things they accomplish is arhantship. They know what Arhants know. But they know other things Arhants don’t know. They have other job assignments which are part of what Buddhas can do.
So Bodhisattvas are not….It actually says, you know, these sons and daughters of good lineage”, these are the sons and daughters who can be Bodhisattvas. These are the people who can join Buddha’s family and be Bodhisattvas. They have good lineage. In this book, ‘good lineage’ means they can be Bodhisattvas. They are ready for the Buddha Path. Here’s another reasoning, “[Purified Intelligence], since ordinary beings are not seers of truth, they are merely ordinary beings. They have not attained the highest achievement, nor have they achieved the highest bliss of nirvana. Furthermore they have not completely and perfectly realized unsurpassed, perfect enlightenment. Therefore it is not suitable to say that the character of compounded [practices] and the character of the ultimate are not different.” Ok, So first he says, if they’re not different, if they’re completely not different, then all these people would attain it. But now, since what we just said, it’s not appropriate to say that they’re not different. (Having trouble finding the exact quote that Reb is using so am not sure this is exact). Again, “Know by this form of explanation that those who say the character of the compounded [practices] and the character of the ultimate are different are improperly oriented” Their orientation is incorrect] “[Purified Intelligence], it is not the case that seers of truth are free from the forms and signs of compounded practices:” Didn’t I just say they were? [Colon] “they are simply free”. “They are not free from the forms of compounded practices: they are simply free.” Roberta: So everything is simply free? Reb: No, Ordinary people are not simply free; they are complicatedly free. (Laughter) And so complicatedly free that nobody sees it except the Buddhas. Roberta: Well, that’s simple then. Reb: “Moreover seers of truth are not liberated from bondage [of forms] and signs: they are liberated.” They are not liberated from the forms and signs of compounded practices, but they are liberated. “Seers of truth are not liberated from bondage of errant tendencies, but they are liberated.” “Since they are liberated from these two bonds, they attain the highest achievement. With unexcelled bliss, they attain nirvana and also completely and perfectly realize unsurpassed complete and perfect enlightenment. Therefore it is not suitable to say that the character of the compounded practices and the character of the ultimate are different.” So the ultimate,..is the ultimate free of these forms of practice? No, it’s simply free. Is the ultimate free of these bonds? No. It’s not proper to say that. It’s simply free. It’s liberated. “Know [from] this form of explanation, that those who say the character of compounded practices and the character of the ultimate are different, are improperly oriented; their orientation is incorrect”. This is worked through more, but I wonder if you’re overloaded or anything like that going on? Oscar: There’s a transition you just hit where he says, “The character of the compounded and the character…seers of truth are not liberated from bondage [for instance of signs] and then four lines down does it says, “since they are liberated from these two bonds” Reb: Wasn’t that,…let’s see, wasn’t that previously, the two bonds? Oscar: I’ve got page 41, where I made a note.
Reb: It says, it says, “if they were not liberated from these two bonds”, ok? And then up here it says, “since they are liberated from these two bonds” they attain the highest achievement. Let’s just stay here. It says, after saying, “these two bonds” ok? “Seers of truth are not liberated from the bondage of signs and they are not liberated from the bondage of errant tendencies. Ok? And then it says, “since they are liberated from these two bonds”. Oscar: Yes, I think that’s precisely the thing that I don’t follow. Reb: Oh, you don’t follow.. Oscar: That they are not liberated. Let me just.. since they are liberated. Reb: Ok Oscar: That’s where I have a problem. Reb: That’s the part you have trouble with, ok? So, you want to have no more trouble with that? Oscar: Away with trouble! Reb: Well that’s what we’re here for, to help you be away with all trouble. Oscar: Ok. Reb: so it says, “They are not liberated from the bondage of the forms and practices, but they are liberated. Oscar: Yes: Reb: and, “They are not freed from the bondage of errant tendencies, but they are liberated”. Oscar: Yes. Reb: And you just can’t make that next step, “Since they are liberated from these two bonds, they attain the highest achievement”. Oscar: Correct. Speaker E: They are free of attachments to those two bonds. Is that what they?.. Reb: They are free of attachment from these two bonds. Yes, that would be part of it. Jacqui: Is it the Middle Way? Reb: Is it the Middle Way? Well, it must be the Middle Way. It must be the Middle Way. Reb: Yes? Speaker F: Since in the ultimate there are no differences and conflicts, then.. Reb: There’s no sameness either. F: So it’s all resolved in the ultimate. This apparent contradiction is resolved in the ultimate. It must be. Reb: Yeah. And here we have the practice based on the ultimate. Here’s the practice, based on the ultimate. “They are not liberated from the bondage….but they are liberated”. That statement is based on the ultimate. And that statement is a compounded,… that’s a practice. That’s a practice. Here’s a practice. They are not liberated from the bondages, but they are liberated. That’s a practice; you just saw a practice there. That’s a compounded thing, that’s based on the ultimate. And then down below it is another compounded thing. Since they are liberated from the bondage, from the two kinds of bonds, that’s another kind of practice based on the ultimate. Is it based on the ultimate? If it’s based on the ultimate then it’s certainly not totally different from the ultimate. And if it’s based on the ultimate it’s not completely the same as the ultimate. Reb: Yes? Huoma: So is the intention here to bring everything into a certain alignment?
Reb: Yeah, that’s the intention is to bring things into an alignment. Mm-hmm. Huoma: And then, my next.. Reb: And, the alignment is also supposed to be brought into an alignment. So the alignment is neither aligned with neither existing or not-existing. So we’re trying to get an alignment with the Middle Way, which is free from sameness and difference. And then also make that alignment, itself, free of sameness and difference from un-alignments, from all un-alignments. And make all the un-alignments based on alignment. All the practices, which in some senses need to be aligned. And one other way to align is to not make them the same or completely different from alignment. Karen: So is it something like their liberation is neither a negation of bondage nor an affirmation? Would that be another way to say it? Reb: It’s neither a negation nor affirmation of bondage. Mmm-hmm. Reb: Yes? James: I don’t know whether it helps or hurts but I seem to remember in the other translation, the ones from Chinese, they don’t translate it that way. Like in the Cleary and (can’t hear). They don’t have, ‘they are not free from the bonds of signs but they are free actually… I remember noticing that and Cleary loved that translation. Reb: Yeah, the Chinese is different. Ah, so there’s two other translations that are based on different texts. This is… we have these.. We don’t have the Sutra in the original Sanskrit. So we have.. This is a translation from Tibetan, and then from Chinese. (I don’t have this text to refer to in order to check the quotation, so please can you check it.) I think this might be the place,.. where they say, “If Ultimate Truth were totally different from practices, those who already see the Truth would not do away with the forms of practice,” Does that make sense? “If they did not do away with the forms of Practice, they would be bound by the forms and would not be liberated. Since those who see the Truth would in that case be bound by the forms and not liberated, fortunately they would also be liberated from crude bondage to the physical self.” “Because of not being liberated from these two kinds of bondage, those who have seen the Truth would not be able to attain the highest expedient, tranquil nirvana, or realize Supreme Perfect Enlightenment. “But not everyone has seen the truth; not everyone has been able to attain the highest expedient, tranquil nirvana, and not everyone has realized Supreme Perfect Enlightenment. Therefore, it is not right to say that the ultimate and practices are not different at all”. [Here’s the part now which I think may be different.] “It is not the case, furthermore that those who see the Truth are not able to do away with forms and practices. Indeed, they do dismiss them”. Catherine: So Cleary? Is that also K..(can’t hear) Reb: Hmm? This is Cleary. This is Cleary. “And it is not the case that those who see the Truth are not able to shed bondage of forms. They are indeed liberated”. Ok? Does that sound different? James Yes Catherine: It sounds like he’s saying that when they are liberated they don’t have any use for practices. Reb: In this case? Catherine: It sounds like Cleary, that Cleary as a human being is saying that. Reb: It sounds like Cleary is saying they have no use for the practices? Catherine: That’s how I ..the connotation I take. Reb: Yeah. Mmm-hmm. Yeah. And then one more.. (Very long pause). I don’t know if this will help to read this. (Laughter). I think maybe I won’t read this. ‘Cause the language is really different. I think it would be confusing. Maybe this afternoon, we could bring it up. But Cleary’s translation sounds quite different, doesn’t it? He said, first translations says, ‘they are not liberated from this’ and he said, he said ‘it is not the case that they are not able to do away with these forms’. James (or Oscar)?: So they are able to do away with them.. Reb: Right. But that’s different from saying that they are not liberated from the forms, but they are liberated. I think that generally speaking, when, I’ve noticed that when you have an original text and then you have translation into different languages, the places where they are the most different is usually the place where the original is the most intense. (Group “yes”). So the translations veer away because they’re trying to get this thing into their, into some reasonable translation. And sometimes it’s so intense that they, that one goes one way and the other goes another way. And Catherine picked up on this thing that the translator might be saying that they don’t need these practices any more. And we will not get into analyzing the translator because this is gonna be recorded (laughter). But look at… Here’s the pivot. You got a form of practice. Ok? You don’t want to be stuck in it, right? You don’t want to be stuck in it. You want to be liberated. And being stuck in it would not be liberated. But also you don’t want to get rid of the form because you need the form to realize the liberation from the form. So, one translator is kind of telling you, you can, what does he say? One translator says.. Yeah. You can do away with the forms. It’s not the case that you,.. it’s not the case that they are not able to do away with the forms. It’s not the case that they are not able to do away with the forms. They can do away with the forms, but they don’t. Speaker G: For the benefit of others? Reb: For the benefit of others. Previous chapter. In the previous chapter we had the people who are detached from form.. You could say that one translation is those who have realized the reality which is, which is detached from or beyond words, they use words to guide others to that reality. Or another way to put it is, those who have departed from forms of words, have realized the Reality (cap R?) which is departed from words, therefore, they make conventional designations in words to lead people to that Reality. One translation didn’t have the ‘therefore”; the other did. But here too.. So I think that this may be the key. That they could do away with the forms, because they are free of them. But, they don’t. Because they are just free. So since they don’t, their not liberated from the bondage. They have to have the forms even though they could do without them. And the reason why they have to have the forms is because they are Bodhisattvas. So they could do away with the forms. It’s not the case that they couldn’t, that they are not able to dispense with them. They could. But they can’t, but not because they’re stuck in them but because they need to use them to help others who are stuck in them. And the original probably somehow had all that going on with it. That they can.., they’re completely free of them and yet not. Roberta: So it’s like agreeing to play a game? Reb: Huh? Roberta: Agreeing to play a game? Reb: Agreeing to play the game. And, not just agreeing to play the game but wanting to play the game, seeing that that as their main job to come and play this game of using these forms and showing people how to be liberated. But they need the forms in order to show people how to be liberated from them. So the nice thing about these two different translations then is we see that one way to veer, is that there’s something at issue here about them being stuck in these forms and yet not. That in some sense they pretend to be stuck in the form; they come into bondage. But they are free. And they need to come into bondage in order to show others how to work with bondage based on liberation. So they are not free; and they are free. They can do away with these things, but they don’t. And even though.. so one case is it’s not the case that they are not free. The other situation is they are not liberated from these, but they are liberated. They are not liberated from the necessity of using compounded practices. They are not liberated from that because they vow to teach people how to do it. But they are liberated. And then when they work with these compounded forms, when they work with these forms, these practices are based on the realization of the emptiness of the forms. And their realization is a realization of practice. Their realization is a realization of to work with compounded things for the sake of beings. Catherine: Could you just read that little part again? Reb: Yeah. I’ll read this and see if this is the part you want. Catherine: “They are not liberated from but they are liberated”…what is it exactly that they are not liberated….? Reb: There’s three things. “Suvisuddhamati it is not the case that seers of truth are free from [the forms or] signs of the compounded practice” It’s not the case that they are free of them. “They are simply free”. Catherine: So it doesn’t say that they are not free from the bondage to them? Reb: Next it does. That’s the first one. There’s three. Then comes the next two. “Furthermore seers of truth are not liberated from the bondage [of forms and] signs; but they are liberated. Seers of truth are not liberated from even the bondage of errant tendencies; but they are liberated.” They go into errant tendencies and try on the bondage for the sake of all beings. They really get in there and put it on. It isn’t like “I’m free. Hi, guys. You who are in bondage. I’m free over here”. It’s like, “You’re not free. I can see that. You’re crying out that you’re not free. I’m going to go in there where you are and do your thing. Owww. It’s hard to do it here isn’t it? Good thing I’m liberated. Now, how can I work with this bondage?” They could do away with it but then they be looking down on us like, “It must be tough down there. It’s not tough up here, but a…you know”. (Laughs) Sometimes when I was, I could say when I was in my earlier years, I could say now, when I was in my middle years, I became rather fond of the way. I used to go to sesshins at the San Francisco Zen Center, and then.. and then I was married and had a daughter with my wife and I would go home on breaks from these sesshins and I would go into the apartment those people were living, in bondage. Well, they weren’t in bondage to the forms of compounded practice; they were in bondage to a big struggle between the two of them. (I hope I don’t’ get in trouble for saying this.) And I would come in.. I couldn’t be too high off the ground, otherwise I’d hit my head on the ceiling, but I would glide in on the Samadhi carpet. I would glide into the apartment on breaks and I would, I would bless their difficulties. And they didn’t get too angry at me but they found me, they found me quite irrelevant. And they were kind of glad when the break was over and I would go back to samadhi-ville. And then in one sesshin, I could barely sit. I was in so much pain. I did manage to sit through the sesshin but I was really in a lot of pain. I could barely walk. And then I came back and I was walking on the regular floor of the apartment and I wasn’t looking down on them from this elevated position of not being bound by errant tendencies perhaps, and getting the relief from that. I was kind of liberated and I really had some sort of compassion from them down in the pits where I wasn’t. But then they found me quite relevant and they were sorry when the breaks were over. Because they liked to have this suffering person come in among them, who didn’t look down on them, who looked maybe eye-to-eye with them, or maybe even up. So again the nice thing about this section is that it like “what?” and then it “what?” Either one of those…either way you go isn’t quite right. But now I think we’re getting into the middle, between those two translations. That they are free, and they demonstrate their freedom by not just, what is it like?... And I’m also playing a game of Monopoly with my grandson last night and you can go to jail and you can also be in the jail part as a visitor. Ok? Right? And when you’re there, you know, you’re in jail but you can leave anytime you want. So that’s more… So the Tibetan translation is a little bit more clearly bodhisattvic. It’s so bodhisattvic you can’t understand how they could be liberated. How could they be liberated if they are bound? If they’re not free of bondage? But see, they are liberated and they are not free of bondage. They go into the bondage and it’s a real bondage except that it’s a real bondage based on the realization that there aren’t any real bondages. But they put it on just as much as anybody else. Yes, Laurie? Laurie: Could you just say “freedom within form”? Reb: You could say freedom within forms, yeah. And then you could say more after that. You could say their freedom within forms and even their freedom within the from of bondage. Even bondage, they can be free.
So it’s not the case that they can’t do away with these forms. In a way, it’s true; and in a way it’s not. They can do away with them, but their vow doesn’t let them. They’ve got the skills, they can go to nirvana very easily and the reason why they can go so easily is because they’re totally not afraid of samsara. They are totally ok with being in samsara so they can go to nirvana really fast and easy. But when they go, they want to come back. Yes? Yuran: So, Baizhang was sentenced to 100 lives as a fox because he talked like an Arhant in his response instead of a Bodhisattva? Or, just saying “not blind” is the same as saying, “liberated”? Reb: Yeah, “not blind to cause in effect” in that story of the fox, “not blind to cause and effect” means, ‘I live in cause and effect, I’m free of it, and the place I demonstrate freedom from cause/effect, is in cause and effect. That’s where I demonstrate it. And as a Bodhisattva I want to demonstrate it to those who need encouragement to study cause and effect, to study compounded practices.’ Yuran: So, his punishment came because he answered, he neglected the Bodhisattva Vow. Not so much that he was wrong but inside the Bodhisattva framework, he veered out of it. Reb: His answer does sound like he was not willing to live five hundred lives as a fox. You know, it sounds like ... Yuran: At least at that moment. Reb: Huh? Yeah he was kind of into like, he was kind of into freedom which didn’t utilize forms to demonstrate itself. And because of that he got tested to see, “well now can you practice as a Bodhisattva for five hundred lives as a fox”. And I guess, we don’t really know. He didn’t seem to really give us lotta information about how it was for him to do that. But he was able then to receive the instruction, which he could have given in the first place, which is, “You want to know about being able to avoid the forms of compounded practices? You want to know if a sage can avoid them? You say, “They are liberated but they must use these. And they must use these to demonstrate their liberation by meditating on the cause and effect relationships of compounded practices.” He could have given that answer. And then there just would have been another day of practice, you know. No big deal. You know. So, I think that, yeah… I think that was good what we did today. I think we got to a real crucial issue of Bodhisattva practice though this meditation on how the ultimate transcends sameness and difference and how that makes it possible for the Bodhisattvas to really plunge into.. Because they are liberated, to plunge into the worst situations. Situations where there’s the most bondage, and really try it on and show beings how to be playful and to work the practices in these situations, because they are free. And the other way is to work these practices as a way of realizing freedom. Catherine: Just quickly..? Reb: Yeah? Catherine: Does what we just say apply also into going into the workplaces in your own mind, your own karma, your own body? Reb: Does it? Did you hear what she said? Does it apply to going into your own situation? Yes. Because again, you know if you went into prison, if you went into a jail or you went into prison, but you’re a visitor, the prisoners say well she’s cool and it’s nice to have a nice cool person but she’s irrelevant. Can you go into prison and feel the bondage of the prisoners when you’re in there. Knowing that you might be able to get out in a couple hours. Can you go in there and feel like what it’s like to be trapped there supposedly for a long time. Can you try that on? So if you go into an external prison, but internal for a long time. Can you try that on? So if you go into an external prison, but internally you don’t feel it, you really haven’t.. They feel it internally too. They feel externally in prison and internally in prison. If they’re internally not in prison when externally when they are in prison, they as Bodhisattvas they should for the sake of the other prisoners who are internally in prison then they should go into that prison too. Yes, so it definitely is… The bondage is inner bondage, but bondage of errant tendencies. The bondage of errant tendencies is inner. There aren’t external errant tendencies except for like, I don’t know, 1-Way signs that are turned away or something. So internally they try on the bondage and also they try on the bondage in terms of forms, like you can’t wear denim when you go to San Quentin. The prisoners have to wear denim, so you don’t get to. You have to follow the forms of the prison. And when you go to Zen Center, you do the forms of the prison. You go into the prison of Zen Center; you go into the prison of No Abode. And you also go into the inner prison. That’s your vow. To go into all these realms and not be free of them. You know. Be bound by them and be free. ‘Cause again, if you’re not bound by it, you know, so what? It’s irrelevant. If you don’t have a body that’s binding you, then what does your freedom mean? But if you have a body that’s really binding you, if you have a mind that’s really binding you, right there like that and you’re free, this is the Bodhisattva. And this is the ultimate, which is not completely free, not completely different from the bondage and not completely the same as the bondage. Not completely the same as the forms of practice; not completely different. Speaker H: So the freedom is the binding itself? Reb: The freedom is the binding itself. It gets pushed to that, that bondage is freedom. If you really can go into bondage, wholeheartedly, that’s the freedom which is the same as the bondage. You say, “Well can I have another freedom that’s not the same as the bondage? Yes. There is another freedom which is not the same as bondage. Where you’re free and you look upon those who aren’t and you say, “Jeez, good luck! I hope you guys can work it out. I myself am in a different place. I’m with the ultimate and it’s really nice here and I’m going back to the zendo now”.
Chapter Three, Morning
No Abode 6/14/09 AM
Trans: Karen Mueller