Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lankavatara Sutra and the One Vehicle Lineage

The “Sutra of Going Down to Lanka” (Lankavatara Sutra) is the most important sutra in relation to Bodhidharma and the Zen lineages of his Dharma descendants. I follow the lead of D.T. Suzuki in viewing the Lanka as one of the Ekayana (One Vehicle) sutras including the Avatamsaka,White Lotus of the True Dharma, Queen Srimala’s Lions Roar, Great Dharma Drum, etc. Each of these sutras provides a different perspective, but the common basis is the One Vehicle. In this way, the Avatamsaka Sutra provides the One Vehicle view of the metaphysics of Buddha Dharma. The Lotus Sutra provides the One Vehicle view of skillful means and the arousal of faith in the Buddha Dharma. The Queen Srimala’s Lion’s Roar Sutra provides the One Vehicle perspective on the Dharmabody and the realization of the bodhisattva path with the prediction of Buddhahood for a lay person who is a woman, as well as placing the Tathagata-garbha teaching within the context of the One Vehicle.
The Lankavatara Sutra is special because it is a compendium of the primary teachings of the Buddha Dharma, and provides the One Vehicle view on each of the teachings. What this means is that the Lanka is essentially and primarily the teaching of the synthesis of the Buddha Dharma and takes great pains to show them all together in a coherent tapestry of the Buddha Dharma.
Thus the various sections take up the teachings of the Two Vehicles of listener disciples (sravakas) and the causally awakened (pratyekabuddhas) or the Three Vehicles which are the Two Vehicles plus the bodhisattva vehicle. Section by section the Lanka articulates these teachings in the context of the One Vehicle. For example, the Lanka takes up the Four Noble Truths, the Five Dharmas, the Three Self-natures (trisvabhavas), the Six Paramitas, the Eight Consciousnesses, the Ten Bodhisattva Stages, etc. and for each of them provides the One Vehicle view of how each is a teaching and a discrimination of mind about manifesting Buddha Nature.
In outliine, the One Vehicle includes the following points of perspective.
(1) Buddhism (i.e., following the Buddha Dharma) is the religious practice of the One Mind of Buddha as the practice of manifesting our Buddha nature;
(2) the One Mind is known by many names such as Dharmakaya (the body or essence of Dharma), Buddha-nature, Tathagata-garbha (the Inner-One-Who-Comes-Thus), sunyata (Emptiness), alaya-vjnana (the Storehouse of Consciousness), the bhutakoti (Reality- Limit), the signless, the Dharmadathu (Dharma Realm), paramartha (the ultimate truth), etc., and everything that is differentiated in consciousness is a discrimination of Mind and nothing but Mind which is known as the "mind-only" (cittamatra) teaching;
(3) since all the teachings of Buddhism, including both Mahayana and the Early Schools (sometimes called Hinayana), are essentially teachings about the One Mind of our own Buddha Nature, they must be taken as an organic whole, and the reconciliation of apparent oppositions or contradictions within the Buddhist teachings is the essence of the synthesis of One Vehicle (Ekayana);
(4) the essential core of all the differences in Buddha Dharma is found in the understanding that Buddha’s distinctive teachings are due to the different audiences to whom the teachings are taught, and that this responsiveness to the particular circumstances is called upaya, or skillful means; 
(5) as all beings manifest equally the One Mind there is an absolute basis (i.e., simultaneously transcendental and immanent) for human equality;
(6) the sole purpose for Buddhas to enter the world is to relieve suffering by bringing people to awakening, and awakening to the absolute basis of the One Buddha Mind is not accomplished as an intellectual pursuit or construction of words or ideas, but must be accomplished by experiential practice leading to the “revolution at the basis,” “turning the light around,” or “turning inward” (paravrtti) that culminates in directly seeing the True Suchness (tathata) of one’s Own-Nature (svabhava); 
(7) since all people have This One Buddha Mind, the nature of the Tathagata, as their common and actual manifestation of their root of awakening there is no fundamental distinction between monk and lay practitioner in the potential for -- or actual realization of -- awakening in Buddhism.
People often mistake the Lankavatara as a Sutra of the Yogacara Buddhist school because the Lanka prominently discusses the Eight Consciousness analysis developed by the Yogacara school, but this is an error.  What the Lankavatara is doing is providing the One Vehicle view of the Eight Consciousness teaching. Similarly, the Lanka provides the One Vehicle view of the chief teachings of the Yogacara and Madhyamaka schools and of Tathagatagarbha movement to show that they are all within the ambit of the One Vehicle. In this way the One Vehicle refuses to place one school above another and shows their mutual significance and validity within the Buddha Dharma. Thus, the Lankavatara is providing the One Vehicle context that brings together the teachings of these three main streams of Mahayana, as well as bringing the streams of the Hinayana or Early Schools within the One Buddha Vehicle.
One reason for the confusion of mistaking the Lanka as a Yogacara sutra is that people are confused about the distinction between the Yogacara teaching of consciousness-only (vijnanamatra or vijnaptimatra) and the One Vehicle's teaching of mind-only (cittamatra).  D.T. Suzuki explained several times in his Studies on the Lankavatara Sutra how, since the time it was first translated by Gunabhadra in the 5th century, there were two primary streams of interpretation of the Lankavatara in China . One stream was the Yogacara because the Lankavatara does affirm the validity of the teaching of the Eight Consciousnesses.  Suzuki articulates how taking this affirmation as a basis for interpreting the Lanka as a Yogacara teaching is misguided.  Here are excerpts of three sections (pages 54-55; 180-183; and 276-282) from Suzuki’s Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra where he discusses the difference between the Lankvatara’s Mind-only and Yogacara’s Consciousness-only views.
As Suzuki shows, going all the way back to the first accounts in China in the Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks, that Bodhidharma taught the One Vehicle School (or lineage) of Southern India. D.T. Suzuki wrote:
There is one thing in the foregoing account given by Tao-hsiian of the history of the Lankavatara that requires notice: that there was another school in the study of the sutra than the one transmitted by Dharma and Hui-k'e. This was the school of Yogacara idealism. The line of Hui-k'e belonged to the Ekayana school (一乘) of Southern India which was also the one resorted to by Dharma himself when he wanted to discourse on the philosophy of Zen Buddhism. To this Ekayana school belong the Avatamsaka and the Sraddhotpanna as well as the Lankavatara properly interpreted. But as the latter makes mention of the system of the eight Vijnanas whose central principle is designated as Alayavijnana, it has been used by the Yogacara followers as one of their important authorities. (p. 54-55)

On page 181, Suzuki writes,
The doctrine expounded in the Lankavatara and also in the Avatamsaka-sutra is known as the Cittamatra and never as the Vijnanamatra or Vijnaptimatra as in the Yogacara school of Asanga and Vasubandhu. Throughout the Lankavatara no mention is made of "vijnanamatra," but either "vijnaptimatra," or "prajnaptimdtra," and they are used synonymously. […] Where the triple world (tribhavam) is said to be nothing but vijnapti or prajnapti, it means that the world is mere subjective construction, having no reality or selfsubstance (svabhdva). The doctrine of Cittamatra, (mind-only, or pure-mind-only), as advocated in the Lankavatara, however, differs from this in that it does not deny the existence of mind itself, from which the objective world appears with all its forms of particularisation.

Beginning on page 278 to 280, Suzuki writes,
I cannot conclude this study without referring, though casually, to the difference between the doctrine of Cittamatra and that of Vijnaptimatra (or Vijnanamatra), the latter being the thesis of the Yogacara school of Buddhism which was founded principally by Asanga and Vasubandhu. […] How is the Cittamatra of the Lankavatara to be distinguished from the Vijnanamatra?

Or are they the same, only differently designated? The following is given more to elucidate -the Lankavatara position than to give a definite answer to the question. It is a most significant question deserving a fuller treatment than we may discuss here.

The doctrine persistently maintained in the Lankavatara is Cittamatra or Cittadrisyamatra, and not Vijnana- or Vijfiapti-matra, which, according to Asanga and Vasuban- dim, is "Idam sarvam vijnaptimdtrakam,"1 meaning by idam that which is discriminated as "This is the self" and "That is an external reality," that is, this world where the subject is distinguished from the object, or, to use Buddhist terminology, the triple world including both samskrita and asamskrita. It is true that Citta is quite frequently identified with Vijnana or Vijnapti as in the following gatha, in which this identification is explicitly referred to:

"Mind (citta), discrimination, representation (vijnapti), the will (manas), consciousness (viJnana), the storage (dlaya), that which makes the triple world,—all these are synonyms of mind (citta)." But when the word "Cittamatra" is used, this Citta has a specific sense to be distinguished from the empirical mind which functions as Manas and Vijnana. As I have repeatedly remarked, the Citta in the Lankavatara is the principle of mentality, and when it is said that there is the "Mind-only," this mind includes"not only the empirical mind but that which constitutes the very basis of discrimination. The mind is what is left behind when all forms of discrimination are rejected as leading to spiritual bondage and defilement. It is thus something that has been here even prior to all discrimination, that is, even before the duality of subject and object had come to exist.The Lankavatara does not advocate nihilism pure and simple; it tries to take hold of somewhat beyond this world of particularisation. When one has actually taken hold of it by sheer act of intuition which is made possible by the working of non-discriminative wisdom (avikalpa-Jnana) ,3 or supreme wisdom (drya Jnana) ,4 or superior knowledge (prajfid) in the inmost recesses of consciousness (pratydtmagocara), the Lankavatara calls it the Mind (citta). And as there is nothing subjective or objective besides this Mind, the Cittamatra or "Mind-only" theory is now positively established. The philosophy, if there is any such thing in the Lankavatara, is ontology and not epistemology. Whereas the doctrine of Vijnaptimatra is epistemological.

From 281-282:
In the Lankavatara no reference is made to the Vijnapti except probably once, but rather to the Prajnaptimatra view of the world; and even in the latter case the reference is negligible, considering that the weight of the whole discourse in the Lankavatara falls on the Cittamatra and not on the Prajfiaptimatra or Vijnaptimatra or Namamatra or Vikalpamatra.  The sutra does not linger long on the question of the world being merely a name or a representation, but it exhausts its powers of persuasion to convince the reader that the world is Mind itself, and that it is only by realizing this truth in one's own inner consciousness that enlightenment ensues. The transcendental mind, or Mind itself, or "Mind-only" is thus made the chief subject of the text. In this it varies from the teaching of the Yogacara: the latter emphasises the process of transformation which takes place in the Alayavijnana, and it naturally makes most of the aspect of existence which is to be considered merely ideational. It does not go further on to say that there is the "Mind-only" as the principle of unification in which all representations (vijnapti) „ cogitations (manana), discriminations (vikalpa), and a world of particulars (vishaya), leave no traces. According to Sthiramati's commentary, the Trimsika is regarded as written for those who do not understand truthfully (yathabhutam) what is meant by Cittamatram, but this does not mean that the Cittamatra is the Vijiiaptimatra. The former may be based on the latter, or we can say that when the Cittamatra is declared as a fact of intuitive knowledge, the doctrine of Vijnaptimatra logically follows from this realisation. The Trimsika may thus form a part of the Lankavatara's philosophical foundation, but we must not overlook the fact that there is a conceptual difference between the theme of the Lankavatara and the Yogacara's psychological or rather epistemological interpretation of existence.

Bearing in mind this important distinction between the consciousness-only of the Yogacara and the mind-only of the One Vehicle as it is presented in the Lankavatara, we can look, for example, at  Section XVII of the Lanka discussing the "permanent and inconceivable."
Red Pine's translation:
At that time, Mahamati Bodhisattva asked the Buddha, “Bhagavan, the Tathagata teaches that what is eternal and inconceivable is the realm of ultimate truth, the real of buddha knowledge one realizes oneself.  Bhagavan, do other schools not teach that what is eternal and inconceivable is a cause?
            The Buddha told Mahamati, “The cause of other schools does not qualify as eternal and inconceivable. And why not? Because what other schools claim is eternal and inconceivable is not the result of its own causal attribute. If what is eternal and inconceivable is not the result of its own causal attribute, on what basis does it appear as eternal and inconceivable? Furthermore, Mahamati, if what is inconceivable were the result of its own causal attribute, it would be eternal. But because it would be due to the causal attribute of a creator, it would not qualify as eternal and inconceivable.
            “Mahamati, the reason my ultimate truth is eternal and inconceivable is because ultimate truth is the result of a causal attribute that transcends existence and nonexistence.  Because the attainment of personal realization is its attribute, it has an attribute. And because the knowledge of ultimate truth is its cause, it has a cause.  And because it is beyond existence and nonexistence, it resembles what is not created: space, nirvana, and complete cessation.  This is why it is eternal. Hence, Mahamati, it is not the same as the doctrines about what is eternal and inconceivable of other schools. Thus, Mahamati, this eternal and inconceivable is attained by personal realization of the knowledge of the tathagatas. Therefore, the eternal and inconceivable attained by the personal realization of buddha knowledge is what you should cultivate.
            “Moreover, Mahamati, the eternal and inconceivable of members of other schools is impermanent because it is caused b y something else and because it lacks the power to create its own causal attribute. Also, Mahamati, members of other schools consider their eternal and inconceivable as eternal despite having witness the impermanence of the existence and nonexistence of what is created.
            “Mahamati, despite having witnessed the impermanence of the existence and nonexistence of what is created, I could use the same method to claim that the realm of buddha knowledge realized by oneself is eternal and free form causes.  Mahamati, if the eternal and inconceivable of other schools were the result of a causal attribute and that causal attribute did not itself exist, it would be the same as horns on a rabbit.  Their eternal and inconceivable would be merely words and imagination. This is the problem among members of other schools. And how so? Because what is merely words and imagination is the same as rabbit horns, for which a causal attribute does not exist.
            “Mahamati, what I speak of as eternal and inconceivable is eternal because it is based on the attribute of personal realization and because it transcends the existence and nonexistence of what is created.  It is not in consideration of the impermanence of external nonexistence that it is eternal. Mahamati, if what is eternal and inconceivable were eternal in consideration of the impermanence of external nonexistence, there would be no way to know the eternal and inconceivable’s own causal attribute.  As this distracts people from the attainment of the personal realization of the realm of buddha knowledge, it is not worth talking about.”
D.T. Suzuki's translation:
       At that time Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva said this to the Blessed One: According to the Blessed One's teaching, the eternal-unthinkable is the exalted condition of self-realisation and also of highest reality. Now, do not the philosophers also talk about the creative agent being the eternal-unthinkable?
       The Blessed One replied: No, Mahamati, the eternal-unthinkable considered by the philosophers to be characteristic of their creator is untenable. Why? Because, Mahamati, the eternal-unthinkable as held by the philosophers is not in conformity with the idea of a cause itself. When, Mahamati, this eternal-unthinkable is not in conformity with the idea of a cause itself how can this be proved tenable? (60) Again, Mahamati, if what is claimed to be the eternal-unthinkable is in conformity with the idea of a cause [which is eternal] in itself, it can be eternal; but since the idea of a creator is based upon that of a [further] cause, it cannot be the eternal-unthinkable.
       But, Mahamati, my highest reality is the eternal-unthinkable since it conforms to the idea of a cause and is beyond existence and non-existence. Because it is the exalted state of self-realisation it has its own character; because it is the cause of the highest reality it has its causation; because it has nothing to do with existence and non-existence it is no doer; because it is to be classed under the same head as space, Nirvana, and cessation it is eternal. Therefore, Mahamati, it is not the same as the eternal-unthinkable of the philosophers; the eternal-unthinkable of the Tathagatas is thatness realised by noble wisdom within themselves. For this reason, Mahamati, let the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva discipline himself in order to attain by means of noble wisdom the truth of self-realisation which is the eternal-unthinkable.
       Again, further, Mahamati, the eternal-unthinkable of the philosophers is not characterised with eternality because it has a cause which is not eternal; what they regard as eternal is not eternal as it is not characterised with the power that can create itself. If again, Mahamati, the philosophers prove the eternality of their eternal-unthinkable in contradistinction to the becoming and therefore the non-eternality of things created, Mahamati, by the same reasoning (61) I can prove that their eternality has no reason to be known as such just because things created are non-eternal owing to their becoming.
       If again, Mahamati, the eternal-unthinkable of the philosophers is in conformity with the idea of a cause, what they regard as characteristic of a cause is a non-entity like the horns of a hare; and, Mahamati, their eternal-unthinkable is no more than a verbal discrimination, in which, Mahamati, the philosophers' fault consists. Why? Because, Mahamati, mere verbal discriminations are, indeed, the hare's horns, on account of their having no characteristic of a self-cause. Mahamati, moreover, my eternal-unthinkable is really eternal because it finds its cause in the exalted state of self-realisation, and because it has nothing to do with a creator, with being and non-being. Its eternality is not derived from the reasoning which is based upon the external notion of being and non-being, of eternity and non-eternity. If the eternal-unthinkable is eternal in consideration of the non-existence and eternality of external things, we can say of this kind of the eternal-unthinkable that the philosophers do not know what is meant by characteristically self-caused. As they are outside the state of self-realisation attainable by noble wisdom, Mahamati, their discourse is not to the point.
This is an important section presenting the One Vehicle view of the teaching of impermanence of dharmas in relation to codependent origination and to creation and causation as taught by other schools. The term for permanent can also be translated as “eternal” or “constant.”  This section is saying that as for dharmas, the teaching of impermanence in the teaching of the three marks of existence is okay, but as for the One Vehicle the teaching goes beyond the impermanence of dharmas to teach the permanence and constancy of the Dharmakaya which is the ultimate truth of the Tathagata. This characterization of the Dharmakaya as being characterized by the paramita of permanency is a teaching of the One Vehicle repeated in the various One Vehicle sutras. For example, the Sutra of Queen Srimala's Lion's Roar says, "The Dharmakaya of the Tathagata is the paramita of permanence, the paramita of joy, the paramita of self, and the paramita of purity."  
This section is a description of how causation looks from the perspective of the One Vehicle; it is not an argument about faith. All non-Buddhist schools base their notions of creation on having faith in their story of creation. In Buddha Dharma, the realization of cause is not based on faith but on one's personal realization of the noble-knowledge or noble innate-intelligence (aryajnana). Since personal realization is within the ability of everyone, the cause of our knowing the "constant and inconceivable" basis of reality is within the ability of everyone. Though individual dharmas arise, abide, and are destroyed by codependent origination, the Tahtagata teaches the ultimate truth that is constant and inconceivable and that the cause for the knowing of this constant and inconceivable ultimate truth is the personal realization of this noble innate-intelligence. Dharmas do not transcend existence and nonexistence which is why dharmas have the three marks of existence.  However, that is also why the teaching of dharmas and codependent origination are teachings of conditional self-nature and are not teachings of the ultimate truth of the complete self-nature. So in this section the Buddha is teaching that in the perspective of the One Vehicle the Early Schools are teaching conditional truth, not ultimate truth.
Then the Buddha takes up the teachings of other schools that do not even rise to the level of teaching the conditional truth, but are only verbal fabrications and teachings of false conceptions like the horns of a rabbit. This is the point being made by saying that all things that are created are impermanent, and so a created God or First Cause that exists as a thing is also created so any claim of its permanence is just like the false imagination of a rabbit with horns. Likewise, Buddha avoids the trap of saying the permanent and inconceivable Dharmakaya is uncaused because that would mean it was nonexistent. The cause of the permanent and inconceivable ultimate truth of the Tathagata is awakening itself, here called our own personal realization of the noble innate-intelligence.
It is an extremely subtle point to confirm that awakening itself is a cause, but that cause itself transcends the existence and nonexistence of things that are created (i.e., dharmas), otherwise it would not be able to awaken us to that which transcends existence and nonexistence. Thus the One Vehicle taught in the Lanka both affirms causation and simultaneously points us to the permanent and inconceivable that transcends existence and nonexistence and is not constrained by causation even while it is viewed and experienced as causation.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Soylent Green is people!

When it comes to economic politics, my motto is "Soylent Green is people! If we don't eat the rich, figuratively speaking, the rich will feed us to ourselves, literally speaking."

If you don't know the Soylent Green reference, check out the 1973 science fiction film Soylent Green which I consider to be Charlton Heston's best film. It was also the great actor Edward G. Robinson's last film.

Spoiler Alert: Or jump to the synopsis of Soylent Green at Wikipedia..

Basically, for instance, there is no reasonable justification for the rich to have unearned income from financial investments at a far lower rate for "capital gains"  than workers pay on their earned income.  It is just one of the ways in which the rich control Congress to their own benefit and redistribute the nation's wealth into their own pockets.  We see worldwide how the rich are demanding austerity from the working class for the purpose of bailing out the banks and their own lack of austerity.

As a follower of the Buddha Dharma, I begin with the premise that all these distinctions are distinctions made by the false thinking of our own mind, the mind that is one mind, because the 1istinction that we are separate minds is also a discrimination of that very same mind. As the Buddha said,

“I now universally see that everyone of the multitude of beings is endowed with the qualities of the Tathagata’s wisdom and virtue.  However by means of erroneous thinking and grasping attachments, nevertheless they do not bear witness to attaining it.

This common endowment of the Tathagata's wisdom and virtue is the basis for what we call the Golden Rule. Since we all have the shared foundation of the mind ground, to treat each other as if we do not have the same Buddha nature is the result of our erroneous thinking, false conceptions, and grasping attachments..
As a political democracy, it is the obligation of citizens to prevent the rich from stealing resources and wealth from the nation and redistributing it to their own pockets and bank accounts.  The private banking system and institutions of legalized financial gambling on Wall Street, called "the stock market," "hedge funds," "derivative investments", etc. should be severely regulated to keep them fair. There is nothing wrong with markets that fairly trade in actual ownership of stocks, but these money carnivals are nothing other than gambling institutions that hold our economy in their grip.  

Most importantly, the money of the government should never be dependent upon or entangled with private banking, as that is the primary way that the people's treasury is looted into the private pockets of the rich. The people's public money in their government treasury should always be held in a public bankpublic banking system is the single most important change that would prevent the kind of financial collapses that we have seen created by the gambling institutions of Wall Street.  Here's a wonderful but sad story of the destruction of the Canadian public banking system at the hands of the rich in their never ending greed.