Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Brief Outline of the One Vehicle

The Buddha’s Ekayana is the One Vehicle or Vehicle of Oneness (eka = one; yana = vehicle).  Here “vehicle” means the conveyance and its connotation includes the travel of and the course traveled by the conveyance. One Vehicle is not a term of exclusion meaning only this one vehicle and not any other vehicle.  The One Vehicle is a term of universal inclusion meaning that all vehicles of all religions are within and not separate from the One Vehicle.  
When people perceive different vehicles, it is not because there are different vehicles at the root, but because the different capabilities and capacities of people’s understanding and perceiving create the appearance of different vehicles at the branches and leaves.  All vehicles are One Vehicle in essence because the teachings of all vehicles ultimately return to their root and original source that is the non-dual oneness of true Suchness.
Woven in the history of the Ekayana movement and the development of the One Vehicle teachings are several essential themes which may be outlined as follows:
(1) All beings are fully endowed with the Tathagata’s wisdom-knowledge (tathagatajnana, wise-knowing), also called Buddha knowledge (buddhajnana) or Noble wisdom (aryajnana), and the original enlightenment of the true mind.  [This is a restatement of the Buddha’s Third Noble Truth from the perspective of the One Vehicle.]
(2)  Ignorance: It is the erroneous views of antithetical conceptions (vikalpa) and the resulting attachments that obscure and obstruct beings from seeing and realizing this true nature of the Tathagata’s wise-knowing, and as these views become firm, like water turning to ice or wet cement drying like concrete, they form the fixed foundation of our ignorance of our true nature of the Tathagata’s wise-knowing. [This is the Second Noble Truth.]
(3)  Off-centeredness and Afflictions: All the myriad plethora of vexations, afflictions and troubles (klesa) of living beings are constructed on this foundation of fixated ignorance regarding our true nature of the Tathagata’s wise-knowing, and cumulatively, this condition is called the underlying and permeating feeling of off-centeredness (dukkha) of our own being and is also called our “self.”  [This is the First Noble Truth.]
(4)   The One Vehicle: The primary (and functionally sole) purpose of a Buddha appearing in the world is to reveal the nature of the Buddha’s wise-knowing and to lead all beings to their own realization of the Tathagata’s wise-knowing so that all beings may be free from off-centeredness (dukkha) and its concomitant vexations (klesa). Because carrying out this single purpose of showing humans how to be Buddhas is the essential teaching of the all the Tathagatas, it is called the One Vehicle, the Most Supreme Vehicle, the Buddha Vehicle, and the One Buddha Vehicle.  [This is the Fourth Noble Truth.]
(5) Skillful Means of Upaya: A Buddha-Tathagata uses teaching methods appropriate to the audience for revealing the nature and leading beings to awakening through their own realization of the Buddha’s wise-knowing.  The appropriateness of the teaching to the audience is called upaya or skillful means.
(6)  Many Teachings, One Vehicle: The many apparent differences in the teachings and methods of practice presented by the Buddha that arise from responding to the differences in capacities of the audiences do not create different vehicles or paths to different goals. The Buddha did not teach different vehicles with different purposes and only taught what appeared to be different vehicles with one purpose: describing or pointing to the awakening of beings to become Buddhas. Where it may appear that multiple vehicles were taught was because the audience being taught did not have faith that they could become Buddhas. So, for example, for people who could not believe that they themselves could become Buddhas, the Buddha taught the skillful means that they could become moral people with good behavior resulting in better future births at which time they would then be ready to receive the teaching that reveals the nature to become Buddha.
(7)  Names:  Names are just pointers. The nature of the wise-knowing of the Tathagata (“thus come”) is known by many names such as Sunyata (Emptiness), Suchness (Tathata); Dharmakaya (the body or essence of Dharma), Buddha-nature, Tathagata-garbha (the Inner Tathagata), Alaya-vjnana (the Storehouse of Consciousness), Nirvana; the Bhutakoti (Reality- Limit), the Signless, the Dharmadhatu (Dharma Realm), paramartha (the ultimate truth),  Mind (citta), One Mind (ekacitta), etc.; and people of other teachings use other terms such as the Source, God; Godhead; Allah; Brahma; Vishnu; Jehovah; Yahweh; Lord; the Victor; the Sun; the Moon; Truth; Reality; Ultimate Principle; the Eternal; Non-duality; etc.. Worldly views are vehicles of exclusion that consider these different names to be referring to different things.  In the all inclusive view of the One Vehicle knows these different names are pointing to the one and the same Tathagata.
(8)  Mind: However, because people can hear a label such as Buddha, Emptiness, or the Dharmakaya and believe the label refers to something outside of themselves, the term mind is often preferred, since no one can seriously say they are outside of their own mind. The term mind is the most intimate label and is least susceptible to being objectified or externalized, so it is the preferred term to anchor one’s attention to their Buddha Nature for purposes of actual practice and realization. However, since people may think the term mind means their ego, self-image, or cognitive consciousness, the term is often capitalized in English as Mind to indicate it is the non-individual non-separated Mind being referred to. Since Mind is non-dual it is called the One Mind, since it is unborn it is called Original Mind.  Since there is nothing with which it can be compared and it is inconceivable it is called No-mind. Since it has no fault of its own, it is called True Mind.
(9) Synthesis. Since all the teachings of Buddhism, including both Mahayana and the Early Schools, are essentially and primarily 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 synthetic approach of the One Vehicle. The view that synthesizes and includes, is the view of the Ekayana, and the context for this synthesis is the recognition that the teachings by skillful means do not create actual differences in the goal of the teaching. The synthetic orientation is extended to include within the One Vehicle all the teachings of humans and gods, i.e., non-Buddhist philosophies and religions, because all philosophies and religions are attempting to understand the knowledge, perceptions, and experiences of the One Mind common to all humans.
(10) Equality and Non-duality: Because all beings share equally the One Mind of Buddha Nature, there is an absolutely inherent basis (i.e., simultaneously transcendental and immanent) for human equality.  Therefore distinctions such as layperson and monastic, male and female, nationality, language, culture, etc. are all immaterial in relation to the ability of a person to cultivate, investigate and realize awakening. The path of the One Vehicle leads back to the oneness of the subtle principle of non-duality. When there are dualities and extremes, the equality wisdom of the One Vehicle is lost and viewpoints and perspectives become biased with people arguing that one is right and one is wrong.
(11) Turning the Light Around: The ultimate purpose for Buddhas being in the world is to relieve suffering by bringing people to awakening to the One Buddha Mind, and this is only accomplished by experiential practice bearing fruit in one’s own realization through what is variously called in Sanskrit paravrtti and variously translated as the “revolution at the basis,” “turning the light around,” “taking the backward step,” or “turning inward.”  Turning the light around culminates in directly seeing the True Suchness (tathata) of one’s Own-Nature (svabhava) of mind which is the Tathagata’s wise-knowing.
(12)  Not Established by Words: The primary meaning or whole truth (paramartha) is not found in words. Words merely point to meaning and are not to be mistaken for the meaning. Because turning the light around is not accomplished as an intellectual pursuit or by the construction of words or ideas resulting in elaborate exegesis, it must be directly realized without dependence on words.  Depending on words therefore prevents this turning about from our habitual externalizing (i.e., prevents cutting off the outflows), and thus obstructs our own realization. So when words are used they are used for the purpose of putting a stop to dependence on words. As the Treatise on the Arousing of Faith in the Mahayana (Mahayana-Sraddhotpada Shastra, 大乘起信論) states, “Designating the limit of verbal expressions causes words to banish words. 
(13) Sutras: Because of the foregoing principles (of upaya, synthesis, names mind non-duality and words) there is no single Sutra that is superior to all others or the “king” of sutras.  For the purposes of conveying the One Vehicle, the One Vehicle Sutras have a place of importance, but because all vehicles are included within and lead to the One Vehicle, all the sutras are included within the One Vehicle. The specific Sutras of the One Vehicle are The Lankavatara (Going Down to Lanka) Sutra; The Avatamsaka (Flower Garland) Sutra; The Saddharmapundarika (White Lotus of the True Dharma) Sutra; The Srimaladevi Simhanada (Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala) Sutra; The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana (Great Parinirvana) Sutra; Shurangama Sutra; The Vajrasamadhi (Diamond Samadhi) Sutra; The Mahābherīhāraka-parivarta (Great Dharma Drum) Sutra; and The Samdhinirmocana Sutra. Each of these sutras presents the One Vehicle with a different emphasis.  Seeing the common teaching presented in all these sutras is a good way to perceive the One Vehicle.  Saying that one or another of these sutras presents the only real One Vehicle is a mistaken view of the One Vehicle that slanders the One Vehicle. 


Bob said...

Hiya Greg! I noticed that you have two elevens, perhaps pointing to 1111, the mystical number that many people believe amounts to something other than it is (not unlike their expectations regarding Zen practice, for example).


Alan Gregory Wonderwheel said...

Thanks, the two elevens must have been the reason my computer froze up requiring me to reboot.