Monthly Archives: April 2009

The King of Prayers (Gandavyuha Sutra) – The Prayer of Ways High and Sublime


King of Prayer, also known as Gandavyuha Sutra, the last chapter of Avatamsaka Sutra. Named “King” because all Buddhist Prayers and most of Buddhist Liturgies are inspired from this sutra. This sutra was pronounced by Samanthabhadra Bodhisattva to Sudhana Kumara, give us an example on How should we pray as a Buddhist.

I bow down to the youthful Arya Manjushri!

O lions amongst humans,
Buddhas past, present and future,
To as many of you as exist in the ten directions
I bow down with my body, speech and mind

On waves of strength of this king
Of prayers for exalted sublime ways,
With bodies numerous as atoms of the world,
I bow to the Buddhas pervading space

On every atom is found a Buddha
Sitting amongst countless Buddhas’ spiritual children,
I look with eyes of faith of the victorious ones,
Thus filling the entire sphere of phenomena

Of these with endless oceans of excellence
Endowed with an ocean of wondrous speech
I sing praises of the greatness of all Buddhas,
A eulogy to those gone to bliss

Garlands of flowers I offer them,
And beautiful sounds, supreme perfumes,
Butter lamps and sacred incense
I offer to all the victorious ones

Excellent food, supreme fragrances
And a mound of medicinal substances as high as Mount Meru
I arrange in a special formation
And offer to those who have conquered themselves

All peerless offerings I hold up
In admiration of those gone to bliss
With the strength of faith in sublime ways,
I prostrate and make offerings to the conquerors

Long overpowered by attachment, aversion and ignorance,
Countless evils I have committed
With acts of body, speech and mind.
Each and every one of these I now confess

In the perfections of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas,
The arhats, training and beyond,,
And in the latent goodness of every living being,
I lift up my heart and rejoice

O lights into the ten directions,
Buddhas who have found the passionless stage of enlightenment,
To all of you I direct this request:
Turn the incomparable wheel of Dharma

O masters wishing to show parinirvana,
Stay with us and teach, I pray,
For as many eons as there are specks of dust,
In order to bring goodness and joy to all beings

May any small merits that may have amassed
By thus prostrating, making offerings, confessing, rejoicing
And asking the Buddhas to remain and teach the Dharma,
Be dedicated now to supreme and perfect enlightenment

May my offerings be received by all past Buddhas
And by all those now abiding in the ten directions.
May all the Buddhas who have not yet come
Quickly perfect their minds and reach Buddhahood, the state of supreme full awakening

May all the Buddha realms of the ten directions
Remain forever vast and completely pure.
May the world be completely filled with Buddhas who have attained illumination under sacred trees,
And may they all be surrounded by bodhisattvas

May all living beings in the ten directions
Always abide in health and joy.
May they live in accord with the way of Dharma
And may their every wish be fulfilled

By my living in the ways of enlightenment,
May I remember my past lives in all my reincarnations;
And in all cycles of death, migration and rebirth,
May a sensitivity for truth be ever strong in me

By my following in the footsteps of the Buddhas,
May I utterly perfect the sublime ways of the bodhisattvas,
And may I practice the faultless, undegenerating, stainless
And pure ways of self-control

May I master all languages that exist,
Including those of the gods, yakshas, spirits and varieties of humans,
As well as all forms of communication of living beings,
That I may be able to show the Dharma in every way

Striving thus and in the transcending perfections,
May I never forget the bodhi mind,
And may I totally cleanse from within my mindstream
All negativities and mental veils

May I gain freedom from karma, delusion and karmic maras
To be able to live in the world unaffected by its stains,
Like an unstained lotus grows in the mud,
And like the sun and the moon shine without obstruction in the sky

For as long as there are Buddha fields and directions
May I strive to quell the misery of the lower realms,
May I place all living beings only in happiness
And bring them A only happiness and joy

May I strive to complete the ways of enlightenment
And to abide in ways harmonious with the world.
May I expose to others the ways most sublime
And myself abide in them throughout all future eons

May my ways and the ways of a bodhisattva
Always go together hand in hand
In body, speech and mind
May I attune to their sublime ways

May I never be separated from the good friends
Who reveal the path of the sublime ways
And who wish only to benefit me;
May I never disappoint them even for a moment

May I constantly envision the perfect Buddhas,
The protectors who are surrounded by bodhisattvas,
And in the future may I never weary
Of devoting myself to them with all my strength

May I forever uphold the holy Dharma of the Buddhas
And illumine the sublime way of enlightenment,
May I practice throughout all future ages
The ways and deeds of the sublime path

Circling in the various realms of existence
May I amass inexhaustible goodness and wisdom,
And may I become an unending treasure of qualities
Such as methods, wisdom, samadhi and the experience of a bodhisattva

In every atom are Buddha fields numberless as atoms,
Each field is filled with Buddhas beyond conception
And each Buddha is surrounded by a myriad bodhisattvas,
To all these dwellers in sublime ways I turn my attention

Thus all atoms within the directions
Abide within the space of a single hair
An ocean of Buddhas within an ocean of Buddha fields
Performing enlightened activities for an ocean of eons

Each Buddha, with perfect speech, releases
An ocean of sounds with every word that is said
To satisfy the infinitely diverse tendencies of beings,
Thus does the speech of a Buddha constantly flow

All these conquerors past, present and future
Continually turn the methods of Dharma wheels;
With all the powers of my mind I listen
For the inexhaustible sound of their words

All future eons that could possibly be
Manifest within me in a single instant,
And I myself in a fraction of a moment
Enter into all these eons of the three times

All past, present and future lions among humans
I envision with the instantaneous wisdom
And by the power of the bodhisattvas’ examples
I focus upon the objects of their experience

I manifest Buddha fields past, present and future
Upon one single atom of existence
And then I transform every single atom
Of existence into a Buddha field

By this, when the future lights of the worlds
Eventually gain bodhi, turn the Dharma wheels
And reveal the passing to nirvana’s supreme peace,
May I take rebirth in their very presence

Then may I attain the ten powers:
The power of instant magical emanation,
The power which is a vehicle with every door,
The power of excellent activity,

The power of all pervading love,
The power of constantly positive energy,
The power of passionless wisdom,
The powers of knowledge, method and samadhi,
And the power of enlightenment itself

May I purify the power of karma,
May I crush the power of delusion,
May I render powerless the powerful negative forces
And may I perfect the powers of sublime ways

May I purify an ocean of realms,
May I liberate an ocean of sentient beings,
May I see an ocean of truths,
And may I realise an ocean of wisdom

May I perform an ocean of perfect deeds,
May I perfect an ocean of prayers,
May I revere an ocean of Buddhas,
And may I practice untiringly for an ocean of eons

Through my practice of the sublime bodhisattva ways,
May I gain the enlightenment of Buddhahood
And then fulfil the enlightened and sublime aspirations
Of the Buddhas, past, present and future

In order to match the ways of the sage
Called Samantabhadra, the always sublime one,
Chief amongst the awakened ones’ spiritual children,
I now dedicate all virtues that I possess

Just as the sublime sage Samantabhadra,
Dedicated all pure practices of body, speech and mind
To the attainment of a pure state and pure realms,
So do I now dedicate the fruit of all my efforts

In order to engage in all sublime virtues
I offer the prayer of Manjushri;
In the future may I never become faint
In striving to perfect the exalted bodhisattvas’ way

May my deeds never reach a limit,
May my qualities of excellence become boundless
And by abiding in immeasurable activity,
May I find Buddhahood, the state of limitless manifestation

Limitless is the extent of space,
Limitless is the number of sentient beings
And limitless is the karma and delusions of beings,
Such are the limits of my aspirations

One may offer supreme ornaments of the Buddha fields
Of the ten directions to the conquerors
And also offer the highest joys of humans and gods
For eons numerous as atoms of the world
But to read or hear the King of Prayers
With eyes looking towards supreme illumination
And faith shining in one’s heart for even an instant
Gives birth to far more superior merit

Should anyone recite this aspiration of sublime ways,
They will pass beyond all states of sorrow,
Will rise above all inferior beings and gain
A vision of Amitabha, Buddha of Infinite Light

Even in this very lifetime,
All sublime joys will be theirs,
The experiences of the all sublime Samantabhadra
Without obstructions, will quickly be theirs

Merely by giving voice to these aspirations
Of the sublime ways of a bodhisattva,
The effects can only be known by an omniscient Buddha;
Therefore doubt not that it leads to enlightenment

In order to follow the excellent examples set
By the wisdom of the bodhisattva Manjushri,
And the always sublime Samantabhadra,
All virtues I dedicate to their peerless ideals

All conquerors passed into the three times
Have praised as supreme this peerless dedication;
Therefore I also surrender all roots of my activities
To the sublime goals of a bodhisattva

When the moment of my death arrives,
May I remain free from the spiritual obscurations;
May I perceive the face of Amitabha
And transmigrate to Sukhavati, the pure land of joy

Having arrived there, may I fulfil
All aims of this prayer of aspirations
And benefit the countless living beings
Residing throughout the ten directions

In the joyous Mandala of Amitabha, Buddha,
May I be reborn from a beautiful lotus
And may I there have the pleasure of gaining
A pure prophecy from Amitabha, himself

Having won this word of prophecy
By the power of mind, may I fill all directions
With many millions of mystical emanations
And bring limitless benefits to the world

If by reciting this prayer of the sublime ways,
I have amassed a tiny fragment of goodness,
May it work immediately to fulfil
All Dharmic hopes of the living beings



TANTRA is the path to expand the mind. There are two types of tantra

a. VIDYA TANTRA expands the mind to get liberation to become spiritually
free from all bondages. Ananda Marga meditation is Vidya Tantra.

b. AVIDYA TANTRA expands the mind to control the physical world by occult

Anyone who practices tantra meditation goes through four stages.

1. YATAMANA: The mind goes back and forth between quitting and continuing
the path of meditation. We feel:
a. physical problems (pain and restlessness);
b. mental clash (family and friends may object, it is hard to find the
time). This stage lasts for some weeks or months.

2. VYATIREKA: Now we have overcome the initial clash and meditate at least
30 minutes twice everyday. But the mind continues to jump a lot, during
meditation and at other times. Our mind jumps to:
a. physical objects that we want;
b. mental things, like family, friends, people at work;
c. our spiritual goal.

3. EKENDRIYA: Now we often have good concentration in meditation. We gain
control over our sense organs and motor organs. Some people start to notice
that we have some seemingly occult powers. These include:
a. to know the minds of others;
b. to create hallucinations, hypnotize others to see an illusion;
c. to make others listen to our thoughts;
d. to move objects with the mind;
e. to cure sick people with mental force.

Occult powers are not black magic, they are scientific. But they are rare,
because very few people in this world meditate regularly.
a. If a person uses occult powers to become rich or famous, they
will become degraded.
b. If you desire occult powers, you cannot attain God.

4. VASHIIKARA: In this stage:
a. We become immersed in an ocean of bliss.
b. We “can inspire millions”.
c. We become filled with spontaneous joy from within.
d. We become realized and enlightened.

Acarya Nagarjuna


Acarya Nagarjuna, as is widely known, founded the Madhyamika tradition of Buddhism. His appearance was prophesied in many sutras, among them the Lankavatara, Manjusrimulakalpa, Mahamegha, and Mahabheri.

Four hundreds years after the nirvana of the Buddha Sakyamuni, there was living in the southern India – in land called Vidarbha (literally, the “Land of Palms”) – a prosperous Brahman who had no sons. A sign appeared to him in a dream, indicating that he would receive a son if he paid homage to 100 Brahmans. He did so, praying earnestly that his deeply-held wish might be fulfilled, and 10 months later a son was born.

The newly-born child was taken to a soothsayer, who said that although the infant did indeed have the signs of an exceptional person, he would live only seven days. The anxious parents asked whether something couldn’t be done to avert the fate. The soothsayer replied that if they gave food to 100 persons, the boy would live for seven days and that – if they made offerings to 100 monks – he would live for seven years. Nothing beyond that could be done. As the end of the seven years approached they sent the young boy, in the company of several attendents, on an excursion – for they would not have been able to bear the sight of their son’s corpse.

While travelling, the boy experienced a vision of the god Khasarpana (a particular manifestation of Arya Lokesvara). Soon afterwards, the party reached the great monastery of Nalanda. While they were standing near the dwelling of one Brahman Saraha, the boy uttered several verses of poetry. The Brahman heard the lines and invited the party inside. He asked them about their journey and of how they had come to reach Nalanda. One of the attendants related the boy’s history and told of his imminent death. Saraha replied to this that, if the boy were to abandon the worldly life by taking a vow of renunciation, there was a way to avoid the plight. The boy agreed to do so and was first initiated into the “Mandala of Amitabha which Conquers the Lord of Death”. Afterwards he was instructed to recite dharani mantras. On the eve of his seventh birthday in particular he recited mantras through the night and thus overcame this encounter with the Lord of Death.

Upon reaching the age of eight, the boy took the vow of renunciation and began studies of the traditional sciences. He studied as well scriptural texts of each of the major schools of Buddhist thought. Sometime afterwards he again met his parents, and later requested the very same Brahman Saraha to instruct him in the esoteric teachings of Sri Guhya Samaja. He was taught the appropraite tantras, together with their complete oral instruction. Next, after submitting a formal request to the monastery’s abbot, he took the full ordination of a monk and became known as Bhiksu Srimanta.

Being of those who are watched over by Manjusri in all their lives, the monk found opportunities for hearing, in its entirely, the Dharma of both sutras and tantras from the Bodhisattva teacher Ratna Mati – who was a manifestation of Manjusri in his “divine youth” aspect. In this way Srimanta came to be a consummate master of the Dharma.

At a later time a great famine arose, leaving the sangha of Nalanda with no means of subsistence. The abbot, Sthavira Rahula Bhadra, appointed Bhiksu Srimanta the sangha’s steward. Although the famine lasted 12 years and greatly reduced the population of the surrounding land of Magadha, the bhiksu was able to sustain the sangha by utilizing his knowledge of alchemical science. He had acquired this knowledge from a Brahman versed in alchemy, in the following way. The bhiksu first prepared two sandalwood leaves as charms for the Siddhi of Swiftfootedness. Carring one leaf in his hand and the other concealed in the sole of his sole, he then proceeded to the distant land where the Brahman lived and asked to be given the instruction of the “elixir which transforms common metals “to gold”.

The Brahman thought to himself that the stranger must have had some special charm allowing him to come to the isle. Desirous of acquiring it, he said to the bhiksu: “Knowledge must be exchanged for knowledge, or compensated in gold.” “Well, then,” replied Bhiksu Srimanta, “we must exchange knowledge,” and he gave the Brahman the charm he had been carrying his hand. Thinking that the visitor could no longer leave the island, the Brahman gave him the instruction. Using the leaf he had kept in the sole of his shoe, the bhiksu then returned to Magadha. He was thus able to provide Nalanda’s sangha amply with all their essential needs, through transmutting great quantities of iron to gold with the alchemical elixir.

Some time after this, Bhiksu Srimanta served as the abbot of Nalanda. He paid great tribute to those members of the sangha who observed the Three Trainings properly and expelled those bhiksus and sramanas who were morally corrupt. He is reputed to have banised as many as 8,000 monks.

It was during this period as well that one Bhiksu Samkara composed a scripture entitled The Ornament of Knowledge. It was written in 12,000 verses and represented an attempt to discredit the Mahayana doctrine. By means of logic, the Bhiksu Srimanta was able to refuge the argument completely. He also disproved many other scriptures denying the validity of the Mahayana. On one occassion, in a place called Jatasamghata, he defeated 500 non-Buddhist scholars in debate and converted them to the Buddhist religion by overcoming their false views.

During that time when the Acarya was teaching the Dharma of the Tripitaka widely to many followers, two youths who were actually emanations of nagas came to him seeking the Dharma. With their presence the entire area became filled with the fragrance of sandalwood. Upon their departure it disappeared and when they returned the fragrance reappeared as well. The Acarya asked them the reason for this, and the youths replied that they were sons of the naga king Taksala. They had anointed themselves with essence of sandalwood as immunization against human impurities.

The Acarya then asked them to give him some of the sandalwood for an image of Tara and to assist him in constructing temples as well. The youths answered that they would have to ask their father, and then left. They returned after two days to tell the Acarya that only if he himself came to the Land of the Nagas could they do as he bade. Aware of the benefit to all beings that would result from his going, the Acarya journeyed to the Land of the Nagas, where King Taksala and other righteous-minded nagas presented him with innumerable offerings. The mahatma preached the Dharma to the nagas in compliance with their every supplication, bringing them so much satisfaction that they entreated him to remain among them permanently. He answered: “Because I have come here for the purpose of securing the sutra of Prajnaparamita in 100,000 verses and ‘naga clay’ – which is needed for the construction of temples and stupas – I have no opportunity now to stay. I shall perhaps be able to return in the future.”

When he had acquired the expanded version of the Mother of the Jinas, several shorter texts of the Prajnaparamita, and great quantities of naga clay, the Acarya prepared to return to our world of the Jambudvipa. It is said that in order to ensure the Acarya’s return to their land, the nagas kept from him a small portion at the end of the 100,000 verses. The missing portion – the last two chapters of the unabridged Sutra on the Prajnaparamita – was therefore replaced by the corresponding chapters of the Prajnaparamita Sutra in 8,000 verses. This is why the final two chapters of each Sutra are identical.

After securing the Prajnaparamita sutras, the Acarya greatly advanced the influence of the Mahayana tradition. When he preached the Dharma in the monastery park, the nagas performed acts of reverence such as six of the serpents forming a parasol to shade him from the sun. Having thus become the Lord of the Nagas, the Acarya was named “The Naga”. Because his skill at spreading the Mahayana Dharma resembled the shooting speed and mastery of the famed archer Arjuna, he became known as well as “The Arjuna”. It is otherwise explained that he was called “Nagarjuna” because, by practising the sadhanas of the goddess Kurukulla, he gained authority over such nagas as King Taksaka and others.

Nagarjuna later travelled to the area of Pundravardhana where, utilizing the practice of alchemy, he performed many acts of great generosity. In particular, he bestowed great quantities of gold upon an elderly Brahman couple and thus instilled themwith great faith. The Brahman elder served Nagarjuna and listened to the Dharma from him, and after his death he was reborn as the Master Bodhinaga.

Nagarjuna also constructed many temples. Once, when he was preparing to transform a large, bell-shaped boulder into gold, an emanation of Tara with the form of an old woman appeared and said to him: “Instead of doing this, you should go to the Mountain of Splendour and practise the Dharma.” Later he did go there to practice the sadhanas of Tara.

On another occassion, where he had accomplished the sadhana for invoking the goddess Candika, the goddess herself carried the Acarya into the sky and attempted to take him to the celestial realms. “I have not exerted myself in order to travel to the celestial realms,” he said to her. “I have invoked you in order to provide support for the Mahayana sangha, for as long as the Buddha’s teaching remains.” They returned, and the goddess established herself to the near west of Nalanda, manifesting herself in the form of a noblewoman of the royal caste. Nagarjuna instructed her, saying: “A great stake of khadira wood, so large that a man can barely lift it, has been driven into the wall of a stone temple dedicated to Manjusri. Until that stake turns to ashes, you must provide subsistence for the temple’s sangha.”

With articles of every sort, the noblewoman made offerings to the sangha for 12 years. During this time the steward of the monastery, a sramanera of evil nature, made continual promiscuous advances to her. The noblewoman made no replies, until one day she finally said: “If the khadira-wood stake ever turns to ashes, we could be united.” The wicked sramanera therefore set the stake afire. When it had become ashes, the goddess herself vanished.

There was another time when a number of elephants were threatening to damage the Bodhi tree at Vajrasana (present-day Bodhgaya). Nagarjuna erected two stone columns behind the sacred tree which provided protection for many years. When the elephants later returned, the Acarya erected two images of Mahakala astride a lion, wielding a club. This was also effective but the danger nonetheless reappeared and a stone fence was built around the tree. Outside the enclosure, the Acarya constructed 108 stupas. The stupas were huge and each one was crowned by a smaller stupa containing sacred bone-relics of the Buddha.

The Acarya further constructed many temples and stupas in the six major cities of Magadha – Sravasta, Saketa, Campaka, Varanasi, Rajagrha and Vaisali – and provided preachers of the Dharma with adequate subsistence.

Above all, Nagarjuna knew that virtually no one understood the true meaning of the Prajnaparamita basket of Sutra. He also knew that without having realized this unerringly there was no means for achieving liberation. He thus widely proclaimed the Middle Path, which asserts that sunyata (the essential meaning of Dependent Origination, that all things are totally void of self-existent nature) is totally consistent with principles expressing an infallible relation between “black” and “white” karma and its consequences. By means of his five-part collection of works on logic the Acarya clearly expounded the ultimate meaning of the Buddha’s wisdom. This collection consists of the major treatise, the Mulamadhyamika Karika and its four limbs: the Yukti Sastika, Sunyata Saptati, Vaidalya Sutra, and Vigraha Vyavarttani.

After this period, Acarya Nagarjuna stayed for six months on Mount Usira, to the north. He was accompanied by 1,000 disciples and sustained each one with a daily tablet of a quicksilver rasayana he had prepared. One day a disciple, Siddha Singkhi, respectfully touched the pill to his head but did not eat it. The Acarya asked why, and his follower answered: “I have no need of the pill. If it pleases you, Acarya, please prepare a number of vessels by filling them with water.” Thus, 1,000 large containers were filled with water and placed there, in the forest. The siddha then added a drop of urine to each of the vessels, which transformed all the liquid into “elixir for gold”. The Acarya took all the vessels and concealed them in a secluded, inaccessible cave, uttering a prayer that they might serve to benefit beings of the future.

This Siddha Singkhi had not always been so adept. When he first met the Acarya, he was so dull-witted that he could not learn even a single verse over a period of many days. The Acarya then told him, in a jesting tone, to meditate that a horn had grown on top of his head. The disciple did so, maintaining his object of meditation so sharply that he achieved the tangible and visible sign of having grown a horn. He was therefore unable to leave the cave in which he was meditating, for the horn got caught on the walls. The siddha was then instructed to meditate that the horn was no longer present, and it subsequently disappeared.

Realizing that his disciple’s mental faculties had now become sharply developed, the Acarya taught him several profound meanings of the secret mantras. Nagarjuna then instructed him to meditate once more, and the follower ultimately attained the siddhi of the Mahamudra.

Later the Acarya travelled to the northern continent of Kurava. Along the way, in a city named Salamana, he encountered several children playing in the road. Nagarjuna read the palm of one of them, a boy named Jetaka, and prophesied that he would become king. On the return journey, following the accomplishment of his goal in Kurava, the Acarya met the former youth, who had since become the king. For three years Nagarjuna remained with the king, who bestowed upon the Acarya many jewels. In return he composed for the king a jewel of the Dharma: namely, the Ratnavali.

It was then that he travelled south, as he had been advised by the emanation of Tara, to practise meditation at the Mountain of Splendour. Here Nagarjuna also turned the Wheel of the Dharma, that of both sutras and tantras, extensively – and it was at this time that he composed, in particular, the scripture Dharmadhatu Stava.

In general, the Acarya’s compositions are divided into three collections:

1. The Collection of Discourses – including such works as the Ratnavali, Suhrllekha, Prajna Sataka, Prajna Danda, and Janaposana Bindu;

2. The Collection of Tributes – the Dharmadhatu Stava, Lokatita Stava, Acintya Stava, and Paramartha Stava; and

3. The Collection of Logic Writings – the aforementioned Mulamadhyamika Karika, etc.

In addition to these, he wrote other important treatises explaining the meanings of both sutras and tantras and, indeed, performed activities as though the Buddha had returned again.

It is said that Nagarjuna made three “great proclamations of the Dharma”. The first was upholding the Vinaya discipline in Nalanda, as previously explained. This was like the first turning of the Wheel of the Dharma by the Bhagavan. The second was his clear exposition of the Pure Middle View, through the composition of the collection of logic treatises and others. This was similar to the Bhagavan’s second turning of the Wheel. The third great proclamation constituted the Acarya’s activities upon the Mount of Splendour in the south, where he composed such works as the Dharmadhatu Stava. This was akin to the final turning of the Wheel of the Dharma by the Bhagavan.

Such extensive works on behalf of the Dharma and living beings aroused great displeasure in Mara and the forces of evil. A boy, Kumara Saktiman, had earlier been born to the queen of King Udayibhadra. Years later, the mother was presenting her son with a rare, fine garment when the boy told her: “Put this away for me. I shall wear it when it is time for me to rule the kingdom.” “You shall never rule,” replied his mother, “for the Acarya Nagarjuna has brought it about that your father and he will not die unless the Acarya does.” The boy was so overcome with grief that his mother continued: “Don’t cry so! The Acarya is a Bodhisattva, and if you ask him for his head he will not refuse. With that, your father will also die – and you shall acquire the kingdom.”

The child followed his mother’s suggestion and Nagarjuna did indeed agree to give his head. Yet however much effort the boy used, his sword could not cut Nagarjuna’s neck. The Acarya told the boy: “Long ago, while cutting some grass, I happened to kill an insect. The force of that misdeed remains with me still, and you can thus sever my head by using a blade of kusa grass.” This the boy did, and so was able to cut off Nagarjuna’s head. The blood which flowed from the wound turned to milk, and the following words issued from the dismembered head: “From here I depart to Sukhavati heaven. In the future, I shall enter this body again.”

The wicked prince cast the head away at several leagues’ distance, fearing that it would once more join the body. Since the Acarya had attained the practice of rasayana, however, his head and body became stone-hard. The two are said to be coming nearer and nearer, one to the other, every year – in the end to be joined once more. Nagarjuna will then again perform great works for the benefit of the teaching and all living beings.

As is written in the Manjusrimulakalpa, the Acarya Nagarjuna lived for a total of 600 years:

‘After I, the Tathagata, have passed away
And 400 years have elapsed,
A bhiksu, “The Naga”, shall appear, of
Great faith and benefit to the teaching.
He shall achieve the stage of Great Joy
And for 600 years remain living.’

Mahasiddha Naropa


(From the text “Caturasiti-siddha-pravrtti” {Grub thob brgyad cu rtsa bzhi’i lo rgyus}by Abhayadatta, translated by Keith Dowman)

Naropa came from Pataliputra, of mixed-caste parentage. His father was a liquor seller, but when the time came to follow his father’s profession, Naropa rejected it and went into the forest to become a wood gatherer. Even there his restless, seeking soul gave him no rest.

One evening he chanced to hear tales of the great sage Tilopa. Then and there he decided that Tilopa was his guru and he would not rest until he had found him. The next day he traded a load of wood to a hunter for the yogin’s traditional deerskin and set off toward Visnunagar in search of his master.

When he reached his destination he was dismayed to learn that the great sage had recently left and no one knew where he might be. Undaunted, Naropa set off on a journey that was to last for years and take him the length and breadth of India, as he followed every hint, every whisper of where Tilopa might be.

One day, when the dust sat heavy in the windless air, Naropa was on the road to nowhere in particular when he chanced to see a figure approaching in the hazy distance. For no discernible reason, his heart leaped in his throat. As if they had a mind of their own, his feet flew down the road toward the as yet unrecognizable figure.

But the closer he came the surer he grew. And finally, when he could make out the face and form of the other traveler, he knew. He had found Tilopa at last. He flew to the master’s side, prostrated himself in the dust at his feet, then began dancing circles about him addressing him as “guru”, and inquiring after his health.

Tilopa stopped still in the middle of the road, fixed Naropa with an angry stare and shouted: “Stop all this nonsense. I am not your guru. You are not my disciple. I have never seen you before and hope never to lay eyes on you again!” Then he thrashed Naropa soundly with his stout walking stick and told him to get out of his way.

But Naropa was neither surprised nor discouraged. Now that he had found the master he had sought for so many years, his faith was certainly not going to be shaken by a few blows. He simply set off for the nearest town to beg food for them both.

When he returned, Tilopa ate heartily without so much as a word of greeting and beat him soundly once again. Silent, Naropa contented himself with the leftover scraps, and once again walked around and around his guru in reverential circles.

For twelve long years he remained by Tilopa’s side, begging food and serving him in all things. Not once did he receive a kind word. Not once did Tilopa acknowledge him as his pupil. And not once did Naropa’s faith waver.

Toward the end of the twelfth year they chanced upon a village celebrating the wedding feast of a wealthy man’s daughter. The generous host had provided the guests with eighty-four different types of curry. One of the dishes was a delicacy so rare and so exquisite that one taste would make you believe you had dined with the gods.

Naropa was given large helpings of all the curries, including the great delicacy. When he returned to Tilopa and spread out the feast, an amazing thing happened. For the first time in all the years Naropa had known him, Tilopa smiled. Then he helped himself to every morsel of the special dish. Licking his fingers, he handed Naropa his empty bowl, asking, “Where did you find this, my son? Please return and fetch me some more.”

“‘My son!’ He called me ‘my son!'” thought Naropa, happy as a Bodhisattva on the first level of the path. “For twelve years I have sat at my guru’s feet without so much as being asked my name. And now he has called me ‘my son!'” Floating in ecstasy, he returned to the wedding feast to ask for more of the special curry for his master.

But such was Tilopa’s appetite that he sent his disciple back again and again. Each time, to Naropa’s great relief, he was given more of the elegant dish. But when Tilopa sent him back yet a fifth time, Naropa was ashamed to show his face, and a great inner struggle raged within him. Finally, unable to face his guru’s displeasure, he made up his mind to steal the entire pot.

Waiting for the right moment, he lingered on the fringes of the crowd, edging slowly toward the pot of curry. And as soon as all the guests and servants were preoccupied with some ceremonial occurrence, he abandoned his self-respect, snatched up the pot, hid it under his robes, and made his getaway.

Tilopa praised him for lowering himself to such a level of humiliation, further commending him for all his years of perseverance. Calling him “my diligent son,” Tilopa then bestowed the initiation and blessing of Vajra Varahi upon him and gave him instruction in meditation.

Within six months Naropa gained mahamudra-siddhi, and a light began to flow from his being so intensely that it could be seen as far as a month’s journey from his hermitage. His fame spread like wildfire, and devotees flocked to him from the four quarters of the world.

After years of tireless devotion to his countless disciples, he was assumed bodily into the Paradise of the Dakinis.

The Five Meditating Buddhas – An Enquiry into Spiritual Aesthetics


Long, long ago, before the idea called history evolved, there existed a sexless entity called the Adi-Buddha or Primordial Buddha. From ‘Him’ emerged the duality which was to be the potential progenitor of all creation. This dual element is visualized in Buddhist aesthetics either as the deity Vajrasattva or Vajradhara.

The significant characteristic common to them is the bell (female) and thunderbolt (male), which they hold in their hands. These deities are believed to be two expressions of the same principle, and the wellspring of all creation.

The above hierarchy is essentially spiritual. It represents an idealized abstract state, graspable only to those on an elevated mental plane. Ordinary mortals like us, require some kind of a concrete expression to bring forth a heartfelt response.

In Buddhism, the path to spiritual salvation is not envisioned as some lofty abstract journey, rather it is stressed that the attainment of enlightenment involves a profound transformation in our innermost being. But how is such a dramatic transformation to come about? The answer is said to lie within those very inherent negative traits which keep us spiritually imprisoned and unfulfilled. The same knotted energy that feeds the poisonous delusions, when unknotted, empowers and enlightens the mind.

In its typical penchant for classification and categorization, Vajrayana Buddhism divides the negative delusions plaguing the human form into five categories. These are: ignorance, anger, pride, attachment, and jealousy. They are said to be the sum total of all factors which keep us away from enlightenment. But hope lies in the belief that the human mind holds within itself the potential to metamorphose these negative traits into positive attributes. In a supreme moment of creative inspiration, which can be counted amongst the highest achievements in the history of human aesthetic instinct, these transformed emotions are visualized as five different, beautiful and resplendent Buddhas. Invariably seated upon their auspicious lotus thrones, they are known collectively as the Dhyani Buddhas. This is in consistency with their iconographic representations, where they are inevitably shown seated in the posture of meditation, known in Sanskrit as Dhyana. They are also known as ‘jina,’ meaning victory, signifying a conceptual victory over our unenlightened minds.

All the five Dhyani Buddhas are said to have originated from Vajrasattva himself. But it needs to be appreciated here, that though they have all sprung from the same spiritual father, these Buddhas nevertheless have important physical differences. For example, each displays a different hand mudra, is associated with a different direction, rides a different animal, denotes a particular moment in the life of the historical Buddha, and has a different color.

The last is a unique contribution to the aesthetic heritage which is shared by all humanity. Indeed, the link between our negative emotions, and the positive qualities into which the Dhyani Buddhas transform them can be illustrated most directly through the medium and experience of color. It is well known that changing the color of our surroundings can have a profound effect on our state of mind. Color also expresses our emotions, as when we say that we are green with envy or feeling blue. Color is logically thus one of the significant means through which Buddhist art gives a tangible form to human emotions and nowhere is this more explicitly displayed than in the typical iconography of the five Dhyani Buddhas.

Each of the five Buddhas first identifies a specific human failing and then helps us in transforming it into a positive attribute, bringing about the spiritual evolution required for enlightenment. How they inspire us to achieve this transition through their traditional iconography is discussed below.

The five Dhyani Buddhas are:

1). Vairochana

2). Akshobhya

3). Ratnasambhava

4). Amitabha

5). Amoghasiddhi
1). Vairochana, The King (Tib. Namnang)

In the Rigveda (the world’s earliest codified text) the word ‘vairochana’ has the connotation of a brilliant and luminous sun. Indeed, Vairochana in Tibetan is called ‘Namnang, meaning ‘The illuminator.’

Vairochana displays the Dharmachakra mudra. Dharmachakra in Sanskrit means the ‘Wheel of Dharma’. This mudra symbolizes one of the most important moments in the historical life of the Buddha, the occasion when he preached to his companions the first sermon after his Enlightenment in the Deer Park at Sarnath. It thus denotes the setting into motion of the Wheel of the teaching of the Dharma.

Vairochana is an idealization of this central function of the Buddha as a teacher, without which there would have been no Buddhism, and no path to enlightenment open before us.

The wheel he is conceptually turning was once a solar symbol in ancient India and later came to be a signifier of kinghood. The logical reasoning being that as the sun is the originator and nourisher of the earth, so is a king to his people. Also consistent with this context is the fact that Vairochana is said to rule from the center of the world, with the complete Vajrayana pantheon (including the other four Dhyani Buddhas) arrayed around him. Similarly, the sun too is the center of the solar system; likewise a king is the de facto center of his domain.

Significantly, Vairochana is said to be the sum of all the Dhyani Buddhas and combines all their qualities. He is therefore, pure white, since white is a blend of all colors.

Indeed, his lotus seat is supported by a pair of two great lions. The lion is the king of beasts and when he roars all others fall silent. Similar is the roar of Buddha’s teachings, in relation to the grandeur of which all other voices of our everyday life become insignificant and fall silent. Not surprisingly, meditating on the image of Vairochana is specifically believed to transform the delusion of ignorance into the wisdom preached by the Dharma. When Gautama Buddha turned the wheel of the Dharma, it illuminated (like a sun), the hearts of men and women darkened by ignorance.

Vairochana’s distinguishing emblem is the golden or solar wheel.

2). Akshobhya, The Mirror to Our Souls (Tib. Mikyopa):

According to the Tibetan Dhammapada:

Those who control their wrath when it rears up
As they would a horse when it strays loose,
I call ‘the best trainers,’
those who do not, are common beings.

Akshobhya is believed to transform the human failing of anger into a clear mirror-like wisdom. With this wisdom, we see things just as they are, impartially and unaffectedly. Indeed, whether it be a red rose or a bloody dagger, a mirror will reflect both just as they are. It will not be judgmental and distinguish between the two reds, attempting to hold to the first and flee from the second. No reflection in a mirror sticks to it, and none repels it. The mirror always stands imperturbable and immutable, just as we should, whether the circumstances be favorable or unfavorable to us.

Akshobhya’s blue color is closely linked to the mirror symbolism. Blue is the color of water, and water has the capacity to act as a clear mirror.

He makes the Bhumisparsha mudra (earth touching gesture). This gesture recalls the incident just before Buddha’s enlightenment when he was challenged by Mara, the personification of evil. Mara was convinced that the spiritual throne where Buddha was sitting belonged rightly to him. Accordingly he challenged Buddha to prove his claim to the seat. Buddha moved his hand to touch the ground with his fingertips, and thus bid the goddess Earth to bear witness to his right to be sitting where he was. She did so with a hundred thousand roars, and validated Buddha’s assertion.

More relevant to our interest here is the fact that this gesture suggests confidence, deep-rootedness, and the same kind of determination which carried the Buddha to his enlightenment, inspite of the numerous hurdles which crossed his path.

Akshobhya’s emblem is the vajra. The Vajra is the quintessential symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism, which derives its name from the vajra itself. The Sanskrit term vajra means ‘the hard or mighty one’, and its Tibetan equivalent dorje means an indestructible hardness and brilliance like the diamond, which cannot be cut or broken. The vajra essentially signifies the immovable, immutable, indivisible, and indestructible state of enlightenment. Thus is Akshobhya touching the earth with the fingertips of his right hand, the earth too being a symbol of the immutable, the solid, and the concrete.

Akshobhya’s mount is the elephant. An elephant places its foot upon the earth with unshakeable certainty. It has the same unalterable quality as the Buddha’s fingers touching the ground, and the same determination that carried Buddha through his tribulations.

Akshobhya is considered the ruler over the eastern direction. It is the direction where dawn takes place. Indeed, Buddha’s victory over Mara heralded the dawning of a new, spiritual reality.

3). Ratnasambhava, The Gem of a Buddha (Tib. Gyalwa Rinjung):

Ratnasambhava means ‘Born from the Jewel,’ ‘ratna’ signifying jewel in Sanskrit.

Ratnasambhava is believed to transform the negative human trait of pride into the wisdom of sameness. This wisdom brings out the common features of human experience and makes us see the common humanity underlying all men and women. It makes us see ourselves as fellow-beings, organically united to the total stream of humanity. In this state of enlightenment, there is nobody superior or inferior to the other, leaving no scope for pride to develop.

Ratnasambhava displays the Varada mudra.

This mudra symbolizes charity and boon granting. Indeed his distinct emblem is a jewel (ratna), associating him with riches and Ratnasambhava is sometimes described as the Buddha of giving. But he makes no distinction and gives freely to all (the wisdom of sameness). All beings are equally precious to him. Whatever our social position, race, sex, or life form, we are all made from a common clay. The grace of Ratnasambhava shines equally on the palace and dung heap. Meditating on his wisdom we develop solidarity with all humanity, nay with all forms of life.

The wisdom of sameness gives us the clarity of mind to perceive in the correct perspective, the eight experiences, arranged into four pairs. These are gain and loss, fame and disgrace, praise and blame, and pleasure and pain. These experiences always come in pairs. If we chase one we will lay ourselves open to the other. For example, if we pursue pleasure, we will undoubtedly at some time experience pain too. This is a spiritual expression of Newton’s third law of dynamics namely that ‘each and every action in the universe has an equal and opposite reaction.’

Ratnasambhava’s color is yellow. This is the color of the earth. The earth too is extremely generous in sharing with us her riches. Also she gives without any expectation or favor in return. She gives and also receives all equally. The earth is thus the great leveler. Similarly, Ratnasambhava’s radiance dissolves all boundaries of self and the other. We can then just share with others – without any associated sense of giving, because giving requires a ‘self’ to give and ‘others’ to receive, a duality which Ratnasambhava helps us transcend.

The animal associated with Ratnasambhava is the horse, who ferries over the suffering beings with full vigor. It also suggests a journey, a spiritual voyage such as that on which the Buddha-to-be set forth when he left his life at home, riding on his faithful charger.

In Tibetan art, the horse is often shown carrying jewels on its back. This is a further reinforcement of its relation with Ratnasambhava.

Ratnasambhava guards over the direction south. The sun is in the south at noon-time. Its rays are then a light-golden-yellow, the hue of Ratnasambhava himself.

4). Amitabha, The Gentle and Lovable Buddha (Tib. Opame):

Amitabha is undoubtedly the most well known and popular of the five Dhyani Buddhas. He is red in color. In Tibetan Buddhism, red is the color of love, compassion, and emotional energy.

His direction is the west. It is in this direction that sunset takes place and indeed he is envisioned as the setting sun (red). During sunset, the sun is gentle, and we can directly look into its fierce power, without coming to any harm. As it disappears into the west, the sun is like a proud and fierce king, who at the end of a hard day of rigid protocol turns gentle and jovial, and allows anyone to approach him. Amitabha is thus the supreme power and energy of nature, cast on an earthly plain, accessible to all of us. No wonder he is the most popular of all Dhyani Buddhas.

His unique emblem is the lotus. He is thus associated with all the attributes of the lotus: gentleness, openness, and purity.

Amitabha’s mount is the peacock, which is capable of swallowing poisonous snakes without coming to harm. In fact, the peacock is believed to derive its rich plumage from the poison of the snakes on which it feeds. This symbolism, of being open even to poison, and transmuting it into beauty, gives us a feeling of the purifying and transforming power of Amitabha. For us ordinary mortals, it signifies that even our darkest and most venomous aspects can be transformed by meditating on his image.

Amitabha’s image has both a simplicity and archetypal quality to it. His demeanor is totally relaxed and his hands are in the Dhyana mudra, the mudra of meditation.

According to tradition, this mudra derives from the one assumed by the Buddha when he was meditating under the pipal tree, in the pursuit of Nirvana.

In conformity with his hand mudra, the essential message of Amitabha is that of meditation. His association with the setting sun suggests the withdrawal of our external sense perceptions inwards, into higher states of meditative concentration. Elevating ourselves to such a spiritual level has the ultimate objective of uniting us with that intangible Universal Consciousness which pervades all tangible reality.

Amitabha thus provides us with the archetypal infinite wisdom that helps us transmute the negative trait of obsessive attachment into a discerning awareness that we are all made up of the same primitive substratum. So contemplating, we are able to realize that the object we crave for is not separate from us, and already as much a part of ourselves as we are of it.

5). Amoghasiddhi The Lord of Karma (Tib. Donyo Drup pa):

The fifth Dhyani Buddha is Amoghasiddhi, whose distinctive emblem is the double dorje, also known as the crossed vajra.

The hand mudra made by Amoghasiddhi is the Abhaya mudra. Abhaya in Sanskrit means fearlessness. Thus this mudra symbolizes protection, peace, and the dispelling of fear.

According to the Buddhist tradition, Buddha’s cousin Devadatta felt greatly jealous of him. His jealousy knowing no bounds, he once even attempted to murder the Buddha. His plan involved loosing a rampaging elephant into the Buddha’s path. But as the elephant approached him, Buddha displayed the Abhaya mudra, which immediately calmed the animal. Accordingly, it indicates not only the appeasement of the senses, but also the absence of fear.

Indeed, Amoghasiddhi’s whole presence removes terror and fear. His body is green, the color of the peace and tranquility of Nature. It is a soothing and relaxing color, which calms anxiety.

Amoghasiddhi rides on Garuda, the half-man and half-eagle composite, who feeds on snakes. Blessed with a telescopic vision, Garuda can detect the presence of serpent-like negative delusions plaguing our mortal frames even from a considerable distance. Also, Garuda is associated with the Himalayan ranges of the north, which is the direction of Amoghasiddhi too.

Amoghasiddhi is particularly associated with energy and is known as the Lord of Karma. As a Buddha of action, he represents the practical achievement of results using the wisdom of the other four Buddhas. His double vajra too is a symbol of the successive conclusion of all actions. This is the reason why that after a deity statue has been completed and consecrated, a crossed vajra is inscribed upon the metal strip used to seal its base.

The goddess Green Tara is believed to have emanated from Amoghasiddhi and not surprisingly, she too is deified as a deity of action in the Buddhist pantheon. Indeed, Green Tara is always depicted in a posture with her right leg extended, signifying her readiness to spring into action.

Amoghasiddhi is believed to alter the negative human failing of jealousy into the positive wisdom of accomplishment. Jealousy is a positive human emotion in as much that it fuels our ambition and prompts us to achieve greater heights. But its negativeness stems from the fact that it is almost always accompanied by a bitterness towards the one who is the target of our envy. When we are able to ward off this associated feeling of resentment, and realize at the same time that the object of our jealousy is but a medium prompting us to greater karma, leading to higher accomplishments, we would have the read the message of Amoghasiddhi successfully.

The five Dhyani Buddhas represent the five basic types of human personality and demonstrate the absolutely perfected form of these personality types. Most importantly, each of them represents a negative quality as well as the completely transformed aspect of that failing, manifested as a glorious wisdom. It is an ample demonstration of the genius of Vajrayana Buddhism that these weaknesses are not denied or suppressed. They are instead worked upon, until their illusory nature is understood and they become aspects of one’s inherent wisdom.
References and Further Reading

* Beer, Robert. The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs: Boston, 1999.
* Cooper, J.C. An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols: London, 1999.
* Govinda, Lama Anagarika. Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism: New Delhi, 1992.
* Jansen, Eva Rudy. The Book of Buddhas (Ritual Symbolism Used on Buddhist Statuary and Ritual Objects): New Delhi, 2002.
* Landaw, Jonathan., and Weber, Andy. Images of Enlightenment (Tibetan Art in Practice): New York, 1993.
* Majupuria, Trilok Chandra. Sacred Animals of Nepal and India: Kathmandu, 2000.
* Maxwell, T.S. The Gods of Asia (Image, Text, and Meaning): New Delhi, 1997.
* Menzies, Jackie. Buddha – Radiant Awakening : Sydney, 2001.
* Sparham, Gareth. The Tibetan Dhammapada (Sayings of the Buddha): London, 1986.
* Subhuti, Dharmachari. The Buddhist Vision (An Introduction to the Theory and Practice): London, 1992.
* Tresidder, Jack. The Hutchinson Dictionary of Symbols: Oxford, 1997.
* Vessantara. Meeting the Buddhas (A Guide to Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Tantric Deities), Birmingham, 1993.

Vimalakirti 12 – Vision of the Universe Abhirati and the Tathagata Aksobhya


Thereupon, the Buddha said to the Licchavi Vimalakirti, “Noble son, when you would see the Tathagata, how do you view him?”

Thus addressed, the Licchavi Vimalakirti said to the Buddha, “Lord, when I would see the Tathagata, I view him by not seeing any Tathagata. Why? I see him as not born from the past, not passing on to the future, and not abiding in the present time. Why? He is the essence which is the reality of matter, but he is not matter. He is the essence which is the reality of sensation, but he is not sensation. He is the essence which is the reality of intellect, but he is not intellect. He is the essence which is the reality of motivation, yet he is not motivation. He is the essence which is the reality of consciousness, yet he is not consciousness. Like the element of space, he does not abide in any of the four elements. Transcending the scope of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, he is not produced in the six sense-media. He is not involved in the three worlds, is free of the three defilements, is associated with the triple liberation, is endowed with the three knowledges, and has truly attained the unattainable.

“The Tathagata has reached the extreme of detachment in regard to all things, yet he is not a reality-limit. He abides in ultimate reality, yet there is no relationship between it and him. He is not produced from causes, nor does he depend on conditions. He is not without any characteristic, nor has he any characteristic. He has no single nature nor any diversity of natures. He is not a conception, not a mental construction, nor is he a nonconception. He is neither the other shore, nor this shore, nor that between. He is neither here, nor there, nor anywhere else. He is neither this nor that. He cannot be discovered by consciousness, nor is he inherent in consciousness. He is neither darkness nor light. He is neither name nor sign. He is neither weak nor strong. He lives in no country or direction. He is neither good nor evil. He is neither compounded nor uncompounded. He cannot be explained as having any meaning whatsoever.

“The Tathagata is neither generosity nor avarice, neither morality nor immorality, neither tolerance nor malice, neither effort nor sloth, neither concentration nor distraction, neither wisdom nor foolishness. He is inexpressible. He is neither truth nor falsehood; neither escape from the world nor failure to escape from the world; neither cause of involvement in the world nor not a cause of involvement in the world; he is the cessation of all theory and all practice. He is neither a field of merit nor not a field of merit; he is neither worthy of offerings nor unworthy of offerings. He is not an object, and cannot be contacted. He is not a whole, nor a conglomeration. He surpasses all calculations. He is utterly unequaled, yet equal to the ultimate reality of things. He is matchless, especially in effort. He surpasses all measure. He does not go, does not stay, does not pass beyond. He is neither seen, heard, distinguished, nor known. He is without any complexity, having attained the equanimity of omniscient gnosis. Equal toward all things, he does not discriminate between them. He is without reproach, without excess, without corruption, without conception, and without intellectualization. He is without activity, without birth, without occurrence, without origin, without production, and without nonproduction. He is without fear and without subconsciousness; without sorrow, without joy, and without strain. No verbal teaching can express him.

“Such is the body of the Tathagata and thus should he be seen. Who sees thus, truly sees. Who sees otherwise, sees falsely.”

The venerable Sariputra then asked the Buddha, “Lord, in which buddha-field did the noble Vimalakirti die, before reincarnating in this buddha-field?”

The Buddha said, “Sariputra, ask this good man directly where he died to reincarnate here.”

Then the venerable Sariputra asked the Licchavi Vimalakirti, “Noble sir, where did you die to reincarnate here?”

Vimalakirti declared, “Is there anything among the things that you see, elder, that dies or is reborn?”

Sariputra: There is nothing that dies or is reborn.

Vimalakirti: Likewise, reverend Sariputra, as all things neither die nor are reborn, why do you ask, “Where did you die to reincarnate here?” Reverend Sariputra, if one were to ask a man or woman created by a magician where he or she had died to reincarnate there, what do you think he or she would answer?

Sariputra: Noble sir, a magical creation does not die, nor is it reborn.

Vimalakirti: Reverend Sariputra, did not the Tathagata declare that all things have the nature of a magical creation?

Sariputra: Yes, noble sir, that is indeed so.

Vimalakirti: Reverend Sariputra, “death” is an end of performance, and “rebirth” is the continuation of performance. But, although a bodhisattva dies, he does not put an end to the performance of the roots of virtue, and although he is reborn, he does not adhere to the continuation of sin.

Then, the Buddha said to the venerable Sariputra, “Sariputra, this holy person came here from the presence of the Tathagata Aksobhya in the universe Abhirati.”

Sariputra: Lord, it is wonderful that this holy person, having left a buddha-field as pure as Abhirati, should enjoy a buddha-field as full of defects as this Saha universe!

The Licchavi Vimalakirti said, “Sariputra, what do you think? Does the light of the sun accompany the darkness?”

Sariputra: Certainly not, noble sir!

Vimalakirti: Then the two do not go together?

Sariputra: Noble sir, those two do not go together. As soon as the sun rises, all darkness is destroyed.

Vimalakirti: Then why does the sun rise over the world?

Sariputra: It rises to illuminate the world, and to eliminate the darkness.

Vimalakirti: Just in the same way, reverend Sariputra, the bodhisattva reincarnates voluntarily in the impure buddha-fields in order to purify the living beings, in order to make the light of wisdom shine, and in order to clear away the darkness. Since they do not associate with the passions, they dispel the darkness of the passions of all living beings.

Thereupon, the entire multitude experienced the desire to behold the universe Abhirati, the Tathagata Aksobhya, his bodhisattvas, and his great disciples. The Buddha, knowing the thoughts of the entire multitude, said to the Licchavi Vimalakirti, “Noble son, this multitude wishes to behold the universe Abhirati and the Tathagata Aksobhya – show them!”

Then the Licchavi Vimalakirti thought, “Without rising from my couch, I shall pick up in my right hand the universe Abhirati and all it contains: its hundreds of thousands of bodhisattvas; its abodes of devas, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, and asuras, bounded by its Cakravada mountains; its rivers, lakes, fountains, streams, oceans, and other bodies of water; its Mount Sumeru and other hills and mountain ranges; its moon, its sun, and its stars; its devas, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, and asuras themselves; its Brahma and his retinues; its villages, cities, towns, provinces, kingdoms, men, women, and houses; its bodhisattvas; its disciples; the tree of enlightenment of the Tathagata Aksobhya; and the Tathagata Aksobhya himself, seated in the middle of an assembly vast as an ocean, teaching the Dharma. Also the lotuses that accomplish the buddha-work among the living beings; the three jeweled ladders that rise from its earth to its Trayastrimsa heaven, on which ladders the gods of that heaven descend to the world to see, honor, and serve the Tathagata Aksobhya and to hear the Dharma, and on which the men of the earth climb to the Trayastrimsa heaven to visit those gods. Like a potter with his wheel, I will reduce that universe Abhirati, with its store of innumerable virtues, from its watery base up to its Akanistha heaven, to a minute size and, carrying it gently like a garland of flowers, will bring it to this Saha universe and will show it to the multitudes.”

Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti entered into a concentration, and performed a miraculous feat such that he reduced the universe Abhirati to a minute size, and took it with his right hand, and brought it into this Saha universe.

In that universe Abhirati, the disciples, bodhisattvas, and those among gods and men who possessed the superknowledge of the divine eye all cried out, “Lord, we are being carried away! Sugata, we are being carried off! Protect us, O Tathagata!”

But, to discipline them, the Tathagata Aksobhya said to them, “You are being carried off by the bodhisattva Vimalakirti. It is not my affair.”

As for the other men and gods, they had no awareness at all that they were being carried anywhere.

Although the universe Abhirati had been brought into the universe Saha, the Saha universe was not increased or diminished; it was neither compressed nor obstructed. Nor was the universe Abhirati reduced internally, and both universes appeared to be the same as they had ever been.

Thereupon, the Buddha Sakyamuni asked all the multitudes, “Friends, behold the splendors of the universe Abhirati, the Tathagata Aksobhya, the array of his buddha-field, and the splendors of these disciples and bodhisattvas!”

They replied, “We see them, Lord!”

The Buddha said, “Those bodhisattvas who wish to embrace such a buddha-field should train themselves in all the bodhisattva-practices of the Tathagata Aksobhya.”

While Vimalakirti, with his miraculous power, showed them thus the universe Abhirati and the Tathagata Aksobhya, one hundred and forty thousand living beings among the men and gods of the Saha universe conceived the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment, and all of them formed a prayer to be reborn in the universe Abhirati. And the Buddha prophesied that in the future all would be reborn in the universe Abhirati. And the Licchavi Vimalakirti, having thus developed all the living beings who could thereby be developed, returned the universe Abhirati exactly to its former place.

The Lord then said to the venerable Sariputra, “Sariputra, did you see that universe Abhirati, and the Tathagata Aksobhya?”

Sariputra replied, “I saw it, Lord! May all living beings come to live in a buddha-field as splendid as that! May all living beings come to have miraculous powers just like those of the noble Licchavi Vimalakirti!

“We have gained great benefit from having seen a holy man such as he. We have gained a great benefit from having heard such teaching of the Dharma, whether the Tathagata himself still actually exists or whether he has already attained ultimate liberation. Hence, there is no need to mention the great benefit for those who, having heard it, believe it, rely on it, embrace it, remember it, read it, and penetrate to its depth; and, having found faith in it, teach, recite, and show it to others and apply themselves to the yoga of meditation upon its teaching.

“Those living beings who understand correctly this teaching of the Dharma will obtain the treasury of the jewels of the Dharma.

“Those who study correctly this teaching of the Dharma will become the companions of the Tathagata. Those who honor and serve the adepts of this doctrine will be the true protectors of the Dharma. Those who write, teach, and worship this teaching of the Dharma will be visited by the Tathagata in their homes. Those who take pleasure in this teaching of the Dharma will embrace all merits. Those who teach it to others, whether it be no more than a single stanza of four lines, or a single summary phrase from this teaching of the Dharma, will be performing the great Dharma-sacrifice. And those who devote to this teaching of the Dharma their tolerance, their zeal, their intelligence, their discernment, their vision, and their aspirations, thereby become subject to the prophesy of future Buddhahood!”

Vimalakirti 11 – Lesson of the Destructible and the Indestructible


Meanwhile, the area in which the Lord was teaching the Dharma in the garden of Amrapali expanded and grew larger, and the entire assembly appeared tinged with a golden hue. Thereupon, the venerable Ananda asked the Buddha, “Lord, this expansion and enlargement of the garden of Amrapali and this golden hue of the assembly – what do these auspicious signs portend?”

The Buddha declared, “Ananda, these auspicious signs portend that the Licchavi Vimalakirti and the crown prince Manjusri, attended by a great multitude, are coming into the presence of the Tathagata.”

At that moment the Licchavi Vimalakirti said to the crown prince Manjusri, “Manjusri, let us take these many living beings into the presence of the Lord, so that they may see the Tathagata and bow down to him!”

Manjusri replied, “Noble sir, send them if you feel the time is right!”

Thereupon the Licchavi Vimalakirti performed the miraculous feat of placing the entire assembly, replete with thrones, upon his right hand and then, having transported himself magically into the presence of the Buddha, placing it on the ground. He bowed down at the feet of the Buddha, circumambulated him to the right seven times with palms together, and withdrew to one side.

The bodhisattvas who had come from the buddha-field of the Tathagata Sugandhakuta descended from their lion-thrones and, bowing down at the feet of the Buddha, placed their palms together in reverence and withdrew to one side. And the other bodhisattvas, great spiritual heroes, and the great disciples descended from their thrones likewise and, having bowed at the feet of the Buddha, withdrew to one side. Likewise all those Indras, Brahmas, Lokapalas, and gods bowed at the feet of the Buddha, placed their palms together in reverence and withdrew to one side.

Then, the Buddha, having delighted those bodhisattvas with greetings, declared, “Noble sons, be seated upon your thrones!”

Thus commanded by the Buddha, they took their thrones.

The Buddha said to Sariputra, “Sariputra, did you see the miraculous performances of the bodhisattvas, those best of beings?”

“I have seen them, Lord.”

“What concept did you produce toward them?”

“Lord, I produced the concept of inconceivability toward them. Their activities appeared inconceivable to me to the point that I was unable to think of them, to judge them, or even to imagine them.”

Then the venerable Ananda asked the Buddha, “Lord, what is this perfume, the likes of which I have never smelled before?”

The Buddha answered, “Ananda, this perfume emanates from all the pores of all these bodhisattvas.”

Sariputra added, “Venerable Ananda, this same perfume emanates from all our pores as well!”

Ananda: Where does the perfume come from?

Sariputra: The Licchavi Vimalakirti obtained some food from the universe called Sarvagandhasugandha, the buddha-field of the Tathagata Sugandhakuta, and this perfume emanates from the bodies of all those who partook of that food.

Then the venerable Ananda addressed the Licchavi Vimalakirti: “How long will this perfume remain?”

Vimalakirti: Until is it digested.

Ananda: When will it be digested?

Vimalakirti: It will be digested in forty-nine days, and its perfume will emanate for seven days more after that, but there will be no trouble of indigestion during that time. Furthermore, reverend Ananda, if monks who have not entered ultimate determination eat this food, it will be digested when they enter that determination. When those who have entered ultimate determination eat this food, it will not be digested until their minds are totally liberated. If living beings who have not conceived the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment eat this food, it will be digested when they conceive the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment. If those who have conceived the spirit of perfect enlightenment eat this food, it will not be digested until they have attained tolerance. And if those who have attained tolerance eat this food, it will be digested when they have become bodhisattvas one lifetime away from Buddhahood. Reverend Ananda, it is like the medicine called “delicious,” which reaches the stomach but is not digested until all poisons have been eliminated only then is it digested. Thus, reverend Ananda, this food is not digested until all the poisons of the passions have been eliminated only then is it digested.

Then, the venerable Ananda said to the Buddha, “Lord, it is wonderful that this food accomplishes the work of the Buddha!”

“So it is, Ananda! It is as you say, Ananda! There are buddha-fields that accomplish the buddha-work by means of bodhisattvas; those that do so by means of lights; those that do so by means of the tree of enlightenment; those that do so by means of the physical beauty and the marks of the Tathagata; those that do so by means of religious robes; those that do so by means of good; those that do so by means of water; those that do so by means of gardens; those that do so by means of palaces; those that do so by means of mansions; those that do so by means of magical incarnations; those that do so by means of empty space; and those that do so by means of lights in the sky. Why is it so, Ananda? Because by these various means, living beings become disciplined. Similarly, Ananda, there are buddha-fields that accomplish the buddha-work by means of teaching living beings words, definitions, and examples, such as ‘dreams,’ ‘images,’ ‘the reflection of the moon in water,’ ‘echoes,’ ‘illusions,’ and ‘mirages’; and those that accomplish the buddha-work by making words understandable. Also, Ananda, there are utterly pure buddha-fields that accomplish the buddha-work for living beings without speech, by silence, inexpressibility, and unteachability. Ananda, among all the activities, enjoyments, and practices of the Buddhas, there are none that do not accomplish the buddha-work, because all discipline living beings. Finally, Ananda, the Buddhas accomplish the buddha-work by means of the four Maras and all the eighty-four thousand types of passion that afflict living beings.

“Ananda, this is a Dharma-door called ‘Introduction to all the Buddha-qualities.’ The bodhisattva who enters this Dharma-door experiences neither joy nor pride when confronted by a buddha-field adorned with the splendor of all noble qualities, and experiences neither sadness nor aversion when confronted by a buddha-field apparently without that splendor, but in all cases produces a profound reverence for all the Tathagatas. Indeed, it is wonderful how all the Lord Buddhas, who understand the equality of all things, manifest all sorts of buddha-fields in order to develop living beings!

“Ananda, just as the buddha-fields are diverse as to their specific qualities but have no difference as to the sky that covers them, so, Ananda, the Tathagatas are diverse as to their physical bodies but do not differ as to their unimpeded gnosis.

“Ananda, all the Buddhas are the same as to the perfection of the Buddha-qualities, that is: their forms, their colors, their radiance, their bodies, their marks, their nobility, their morality, their concentration, their wisdom, their liberation, the gnosis and vision of liberation, their strengths, their fearlessnesses, their special Buddha-qualities, their great love, their great compassion, their helpful intentions, their attitudes, their practices, their paths, the lengths of their lives, their teachings of the Dharma, their development and liberation of living beings, and their purification of buddha-fields. Therefore, they are all called ‘Samyaksambuddhas,’ ‘Tathagatas,’ and ‘Buddhas.’

“Ananda, were your life to last an entire aeon, it would not be easy for you to understand thoroughly the extensive meaning and precise verbal significance of these three names. Also, Ananda, if all the living beings of this billion-world galactic universe were like you the foremost of the learned and the foremost of those endowed with memory and incantations – and were they to devote an entire aeon, they would still be unable to understand completely the exact and extensive meaning of the three words ‘Samyaksambuddha,’ ‘Tathagata,’ and ‘Buddha.’ Thus, Ananda, the enlightenment of the Buddhas is immeasurable, and the wisdom and the eloquence of the Tathagatas are inconceivable.”

Then, the venerable Ananda addressed the Buddha: “Lord, from this day forth, I shall no longer declare myself to be the foremost of the learned.”

The Buddha said, “Do not be discouraged, Ananda! Why? I pronounced you, Ananda, the foremost of the learned, with the disciples in mind, not considering the bodhisattvas. Look, Ananda, look at the bodhisattvas. They cannot be fathomed even by the wisest of men. Ananda, one can fathom the depths of the ocean, but one cannot fathom the depths of the wisdom, gnosis, memory, incantations, or eloquence of the bodhisattvas. Ananda, you should remain in equanimity with regard to the deeds of the bodhisattvas. Why? Ananda, these marvels displayed in a single morning by the Licchavi Vimalakirti could not be performed by the disciples and solitary sages who have attained miraculous powers, were they to devote all their powers of incarnation and transformation during one hundred thousand millions of aeons.”

Then, all those bodhisattvas from the buddha-field of the Tathagata Sugandhakuta joined their palms in reverence and, saluting the Tathagata Sakyamuni, addressed him as follows: “Lord, when we first arrived in this buddha-field, we conceived a negative idea, but we now abandon this wrong idea. Why? Lord, the realms of the Buddhas and their skill in liberative technique are inconceivable. In order to develop living beings, they manifest such and such a field to suit the desire of such and such a living being. Lord, please give us a teaching by which we may remember you, when we have returned to Sarvagandhasugandha.”

Thus having been requested, the Buddha declared, “Noble sons, there is a liberation of bodhisattvas called ‘destructible and indestructible.’ You must train yourselves in this liberation. What is it? ‘Destructible’ refers to compounded things. ‘Indestructible’ refers to the uncompounded. But the bodhisattva should neither destroy the compounded nor rest in the uncompounded.

“Not to destroy compounded things consists in not losing the great love; not giving up the great compassion; not forgetting the omniscient mind generated by high resolve; not tiring in the positive development of living beings; not abandoning the means of unification; giving up body and life in order to uphold the holy Dharma; never being satisfied with the roots of virtue already accumulated; taking pleasure in skillful dedication; having no laziness in seeking the Dharma; being without selfish reticence in teaching the Dharma; sparing no effort in seeing and worshiping the Tathagatas; being fearless in voluntary reincarnations; being neither proud in success nor bowed in failure; not despising the unlearned, and respecting the learned as if they were the Teacher himself; making reasonable those whose passions are excessive; taking pleasure in solitude, without being attached to it; not longing for one’s own happiness but longing for the happiness of others; conceiving of trance, meditation, and equanimity as if they were the Avici hell; conceiving of the world as a garden of liberation; considering beggars to be spiritual teachers; considering the giving away of all possessions to be the means of realizing Buddhahood; considering immoral beings to be saviors; considering the transcendences to be parents; considering the aids to enlightenment to be servants; never ceasing accumulation of the roots of virtue; establishing the virtues of all buddha-fields in one’s own buddha-field; offering limitless pure sacrifices to fulfill the auspicious marks and signs; adorning body, speech and mind by refraining from all sins; continuing in reincarnations during immeasurable aeons, while purifying body, speech, and mind; avoiding discouragement, through spiritual heroism, when learning of the immeasurable virtues of the Buddha; wielding the sharp sword of wisdom to chastise the enemy passions; knowing well the aggregates, the elements, and the sense-media in order to bear the burdens of all living beings; blazing with energy to conquer the host of demons; seeking knowledge in order to avoid pride; being content with little desire in order to uphold the Dharma; not mixing with worldly things in order to delight all the people; being faultless in all activities in order to conform to all people; producing the superknowledges to actually accomplish all duties of benefit to living beings; acquiring incantations, memory, and knowledge in order to retain all learning; understanding the degrees of people’s spiritual faculties to dispel the doubts of all living beings; displaying invincible miraculous feats to teach the Dharma; having irresistible speech by acquiring unimpeded eloquence; tasting human and divine success by purifying the path of ten virtues; establishing the path of the pure states of Brahma by cultivating the four immeasurables; inviting the Buddhas to teach the Dharma, rejoicing in them, and applauding them, thereby obtaining the melodious voice of a Buddha; disciplining body, speech, and mind, thus maintaining constant spiritual progress; being without attachment to anything and thus acquiring the behavior of a Buddha; gathering together the order of bodhisattvas to attract beings to the Mahayana; and being consciously aware at all times not to neglect any good quality. Noble sons, a bodhisattva who thus applies himself to the Dharma is a bodhisattva who does not destroy the compounded realm.

“What is not resting in the uncompounded? The bodhisattva practices voidness, but he does not realize voidness. He practices signlessness but does not realize signlessness. He practices wishlessness but does not realize wishlessness. He practices non-performance but does not realize non-performance. He knows impermanence but is not complacent about his roots of virtue. He considers misery, but he reincarnates voluntarily. He knows selflessness but does not waste himself. He considers peacefulness but does not seek extreme peace. He cherishes solitude but does not avoid mental and physical efforts. He considers placelessness but does not abandon the place of good actions. He considers occurrencelessness but undertakes to bear the burdens of all living beings. He considers immaculateness, yet he follows the process of the world. He considers motionlessness, yet he moves in order to develop all living beings. He considers selflessness yet does not abandon the great compassion toward all living beings. He considers birthlessness, yet he does not fall into the ultimate determination of the disciples. He considers vanity, futility, insubstantiality, dependency, and placelessness, yet he establishes himself on merits that are not vain, on knowledge that is not futile, on reflections that are substantial, on the striving for the consecration of the independent gnosis, and on the Buddha-family in its definitive meaning.

“Thus, noble sons, a bodhisattva who aspires to such a Dharma neither rests in the uncompounded nor destroys the compounded.

“Furthermore, noble sons, in order to accomplish the store of merit, a bodhisattva does not rest in the uncompounded, and, in order to accomplish the store of wisdom, he does not destroy the compounded. In order to fulfill the great love, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, in order to fulfill the great compassion, he does not destroy compounded things. In order to develop living beings, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and in order to aspire to the Buddha-qualities, he does not destroy compounded things. To perfect the marks of Buddhahood, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, to perfect the gnosis of omniscience, he does not destroy compounded things. Out of skill in liberative technique, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, through thorough analysis with his wisdom, he does not destroy compounded things. To purify the buddha-field, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, by the power of the grace of the Buddha, he does not destroy compounded things. Because he feels the needs of living beings, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, in order to show truly the meaning of the Dharma, he does not destroy compounded things. Because of his store of roots of virtue, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and because of his instinctive enthusiasm for these roots of virtue, he does not destroy compounded things. To fulfill his prayers, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, because he has no wishes, he does not destroy compounded things. Because his positive thought is pure, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, because his high resolve is pure, he does not destroy compounded things. In order to play with the five superknowledges, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, because of the six superknowledges of the buddha-gnosis, he does not destroy compounded things. To fulfill the six transcendences, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, to fulfill the time, he does not destroy compounded things. To gather the treasures of the Dharma, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, because he does not like any narrow-minded teachings, he does not destroy compounded things. Because he gathers all the medicines of the Dharma, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, to apply the medicine of the Dharma appropriately, he does not destroy compounded things. To confirm his commitments, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, to mend any failure of these commitments, he does not destroy compounded things. To concoct all the elixirs of the Dharma, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, to give out the nectar of this subtle Dharma, he does not destroy compounded things. Because he knows thoroughly all the sicknesses due to passions, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, in order to cure all sicknesses of all living beings, he does not destroy compounded things.

“Thus, noble sons, the bodhisattva does not destroy compounded things and does not rest in the uncompounded, and that is the liberation of bodhisattvas called ‘destructible and indestructible.’ Noble sirs, you should also strive in this.”

Then, those bodhisattvas, having heard this teaching, were satisfied, delighted, and reverent. They were filled with rejoicing and happiness of mind. In order to worship the Buddha Sakyamuni and the bodhisattvas of the Saha universe, as well as this teaching, they covered the whole earth of this billion-world universe with fragrant powder, incense, perfumes, and flowers up to the height of the knees. Having thus regaled the whole retinue of the Tathagata, bowed their heads at the feet of the Buddha, and circumambulated him to the right three times, they sang a hymn of praise to him. They then disappeared from this universe and in a split second were back in the universe Sarvagandhasugandha.