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Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Mon May 13, 2013 3:32 am

clyde wrote:Gregory;

I hope it’s OK to ask you a few questions to help me understand your post.

At one point you call the alayavijnana “the transpersonal nonindividual storehouse consciousness”. It seems to me that “transpersonal” and “nonindividual” mean the same. Do they mean different things to you in this context? And what does the term “storehouse” mean to you?

First all Dharma words are metaphorical gates to free us from the bindings and fixations of taking words literally. Words are medicine to cure us of the sickness of words.

Transpersonal and nonindividual have an overlapping meaning but are not redundant. I use transpersonal to mean focus on the mind's unlimited reach and capacity and nonindividual to mean focus on the mind's nonduality. Storehouse is of course the literal translation of alaya and to me it means the focus on the mind's all inclusiveness unrestrained by temporal discrimination.

clyde wrote:And, as you understand it, is the experience of the alayavijnana the same as the experience of, for examples: shunyata? the Eighth Jhana? the Dharmakaya? Nirvana? Buddha’s Awakening? Enlightenment? And if not, how does it fit within the path? Is it the experience of non-duality?


As I understand it, there is no other experience than experience of the alayavijnana. Our everyday experience is the experience of alayavijnana mediated by our discriminating cognitive consciousness which is itself the alayavijnana in its aspect of self delusion. This is why it is said in the sutras that a sentient being is a deluded Buddha and a Buddha is an awakened sentient being. When our awareness pierces the veil of self delusion, then awareness directly experiences the four formless jhanas. There are several meanings to the term shunyata which when taken literally is sometimes considered the seventh jhana "nothingness" and sometimes as the eighth jhana of "neither perception nor nonperception." The Lankavatara Sutra describes seven kinds of uses of the term "emptiness" so it is not an easy subject to discuss.

The difficulty of making descriptions is that there are nuances so subtle that they become points of argument in the wrong perspectives of discriminatory thinking.

When the veil of self-delusion is first pierced and awareness directly "enters" the alayavijnana, it is like the sun coming down from the sky to settle on oneself and burning away one's entire body and world in the conflagration at the end of the kalpa. One then “enters” Manjusri’s crystal palace of the complete unification of undiscriminated mind. This is the dangerous moment of taking wisdom literally as an experience. Attempting to preserve or hold onto this undiscriminating mind can result in multiple problems. If one is fortunate Manjusri will wield his sword and cut off the last remaining sense of subtle self experience and one then falls into the experience of neither perception nor nonperception which is emptiness in its essential aspect. But because there is the most subtle distinction of this emptiness as an “essence” it is still not the awakening of the dharmakaya. This is the eighth stage of jhana which the pre-Buddhist knew of and called nirvana. This is not the real nirvana, only a nirvana with remainder. Buddha’s great discovery that set the Wheel of the Dharma turning was the release of going beyond the 8th jhnana of neither perception nor nonperception to the direct realization of liberation. Release, liberation, awakening, and nirvana occur upon the letting go of this essence of emptiness and in an almost simultaneous manner the alayavijnana is transformed into the great perfect round mirror wisdom with the realization that everything that appears is appearing in the one mind of the Tathagata. This is the realization of the absolute. It is the jewel mirror Samadhi. This is the realization of the unborn. I say “almost simultaneous” because there is the possibility that a person can get stuck in one aspect and become alienated from the others, such as getting stuck in the perfect mirror wisdom and becoming alienated from differentiation and therefore unable to manifest the next wisdom of universal nature.

Next, the seventh consciousness that once was the seat of polarizing discrimination and the fabrication of the self-other dichotomy is transformed into the wisdom of the equality of nature in which all differentiations are no longer seen within the delusion of the self-other bifurcation. Each differentiated perception is now seen as equal and universal in the realization of the complete unobstructed interpenetration of the absolute and the relatively differentiated. This is the Samadhi of one quality.

Next the 6th cognitive consciousness is transformed and realized as the marvelous observing wisdom in which there is no further need for the self-delusion of an “observer” or “witness.” This is the Samadhi of no thought.

Without an observer delusion there is no addiction to grasping at the perceptions of the first to fifth sensory consciousnesses and without grasping at them the 1st to 5th consciousness are transformed into the all perfecting-action wisdom. This is the Samadhi of one act or alternatively the Samadhi of unified action.

When these four wisdoms are realized the Dharmakaya is perceived and directly known to be one’s own nature and nirvana is perceived to be the activity of the Samboghakaya of one’s own wisdom and the Nirmanakaya is the manifestation of one’s own mind’s activity.

clyde wrote:Finally, is there any mention (direct or implied) in the Pali Suttas of the alayavijnana?

clyde


I’m not a student of the Pali Suttas so I have no direct reference for that. However, for understanding the Buddha’s escape from the trap of the 8th jhnana and the true release of emptiness in action, I recommend the http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html Cula-suññata Sutta: The Lesser Discourse on Emptiness. This Sutta does not mention the alayavijnana but it describes the “just this” aspect of the 6 sensory consciousnesses as they function without self-delusion in a theme-less concentration of awareness. This “theme-less concentration (Samadhi) of awareness” is another name for the jewel mirror Samadhi, and the phrase “there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres” is another way of describing the samadhis of one quality, no thought, and one act that are associated with the six sense fields.

This Sutta is limited in its scope of analysis and can be criticized from the Mahayana perspective in several aspects, but is a precursor or foreshadowing of the Mahayana analysis of zen-samadhi.

The Pali Suttas that I have seen do not stray from the 6 consciousnesses scheme and never attempt to deal with the root of consciousness. However, without the root of consciousness the Buddha would not be able to perceive the past lives and future karma of beings.

_/|\_
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby clyde on Mon May 13, 2013 8:30 am

Gregory; Thank you. And thank you for the reference to the Cula-sunnata Sutta. I think the last section on “Release” is worth posting here:

"He discerns that 'This theme-less concentration of awareness is fabricated & mentally fashioned.' And he discerns that 'Whatever is fabricated & mentally fashioned is inconstant & subject to cessation.' For him — thus knowing, thus seeing — the mind is released from the effluent of sensuality, the effluent of becoming, the effluent of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, 'Released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

"He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the effluent of sensuality... the effluent of becoming... the effluent of ignorance, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the effluent of sensuality... becoming... ignorance. And there is just this non-emptiness: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, pure — superior & unsurpassed.

"Ananda, whatever contemplatives and brahmans who in the past entered & remained in an emptiness that was pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all entered & remained in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and brahmans who in the future will enter & remain in an emptiness that will be pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all will enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed. Whatever contemplatives and brahmans who at present enter & remain in an emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed, they all enter & remain in this very same emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.

"Therefore, Ananda, you should train yourselves: 'We will enter & remain in the emptiness that is pure, superior, & unsurpassed.'"

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Ven. Ananda delighted in the Blessed One's words.

“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

DO NO HARM
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby creature on Thu May 16, 2013 8:20 pm

Just ordered this book thanks to this thread. Looking forward to reading it.
"What is inherent in you is presently active and presently functioning, and need not be sought after, need not be put in order, need not be practiced or proven.
All that is required is to trust it once and for all."
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Fri May 17, 2013 3:12 am

Pedestrian wrote:Another translation question (words, always with the words...): what are the Sanskrit and Chinese terms that Red Pine is translating as "personal"? And what relation does that term have to the word "intimate"?

I ask because it seems that "personal realization" is akin to "intimate realization," and gets away from the "person" part of "personal". My own path has been aided by holding the word "intimate" now and then, but perhaps I've got an apples and oranges issue here....


The usual word that Red Pine is translating as "personal" is the Chinese 自 zi used as the translation of the Sanskrit sva and svayam meaning “own” used for “one’s own” “my own” “his own” “her own” “our own”, etc.. 自 zi means “self”, “oneself”, “of itself”, “personal(ly)”, “one’s own”, “natural(ly),” “on it’s own”, etc. This use of “self” is not to be confused with “self” in the sense of atman which is translated using the Chinese term 我 wo for “I” or “ego.”

For 自覺 (zìjué, Skt. svasiddhi)) Suzuki has “inner realisation” or “self-realisation” and Goddard has “self realization,” Red Pine has “personal realization.” I prefer “one’s own realization.” I agree that “personal” and “self” have too much connotative sense of “person” or “self” and what is intended is that the realization is one’s own and does not come from another or a book. Also “self realization” has the new age connotation that is associated on the one hand with self-improvement pop psychology and on the other hand with the Christian Kriya Yoga fusion of Paramahansa Yogananda.

The central phrase of the central teaching of the Lankavatara is: 自覺聖智 (Skt. svasiddhi-aryajhana) which is literally, “own-realization-noble-knowledge.” Suzuki has “the inner realisation of noble wisdom,” or “self-realisation of noble wisdom,” Godard has “self-realisation of Noble Wisdom.” and Red Pine has “personal realization of buddha knowledge” (thus changing “noble” to “buddha”). I prefer to translate it as “one’s own realization of noble knowledge” where it is understood that “knowledge” is not referring to something external or objective as “the collection of what is known” or “facts and data” but instead refers to the meaning of knowledge as “the fact or condition of being aware of something.” It could also be translated as “one’s own realization of the noble knowing.”

_/|\_
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Fri May 17, 2013 7:52 am

steve wrote:I've been reading The Red Pine translation of the Lanka for about a month now. I wanted to hip you all to a good study guide that I found. It is called Existence and Enlightenment in the Lankavatara Sutra: A Study in the Ontology and Epistemology of the Yogacara School of Mahayana Buddhism. It is written by Florin Sutton. I have found it EXTREMELY helpful in systematically setting forth the various big ideas in the sutra. I'm writing this on my phone and can't go into great detail now, but I will say that I am not a big philosophy person who can tell you the ins and outs of the great thinkers. I had to Wikipedia "ontology" and "epistemology" before I started reading it to make sure I understood what the book title meant. But it has been a very good read which has illuminated much. It is challenging but not inaccessible. To be able to read about the three different ways to look at the tathagatagarbha concept, and relate it to the manifestation of being in time (skandas) and in space (dharmadatu) as a coherent ontology - allows me to go back and re-read the sutra in much deeper way.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has read it. He seems to be indicating that some of the positions he takes are not commonly accepted. For example, he states that the Yogacara "mind-only" isn't a denial of the existence of the external world. I don't know that I am holding too hard to any of his conclusions but the way the book is organized has helped me tremendously.


I'm wary of any book that alleges the Lankavatara is a Yogacara Sutra. It is not so. The Lankavatara is an Ekayana (One Vehicle) Sutra. The Lankavatara reviews the doctrines of the Two Vehicles, the Madhayamika, the Yogacara, and the Tathagatagarbha and gives the One Vehicle perspective on each of the doctrines. The only other sutra mentioned by name in the Lankavatara is the Sutra of Queen Srimala's Lion's Roar which is also an Ekayana Sutra centered on the teaching of the entry into the One Vehicle. Gunabhadra's complete title to Queen Srimala's Sutra is "A COMPREHENSIVE SUTRA OF THE GREAT SKILLFUL MEANS OF
THE ONE VEHICLE OF ŚRĪMĀLĀ’S LION’S ROAR"

Unfortunately, the Yogacara masters who came afterwards attempted to appropriate the Lankavatara Sutra to themselves because the Lankavatara reviews and includes the teaching of the Five Dharmas, the Three Own Natures, the Eight Consciousnesses and the importance of the alayavijnana. But by the same light, because the Lankavatara reviews and includes the teaching of Shunyata, it would be a Madhyamika Sutra, and because it reviews and includes the teaching of the Tathagatagarbha it would be a Tathagatagarbha Sutra, and because it reviews and includes the teachings of the Two Vehicles it should be a Sutra of the Sravakas (Listener Disciples) and Pratyekabuddhas (Independent Buddhas). In other words, the Lankavatara clarifies how the Yogacara teachings fit into the Supreme Buddha Vehicle, but it does not advocate or recognize Yogacara as the supreme teaching. In the Lankavatara, the One Vehicle is recognized as the supreme teaching.

One of the central points to recognize is that the Lankavatara is not a Yogacara text is that the Lankavatara teaches "mind only" (cittamatra) not the "consciousness only" (vijnanamatra) of Yogacara.

Here's some of what DT Suzuki wrote about this in his Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra. As Suzuki shows, going all the way back to the first accounts in China, that Bodhidharma was intimately associated with the Lankavatara Sutra and used it as the seal of transmission with the second ancestor Huike, and Bodhidharma taught the Lankavatara according to the One Vehicle School (or lineage) of Southern India.

DT Suzuki wrote: There is one thing in the foregoing account given by Tao-hsiian of the history of the Lankavatara that requires notice: that there was another school in the study of the sutra than the one transmitted by Dharma and Hui-k'e. This was the school of Yogacara idealism. The line of Hui-k'e belonged to the Ekayana school (一乘宗) of Southern India which was also the one resorted to by Dharma himself when he wanted to discourse on the philosophy of Zen Buddhism. To this Ekayana school belong the Avatamsaka and the l§raddhotpanna as well as the Lankavatara properly interpreted. But as the latter makes mention of the system of the eight Vijnanas whose central principle is designated as Alayavijnana, it has been used by the Yogacara followers as one of their important authorities. (p. 54-55)


DT Suzuki wrote:The doctrine expounded in the Lankavatara and also in the Avatamsaka-sutra is known as the Cittamatra and never as the Vijnanamatra or Vijnaptimatra as in the Yogacara school of Asanga and Vasubandhu. [...]

Where the triple world (tribhavam) is said to be nothing but vijnapti or prajnapti, it means that the world is mere subjective construction, having no reality or self substance (svabhdva). The doctrine of Cittamatra, (mind only, or pure-mind-only), as advocated in the Lankavatara, however, differs from this in that it does not deny the existence of mind itself, from which the objective world appears with all its forms of particularisation.” (p. 181)


Lastly, here's a technical quote which may cause the eyes to cross, but it leads up to the conclusion in the last sentence of the distinction between the Lankavatara and Yogacara.

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


Now, looking at Sutton's book in the Amazon preview, on page 5, Sutton gives a nod to Suzuki's view of the ecumenical inclusion of the various doctrines and that this inclusion of so many teachings explained by so many schools claimed the Lankavatara as their authority. But Sutton doesn't mention the One Vehicle as the basis for the inclusiveness of drawing all these teachings together. In fact, Sutton does not have any entry for either "Ekayana" or "One Vehicle" in the index, to that pretty much detracts from and limits the overall potential value of the work for me.

Looking at the first few pages and the index, Sutton seems to disagree with Suzuki about the importance of the distinction between "consciousness only" and "mind only". Sutton appears to claim that "mind only" was the hallmark of the Yogacara. I would like to read his argument for this claim. Sutton's entry in the index under "Mind-only" includes as the last citation, "Suzuki's arguments about (in favor of Yogacara idealism), 192-201." That doesn't make any sense to me because Suzuki's arguments about Mind-only were not in favor of Yogacara idealism but drawing the distinction that Yogacara idealism was not Mind-only. So I will have to read the text to see why Sutton has the index entry written this way.

_/|\_
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby creature on Wed Jun 26, 2013 6:57 pm

I've been working my way through this text for quite a while now. I decided to really take my time with it, which means that after about 2 months, I am just a little more than half way through. It's truly a massive, daunting sutra. Reading it has been frustrating at times, and really enlightening at other times.

My overall experience of this sutra is that I generally get stuck or intrigued with certain passages, and while I don't find an answer at the time of reading, if I'm lucky, there will be an unrelated moment later on where I suddenly get a new perspective and it kind of falls into place. A subsequent re-reading of the same chapter or passage makes for quite a different experience. That is what I really enjoy about this sutra. There are so many different ways to approach every little tidbit. While I understand that its primarily intention is getting one to drink that cup of tea, I think there are so many things about this sutra that are worth reflecting upon.

I had made an earlier attempt with D.T Suzuki's translation, which made me doubt this version was even worth getting, but the comments in this thread made me do it anyway and I'm really glad I did. While there were certain parts about D.T Suzuki's translation that made a lasting impression on me, this is almost an entirely different read. Red Pine, with his many notes, is a brilliant study companion.

There are many, many passages that I really want to comment on, or ask someone well-versed with this sutra (like Gregory) about, but it's hard to keep track of them all so I'll have to go back through the book and do this at a later time. But the most recent one, still fresh in my memory, is a short paragraph reflecting on the emptiness of the skandhas.

I've always considered emptiness a difficult concept, especially as it seems like such an easy thing to get philosophically mistaken about, seeking a certain factor that qualifies something as "emptiness". I get the impression that it's easy to get the idea that there's a certain state that qualifies emptiness, or a certain viewpoint, which has really made me wonder about the difficulties with reconciling the teaching of emptiness with daily life situations and sensations, and differing levels of understanding. But the way the skandhas are described here helped put things into place as far as I'm concerned:

First, this paragraph preceding it, XLVIII

Chapter Two, XLVIII wrote:Mahamati, why is it that whatever exists cannot be grabbed or released? If you try to grab its individual or shared characteristics, there is nothing to grab. And if you try to release them, there is nothing to release. Thus, whatever exists cannot be grabbed or released.


So much for letting go of things!

Chapter Two, LII wrote:Moreover Mahamati, I will now explain what characterizes the self-existence of the skandhas. [...]

Mahamati, by 'form' I am referring to the different characteristics of each of the four elements and their elemental forms. But it is not the case, Mahamati, that the formless ones are actually four in number. They are like the sky. Just as the sky is devoid of numbers or the characteristics of numbers, it is only due to projection that we speak of one sky. Mahamati, the skandhas are likewise devoid of numbers or the characteristics of numbers and thus devoid of existence or nonexistence and devoid of the four possibilities.


I think that for anyone who has difficulties understanding what it is that Avalokitesvara actually illuminates about the skandhas in the Heart Sutra, this short paragraph is an excellent pointer in the right direction.

Looking at the quote by it's lonesome, I guess it's easy to overlook the potency of this description. It's a really different experience in the actual book when you work your way through the descriptions of projection and the constant message of "nothing but mind".
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All that is required is to trust it once and for all."
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby creature on Fri Jul 19, 2013 3:58 pm

I was wondering about this verse.

Chapter Three, LXV wrote:Those who give rise of projections of speech / assert all kinds of things /
because of their assertions / they spend next life in hell

'The self isn't in the skandhas' / 'the skandhas aren't the self' /
such conceptions are mistaken / 'nor is there no self' as well


The first line of the second paragraph seems to be a rejection of the somewhat Alan Watts-ian conception of Buddhism as a veiled or sneaky type of Hinduism. But to my eyes, it also seems to dismisses the unconditioned self of Zen, of which, if I recall correctly, on this very forum there's been definitions of Zen itself as pointing away from the skandhas to the true self, which is unconditioned.

Furthermore, both the first and second line seems to dismiss the rather blunt "no self" doctrine which is accepted in both Theravadan Buddhism and Zen, originating with the first anatta teaching of the Pali canon which states that the skandhas aren't the self.

Is this simply a redefinition of the essential teaching points in order for them to be in line with the 'nothing but mind' teaching, or is there something else going on here? The notes direct the reader to the notes of another section (fun!) which attest a "neither different nor similar" perspective of the relationship between not the self, but enlightenment, the skandhas, liberation and wisdom. Is the problem within the assertions (as the beginning paragraph seems to imply) or is there a direct conflict with more orthodox buddhist teachings? Any ideas?

Second question.

Chapter Four, LXXXIX wrote:
The will and sensory consciousness / nihilists say are impermanent /
others see them as nirvana / saying they last forever.


I found this passage very interesting because it negates both the teaching of the impermanence of the skandhas, and the idea of the fluctuation of the skandhas (samsara) as nirvana itself. The verse literally ends with this passage, and there's no concluding statement of the meaning of it. Is it to dismiss an incorrect view of samsara of nirvana, or negate any projection/perception of nirvana and samsara altogether?

Third question.

I was reading this verse a few times. I've omitted the paragraphs in which the phrasing doesn't relate to my question.

Chapter Three, LXIV wrote:
Viewing conditioned things / without support and supporting nothing /
as nothing but the no-mind mind / thus I teach nothing but mind

Where only essential nature dwells / free from existence and conditions /
where existence is finally purified / this I say is nothing but mind

What appears outside does not exist / all the things seen by the mind /
your abode, body and possessions / these I teach are nothing but mind

Transcending every view / free from conceiving and conception /
where nothing arises and nothing is found / this I teach is nothing but mind

Neither existing nor not existing / free from existence and nonexistence /
the liberation of this mind / this I teach is nothing but mind

Emptiness, suchness and reality / nirvana and the Dharma Realm /
the different projection bodies / these, too, I teach are nothing but mind.


The first paragraph seems pretty straightforward, but after that things get interesting.

A few of these, like "your abode, body and possessions", seem to imply the attitude of this verse as a list of things denied through the nothing but mind teaching, they are indeed nothing but mind, i.e mental projections, which, at first, lead me to believe that the verse was stating inconsequential and unrelated things, because the essential teaching is nothing but mind.

But on another occasion, it struck me that it could also be read as a kind of list of the phenomena and subjects contained within the nothing but mind teaching, and in that sense, not a denial, but a kind of umbrella statement of what nothing but mind involves, which is both stuff like the body and possessions, and nirvana and the Dharma Realm. So it's not essentially a kind of shaving-off of unessentials but a more open-ended definition of the teaching really means (which, to my eyes, is REALLY rare in the entire sutra!). So instead of the attitude of "here's a list of inconsequential things (i.e fuck this, this and that), just pay attention to nothing but mind!!" kind of attitude which is prevalent throughout the sutra, it's possible that in this verse there's a kind of, welcome to the nothing but mind teaching, it contains these subjects and actions. Any thoughts?
"What is inherent in you is presently active and presently functioning, and need not be sought after, need not be put in order, need not be practiced or proven.
All that is required is to trust it once and for all."
- Foyan, Instant Zen, pg. 23
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby another_being on Fri Jul 19, 2013 5:20 pm

Chapter Three, LXV wrote:Those who give rise of projections of speech / assert all kinds of things /
because of their assertions / they spend next life in hell

'The self isn't in the skandhas' / 'the skandhas aren't the self' /
such conceptions are mistaken / 'nor is there no self' as well

The first line of the second paragraph seems to be a rejection of the somewhat Alan Watts-ian conception of Buddhism as a veiled or sneaky type of Hinduism. But to my eyes, it also seems to dismisses the unconditioned self of Zen, of which, if I recall correctly, on this very forum there's been definitions of Zen itself as pointing away from the skandhas to the true self, which is unconditioned.



Hi, Creature. From my perspective, this doesn't conflict with Buddhist teachings. It seems to me that the (last two) lines are saying that those are mistaken because they are conceptions and so they miss the point/mark.

The "true self", on one level are simply words pointing. On one level there is no true self. To say, "the true self, which is unconditioned" is to objectify "true self" and leave "it" for dead. I think you already know, but I use this example to underscore the aim of the lines you quoted, as I understand them. These assertions I've made are also conceptions.

...But on another occasion, it struck me that it could also be read as a kind of list of the phenomena and subjects contained within the nothing but mind teaching, and in that sense, not a denial, but a kind of umbrella statement of what nothing but mind involves, which is both stuff like the body and possessions, and nirvana and the Dharma Realm. So it's not essentially a kind of shaving-off of unessentials but a more open-ended definition of the teaching really means (which, to my eyes, is REALLY rare in the entire sutra!). So instead of the attitude of "here's a list of inconsequential things (i.e fuck this, this and that), just pay attention to nothing but mind!!" kind of attitude which is prevalent throughout the sutra, it's possible that in this verse there's a kind of, welcome to the nothing but mind teaching, it contains these subjects and actions. Any thoughts?
[/quote]

Yes. In a sense, nothing excluded. This is it.

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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Pedestrian on Fri Jul 19, 2013 5:41 pm

another_being beat me to it. The Lanka is all about not getting caught by conceptualization, discrimination, and the words that use as tools for same.
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby creature on Fri Jul 19, 2013 6:49 pm

Thank you for your input, guys.

In a sense, it's such a wordy sutra for something that's the (alleged) basis of Zen! I'm amazed at what those old mountain monks turned it into!

I'm sure there will be more questions from my part but I'm afraid I'm going to start sounding like Mahamati himself :lol2:

Thanks for mentioning Norman Fischer's podcasts earlier, Pedestrian. Going to check those out. another_being, I think you put it really well when you demonstrated, with your own post, the difficulty with assertions. It's not really that difficult when you take it on its own, but I think that in the environment of this sutra, it's very easy to get lost in the endless treatments on all the subjects Mahamati could possibly think up, and the way the answers are phrased in the various verses.

I think that the biggest difficulty I have with this sutra is not taking most of the answers as a kind of seung sahn-esque only nothing but mind! (instead of only don't know!), which is why I found that chapter three verse so intriguing.
"What is inherent in you is presently active and presently functioning, and need not be sought after, need not be put in order, need not be practiced or proven.
All that is required is to trust it once and for all."
- Foyan, Instant Zen, pg. 23
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Pedestrian on Fri Jul 19, 2013 6:51 pm

Yeah, I have to remind myself (I'm rereading it, as it happens) now and then to set the book aside and repeat, "They're just words, Sanskrit, Chinese, and English words...."

For an antidote, try reading the Lotus Sutra, whose sutra, of course, doesn't actually have any words at all.... :lol2:
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby creature on Fri Jul 19, 2013 6:58 pm

Glad to know I'm not the only one!
"What is inherent in you is presently active and presently functioning, and need not be sought after, need not be put in order, need not be practiced or proven.
All that is required is to trust it once and for all."
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby fukasetsu on Sat Jul 20, 2013 4:57 am

Pedestrian wrote:Yeah, I have to remind myself (I'm rereading it, as it happens) now and then to set the book aside and repeat, "They're just words, Sanskrit, Chinese, and English words...."


Words, see them for what they are and discard them when they have served their purpose.
They are props in the play, that is all. :dance:

Regarding reading a sutra (or anything) alike "(pre-)meditation" there is "concentration" but no [sense of] a concentrator, nor is there a reader. The concentration consists of keeping the * "Head phrase" strong. [if necessary]
i.e. any [illusory] thought arising due to actually reading the book {I mean using the conceptual consciousness for reading as a 'vehicle'] so ideally [for me] when reading there is no sense of a reader, alike in "meditation" there is just this 'wholeness', but no 'see-er,think-er,do-er,hear-er etc.

Anyways the book just arrived today (yippie) started reading 30 mins ago and chapter I is done,
only had a full stop one time, but this was not due to the text but due to checking the translators note,
upon investigation (took a while) it was just my English which was the culprit for the stoppage.

Regarding "how I read a sutra" is best explained I think how by chance from something else I'm currently reading (Master Xuyun's Long-dwelling in Samādhi) and it goes like this:

*
According to Master Xuyun’s ‘The Prerequisite for Chan Meditation’ (collected in the
chapter ‘Teaching’ in Master Xuyun’s Dharma Collection), “Mental speech arises from the
mind, so the mind is the origin of speech; thought arises from the mind, so the mind is the
origin of thought. The mind gives birth to everything and it is the origin of everything. In fact,
the origin of speech is the origin of thought. The place before thought is the mind. To put it
straightforwardly, where a thought is not yet to arise is the origin of speech. Thus we know the
observation of the origin of speech is the observation of the mind. The original face before our
birth is the mind. And to see the original face before our birth is to observe the mind.”
In this statement the Master explains that, ‘the observation of the Head Phrase’ is equivalent
to ‘the observation of the mind.’


In other words, when I read a book it's the same as doing the dishes, walking, eating, sleeping (difficult)
which is just observing the mind, but have no vested interest in the contents.
In this case the actual words in the Lanka, the words will do their work by themselves, like a seed.
So during reading, no fabrications arise.
And if they do I recognize the intitial thought and let it liberate into its own condition.
Perhaps also could be called "not taking myself serious" :lol2:
If by some weird circumstance it's not do-able, I'll neither read or walk.
Just some sleep and maybe a snack.
In other words if there's a sense of a reader, I'm ironically out :lol2:
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby fukasetsu on Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:37 am

another_being wrote:
Chapter Three, LXV wrote:Those who give rise of projections of speech / assert all kinds of things /
because of their assertions / they spend next life in hell

'The self isn't in the skandhas' / 'the skandhas aren't the self' /
such conceptions are mistaken / 'nor is there no self' as well

The first line of the second paragraph seems to be a rejection of the somewhat Alan Watts-ian conception of Buddhism as a veiled or sneaky type of Hinduism. But to my eyes, it also seems to dismisses the unconditioned self of Zen, of which, if I recall correctly, on this very forum there's been definitions of Zen itself as pointing away from the skandhas to the true self, which is unconditioned.



Hi, Creature. From my perspective, this doesn't conflict with Buddhist teachings. It seems to me that the (last two) lines are saying that those are mistaken because they are conceptions and so they miss the point/mark.

The "true self", on one level are simply words pointing. On one level there is no true self. To say, "the true self, which is unconditioned" is to objectify "true self" and leave "it" for dead. I think you already know, but I use this example to underscore the aim of the lines you quoted, as I understand them. These assertions I've made are also conceptions.


Yes, not-self is an expedient which came into being only due to sentient beings delusion of conceptions regarding self [among phenomena], hence “not-self” is a skillfull means to take that away.
Yet one idea should not be traded in for another, i.e. seeing a “not-self”, or seeing it as some actuality or reality, both are illusory conceptions, alike existene and non-existence.
Like last nights dream, ungraspable, as it has no ground in reality, how could it be said to have arisen or ceased? Everything perceivable or conceivable is like this, an illusory projection of mind.

The sutra of complete enlightenment makes the same point,
the Lanka just milks the point over and over, to see illusory projections for what they are [and depart from them] and heeds from falling into erroneous views.
“What is ignorance? Virtuous man, since beginningless time, all sentient beings have had all sorts of delusions, like a disoriented person who has lost his sense of direction. They mistake the four great elements [6] as the attributes of their bodies, and the conditioned impressions [7] of the six sense objects as the attributes of their minds. They are like a man with an illness of the eyes who sees an [illusory] flower in the sky, or a second moon.
“Virtuous man, there is in reality no flower in the sky, yet the sick man mistakenly clings to it. Because of his mistaken clinging, he is not only deluded about the intrinsic nature of the empty space, but also confused about the arising of the flower. Because of this false existence [to which he clings], he remains in the turning wheel of birth and death. Hence this is called ignorance.
“Virtuous man, this ignorance has no real substance. It is lik a person in a dream. Though the person exists in the dream, when [the dreamer] awakens, there is nothing that can be grasped. Like an [illusory] flower in the sky that vanishes into empty space, one cannot say that there is a fixed place from which it vanishes. Why? Because there is no place from which it arises! Amidst the unarisen, all sentient beings deludedly perceive birth and extinction. Hence this is called the turning wheel of birth and death.
“Virtuous man, one who practices Complete Enlightenment of the causal ground of the Tathagata realizes that [birth and extinction] are like an illusory flower in the sky. Thus there is no continuance of birth and death and no body or mind that is subject to birth and death. This nonexistence of [birth and death and body and mind] is so not as a consequence of contrived effort. It is so by its intrinsic nature.
“The awareness [of their nonexistence] is like empty space. That which is aware of the empty space is like the appearance of the illusory flower. However, one cannot say that the nature of this awareness is nonexistent. Eliminating both existence and nonexistence is in accordance with pure enlightenment.
“Why is it so? Because the nature of empty space is ever unmoving. Likewise, there is neither arising nor perishing within the Tathagatagarbha. [8] It is free from conceptual knowledge and views. Like the nature of dharmadhatu, which is ultimate, wholly complete, and pervades all ten directions, such is the Dharma practice [of the Tathagata] of the causal ground.
“Because of this [intrinsic completeness], bodhisattvas within the Mahayana may give rise to pure bodhi-mind. If sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age practice accordingly, they will not fall into erroneous views.”

Funny thing about langauge is when for instance talking to those new to Buddhism,
and they inquire about not-self, when they grasp the concept of conditioned phenomena being void of self nature or seperate existence etc. and they start saying "it is not-self" you then immediately want to say, nor is it not! but you can't (usually) for it will not hit home, it's like here have this illusion to remove the initial illusion. conceptual explanations often fuel more conceptual ideas, so self turns into not self. [as some sort of reality] which is just the initial error. Trading one idea in for the next :lol2:
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Linda Anderson on Sun Jul 21, 2013 3:23 pm

This morning before I opened my eyes, this appeared:

"abiding nowhere, let the self arise"

... before reading this. It's a koan I once heard. By the time my feet reached the floor it contained elements of this conversation... that there would be a putting down of the concept of self by some who seek. It's a living thing.

Is that what Lanka is getting at?
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby fukasetsu on Mon Jul 22, 2013 3:44 am

Not sure if I get what you mean Linda,
but practically speaking [for me] regarding concepts [of self or whatever]

-concepts are momentary and arise due to conditions
meaning the concepts of self and not-self or whatever also arise due to conditions

The whole Zen myth of putting down concepts or escaping concepts is in itself a concept,
as mentioned earlier, see them for what they are, props in the play.
Concepts themselves is not something one should be bounded by or wish to be free of.
Putting down concepts is the same as saying putting down mind, yet mind cannot be used to get something from mind. [or grasp mind]
Nor can the conceptual mind be used to cut itself off.
Mind itself is like a self-originated and liberated cloud in the sky, which are just words.

It’s only when we assert [or ironically enough negate] concepts themselve have some substance or reality to them,
as Lanka said giving rise to projections of speech. i.e. “ah not-self is this, not-self is that, not-self is true, skandhas are not-self etc” instead of realizing the expedient means of Buddhism are just that, due to a fabricated sense of self does the antidote of not self come into being, in other words the conditions make it so, [of sentient beings] but the expedient/skillful means are never it. So it’s about removing obstructions and not trading one obstruction in for the next.
When concepts are seen for what they are, then one cannot fall into erroneous views due to them anymore.

that there would be a putting down of the concept of self by some who seek. It's a living thing.

You mean in this sense?
To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things. To be enlightened by all things is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as those of others

Through the years practise has become ironically filled with laughter [relating to words]
Put down mind, drop opinions, great expedients but at the same time a contradiction in terms
[peace of mind being my favourite]
“the Way is beyond words, “beyond words” which is another comtradiction in terms,
there is no more Way to speak of! :lol2:

So yeah the Lanka is saying, that conceptualizing “like this, like that” [as in above examples]
are nothing but illusory projections of one’s own mind, ofcourse keeping in mind that all the expedient skills expounded by the Blessed one(s) are not born from conceptualisation.
So discard them only when the purpose of them is truly served.
Just farting and talking to myself here.
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Linda Anderson on Mon Jul 22, 2013 5:39 am

Fuki,
I'm not sure what I mean either.... this is my impression. I'm sure 30 years in Chile might help to clarify it. But, I started off far away from concepts... "abiding nowhere, let the self arise". So far, so good... not a hint of the concept thingy.

By the time my feet reached the floor, I'm sobering up (that's the picture I'm painting) .... that's when my ego self is re-formulating itself for another day and the concept thingy is a sort-of reality, I'm seeing that this is not something for everyone... self-cherishing can't abide nowhere!! OMG, no! It can't.... no blame here, it just can't. So the abiding nowhere, just won't fly for a while with seekers, nor should it. Perhaps, it's best to take it under your wing until it's ready to fly.

So, why do we, Buddhism, or whatever put so much attention on concept, illusion and suffering when all we have to do is look the other way to space and freedom. To look at concept and illusion is to give it reality when there is none.... why?? Why don't we trust the basic goodness of ppl????????????????????
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby fukasetsu on Mon Jul 22, 2013 5:57 am

Linda Anderson wrote:Fuki,
I'm not sure what I mean either.... this is my impression. I'm sure 30 years in Chile might help to clarify it. But, I started off far away from concepts... "abiding nowhere, let the self arise". So far, so good... not a hint of the concept thingy.

I know intuitively what you mean, I just have no words for it at the moment.
something like: "patiently abiding in the uncreate" [tao of sudden enightenment]
or in the Unarising.... between the arisen, manifest, something :lol2:

By the time my feet reached the floor, I'm sobering up (that's the picture I'm painting) .... that's when my ego self is re-formulating itself for another day and the concept thingy is a sort-of reality, I'm seeing that this is not something for everyone... self-cherishing can't abide nowhere!! OMG, no! It can't.... no blame here, it just can't. So the abiding nowhere, just won't fly for a while with seekers, nor should it. Perhaps, it's best to take it under your wing until it's ready to fly.

the sobering up part, it refreshes itself constantly, because it is false.
abiding nowhere [in particular] is abiding in the "beingness" and that's as far as the mind can "reach"
the beyond will take a hold of you, no effort here is applicable, nor "practise"
I think I know what you're referring to, just not very related to this section of the Lanka [in a way]
+ much of what I would like to say would be "Un-Buddhist" so yeah.

So, why do we, Buddhism, or whatever put so much attention on concept, illusion and suffering when all we have to do is look the other way to space and freedom. To look at concept and illusion is to give it reality when there is none.... why?? Why don't we trust the basic goodness of ppl????????????????????

I put no attention on the above mentioned, yet the words are skillful pointers.
Ofcourse we don;t give the concept of illusion, or whatever, reality, that's the whole point.
I dunno Linda, ppl to me means behaviour and imagining to occupy a certain volume and point in time.
[i.e. imagining to have been born, have a history, a future etc]
But that's just me talking again, I have friends who sinned like hell, some of them asked me
"why did you stick with me back then when everyone else left me for the things I've done"
my respons is, "you are not your behaviour, I see you for who you are" [something like that]
is that what you mean with the goodness of people?
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Pedestrian on Mon Jul 22, 2013 1:37 pm

fukasetsu and Linda, thanks for this dialogue!
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Linda Anderson on Mon Jul 22, 2013 3:51 pm

Fuki,
yes, that is what I mean about goodness in ppl.
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