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Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Sun Sep 20, 2015 9:57 pm

This is from my most recent blog post An excerpt from the "Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle"

Presented below is a translation that I completed this weekend from a section of the Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle (a.k.a. The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana; Skt. Mahayana-Sraddhotpada Shastra; Ch. 大乘起信論 Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lun). I'm using the Chinese translation by Paramartha (C.E. 498-569) from the Sanskrit found in Taisho Tripitaka Vol. 32, No. 1666. It was also translated by Siskananda in Taisho Tripitaka Vol. 32, No. 1667. The Sanskrit text is no longer extant.

Without going into the details, I will say that I do not accept the tendency of modern academic views to claim that Paramartha actually wrote it in Sanskrit, attributed it to Asvagosha (As'vagos.a), and then passed it off as something he was translating. This is just a defamation of Paramartha. D.T. Suzuki says, "While [Asvaghosa] may not have been the author of this most important treatise of Mahayana philosophy, there was surely a great Buddhist mind, who, inspired by the same spirit which pervades the Lanka, the Avatamsaka, the Parinirvana, etc., poured out his thoughts in The Awakening." (From the Introduction to The Lankavatara Sutra, by D.T. Suzuki, p. xxxix.) While it is quite possible that the attribution to Ashvagosha was legendary as it came down in the version that Paramartha was translating, I do not accept that Paramartha would have invented it on his own and foisted it off as another's. Indeed, Paramartha, along with Kumarajiva and Bodhidharma, has been named one of the three monk-scholars from India who "stand indisputably highest in Chinese estimation." (Buddhist Monks and Monastaries of India, by Sukumar Dutt, p. 303.) Whether or not Asvaghosa authored the Discourse, since Paramartha did publish other works that he had written under his own name, there is no good reason to believe he would not also publish this work under his own name if he had written it.

I also agree with D.T. Suzuki's view that the Discourse should not be confused as a Yogacara text and instead is essentially an outline or systematic presentation of the teaching of the Lankavatara Sutra. (Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra, D.T. Suzuki, p. 182.) As Suzuki notes, the teachings of the Lankavatara and the "Awakening of Faith" are in line with the perspective of the One Vehicle (Ekayana) school that Bodhidharma brought from Southern India and are also associated with the Avtamsaka (Flower Garland, Huayen) and Mahayana Parinirvana Sutras.

This translated section highlights the foundational teaching of "no-thought" which has been a crucial teaching of Zen since the Sixth Ancestor Huineng and thus shows the Zen manner of discourse to be well rooted in the sutras and treatises.

This section addresses the difficult, yet critical, issue of how our original-enlightenment (本覺. a.k.a. root-enlightenment) shared by all beings must be activated by an originating-enlightenment (始覺) of our own realization. Zen students will immediately recognize this as the fundamental koan question at the root of Zen master Dogen's personal quest that took him to China.

The analysis begins with the first distinction between enlightenment and non-enlightenment. Each of us has the original-enlightenment of the Tathagata (Buddha) in our own mind, but because of our non-enlightened ways of thinking using polarized and dualistic conceptualizations (such as "self and other", "me and not me") our original-enlightenment is obscured by our own mind. The Discourse outlines the return of our non-enlightened thinking to its enlightened root by the next distinction between our latent original-enlightenment and its actualization called originating-enlightenment (始覺). Though we all have original enlightenment, we still must initiate or originate that enlightenment to make if actively manifest in our actual life. The next distinction is made by identifying three stages in the activation of originating-enlightenment: (1) resemblance-enlightenment (相似覺), (2) approximate-enlightenment (隨分覺), and (3) ultimate-enlightenment (究竟覺). This is useful, because it helps explain a continuing point of confusion to Western students of Zen and Buddha Dharma, this is, how there are different degrees of enlightenment and that the first openings of enlightenment, while genuine, should not be confused with the final or ultimate enlightenment.

The section concludes by showing that no-thought is the essence of ultimate-enlightenment, and with no-thought we can know for ourselves how the characteristics perceived as the world’s birth, abiding, transforming, and extinction are not other than enlightenment.

Following the practice of other translators, headings are inserted to assist the reader in identifying the sections. The wording of the bracketed headings is taken from the text with as little editing as needed.

Translation:

[The Gate of the Mind’s Birth and Extinction]

That which is the mind’s birth and extinction depends on the Inner Tathagata (tathagatagarbha), and for that reason there is the mind of birth and extinction that is designated as the unborn and the unextinguished, together with the unified harmony of birth and extinction, neither one nor different, and is called the activity of the Storehouse Consciousness (alayavijnana).

[Birth and Extinction as the Activity of the Storehouse Consciousness]

This consciousness has two kinds of meaning: the capability of containing all things (i.e., the aspect of alaya) and giving birth to all things (i.e., the aspect of garbha). What are said for the two?
That which is first is the meaning of enlightenment.
That which is second is the meaning of non-enlightenment.

[A. Wherein is Declared the Meaning of Enlightenment]

[1. The Original-Enlightenment of the Dharmakaya]

That which is actually declared the meaning of enlightenment designates the essence of mind free from thought. That which is the characteristic of “free from thought” is equal to the realm of space, and there is nowhere that it is not everywhere. The oneness of the Dharma-realm is exactly the Tathagata’s universal Dharma-body. On this basis, the Dharma-body is articulated and called “original-enlightenment.”
Because why?

[2. Original-enlightenment in activation]
[(a) The Meaning of Original-Enlightenment Depends on Originating-Enlightenment]

That which is the meaning of original-enlightenment is paired with the articulation of the meaning of originating-enlightenment, and by this means, that which is originating-enlightenment is exactly the same as original-enlightenment.

[(b) The Meaning of Originating-Enlightenment Depends on Original Enlightenment]

That which is the meaning of originating-enlightenment is because it depends on original-enlightenment, and then (yet/nevertheless) there is non-enlightenment. Because it depends on non-enlightenment to be articulated, there is originating-enlightenment.

Again, by means of enlightenment, the fountainhead of mind is therefore called ultimate-enlightenment, and by non-enlightenment, the fountainhead of mind therefore isn’t ultimate enlightenment.

Why is this meaning stated? Because by such enlightenment, the common people know their prior thinking aroused evil and they are able to stop subsequent thinking by directing that these [evil thoughts] do not arise. Because even though it is repeatedly called enlightenment, actually it is non-enlightenment.

Like the two vehicles’ wisdom from contemplation (i.e., vipassanya) and the idea that first blossoms into the ranks of the bodhisattvas (i.e., bodhicitta), the enlightenment with the characteristics of the difference of thoughts and the non-difference of thoughts, because it uses renouncing the crude parts of attachment to the discrimination of characteristics, is called the resemblance-enlightenment.

Like the ranks of the Dharmakaya bodhisattvas, the enlightenment with the characteristics of the abiding of thought and the non-abiding of thought, because it uses being free from the discriminations of the characteristics of coarse thinking, is called the approximate-enlightenment.

Like the Bodhisattva stage corresponding to the fulfillment of expedient means in a single thought, the enlightenment with the characteristics of the beginning mind arousing the beginningless mind, because it uses being far removed from the subtlest of thoughts and is able to perceive the nature of mind, the mind that is exactly always abiding, is called ultimate-enlightenment.

For this reason, the sutra articulates, “Because, in the multitude of beings, if there are those who are able to contemplate no-thought, accordingly they become turned toward Buddha-wisdom.”

Furthermore, as to that which arises in mind, there does not exist a beginning characteristic that can be known, and yet that which is declared ‘knowing the beginning characteristic’ exactly designates no-thought. For this reason, all the multitude of beings are not called being enlightened, because by following the continuity of thought after thought coming from the root, they have never been free from thought and articulate beginningless ignorance.

If those who gain no-thought consequently know the mind’s characteristics of birth, abiding, transforming, and extinction, because they use the rank of no-thought, then truly there is no existence of difference from originating-enlightenment. Since the four characteristics [of birth, abiding, transforming, and extinction] are simultaneous, then there is in each and every case no standing on their own, and because they equally and universally come from the root, they are one and the same with enlightenment.
Why you do not understand is because the three carts were provisional for former times, and because the One Vehicle is true for the present time. ~ Zen Master 6th Ancestor Huineng
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby Seeker242 on Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:23 am

Good post. Thanks! :Thumb: :)
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby chankin1937 on Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:36 pm

Hello Gregory Wonderwheel
,First may I thank you for your erudite post.
I’ve read it a couple of times and I must admit I found Paramartha's message hard to understand in places.

Regarding the following:
“This consciousness has two kinds of meaning: the capability of containing all things (i.e., the aspect of alaya) and giving birth to all things (i.e., the aspect of garbha). What are said for the two?
That which is first is the meaning of enlightenment.
That which is second is the meaning of non-enlightenment.”


To me it seems to mean that we have awareness and if that is isolated from thoughts regarding all internal and external things, we experience a state of mind which can legitimately be called enlightenment.

Which is reinforced lower down by:

“That which is actually declared the meaning of enlightenment designates the essence of mind free from thought.”

From here on it gets difficult. Do you think there might have been later tampering with the original?

Consider this:
“Again, by means of enlightenment, the fountainhead of mind is therefore called ultimate-enlightenment, and by non-enlightenment, the fountainhead of mind therefore isn’t ultimate enlightenment.”

Surely the “fountainhead of mind” (awareness?) can only be one or the other.

From here. the document seems overcomplicated in dividing enlightenment into three kinds. They all seem to require the same conditions to me – freedom from thinking – pure awareness.

However, All becomes clearer in the final sections:

“Like the Bodhisattva stage corresponding to the fulfilment of expedient means in a single thought, the enlightenment with the characteristics of the beginning mind arousing the beginningless mind, because it uses being far removed from the subtlest of thoughts and is able to perceive the nature of mind, the mind that is exactly always abiding, is called ultimate-enlightenment. “

For “mind” I would substitute “awareness”. Although one cannot be separated from the other!

“For this reason, the sutra articulates, "Because, in the multitude of beings, if there are those who are able to contemplate no-thought, accordingly they become turned toward Buddha-wisdom."”

Is “no-thought” absence of thought?

“Furthermore, as to that which arises in mind, there does not exist a beginning characteristic that can be known,"

Our habit of obssessive thinking hides familiarity with pure awareness.

" and yet that which is declared ‘knowing the beginning characteristic’ exactly designates no-thought."

Therefore pure awareness (the beginning characteristic) is "no-thought"..

" For this reason, all the multitude of beings are not called being enlightened, because by following the continuity of thought after thought coming from the root, they have never been free from thought and articulate beginningless ignorance.”

What are your thoughts on the message left us by Paramartha?
Colin
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby desert_woodworker on Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:12 pm

Gregory,

The attribution question continues to be an interesting one. This morning I am reminded of the funny little quip perpetrated (and now here repeated by me... ) on the same sort of issue, this time having to do with the authorship of the plays of Shakespeare. To wit:

"The plays of Shakespeare were either written by Shakespeare, or by somebody else of the same name."

;)

--Joe
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby desert_woodworker on Mon Sep 21, 2015 4:36 pm

Gregory,

Just a note.

I enjoy the translation by Prof. Hakeda, at my alma mater.

At the start of the section you post, Hakeda inserts a parenthetical clarification which even early-on has always been of help to me, in practice, daily-life, and in intellectual understanding of certain Buddhist issues. To quote Hakeda:

"The Mind as phenomena (samsara) is grounded on the Tathagatha-garbha."

I find the word "samsara" useful, there. To equivalence "Mind as phenomena" (birth and death) and "samsara" has been helpful. Whereas, the direct translation of the Sanskrit "samsara" is only "journeying". Maybe the "journeying" is endlessly and fruitlessly and painfully "around-in-circles", though, or like those of the Prodigal Son, while still away from Home. ;)

(I knew Hakeda a little in the late 1970s. He was basically a Japanese Pure-Land practitioner, and he told me a little about a "Full-Moon Meditation" practice that he had. I don't think that it meant that he practiced only once per month, though! He was a small, compact man, with brilliant eyes, and a warm, ready smile. He taught many students at Columbia, and I've heard his students loved him. I came to be introduced to him through my friend Dan Stevenson, who was a Buddhist Studies PhD student in Hakeda's department at the time. Dan's since become a Prof. of Religious studies at University of Kansas).

--Joe
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby Humbaba on Mon Sep 21, 2015 8:46 pm

The Awakening of Faith used to be attributed to Asvagosha. I'm not concerned about its authorship, and I only have the English text that was translated and published by The Shrine Widsom, Surrey, UK, in 1964.

In the introductory section it describes how the Brahmin Asvagosha was beaten in a public dispute by the Buddhist Sage Punyayasas. Instead of having to cut out his own tongue as was customary in those days, Asvagosha became the Buddhist's disciple. Asvagosha is supposed to be one of the founders of Mahayana.

The Shrine Wisdom isn't great on footnotes and I have no idea where this story comes from. Is this related in other publications?
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:53 pm

Humbaba wrote:The Awakening of Faith used to be attributed to Asvagosha. I'm not concerned about its authorship, and I only have the English text that was translated and published by The Shrine Widsom, Surrey, UK, in 1964.

In the introductory section it describes how the Brahmin Asvagosha was beaten in a public dispute by the Buddhist Sage Punyayasas. Instead of having to cut out his own tongue as was customary in those days, Asvagosha became the Buddhist's disciple. Asvagosha is supposed to be one of the founders of Mahayana.

The Shrine Wisdom isn't great on footnotes and I have no idea where this story comes from. Is this related in other publications?


I have never seen it, but that version by The Shrine of Wisdom publishing series of the Fintry Trust has omissions according to this entry from Oxford Biographies, which BTW is a good overview of what's available about the text.

Shrine of Wisdom. The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana. Fintry, Surrey, UK: The Shrine of Wisdom, 1964.

Translation with four short introductory essays produced by small group of Neoplatonist perennialists. Many omissions. Though informed for its time, it remains a popular rather than scholarly work, being noticeably informed by translators’ Plotinian philosophy. First published serially in The Shrine of Wisdom in 1929–1930. Not widely available.


I've read the translations by Richard, Suzuki, Goddard & Wai-Tao (in Goddard's A Buddhist Bible, 1994 Ed.), and Hakeda. Of these, Hakeda's translation is by far the better. The Richard and Suzuki version were written over 100 years ago. Richard was translating from a Christian perspective and called it an Asiatic version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and Suzuki was making one of his very first translations for a dual Christian and philosophical audience, so his version has termss like "soul" and "enlightenment a priori" that seem very odd today. Goddard's version suffers from his over exuberance in trying to popularize the text.

This overview, also form the Oxford entry, seems accurate.
Western-Language Translations

Suzuki 1900 was the first publication of a Western translation of the Awakening of Faith, and it remains the only one to be based on the Śikṣānanda version of the text. Richard 1961, Wai-Tao 1994, and Shrine of Wisdom 1964 are early efforts at translating the text in a nonscholarly, popularizing way for religious purposes, and are now of strictly historical interest. Hakeda 2006 is the most successful English translation to date, and Girard 2004, in French, is now the best Western-language translation for scholarly purposes.


I've seen excerpts of the Discourse by Peter Gregory in other works, like his Tsung-mi and the Sinification of Buddhism , but I haven't seen a translation of the whole text by him.

As for Asvaghosa's biography, this is of course woven in legends. We should remember that people living as recently as Davy Crockett who served in the US Congress, had legends about them killing bears at the age of 3. We don't know how many Asvaghosa there were, but as with Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu, there were more than one. Some observers say there were at least three different authors known as Asvaghosa who appeared, respectively, approximately 300, 400 and 500-600 years after the Buddha's parinirvana. The last in time, around the 1st century C.E., is the putative author of this Mahayana-Sraddhotpada Shastra. If Asvaghosa was the author, then indeed, he deserves credit as one of the great organizers of the Mahayana. Regardless of whether Asvaghosa wrote it, or another great Bodhisattva-Acarya of the formation period of the Mahayana (100 B.C.E to 300 C.E.) using Asvaghosa as a "prestige name", the work is undoubtedly of great significance.

As for the question about the Asvaghosa story, in the Zen lineages, Asvaghosa is considered our 12th Ancestor after Shakyamuni Buddha and the Dharma heir of the Punyayashas, the 11th Ancestor. Without worrying about the literalness of the lineage, this indicates the high regard that Zen has in tracing its lineage of roots through Asvaghosa. The Zen version of the story is that when Asvaghosa met Punyayashas, Asvaghosa asked "I wish to know Buddha. What exactly is the essence of it?" Punyayashas replied, "You wish to know Buddha, but the one who does not know is it." After a few more words to clarify the point Asvaghosa awakened. If the two stories fit together, it would be that this is the exchange that happened upon their first meeting after Asvaghosa lost their debate and he became Punyayashas' disciple.

_/|\_
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Why you do not understand is because the three carts were provisional for former times, and because the One Vehicle is true for the present time. ~ Zen Master 6th Ancestor Huineng
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:14 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:Gregory,

The attribution question continues to be an interesting one. This morning I am reminded of the funny little quip perpetrated (and now here repeated by me... ) on the same sort of issue, this time having to do with the authorship of the plays of Shakespeare. To wit:

"The plays of Shakespeare were either written by Shakespeare, or by somebody else of the same name."

;)

--Joe


Yes, and if Asvaghosa or Paramartha were alive to day I bet they would echo Yogi Berra's saying "I really didn't say everything I said."

_/|\_
Gregory
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby chankin1937 on Thu Sep 24, 2015 11:47 am

Hello All,
I’ve read through some of the translations posted in this topic and have noticed a general trend.
The insistence that all thoughts are errors and delusional.
In my experience thoughts are very useful in solving our problems and satisfying out appetites.
It seems that these early philosophers were trying to rationalise the fact that the enlightened mind contains no thoughts. Such a mind is simply aware of the fact that, once empty of thoughts, it has filled with bliss.
This makes thoughts redundant in the enlightened mind but should not invalidate their usefulness in everyday life nor make the world we live in a delusion.
The reason why we abstain from CMA in meditation is because we are using the psychology of the common human goal to experience extremes of what is conventionally called happiness – profound peace of mind.
Thinking is not wrong or delusional, it just plays no part in our being happy and, in meditation, our experiencing pure awareness – nirvana.
CMA is the invaluable tool our awareness uses to solve our problems etc. but once it has fulfilled its role, that tool can be temporarily laid aside. What is then revealed is beyond belief in every sense of the phrase.
Colin
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby Humbaba on Thu Sep 24, 2015 3:11 pm

Hi Gregory, thanks for your expert reply.

Gregory Wonderwheel wrote:Richard was translating from a Christian perspective and called it an Asiatic version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and Suzuki was making one of his very first translations for a dual Christian and philosophical audience, so his version has termss like "soul" and "enlightenment a priori" that seem very odd today.


I think that probably also applies to the Shrine of Wisdom translation. It isn't easy to compare because the chapter headings are all different and the translations differ greatly, but the first translated passage in your OP:

"[The Gate of the Mind’s Birth and Extinction]

That which is the mind’s birth and extinction depends on the Inner Tathagata (tathagatagarbha), and for that reason there is the mind of birth and extinction that is designated as the unborn and the unextinguished, together with the unified harmony of birth and extinction, neither one nor different, and is called the activity of the Storehouse Consciousness (alayavijnana). "

is rendered as:

"(b) The Soul as one with Samsara

The Soul coming into manifestation is said to be born from the Womb of Tathagata, who thus unites the immortal with the mortal. These are neither identical nor separate.

This objectifies the storehouse of mind, Alaya-vinjnana, which has a twofold significance - as that which orders, and that which creates all things; and through these principles the attainment of infinite enlightenment and finite enlightenment may be realized."

Thanks also for the link to the Hakeda translation. Do you happen to know if the French translation is available online? And do you have a link to a Chinese version of the text? Comparing with the Chinese would be something to do for the coming winter evenings.

The Zen version of the story is that when Asvaghosa met Punyayashas, Asvaghosa asked "I wish to know Buddha. What exactly is the essence of it?" Punyayashas replied, "You wish to know Buddha, but the one who does not know is it." After a few more words to clarify the point Asvaghosa awakened. If the two stories fit together, it would be that this is the exchange that happened upon their first meeting after Asvaghosa lost their debate and he became Punyayashas' disciple.


In the Shrine of Wisdom edition introduction, this episode is related as follows:

"The disputants appeared upon a raised platform, and Asvaghosha was so confident of his powers that he proposed that the loser in the debate should cut out his own tongue, but Punyayasas suggested that the loser should become the disciple of the other side, which was agreed.

Amid a deep silence Punyayasas posed the first question, which was also the last, "What shall we do in order to keep the kingdom in perfect peace, to ensure long life for the king, to let the people enjoy abundance and prosperity, freed from evils and catastrophes?"

Asvaghosha had not yet learned to relate his principles fully to the essential affairs of life, and was therefore overwhelmed by this question; so, admitting defeat, he became the disciple of the other. Punyayasas trained him in all the intricacies of philosophical Buddhism, of which he became one of the greatest teachers, even surpassing his master."

This always appealed to me.
In Buddhism, there seems to be something for every taste ;-)
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Thu Sep 24, 2015 9:00 pm

I find comparing versions to be very helpful and illuminating.

desert_woodworker wrote:"The Mind as phenomena (samsara) is grounded on the Tathagatha-garbha."

I find the word "samsara" useful, there. To equivalence "Mind as phenomena" (birth and death) and "samsara" has been helpful.


Hakeda translates translates “birth and extinction” 生滅 as “phenomena (samsara)” and so he translates 心生滅 as “the Mind as phenomena (samsara).” I think it would have been better if he had translated it as “the Mind as samsara (birth and death)” and left the term “phenomena” out of it. Sometimes “dharma” 法 is translated as “phenomena” when it means “things.” That’s bit of a reach to me, however translating “birth and extinction” as “phenomena” seems way too much of a reach to me. It is our birth and extinction that is the crux of the matter being discussed here and the term “phenomena” is too objectifying and externalizing, too philosophical for my tastes.

desert_woodworker wrote:Whereas, the direct translation of the Sanskrit "samsara" is only "journeying". Maybe the "journeying" is endlessly and fruitlessly and painfully "around-in-circles", though, or like those of the Prodigal Son, while still away from Home. ;)


I like that, especially with the “while still away from Home” part. The Discourse on Arousing Confidence is all about the return home while not separating from the world’s four characteristics of birth, abiding, transforming, and extinction and our seeing with no-thought that these four characteristics are truly not different from our own realization of originating-enlightenment. We go around in circles in birth and death as long as we objectify our birth and death, and we are free from the journey of samsara when we get our own realization when we return home as prodigal sons and daughters of the Tathagata and realize and actualize our original enlightenment.

chankin1937 wrote:Regarding the following:
“This consciousness has two kinds of meaning: the capability of containing all things (i.e., the aspect of alaya) and giving birth to all things (i.e., the aspect of garbha). What are said for the two?
That which is first is the meaning of enlightenment.
That which is second is the meaning of non-enlightenment.”


To me it seems to mean that we have awareness and if that is isolated from thoughts regarding all internal and external things, we experience a state of mind which can legitimately be called enlightenment.

Which is reinforced lower down by:

“That which is actually declared the meaning of enlightenment designates the essence of mind free from thought.”


We should recollect at all times that “free from thought” and “no-thought” do not mean absence of thought. The 8th consciousness has the alaya aspect and the garbha aspect, so it is sometimes called alaya-vijnana, the storehouse consciousness, and some times called the Tathagata-garbha, the womb of Tathagata.
The Tathagata as “birth-giver” gives birth to non-enlightenment by functioning as the 7th and 6th consciousnesses with their resulting bifurcated conceptions such as “internal” and “external.”
Our awareness doesn’t need to “isolate” itself from the false categories of inner and external things, but just to free itself from fixation on misidentifying “things” in the first place and then labeling the misidentified things as “internal” and “external” in the second place. Turning the light of awareness around to pierce the veil of such bifurcated and polarized thinking can indeed seem like isolating awareness from thoughts, but the nuance is important because every time we conceptualize the turning around of awareness as isolating from thoughts we are once again entangling awareness in the very thoughts we would isolate from. This is the same reason that we don’t “seek” for a Buddha outside our own mind and don’t search for a Buddha within our mind. Mind is Buddha. And yet…. the sense of seeking is absolutely necessary for arousing the bodhicitta and our confidence and faith in mind.

chankin1937 wrote:Consider this:
“Again, by means of enlightenment, the fountainhead of mind is therefore called ultimate-enlightenment, and by non-enlightenment, the fountainhead of mind therefore isn’t ultimate enlightenment.”

Surely the “fountainhead of mind” (awareness?) can only be one or the other.

From here. the document seems overcomplicated in dividing enlightenment into three kinds. They all seem to require the same conditions to me – freedom from thinking – pure awareness.


“Can only be one or the other” is exactly the expression of our bifurcated conceptualization process of the manas (7th) and mano-vijnana (6th) folds of consciousness interacting to construct a polarized universe. The “fountainhead (source, origin, etc.) of mind” is a term of art for turning around our bifurcated dualistic frame of reference (this frame is the veil between the 7th and 8th folds of consciousness) to directly penetrate into the 8th consciousness which is NOT bifurcated, therefore, it is not subject to such categorization as “only one or the other.”

The full wonder and brilliance of this Discourse is to show exactly this, that the fountainhead of mind is the one and the same fountainhead that sometimes manifests as ultimate enlightenment and sometimes manifests as not ultimate enlightenment, i.e., as non-enlightenment, delusion, or ignorance.

The point of speaking of the three stages or aspects of the development of enlightenment is also very important because it deals directly with the issues that have come up over and over again in Western Zen sanghas about the misconception of enlightenment as a “one size fits all” phenomenon or that the enlightenment of all enlightened teachers is the same. Its not over complication; it is accurate description.

Yes, some people say “Don’t over complicate things by telling me how the car engine works. Just tell me where to insert the key.” But some knowledge about the engine and the gauges is necessary to know why the car doesn’t start when it is out of gas or has a dead battery. Likewise, knowing about the way that enlightenment originates through the three developmental stages is a relatively simple way of reminding us to not take our initial opening of kensho as what enlightenment is all about. Some people will go to a sesshin and have an initial opening of kensho and think that is ultimate enlightenment, when it is only the resemblance-enlightenment or the approximate-enlightenment, not the ultimate-enlightenment.

And we need to remember that “pure awareness” does not mean an awareness that is not impure. There is a true purity and a false purity. True purity is the purity that transcends the duality of “purity and impurity” and in doing so transcends even the need to call it “true purity.” The true pure awareness does not abide in purity, and does not even abide in the concept of its non-abiding in purity. The non-abiding and the non-conceiving of even the concept of non-abiding is being free form thinking.


chankin1937 wrote:“For this reason, the sutra articulates, "Because, in the multitude of beings, if there are those who are able to contemplate no-thought, accordingly they become turned toward Buddha-wisdom."”

Is “no-thought” absence of thought?


As stated above, no-thought does not mean the absence of thought.

To contemplate or introspect no-thought is another way of saying “turn the light around,” or “take the backward step” which are all ways of referring to the technical Sanskrit term paravritti that is the crux of the Lankavatara Sutra. When consciousness functions in a manner called the “out flowing” it is called “pravrtti”, e-volving or turning out or onward. When consciousness turns around from the out flows of its duality structures and functions, this is called “paravritti”, re-volving or turning back. “No-thought” means to turn away from faith or confidence in duality and dualistic frames of reference and turn toward the fountainhead of thought that is true suchness.

_/|\_
Gregory
Why you do not understand is because the three carts were provisional for former times, and because the One Vehicle is true for the present time. ~ Zen Master 6th Ancestor Huineng
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Thu Sep 24, 2015 9:32 pm

chankin1937 wrote:Hello All,
I’ve read through some of the translations posted in this topic and have noticed a general trend.
The insistence that all thoughts are errors and delusional.

I see how one could think that, but that is not what is being insisted.
The insistence is that thinking is the constructive activity of consciousness that does its building based on polarizing our awareness, thus our usual thinking is dualistic thinking. Then when we inhabit these thought structures, the mental fabrications, these palaces of polarization, we believe they are reality. It is this fixed belief in the reality of our bifurcated conceptualizations that is called the error and delusional thinking.

chankin1937 wrote:In my experience thoughts are very useful in solving our problems and satisfying out appetites.


That is true at one level; the level of constructed reality. But when we get down to the nitty gritty, it is not thinking that solves the major or essential problems of life, and certainly, thinking does not fully satisfy our appetites because the satiation is fleeting and the appetite reappears. Even the major problems of physics are often solved not by thinking but by the non-thinking mind's processes such as dreams.

chankin1937 wrote:It seems that these early philosophers were trying to rationalise the fact that the enlightened mind contains no thoughts. Such a mind is simply aware of the fact that, once empty of thoughts, it has filled with bliss.


I'm not sure who you are calling "these early philosophers." Today the term philosopher is very ambiguous. The authors of the Buddhist scriptures, treatises, and discourses were not "philosophers" in the modern sense of the word. They were practitioners of the way of awakening. They were not rationalizing anything. They were articulating their insights into the reality of birth and death.

The enlightened mind contains all thoughts precisely because it knows no-thought.
While bliss is an aspect of the enlightening mind, bliss is not something that fills an emptiness created by an emptying of thoughts. Thoughts can't be emptied from a living being for more than the time between thoughts. To empty the mind of thoughts is not the practice of the way of the Buddha. Many people have mistaken the bliss of the emptying of the mind of thoughts and perceptions, and even of non-perception as enlightenment, but it is not so.

chankin1937 wrote:This makes thoughts redundant in the enlightened mind but should not invalidate their usefulness in everyday life nor make the world we live in a delusion.

Thoughts are the activity of the enlightened mind when they are not fixated by dualism, while thoughts are the activity of the non-enlightened mind when they are fixated by dualism. Same mind. The usefulness of dualistic thinking is based on the dualistic definition of "usefulness," so it is a truth by definition. But fixating on any particular definition is also by definition a delusion.

chankin1937 wrote:The reason why we abstain from CMA in meditation is because we are using the psychology of the common human goal to experience extremes of what is conventionally called happiness – profound peace of mind.
Thinking is not wrong or delusional, it just plays no part in our being happy and, in meditation, our experiencing pure awareness – nirvana.
CMA is the invaluable tool our awareness uses to solve our problems etc. but once it has fulfilled its role, that tool can be temporarily laid aside. What is then revealed is beyond belief in every sense of the phrase.
Colin


LOL! I found a lot of interesting meanings for "CMA" such as Cow Milk Allergy and Crystal Meth Anonymous, but I don't know what it means here.

_/|\_
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Why you do not understand is because the three carts were provisional for former times, and because the One Vehicle is true for the present time. ~ Zen Master 6th Ancestor Huineng
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby chankin1937 on Fri Sep 25, 2015 11:51 am

Hello Gregory Wonderwheel,
I Apologise. I assumed that having read any of my previous post you would be familiar with the contraction which is obviously a gross overestimation of my influence on this forum.
Thanks for your comprehensive reiteration of the translated work you posted earlier but it would be more easily comprehended by English speakers if you would use the accepted English translations of the foreign words you use. No offence intended: it would just make it so much easier to read.

CMA is conscious mental activity. It is the perception, accumulation, recall and association of data and the direction of action. It was an attempt to gather into one phrase the panoply of actions available to our awareness. It is all thinking, all imagining, all the activities the awareness (called our original mind) can undertake.

Once we can abstain from CMA we have a mind empty of thoughts and full of bliss. Not because thoughts are errors or delusional nor because the world we live in is an illusion but because the psychology of the common human goal dictates that it be so. (I assume you haven’t read that either.)

1/ Solving problems and satisfying appetites demands efficient use of conscious mental activity. (CMA) We must think to survive.
2/ Once the problems are solved etc. CMA has completed its invaluable role and (ideally) we abstain from further using it, for the time being. Let it go.
3/ Simultaneously once our problems are solved etc. we feel content, fulfilled, happy.
4/ From 2/ and 3/ it becomes apparent that a reduction in CMA actually produces a feeling of happiness.
5/ It follows that practicing abstaining from CMA will produce higher and higher degrees of the feeling .
6/ To get our just and proper reward for our successful actions we must confine CMA to its specific role.
That is what the Buddha meant when he said:
Nirvana (profound peace-of-mind)is the extinction of dukkha.(obsessive thinking - random and habitual CMA)

If the entire history of the Earth is represented by a clock face, man appeared in the last minutes of one rotation. Our world does not depend on our viewing it in any sense. It exists independently of us and is very real. Our perception of it depends on its physical properties and the biology of our viewing apparatus - both of which are fixed entities and cannot be changed by the viewer – our awareness.

The reason why we abstain from CMA in meditation is because we are using the psychology of the common human goal to experience extremes of what is conventionally called happiness – profound peace of mind.
Thinking is not wrong or delusional, it just plays no part in our being happy, nor – more importantly - in meditation.
CMA is the invaluable tool our awareness uses to solve our problems etc. but once it has fulfilled its role, that tool can be temporarily laid aside. What is then revealed is beyond belief in every sense of the phrase.

P.S. The philosophers I referred to were the writers of the Sutras and other religious texts. They are in some respects the Flat Earthers of our past. Perhaps its time to move on to a new more logical understanding.

And if you agree with any of that, I’ll eat my hat! :)
Colin
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby desert_woodworker on Fri Sep 25, 2015 6:47 pm

Colin,

chankin1937 wrote: Perhaps its time to move on to a new more logical understanding.

Direct-intuition is still the best Human technology in the endeavor of awakening and realization.

Words, logic, etc., can be goads, but they are not the practice(s) which transmute consciousness.

There's no "moving on"; and, there's no where to move to. Zen Buddhist practice is to enable us to see where we stand -- truly stand -- and have always stood, ...but hadn't realized it until practice enabled the sudden uncovering of it, ...the (empty, yet) full-featured state of our Original Face.

Hail!

--Joe
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby Caodemarte on Sat Sep 26, 2015 1:36 am

Thanks Gregory for all you work!
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby chankin1937 on Sat Sep 26, 2015 3:06 pm

chankin1937 wrote: Perhaps its time to move on to a new more logical understanding.


Joe wrote:Direct-intuition is still the best Human technology in the endeavor of awakening and realization
Words, logic, etc., can be goads, but they are not the practice(s) which transmute consciousness.


That’s true, but we are talking about the translation by Gregory Wonderwheel of a section of the Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle.which contains plenty of “words, logic, etc.”

The logic in it is spurious. The world is real, all thoughts are not errors and delusional.
We don’t abstain from conscious mental activity (CMA) in meditation because it is wrong or illusional, we abstain because in creatures with our sort of central nervous system once CMA has done its job of solving our problems and satisfying out appetites etc. we (ideally) let it go – it has fulfilled its role - we feel happy. That is why abstaining from CMA directly produces feelings of contentment and peace-of mind. We practice letting our thoughts melt away in meditation and experience high degrees of that very same peace of mind.

Explanations may change, but as you rightly confirm, practice does not.
That has been fixed for over four thousand years - at least.

There's no "moving on"; and, there's no where to move to. Zen Buddhist practice is to enable us to see where we stand -- truly stand -- and have always stood, ...but hadn't realized it until practice enabled the sudden uncovering of it, ...the (empty, yet) full-featured state of our Original Face.


Practice gives us access to the common human goal – profound peace of mind.
It puts us in touch with pure awareness unburdened by CMA – the bliss so often mentioned by the Zen Masters..
Such access is not intuitive, we have to learn how to acquire it. We have to learn how to break free from the tyranny of obsessive thinking and random and habitual thought.
Colin
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby desert_woodworker on Sat Sep 26, 2015 3:45 pm

Colin,

chankin1937 wrote:
chankin1937 wrote: Perhaps its time to move on to a new more logical understanding.

Joe wrote: Direct-intuition is still the best Human technology in the endeavor of awakening and realization
Words, logic, etc., can be goads, but they are not the practice(s) which transmute consciousness.

That’s true, but we are talking about the translation by Gregory Wonderwheel of a section of the Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle.which contains plenty of “words, logic, etc.”

Err-r, no, Colin. YOU were talking about an aspiration you have to characterize practice of some sort in ways that you think would make that practice more palatable for people of the current day to undertake.

I chimed-in to indicate that Zen Buddhists already do it well, when characterizing Zen Buddhist practice, and offering it for those who are, say, "ready for it".

The goads and words and logic are entirely different from the practices which actually serve to transform body-and-mind. This is why I say that the state of things is in good shape, in the form of the practices that Zen Buddhists have worked-out over centuries, and in the way of teaching and relating as a sangha that Zen Buddhists have transmitted down the generations. It's for people of the present day to master all that's been transmitted, before presuming to change anything. And, again, for awakening, direct-intuition (experience) is simply the way it happens, the way it works, the way the miracle transpires. Anyway, logic has no force, there. It's Human-nature (and Buddha Nature). The way to cajole it to emerge and open is ancient, and fully up to date, ...and becoming more so, one day at a time, in sanghas around the world.

But, nothing new under the Moon!

:Namaste:

--Joe
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby chankin1937 on Sun Sep 27, 2015 12:05 pm

chankin1937 chankin1937 wrote: Perhaps its time to move on to a new more logical understanding.


Joe wrote: Err-r, no, Colin. YOU were talking about an aspiration you have to characterize practice of some sort in ways that you think would make that practice more palatable for people of the current day to undertake.

Hello Joe,
I’m not writing about “practice” which I have already confirmed has been constant for at least four thousand years.

I’m writing about the untenable explanations offered in the work Gregory has translated for us. (Try reading my posts before you put your foot into your mouth.) :)

People need to know that Zen has a rational basis and is relevant (even essential) to all our lives. Telling them they have no self, that the world they visualise is unreal, that thoughts are evil and that there are three kinds of enlightenment does not help.

On the other hand the document does contain gems:
“ This consciousness has two kinds of meaning: the capability of containing all things”
Our awareness
“ and giving birth to all things”
the perceptions we have of those things – all our thoughts.
“What are said for the two?
That which is first is the meaning of enlightenment.”

Pure awareness isolated from those thoughts
“That which is second is the meaning of non-enlightenment.”
Indulging in thinking – conscious mental activity.

My gut feeling is that the original document was written by an enlightened man who knew what he was talking about but has since been “elaborated upon” by those who were less well qualified.
They haven’t done it any favours.

The goads and words and logic are entirely different from the practices which actually serve to transform body-and-mind.


They are telling us what to do and attempting to say why we are doing it. They are succeeding in the first task but falling short in the second.

It's for people of the present day to master all that's been transmitted, before presuming to change anything.


If they can spot contradictions in it that contravene common sense, they are not going to bother.

Colin
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby desert_woodworker on Sun Sep 27, 2015 2:35 pm

Colin,

chankin1937 wrote: People need to know that Zen has a rational basis and is relevant (even essential) to all our lives. Telling them they have no self, that the world they visualise is unreal, that thoughts are evil and that there are three kinds of enlightenment does not help.

I wonder what survey or study you've done to arrive at your conclusion that some such putative body of statements made about Zen Buddhist practice or other Buddhist practice "does not help". I think that's just made-up wind, that you've ...made up. And it does not help.

You mention "Zen" in your first sentence above. There is no Zen. There is, however, Zen Buddhist practice. And there is awakened nature, original mind, original nature, one's original face, Buddha Nature, Emptiness (regarding self-nature), the Absolute, and other ways of phrasing that same "thing", i.e., what's most fundamentally real, which practitioners can awaken-to. But, there is no "Zen", let's be clear, ...and not carelessly mislead or misdirect people.

Your critique of THE AWAKENING OF FAITH IN THE MAHAYANA is quite naive I note. You show yourself hasty to judge, and expressions seem to have to accord with your closed-minded manifesto-mind before you assent that the author has something on the ball (things which you have not experienced). I feel it takes a level of mature, correct, practice to interpret it -- and other expressions -- aright. And, the document can also point up deficiencies in our practice.

But, note: Asvaghosa's document is NOT a prerequisite-"read" for practicing Ch'an or Zen Buddhism. It need not be re-cast in naive language, nor edited to accord with the Naive-Realist scientific perspective. It simply sings a song of appreciation, for those with an ear.

Thus, I myself would say that it's a document of appreciation, not of indoctrination nor proselytization. To me, it's like Hakuin's 'ode' of appreciation to zazen: "Hakuin Zenji's, Song of Zazen". It is like my saying "Hail!", it seems to me.

Note, THE AWAKENING OF FAITH IN THE MAHAYANA was not written by a Ch'an or Zen Buddhist, but instead by someone close to the foundational stages of Mind-Only or Yogacara Buddhism. Ch'an Buddhism has accepted some of the appreciations of Yogacara Buddhism, as well as those of Madhyamika Buddhism, and those two taken together form some of the discursive "philosophy" -- if any! -- of Ch'an-, or Zen-Buddhism. The Yogacara mind-model comprising the Eight Consciousnesses is accepted, and the importance of the Eighth Consciousness itself -- the transformation of the Alaya Vijnana, or "Storehouse"-Consciousness -- in Awakening, is taken as the model of what happens in Awakening, especially where the Alaya consciousness transforms to the Great Mirror-Wisdom (maha-darshana-jnana), ...in awakening.

Prof. Hakeda, in his translation of THE AWAKENING OF FAITH does not include in his title the words, "...IN THE MAHAYANA."

Hakeda notes so interestingly and edifyingly, on p.28:

"It should be noted that the term 'Mahayana' here is not used in the usual sense of the word, that is, Mahayana versus Hinayana. According to the definition given in the discussion immediately following [by Asvaghosha], Mahayana designates Suchness or the Absolute. The title of the text, the AWAKENING OF FAITH IN THE MAHAYANA, should therefore be understood as the 'Awakening of Faith in the Absolute', not in Mahayana Buddhism as distinguished from Hinayana Buddhism."

Gassho, :Namaste:, Prof. Hakeda (1924-1983).

--Joe

(Yoshito Hakeda obituary is here): http://www.nytimes.com/1983/09/01/obitu ... adies.html

ps To me, the most wonderful statement of all in THE AWAKENING OF FAITH, is the very first one:

"The Buddha is the Mind of the sentient being."

(...and, thus, all beings can awaken!, I'd say. And this is thus the reason or cause-for the "Faith" of the work's title).

(some render this same line as:

"The Principle is the Mind of the sentient being."

Or, "The Tathagatha-garbha is the Mind of the sentient being.")
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Re: Discourse on Arousing Confidence in the Great Vehicle

Postby chankin1937 on Mon Sep 28, 2015 11:30 am

Joe,
chankin1937 wrote: People need to know that Zen has a rational basis and is relevant (even essential) to all our lives. Telling them they have no self, that the world they visualise is unreal, that thoughts are evil and that there are three kinds of enlightenment does not help.


Joe wrote: You mention "Zen" in your first sentence above. There is no Zen.


Hello Joe,
Thanks for another “unhelpful” statement.

There is, however, Zen Buddhist practice. And there is awakened nature, original mind, original nature, one's original face, Buddha Nature, Emptiness (regarding self-nature), the Absolute, and other ways of phrasing that same "thing", i.e., what's most fundamentally real, which practitioners can awaken-to.


What’s wrong with calling it what it is? Pure unburdened awareness – free of CMA.

But, there is no "Zen", let's be clear, ...and not carelessly mislead or misdirect people.


I respectfully suggest you take your own advice.

ps To me, the most wonderful statement of all in THE AWAKENING OF FAITH, is the very first one:
"The Buddha is the Mind of the sentient being."
(some render this same line as: "The Principle is the Mind of the sentient being."


What they mean is : We are all aware and we all have the potential to isolate that awareness from its functions (CMA) and experience profound peace-of-mind – the great treasure of Zen.

P.S. If there is no Zen, why are we posting in the Zen Forum?

Colin
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