On Discrimination: The Lankavatara Sutra

The Lankavatara Sutra is one of the greatest sutras of the Buddhist canon and is beloved throughout Thailand. It deals with discrimination – vivek, in sanskrit – the capacity to tell the difference between conditional and unconditional reality, Here’s an excerpt:

As you review the world with your perfect intelligence and compassion, it must seem to you like an ethereal flower of which one cannot say: it is born, it is destroyed, for the terms beings and non-being do not apply to it.

As you review the world with your perfect intelligence and compassion, it must seem to you like a dream of which it cannot be said: it is permanent or it is destructible, for the being and non-being do not apply to it.

As you review all things by your perfect intelligence and compassion, they must seem to you like visions beyond the reach of the human mind, as being and non-being do not apply to them.

With your perfect intelligence and compassion, which are beyond all limit, you comprehend the ego-less-ness of things and persons, and are free and clear from the hindrances of passion and learning and egoism.

You do not vanish into Nirvana, nor does Nirvana abide in you, for Nirvana transcends all duality of knowing and known, of being and non-being.

Those who see thee thus, serene and beyond conception, will be emancipated from attachment, will be cleansed of all defilements, both in this world and in the spiritual world beyond.

In this world whose nature is like a dream, there is place for praise and blame, but in the ultimate Reality of Dharmakaya, which is far beyond the senses and the discriminating mind, what is there to praise? O you who are most Wise!

Then said Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva: O blessed One, Sugata, Arhat and Fully-Enlightened One, pray tell us about the realization of Noble Wisdom which is beyond the path and usage of philosophers; which is devoid of all predicates such as being and non-being, oneness and otherness, both-ness and non-both-ness, existence and non-existence, eternity and non-eternity; which has nothing to do with individuality and generality, nor false-imagination, nor any illusions arising from the mind itself; but which manifests itself as the Truth of Highest Reality. By which, going up continuously by the stages of purification, one enters at last upon the stage of Tathágata-hood, whereby, by the power of his original vows unattended by any striving, one will radiate its influence to infinite worlds, like a gem reflecting its variegated colors, whereby I and other Bodhisattvas-Mahasattvas will be enabled to bring all beings to the same perfection of virtue.

Said the Blessed One: Well done, well done, Mahamati! And again, well done, indeed! It is because of your compassion for the world; because of the benefit it will bring upon many people both human kind and celestial, that you have presented yourself before us to make this request. Therefore, Mahamati, listen well and truly reflect upon what I shall say, for I will instruct you.

Then Mahamati and the other Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas gave devout attention to the teaching of the Blessed One.

Mahamati, since the ignorant and simple-minded, not knowing that the world is only something seen of the mind itself, cling to the multitudinous-ness of external objects, cling to the notions of beings and non-being, oneness and otherness, both-ness and non-both-ness, existence and non-existence eternity and non-eternity, and think that they have a self-nature of their own, and all of which rises from the discriminations of the mind and is perpetuated by habit-energy, and from which they are given over to false imagination. It is all like a mirage in which springs of water are seen as if they were real. They are imagined by animals who, made thirsty by the heat of the season, run after them. Animals not knowing that the springs are merely hallucinations of their own minds, do not realize that there are no such springs. In the same way, Mahamati, the ignorant and simple-minded, their minds burning with the fires of greed, anger and folly, finding delight in a world of multitudinous forms, their thoughts obsessed with ideas of birth, growth and destruction, not well understanding what is meant by existence and non-existence, and being impressed by erroneous discriminations and speculations since beginning-less time, fall into the habit of grasping this and that and thereby becoming attached to them. Read the whole sutra here…

Here’s a video discussion of it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9225-jtdm94

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