The true aspect.

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Post Reply
User avatar
Mahabrahma
Posts: 1298
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2020 6:02 am

The true aspect.

Post by Mahabrahma »

“Once they have gained this perception, then they must turn to the capacities, natures, and desires of living beings. Because such natures and desires are immeasurable in variety, the ways of preaching the Law are immeasurable; and because the ways of preaching the Law are immeasurable, its meanings are likewise immeasurable. These immeasurable meanings are born from a single Law, and this Law is without aspect. What is without aspect is devoid of aspect and does not take on aspect. Not taking on aspect, being without aspect, it is called the true aspect.
-The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, Chapter 2.

What do you think about this? Especially the bolded part. Do you think the bolded part can help one understand the meaning in non-self or not self phenomena?
“The wisdom of the buddhas, the supreme humans,
Is superior and beautiful,
Unique in all these worlds,
And a magnificent form that is worthy of homage.


-Saddharma­puṇḍarīka.
sunnat
Posts: 1242
Joined: Tue Apr 02, 2019 5:08 am

Re: aspect

Post by sunnat »

what does aspect mean?
User avatar
cappuccino
Posts: 10383
Joined: Thu Feb 11, 2016 1:45 am
Contact:

Re: The true aspect.

Post by cappuccino »

Mahabrahma wrote: Tue Jan 31, 2023 2:04 am The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra

What do you think about this?
Sutras are not suttas
Art of the 21st Century
If we ignore the need of beauty, we find ourselves in a spiritual desert. -Roger Scruton
User avatar
Mahabrahma
Posts: 1298
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2020 6:02 am

Re: aspect

Post by Mahabrahma »

sunnat wrote: Tue Jan 31, 2023 2:33 am what does aspect mean?
1. a particular part or feature of something.

A knowledgeable truth in definition or observance.
“The wisdom of the buddhas, the supreme humans,
Is superior and beautiful,
Unique in all these worlds,
And a magnificent form that is worthy of homage.


-Saddharma­puṇḍarīka.
User avatar
Mahabrahma
Posts: 1298
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2020 6:02 am

Re: The true aspect.

Post by Mahabrahma »

cappuccino wrote: Tue Jan 31, 2023 2:53 am
Mahabrahma wrote: Tue Jan 31, 2023 2:04 am The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra

What do you think about this?
Sutras are not suttas
I think that's just Pali vs Sanskrit. If we translate the Sanskrit word Sutra to Pali we get... Sutta.

But this is an opening Sutra of the Lotus Sutra, so I posted it in Connections to Other Paths.

:mrgreen:
“The wisdom of the buddhas, the supreme humans,
Is superior and beautiful,
Unique in all these worlds,
And a magnificent form that is worthy of homage.


-Saddharma­puṇḍarīka.
Jack19990101
Posts: 662
Joined: Wed Jun 09, 2021 4:40 am

Re: The true aspect.

Post by Jack19990101 »

Providing he is a Dhamma practitioner -
I think if one touches that 'true aspect', he would understand Anatta rather well.
pegembara
Posts: 3010
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:39 am

Re: The true aspect.

Post by pegembara »

What is without aspect is devoid of aspect and does not take on aspect. Not taking on aspect, being without aspect, it is still devoid of aspect.

Devoid of aspect=devoid of self essence= An(without) atta(self)

The mirror's sole function is only to reflect things.
Without things to reflect, there is no mirror.
It is not the thing(does not take on aspect) nor is it apart from things --> dependent co-arising.

Form is emptiness, emptiness is precisely form. Not two.
“When there is this, that comes to be;
with the arising of this, that arises.
When there is not this, that does not come to be;
with the cessation of this, that ceases”
“Our body is the Bodhi-tree
And our mind a mirror bright.
Carefully we clean them hour by hour
And let no dust alight.”

“There is no Bodhi-tree
Nor stand of a mirror bright.
Since all is void
Where can the dust alight
?”
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 8004
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The true aspect.

Post by Coëmgenu »

The term "true aspect" is an English translation of the Sinitic term "實相" (Chinese: zhēnxiàng, Japanese: shinsō, Korean: jinsang, Vietnamese: chān tướng). It is a "literal translation," meaning "實" literally means "true" (or "real") and that "相" can be said to literally mean "aspect" (specifically in the sense of "a particular part or feature of something").

While "true aspect" is the translation favoured by SGI, SGI-derived independent groups, and the Nichiren Shōshu sect, it can also be read as "true characteristic," "true mark," "true nimitta," "true feature," "true svalakṣaṇa," "true sign," "true nature," and "true countenance." Sometimes, Sanskrit reconstructions of the term list correspondences like "bhūtatathatā" and "tattvasya lakṣaṇam." The first of these is incorrect.

The term initially appears as a translation of"dharmatā" and then later becomes an independent non-Sanskrit technical term featured ubiquitously in East Asian Buddhist vocabulary. There is one instance in the Sanskrit Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, the first text to feature this term AFAIK, where we see the second correspondence:
aparapratyayaṃ śāntaṃ prapañcairaprapañcitam|
nirvikalpamanānārtham etattattvasya lakṣaṇam||

Not dependent upon another, at peace, unproliferated as proliferation,
unconceptualized, undifferentiated: that is the characteristic of suchness.
(MMK 18.9)

However, despite this passage, elsewhere "實相" translates "dharmatā." An example:
MMK 18.7
Chinese:
諸法實相者心行言語斷
無生亦無滅寂滅如涅槃
The true aspect of the many dharmas is known via the ending of the mind, of the body, and of spoken language.
It is unarisen and unceasing. It is soothing. It is peace. It is likened to that which is Nirvāṇa.


Sanskrit:
nivṛttamabhidhātavyaṃ nivṛttaścittagocaraḥ |
anutpannāniruddhā hi nirvāṇamiva dharmatā ||
Where the scope of the citta is no more, the scope of that which is the named is, likewise, no more.
For, indeed, phenomenality is like Nirvāṇa: unarisen and unceasing.
AFAIK, the term "true aspect" first appears in the translations of Master Kumārajīva, a Kaśmīrī-Kuchan bhikṣu who converted to Mahāyāna from Dārṣṭāntika Buddhism in 364 AD in Kāśagiri (modern-day Kashgar).

When it first appears in sources like Ven Kumārajīva's translation of the Madhyamakaśāstra, it generally translates the term "dharmatā." Quickly however, it takes on a life of its own and is used as a technical term in East Asian Buddhism that is quite distinct from the Sanskrit "dharmatā." AFAIK, every single sect of East Asian Buddhism has something to say about this term.

What does "dharmatā" mean? It means "dharma-ness." As in, "the dharmaness of the dharmas."

If this is confusing due to the made-up word "dharmaness," we can translate "dharma" as "phenomenon." Here are some more examples to drill-in this pattern in Sanskrit.

dharma - phenomenon
dharma - phenomenality

āryan - noble
ārya - nobility

duḥkha - unease
duḥkha - uneasiness

anātman - selfless
anātma - selflessness

anitya - impermanent
anitya - impermanence


That is an etymological "dictionary-ish" definition. To go deeper, we have to look at how it is used in Buddhist scriptures, treatises, and by Buddhist masters. That will be in a second post.
O, you buddhaputras, listen well!
There is a great voluminous sūtra,
a sūtra as vast as the entire cosmos,
that lists all things in the triple world.

It lies unseen within every atom in the loka.
Once in a generation, a glorious Jina
goes forth and attains the Great Gnosis.
He regards the sūtra bound in each atom and says:

"I will muster great power
and break the atom,
sending forth the mahāsūtra
so that it may benefit the masses."
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 8004
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The true aspect.

Post by Coëmgenu »

I've made a mistake, and I didn't catch it until it was too late to edit my post.

I accidentally conflated the root text with the commentary, and didn't see the "行," and presumed that "身" would be in its place. I was expecting the text to list "mind, body, and speech," and I didn't look closely enough. This is not correct, how I have it at present. I will correct it, and I'll highlight the error in blue first.
Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Feb 02, 2023 2:21 amHowever, despite this passage, elsewhere "實相" translates "dharmatā." An example:
MMK 18.7
Chinese:
諸法實相者心行言語斷
無生亦無滅寂滅如涅槃
The true aspect of the many dharmas is known via the ending of the mind, of the body, and of spoken language.
It is unarisen and unceasing. It is soothing. It is peace. It is likened to that which is Nirvāṇa.
It should correctly read as follows, with the correction in blue, as the error found above was:
諸法實相者心行言語斷無生亦無滅寂滅如涅槃
The true aspect of the many dharmas is (known via) the ending of the manaḥsaṃskāras* and of spoken language
It is unarisen and unceasing. It is soothing. It is peace. It is likened to that which is Nirvāṇa.
* What looks like "manaḥsaṃskārā" or "cittasaṃskārā" (心行) appears in Chinese where "cittagocara" appears in the Sanskrit. There are many instances of curious variance between the Chinese and Sanskrit texts of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. It is possible, but not knowable, that Ven Kumārajīva might've actually worked from a slightly different "Central Asian" recension of the MMK to produce his MMK śāstra translation. This is a theory that is entertained by some. It would certainly explain how "manaḥsaṃskārā" is so at odds with "cittagocara."

"Cittagocara" refers to "the scope (or range) of the citta," which is arguably quite different from "the saṃskāras of the citta."


To define "manaḥsaṃskārā," we turn to the Vibhaṅganirdeśasūtra that serves as the Sarvāstivādin parallel to the Vibhaṅgasutta located at SN 12.2 in the Pāli Canon. Let's also compare the parallels:
katame trayaḥ saṃskārāḥ kāyasaṃskārāḥ vāksaṃskārāḥ manaḥsaṃskārā iti ||
What are the three saṃskāras? Saṃskāras of the body, saṃskāras of speech, and saṃskāras of the manas.

Katame ca bhikkhave saṅkhārā tayome bhikkhave saṅkhārā kāyasaṅkhāro vacīsaṅkhāro cittasaṅkhāro ime vuccanti bhikkhave saṅkhārā.
There are these three kinds of volitional formations: the bodily volitional formation, the verbal volitional formation, the mental volitional formation.
(Vibhaṅganirdeśasūtra as compared to Ven Bodhi's translation of the Vibhaṅgasutta of SN 12.2)
O, you buddhaputras, listen well!
There is a great voluminous sūtra,
a sūtra as vast as the entire cosmos,
that lists all things in the triple world.

It lies unseen within every atom in the loka.
Once in a generation, a glorious Jina
goes forth and attains the Great Gnosis.
He regards the sūtra bound in each atom and says:

"I will muster great power
and break the atom,
sending forth the mahāsūtra
so that it may benefit the masses."
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 8004
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The true aspect.

Post by Coëmgenu »

Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Feb 02, 2023 2:21 amThat is an etymological "dictionary-ish" definition. To go deeper, we have to look at how it is used in Buddhist scriptures, treatises, and by Buddhist masters. That will be in a second post.
The term "true aspect" originates in the cultural matrix of early East Asian Madhyamaka Buddhism as well as from the metaphorical "pen" of Master Kumārajīva. As such, we will look at the most significant Madhyamaka texts translated by Master Kumārajīva that influenced East Asian Madhyamaka, and then afterwards we will look at the direct context of the sūtra quoted in the OP from the Threefold Lotus.

Throughout, I will be highlighting the relevant term in red.

The 25th kārikā of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā is the "Analysis of Nirvāṇa." Master Vimalākṣa comments on the verses in the Madhyamakaśāstra. This text was mentioned earlier. Here it is:
[Master Vimalākṣa] All of the dharmas, at all times, of every variety, conform to dependent origination. All in all, they are empty, and thus they have not their own natures.

Is the body the same as the Ātman?
Is the body something other than the Ātman?

Thus proceeding are the sixty-two demonic views. Each and every one within emptiness is untenable. When all existence completely ceases, frivolous ponderings are entirely gone. When frivolous ponderings are entirely gone, it is because we have penetrated into the true aspect of the many dharmas and attained the tranquil path. Hearkening back to the kārikā concerning causality, if we inquire into the (natures of the) many dharmas, they are (found to be) neither existent nor nonexistent, (they are found to be) neither both existent and nonexistent nor neither existent nor nonexistent. This is called "the true aspect of the many dharmas." It is also called "the true nature of the dharmas," "Reality," and "Nirvāṇa." Therefore, the Tathagata, at no time, in no place, to no persons, ever spoke of Nirvāṇa as with particularized characteristics. When all existence has entirely come to an end, the frivolous ponderings cease.

[...]

Because there is "me," then there is "mine." If there is no "me," then there is no "mine." Via the yogic cultivation of the eightfold path of the āryan saints, the causes and conditions for "me" and "mine" are ended and conclusive wisdom concerning "no me" and "no mine" is attained. "No me" and "no mine" in the sense of the highest truth also cannot be found, yet it is only with "no me" and "no mine" that the many dharmas can truly be seen. The worldling's prajñācakṣur is obstructed by "me" and "mine." They cannot see reality (because of this). The saints have neither "me" nor "mine," and all vexatious afflictions have ended (for them). All vexatious afflictions having ended (for them), they can see the true aspect of the many dharmas: "inner," "outer," "me," and "mine" cease. All dependent things cease. Dependency having ceased, innumerable subsequent embodiments cease. Subsequent embodiments having ceased, births cease. Births having ceased, deaths cease. This is called "Nirvāṇa without remainder."

[Interlocutor] What then is "Nirvāṇa with remainder?"

[Master Vimalākṣa] All vexatious afflictions and karma cease, and this is called "the citta attaining liberative unbinding." Karma and the many vexatious afflictions alike are all conceptualized imputations of unreal things. The myriad conceptual imputations, all in all, arise from the frivolous ponderings. Attaining the true aspect of the many dharmas, all matters are found to be empty, and all of the frivolous ponderings cease. That is called "Nirvāṇa with remainder."

The true aspect of the many dharmas is such that the Buddhas, via their omniscient awareness, can regard living beings and can speak to each kind in the manner of each kind. They say "There is the Ātman," or they say "There is no Ātman." If someone's heart is unripe and if they've no resolve towards Nirvāṇa, if they do not fear hell and disbelieve in karma, to one like that, the Buddhas say "There is the Ātman." There is also the case of those who have attained the path and who know of the emptiness of the many dharmas. They (i.e. the Buddhas) say to them "Ātman" as a designatory convention and, (if it is) as a designatory convention, (then) there is no error in saying "Ātman" (in such a case). There is also the case of those who practice charity, or of those who practice the upholding of the precepts and such, or those who practice wandering, or those who practice dispassionately renouncing suffering and saṃsāra. (All this they practice, and) Yet they fear that Nirvāṇa is an endless nothingness. To these, the Buddhas say "There is no Ātman."

[Interlocutor] Though anātmaka is the truth, if as a worldly convention we say that there exists the Ātman, where is the error?

[Master Vimalākṣa] Because of the negation of the Ātman and the dharmas, anātmaka stands. But if the Ātman is not found, how can there exist what is defined exclusively by absence? If there were a static being to that which is known as anātmaka, then when yogic contemplation of the dharmas concludes there will arise desirous attachment (to the static being). Like it says in the Wisdom Sūtra: "If the bodhisattva has an Ātman, he cannot act. With no Ātman too, he cannot act."

[Interlocutor] If the Buddhas do not teach of the Ātman, if they do not teach of that which is anātmaka, if they teach neither of emptiness nor of what is not empty, then what is taught in the Buddhadharma?

[Master Vimalākṣa] The Buddhas teach the true aspect of the many dharmas. Within the true aspect of the many dharmas, there is no path for spoken language, and mental activities have stopped. The mind, taking its aspects in accordance with conditionality, arises due to karma as retribution from the former world, and it cannot truly see the many dharmas. This is why the ending of mental activity is taught.

[Interlocutor] If the mind of the ordinary person cannot perceive reality, and the minds of the saints can perceive reality, why say, 'the ending of all mental activity?'

[Master Vimalākṣa] The true aspect of the many dharmas is known as "Nirvāṇa." Nirvāṇa is known as "cessation." It is said, "cessation," in order to fathom the unfathomable, to designate Nirvāṇa, and that is why it is called "cessation."

If "the mind" is "reality," then what are the uses of emptiness, nothingness, et cetera, as doors to deliverance? Of all of the samādhis, why is the cessation of cognition and sensation the highest of them, second only in the end to Nirvāṇa without remainder?

Therefore, it should be known that all mental activity in entirety is false, and that the false shall cease. The true aspect of the many dharmas surpasses all of the dharmas of the caitasikas. Unarisen, unceasing, as such it is characterized as soothing, as peace, and it is likened to Nirvāṇa.

[Interlocutor] According to the scriptures, any dharma which, from inception, is characterized as soothing and as peace would be itself Nirvāṇa. Why here say "likened to Nirvāṇa?"

[Master Vimalākṣa] Those who schematize the dharmas do so into two families. These (families) are “the world” and “Nirvāṇa,” and they say that Nirvāṇa is soothing and that it is peace, but they do not say that the world is soothing and that it is peace. According to the Kārikās (of Master Nāgārjuna), all dharmas have the nature of emptiness and are characterized as soothing and as peace.

Those who schematize the dharmas do not understand this, and so Nirvāṇa is used as an analogy. It is “likened to” what is said of Nirvāṇa's characteristics: that they are empty, that they are not characteristics, and that they are not frivolous ponderings. Al of the worldly dharmas are like this.

[Interlocutor] If the Buddhas teach neither of the Ātman nor of what is anātmaka and (instead teach) the ending of all mental activities and spoken language, how do they lead others to know the true aspect of the many dharmas?

[Master Vimalākṣa] The many Buddhas have immeasurable implementations of appropriate methodologies, and the many dharmas have no static being. To liberate beings, they (i.e. the Buddhas) say "All is real," or they say "All is unreal," or they say "All is (both) real and unreal," or they say "All is neither real nor unreal."

"All is real," because, when inquiring into the true aspect of the many dharmas, each and every (one) enters into the highest truth: a singular aspect of equanimity. That is to say, (the highest truth of) "with no aspects." Consider how the many rivers of different hues and different salinities enter into the great ocean of one hue and of one salinity.

When one has yet to enter into the true aspect of the many dharmas, "All is unreal," and then, with the many conditions aggregating, (various) things are caused to become real.

Living beings are of three kinds: a superior, a middling, and an inferior. The superior sees the aspects of the many dharmas as "neither real nor unreal." The middling sees the aspects of the many dharmas as either "all real" or "all unreal." The inferior, on account of his shallow intellect, reasons seeing the aspects of the many dharmas as "slightly real and slightly unreal." He sees Nirvāṇa, he knows it as "the Uncreated Dharma" and as "the Imperishable," and he supposes that it is real. He sees saṃsāra, he knows it as "the Conditioned" and as "the False," and he supposes that it is unreal.

(The teaching of) "Neither real nor unreal" is taught to break (the heresy of) "Both real and unreal" (with regards to the true aspect).

[Interlocutor] The Buddha in other places says "separate from neither existence nor nonexistence." In light of this, why say "neither existence nor nonexistence" are the Buddhas' words?

[Master Vimalākṣa] On those occasions (when he negated the four theses), it was to break the four kinds of attachment to existence that it was taught. It was not for dramatic discourse. We (i.e. "the Madhyamakas") hear the words of the Buddhas. We attain the way. Like this, we say, "Neither existence nor nonexistence."

[Interlocutor] Even if we know that the Buddha on account of the four theses spoke (the teaching of "separate from neither existence nor nonexistence"), how does one attain this true aspect of the many dharmas, and by what characteristics is it made known?

[Master Vimalākṣa] It is said that it is "not (from) another" and that it is "known only via itself."

"Not another" means that, even if the heretics appear to you with godly powers saying "This is the right (path)" or "(This is) the wrong path," you will be confident in yourself. Even if they can transform their bodies, even if others cannot tell that they are not Buddhas, knowing the true aspect, you will be undistracted by them. Within it, there are no dharmas to be gained or surrendered, as it is soothing peace. Because it is characterized as soothing and as peace, it cannot be frivolously pondered as a frivolous pondering. Those are of two kinds. First is the argument from craving, and second is the argument from opinion. Via the middle (way), there are none of these two frivolous ponderings. Two frivolous ponderings (being) naught, there is neither agreement with nor dissent from (anything). "Not another" and undifferentiated from itself, it is characterized as "reality."

[Interlocutor] If all of the dharmas are empty, how doesn't this fall into (views of) annihilation? Again, how does unarisen and unceasing also not fall into (views of) constancy?

[Master Vimalākṣa] It is otherwise. Earlier, it was said that the true aspect is not to be frivolously pondered, as all is characterized as soothing, as peace, and as beyond words (within it). One, in desire and attachment, grasps the aspects of the true aspect (instead of realizing the true aspect itself) and sees annihilation and constancy. Those who attain the true aspect know that all dharmas arise conforming to dependent origination. They are neither corresponding to their causes nor different from their causes. Consequently, there is no annihilation and no constancy.

[Interlocutor] If things are explained this way, what is the advantage?

[Master Vimalākṣa] If one walks the path, one will be able to understand thoroughly what is explained like this. Then, all dharmas will be neither similar nor different, neither ceasing nor constant. If one is able to attain it, one attains the ending of all vexatious afflictions and frivolous ponderings. One attains the lasting joy of Nirvāṇa. The words of the many Buddhas are transformative teachings with the taste of sweet nectar. In worldly speech, it is like when they talk of drinking the elixir of heavenly nectar and never growing old, falling ill, and dying, without any degeneration or distress.

The true aspect of the many dharmas is the taste of the true nectar. The Buddhas say that the true aspect is in three families. When the true aspect of the many dharmas is attained and all of the vexatious afflictions end, this is called "the Dharma of the Śrāvakas." With the arising of great compassion and the emanation of the unexcelled citta, this is called "(the Dharma of) the Great Vehicle." When a Buddha has not yet arisen in the world, when there is no Buddhadharma left, the wisdom of the Pratyekabuddhas arises separate from these (sources).

If the Buddha has already taught and entered Nirvāṇa without remainder, if his Dharma has entirely disappeared in the world already, if there are those to attain the path, they but meditate upon giving up in disgust the causes and conditions for suffering. Alone, they wander into the mountains, into the woods, (wandering) away from trouble and disturbance, and they attain the path. These are called "the Prakyekabuddhas."
(commentary to MMK 25)

The next five quotations are from "the Wisdom Treatise," otherwise known as Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa. It is a commentary to the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra, and it was also translated by Master Kumārajīva.
There is one who has wisdom, yet he is also uninstructed (in the Dharma).
This one does not know the true aspect.
He is like a man who, in a great darkness,
though he has eyes, sees only nothing.

The instructed man who is without wisdom,
likewise, knows not what it is meant by "the true aspect."
He is like, in the middle of the bright daytime,
one who holds an oil lamp as if he cannot see.

There is one who is instructed and has gained much wisdom.
That which this one proclaims should be accepted.
Without instruction and without wisdom,
one is called "a human-bodied ox."
(T1509.101b6)

The many Buddhas ask, "What is real?"
(They ask) "What is it that is unreal?"
(And yet,) That which is real and that which is unreal,
these two matters, are impossible to know.

Thus, we say that the true aspect of reality
does not enjoy the company of the many dharmas.
Due to compassion towards the living beings,
with their various appropriate pedagogies, they turn the dharma-wheel.
(T1509.109c10)

Concerning the path that is walked by the many āryan saints,
the Buddhas have also, like them, walked it.
The true aspect and the site of departure (i.e. the start of the path) are,
for the Buddhas, also thus: not differentiated (from one another).

The many āryan saints speak in accordance with reality.
The Buddhas also speak in accordance with reality.
It is for this reason that the Buddha is called
"tathāya āgato" (i.e. "one who has arrived at truth").

Forbearance is his armour. His citta is steadfast.
Virtue is his bow. Strength is its bend.
Wisdom serves as his unyielding arrows.
He destroys vanity and pride and his many (other) foes.

He is worthy to receive, from gods and men alike,
all manner of reverent worship.
It is because of this that we call the Buddha
"Worthy," or "Arhat."

He completely comprehends the true aspect of suffering
and also fully comprehends the origin of suffering.
He comprehends the true aspect of the cessation of suffering
and also comprehends the path leading to the cessation of suffering.

Because of his genuine and complete understanding of these four truths,
he deals in equanimous samādhi.
Consequently, throughout the ten directions,
his name is "Samyaksaṃbuddha*."

*(i.e. "samyak vidyā," or "complete knowing," and "tatsamaṃ samādhirabhidhīyate," or "this equanimity called 'samādhi'")

He has attained the three hitherto-secret illuminations.
So too does he understand the practices of purity.
It is for this reason that we call the Bhagavān
"Vidyācaraṇasaṃpanna" (i.e. "accomplished in knowledge and practice").

He understands and comprehends all dharmas.
He has well-followed (i.e. "sugata") the hitherto-secret path.
On different occasions, he preaches the (various) appropriate methodologies,
because of his compassion towards all.

Having destroyed age, sickness, and death,
he has approached the abode of safety.
It is because of this that the name of the Buddha
is said to be "Sugata."
(T1509.133a3)

Consider the man at a fork in the path.
If he does nothing but doubt, nowhere will he go.
With regards to the true aspect of the many dharmas,
doubting is just like that (man).

Due to doubt, he does not strive and does not seek
the true aspect of the many dharmas.
This (kind of) doubt is born from ignorance.
Of all evils, it is the most harmful of evils.

With regards to "the virtuous and the unwholesome,"
(with regards to) "saṃsāra," "the koṭi," and "Nirvāṇa,"
(with regards to) the truest of true realities, the paramārthasat dharmas,
with regards to these things, you mustn't give rise to doubt.

If you give rise to doubt in your heart (concerning these things),
King Death and the magistrates of hell will bind you.
Like when the lion clutches the deer (in its teeth),
you will not be able to become unbound and liberated (from them).

Even if there is doubt concerning "existence" and "the world,"
you should trust in the profound Saddharma.
As it is with the example of the fork in the path,
it is (the path of) beneficent goodness that one should follow.
(T1509.184c21)

(Inquiry:) The Buddhas have already destroyed all of the many kleśas and vāsanās. Their prajñācakṣurs have been purified. Verily, in accordance with reality, they have realized the true aspect of the many dharmas. The true aspect of the many dharmas is nothing other than this very Prajñāpāramitā. The Bodhisattvas have not exhausted the many āsravas. Their prajñācakṣurs are not (yet) purified. How can they possibly realize the true aspect of the many dharmas?

(Response:) The meaning of this matter, in the following vargas (i.e. "chapters"), will be expounded upon. At present, we will teach the summary.

Consider the men who enter into the ocean. There is one who is only just now entering it, and there is another who is further along and can reach the bottom of that ocean. Even though they are at different depths, both are said to have entered (the ocean). The Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas likewise are like this: while the Buddhas have penetrated through (the ocean's waters) to the utmost deep, the Bodhisattvas, having not yet destroyed the kleśas and vāsanās, due to their weak powers, cannot enter into the utmost deep. We will give further metaphors, similes, and analogies in the following vargas.

Consider the man in a dark chamber who lights an oil lamp. It illuminates many objects. All of them come to be known (because they can now be seen). With an even larger oil lamp, (the man sees that) there is yet more illumination. He comes to understand that the latter lamp dispels darkness that had remained during the time of the former lamp. Even though the (illumination of the) former lamp was mingled with a remaining darkness, it was also able to illuminate the objects. If the former lamp had no darkness (remaining), the latter lamp would have been rendered redundant. The wisdoms of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are just like that. The wisdom of the Bodhisattvas, although it is mingled with the passions and afflictions, is able to realize the true aspect of the many dharmas. Likewise, the wisdom of the Buddhas has completely destroyed the passions and afflictions, and it is also able to realize the true aspect of the many dharmas. It is like the latter lamp that is twice as luminous (as the former lamp).

(Inquiry:) What is the true aspect of the many dharmas?

(Response:) Although each and every single living being expounds upon the true aspect of the many dharmas, (only) their own (exposition) do they call "reality." Here, we define the true aspect as that which is indestructible, constantly abiding, changeless, and without a creator.

Consider when, in the following varga, the Buddha teaches Subhūti, and says: "The Bodhisattvas behold the many dharmas and see that they are neither constant nor inconstant, neither suffering nor bliss, neither the Ātman nor what is anātmaka, neither existent nor nonexistent," et cetera. It is also said: "Rejecting these beholdings, this is called 'the Bodhisattva who is practicing the Prajñāpāramitā.'" This means renouncing all beholdings, eliminating all spoken language, and parting ways with the many manaḥsaṃskāras. From the root onwards, the dharmas are unarisen and unceasing. Such is the aspect of Nirvāṇa: that all of the aspects of the many dharmas are just like this. This is called "the true aspect of the many dharmas."
(T1509.190a24)
O, you buddhaputras, listen well!
There is a great voluminous sūtra,
a sūtra as vast as the entire cosmos,
that lists all things in the triple world.

It lies unseen within every atom in the loka.
Once in a generation, a glorious Jina
goes forth and attains the Great Gnosis.
He regards the sūtra bound in each atom and says:

"I will muster great power
and break the atom,
sending forth the mahāsūtra
so that it may benefit the masses."
User avatar
Mahabrahma
Posts: 1298
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2020 6:02 am

Re: The true aspect.

Post by Mahabrahma »

This is very good. Thank you for all of your hard work. Sometimes people who have simply given one alms round to a Monk get enough merit to become a Deva and to be reborn in a Celestial Kingdom. Such starch devotion you have to Buddhism will work out to something even greater than a Divine birth. Namaste.
“The wisdom of the buddhas, the supreme humans,
Is superior and beautiful,
Unique in all these worlds,
And a magnificent form that is worthy of homage.


-Saddharma­puṇḍarīka.
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 8004
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The true aspect.

Post by Coëmgenu »

Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Feb 02, 2023 11:48 am[...] we will look at the most significant Madhyamaka texts translated by Master Kumārajīva that influenced East Asian Madhyamaka, and then afterwards we will look at the direct context of the sūtra quoted in the OP from the Threefold Lotus.
The "Threefold Lotus" is a trinity of Mahāyāna sūtras traditionally paired together in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, that consists of...

1) the Anantanirdeśasūtra,
2) the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra,
and 3) the Samantabhadradhyānacaryādharmasūtra.

Item 2 is the well-known "Lotus Sūtra." In the Threefold Lotus, it appears with two apocryphal sūtras before and after it. The Anantanirdeśa introduces the Lotus as a sophisticated prologue text, and the Samantabhadradhyānacaryā contains a concluding set of instructions related to a samādhi-based practice of contemplating "the true aspect" that is paired with a repentance-based practice of purifying the heart.

Burton Watson, the resident in-house translator of SGI, renders "Anantanirdeśa" as "Innumerable Meanings." I would like to suggest "the Endless Exegesis" as an alternative reading of the title. This sūtra embraces contradiction and paradox when it comes to expounding upon three matters: 1) the featureless Dharmakāya of the featured Rūpakāya, 2) the endless exegeses of the one singular exegesis, and 3) the aspectless character of the "true aspect." All three of these themes are deeply interrelated.

Some additional context for the quotation featured in the OP (taken from the Anantanirdeśa):
The Buddha spoke to Bodhisattva Mahāvyūha and the eighty thousand bodhisattvas, saying: "O, you kulaputras, there exists a single solitary dharma-gate by which the bodhisattvas are made to swiftly attain Anuttarāsamyaksaṃbodhi. If there are bodhisattvas practicing towards this dharma-gate, then they will be enabled to swifty attain Anuttarāsamyaksaṃbodhi."

"O Bhagavān, this dharma-gate, what is its name? What is its meaning? For the bodhisattvas, what must be done to cultivate it?"

The Buddha replied: "O, you kulaputras, there exists a single solitary dharma-gate called "the Endless Exegesis" ("anantanirdeśa"). Bodhisattvas who wish to attain, cultivate, and practice the Endless Exegesis should carefully observe all of the many dharmas, from their roots to the present, as possessing the svabhāvas of emptiness and tranquility. They are not great. They are not meagre. They are not born. They are not destroyed. They do not abide. They do not transform. They neither arrive nor depart (from themselves). They appear as likened to the ākāśa of empty space. They are non-dual.

"The many sattvas make vain, deluded, and chaotic reckonings (regarding them), such as "This is the one thing" and "This is another," or such as "This is attainment" and "This is deprivation."

"Like so, they give rise to unwholesome ponderings. They undertake many evil activities. They cycle through the revolutions of the six destinations and accumulate much pain and suffering. Endless aeons pass, but they cannot free themselves.

"The Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva sees clearly that this is how things are. He gives rise to a citta of loving-kindness and pity. He emanates the citta known as "Great Compassion." He wishes to liberate them from their bondage. And so, again, he penetrates deeply into the many dharmas.

"If the aspects of the dharmas are thus-so, then thus-so dharmas will arise. If the aspects of the dharmas are thus-so, then thus-so dharmas will abide. If the aspects of the dharmas are thus-so, then thus-so dharmas will undergo a transformation. If the aspects of the dharmas are thus-so, then thus-so dharmas will cease. If the aspects of the dharmas are thus-so, that can produce evil dharmas. If the aspects of the dharmas are thus-so, that can produce wholesome dharmas.

(For abiding, transformation, and cessation, repeat it also like this.)

"When the Bodhisattva beholds the dharmas like this and examines the four svalakṣaṇas from beginning to end until he comprehends them completely and knows them entirety, then he subsequently beholds the truth of all of the many dharmas. From thought to thought with no abode, always newborn and (always) dying, he repeatedly beholds the kṣaṇas of arising, abiding, transformation, and cessation. Having beheld them in such a manner, he then penetrates deeply into the many bases of sattvas' desires. Because the desires are endless, the preaching of the Dharma is endless. Because the preaching of the Dharma is endless, the exegeses of the Dharma are endless.

"The endless exegeses are born from the one singular Dharma. The single solitary Dharma is aspectless. It is aspectless because it has no aspects. Having no aspects, it is aspectless, and yet it is known as "the true aspect."

"When the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva peacefully abides like this in the reality of the true aspect, the pity and compassion that is emanated forth from him is the shining truth. It is not in vain. Concerning the sattvas, he is truly enabled to medicate their suffering. Once he has medicated the suffering sattvas, he continues to preach the Dharma in order to enable the many sattvas to swifty receive the bliss (of the Dharma).
(T276.385c4)

So here we see the paradoxical discourse of the Anantanirdeśa with regards to the "aspectless aspect" which is "the true aspect." An odd trivium to note: this sūtra seems to be influenced in some way by either Vaibhāṣika or Dārṣṭāntika Buddhism, because it has the "four marks" of 1) arising, 2) abiding, 3) transforming, and 4) ceasing, instead of the normal "three marks" of 1) arising, 2) abiding, and 3) ceasing.

In the opening of the Anantanirdeśa, it depicts a meeting of eighty thousand members of the bodhisattvasaṃgha at Rājagṛha before the supposed preaching of the Lotus Sūtra. For those who do not know, in traditional Mahāyāna doxography, supposedly the Lotus Sūtra was the last sūtra that the Buddha preached before the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra. The Anantanirdeśa opens with a particularly beautiful hymn (technically a "gāthā," not a "hymn," but gāthās were traditionally sung anyways) sung by the bodhisattvasaṃgha that describes, honours, and worships the Dharmakāya and the Rūpakāya of the Buddha.

This material is very rich in literary paradox, and IMO it benefits from multiple readings, as it is deceptively simple. I will put the material describing and praising the Dharmakāya in blue and the material describing and praising the Rūpakāya in red to help readers.
How great is the great gnosis of the great sage?
Undefiled, unstained, unbound,
of gods and men, of elephants and horses,
equally of these he is the trainer and the teacher.
The zephyrs of the path he has all-permeated with incense.
He has permeated them with the perfumes of righteousness.
Serene in wisdom, calm in feeling,
with his citta in a yoga of quietude,
with his manas submerged and his vijñāna extinguished,
with his citta tranquil, calm, and at peace,
he is free from the dreams of the deluded thoughts,
of the skandhas, of the dhātus, and of the āyatanas,

as this, his body, neither exists nor does not exist,
and is neither cause nor condition, is neither self nor other,
is neither square nor round, is neither short nor long,
neither appears nor disappears, neither arises nor ceases,
is neither created nor uncreated, is neither induced nor produced,
neither moves nor bends, neither stills nor slows,
neither proceeds nor backslides, is neither guarded nor endangered,
neither is nor is not, neither gains nor loses,
is neither this nor that, neither departs nor comes,
is neither blue nor yellow, is neither red nor white,
is neither saffron nor purple, and is neither white nor many-coloured,

and springs forth from śīla, samādhi,
prajñā, vimokṣa, and darśana,
and manifests in three luminosities,
in six powers, in the stages of the path,
and emanates loving-kindness,
ten masteries, and fearlessness.
Arising because of the fortunate merit of the sattvas,
he appears, sixteen feet high, shining, in amethyst and gold,
upright and brilliant, gleaming with powerful luminescence,
with the crescent moon as his ūrṇā and the sun as his halo,
with curled hair, tangles of deep sapphire,
with his uṣṇīṣa atop his regal head,
with clear eyes of pure blue,
with vision that beholds above and below,
with brows and lashes long and blue and bright,
with mouth fair and jaw square and cheeks flat,
with lips and a tongue and gums that are crimson
like the blossoms of the vermillion blooms,
with white teeth: forty-two of agate snow,
with a wide forehead, with a long nose,
with a profoundly loving countenance,
with his chest tattooed with the mark of the swastika,
with the chest of a lion, yet with soft hands,
with both feet marked with thousand-spoked dharmacakras,
with his armpits and palms marked by lines that embrace all,
from with long arms, with fingers straight and slim,
with silken skin, with his hair curling to the right,
with even ankles and knees, with his sex sheathed like the deer,
with a slim musculature, with sturdy bones,
with legs like those of the deer, with a radiant torso,
immaculate, utterly pure, unstained by muddy water,
unspoilt by blemishes of dirt and sand and dust.
In thirty-two marks, all perfectly so,
and in eighty-four marks, he is beheld like this.

Yet, truly, he is neither marked nor unmarked,
for apart from marks and beyond the scope of vision,
with unmarked marks, his body is marked,

and the marked bodies of the sattvas are identically marked.
He causes the sattvas to rejoice and laud,
to worship and venerate, to respect and honour him,
because he has banished selfishness and vanity,
and he has transmuted a corpse into a wondrous form.

We all, the eighty-thousand throng of many,
entirely, without exception, with oneness of intent,
bow together in worshipful homage to the Arhat
who has ended proliferation, ended attachment,
ended ideology, ended discourse,
ended consciousness, ended thought,
ended mind, and ended will,

who instructs elephants, who trains horses:
(we bow) to the Sage unrivalled in liberation.
We bow and take refuge in the Dharmakāya,
in the Rūpakāya, in the aggregation of śīla,
samādhi, prajñā, vimokṣa, and darśana.
We bow and take refuge in the wondrous Pillar of Marks.

We bow and take refuge in the Inconceivable.
(T276.384c20)

Here, we see the Dharmakāya-Rūpakāya paradoxes with regards to "the unmarked marks" and the "Pillar of Marks" that is also "the Inconceivable." Marks, lakṣaṇas, are by nature not inconceivable. They are the means by which the mind recognizes the conceivable. His body is "neither short nor long" and yet his height is "sixteen feet" high. He has "ended discourse," and yet he preaches the discourses of the Dharma. I think that one more post will finish this off nicely and then we will all be a little bit more contextualized as to the passage highlighted by the OP and the scripture that it comes from.
O, you buddhaputras, listen well!
There is a great voluminous sūtra,
a sūtra as vast as the entire cosmos,
that lists all things in the triple world.

It lies unseen within every atom in the loka.
Once in a generation, a glorious Jina
goes forth and attains the Great Gnosis.
He regards the sūtra bound in each atom and says:

"I will muster great power
and break the atom,
sending forth the mahāsūtra
so that it may benefit the masses."
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 8004
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The true aspect.

Post by Coëmgenu »

And so, again, he penetrates deeply into the many dharmas.

"If the aspects of the dharmas are thus-so, then thus-so dharmas will arise. If the aspects of the dharmas are thus-so, then thus-so dharmas will abide. If the aspects of the dharmas are thus-so, then thus-so dharmas will undergo a transformation. If the aspects of the dharmas are thus-so, then thus-so dharmas will cease. If the aspects of the dharmas are thus-so, that can produce evil dharmas. If the aspects of the dharmas are thus-so, that can produce wholesome dharmas.

(For abiding, transformation, and cessation, repeat it also like this.)
A little note on what I think is going on in this strange passage.

The material in parentheses is instruction for the bhāṇaka ("reciter"). He is to expand the passage according to the Sarvāstivādin matrix of the four saṃskṛtalakṣaṇāni ("marks of the conditioned"): arising, abiding, transforming, and ceasing. My thinking is that each of these is inserted where the text says "thus-so" (or "like this") and the word "aspects" becomes de-pluralized.

So it would be something like this...

If the aspect of the dharmas is arising, then arising dharmas will arise. If the aspect of the dharmas is arising, then arising dharmas will abide. [...] If the aspect of the dharmas is abiding, then abiding dharmas will arise. If the aspect of the dharmas is abiding, then abiding dharmas will abide. [...] If the aspect of the dharmas is transforming, then transforming dharmas will arise. If the aspect of the dharmas is transforming, then transforming dharmas will abide. [...]

...and this would continue with "ceasing."
O, you buddhaputras, listen well!
There is a great voluminous sūtra,
a sūtra as vast as the entire cosmos,
that lists all things in the triple world.

It lies unseen within every atom in the loka.
Once in a generation, a glorious Jina
goes forth and attains the Great Gnosis.
He regards the sūtra bound in each atom and says:

"I will muster great power
and break the atom,
sending forth the mahāsūtra
so that it may benefit the masses."
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 8004
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The true aspect.

Post by Coëmgenu »

Coëmgenu wrote: Fri Feb 03, 2023 1:32 amHe is to expand the passage according to the Sarvāstivādin matrix of the four saṃskṛtalakṣaṇāni

... arising dharmas will arise ... arising dharmas will abide ... abiding dharmas will arise ... abiding dharmas will abide ...
This spells out a series of interrelated marks of the conditioned, if I am correct.

1) the arising of arising
2) the abiding of arising
3) the transforming of arising
4) the ceasing of arising
5) the arising of abiding
6) the abiding of abiding
7) the transforming of abiding
8) the ceasing of abiding
9) the arising of transforming
10) the abiding of transforming
11) the transforming of transforming
12) the ceasing of transforming
13) the arising of ceasing
14) the abiding of ceasing
15) the transforming of ceasing
16) the ceasing of ceasing


It's possible that each of these were specific kṣaṇas ("moments") that featured in a theory of cognition not unsimilar to that which we find in Sarvāstivāda, Yogācāra, and Theravāda. Such a theory, if my speculation is well-grounded, would definitely be Ābhidharmika in origin. From which sect of the Śrāvakas though, I couldn't guess.

For some context on why the above looks byzantine but is actually reasonable IMO, observe the Vaibhāṣika matrix of the saṃskṛtalakṣaṇāni:

Let us say that there is the experience of a "sparṣṭavya" rūpadharma of the "hunger" variety that is experienced. A sparṣṭavya refers to an object of the kāya sense-base. All five of the objects of the five bodily senses are classified as "rūpadharmas" in Vaibhāṣika Buddhism. "Hunger" is a variety of these, according to them.

Here is the experience of "hunger."

1) the arising of arising
1⅓) arising of "hunger"
1⅔) "hunger"
2) the abiding of abiding
2½) abiding of "hunger"
3) the transforming of transforming
3½) transforming of "hunger"
4) the ceasing of ceasing
4½) the ceasing of "hunger"


Nine factors in four kṣaṇas/moments. The first moment has three factors, and the remaining three moments each have two factors. Four moments per cognition. I think that something like this might be happening with the above anomalous material.

According to the Vaibhāṣikas, there are sixty-four kṣaṇas within the duration of the audibility of a fingersnap. This means that there can be 16 different dharmas experienced within this time-period using the general fourfold matrix of nine factors that is reproduced above.

Theravāda has a system of kṣaṇas that is quite different.
O, you buddhaputras, listen well!
There is a great voluminous sūtra,
a sūtra as vast as the entire cosmos,
that lists all things in the triple world.

It lies unseen within every atom in the loka.
Once in a generation, a glorious Jina
goes forth and attains the Great Gnosis.
He regards the sūtra bound in each atom and says:

"I will muster great power
and break the atom,
sending forth the mahāsūtra
so that it may benefit the masses."
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 8004
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: The true aspect.

Post by Coëmgenu »

This aside concerning Ābhidharmika Kṣaṇavāda is slightly off-topic, but IMO also very contextualizing of early Buddhist sectarianism. One final note and then I'll conclude.

There are actually more than nine factors within the four kṣaṇas that make up a "single cognition" (or, as the Theravādins would put it, a single "mind-door process").

If the Theravādin traditions of Abhidhamma can be generally known as a "Southern school," then it follows that the Abhidharmas of the Sarvāstivādins, Mahīśāsakas, etc., can be considered, for the sake of comparison, as being of "Northern Schools."

In the Northern Abhidharma traditions, generally speaking, all of the "universal caitasikas" participate in cognition (which should come as no surprise at all!). These take place during the four kṣaṇas outlined earlier. These "universals" feature in all cognition necessarily. As such, this outline drawn from Abhidharmadīpa, Abhidharmāmṛta, and Kośakārikā serves as a "template" for even more complex sequences of cognitive kṣaṇas featuring factors that are, for instance, not present among the universals.
Sensory Cognition in 12 Factors and 4 Kṣaṇas

Note: (Sanskrit) Caitasika ||| (English) Translation* ||| Corresponding Kṣaṇa

*the "translations" given reflect the specific usage of these terms in the Abhidharmas, and do not necessarily reflect their usages in the sūtras and other EBTs.

apratisaṃkhyānirodha (this refers to the previous fading-away of a cognition)

1) 1) manasikāra ||| attention ||| arising of arising
2) 1⅓) ekāgratā(1) ||| focus ||| arising of the dharma
3) 1⅔) sparśa ||| touching ||| the dharma itself
4) 2) saṃjñā ||| (bare) perception ||| the abiding of abiding
5) 2⅓) vedanā ||| (threefold) hedonic tone ||| the abiding of the abiding(2)
6) 2⅔) cetanā ||| rumination ||| the abiding of the dharma
7) 3) adhimokṣa ||| resolution ||| the transforming of transforming
8) 3⅓) chanda ||| desire-towards-activity ||| the transforming of the transforming
9) 3⅔) prajñā ||| wisdom (as "association") ||| the transforming of the dharma(2)
10) 4) smṛti(1) ||| mindfulness ||| ceasing of ceasing
11 4⅓) ekāgratā(2) ||| focus(2) ||| ceasing of ceasing(2)
12) 4⅔) smṛti(2) ||| mindfulness(2) ||| the ceasing of the dharma

apratisaṃkhyānirodha (the past cognition fades away)
Only one phase of one cognition occupies each kṣaṇa. There are three caitasikas per kṣaṇa. As such, generally-speaking, two of three caitasikas will be unnoticed initially (in most cases) in the stream of perception. Of the 12 caitasikas outlined here, only sparśa, saṃjñā, vedanā, cetanā, prajñā, and smṛti are directly experienced as they unfold in real-time as momentary processes. As the yogin becomes more experienced, more "smṛtis" occupy this sequence, and that which was unnoticed becomes an object of mindfulness.

Now, we've still got an issue here. That's six experiences for four kṣaṇas. That's not "allowed."

With regards to saṃjñā and vedanā (and cetanā), the solution is based in appeals to the scriptures.
yā ca vedanā yā ca saṃjñā yā ca cetanā yacca vijñānaṃ saṃsṛṣṭā ime dharmā nāsaṃsṛṣṭā
vedanā yā ca saññā yañca viññāṇaṁ ime dhammā saṁsaṭṭhā no visaṁsaṭṭhā
Feeling, perception, and consciousness—these things are mixed, not separate.
(MN 43 Ven Sujāto translation from Pāli with Sanskrit parallels above, note how the Sanskrit adds "cetanā" to this list)

It is argued that saṃjñā and vedanā (and cetanā) are experienced as "one" (this "one" being sometimes called "pratisaṃvedanā" in later texts) and are only re-analyzed as separate subsequent to the experience of them. Their experience is always "saṃsṛṣṭa," or "commingled" or "mixed," even though one of them is threefold and the other is manifold and even though they are separable in many other ways.

So what happens, supposedly, the rest of the time when we have these multiple caitasikas arising in a single kṣaṇa?

Some of these mental processes are considered "unconscious" or "involuntary" (as far as their experience is concerned) at the moment they unfold, because the mind is otherwise preoccupied during the kṣaṇa.

On the contrary, however, surely we "experience" all of the caitasikas involved in momentary cognition? Yes, we do, according to this Northern tradition. How though?

Prajñā and smṛti, as caitasikas, function as "surveyors" of the present and past respectively. Generally speaking, prajñā selects a possible object from the set of all present things, and smṛti selects a possible object from the set of all past things. What is referred to as "smṛti(1)" above is smṛti in the modality referred to as anusmaraṇavikalpa ("recollection"). What is referred to as "smṛti(2)" in the above is smṛti in the modality of saṃtīranavikalpa ("examination"). What is referred to as "ekāgratā(1)" above is the modality of ekāgratā that is known as "cittasyaikāgratetyekālambanatā," or "the citta having one object (at a time)." That which is referred to as "ekāgratā(2)" above is the modality of ekāgratā that is known as "samādhiḥ sarva­cetasi bhavati," or "the samādhi that is 'all that is called to mind.'"

In the case of prajñā, its objects here are chanda and adhimokṣa. In the case of anusmaraṇavikalpa smṛti here, its objects are the memories of the experiences of (past) manasikāra and (past) ekāgratā. In the case of saṃtīranavikalpa smṛti, it has the additional special objects of present cetanā and present manasikāra.

The full function of "smṛti," which is ubiquitous to all cognition in the Northern Tradition, is not outlined here. Outside of this direct context, prajñā and smṛti can take other objects, according to the Northern Schools, but here they take only what is specified.

This isn't even the tip of the iceberg. We haven't even dealt with the wholesome universals, the defiled universals, the unwholesome universals, the occasional universals, and the indeterminate universals. All that we've outlined here is merely 1) the universals and 2) the dharma being experienced (which is found at the "contact/sparśa" stage).

Here below we will see an account of the soteriological import of the kṣaṇas. Stressing soteriology in such a manner shows that this is not just scholasticism for the sake of complexity.

The below is an account of "Insight into the Four Noble Truths" as understood according to the Northern Abhidharmas. This chart outlines what is otherwise-called "stream-entry" in Buddhism, as it was understood by most Sarvāstivādins, Mahīśāsakas, conceivably Mahāsāṃghikas as well, and any other of the various sects who believed in the "fivefold" Buddhist path. This "fivefold versus fourfold versus singular versus threefold versus eightfold" debate is a very old one in Buddhism (see Kv 20.5, Kv 18.5, etc.). The fourfold path is Mahāsāṃghika-specific and applies only to Bodhisattvas. The threefold path is 1) śīla, 2) samādhi, and 3) prajñā. The eightfold path is well-known from the Pāli suttas and other EBTs and will definitely be the "mārgology" or "path-doctrine" most familiar to readers of this forum. Skipping that for the sake of not repeating what is already widely-known, we have the so-called "fivefold path." The Theravādins, in the Kathāvatthu, rejected this thesis of a "fivefold path" that various other sects believe in. For those who are not aware, the general fivefold division of the path to Bodhi is as follows: 1) saṃbhāra ("coming-together"), 2) prayoga ("implementation"), 3) darśana ("beholding" in the sense of "the beholding of the four truths"), 4) bhāvanā ("cultivation"), and 5) aśaiksa (that which is "beyond learning").

Here is the Darśanamārga according to the Vaibhāṣikas:
Darśanamārga of 4 Cognitions with 16 Factors, or 4 Dharmas during 16 Kṣaṇas

Note: the "darśanamārga" is the Sarvāstivādin model of stream-entry as well as of the other Āryan fruits, up to Arhatva. On the darśanamārga, the yogin realizes the four truths, becomes an Āryan, and finally either 1) experiences a fleeting foretaste of Nirvāṇa, or 2) attains Nirvāṇa with residue and becomes either an Anāgāmin or an Arhat.

Duḥkhasatya  Truth of Duḥkha
  1) duḥkhe dharmajñānakṣānti 
(receptivity to knowledge of the dharma [called] "duḥkha[satya"])
  arising of arising + arising of duḥkhasatya + duḥkhasatya
  2) duḥkhe dharmajñāna 
(knowledge of the dharma [called] "duḥkha[satya"])
  abiding of abiding + abiding of duḥkhasatya
  3) duḥkhe'nvayajñānakṣānti 
(receptivity to subsequent knowledge concerning duḥkha) 
  transforming of transforming + transforming of duḥkhasatya
  4) duḥkhe'nvayajñāna  
(subsequent knowledge concerning duḥkha)
  ceasing of ceasing + ceasing of duḥkhasatya

Samudāyasatya  Truth of the Origin
  5) duḥkhasamudāye dharmajñānakṣānti  
(receptivity to knowledge of the dharma [called] "duḥkhasamudāya[satya"]) 
  arising of arising + arising of samudāyasatya + samudāyasatya
  6) duḥkhasamudāye dharmajñāna  
(knowledge of the dharma [called] "duḥkhasamudāya[satya"]) 
  abiding of abiding + abiding of samudāyasatya
  7) duḥkhasamudāye'nvayajñānakṣānti  
(receptivity to subsequent knowledge concerning duḥkha's origin) 
  transforming of transforming + transforming of samudāyasatya
  8) duḥkhasamudāye'nvayajñāna  
(subsequent knowledge of duḥkha's origin)  
  ceasing of ceasing + ceasing of samudāyasatya

Nirodhasatya  Truth of the Cessation
  9) duḥkhanirodhe dharmajñānakṣānti  
(receptivity to knowledge of the dharma [called] "duḥkhanirodha[satya"])
  arising of arising + arising of nirodhasatya + nirodhasatya
  10) duḥkhanirodhe dharmajñāna  
(knowledge of the dharma [called] "duḥkhanirodha[satya"]) 
  abiding of abiding + abiding of nirodhasatya
  11) duḥkhanirodhe'nvayajñānakṣānti  
(receptivity to subsequent knowledge of duḥkha's cessation)  
  transforming of transforming + transforming of nirodhasatya
  12) duḥkhanirodhe'nvayajñāna  
(receptivity to subsequent knowledge of duḥkha's cessation)  
  ceasing of ceasing + ceasing of nirodhasatya

Mārgasatya  Truth of the Path
  13) duḥkhapratipakṣamārge dharmajñānakṣānti  
(receptivity to knowledge of the dharma [called] "the duḥkha-counteragent path") 
  arising of arising + arising of mārgasatya + mārgasatya
  14) duḥkhapratipakṣamārge dharmajñāna  
(knowledge of the dharma [called] "the duḥkha-counteragent path") 
  abiding of abiding + abiding of mārgasatya
  15) duḥkhapratipakṣamārge'nvayajñānakṣānti  
(receptivity to subsequent knowledge of the duḥkha-counteragent path) 
  transforming of transforming + transforming of mārgasatya
  16) duḥkhapratipakṣamārge'nvayajñāna  
(subsequent knowledge of the duḥkha-counteragent path)
  ceasing of ceasing + ceasing of mārgasatya
As we see, insight into the four truths, for the Vaibhāṣikas, consists of dharmajñānas, which are realizations of "knowledges of [the four] dharmas [of the four truths]," anvayajñanas, "subsequent knowledges [that come after the realizations]," and "kṣāntis" or "receptivities" to these. Through the kṣāntis, one gains candidacy for these realizations, as well as for the subsequent wisdoms/knowledges that follow the realizations. Theravāda Buddhism is quite different, but also similar in many other ways.
O, you buddhaputras, listen well!
There is a great voluminous sūtra,
a sūtra as vast as the entire cosmos,
that lists all things in the triple world.

It lies unseen within every atom in the loka.
Once in a generation, a glorious Jina
goes forth and attains the Great Gnosis.
He regards the sūtra bound in each atom and says:

"I will muster great power
and break the atom,
sending forth the mahāsūtra
so that it may benefit the masses."
Post Reply