Author Topic: Lankavatara Sutra Questions.  (Read 1118 times)

Offline infinitewaters108

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Lankavatara Sutra Questions.
« on: October 15, 2015, 06:02:21 pm »
First time trying this. Much Metta to all beings here. I've been studying and meditating on a Mahayana based sutra for months, which is quite detailed in philosophy. I don't seem to understand the meaning of a particular passage.

"Now, Mahāmati, false discrimination rises from form (nimitta). How, Mahāmati, does it rise from form? In [the consideration of] the relativity aspect of Svabhāva, realities appear in various ways, as having forms, signs, and shapes; when, Mahāmati, these objects, forms, and signs are adhered to [as real], this adherence takes place in two ways. The Tathagatas, Arhats, and Fully-Enlightened Ones thus declare false discrimination to consist in attachment to names and attachment to objects. By the attachment to objects is meant, Mahāmati, to get attached to inner and external things [as realities]..."

-Lankavatara Sutra, Chapter II, Suzuki Translation.

I'm confused on what it means by attaching to objects as realities. Is this a reference to Sunyata in regards to form? Thoughts?

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Lankavatara Sutra Questions.
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2015, 07:41:01 pm »
Hi infinitewaters and welcome to FreeSangha.

Yes, sunyata, but the section needs to be read and understood in its entirety because it's sunyata in form, name, reality, and character:

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Further, Mahamati, let the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva be well acquainted with the three kinds of Svabhava (self-nature). [What are the three? They are (1) false discrimination, (2) knowledge of relativity, and (3) perfect knowledge.] Now, Mahamati, false discrimination rises from form (nimitta). How, Mahamati, does it rise from form? In [the consideration of] the relativity aspect of Svabhava, realities appear in various ways, as having forms, signs, and shapes; when, Mahamati, these objects, forms, and signs are adhered to [as real], this adherence takes place in two ways. The Tathagatas, Arhats, and Fully-Enlightened Ones thus declare false discrimination to consist in attachment to names and attachment to objects. By the attachment to objects is meant, Mahamati, to get attached to inner and external things [as realities]. By the attachment to names is meant to recognise in these inner and external things the characteristic marks of individuality and generality and to regard them as definitely belonging to the objects. These two modes of attachment, Mahamati, constitute false discrimination. The knowledge of the relativity-aspect (paratantra) rises from the separation of subject (asraya) and object (alambana).

Now, Mahamati, what is perfect knowledge? It is realised when one casts aside the discriminating notions of form, name, reality, and character; it is the inner realisation by noble wisdom. This perfect knowledge, Mahamati, is the essence of the Tathagata-garbha.

Then the Blessed One recited this verse:

Form, Name, and Discrimination [correspond to] the two forms of Svabhava, and Right Knowledge and Suchness [correspond to] the Perfect Knowledge aspect.

Offline infinitewaters108

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Re: Lankavatara Sutra Questions.
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2015, 08:37:29 pm »
Thank you for the welcome!

I see; I've read this passage and chapter many times now, but I think the part in which I am still confused on is what the Buddha meant on attaching oneself to objects as things/realities. What does he mean by realities or objects in this context?

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Lankavatara Sutra Questions.
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2015, 09:33:46 pm »
Although the Lankavatara Sutra in and of itself is not a primary text in my own studies, the general understanding is no different than that echoed in the Avatamsaka Sutra, namely that of man's susceptibility to become entangled in imaginary and false discrimination --- in other words, attaching oneself to objects as things/realities is attaching oneself to something that's illusionary in nature, or as the Buddha said, "like a dream", where one does not see reality as-it-is, which also happens to be an essential prerequisite to mental health and well-being according to Buddha's teaching.

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Reality in the Tathagatagarbha Sutras

Prior to the period of the Tathagatagarbha Sutras, Mahayana metaphysics had been dominated by teachings on emptiness in the form of Madhyamaka philosophy. The language used by this approach is primarily negative, and the Tathagatagarbha genre of sutras can be seen as an attempt to state orthodox Buddhist teachings of dependent origination using positive language instead, to prevent people from being turned away from Buddhism by a false impression of nihilism. In these sutras the perfection of the wisdom of not-self is stated to be the true self; the ultimate goal of the path is then characterized using a range of positive language that had been used in Indian philosophy previously by essentialist philosophers, but which was now transmuted into a new Buddhist vocabulary to describe a being who has successfully completed the Buddhist path.

Contrasting with some forms of Buddhism, the Buddha's teaching on 'reality' in the Tathagatagarbha Mahayana scriptures - which the Buddha states constitute the ultimate manifestation of the Mahayana Dharma (other Mahayana sutras make similar claims about their own teachings) - insists that there truly is a sphere or realm of ultimate truth - not just a repetitious cycle of interconnected elements, each dependent on the others. That suffering-filled cycle of x-generating-y-and-y-generating-z-and-z-generating-a, etc., is Samsara, the prison-house of the reincarnating non-self; whereas liberation from dependency, enforced rebirth and bondage is nirvana or reality / spiritual essence (tattva / dharmata). This sphere also bears the name Tathagatagarbha (Buddha matrix). It is the deathless realm where dependent origination holds no sway, where non-self is supplanted by the everlasting, sovereign (aishvarya) self (atman) (as a trans-historical, unconditioned, ultimate, liberating, supra-worldly yet boundless and immanent awakened mind). Of this real truth, called nirvana - which, while salvationally infused into samsara, is not bound or imprisoned in it - the Buddha states in the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra:

"What is the Real (tattva)? Knowledge of the true attributes of Nirvana; the Tathagata, the Dharma, the Sangha, and the attributes of space ... is the Real. What is knowledge of the attributes of Nirvana? The attributes of Nirvana are eightfold. What are these eight? Cessation [of ignorance and suffering]; loveliness/ wholesomeness; Truth; Reality; Eternity, Bliss, the Self [atman], and complete Purity: that is Nirvana."

He further comments: " ... that which is endowed with the Eternal, Bliss, the Self, and Purity is stated to be the meaning of 'Real Truth' ... Moreover, the Real is the Tathagata [i.e., the Buddha]; the Tathagata is the Real ... The Tathagata is not conditioned and not tainted, but utterly blissful: this is the Real ...".

Thus, in such doctrines, a very positive goal is envisioned, which is said to lie beyond the grasp of the five senses and the ordinary, restless mind, and only attainable through direct meditative perception and when all inner pollutants (twisted modes of view, and all moral contaminants) are purged, and the inherently deathless, spotless, radiantly shining mind of Buddha stands revealed. This is the realm of the Buddha-dhatu (popularly known as buddha nature) - inconceivable, beginning-less, endless, omniscient truth, the Dharmakaya (quintessential body-and-mind) of the Buddha. This reality is empty of all falsehood, impermanence, ignorance, afflictions, and pain, but filled with enduring happiness, purity, knowingness (jnana), and omni-radiant loving-kindness (maitri).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_in_Buddhism#Reality_in_the_Tathagatagarbha_Sutras

Offline infinitewaters108

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Re: Lankavatara Sutra Questions.
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2015, 06:28:10 pm »
Hi! Somewhat late reply, but I read some more translations of the same passage, and I had an online Buddhist student's consultation.
I'm just wondering what you think about his answer. It's fairly long, but it addresses the passage:


"All objects are compound aggregates of components. Traditional term for this is Pali sankharo (Sanksrit samskara) - literally "co-made", made-up by many constituents.

If you think about the above really well, you may realize that the threads of causation I describe above are not really linear. Instead, there is a network of causes and conditions, infinitely forking, joining, and interacting. Depending on the level of observation and on the context the mind will delineate different entities. You are familiar with physical, chemical, biological, electromagnetic, informational levels of observation. These are all different ways to see the same reality. So your experience of entities always depends on you, the observer - providing the level and context, making the delineation, making the interpretation. And what are you, the observer? It is also a temporary arrangement of factors (physical, biological, social, informational etc.)! So what happens in the moment when experience of so-called reality takes place, is that many factors come together to create the so-called "external"/"objective" and the so-called "internal"/"subjective" components of the experience. So what we perceive as objects or entities at the moment the experience takes place are temporary arrangements of physical factors, assembled into a coherent experience by temporary arrangements of mental (experiential) factors - which themselves are temporary arrangements of factors! Actually, physical factors and mental/informational factors are not two different types of factors, they are two sides of the same coin. We say, "form is emptiness and emptiness is form". Nothing solid to rely on at all! This situation is known as "Emptiness" (Shunya-ta).

Besides physical objects, let's not forget that our lives are full of entities of other kind: abstract concepts. Do you know how many times people killed each other because of disagreement about the concepts? And yet, very few seem to realize the obvious: that abstract concepts don't and can never have well-defined meaning. They are just labels that make sense in relation to other labels that we arbitrarily designate. So concepts, ideas are not solid either. They have different meaning depending on context and on who uses it and for what. These dependencies of the concepts serve the role equivalent to the role of causes and conditions that physical objects depend on. We say that both so-called physical objects as well as concepts are both "compound" or "conditioned" phenomena (sankharas) - they are aggregates of factors, with label (nama - name) stamped on top.

One of such entities is "I" - we assume there is something stable, but there is no such thing - only factors, only trajectories, only forces interacting. There is no "internal" vs "external" world (that this separation is a mind-made fiction is proven by the fact that your "internal" is "external" for me). Objectively, there is no "internal" vs "external" - only an infinite field of interacting factors.

Unfortunately most people assume all types of entities (objects, groups, concepts, "I", etc.) to have solid identity that can be relied on (traditional term for this is "existence-by-itself" - svabhava). Not just assume, they insist that their delineation/interpretation of entities is the reality. This is what the sutra calls attaching to external & internal objects" and "attaching to names (concepts, labels, identities)"."


Thanks! Hope all is well.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Lankavatara Sutra Questions.
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2015, 08:01:10 pm »
My friend, the answer you received from this person has very little to do with the passage you asked the question about. My advice is that you enter into a formal relationship with a teacher and stop trying to do this on your own.

 


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