Jonesboy

Lankavatara Sutra

27 posts in this topic

Anyone interested in going over the sutra?

http://zen-ua.org/wp-content/uploads/lankavatara_sutra_english.pdf

 

Then said Mahamati to the Blessed One: Why is it that the ignorant are given up to discrimination and the wise are not?

 

The Blessed One replied: it is because the ignorant cling to names, signs and ideas; as their minds move along these

channels they feed on multiplicities of objects and fall into the notion of and ego-soul and what belongs to it; they make

discriminations of good and bad among appearances and cling to the agreeable. As they thus cling there is a reversion to

ignorance, and karma born of greed, anger and folly, is accumulated. As the accumulation of karma goes on they become

imprisioned in a cocoon of discrimination and are thenceforth unable to free themselves from the round of birth and death.

 

Because of folly they do not understand that all things are like maya, like the reflection of the moon in water, that there is

no self-substance to be imagined as an ego-soul and its belongings, and that all their definite ideas rise from their false

discriminations of what exists only as it is seen of the mind itself. They do not realise that things have nothing to do with

qualify and qualifying, nor with the course of birth, abiding and destruction, and instead they assert that they are born of a

creator, of time, of atoms, of some celestial spirit. It is because the ignorant are given up to discrimination that they move

along with the stream of appearances, but it is not so with the wise.

 

Any thoughts to it's meaning?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perception tends to take place with a sort of ping-pong feedback. This is described in the Samkhya literature and appears in some Shaivite literature and probably elsewhere (though I haven't read too in depth of things outside of Taoism and western philosophy). The closest thing to appear in western philosophy was Charles Sanders Peirce's concept of Firstness, Secondness, and thirdness. He called them the cenopythagorean categories.

 

Firstness is a direct perception in a fuzzy sense. Secondness a direct perception where pattern recognition takes place. Thirdness is when a name/symbol is ascribed the patterns.

 

Firstness, if it were oriented towards awareness itself, would be similar to the recognition of the Self as described in Hinduism. That form of "self" recognition isn't a huge part of Buddhism, though---at least, not in the same way that it is emphasized in Hinduism. So Firstness is probably fairly close to the clear-mind state that Buddhism would move towards. But the term, itself, only denotes cognition/perception.

 

In any case, in the three-part description of perception/cognition, many people get stuck in Thirdness and the high point of clarity would consist of being more mindful of Secondness. This is fairly common in scholastic traditions around the world. 

 

But key words are "reversion to ignorance" from clinging. If awareness is had up to Firstness, then reversion would not happen. Reversion, from having experienced it early on, is only when discursive thought obscures the actual contours of mind itself. When that happens, symmetries between ideas and ideas themselves take precedence over the way that reality is actually structured. 

 

Which is why I don't pay much attention to ideas in isolation, they should always be measured against experience---not just perceptual experience but meta-perceptual experience.

 

**There will probably be differences in my explanation (from canonical ones) because I don't accept the primacy of consciousness and I don't accept the mind-only description of things. I do endorse the Samkhya description and it differs on foundational, experiential points. Looking into it, I categorically reject the Lankavatara sutra as a canonical text; I consider its core to be false dharma (It's probably a good thing that I'm not a Buddhist...)

 

 

Edit: I'll recant calling the Lankavatara false Dharma. The sutra's good. That translation is not.

Edited by Apeiron&Peiron
2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

please continue... 

 

I think the opening words say it all... 

 

it is because [insert your name] cling to [insert what you cling to]

 

it is way past just the mind or emotion...  clinging may also be more reactionary need.

 

There is no self-substance, is the Way.

2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes,

 

I would say this pretty much sums it up.

 

Because of folly they do not understand that all things are like maya, like the reflection of the moon in water, that there is

no self-substance to be imagined as an ego-soul and its belongings, and that all their definite ideas rise from their false

discriminations of what exists only as it is seen of the mind itself.

1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The ignorant are caught up in the show, unable to see past the movie magic, the persistance of vision. The wise see that the show is a show, nothing more than flickering lights, which themselves possess no form.

 

Why? The Lanka's answer is the natural function of the parts of the mind, the function to reveal and discriminate objects, which when reflected in thought builds a network or web of associations that are very difficult to shake off.

 

How do the wise do it?

 

8)

1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just started reading this sutra myself, finally. About time to see why it is oft mentioned in zen literature.

 

8)

2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Astral Monk said:

The ignorant are caught up in the show, unable to see past the movie magic, the persistance of vision. The wise see that the show is a show, nothing more than flickering lights, which themselves possess no form.

 

Why? The Lanka's answer is the natural function of the parts of the mind, the function to reveal and discriminate objects, which when reflected in thought builds a network or web of associations that are very difficult to shake off.

 

How do the wise do it?

 

8)

 

A very wise friend of mine shared this with me which I think will help answer your question a little.

 

Zhuangzi Dream:

 

A man dreamed he was a butterfly. When he woke up, he had a dilemma

Was he dreaming that he is a butterfly, or is he a butterfly dreaming he's human ;)
 
Staying within the sutra, here is the answer I think from chapter 1.
 
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.
Edited by Jonesboy
2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This potentially controversial question leads off into the 2nd Chapter...

Then Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva spoke to the Blessed One, saying: You speak of the erroneous views of the philosophers, will you please tell us of them, that we may be on our guard against them?

And goes into what perceived "reality" is as compared with other "philosophical" views...

Any thoughts?

(Also, feel free to add comments to chapter 1, if you are so interested.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

(1st Chapter) It is dependent origination - although it doesn't explicitly say so.

 

By the way why did you miss out the first paragraph???

2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Apech said:

(1st Chapter) It is dependent origination - although it doesn't explicitly say so.

 

By the way why did you miss out the first paragraph???

 

The hope is for people to read it and post the answers, like from the first paragraph :)

 

I have found if it post the entire thing or things that I find of interest it doesn't lead to much of a conversation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In approaching a philosophical reduction to fundamental experience, I always dissolved appearances into generic sensations, which, I supposed, had an inherently blended essence--that is, in itself sensation appears as an undifferentiated mass of potential, and it requires a cognitive act to begin discriminating 'objects'.

 

However, the idea of the vijnanas suggests that not only are there unique senses, but that they also naturally make discriminations. Reflecting on this I see the sense--as the eye, for example, actually has special receptors for varying light conditions, effectively breaking up the flow of incoming information at the contact source.

 

So, what I looked at as 'pure sensation' would be, rather, pure 'awareness' that hasnt made memory or notice of the inherent distinctions of the senses. This seems more like what we see as the nature of the Alayavijnana--a pure non-discriminating awareness.

 

Whereas the Manas, being a faculty of intention, seems to function to fill the Alayavijnana with sensational clutter, whence tangled embroiling references take root.

 

Part of the problem of the philosophers is their inability to move beyond binary differentiation as intended via Manas--everything becomes a 'this' or 'not-this', as the direction and locus of will in action is necessarily singular, hence polarising when reflected back against memory. 

 

Instead of continuity, there appears discrimination of self and world. And yet, this discrimination takes place, as it were, on the same canvas.

 

8)

2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 2 XII:

 

"It is the same with the hare's horns, Mahamati, whose non-existence is asserted in reference to the bull's horns [existence]. But, Mahamati, when the bull's horns are analysed to their minutest atoms...there is afterall nothing to be known as atoms.

The non-existence of what, is to be affirmed in reference to what? As with other things, this reasoning from reference does not hold true."

 

All appearances are ultimately empty, so trying to establish the being or not being of something through reference is pointless.

 

Or, we can say that the function of discrimination and differentiation is endless, without limit. There cannot be an 'ultimate' discrimination--this doesnt even make sense. Hence, references are self perpetuating and endlessly oscilating, but never actually revealing.

 

To put it philosophically, A and Not-A are purely epistemological, never ontological, reflecting only a cognitive process building on its own effect. Hence the idea of bootstrapping appearances and why the world is like a reflection. By 'world' we mean the product of this process, which we would say is the source of developing attachments.

 

8)

2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now generally I would suggest that differentiation is something that begins during this life, definitely at birth, if not before in utero. However, there is an implication that the Alayavijnana is already 'defiled' from habit-energy that goes waaay back in time.

 

What do we make of this?

 

8)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Apech said:

(1st Chapter) It is dependent origination - although it doesn't explicitly say so.

 

By the way why did you miss out the first paragraph???

 

Could you explain more?  

 

I see dependent origination are a process issue: If this arises, that arises in response; if this ceases, that ceases in response.

 

I see that more as the wiring enforced by the blackbox of life.

 

Clinging seems more a human response. Nature instead of process.

 

The reason I don't see them connected is that e can break clinging but can't break dependent origination as the latter seeks to suggest more of how existence occurs... but as I am not well read on the definition, not sure if you that it includes all our actions as well. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, dawei said:

 

Could you explain more?  

 

I see dependent origination are a process issue: If this arises, that arises in response; if this ceases, that ceases in response.

 

I see that more as the wiring enforced by the blackbox of life.

 

Clinging seems more a human response. Nature instead of process.

 

The reason I don't see them connected is that e can break clinging but can't break dependent origination as the latter seeks to suggest more of how existence occurs... but as I am not well read on the definition, not sure if you that it includes all our actions as well. 

 

Dawei,

 

It’s true that ‘because of this arising , that arises’ is a way of understanding dependent origination – it is actually a very deep teaching which the Buddha himself said to Ananda – don’t say you understand it – you don’t. So it’s a bit like the Quantum Theory of Buddhism except it is not ontological and neither process or nature – but its easy to see why you might think it is either.

 

As a detailed teaching it is taught as a chain which starts with ‘ignorance’ - the word for this is avidya (the ‘a’ is privative and thus it means not-knowing), the opposite is vidya which means ‘knowing’ or ‘seeing’ as in English when you say ‘I see’ meaning ‘I understand’. This word vidya translates into Tibetan as ‘rigpa’ which also means knowing and gives a clue as to what kind of knowing is refered to i.e. Knowing the nature of reality (or the natural mind). So to be vidya is to be awakened and to be avidya to be ‘asleep’. On the the basis of this ignorance the eleven other levels of pile up leading eventually to the ‘suffering of old age and death’ which means basically mortality or even ‘entropy’ if you prefer.

 

So essentially what dependent origination is describing is how our ignorance of the nature of things causes the build up of the samaric world view and the experiences of it we have. The second phase after ignorance is called samskara which means volitional or mental formations – you can take this to mean patterns of imprints in the mind-substance (citta) which are born of activity and become habitual. So around our original ignorance we build up patterns of behaviour based on our misundertanding of who and what we are. These are also called karmas and you can see that action based in ignorance generates karma while action = buddha-activity based on awakened mind does not – it is said to be natural like rain falling.

 

Emergent from thiese karmas are consciousness (vijnana ) which really means the subject/object division, name/form, six sense bases, contact, feeling, craving, clinging, becoming, birth, aging and death.

 

If we look at the OP’s quoted text:

 

it is because the ignorant cling to names, signs and ideas; as their minds move along these

 

channels they feed on multiplicities of objects and fall into the notion of and ego-soul and what belongs to it; they make

 

discriminations of good and bad among appearances and cling to the agreeable. As they thus cling there is a reversion to

 

ignorance, and karma born of greed, anger and folly, is accumulated. As the accumulation of karma goes on they become

 

imprisioned in a cocoon of discrimination and are thenceforth unable to free themselves from the round of birth and death.

 

 

So you can see from the bolded words – ignorance, name and form, samskaras, consciousness, feelings, clinging, karmas, birth and death.

 

So the text is really a riff based on dependent origination. The idea is that you can break this chain and the key point for doing this is craving. So if we can stop ‘wanting’ and practice non-attachment then the whole thing collapses back to it’s root and avidya becomes vidya and no more suffering. Another perhaps more direct approach is to work on resting in the natural state and directly convert avidya to vidya.

 

What frustrates and confuses many people is that here Buddhism offers no ontological solution to ‘what is’. It directs our attention to the consequences of our ignorance without providing an explanation of what actually ‘is’ - unlike Advaita Vedanta which offers ‘brahman’ or perhaps KS which offers Shiva and so on. Buddhism is content to say that the awakened state is ineffable and beyond concept - and that’s that. So if we were to say is it a non-dual field of consciousness or energy – Buddhism might just say ‘that’s a concept so no, while its not wrong it’s not right either’ better to address your ignorance and it’s consequences than build castles in the air :)

7 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chapter 2:

 

Those that are "afraid of sufferings arising from the discrimination of birth-death" and thus "seek for Nirvana", are not aware that "Nirvana is the Ālayavijñāna where a revulsion [parāvritti] takes place by self-realization."

 

If a thing is born, it is born into something which it is not, and when it dies, it dies apart from that which it is not. These are discriminations, which we've seen are empty. Seeking Nirvana means gaining something that is not present--hence, another layer of discrimination.

 

8)

2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Eventually to transcend perceptual self illusions, even our methods of enlightening ourselves from these illusions must be dissolved and released.

 

Even our beloved meditations and cultivation are another layered filter of perception occluding the true essence. 

 

Any notions of deities and indeed all mental concepts eventually will also be released, or they remain a self perpetuating duality vortex for our perceptual self to align with, identify as other and hence maintain the barrier of perceptual duality projection over reality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Moving on to Chapter 3... Right Knowledge or Knowledge of Relations

In the Sutra...

The Blessed One replied: People of this world are dependent in their thinking on one of two things: on the notion of being whereby they take pleasure in realism, or in the notion of non-being whereby they take pleasure in nihilism; in either case they imagine enmancipation where there is no emancipation.

What do you think of this statement? Would you agree with Buddha on the point?

2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On February 10, 2018 at 6:27 AM, Apech said:

These are also called karmas and you can see that action based in ignorance generates karma while action = buddha-activity based on awakened mind does not – it is said to be natural like rain falling.

 

What does awakened mind mean in this context?

1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
43 minutes ago, s1va said:

 

What does awakened mind mean in this context?

 

 

It means awakened to seeing reality as it is - enlightened in other words.  This is yathabhutadarsana in Sanskrit - lit. 'seeing things the way they really are', which is sometimes used as an epithet of nirvana.

4 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Apech said:

 

 

It means awakened to seeing reality as it is - enlightened in other words.  This is yathabhutadarsana in Sanskrit - lit. 'seeing things the way they really are', which is sometimes used as an epithet of nirvana.

 

This is consistent with my understanding.  Just wanted to check because 'awakened' is used in many context these days.  Thanks.

2 people thank this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Alexandra David-Neel translated "nirvana" as literally meaning "blown out".  I like her translation because it intimates the role of breath in the process.

 

On dependent causation:

 

“Birth is anguish, old age and decay, sickness, death, sorrow, grief, woe, lamentation, and despair are anguish. Not to get what one desires is anguish. In short, the five groups based on grasping are anguish.”

 

(AN I 176, Vol I pg 160; Pali “dukkha”: “anguish” in MN, "ill” in AN original above)

 

So dependent causation ends in grasping after self in the five groups, and that is identically to suffer.

 

As far as I can figure, the ignorance that gives rise to intentional activity of speech, body, and mind can only be said to have ceased when intentional activity of speech, body, and mind cease as a consequence.  The meditative states Gautama described are states where intentional activities cease, and he specified that activities with regard to speech cease in the first of the material states, the activities with regard to the body (with regard to inhalation and exhalation) cease in the fourth, and the activities with regard to the mind (with regard to perception and sensation) cease after the fourth of the non-material states.  

 

He never expressly stated that the meditative states can be attained by any intentional activity, what a surprise.  

 

The passages regarding discrimination from Lankavatara--I guess the idea is to encourage people to somehow kick it up a notch?  I think I prefer the Zen notion of the person of no rank, going in and out of the gates of the face--at least that emphasizes a selfless process, along the lines of Gautama's way of living.



Linji addressed the assembly, saying, "There is a true person of no rank. He is always leaving and entering the gates of your face. You beginners who have not witnessed him: Look! Look!"
Thereupon a monk asked, "How about this true person of no rank?"
Linji got down from the seat and grabbed him. 
The monk hesitated, and Linji pushed him away, saying, "This true person of no rank; what a shit-stick he is!" 

 

(from here)

 

 

Edited by Mark Foote
1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Mark Foote said:

I think Alexandra David-Neel translated "nirvana" as literally meaning "blown out".  I like her translation because it intimates the role of breath in the process.

 

On dependent causation:

 

“Birth is anguish, old age and decay, sickness, death, sorrow, grief, woe, lamentation, and despair are anguish. Not to get what one desires is anguish. In short, the five groups based on grasping are anguish.”

 

(AN I 176, Vol I pg 160; Pali “dukkha”: “anguish” in MN, "ill” in AN original above)

 

So dependent causation ends in grasping after self in the five groups, and that is identically to suffer.

 

As far as I can figure, the ignorance that gives rise to intentional activity of speech, body, and mind can only be said to have ceased when intentional activity of speech, body, and mind cease as a consequence.  The meditative states Gautama described are states where intentional activities cease, and he specified that activities with regard to speech cease in the first of the material states, the activities with regard to the body (with regard to inhalation and exhalation) cease in the fourth, and the activities with regard to the mind (with regard to perception and sensation) cease after the fourth of the non-material states.  

 

He never expressly stated that the meditative states can be attained by any intentional activity, what a surprise.  

 

The passages regarding discrimination from Lankavatara--I guess the idea is to encourage people to somehow kick it up a notch?  I think I prefer the Zen notion of the person of no rank, going in and out of the gates of the face--at least that emphasizes a selfless process, along the lines of Gautama's way of living.



Linji addressed the assembly, saying, "There is a true person of no rank. He is always leaving and entering the gates of your face. You beginners who have not witnessed him: Look! Look!"
Thereupon a monk asked, "How about this true person of no rank?"
Linji got down from the seat and grabbed him. 
The monk hesitated, and Linji pushed him away, saying, "This true person of no rank; what a shit-stick he is!" 

 

(from here)

 

 

 

 

yes 'blown out' will refer to the idea that when the the three fires of ignorance, desire and hatred are exhausted - then again samsara collapses and nirvana is 'revealed' - thus the Buddha is described as being a burned out fire.

1 person thanks this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Jonesboy said:

Moving on to Chapter 3... Right Knowledge or Knowledge of Relations

In the Sutra...

The Blessed One replied: People of this world are dependent in their thinking on one of two things: on the notion of being whereby they take pleasure in realism, or in the notion of non-being whereby they take pleasure in nihilism; in either case they imagine enmancipation where there is no emancipation.

What do you think of this statement? Would you agree with Buddha on the point?

 

Seems like a argument for a middle way without yet saying so... cuz it sounds to me like two sides are presented as both missing the mark.

 

I wonder if 'nihilism' is the proper translation for the original... but I like that in either case, the final statement has kind of buddhist/zen/daoist flavor.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Apech said:

 

 

yes 'blown out' will refer to the idea that when the the three fires of ignorance, desire and hatred are exhausted - then again samsara collapses and nirvana is 'revealed' - thus the Buddha is described as being a burned out fire.

 

Believe I misquoted David-Neel.  In "Secret Oral Teachings", she gives "extinguished" as the literal meaning of nirvana.  I think I got "blown out" from "The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary" (Rhys Davids and Stede, pg 362):



Nibbana--Etymology.  Although nir+va "to blow" is already in use in the Vedic period, we do not find its distinctive application until later and more commonly in popular use, where "va" is fused with "vr" in this sense, viz. in application to the extinguishing of a fire, which is the prevailing Buddhist conception of the term.  Only in the older texts do we find references to a simile of the wind and the flame; but by far the most common metaphor and that which governs the whole idea of nibbana finds expression in the putting out of fire by other means of extinction than by blowing, which latter process rather tends to incite the fire than to extinguish it. ...

 

I continue to like thinking of nirvana as a state of being where the fires are "blown out" by wellness in the natural movement of breath.

 

Also, I should clarify that although Gautama never expressly coupled the setting up of mindfulness with the attainment of the meditative states, he did say that he himself could intentionally induce all the states (sorry I don't have the reference on that).  I'm guessing that doesn't apply to the final cessation of perception and cessation, the attainment synonymous with Gautama's enlightenment, which cessation involves the realization that all that is constructed or thought out is impermanent.

 

I apologize for my mischaracterization of the teaching, saying that "he never expressly stated that the meditative states can be attained by any intentional activity".  I do think it's a case of aiming at one thing in order to bring about another, as when he associates "making self-surrender the object of thought" with "laying hold" of concentration.  He also speaks of the extension of the mind of friendliness, of compassion, of sympathy, and of equanimity, saying that the "excellence of the heart's release" with regard to each of the latter three corresponds with the induction of the first three of the immaterial meditative states.  

 

I would say he exercised his faculties and the activities ceased, so he did have some intent there, but not specifically for the attainment of meditative states.

 

Quote

The Blessed One replied: People of this world are dependent in their thinking on one of two things: on the notion of being whereby they take pleasure in realism, or in the notion of non-being whereby they take pleasure in nihilism; in either case they imagine enmancipation where there is no emancipation.

What do you think of this statement? Would you agree with Buddha on the point?

 

I gotta say, words put into the mouth of Gautama by later authors are not actually the words of the one traditionally regarded as "Buddha".  Picky, picky, picky.  Gautama would usually add in the cases of "both being and non-being" and "neither being nor non-being", in such a discussion--but I can't cite chapter and verse.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites