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Sutra 1, Chapter 11 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Bodhisattvahood and Its Stages


THEN SAID MAHAMATI to the Blessed One: Will you tell us now about the disciples who are Bodhisattvas?

The Blessed One replied: The Bodhisattvas are those earnest disciples who are enlightened by reason of

their efforts to attain self-realisation of Noble Wisdom and who have taken upon themselves the task to

enlighten others. They have gained a clear understanding of the truth that all things are empty, un-born, and

of a maya-like nature; they have ceased from viewing things discriminatively and from considering them in

their relations; they thoroughly understand the truth of twofold egolessness and have adjusted themselves to

it with patient acceptance; they have attained a definite realisation of imagelessness; and they are abiding

in the perfect-knowledge that they have gained by self-realisation of Noble Wisdom.

Well stamped by the seal of "Suchness" they entered upon the first of the Bodhisattva stages. The first

stage is called the Stage of joy (Pramudita). Entering this stage is like passing out of the glare and

shadows into a realm of "no-shadows"; it is like passing out of the noise and tumult of the crowded city into

the quietness of solitude. The Bodhisattva feels within himself the awakening of a great heart of compassion

and he utters his ten original vows: To honor and serve all Buddhas; to spread the knowledge and practice of

the Dharma; to welcome all coming Buddhas; to practise


the six Paramitas; to persuade all beings to embrace the Dharma; to attain a perfect understanding of the

universe; to attain a perfect understanding of tile mutuality of all beings; to attain perfect

self-realisation of the oneness of all the Buddhas and Tathagatas n self-nature, purpose and resources; to

become acquainted with all skillful means for the carrying out of these vows for the emancipation of all

beings; to realise supreme enlightenment through the perfect self-realisation of Noble Wisdom, ascending the

stages and entering Tathagatahood.

In the spirit of these vows the Bodhisattva gradually ascends the stages to the sixth. All earnest

disciples, masters and Arhats have ascended thus far, but being enchanted by the bliss of the Samadhis and

not being supported by the powers of the Buddhas, they pass to their Nirvana. The same fate would befall the

Bodhisattvas except for the sustaining power of the Buddhas, by that they are enabled to refuse to enter

Nirvana until all beings can enter Nirvana with them. The Tathagatas point out to them the virtues of

Buddahood which are beyond the conception of the intellectual-mind, and they encourage and strengthen the

Bodhisattvas not to give in to the enchantment of the bliss of the Samadhis, but to press on to further

advancement along the stages. If the Bodhisattvas had entered Nirvana at this stage, and they would have done

so without the sustaining power of the Buddhas, there would have been the cessation of all things and the

family of the Tathagatas would have become extinct.

Strengthened by the new strength that comes to them from the Buddhas and with the more perfect


insight that is theirs by reason of their advance in self-realisation of Noble Wisdom, they re-examine the

nature of the mind-system, the egolessness of personality, and the part that grasping and attachment and

habit-energy play in the unfolding drama of life; they re-examine the illusions of the fourfold logical

analysis, and the various elements that enter into enlightenment and self-realisation, and, in the thrill of

their new powers of self-mastery, the Bodhisattvas enter upon the seventh stage of Far-going


Supported by the sustaining power of the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas at this stage enter into the bliss of

the Samadhi of perfect tranquillisation. Owing to their original vows they are transported by emotions of

love and compassion as they become aware of the part they are to perform in the carrying out of their vows

for the emancipation of all beings. Thus they do not enter into Nirvana, but, in truth, they too are already

in Nirvana because in their emotions of love and compassion there is no rising of discrimination; henceforth,

with them, discrimination no more takes place. Because of Transcendental Intelligence only one conception is

present-the promotion of the realisation of Noble Wisdom. Their insight issues from the Womb of Tathagatahood

and they enter into their task with spontaneity and radiancy because it is of the self-nature of Noble

Wisdom. This is called the Bodhisattva's Nirvana-the losing oneself in the bliss of perfect self-yielding.

This is the seventh stage, the stage of Far-going.

The eighth stage, is the stage of No-recession (Acala). Up to this stage, because of the

defilements upon the


face of Universal Mind caused by the accumulation of habit-energy since beginningless time, the mindsystem

and all that pertains to it has been evolved and sustained. The mind-system functioned by the discriminations

of an external and objective world to which it became attached and by which it was perpetuated. But with the

Bodhisattva's attainment of the eighth stage there comes the "turning-about" within his deepest consciousness

from self-centered egoism to universal compassion for all beings, by which he attains perfect

self-realisation of Noble Wisdom. There is an instant cessation of the delusive activities of the whole

mind-system; the dancing of the waves of habit-energy on the face of Universal Mind are forever stilled,

revealing its own inherent quietness and solitude, the inconceivable Oneness of the Womb of


Henceforth there is no more looking outward upon an external world by senses and sense-minds, nor a

discrimination of particularised concepts and ideas and propositions by an intellectual-mind, no more

grasping, nor attachment, nor pride of egoism, nor habit-energy. Henceforth there is only the inner

experience of Noble Wisdom which has been attained by entering into its perfect Oneness.

Thus establishing himself at the eighth stage of No-recession, the Bodhisattva enters into the bliss of

the ten Samadhis, but avoiding the path of the disciples and masters who yielded themselves up to their

entrancing bliss and who passed to their Nirvanas, and supported by his vows and the Transcendental

Intelligence which now is his and being sustained by the


power of the Buddhas, he enters upon the higher paths that lead to Tathagatahood. He passes through the

bliss of the Samadhis to assume the transformation body of a Tathagata that through him all beings may be

emancipated. Mahamati, If there had been no Tathagata-womb and no Divine Mind then there would have been no

rising and disappearance of the aggregates that make up personality and its external world, no rising and

disappearance of ignorant people nor holy people, and no task for Bodhisattvas; therefore, while walking in

the path of self-realisation and entering into the enjoyments of the Samadhis, you must never abandon working

hard for the emancipation of all beings and your self-yielding love will never be in vain. To philosophers

the conception of Tathagata-womb seems devoid of purity and soiled by these external manifestations, but it

is not so understood by the Tathagatas,--to them it is not a proposition of philosophy but is an intuitive

experience as real as though it was an amalaka fruit held in the palm of the hand.

With the cessation of the mind-system and all its evolving discriminations, there is cessation of all

strain and effort. It is like a man in a dream who imagines he is crossing a river and who exerts himself to

the utmost to do so, who is suddenly awakened. Being awake, he thinks: "Is this real or is it unreal?" Being

now enlightened, he knows that it is neither real nor unreal. Thus when the Bodhisattva arrives at the eighth

stage, he is able to see all things truthfully and, more than that, he is able to thoroughly understand the

significance of all the dream-like things of his life as to how


they came to pass and as to how they pass away. Ever since beginningless time the mind-system has

perceived multiplicities of forms and conditions and ideas which the thinking-mind has discriminated and the

empirical-mind has experienced and grasped and clung to. From this has risen habit-energy that by its

accumulation has conditioned the illusions of existence and non-existence, individuality and generality, and

has thus perpetuated the dream-state of false-imagination. But now, to the Bodhisattvas of the eighth stage,

life is past and is remembered as it truly was--a passing dream.

As long as the Bodhisattva had not passed the seventh stage, even though he had attained an intuitive

understanding of the true meaning of life and its maya-like nature, and as to how the mind carried on its

discriminations and attachments yet, nevertheless, the cherishing of the notions of these things had

continued and, although he no longer experienced within himself any ardent desire for things nor any impulse

to grasp them yet, nevertheless, the notions concerning them persisted and perfumed his efforts to practise

the teachings of the Buddhas and to labor for the emancipation of all beings. Now, in the eighth stage, even

the notions have passed away, and all effort and striving is seen to be unnecessary. The Bodhisattva's

Nirvana is perfect tranquillisation, but it is not extinction nor inertness; while there is an entire absence

of discrimination and purpose, there is the freedom and spontaneity of potentiality that has come with the

attainment and patient acceptance of the truths of egolessness and imagelessness. Here is perfect


solitude, undisturbed by any gradation or continuous succession, but radiant with the potency and freedom

of its self-nature which is the self-nature of Noble Wisdom, blissfully peaceful with the serenity of Perfect


Entering upon the eighth stage, with the turning-about at the deepest seat of consciousness, the

Bodhisattva will become conscious that he has received the second kind of Transcendental-body

(Manomayakaya). The transition from mortal-body to Transcendental-body has nothing to do with mortal

death, for the old body continues to function and the old mind serves the needs of the old body, but now it

is free from the control of mortal mind. There has been an inconceivable transformation-death

(acintya-parinama-cyuti) by which the false-imagination of his particularised individual personality

has been transcended by a realisation of his oneness with the universalised mind of Tathagatahood, from which

realisation there will be no recession. With that realisation he finds himself amply endowed with all the

Tathagata's powers, psychic faculties, and self-mastery, and, just as the good earth is the support of all

beings in the world of desire (karmadhatu), so the Tathagatas become the support of all beings in the

Transcendental World of No-form.

The first seven of the Bodhisattva stages were in the realm of mind and the eighth, while transcending

mind, was still in touch with it; but in the ninth stage of Transcendental Intelligence (Sadhumati),

by reason of his perfect intelligence and insight into the imagelessness of Divine Mind which he had



by self-realisation of Noble Wisdom, he is in the realm of Tathagatahood. Gradually the Bodhisattva will

realise his Tathagata-nature and the possession of all its powers and psychic faculties, self-mastery, loving

compassion, and skillful means, and by means of them will enter into all the Buddha-lands. Making use of

these new powers, the Bodhisattva will assume various transformation-bodies and personalities for the sake of

benefiting others. Just as in the former mental life, imagination had risen from relative-knowledge, so now

skillful-means rise spontaneously from Transcendental Intelligence. It is like the magical gem that reflects

instantaneously appropriate responses to one's wishes. The Bodhisattva passes over to all the assemblages of

the Buddhas and listens to them as they discourse on the dream-like nature of all things and concerning the

truths that transcend all notions of being and nonbeing, that have no relation to birth and death, nor to

eternality nor extinction. Thus facing the Tathagatas as they discourse on Noble Wisdom that is far beyond

the mental capacity of disciples and masters, he will attain a hundred thousand Samadhis, indeed, a hundred

thousand nyutas of kotis of Samadhis, and in the spirit of these Samadhis he will instantly pass from one

Buddha-land to another, paying homage to all the Buddhas, being born into all the celestial mansions,

manifesting Buddha-bodies, and himself discoursing on the Triple Treasure to lesser Bodhisattvas that they

too may partake of the fruits of self-realisation of Noble Wisdom.

Thus passing beyond the last stage of Bodhisattvahood, he becomes a Tathagata himself endowed with


all the freedom of the Dharmakaya. The tenth stage belongs to the Tathagatas. Here the Bodhisattva will

find himself seated upon a lotus-like throne in a splendid jewel-adorned palace and surrounded by

Bodhisattvas of equal rank. Buddhas from all the Buddha-lands will gather about him and with their pure and

fragrant hands resting on his forehead will give him ordination and recognition as one of themselves. Then

they will assign him a Buddha-land that he may possess and perfect as his own.

The tenth stage is called the Great Truth Cloud (Dharmamegha), inconceivable, inscrutable. Only the

Tathagatas can realise its perfect Imagelessness and Oneness and Solitude. It is Mahesvara, the Radiant Land,

the Pure Land, the Land of Far-distances; surrounding and surpassing the lesser worlds of form and desire

(karmadhatu), in which the Bodhisattva will find himself at-one-ment. Its rays of Noble Wisdom which

is the self-nature of the Tathagatas, many-colored, entrancing, auspicious, are transforming the triple world

as other worlds have been transformed in the past, and still other worlds will be transformed in the future.

But in the Perfect Oneness of Noble Wisdom there is no gradation nor succession nor effort, The tenth stage

is the first, the first is the eighth, the eighth is the fifth, the fifth is the seventh: what gradation can

there be where perfect Imagelessness and Oneness prevail? And what is the reality of Noble Wisdom? It is the

ineffable potency of the Dharmakaya; it has no bounds nor limits; It surpasses all the Buddha-lands, and

pervades the Akanistha and the heavenly mansions of the Tushita.

Sutra1 Chapter1 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Discrimination
Sutra1 Chapter2 - The Lankavatara Sutra - False-Imagination and Knowledge of Appearances
Sutra1 Chapter3 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Right Knowledge or Knowledge of Relations
Sutra1 Chapter4 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Perfect Knowledge, or Knowledge of Reality
Sutra1 Chapter5 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Mind System
Sutra1 Chapter6 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Transcendental Intelligence
Sutra1 Chapter7 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Self-Realisation
Sutra1 Chapter8 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Attainment of Self- Realisation
Sutra1 Chapter9 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Fruit of Self- Realisation
Sutra1 Chapter10 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Discipleship: Lineage of the Arhats
Sutra1 Chapter11 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Bodhisattvahood and Its Stages
Sutra1 Chapter12 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Tathagatahood Which Is Noble Wisdom
Sutra1 Chapter13 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Nirvana
Sutra2 Chapter1 - The Diamond Sutra - The Diamond Scripture
Sutra3 Chapter1 - Sutra of Transcendental Wisdom - Sutra of Transcendental Wisdom
Sutra4 Chapter1 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Autobiography of Hui-Neng
Sutra4 Chapter2 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on Prajna
Sutra4 Chapter3 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on Dhyana and Samadhi
Sutra4 Chapter4 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on Repentance
Sutra4 Chapter5 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on the Three-Bodies of Buddha
Sutra4 Chapter6 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Dialogues Suggested by Various Temperaments and Circumstances
Sutra4 Chapter7 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Sudden Enlightenment and Gradual Attainment
Sutra4 Chapter8 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Royal Patronage
Sutra4 Chapter9 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Final Words and Death of the Patriarch

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