Sutra 1, Chapter 12 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Tathagatahood Which Is Noble Wisdom
THEN SAID MAHAMATI to the Blessed One: it has been taught in the canonical books that the Buddhas are
subject to neither birth nor destruction, and you have said that "the Unborn" is one of the names of the
Tathagatas; does that mean that the Tathagata is a non-entity?
The Blessed One replied: The Tathagata is not a non-entity nor is he to be conceived as other things are
as neither born nor disappearing, nor is he subject to causation, nor is he without significance; yet I refer
to him as "The Un-born." There is yet another name for the Tathagata, "The Mind-appearing One" (Manomayakaya)
which his Essence-body assumes at will in the transformations incident to his work of emancipation. This is
beyond the understanding of common disciples and masters and even beyond the full comprehension of those
Bodhisattvas who remain in the seventh stage. Yes, Mahamati, "The Un-born" is synonymous with Tathagata.
Then Mahamati said: If the Tathagatas are un-born, there does not seem to be anything to take hold of--no
entity--or is there something that bears another name than entity? And what can that "something" be?
The Blessed One replied: Objects are frequently known by different names according to different aspects
that they present,--the god Indra is sometimes known as Shakra, and sometimes as Purandara. These different
names are sometimes used interchangeably
and sometimes they are discriminated, but different objects are not to be imagined because of the
different names, nor are they without individuation. The same can be said of myself as I appear in this world
of patience before ignorant people and where I am known by uncounted trillions of names. They address me by
different names not realising that they are all names of the one Tathagata. Some recognise me as Tathagata,
some as The Self-existent One, some as Gautama the Ascetic, some as Buddha. Then there are others who
recognise me as Brahma, as Vishnu, as Ishvara; some see me as Sun, as Moon; some as a reincarnation of the
ancient sages; some as one of "the ten powers"; some as Rama, some as Indra, and some as Varuna. Still there
are others who speak of me as The Un-born, as Emptiness, as "Suchness," as Truth, as Reality, as Ultimate
Principle; still there are others who see me as Dharmakaya, as Nirvana, as the Eternal; some speak of me as
sameness, as non-duality, as undying, as formless; some think of me as the doctrine of Buddha-causation, or
of Emancipation, or of the Noble Path; and some think of me as Divine Mind and Noble Wisdom. Thus in this
world and in other worlds am I known by these uncounted names, but they all see me as the moon is seen in
water. Though they all honor, praise and esteem me, they do not fully understand the meaning and significance
of the words they use; not having their own self-realisation of Truth they cling to the words of their
canonical books, or to what has been told them, or to what they have imagined, and fail to see that the name
they are using is only one of the many names of the Tathagata. In their studies they
follow the mere words of the text vainly trying to gain the true meaning, instead of having confidence in
the one "text" where self-confirming Truth is revealed, that is, having confidence in the self-realisation of
THEN SAID MAHAMATI: Pray tell us, Blessed One about the self-nature of the Tathagatas?
The Blessed One replied: If the Tathagata is to be described by such expressions as made or un-made,
effect or cause, we would have to describe him as neither made, nor un-made, nor effect, nor cause; but if we
so described him we would be guilty of dualistic discrimination. If the Tathagata is something made, he would
be impermanent; if he is impermanent anything made would be a Tathagata. If he is something un-made, then all
effort to realise Tathagatahood would be useless. That which is neither an effect nor a cause, is neither a
being nor a non-being, and that which is neither a being nor a non-being is outside the four propositions.
The four propositions belong to worldly usage; that which is outside them is no more than a word, like a
barren-woman's child; so are all the terms concerning the Tathagata to be understood.
When it is said that all things are egoless, it means that all things are devoid of self-hood. Each thing
may have its own individuality--the being of a horse is not of cow nature--it is such as it is of its own
nature and is thus discriminated by the ignorant, but, nevertheless, its own nature is of the nature of a
dream or a vision.
That is why the ignorant and the simple-minded, who are in the habit of discriminating appearances, fail
to understand the significance of egolessness. It is not until discrimination is gotten rid of that the fact
that all things are empty, un-born and without self-nature can be appreciated.
Mahamati, all these expressions as applied to the Tathagatas are without meaning, for that which is none
of these is something removed from all measurement, and that which is removed from all measurement turns into
a meaningless word; that which is a mere word is something un-born; that which is unborn is not subject to
destruction; that which is not subject to destruction is like space and space is neither effect nor cause;
that which is neither effect nor cause is something unconditioned; that which is unconditioned is beyond all
reasoning; that which is beyond all reasoning,--that is the Tathagata. The self-nature of Tathagatahood is
far removed from all predicates and measurements; the self-nature of Tathagatahood is Noble Wisdom.
THEN MAHAMATI SAID to the Blessed One: Are the Tathagatas permanent or impermanent?
The Blessed One replied: The Tathagatas are neither permanent nor impermanent; if either is asserted there
is error connected with it. If the Tathagata is said to be permanent then he will be connected with the
creating agencies for, according to the philosophers, the creating agencies are something uncreated
and permanent. But the Tathagatas are not connected with the so-called creating agencies and in that sense
he is impermanent. If he is said to be impermanent then he is connected with things that are created for they
also are impermanent. For these reasons the Tathagatas are neither permanent nor impermanent.
Neither can the Tathagatas he said to be permanent in the sense that space is said to be permanent, or
that the horns of a hare can be said to be permanent for, being unreal, they exclude all ideas of permanency
or impermanency. This does not apply to the Tathagatas because they come forth from the habit-energy of
ignorance which is connected with the mind-system and the elements that make up personality. The triple world
originates from the discrimination of unrealities and where discrimination takes place there is duality and
the notion of permanency and impermanency, but the Tathagatas do not rise from the discrimination of
unrealities. Thus, as long as there is discrimination there will be the notion of permanency and
impermanency; when discrimination is done away with, Noble Wisdom, which is based on the significance of
solitude, will be established.
However, there is another sense in which the Tathagatas may be said to be permanent. Transcendental
Intelligence rising with the attainment of enlightenment is of a permanent nature. This Truth-essence which
is discoverable in the enlightenment of all who are enlightened, is realisable as the regulative and
sustaining principle of Reality, which forever abides. The Transcendental Intelligence attained intuitively
by the Tathagatas by their self-realisation of Noble Wisdom,
is a realisation of their own self-nature,--in this sense the Tathagatas are permanent. The
eternal-unthinkable of the Tathagatas is the "suchness" of Noble Wisdom realised within themselves. It is
both eternal and beyond thought. It conforms to the idea of a cause and yet is beyond existence and
non-existence. Because it is the exalted state of Noble-Wisdom, it has its own character. Because it is the
cause of highest Reality, it is its own causation. Its eternality is not derived from reasonings based on
external notions of being and non-being, nor of eternality nor non-eternality. Being classed under the same
head as space, cessasion, Nirvana, it is eternal. Because it has nothing to do with existence and
non-existence, it is no creator; because it has nothing to do with creation, nor with being and non-being,
but is only revealed in the exalted state of Noble Wisdom, it is truly eternal.
When the twofold passions are destroyed, and the twofold hindrances are cleared away, and the twofold
egolessness is fully understood, and the inconceivable transformation death of the Bodhisattva is
attained--that which remains is the self-nature of the Tathagatas. When the teachings of the Dharma are fully
understood and are perfectly realised by the disciples and masters, that which is realised in their deepest
consciousness is their own Buddha-nature revealed as Tathagata.
In a true sense there are four kinds of sameness relating to Buddha-nature: there is sameness of letters,
sameness of words, sameness of meaning, and sameness of Essence. The name Buddha is spelt: B-U-D-D-H-A; the
letters are the same when used for any Buddha or
[paragraph continues] Tathagata. When the Brahmans teach they use
various words, and when the Tathagatas teach they use the very same words; in respect to words there is a
sameness between us. In the teachings of all the Tathagatas there is a sameness of meaning. Among all the
Buddhas there is a sameness of Buddha-nature. They all have the thirty-two marks of excellence and the eighty
minor signs of bodily perfection; there is no distinction among them except as they manifest various
transformations according to the different dispositions of beings who are to be disciplined and emancipated
by various means. In the Ultimate Essence which is Dharmakaya, all the Buddhas of the past, present and
future, are of one sameness.
THEN SAID MAHAMATI to the Blessed One: It has been said by the Blessed One that from the night of the
Enlightenment to the night of the Parinirvana, the Tathagata has uttered no word nor ever will utter a word.
In what deep meaning is this true?
The Blessed One replied: By two reasons of deepest meaning is it true: In the light of the Truth
self-realised by Noble Wisdom; and in the Truth of an eternally-abiding Reality. The self-realisation of
Noble Wisdom by all the Tathagatas is the same as my own self-realisation of Noble Wisdom; there is no more,
no less, no difference; and all the Tathagatas bear witness that the state of self-realisation is free from
words and discriminations and has nothing to do with the
dualistic way of speaking, that is, all beings receive the teachings of the Tathagatas through
self-realisation of Noble Wisdom, not through words of discrimination.
Again, Mahamati, there has always been an eternally-abiding Reality. The "substance" of Truth
(dharmadhatu) abides forever whether a Tathagata appears in the world or not. So does the Reason of
all things (dharmata) eternally abide; so does Reality (paramartha) abide and keep its order.
What has been realised by myself and all other Tathagatas is this Reality (Dharmakaya), the
eternally-abiding self-orderliness of Reality; the "suchness" (tathata) of things; the realness of
things (bhutata); Noble Wisdom which is Truth itself. The sun radiates its splendor spontaneously on
all alike and with no words of explanation; in like manner do the Tathagatas radiate the Truth of Noble
Wisdom with no recourse to words and to all alike. For these reasons is it stated by me that from the night
of the Enlightenment to the night of the Tathagata's Parinirvana, he has not uttered, nor ever will he utter,
one word. And the same is true of all the Buddhas.
THEN SAID MAHAMATI: Blessed One, you speak of the sameness of all the Buddhas, but in other places you
have spoken of Dharmata-Buddha, Nishyanda-Buddha and Nirmana-Buddha as though they were different from each
other; how can they be the same and yet different?
The Blessed One replied: I speak of the different Buddhas as opposed to the views of the philosophers who
base their teachings on the reality of an external world of form and who cherish discriminations and
attachments arising therefrom; against the teachings of these philosophers I disclose the Nirmana-Buddha, the
Buddha of Transformations. In the many transformations of the Tathagata stage, the Nirmana-Buddha establishes
such matters as charity, morality, patience, thoughtfulness, and tranquillisation; by right-knowledge he
teaches the true understanding of the maya-like nature of the elements that make up personality and its
external world; he teaches the true nature of the mind-system as a whole and in the distinctions of its
forms, functions and ways of performance. In a deeper sense, The Nirmana-Buddha symbolises the principles of
differentiation and integration by reason of which all component things are distributed, all complexities
simplified, all thoughts analysed; at the same time it symbolises the harmonising, unifying power of sympathy
and compassion; it removes all obstacles, it harmonises all differences, it brings into perfect Oneness the
discordant many. For the emancipation of all beings the Bodhisattvas and Tathagatas assume bodies of
transformation and employ many skillful devices,--this is the work of the Nirmana-Buddha.
For the enlightenment of the Bodhisattvas and their sustaining along the stages, the Inconceivable is made
realisable. The Nishyanda-Buddha, the "Out-flowing-Buddha," through Transcendental Intelligence, reveals the
true meaning and significance of appearances,
discrimination, attachment; and of the power of habit-energy which is accumulated by them and conditions
them; and of the un-bornness the emptiness, the egolessness of all things. Because of Transcendental
Intelligence and the purification of the evil out-flowings of life, all dualistic views of existence and
nonexistence are transcended and by self-realisation of Noble Wisdom the true imagelessness of Reality is
made manifest. The inconceivable glory of Buddhahood is made manifest in rays of Noble Wisdom; Noble Wisdom
is the self-nature of the Tathagatas. This is the work of the Nishyanda-Buddha. In a deeper sense, the
Nishyanda-Buddha symbolises the emergence of the principles of intellection and compassion but as yet
undifferentiated and in perfect balance, potential but unmanifest. Looked at from the in-going side of the
Bodhisattvas, Nishyanda-Buddha is seen in the glorified bodies of the Tathagatas; looked at from the
forth-going side of Buddhahood, Nishyanda-Buddha is seen in the radiant personalities of the Tathagatas ready
and eager to manifest the inherent Love and Wisdom of the Dharmakaya.
Dharmata-Buddha is Buddhahood in its self-nature of Perfect Oneness in whom absolute tranquillity
prevails. As Noble Wisdom, Dharmata-Buddha transcends all differentiated knowledge, is the goal of intuitive
self-realisation, and is the self-nature of the Tathagatas. As Noble Wisdom, Dharmata-Buddha is inscrutable,
ineffable, unconditioned. Dharmata-Buddha is the Ultimate Principle of Reality from which all things derive
their being and truthfulness, but which in itself transcends all predicates. Dharmata-Buddha
is the central sun which holds all, illumines all. Its inconceivable Essence is made manifest in the
"out-flowing" glory of Nishyanda-Buddha and in the transformations of Nirmana-Buddha.
THEN SAID MAHAMATI: Pray tell us, Blessed One, more about the Dharmakaya?
The Blessed One replied: We have been speaking of it in terms of Buddhahood, but as it is inscrutable and
beyond predicate we may just as well speak of it as the Truth-body, or the Truth-principle of Ultimate
Reality (Paramartha). This Ultimate Principle of Reality may be considered as it is manifested under
seven aspects: First, as Citta-gocara, it is the world of spiritual experience and the abode of the
Tathagatas on their outgoing mission of emancipation. It is Noble Wisdom manifested as the principle of
irradiancy and individuation. Second, as Jnana, it is the mind-world and its principle of intellection
and consciousness. Third, as Dristi, it is the realm of dualism which is the physical world of birth
and death wherein are manifested all the differentiations of thinker, thinking and thought-about and wherein
are manifested the principles of sensation, perception, discrimination, desire, attachment and suffering.
Fourth, because of the greed, anger, infatuation, suffering and need of the physical world incident to
discrimination and attachment, it reveals a world beyond the realm of dualism wherein it appears as the
integrating principle of charity and sympathy. Fifth, in a realm still higher, which is the abode of the
Bodhisattva stages, and is analogous to the mind-world, where the interests of heart transcend those of the
mind, it appears as the principle of compassion and self-giving. Sixth, in the spiritual realm where the
Bodhisattvas attain Buddhahood, it appears as the principle of perfect Love (Karuna). Here the last
clinging to an ego-self is abandoned and the Bodhisattva enters into his self-realisation of Noble Wisdom
which is the bliss of the Tathagata's perfect enjoyment of his inmost nature. Seventh, as Prajna it is
the active aspect of the Ultimate Principle wherein both the forth-going and the in-coming principles are
alike, implicit and potential, and wherein both Wisdom and Love are in perfect balance, harmony and
These are the seven aspects of the Ultimate Principle of Dharmakaya, by reason of which all things are
made manifest and perfected and then reintegrated, and all remaining within its inscrutable Oneness, with no
signs of individuation, nor beginning, nor succession, nor ending. We speak of it as Dharmakaya, as Ultimate
Principle, as Buddhahood, as Nirvana; what matters it? They are only other names for Noble Wisdom.
Mahamati, you and all the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas should avoid the erroneous reasonings of the
philosophers and seek for a self-realisation of Noble Wisdom.
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