Aug 27, 2022
Martin Goodson

A Vision of the Universe: Abhirati and the Tathagata Akshobhya

The Vimalakīrti Sūtra

If looking for the Buddha nature is impossible then how do we find it?



Once everyone had settled down again, the Buddha turned to Vimalakirti and asked him: “My good sir, when you would see the Buddha, what do you behold?”

Vimalakirti, who was sitting sat a short distance from the Tathagata, cocked his head to one side and narrowed his eyes. A slight smile could be seen through his beard.

“My lordLord,” he replied, “there is something you once said that just now comes to mind:

‘If you look for me in form,

If you search for me in sound,

Your footsteps go astray.

You cannot find the Tathagata!’”

Vimalakirti began pantomimed a search, looking all about himself in a playact  as if he had mislaid his purse. Finally, he shrugged. The Buddha beamed back at him, and both laughed heartily.

The Buddha gestured at the crowd leaning in to hear this discourse. “Perhaps you could explain a little further, Vimalakirti’ Vimalakirti.” The Buddha indicated the crowd leaning in to hear this discourse.

“The Tathagata is the heart of everything, and yet he cannot be found by looking. ,” Vimalakirti said. “In form, in sensation, in perception, even in thinking and sense consciousness and yet if you look for him in these things h, he cannot be found. Why not? Because he has no form and is not sensation, ; neither nor is he a way of perceiving, or a thought  or its content, or the elements in the stream of consciousness. He cannot be found inside these things, and neither nor is he outside – because he is not defiled[3]  by such dualistic seeing. He is neither here,  nor there, nor anywhere, and yet he is so close that he is never absent either. Thus This is the true body of the Buddha, the ‘One-Thus-Come’.”

Some of the arhats were lookinged at the Buddha and scratching scratched their heads. Finally, Sariputra stepped forward and asked: :

“My lordLord, where did you come from, w? Where was your previous birthplace?”

Vimalakirti looked surprised: . “Noble sir,” he said, “if you dreamed last night that Vimalakirti came to visit you in your hut, would you today be wondering what where his previous birthplace was, where he had come from or where he would appear next?”

“No, my lordLord, as a. A figure who appears in a dream is like an illusion created by a stage magician with smoke and mirrors. It is like the a part played by an actor. These characters appear real, but in essence they have no history before the show and . neither Nor do they go on anywhere after it.”

“If ‘death’ is the end of the performance and ‘rebirth’ the next one, what meaning does it have to ask where I came from, then?” Vimalakirti said. “The bodhisattva does not put an end to the roots of virtue,; and neither nor does he cling to error.”

The Buddha chipped in: “Sariputra, Vimalakirti resided last in the joyous realm known as Abhirati, with the Tathagata Aksobhya in the Eastern Realm. 

Sariputra looked aghast at Vimalakirti: . “Oh dear!” he exclaimed. “It’s quite a come- down from Abhirati to our Saha world. ! I feel very quite embarrassed for you.”

Vimalakirti Harrumphedharrumphed! . “Dear Sariputra, when light enters a darkened room, does the darkness remain?”

“No, my lordLord, it dispels it.”

“So, too, when the light of wisdom enters any realm, it dispels all darkness there, because the bodhisattva has transformed the passions,  – the three fires of greed, hatred and delusion. He is there to dispel the darkness for all the inhabitants and t. That is his reason for being. He does this by the virtue of the ‘Mirror mirror Wisdom’ wisdom’ which that gives AskobhyaAksobhya his name.”

The whole entire retinue conceived expressed[4]  the wish to behold this Tathagata AskobhyaAksobhya, h. Having witnessed several miracles today that day, they were hoping for a grand finale before having to departing to for their homes. Talking of light and dark the sky was already turning from blue to red. , and the east was already darkening.

“Would you oblige once more, Vimalakirti.” ?” said asked the Buddha.

Vimalakirti opened his hand and stretched out his arm. Making a small, sweeping movement, he scooped up the entire Abhirati world, with its rivers, mountains, cities and deserts. I and its devas, nagas, men, women and children. He gathered up its world mountain[5] , its the six realms on the mountain and the Tathagata AskobhyaAksobhya himself – a. All of them gently nestling in his hand. The Buddha there, and his the bodhisattvas, all knew what was happening; but the other beings were quite oblivious to what had just happenedthe event.

Vimalakirti had a knack for fitting the vast into the small, and neither the Saha world nor the world called Abhirati were remotely affected by this miracle.

To be fair It is true that some of the bodhisattvas from Abhirati did shriek,ed and one or two complained to AskobhyaAksobhya about this sudden ( – some said rude),  – intervention. However, AskobhyaAksobhya said it was had nothing to do with him, and added that any to direct their complaints should be directed at to Vimalakirti.

“Can you all see this?” asked the Tathagata Shakyamuni.

“Most of in the crowd were already beside themselves overcome with joy, and the dancing around and shouts of jubilation were answer enough. The arhats positively glowed with  admiration.

Sariputra spoke for them all: “ We see it, my Lord, ; we see it in all its splendour.”

In a quiet voice that caused had everyone in the crowd to restrain themselves ing to hear, the Buddha said: “If you wish to attain to this world,  – an admirable aspiration,  – then you must train yourselves in the mirror wisdom of Askohbya.”

“May all beings be re-born in a world such as Abhirati.” ,” said Sariputra, A tears of deep longing rolled rolling down Sariputra’s his cheeks. He turned towards  Vimalakirti and said: “We have benefited greatly from your wisdom and intervention, my lordLord.” he continued turning towards Vimalakirti.

“Those who realise this Dharma teaching will walk with the Tathagatas as companions. Those who copy this teaching and write it down, who recite it and live it, will be visited by the Tathagata in their homes.”

Vimalakirti closed his hand, and the world of Abhirati, with all its beings and the Buddha AskobhyaAksobhya, were was returned in an instant to their its proper places.

“This is true, Sariputra,” said the Buddha, looking at the crestfallen [7] faces around him. “What is more, I prophesy that all beings who do walk this path will be reborn into this joyous realm called , Abhirati, in the presence of the Tathagata AskobhyaAksobhya. What is Furthermore, all who are present here, who have performed their parts so well for this story for the benefit of all beings, will attain to this world. What is more aFurthermore, ; and all those who, right now, are hearing this story, will attain to this joyous world called Abhirati. This, the Tathagata has foretold.”

Then the entire assembly,  – Vimalakirti; the king, ; the officials who visited Vimalakirtihim, ; the bodhisattvas who had laid down their parasols, ; the arhats (including Sariputra, ) who had so obligingly played the fool for us, ; the goddess who had strewn flowers at him and caused had given him quite a headache, ; the visiting bodhisattvas from the perfume world, ; the Tathagata AskobhyaAksobhya, ; Vimalakirti, ; the crowds of thousands who had traipsed back and forth to hear this wonderful Dharma and witness all the miracles, ; and the Buddha Shakyamuni - – all of them riose up and take took a step forward they are , bowing. A, as would actors at the end of their a performance who have given of themselves:

Out of compassion

 Oout of compassion,

Oout of compassion out of great compassion

for the benefit of all!.

Here ends the sutra known as ‘The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti’.

Not “Akshobya”? 

I understand why “defiled” might conceivably be appropriate, but am just checking that the intended word is not “defined”.

Might this be better than “conceive”? Or were the enlightened ones reading the minds of the crowd?

Is the “world mountain” a feature of this realm, and if so, should be capitalised?

Is Vimalakirti saying this? The Buddha replies to Sariputra below, but it seems as though it would be attributed to one of the higher beings. Attribution should be inserted (or joined to preceding paragraph if it’s Sariputra).

Is this the right word? They are disappointed because they have been removed from this glorious realm? I would think they would be awed to have glimpsed it all!

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