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Buddhist wisdom transported to some new key

A common theme in Mahayana Sutras is to ask a fundamental question that is answered by the most fundamental answer, which is saying nothing by words. In the Vimalakirti Sutra and other long sutras, such a good answer is not coming fast. In Zen dialogues it could be different. And what actually matters, is waking up.

Vimalakírti is the central figure in the Vimalakirti Sutra. He is presented as the ideal Mahayana Buddhist lay practitioner, living at the same time as Buddha (6th to 5th century BCE). No mention of Vimalakírti is found in Buddhist texts until after Nagárjuna (1st century BCE to 2nd century CE).

Vimalakírti Sutra belongs to works that are accepted within a tradition as teachings of the Buddha although the sutra makes no claim to being the actual words of a historical Buddha. The discourse (sutra) teaches nondualism and much else through the lay practitioner Vimalakírti. What he propounds culminates in silence.

There are references to very good translations at the bottom of the page. And note that if the translated source contains strong exaggerations, a good translator has to follow suit. As for strong language otherwise, it depends on which approaches translators choose. Buddha talks against swearing, and wild exaggerations seem to be psychologically akin - so better be factual and plausible, as factual and plausible as can be, and bland enough also.

I have decided to peel away lots that remind of overdoing things more or less, as the case may be. I have removed many improbabilities for such reasons. You get a selection, then. It so happened that it reminds outlooks of the Swiss Carl Gustav Jung. The book by Dr Moacanin explores such similarites: it in the book list as well.

An opening to the teachings of Vimalakirti follows. A much trimmed-down selection, if you will:


The Enlightened One once visited a great garden. He was attended by a major gathering. Among them, some had attained perfection in mind control.

Of near-experts there were five times more. They were considered to be great spiritual warriors and heroes. Without having to be asked, they were natural spiritual benefactors of many living beings. They had attained the intuitive tolerance of the ultimate incomprehensibility of all things, except this difficult Lotus Sutra study . . . eh!

They were stamped with the insignia of signlessness - eh again!

They were expert in knowing the spiritual faculties. They were the best captains at sea and in modern ways of right dealings, ways that may be hard to see and come by.

They had the wisdom that is able to understand the thoughts of living beings. They could think out and resolve to go for right dealings appropriately.

They conferred great benefit when seen or approached.

There were also gathered a lot of gods and other shining ones ("angelic ones"), to serve the Enlightened One [Gautama Buddha] carefully - they were mighty entities and other powerful beings.

And there were laywomen and laymen.

The Enlightened One sat among these, beneath a wide canopy. Through the supernatural power of the Enlightened One, the entire host was ecstatic, enraptured, and gazed on him with fixed attention. One said a hymn of praise.

Great sage, few living beings win realisation of how things stand only seemingly nowhere.

The Enlightened One,

"Good, good, young man! Good. The instinctive field is replete and deep inside. It is good to be well allied with the magnificent and minds that matter. Many "swim" around within the instinct field.

A thinker's instinct field is a field of generosity and great tolerance. When he attains enlightenment, it tends to grow abundant wisdom too.

A thinker's instinct field is maintained by personal observance of sound norms of living, and tall and good precepts.

Many virtues may make a difference:

  1. To remain steady;
  2. To remain great in wealth;
  3. To behave nicely and all-round virtuously;
  4. True and fit speech is often favourable;
  5. To be soft-spoken tames none;
  6. Better avoid the divisive;
  7. Enlightening conversation is a boon;
  8. Envy and malice is out of place;
  9. Appropriate views matter.

Some things in life depend on happy, successful and sane applications.

Aim high enough in your meted out practice.

The human instinct field reflects the purity of many sorts of living beings; the purity of men's and women's collective, inner wisdom, handling and doctrine.

Mind is deep. Thought is shallow.

Those who are blind to goodness and skills, don't behold the splendid display of goodness and skills.

The common instinct field is of spendour, a precious vessel that contains the conformative intolerance and at times tolerance of born beings and their dream-stuff.

Observe how much Carl Jung's collective unconscious looks like a younger cousin of the Buddhist thought about the instinctive field (cf Moacanin 1986). The collective unconscious is a sort of field we "swim" in too. - T. K.


Vimalakirti Sutra, Teachings of Vimalakirti, Mahayana, Mahayana Buddhist literature  

Miller, Jeffrey C. The Transcendent Function: Jung's Model of Psychological Growth through Dialogue with the Unconscious. Albany, NY: State University of New York, 2004. ⍽▢⍽ Psychologist Jeffrey C. Miller presents Jung's theory of the transcendent function along with other key parts of his psychology: individuation, archetypes, Self, anima, opposites, and mind (psyche).

Thurman, Robert A. F., tr. The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: A Mahayana Scripture. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: Mahayana Scripture. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976. ⍽▢⍽ An internationally acknowledged Western authority on Buddhism, Dr Thurman has studied Tibetan Buddhism for over 40 years. He is currently a professor at Columbia University. His translation makes the Tibetan version of this key Buddhist scripture available in English. The Tibetan version is generally held to be more faithful to the original Sanskrit than are the Chinese texts. The Tibetan version is also clearer, richer, and with more precise expressions.

Watson, Burton, tr. The Vimalakirti Sutra: From the Chinese Version by Kumarajiva. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. ⍽▢⍽ A popular Asian classic for roughly two thousand years, and one of the sacred texts of Mahayana Buddhism. Humorous episodes and exposition of the key doctrine of such as nondualism. Its central figure is a wealthy townsman, an ideal lay believer. The sutra has given lay persons in Buddhist countries of Asia good hope that spiritual attainments are to be had by not only monks and nuns. Attainments depend on fit methods and instructions, tells Buddha somewhere else. It is not expectations or not that bring success, nor is it monkhood and sisterhood in itself.
    Burton Watson's work is excellent. A text written in Chinese in the year 406 CE is made accessible and understandable.

Moacanin, Radmila Jung's Psychology and Tibetan Buddhism: Western and Eastern Paths to the Heart. London: Wisdom Publications, 1986. ⍽▢⍽ Dr Moacanin takes a look into two similar traditions and their shared major ideas, including those of the collective unconscious.
    Tibetan Buddhism focuses on bringing spiritual transformation, which is also a major concern of Jungian individuation.

Paul, Diana Y., and John R. McRae, trs. The Sutra of Queen Srimala of the Lion's Roar and The Vimalakirti Sutra. Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2004. ⍽▢⍽ The Vimalakirti Sutra is here translated by John R. McRae (1947-2011). The professor in East Asian Buddhism was a renowned expert on Chinese Chan, and had an extensive knowledge of Buddhism in general. He completed a number of translations of Chinese Buddhist scriptural texts an English translation series.

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