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The Way of Non Duality

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by Sangharakshita

... where are your father and mother, your children, your wife." because don't forget Vimalakirti is lying there on his couch and nobody else can be seen.

"Your servants, your maids, your labourers and your attendants? Where are your friends, your relatives and your kinsmen? Where are your servants, your horses, your elephants, your chariots, your bodyguards and your bearers." This as those of you who have been to India will appreciate, is a typically Indian enquiry, and Vimalakirti replies in a long series of very beautiful verses and these verses make up the longest verse passage in the whole of The Vimalakirti Nirdesa. They last until the end of the chapter. I'm going to read the first twelve verses just to give you a taste of the whole series: Vimalakirti says, "Of the true Bodhisattvas, The mother is the transcendence of wisdom, The Father is the skill in liberative technique.

The Leaders (that is to say the Buddhas themselves) are born of such parents.

Their wife is the joy in the Dharma, Love and Compassion are their daughters, The Dharma and the truth are their sons; And their home is deep thought on the meaning of voidness.

All the passions are their disciples, Controlled at will.

Their friends are the aids to enlightenment, Thereby they realise supreme enlightenment.

Their companions, ever with them, Are the six transcendences.

Their consorts are the means of unification, Their music is the teaching of the Dharma.

The incantations make their garden, Which blossom with the flowers of the factors of enlightenment, With trees of the great wealth of the Dharma, And fruits of the gnosis of liberation.

Their pool consists of the eight liberations, Filled with the water of concentration, Covered with the lotuses of the seven purities - Who bathes therein becomes Immaculate.

Their bearers are the six superknowledges, Their vehicle is the unexcelled Mahayana, Their driver is the spirit of enlightenment, And their Path is the eightfold peace.

Their ornaments are the auspicious signs, And the eighty marks; Their garland is virtuous aspiration, And their clothing is good conscience and consideration.

Their wealth is the holy Dharma, And their business is teaching, Their great income is pure practice, And it is dedicated to supreme enlightenment.

Their bed consists of the four contemplations, And its spread is the pure livelihood, And their Awakening consists of gnosis, Which is constant learning and meditation.

Their food is the ambrosia of the teachings, And their drink is the juice of liberation.

Their bath is pure aspiration, And morality their unguent and perfume.

Having conquered the enemy passions, They are the invincible heroes.

Having subdued the four Maras, They raise their standard on the field of Enlightenment." In this way we come to chapter nine entitled, 'The Dharma Door of Nonduality.' We come to the theme of the Way of Nonduality. The structure of this chapter is very simple. Vimalakirti asks the Bodhisattvas a question and all the Bodhisattvas in turn answer the question. The text actually gives thirty one of these answers. The Bodhisattvas then put the same question to Manjusri and he answers it too. Manjusri then puts the same question to Vimalakirti and he answers it.

So what is the question? The question is, 'How do the Bodhisattvas enter the Dharma Door of Nonduality?' or 'What is the Bodhisattvas Dharma Door of Nonduality?' We've no time for all their replies. I'll give just a few of them.

"The Bodhisattva Sriganta declared, 'I and mine are two. If there is no presumption of a self there will be no possessiveness. Thus the absence of presumption is the entrance into Nonduality.' The Bodhisattva Bhadrajyotis declared, 'Distraction and attention are two. When there is no distraction there will be no attention, no mentation, and no mental intensity. Thus the absence of mental intensity is the entrance into Nonduality.' The Bodhisattva Subahu declared, ''Bodhisattva spirit' and 'disciple spirit' are two. When both are seen to resemble an illusory spirit there is no Bodhisattva spirit nor any disciple spirit. Thus the sameness of nature of spirits is the entrance into Nonduality.' The Bodhisattva Sinha declared, 'Sinfulness and sinlessness are two. By means of the Diamond- like Wisdom that pierces to the quick, not to be bound or liberated is the entrance into Nonduality.' The Bodhisattva Pratyaksadarshana declared, 'Destructible and indestructible are dualistic. What is destroyed is ultimately destroyed. What is ultimately destroyed does not become destroyed.

Hence it is called indestructible. What is indestructible is instantaneous and what is instantaneous is indestructible. The experience of such is called the entrance into the principle of Nonduality.

The Bodhisattva Vidyudeva declared, 'Knowledge and ignorance are dualistic. The nature of ignorance and of knowledge are the same. For ignorance is undefined, incalculable and beyond the sphere of thought. The realisation of this is the entrance into Nonduality.' The Bodhisattva Aksayamati declared, 'The dedication of generosity for the sake of obtaining omniscience is dualistic. The nature of generosity is itself omniscience and the nature of omniscience itself is total dedication. Likewise it is dualistic to dedicate morality, tolerance, effort, meditation and wisdom for the sake of omniscience. Omniscience is the nature of wisdom and total dedication is the nature of omniscience. Thus the entrance into this principle of uniqueness is the entrance into Nonduality.' The Bodhisattva Santendriya declared, 'It is dualistic to say 'Buddha', 'Dharma' and 'Sangha'. The Dharma is itself the nature of the Buddha. The Sangha is itself the nature of the Dharma and all of them are uncompounded. The uncompounded is infinite space and the processes of all things are equivalent to infinite space. Adjustment to this is the entrance into Nonduality.

The Bodhisattva Srigarbha declared, 'Duality is constituted by conceptual manifestations.

Nonduality is objectlessness. Therefore nongrasping and nonrejection is the entrance into Nonduality.'" Well in this way the Bodhisattvas give their replies to the question and they then ask Manjusri for his reply. So what does he say? What does Vimalakirti say? The text says, "Manjusri replied, 'Good sirs, You have all spoken well. Nevertheless, all your explanations are themselves dualistic. To know no one teaching, to express nothing, to say nothing, to explain nothing, to announce nothing, to indicate nothing and to designate nothing. That is the entrance into Nonduality.

Then the crown prince Manjusri said to the Licchavi Vimalakirti, 'We have all given our own teachings noble sir now may you elucidate the teaching of the entrance into the principle of Nonduality.' Thereupon the Licchavi Vimalakirti kept his silence saying nothing at all." And this is the famous thunder-like silence of Vimalakirti. The silence that is more powerful, more expressive than any words. And this silence, this thunder-like silence of Vimalakirti represents the climax of the chapter, even the climax of the entire Vimalakirti Nirdesa.

Now there's quite a lot that needs a little bit of explanation in all this, at least a little bit of comment.

So I'm going to do four things: I'm going to say a few words about the question itself; I'm going to comment briefly on a few of the Bodhisattva's replies; I'm going to suggest a few alternative Nondualities and I'm going to consider, very briefly, Vimalakirti's silence.

But first of all a few words about the expression Dharma Door. Some of you may not have encountered this expression before, Dharma Door, though it occurs frequently in Mahayana texts. In the original Sanskrit it's Dharmamukkha. Dharma of course is the teaching or the doctrine, that is to say the teaching or doctrine of the Buddha. Mukkha is door, entrance, opening or mouth.

So in what way, in what sense is the Dharma a door? It is a door in the sense that it is a means of entrance to the Ultimate Truth, to the actual experience of Enlightenment. But we mustn't forget that a door, any door, has a twofold function. It opens into but it also shuts out from. In the same way the Dharma, the teaching, can open out into Ultimate Truth; it can be a means of entrance into Ultimate Truth , but it can also shut one out from the Ultimate Truth. It can be a means of entrance to Ultimate Truth when it is taken as being just that, that is to say taken as being a means to an end, and it can shut one out from the truth when it's taken as an end in itself, because the door or what should have been the door becomes just part of the wall. And maybe we even forget that it was ever meant for going through.

Now just as a door has a double function, the word Dharma itself has a double meaning. It means the teaching or the doctrine, yes, but it also means the truth or reality indicated by that teaching, by that doctrine. The Dharma is the door to the Dharma. That is to say the Dharma as teaching is the door to the Dharma as reality, provided it is not taken as an end in itself.

Now we come to the question. The question which Vimalakirti asks the Bodhisattvas at the beginning of the chapter; "How do the Bodhisattvas enter the Dharma Door of Nonduality" or "What is the Bodhisattva's Dharma Door of Nonduality?".

We can now understand the question a little better perhaps though still it may not be entirely clear. The Dharma or teaching is expressed in terms of concepts. Each of these concepts has its opposite. The Dharma, the teaching, is therefore expressed explicitly or implicitly in terms of pairs of opposites. That is to say in terms of duality. Concepts are of course ...

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