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Lankavatara Sutra

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  • Lankavatara Sutra

    Here's a new thread for sharing about the Lankavatara Sutra, one of the most important texts regarding Zen. Description from the publisher of one translation:

    The Lankavatara Sutra is the holy grail of Zen. Zen’s first patriarch, Bodhidharma, gave a copy of this text to his successor, Hui-k’o, and told him everything he needed to know was in this book. Passed down from teacher to student ever since, this is the only Zen sutra ever spoken by the Buddha. Although it covers all the major teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, it contains but two teachings: that everything we perceive as being real is nothing but the perceptions of our own mind and that the knowledge of this is something that must be realized and experienced for oneself and cannot be expressed in words. In the words of Chinese Zen masters, these two teachings became known as “have a cup of tea” and “taste the tea.”
    Here is the abridged version of the Suzuki translation.

    I believe this is the full version of the Suzuki translation.
    Love, and do what you will.

    - St. Augustine

  • #2
    The Lankavatara Sutra is certainly not a beginner's text on Zen. At least in the Suzuki translation there are many Sanskrit words that one would need to be familiar with in order to understand the meaning of the sutra. It's clear why Bodhidharma would have passed it on to Hui Ke. It's very to the point about "being disciplined in self-realization" and going straight to realizing "noble wisdom."

    The Bodhisattvas entering into the state of imagelessness where they see into the truth of Mind-only, arriving at the abode of the Paramitas, and keeping themselves away from the thought of genesis, deed, and discipline, they will attain the Samadhi Vajravimbopama which is in compliance with the Tathagatakaya and with the transformations of suchness. After achieving a revulsion in the abode [of the Vijnanas], Mahamati, they will gradually realise the Tathagatakaya, which is endowed with the powers, the psychic faculties, self-control, love, compassion, and means; which can enter into all the Buddha-lands and into the sanctuaries of the philosophers; and which is beyond the realm of (43) Citta-mano- manovijnana. Therefore, Mahamati, these Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas who wish, by following the Tathagatakaya, to realise it, should exercise themselves, in compliance with the truth of Mind-only, to desist from discriminating and reasoning erroneously on such notions as Skandhas, Dhatus, Ayatanas, thought, causation, deed, discipline, and rising, abiding, and destruction.
    Perceiving that the triple existence is by reason of the habit-energy of erroneous discrimination and false reasoning that has been going on since beginningless time, and also thinking of the state of Buddhahood which is imageless and unborn, [the Bodhisattva] will become thoroughly conversant with the noble truth of self-realisation, will become a perfect master of his own mind, will conduct himself without effort, will be like a gem reflecting a variety of colours, will be able to assume the body of transformation, will be able to enter into the subtle minds of all beings, and, because of his firm belief in the truth of Mind-only, will, by gradually ascending the stages, become established in Buddhahood. Therefore, Mahamati, let the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva be well disciplined in self-realisation.
    The reasons whereby the eye-consciousness arises are four. What are they? They are: (1) The clinging to an external world, not knowing that it is of Mind itself; (2) The attaching to form and habit-energy accumulated since beginningless time by false reasoning and erroneous views; (3) The self-nature inherent in the Vijnana; (4) The eagerness for multiple forms and appearances. By these four reasons, Mahamati, the waves of the evolving Vijnanas are stirred on the Alayavijnana which resembles the waters of a flood. The same [can be said of the other sense-consciousnesses] as of the eye-consciousness.
    Love, and do what you will.

    - St. Augustine


    • #3
      I have found it really interesting and illuminating how similar passages from the Lankāvatāra are to the words of Vedanta masters and texts. As is said, "All rivers lead to the ocean," but I have found the waters of Zen and Vedanta to be particularly similar. For example:

      There are four things by the fulfilling of which an earnest disciple may gain self-realisation of Noble Wisdom and become a Bodhisattva-Mahasattva...he must recognise and be fully convinced that this triple world is nothing but a complex manifestation of one's mental activities; that it is devoid of selfness and its belongings; that there are no strivings, no comings, no goings. He must recognise and accept the fact that this triple world is manifested and imagined as real only under the influence of habit-energy that has been accumulated since the beginningless past by reason of memory, false-imagination, false-reasoning, and attachments to the multiplicities of objects and reactions in close relationship and in conformity to ideas of body-property-and-abode.

      -Lankāvatāra Sutra p. 110

      The thoughts are only vasanas (predispositions), accumulated in innumerable births before. Their annihilation is the aim. The state free from vasanas is the primal state and eternal state of purity.


      Investigate the nature of the mind (thoughts) and it will disappear. Because of the emergence of thought, you surmise that it has an origin and call that the mind. When you inquire to see what it is, you find there is really no such thing as mind. When the mind has thus vanished, you realize eternal Peace (awareness of awareness).

      -Talks with Ramana Maharshi

      Is the next one from Zen? Vedanta? Cooking? A soda bottle cap?

      The total discarding of the mind is alone victory, achievement, bliss, yoga, wisdom and liberation. The sacrifice of the mind is, in fact, the totality of all sacred sacrifices.
      Love, and do what you will.

      - St. Augustine