Lecture IV 25th November, 1938
I had only intended to give you an approximate idea of the content of the Amitayur-Dhyana-Sutra, but it may interest you to hear it in more detail.
Last time we had just begun the eighth meditation.
The text continue :
“Consequently, when you have perceived Buddha, it is indeed that mind of yours that possesses those thirty-two signs of perfection and eighty minor marks of excellence (which you see in Buddha. In fine, it is your mind that becomes Buddha, nay, it is your mind that is indeed Buddha . The ocean of true and universal know ledge of all the Buddhas derives its source from one’s own mind and thought. Therefore you should apply your thought with an undivided attention to a careful meditation on that Buddha Tathagata, Arhat, the Holy and Fully Enlightened One. In forming the perception of that Buddha, you should first perceive the image of that Buddha; whether your eyes be open or shut, look at an image like Gambunada gold in colour, sitting on that flower (throne mentioned before).
When you have seen the seated figure your mental vision will become clear, and you will be ab le to see clearly and distinctly the adornment of that Buddha country, the jeweled ground, etc. In seeing these things, let them be clear and fixed just as you see the palms of your hands. When you have passed through this experience, you should further form (a perception of) another great lotus-flower which is on the left side of Buddha, and is exactly equal in every way to the above-mentioned lotus flower lower of Buddha. Further, you should form (a perception of) another lotus-f lower which is on the right side of Buddha. Perceive that an image of Bodhisattva Avalo kitesvara is sitting on the left-hand flowery throne, shooting forth golden rays exactly like those of Buddha. Perceive then that an image of Bodhisattva Mahasthama is sitting on the right-hand flowery throne .”
A Bodhisattva is a god like being on the way to completion as a Buddha, or one who has already been a Buddha.
“When these perceptions are gained the images of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas will all send forth brilliant rays, clearly lighting up all the jewel-trees with golden colour.”
. . . “When this perception has been gained, the devotee should hear the excellent Law ”
The excellent law is a standing phrase expressing the teaching of the Buddha. “by means of a stream of water, a brilliant ray of light, several jewel trees, ducks , geese, and swans.”
A mandala is a technical term for a magic circle which is used for meditation, but it is also used in a lower form for purpose of witchcraft; the witches’ circle was well known in the Middle Ages.
There is a mandala over the entrance of a chapel at Ajanta in Hyderabad where geese appear and the lotus in the centre.
Such mandalas are specifically Buddhistic.
I do not know why it should be just geese and duck .
I asked, but no one could enlighten me. I imagine it is because geese, ducks and swans are water birds and the lotus also is a water flower.
In the olden times in India the swan, the Hams a , was the image used for a wise man; the swan can fly over land and empty spaces, it is wisdom to keep above the water or in the air.
We usually find the Buddha sitting on a lotus or in the air. “Whether he be wrapped in meditation or whether he has ceased from it, he should ever hear the excellent Law.
What the devotee hears must be kept in memory and not be lost, when he ceases from that meditation; and it should agree with the Sutras.”
The Sutras are the teachings or the treatises.
The expression refers here to the Tripitaka, (the threefold basket) which contains all the Sutras.
“for if it does not agree with the Sutras, it is called an illusory perception, whereas if it does agree, it is called the rough perception of the World of Highest Happiness; – such is the perception of the images, and it is the Eighth Meditation.”
This piece is especially interesting because it is admitted here that perceptions exist which are not to be found in the fixed knowledge of the dogma: but Buddhism, like the Roman Catholic Church, is inclined to judge these pieces by the Canon and to reject everything which does not agree with it as invalid.
We see by this that the Sutra is very orthodox and makes little allowance for individual experience.
. . . ” Further, when this perception is gained, you should next proceed to meditate on the bodily marks and the light of Buddha Amitayus. ”
The text describes the light which emanates from the Buddha, his height, the colour of his hair and of his eyes, the halo of the Buddha and his surroundings and it remarks that the Buddha Amitayus carries no fewer than 84,000 signs of perfection on his body.
You notice that the meditation is not on the spirit of the Buddha, but on the body of the Buddha; the highest truth grows from the deepest roots of the body and not from the spirit.
That is a difference in point of view between the East and the West which makes it very difficult for us to understand the East ; because the Christian, on account of his whole upbringing, does not believe this truth, the body is the unspiritual par excellence for him.
. . . “If you pass through this experience you will, at the same time see all the Buddhas of the ten quarters.
. . . Those who have practised this meditation are said to have contemplated the bodies of all the Buddhas. Since they have meditated on Buddha’s body, they will also see Buddha’s mind.”
Here is the absolute proof that it is the body which is intended, the contemplation of the mind arises from it.
“It is great compassion that is called Buddha’s mind. It is by his absolute compassion that he receives all beings. Those who have practised this meditation will, when they die, be born in the presence of the Buddhas in another life, and obtain a spirit of resignation wherewith to face all the consequences which shall hereafter arise . Therefore those who have wisdom should direct their thought to the careful meditation up on that Buddha Amitayus. ”
The text continues with the repetition of an injunction as to how to meditate on the Buddha Amitayus’ signs of perfection, and this ends the ninth meditation.
. . . “When you have seen Buddha Amitayus distinctly, you should then further meditate upon Bodhisattva A valo kitesvara.”
A further description of this Bodhisattva and his attributes follows, which continues till the end of the tenth meditation.
. . . ” Buddha, especially addressing Ananda, said: ‘Whosoever wishes to meditate on Bodhisattva Avalo kitesvara must do so in the way I have explained. Those who practise this meditation will not suffer any calamity ; they will utterly remove the obstacle that is raised by Karma, and will expiate the sins which would involve them in births and deaths for numberless Kalpas.”
These sins would thus involve them, if the sins were not redeemed.
“Even the hearing of the name of this Bodhisattva will enable one to obtain immeasurable happiness. How much more, then, will the diligent contemplation of him!”
The text continues with a similar instruction as to how the Bodhisattva Mahasthma ma should be meditated up on and this is the content of the eleventh meditation. It is said, of those who practise this meditation, that they will no longer live in an embryonic condition, but will have free access to the excellent and admirable countries of the Buddhas.
. . . “After thou hast had this perception, thou shouldst imagine thyself to be born in the World of Highest Happiness in the western quarter, and to be seated cross-legged on a lotus-flower there.
Then imagine that the flower has shut thee in . . . ”
The flower now closes over him.
“and has afterwards unfolded; when the flower has thus unfolded, five hundred coloured rays will shine over thy body, thine eyes will be opened so as to see the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who fill the whole sky; thou wilt hear the sounds of waters and trees, the notes of birds, and the voices of many Buddhas preaching the excellent Law, in accordance with the twelve divisions of the scriptures. When thou hast ceased from that meditation, thou must remember the experience ever after.”
This is the content of the twelfth meditation.
This meditation shows the transition, the transformation of the human being, who meditates first on the Buddha and then on himself and thus becomes changed.
He is closed into the lotus, which is as it were an egg and after a time the egg opens on a lotus pond and he hears the noise of the waters and the sound of the birds and the rustling of the trees, and is, presumably, surrounded by geese, ducks and swans, In other words he is in the centre of the Buddhistic mandala in the circle of geese and swans and is, so to speak, changed into a divine b eing.
It is a matter of re-birth.
. . . ” Buddha then spoke to Ananda and Vaidehi (the Que en): ‘Those who wish, by means of their serene thoughts, to be born in the western land, should first meditate on an image of the Buddha, who is sixteen cubits high, seated on (a lotus-flower in) the water of the lake. As it was stated before the (real) body and its measurements are unlimited,”
Here again it is clear that the meditator is re-born.
“incomprehensible to the ordinary mind. But by the efficacy of the ancient prayer of that Tathagata, those who think of and remember him shall certainly be able to accomplish their aim.”
And this is the chief content of the thirteenth meditation.
The goal is re ached, through the meditation of the Sutra .
. . . “Buddha then spoke to Ananda and Vaidehi: ‘The beings who will be born in the highest form of t h e highest grade (i . e . to Buddha -hood) are those, whoever they may be, who wish to be born in that country and cherish the threefold thought whereby they are at once destined to be born there . What is the threefold thought, you may ask. First, the True Thought ; second, the Deep Believing Thought ; third, the Desire to be born in that Pure Land by bringing one’s own stock of merit to maturity.”
This meditation concerns the karma which has collected in earlier existences.
Karma is usually thought of as debit, as guilt, but there is also positive, creative karma.
The Buddhists strive to acquire virtue, through Yoga meditation, in order to remove the obstacle of their negative karma.
They can thus cast off the bonds of the klesas which are similar to our hereditary dispositions involving us in sin.
In this way these forces are freed and transformed.
“Those who have this threefold thought in perfection shall most assuredly be born into that country. There are also thee classes of beings who are able to be born in that country. What, you may ask, are the three classes of beings? First, those who are possessed of a compassionate mind, who do no injury to any being , and accomplish all virtuous actions according to Buddha’s precepts; second, those who study and re cite the Sutras of the Mahayana doctrine, for instance, the Vaipulya Sutras; third, those who practise the six-fold remembrance.”
This refers to recollections of the Buddha life .
“These three classes of beings who wish to be born in that country by bringing (their respective stocks of merit) to maturity, will become destined to be born there if they have accomplished any of those meritorious deeds for one day or even for seven days.”
This is regarded as one of the highest grades of the instruction, it is like the Roman Catholic doctrine of indulgence.
In the sixteenth meditation there is a description of increasingly low grades o f enlightenment. The highest form of the lowest grade is represented as the case of a man:
. . . “who commits many evil deeds, provided that he does not speak evil of the Maha Vaipulya sutras, he, though himself a very stupid man, and neither ashamed nor sorry for all the evil actions that he has done, yet, while dying, may meet a good and learned teacher who will recite and laud the headings and titles of the twelve divisions of the Mahayana scriptures. Having thus heard the names of all the Sutras, he will be freed from the greatest sins which would involve him in births and deaths during a thousand Kalpas. A wise man also will teach him to stretch forth his folded hands and to say, ‘Adoration to Buddha Amitayus’ (Namo-mitabhaya Buddhaya, or, Namo-mitayushe Buddhaya).”
“Adoration to Buddha “is the classical Buddhist phrase, and has a corresponding gesture.
The way we fold our hands in prayer is only used as a greeting in the East and is quite banal.
In their divine services they stretch their hands, folded together, forward and over their heads.
It is a wonderful sight to see these brown people doing this by the light of torches.
“Having uttered the name of the of the Buddha, he will be freed from the sins which would otherwise involve him in births and deaths for fifty millions of Kalpas. Thereupon the Buddha will send a created Buddha, ”
A created Buddha is an image of the Buddha which is difficult to explain.
The contemplator creates this figure in his meditation, but the figure is nevertheless a real Buddha who actually exists, but who disappears when the meditation ceases.
He is omnipresent and perfect all over the world.
When he disappears he no longer has that form, but he is not lost when he is not visible, for he exists always, in essence.
“and the created Bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara and Mahasthama to approach that person with words of praise , saying: ‘0 son of a noble family, as thou hast uttered the name of that Buddha, all thy sins have been destroyed and expiated, and therefore we now come to meet thee. After this speech the devotee will observe the rays of that created Buddha flooding his chamber with light, and while rejoicing at the sight he will depart this life.”
This is a description of a situation which is also described in the Bardo Thodol.
It is there a vision which the dying man has as life is leaving his body, he perceives the Dharma-kaya, the divine body of truth, [Dharma – law, kaya – body).
If the dying man has still much karma to work off he cannot stand this white light; but if he cannot, he sinks through the darker coloured lights and eventually finds himself involved in rebirth.
” Seated on a lotus -flower he will follow that created Buddha and go to b e born in the jewel-lake.
After the lapse of seven weeks, the lotus-flower will unfold, when the great compassionate Bodhi will stand before him, flashing forth magnificent rays, and will preach to him the deepest meaning of the twelve divisions of the scriptures.”
And so on.
Bodhi or Buddhi is full enlightenment. Buddhi a means the enlightened one, the enlightenment is personified here as the great compassionate Bodhi In some other texts it appears in a feminine form.
It is said of the beings who are born into the lowest form of the lowest grade:
“If there be anyone who commits evil deeds, and even completes the ten wicked actions, the five deadly sins and the like; that man, being himself stupid and guilty of many crimes, deserves to fall into a miserable path of existence and suffer endless pains during many Kalpas. On the eve of death he will perhaps meet a good and learned teacher who will, soothing and encouraging him in various ways , preach to him the excellent Law and teach him the remembrance of Buddha, but, being harassed by pains, he will have no time to think of Buddha. Some good friend will then say to him: ‘Even if thou canst not exercise the remembrance of Buddha, thou mayst, at least, utter the name, ‘Buddha Amitayus’. Let him do so serenely with his voice uninterrupted ; let him be (continually) thinking of Buddha until he has completed ten times the thought, repeating (the formula), ‘Adoration to Buddha Amitayus’ (Namo-mitayushe Buddhaya). On the strength of (his merit of) uttering Buddha’s name he will, during every repetition, expiate the sins which involve him in births and deaths during eighty millions of Kalpas. He will, while dying, see a golden lotus-flower like the disc of the sun appearing before his eyes; in a moment he will be born in the World of Highest Happiness. After twelve greater Kalpas the lotus flower will unfold; thereupon the Bodhisattvas” . . .
And so on. This is the main content of the sixteenth meditation.
This meditation anticipates the idea of the Bardo Thodol.
The Lama usually reads the Tibetan Book of the Dead for the person who is already dead, partly in order to teach him that he is dead.
He may not know this and then he has to be taught.
He is told to do something like go through a wall, and when he finds he can, he begins to understand that he is dead.
We find this same idea, curiously enough, in the early American spiritualists, though they knew nothing of the Bardo Thodol.
It is a primeval idea which springs up in different places and ages.
The text continues:
“When Buddha had finished this speech, Vaidehi, together with her five hundred female attendants, could see, as guided by the Buddha’s words, the scene of the far-stretching World of the Highest Happiness, and could also see the body of Buddha and the bodies of the two Bodhisattvas. With her mind filled with joy she praised them, saying: ‘Never have I seen such a wonder !’ Instantaneously she became wholly and fully enlightened, and attained a spirit of resignation, prepared to endure whatever consequences might yet arise.”
You see here that the highest ideal of Buddhism, namely the spirit of resignation, the overcoming of desire, comes out of the body and not out of the spirit.
“Her five hundred female attendants too cherished the thought of obtaining the highest perfect knowledge, and sought to be born in that Buddha country. The World-Honoured One predicted that they would all be born in that Buddha country, and be able to obtain the Samadhi (the supernatural calm) of the presence of many Buddhas. All the innumerable Devas (gods) also directed their thought toward the attainment of the highest Bodhi.”
This is very characteristic of Buddhism.
The Devas are gods who have not yet even attained the rank of Bodhisattvas.
Such gods came to the Buddha, he corrected them and then they had to be born again as men.
To be a god is due to karma; the highest god is the god who is born again as the highest man, the Buddha himself.
The end of the Sutra is concerned with the name which should be given to it.
The name should have a symbolic meaning which expresses the whole.
“Thereupon Ananda rose from his seat, approached Buddha, and spoke thus : ‘0 World-Honoured One, what should we c all this Sutra? And how should we receive and remember it (in the future)? Buddha said in his reply to Ananda: ‘0 Ananda, this Sutra should be called the meditation on the Land of Sukhavati, on Buddha Amitayus, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, Bodhisattva Mahasthama; or otherwise be called (the Sutra on) the entire removal of the obstacle of Karma, (the means of) being born in the realm of the Buddhas’.”
Sukhavati – the Land of Highest Happiness.
” Thou shouldst take and hold it , not forgetting nor losing it . Those who practise the Samadhi”
The highest condition, rapture .
“(the supernatural calm) in accordance with this Sutra will be able to see, in the present life, Buddha Amitayus and the two great Bodhisattvas.”
. . . “Know that he who remembers that Buddha is the white lotus (pundarika) among men, it is he whom the Bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara and Mahasthama consider an excellent friend. He will, sitting in the
“Bodhi-mandala is the circle of Bodhi, the home of the Buddha, the so-called round terrace of enlightenment. This circle is the ground on which the Asvattha Tree stands, under which Sakyamuni (another name for the Buddha) repulsed the attack of Mara and eventually attained Bodhi, the highest enlightenment. Buddha did not allow himself to be misled into existence but became non-existent. Therefore it is not always the Asvattha-Tree which is represented in the centre of the circle, called also the Bodhimandavara, but sometimes the empty seat of the Buddha. Devils attack this seat in vain. “be born in the abode of the Buddhas’. Buddha further spoke to Ananda:
‘Thou shouldst carefully remember these words. To remember these words is to remember the name of Buddha Amitayus’.” ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture V, Pages 27-33.