The Ultimate Transcends All Argumentation

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Samdhinirmochana Mahayana Sutra Chapter 2

Samdhinormonchana Sutra (Part V),
Chapter Two, Afternoon Dharma Talk
Saturday May 23, 2009, P.M.
No Abode

Notes: 

Transcribed by: Karen Mueller

Transcript: 

Reb: …Recording starts here, some words missing… Descriptions of the shortcomings of these Tirthika systems or Tirthika people. I’m not sure, I’ll try to look up the word “heretic”, but I think heresy applies to a member of a particular faith who disagrees with the orthodoxy. Yes? Jane: Actually I was just somewhere where heresy was looked up and it was someone who professes a faith but isn’t practicing it. Consciously is not practicing it. Something like that. (Note: my dictionary says it relates to a Greek word meaning choosing or making choices) Reb: Ok, but the heresy is referring but it’s, the heresy is referring to the faith which they profess? Jane: Yeah. Yeah, in relation... Reb: It’s in relationship to faith. So an outsider, in a sense, is not a heretic within that tradition. Jane: Yeah. Right. Reb: Is that correct? Jane: Yes. Reb: So these people are not, are sometimes referred to as heretics, but I don’t know if they’re actually heretics. They would be heretics if they professed to be students of the Buddha. But if they’re just of another tradition, they are sometimes called “outside ways”. Then I don’t know if they’d be heretics. But anyway, these beings, I thought it might just be good to review the shortcomings that they have. Number One is being opinionated. Two: conceited. Three: Exaggerated adherence. Four: Imputation. And Five: argumentativeness Jacqui: I’ve been accused of all of the above. (Laughter) Reb: So we have opinions. That doesn’t mean, that doesn’t need to be a big problem. But opinionated, I think, again has.., goes with this strong, exaggerated adherence. It’s not just that you have opinions, even if they’re strong. It’s more, I think, that you’re opinionated. That you’re clinging to them I would say. And conceit is also kind of like an exaggeration; a conceit is the quality of exaggerating. Exaggerating your own position, exaggerating other people’s position. And again, an exaggerated adherence. “Imputation” you know, again you can impute but are you aware of the imputation? Are you? Can you? Yeah. Linda: What does that mean? (See also A.M. talk for meaning of imputation) Reb: To impose upon or superimpose. But I think it also has the quality of you superimpose but then you confuse the imposition with the thing. So, you know, I impute Something to you, but it isn’t just that I say, now I’m calling Linda, I’m calling Linda a good person. When I impute it, I actually like think it’s like actually there. I loose track of, of the superimposition being superimposition and think it’s actually inherently connected to the being or thing that I’ve placed this upon. I think that’s the meaning of imputation that becomes a problem here. And argumentativeness, in this Sutra, these Bodhisattvas sometimes ask questions which could be seen as offering, you know, engaging the Buddha in argument about something. But when they ask, not in this case, but in many of the later cases, when they ask the question, the Buddha praises them for their question and points out that these Bodhisattvas are asking the question for the welfare of the world. They are not asking it to cause trouble. They are not asking it out of doubt. They’re asking it as a service. If they don’t understand something, that’s not the same as a doubt; it’s just a doubt about their understanding. But they don’t doubt the practice of bringing questions up for the welfare of all beings, for the happiness of all beings. And the Buddha says that’s why you’re asking this question. You know, it’s a great question and you ask this for welfare of many, many beings. So it’s excellent to ask questions in this way. And you’re bringing up things that might look like inconsistencies in the presentation of the Buddha’s teaching and this is a service that you’re offering. Which the Bodhisattva may actually understand but wish to have the Buddha respond to for the welfare of others. So all these points are things that I think we are,….all of us sometimes get into and if we’re aware of these points, of how we become closed in some way, in these different ways. We become closed to what’s being offered. Then these are ways which we are making it difficult or obstructing the realization of the ultimate. And then again that goes very nicely with this chapter because.., so they are bringing up these people who have these habits which make it hard for them to understand the ultimate, and then the point of the text is that this thing that they are trying to understand is beyond, transcends, all their arguments which they get into because of these adherences and there exaggerations. Now if they could hear that instruction, if this instruction could be brought to them, they could reform the way they discuss the teaching. They could reform the way consider the ultimate. Namely they would be considering the ultimate, realizing that it’s beyond any of their deliberations and it’s beyond any of their reasoning which they are going back and forth about concerning it. Now the instruction here is an instruction which is in the realm of reasoning and deliberation. But if you carefully receive this instruction and practice it in the realm of expression, deliberation and argumentation, in the sense of going through and understanding an argument, it’s possible to energetically, wholeheartedly study this teaching of this chapter for example, in such a way that you open to open to what’s beyond the things you’re studying. So you’re studying a teaching which is telling you that this ultimate is beyond argumentation and that’s an argument which has just been given to you. And you study that argument. And you’re being told that the ultimate is,.. transcends all reasoned discussion, but that’s another reasoned discussion. Not elaborate, but that’s a reasoned,… It’s a reasonable and a reasoned discussion. By attending to these teachings wholeheartedly, watching out for imputation, strongly adhering and so on, argumentativeness, to wholeheartedly kindly receive and practice these teachings, you become open and ready to receive that which is beyond them. Yes and Yes? Speaker A: I was just thinking, Jacqui mentioned the Tibetan tradition of debate, and in our culture we have a debating tradition. I was trained in college. I think it was the Oxford Union style, but much like you’re talking about when you debate, it’s a tool and you have to, as I recall, you really need to understand your opponents argument, the weaknesses and strengths. You need to to be able to debate either side of either topic at the drop of a hat. And so it becomes a tool switching back and forth. And like you’re saying, so if you get opinionated or fall into a trap of being conceited about your argument, you lose, essentially. So I was just thinking about that tradition. Reb. Mm-hmm. A: Much like what you’re talking about. Reb: Yeah. And that relates also to a lot of people go from debate teams to become lawyers. So there too, debating skills are, find often some application to the courtroom drama. And can people learn these skills? And hopefully we would like them to apply these skills of training the mind in order to open to that which transcends all these skills. And then, with the inspiration of what they open to with these skills, then come back and use these skills having been inspired by the Ultimate Truth. And maybe, and teach others, demonstrate to others how to use these skills for the welfare of both sides of arguments. Not just one side. Because Ultimate Truth transcends the sides. A: Do you think…? Can I just ask a follow-up? The example you gave, I’ve been thinking about the woman who was practicing non-violence in the face of people who have an adherence to violence. And finding that she was, you said that she was clinging but I’m also wondering if.. Reb; She found that she was clinging. A: But to her own side of the argument, in a sense. Reb: Yeah. Which made it harder actually for her to stand up for her argument. It made her…I think it made her more, doubt her position, because she was clinging to it. A: But do you think equally that should would have to, this idea that we were referring to in debate, that she would have to embrace the other side’s argument as well and really have a deeper understanding of the violence herself and was she also kind of repudiating that? Reb: I don’t know if she was but I think that’s true that you’re a better advocate of non-violence if you’re familiar with violence. So going, come back to marital arts, martial artists by being familiar with violence: that would be part of what they need to know in order to be non-violent in a violent situation. And I think, I wasn’t sure whether she was willing to, in some sense, make the ultimate donation of herself to even learn the thing which she would like to.. I think part of her, I think part of her, could you believe this, .. I think part of her would like to get rid of violence. Can you believe that somebody would want to do that? Of course you can. That’s what some people are trying to do. They’re trying to get rid of violence. That’s not non-violence. If there’s… Non-violence is, if there’s no violence ‘hey, you know, that’s fine’. If there’s violence, “hey, I’m here to play with you’ rather than try to eliminate violence. Like “no volcanoes” ‘no tectonic interactions over a certain gradient’ ‘ no children’ (laughter) ‘no tigers’ ‘no floods’ ‘no fires”. Jane: I have to go then. 
Reb: (Laughs) Yeah, I don’t think non-violence is getting rid of violence. I think it’s a non-violent response to whatever.
People get violent toward people who are not being violent. Right? People get violent with people who are frightened. People get violent with people who just disagree with them. But also people get violent with people who are violent. So we’ve got people who are violent, and I do not see them being eliminated. We’ve got forces of nature; we’ve got forces of nature. We’ve got sunspots. You know, we have.. We have violent energy. We have forceful cruel forces of human and natural forces which are cruel and forces which can be harmful. Brutal. We’ve got these things. Ok. Now, how can we meet them non-violently? And I think this woman would kind of admit she was actually trying to get rid of violence. And that, of course then the violent people come at you and tell you you’re ridiculous. And you’re naïve. Blah, blah, blah. And then if you’re attached, like, non-violence and/or getting rid of violence, then you’re not such a good spokesman (spokesperson) for the wonders of non-violence. Violence is kind of amazing sometimes. It’s amazing. But non-violence, I think, is even more amazing. To me, it’s more amazing. I think violence is pretty amazing. Pretty awesome. But to meet it with non-violence. Not just to be non-violent but to be non-violent with violence, that is like the coolest, to me. It takes all the skill of violence, which comes pretty easily to most people, plus a lot more. Yeah. To see kindness in a violent situation, to me it’s just totally moving. That when under attack, people can come back with kindness. Excuse me for saying so but didn’t that happen in Israel some time ago? That somebody was being severely harassed, was being crucified, and came back with some kindness, some non-violence. Did that happen? Speaker B: I heard that.Reb: Huh? B: I heard that. Reb: There’s some story about like that happening. Yeah. And it’s a pretty moving thing, that that person could do that. And the Buddha wasn’t crucified, but the Buddha was attacked. And the Buddha came back with non-violence. Not just non-violence but also non-violence, friendship and love. This is… But the Buddha didn’t do that just by, you know, skill at non-violence. He had, in addition to that, realized the ultimate which is the great empowerer of the non-violence. So you don’t have to keep remembering, “Non-violence, non-violence”. You just, because of your realization of the ultimate, you just naturally come back with, “oh, this is my close friend. This is me. This is my life. I want to protect this person who is being violent” . Until then we try to remember the teachings of non-violence and the examples of non-violence and also the teachings of the ultimate. Because that is the ultimate protection against violence is the ultimate. It’s the final clearing away of obstructions to non-violence. 
So Bodhisattvas do need to meditate on the ultimate in addition to meditating on non-violence. They need to remember that they’re meditating on the ultimate in order to realize non-violence and teach it. So they wish to be non-violent, teach non-violence, and they also wish to understand the Dharma so that they will be able to do that. They wish to understand the Dharma so that the obstructions to unsurpassed, complete, perfect Enlightenment are removed and then.. And then they can teach non-violence when people are up for learning it. And sometimes they’re not; so then they wait until they are. Like the Buddha. Sometimes people were not up to hear the Teachings from the Buddha and he waited until they were. Actually at the beginning he thought that nobody would ever be ready. He thought that this is totally weird what I’ve just discovered here. But people said, “No, please tell us”. I see Jane’s hand. Was there anybody else that had their hand up before Jane? Were you before? Jim: Not before. Reb: Ok, Then I guess it’s Jane and Jim. Jane: The instruction to study this teaching that the ultimate is beyond these realms. Reb: In particular, the ultimate is beyond argumentation and dispute. Jane: So that study, is that, is that just kind of repeating this concept over and over to oneself? Is it related to faith? Could you say a little more about the study? Studying it? Reb: It could be that you, that you meditate on this chapter for quite a while, the words of this chapter. Yeah. And that you…and then you have this clear in your mind, so that when words come up and expressions come up and conventions come up and representations come up and signs come up. When these things come up, you relate to them as usual, but you remember the ultimate is beyond this. And this stuff..and there’s something which I can remember to be ready for which cannot be reasoned about. No reasoning, you know, there’s no argument about the ultimate. If you’re arguing about the ultimate, it’s only to get ready to deal with something that there’s not argument about once you have it. Argument and words do not apply to it at all. So you carry on your daily activity with other beings, but you realize that there is this very important truth which is beyond what you are doing. That’s one way to study this. As in this chapter. But there’s many other ways. For example, the ultimate could also be called the Middle Way. Or the Middle Way could be called the ultimate. And there’s lots of ways to study the Middle Way. So the chapter, in the first chapter, we had a related but different way of meditating on the ultimate. The next chapter we’re going to, which I think which I really love the next chapter, it’s about how the Middle Way, I mean how the ultimate and the Middle Way transcend sameness and difference. So in the next chapter, after you hear that one, then you can look at how the practice and enlightenment, the relationship between practice and enlightenment is not entirely the same, and it’s not entirely different. So that’s another way to watch how our practice is not entirely the same as realization and also it’s not entirely different. And also understand why it cannot be entirely the same and why it cannot be entirely different. So that would be another way. And that way actually comes pretty naturally in Soto Zen; because we do practices which we say are enlightenment. But this Sutra is saying, “Ok, yeah, they are enlightenment but they’re not entirely the same as enlightenment”. Not to mention that they’re not entirely different. So that’s another way which comes kind of naturally when you’re doing things like sitting still in room for a long time. “Now what’s the relationship between this and realization?” And so on. Another way to meditate which is similar to this is to meditate on the ultimate in terms of how it avoids extremes. So sometimes the Buddha presents the Middle Way or the ultimate in terms of the extremes it avoids. So that’s another way we could talk about it. And so on. So there’s lots of different ways to meditate on the ultimate.
Another way, instead of talking about what it isn’t, you can meditate on what it is. How is it? You know. Just look directly at it. That will be coming up. We keep bringing that up for the rest of our lives. Yes? Jim: I think I’ll save my question till the next time Reb: Till the next time we meet? Ok. Yes, Julie?
Julie: I’m sorry I don’t know what book you’re talking about? 
Reb: You weren’t here this morning? Julie: No. Reb: Oh. We’re talking about a Sutra. A Mahayana Sutra which in Sanskrit is called Arya Samdhinirmochana Sutra, or the Noble Scripture about Revealing or Untangling the Intentions [the deep mysterious intentions] of the Buddha’s teaching. That’s the scripture we’re studying. We did the first Chapter a month ago and today we’re doing the second Chapter. And next time we’ll deal with the third Chapter. And then next time, we’ll do the fourth Chapter. And then that will dovetail with the other Chapters which I talked about before. Which are being…Julie: the (cant’ hear) Sutra, from the (can’t hear) Sutra? Reb: No, from this same Sutra. For several years, we were studying this Samdhinirmochana Sutra at Green Gulch. Ok? Yes and yes? Speaker C: I think this morning you said Vasubandha taught about the three kinds of ultimate: the objective, the attainment and the practice. Who’s Vasubandha? Reb: Vasubandha is, among other things, he is Asanga’s brother. You know Asanga? So there are two brothers and they are,.. Asanga is the older brother and he is sometimes considered to be the founder of the Yogacharya School, or the “Mind-Only” School of Mahayana philosophy. And his brother was the author of one of the main texts of another school called the Abhidharma Kosha. So Vasubandha wrote the Abhidharma Kosha, which is one of the main scholastic presentations in the Buddhist tradition where he comments from the perspective of one school of philosophy, a non-Mahayana school, on another non-Mahayana school. So there’s four schools of philosophy that are recognized by most Buddhists. Two are Individual Vehicle; and two are Mahayana, Universal Vehicle. The two Individual Vehicle are called Sarvastivardin (sp?) and Vaivashika (sp?). Excuse me, Sarvastivadin and Sautrantika (sp?). C: Mahayana Schools? Reb: Those are Individual Vehicle schools. And the Mahayana is Yogacharya and Madhyamika. So Vasubandha is a… he was a expert in the first school and he then criticized the first school from the perspective of the second school. So that’s Vasubandhu. But then he, he got converted to the Mahayana by his big brother and then he wrote a whole bunch of Mahayana texts. C: This would have been maybe about first century?

Reb: No, like fourth century. Vasubandha and Asanga are fourth century. Nargajuna, first century, or second century. First and second century. Some traditions say Vasu..I mean, Nargajuna lived 900 years. So. Yeah? Karen: I’m wondering whether this Chapter if part of it is a response to what happened in the Brahminic (Sp? From the Vedic Brahmins) system which is sort of related but, you know prior to Buddhism and had developed this very elaborate set of argumentation and disputation. I wonder if it’s partly commenting on that? Reb: Yeah. I think so. I think these Mahayana texts were.. Even before the Mahayana texts, the teaching, the early scholastic, well even the Buddha’s teaching is responding to philosophical schools that co-existed with him. And it’s partly his response to his native philosophical/religious environment. And he had something new to say, basically this Middle Way, that he, which he taught. Dependent Co-Arising. But also he taught that Dependent Co-Arising was Emptiness. And then he taught that recognizing that Emptiness is a conventional designation, then Dependent Co-Arising and Emptiness are the Middle Way. And that’s Nargajuna’s presentation of the Buddha’s teaching of Dependent Co-Arising is that it’s emptiness and it’s conventional designation. And his school, the school that Nargajuna founded, which is one of these Mahayana philosophy schools, is called the Middle Way school. So, it’s called the Middle Way, but it’s the Middle Way in the Mahayana context rather than the Middle Way the way the Buddha first put it where he seemed to be teaching individuals how to become free rather than getting people to sign up to be Bodhisattvas and find the Middle Way together with the vows to live for the welfare of all beings, not just to become personally free. Karen: At what point did it change from .. Reb: It didn’t really change. It’s just that this new movement started. The old movement continued. The Individual Vehicle practitioners probably always dominated the Indian Buddhist sangha. But this new wave of people who were actually aspiring to be Buddhas, you know, starting with the Prajnaparamita texts and the Lotus Sutra. This new wave of wishing to become Buddha for the welfare of all beings, rather than just wishing to be a sage and becoming personally liberated and also teaching others how to be sages and be personally liberated. The sages were still teaching. But they were more teaching from the perspective of how you can be free. And the Buddha seemed to teach that way. He would meet somebody and, if they were ready, he would teach them and they would become free. He’d meet somebody else and teach them. But his agenda was, you know, to free all beings. To give a teaching which all beings could use. But he didn’t emphasize that Bodhisattva spirit so much, literally, in his early teachings. And then, but it seemed that after about 400 years that the world was ready for Buddhism to emphasize compassion more and then this Bodhisattva thing. And then compassion including that you wish to become a Buddha in order to fully, fully realize compassion. Karen: I have sometimes thought, and I don’t know if this is true, I have sometimes thought that that is also a technique because. .just to help us move past the selfishness, kind of the selfishness. Reb: If what’s a technique? Karen: That the wish to free all beings….emphasizing that, is partly a way to get us off ourselves. Reb: Definitely. As a matter of fact, it really is the only way to really get off yourself. You have to have a vow like that. So that’s part of the Mahayana would say, anybody who tries to attain personal liberation is not going to actually be able to get over personal self-concern completely. There’s still some possibility of attachment to personal liberation.. But again the early students had the advantage of having the Buddha in their face so there was this transmission which was so strong that they could actually like, even without the Bodhisattva Vows, maybe get over their self-concern. Reb: Yes. One more? Speaker D: What you just mentioned, the tendency to cling to a big of self in seeking individual salvation was that the mistake of the Aryas mentioned in the first chapter? Another term was used, rather than Aryas. The first Chapter mentioned three sets of sages: Bodhisattvas.. Reb: Oh. Arhats and Pratyekha Buddhas. D; Yes. Reb: Yeah, so the Arhats and Pratyekha Buddhas, they don’t have this vow so that’s a problem for them. D: That is their error 
Reb: It’s not so much an error. It’s not really an error. It’s more like they’re not ready for that vow yet. And yet they are sages. And they have an understanding which is advanced to what some Bodhisattvas have. D: But they don’t have the Bodhichitta.

Reb: Right. They are not intending to become Buddhas. They are intending to become sages. And they do become sages and we honor them. But we also realize that they have not signed up for the same course, the Buddha course. And they are great. They’re greater than us in a lot of ways. It’s just that they don’t have that same vow that the Buddha had; that the Buddhas have. But they’re still part of our tradition and they are still disciples of Buddha. Some by directly hearing the Buddha and some understood what the ones who heard understood without ever hearing the Buddha. So they’re still recipients of the Dharma, but they didn’t even hear it from the Buddha. Now some, the idea is that probably in a past life they heard it from the Buddha. But they’re actually Buddha’s disciples. But they’re just not signed up to become Buddha’s. And the Buddha wanted to help some people become sages like that. Now the Lotus Sutra comes along and says “You people are actually going to become Buddhas”, and they are very happy, in the Lotus Sutra, they are very happy to hear that they’re going to sign up for the Bodhisattva course too and they’re going to become Buddhas. The Lotus Sutra says everybody’s going to become Buddha, even these people didn’t,..who attained sagehood but without wanting to be a Buddha.

Speaker E: Could you please speak about when Buddha said, “I stopped”? Reb: Yeah. Yeah. He stopped greed hate and delusion. That’s why the murdered couldn’t catch him. That’s why he could help him. That’s why he could help people. He could help people because he was free of those forms of ignorance. Anything else this afternoon that you’d like to bring up? 
Jacqui: I went and saw the movie “Terminator” last night. Reb: Yeah? Jacqui: And with all the violence, and there’s tremendous amount of violence, it also speaks to the human heart. Reb: Cause you were there. Cause you were there. Thanks for bringing your heart to be spoken to. Thanks for bringing your heart to be spoken to. Thank you for taking care of each other today.
Thanks for ringing the bells so they didn’t sit too long without walking. Do you feel complete? Speaker F; I’d like to read these chapters.

Reb: You’d like to read ‘em. F: Yeah.

End of recording