Manifestation of the Tathagata:

from the Avatamsaka Sutra

Translated by Cheng Chien Bhikshu

Featured in Mountain Record 24.3, Winter 2006


Behind the depth of thought conveyed both in the recondite teachings and rich symbolism of the Avatamsaka, as well as in the teachings of the ancient masters who derived their abstruse theories from their immediate experience of the teaching of the sutra grounded on their deep contemplations, one of the primary purports of the sutra is to offer a fresh perspective on the possibilities open to humanity. And once those possibilities are acknowledged, the Avatamsaka offers an unexcelled guide to the actualization of their potential. The spiritual journey, described in the sutra in minute detail with great beauty, which culminates in the realization of the highest awareness accessible to humanity, starts in the simple act of awakening of faith. This faith comes from the Buddha-nature inherent in the human heart, and provides the light that leads one beyond the familiar realm of meaningless obsessions, illusions, and worldly sentiments to one’s true abode—the boundless dharmadhatu.

It is its practical usefulness in providing inspiration and guidance to all those who have the maturity and wisdom to see beyond their self-imposed limitations and dedicate their lives to the highest good that makes the sutra truly meaningful. The Buddha of the Avatamsaka, glorious and inconceivable as he may appear to be, is truly very close to each of us. He is much closer than anything one can conceive of—pervading everything, there is no place that he does not reach. The realm of the Buddha is the very reality in which the drama of our existence takes place. That same reality manifests completely in the single thought of faith in the mind of each ordinary person. It is the fundamental reality from which unfolds the Bodhisattva Path, which is the cause for the accomplishment of the fruit of Buddhahood—fruit that has been there from the very beginning, imperceptible to those who lack the eye of faith.

 

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The Body of the Tathagata

“Children of the Tathagata, how should Bodhisattva-mahasattvas perceive the body of the Tathagata, Arhat, Perfectly Enlightened One? Children of the Tathagata, all Bodhisattva-mahasattvas should perceive the body of the Tathagata in limitless places. Wherefore? All Bodhisattva-mahasattvas should not perceive the Tathagata in [just] one dharma, one phenomenon, one body, one land, one sentient being. They should perceive the Tathagata everywhere.

“Children of the Buddha, like space which is present everywhere, whether there are forms or not, without reaching or not reaching there. Wherefore? Because space is immaterial. Likewise, the body of the Tathagata is present everywhere, in all sentient beings, all dharmas, all lands, without reaching or not reaching there. Wherefore? Because the body of the Tathagata is immaterial—it is for the sake of sentient beings that he manifests a body. Children of the Buddha, this is the first characteristic of the body of the Tathagata. All Bodhisattva-mahasattvas should perceive it thus.