Friday, May 01, 2009

Musing on the Moonlight Bodhisattva

One thing leads to another.

I was reading The Total Extinction of the Dharma today, stuck on the passages beginning with the prediction that men's lives will grow shorter, and women's will grow longer. If you ever visit Miami Beach, you will swear the time has come.

The passages presage a time marked by tsunamis, when the Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Arhats will be driven by the gang of Mara-monks, "...into the mountains, to a land of merit. Tranquil and self-controlled, they will rest content in this. Their lives will grow longer, the various Devas will protect and watch over them, and Candraprabha will appear in the world. They will be able to meet him, and together they will make my Way flourish."

Sounds like Tibet, doesn't it?

Candraprabha is the Moonlight Bodhisattva. He stands to the right of the Medicine Buddha in some iconography.

However, to continue: "In fifty-two years after that, the Shurangama Sutra and the pratyutpanna-samadhi will prematurely change and vanish, and shortly afterwards the twelve divisions of the Mahayana canon will also be destroyed in their entirety, and will not appear again. The robes of the monks will spontaneously turn white."

So, naturally, out comes the Shurangama Sutra... because when that vanishes, then we are all in a pickle.

I think the part of that sutra I enjoy reading the most is the "Warning to Practitioners: The Fifty False States." This was very popular forty or so years ago, but you hardly ever see it anymore. Nevertheless, it really is worth cultivating.

Here is a sample:

"Ananda, in the cultivation of samàdhi, when the second

aggregate of receptiveness ceases to hinder the practiser,

although he is still in the worldly stream, his mind can now

escape from his body, like a bird from its cage. From his

worldly state he can now achieve the sixty succeeding holy

stages of Bodhisattva development into Buddhahood and

thereby take any form at will, free to move anywhere without

hindrance. This is like a man who talks in his sleep and

though he does not know what he says, his words are in

order (and comprehensible), and those who are not asleep

understand him. This is the third aggregate of conception

which conditions his meditation.

"If all his stirring thoughts stop, he will be rid of the

thinking process and his clear mind will be (like a mirror)

rubbed clean of the covering dust, and will throw light upon

his (present) incarnation from birth to death. Then the third

aggregate of conception ceases to function and the practiser

will be able to leap above and beyond the kalpa of turbid

passions, the main cause of which was the seeming pervasiveness

of his wrong thinking.

"Ananda, now that the practiser is free from anxiety,

after his receptiveness has vanished, he finds himself in the

state of perfect dhyàna and likes its pure brightness. But he

may be tempted to concentrate on the one thought of skilfully

advancing, thus submitting to the heavenly demon

who immediately possesses another man (to harm the

meditator). This man, unaware that he is possessed will,

as directed, preach the Dharma of the sutras and think that

he too has realized Supreme Nirvàna. He will then come to

the practiser's place and take the high seat (reserved for

reputable monks) to teach him the Dharma. To show his

skill, he will appear either as a monk, Indra, a woman or a

nun, and his body will send out rays of light that illumine the

dark bedroom. The practiser will mistake him for a Bodhisattva

and will believe what he says; as a result, his mind will

waver and he will break the rules and have desires. The

man will speak of weal and woe, of a Buddha appearing at

a certain place, of scorching fire in the kalpa of destruction

and of future fighting and wars to frighten and ruin other

people. This is the Strange Ghost who has become a

demon in his old age and who now comes to trouble the

practiser. When he is weary of his misdeeds, he will leave

the possessed man. Then both teacher (the possessed man)

and pupil (the practiser) will suffer all the miseries inflicted

by the royal law. You should first be clear about this temptation

to avoid returning to samsàra, but if you are deluded

and do not recognize it, you will fall into the unintermittent


I think a lot of the trouble that people have recognizing what is and is not a valid teaching (or teacher), as well as the general craziness that seems to specially afflict Western dharma practitioners (or teachers), would be solved by a thorough grounding in the Surangama Sutra.

Just an opinion... while watching a sliver of moonlight rise over the western hills.

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