teaching of the goddess


zennunWhile everyone has gathered at the house of Vimalakirti a great discourse had taken place about the dharma.  A certain, unnamed goddess manifests to enlighten the ordinary disciples with lesser views.  Here is one of my favorite passages from The Goddess chapter of The Vimalakirti Sutra:

Thereupon, a certain goddess who lived in that house, having heard this teaching of the Dharma of the great heroic bodhisattvas, and being delighted, pleased, and overjoyed, manifested herself in a material body and showered the great spiritual heroes, the bodhisattvas, and the great disciples with heavenly flowers.

When the flowers fell on the bodies of the bodhisattvas, they fell off on the floor, but when they fell on the bodies of the great disciples, they stuck to them and did not fall.  The great disciples shook the flowers and even tried to use their magical powers, but still the flowers would not shake off.

Then, the goddess said to the venerable Sariputra, “Reverend Sariputra, why do you shake these flowers?”

Sariputra replied, “Goddess, these flowers are not proper for religious persons and so we are trying to shake them off.”

The goddess said, “Do not say that, reverend Sariputra.  Why?  These flowers are proper indeed!  Why?  Such flowers have neither constructual thought nor discrimination.  But the elder Sariputra has both constructual thought and discrimination.

“Reverend Sariputra, impropriety for one who has renounced the world for the discipline of the rightly taught Dharma consists of constructual thought and discrimination, yet the elders are full of such thoughts. One who is without such thoughts is always proper.

“Reverend Sariputra, see how these flowers do not stick to the bodies of these great spiritual heroes, the bodhisattvas!  This is because they have eliminated constructual thoughts and discriminations.

“For example, evil spirits have power over fearful men but cannot disturb the fearless.  Likewise, those intimidated by fear of the world are in the power of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures, which do not disturb those who are free from fear of the passions inherent in the constructive world.  Thus, these flowers stick to the bodies of those who have not eliminated their instincts for the passions and do not stick to the bodies of those who have eliminated their instincts.  Therefore, the flowers do not stick to the bodies of these bodhisattvas, who have abandoned all instincts.”

Sariputra’s silence:

Then the venerable Sariputra said to the goddess, “Goddess, how long have you been in this house?”

The goddess replied, “I have been here as long as the elder has been in liberation.”

Sariputra said, “Then, have you been in this house for quite some time?”

The goddess said, “Has the elder been in liberation for quite some time?”

At that, the elder Sariputra fell silent.

The goddess continued, “Elder, you are ‘foremost of the wise!’  Why do you not speak?  Now, when it is your turn, you do not answer the question.”

Sariputra: Since liberation is inexpressible, goddess, I do not know what to say.

Goddess: All the syllables pronounced by the elder have the nature of liberation.  Why?  Liberation is neither internal nor external, nor can it be apprehended apart from them.  Likewise, syllables are neither internal nor external, nor can they be apprehended anywhere else.  Therefore, reverend Sariputra, do not point to liberation by abandoning speech!  Why?  The holy liberation is the equality of all things!

True Liberation:

Sariputra: Goddess, is not liberation the freedom from desire, hatred, and folly?

Goddess: “Liberation is freedom from desire, hatred, and folly” that is the teaching of the excessively proud.  But those free of pride are taught that the very nature of desire, hatred, and folly is itself liberation.

Attainment:

Sariputra: Excellent!  Excellent, goddess!  Pray, what have you attained, what have you realized, that you have such eloquence?

Goddess: I have attained nothing, reverend Sariputra.  I have no realization.  Therefore I have such eloquence.

Whoever thinks, “I have attained!  I have realized!” is overly proud in the discipline of the well-taught Dharma.

Sariputra: Goddess, do you belong to the disciple-vehicle, to the solitary-vehicle, or to the great vehicle?

Goddess: I belong to the disciple-vehicle when I teach it to those who need it.  I belong to the solitary-vehicle when I teach the twelve links of dependent origination to those who need them.  And, since I never abandon the great compassion, I belong to the great-vehicle, as all need that teaching to attain ultimate liberation.

NOTE:  Being able to speak in such a manner, the goddess has clearly achieved a quality of eloquence which occurs only on the ninth bhumi stage.

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