Will wrote: Huifeng wrote:
That is just too facile an explanation. If Gautama existed in the flesh and had disciples and finally his body died, then "virgin birth" has a meaning other than the ordinary Mahayana philosophical explanation. If the latter were the intent of the sutra passages, then the standard phrases, like "neither born nor unborn" would be sprinkled at key points. Plus the amount of space given to the conception and birth is too great to think it is all metaphor, simile & fable.
Just curious, before I continue with a response - Will, have you read the whole sutra?
Yes, more than once; but it was years ago and my memory is lousy.
In that case, just as a reminder, there are several passages in the text which talk about "neither born nor unborn".
The Buddha taught - No arising, no cessation, ... no apprehension, no loss; entering in accordance with the ways of world, so it is manifested.
Essentially neither arising nor ceasing, it enters the essential sphere, when the Buddha manifests in the human world and perishes; entering in accordance with the ways of world, so it is manifested.
Dharmas are without creator, and also without production, the Buddha manifests human ways but is essentially without birth; entering in accordance with the ways of world, so it is manifested.
Not arising from anywhere... without birth, the Buddha manifests the three aspects; entering in accordance with the ways of world, so it is manifested.
And, just to show that it's not a "virgin birth", but that the Bodhisattva was not even born at all:
The bodhisattva neither enters into the mother's womb, nor is he born forth from the mother's womb. Why? The essential sphere of dharmas does not enter; when the bodhisattva manifests human entrance into the mother's womb; entering in accordance with the ways of world, so it is manifested.
Prof Harrison - now at Stanford - has commented on the text, by saying that (Harrison 1982: 212): one finds expressed a doctrinal standpoint very similar to that of the early Prajñāpāramitā as set forth in the Aṣṭasāhasrikā, a standpoint which insists upon the ‘emptiness’ of all dharmas, their non-arising (the term anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti occurs) and lack of own-being (svabhāva), the mere conventional validity of verbal distinctions as opposed to the true undifferentiated nature of the dharma-dhātu, and so on.
Bottom line? There is no bodhisattva to be born or die, to come or go, no dharmas to arise or cease, to come or go, all just an illusion, all just "manifested in accord with the world" (lokānuvartana).