Other Buddhas

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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Malcolm » Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:22 pm

Pema Rigdzin wrote:
Namdrol wrote:We can speculate all we like.

But there are some salient points to bear in mind. It was not imagined by Mahāyānists that there were persistent oral lineages of Mahāyāna teachings in Jambudvipa.

Quite the contrary. Mahāyāna is the original treasure tradition. Mahāyānists came to believe that their texts had been laid away for four centuries or more and then revealed by such masters as Nāgārjuna and so on, kept by Bodhisattvas such as Mañjuśrī for safe keeping until the time was right for them again to be promulgated. Therefore, any honest person whose mind is not clouded by the delusion of religious zeal and fervor has to admit that it is unlikely that the detailed and highly complex literary compositions which we now know as Mahāyāna sūtras could not possibly have been composed in any thing other than a visionary manner at a much later time than their purported setting. Moreover, they would have to admit that these detailed literary compositions, (even as early as the Digha Nikāya), betray evidence of extensive editing and development over many centuries, as is proven by the layers of such texts in Chinese translation. For example, the Maitreya Chapter, so important to gzhan stong exegesis, is completely missing in Chinese sources, proving that it was a Yogacara addition to the PP corpus.


You make a good case, and what you say is probably the most likely explanation. Since we've already established that these texts' provenance is beside the point (aside from the enlightened nature of that source), my continued participation here is just for the sake of it being interesting to me and because I may learn new things as I continue to probe.

With that in mind... It was my understanding that the PP sutras were rediscovered by Nagarjuna, and Maitreya's five treatises were kind of like pure vision teachings received by Asanga, etc., but are all of the Mahayana sutras said to have come to us in a similar way? Were none said to have come to us in a long lineage from the Buddha (a la kama)? If there are cases where a "kama" lineage of certain Mahayana sutras is claimed traditionally, is it not possible that the historical teachings spoken of in these sutras did in fact take place, were faithfully transcribed and hidden, and later edited and added to throughout the centuries following their rediscovery? Again, I acknowledge that it really doesn't matter, but I am curious.


It is highly unlikely.

No Pali suttas of which I am aware are so highly self-referential, making constant references to worshipping themselves in book form, or constant references to the doctrine they contain, or defensive remarks about criticizing their contents. In other words, the Agamas and Nikayas seem to lack any anxiety at all; whereas Mahāyāna sūtras seem to be filled with anxious polemics about their authenticity.

This anxiety that is so noticeable in early Mahāyāna texts begins to vanish when India authors, copying a strategy of the Theravada Abhidhamma pitika authors, hit on the strategy of ultimately siting the original source of Mahāyāna sūtras in the person of Tathāgata Vairocana in Akaniṣṭha Gandavyuha.

Now freed form the spatio-temporal constraints of Kapilavastu, Rajagriha, etc., and utilizing docetic strategies of transmission (the three kāyas), these texts were now immune to hermeneutical critiques of authenticity based on their composition as texts ultimately voiced by Shakyamuni located within the lifetime and career of Shakyamuni. Shakyamuni's role, in India, as the proponent of Mahāyāna was subordinated to that of Vairocana. Shakyamuni-as-nirmanakāya now appears more as a shepherd of the Dharma, rather than its ultimate source. There are many other threads one can work out from this basic premise.

This did not happen without some dissenting backlash, of course i.e. the Saddharmapundarika can be seen as a reaction to this firm trend, with the ultimate result that in India the Saddharmapundarika was completely sidelined since it did not fit into the innovative Yogacara docetic model of sūtra transmission with the sambhogakāya acting as an intermediary between the dharmakāya and the nirmanakāya.

Yogacara doceticism is a vital key also in the composition and dissemination of Vajrayana. Now, freed utterly from the dictates of the career of Gautama, Buddhist authors/mystics could fearlessly compose tantras free of concern about their historicity. The only evidence of anxiety in the tantras is that they would fall into improper hands.

The Agamas, Vaipulya-sūtras, and tantras should be seen as a successive record of the religious experiences of people who attained awakening in some measure, starting with The Buddha. When the main themes of Indian compositional strategies in Mahāyāna had been set down, these themes adopted to compose original sūtras in Chinese, Tibetan, Khotanese, etc. These themes of composition were so strong, so compelling, that even nominally non-buddhist peoples such as Bonpos adopted them hook, line and sinker, developing a religion in Tibet that is virtually indistinguishable from Tibetan Buddhism other than details of narrative origin, and used these narrative strategies to express their own spiritual evolution.

I am a firm believer in evolution. I personally think that Buddhism is a religion that underwent and is undergoing significant evolution, reaching its high point in the teachings of the great perfection, and adapting itself to various cultures in an evolutionary manner according to the environment in which it found itself.

The reason Buddhism was able to undergo this evolution without it's core being destroyed, but rather revealed and expressed with greater and greater clarity as successive generations of buddhas refined its essential message, is that the essence of the dharma is dependent origination.

Ok, said enough, now have to get back to work.
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:06 pm

"I am a firm believer in evolution. I personally think that Buddhism is a religion that underwent and is undergoing significant evolution, reaching its high point in the teachings of the great perfection, and adapting itself to various cultures in an evolutionary manner according to the environment in which it found itself.

The reason Buddhism was able to undergo this evolution without it's core being destroyed, but rather revealed and expressed with greater and greater clarity as successive generations of buddhas refined its essential message, is that the essence of the dharma is dependent origination."


To add another view, it is not evolving I believe in but simply adapting (related terms nonetheless). That is, the Dharma is transmitted by those with enlightenment as this has been stated regularly from the Pali Canon on, it is just the form of the teaching that changes according to circumstances but not the meaning. This is how in Chan and generally in East Asia there is little problem in saying that the 8 teachings (classical 8 schools of Chinese Buddhism: Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Vinaya, Mantra, Tiantai, Huayan, Pure Land, Chan) are one.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Malcolm » Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:11 pm

Astus wrote:
To add another view, it is not evolving I believe in but simply adapting (related terms nonetheless).



I think evolution is more appropriate. There is a core DNA, if you will, dependent origination, that makes all these speciations of Dharma related to one another. But some forms of dharma continue to evolve, others are on the verge of extinction, or are functionally extinct (i.e. Huayen, etc.), and so on., and some are simply better adapted to survive in the modern world than others.

N
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:47 pm

Namdrol,

Yes, I can agree with that. But it's still not like a living being's evolution as certain teachings can not just go extinct but resurrect too, not to mentioned cases when one teaching is integrated into another and thus lives on as part of a bigger organism from what later it can break off. So much for applying biology to Buddhism. Whether dependent origination is what to be identified as the core, well, if that equals for instance the "tolerance of no-birth", "seeing the nature" and "unity of samsara and nirvana" than sure.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Malcolm » Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:52 pm

Astus wrote:Namdrol,

Yes, I can agree with that. But it's still not like a living being's evolution as certain teachings can not just go extinct but resurrect too, not to mentioned cases when one teaching is integrated into another and thus lives on as part of a bigger organism from what later it can break off. So much for applying biology to Buddhism. Whether dependent origination is what to be identified as the core, well, if that equals for instance the "tolerance of no-birth", "seeing the nature" and "unity of samsara and nirvana" than sure.


Dependent origination is exactly the meaning of non-arising -- Manjushri states in PP sutras "Whatever arises dependently, just that does not arise in truth."


"Whoever sees the Dharma, sees dependent origination; whoever sees dependent origination, see the Dharma". etc.

It is only through dependent origination that we can come to an unerring understanding of emptiness, etc.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:10 pm

So we can say that the teaching is dependently originated too, just as the teachings are taught dependent on circumstances. This is a nice explanation for the absence and presence of other buddhas.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Indrajala » Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:28 pm

Astus wrote:What is the traditional explanation for the lack of other buddhas in the agamas? It doesn't seem valid to say that teaching about other buddhas is only a bodhisattva matter since in Mahayana texts it is all fine for sravakas to learn about them and even to aspire for other buddha-realms. So why are there no other buddhas mentioned in the Hinayana teachings, only some buddhas of the past and the next future buddha? Again, it is not the modern historical explanation what I'm looking for here but the addressing of it from a traditional Mahayana perspective.


The Mahāprājñā-pāramitôpadeśa by Nāgārjuna briefly addresses this by explaining that one can infer the existence of other Buddhas. The idea is that by the Buddha's own admission there are other worlds with sentient beings in them and that the tathāgata arises when there are sentient beings who suffer. It follows that the tathāgata would indeed arise in those worlds just as he did in our world. It also mentions that even if one is incorrect, then one has much to gain from practising Buddha remembrance in this fashion. On the other hand, if one is correct that other Buddhas do indeed exist then there are undesirable consequences for having outright denied the existence of them.
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Malcolm » Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:31 pm

Huseng wrote: It also mentions that even if one is incorrect, then one has much to gain from practising Buddha remembrance in this fashion. On the other hand, if one is correct that other Buddhas do indeed exist then there are undesirable consequences for having outright denied the existence of them.


Guess we have to rename Pascal's wager.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby plwk » Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:48 pm

Very thoughtful discussions thus far but I guess on top of what the OP has laid out, out there in the competitive world, it's not a matter of whether there are Buddhas mentioned or not but rather perhaps more confined to whose list of Buddhas are more 'authentic' and then we find that it turns into another sectarian mud slinging session of whose list is the IT.... and that's where I think what huseng had posted would be a good counter to such nonsense...
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Malcolm » Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:54 pm

plwk wrote:Very thoughtful discussions thus far but I guess on top of what the OP has laid out, out there in the competitive world, it's not a matter of whether there are Buddhas mentioned or not but rather perhaps more confined to whose list of Buddhas are more 'authentic' and then we find that it turns into another sectarian mud slinging session of whose list is the IT.... and that's where I think what huseng had posted would be a good counter to such nonsense...



The Nyingmapa tradition never closed their canon. Granted, there are still issues of "authenticity", but nevertheless, we find, for examples, in the teachings of Chogyal Namkhai Norbu transmissions recovered from other world systems via his impressive skills in the dreamtime.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Indrajala » Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:57 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Huseng wrote: It also mentions that even if one is incorrect, then one has much to gain from practising Buddha remembrance in this fashion. On the other hand, if one is correct that other Buddhas do indeed exist then there are undesirable consequences for having outright denied the existence of them.


Guess we have to rename Pascal's wager.


It would pre-date Pascal by many centuries indeed.

The reasoning actually would spark some concern in most Buddhist practitioners as one does not want to outright deny the existence of Buddhas. One has nothing to lose by affirming their existence and much to lose by denying it.

Many teachings and ideas found in the Mahāyāna are derived through inference based on statements made by the Buddha in the Nikāyas (for example the ālaya-vijñāna). The existence of other Buddhas is, as pointed out, the logical conclusion given that Buddhas arise when beings suffer and that the Buddha said other world systems exist. Now the vision of the Buddha and definition of a Buddha in the Nikāya is different from the Mahāyāna. From the Nikāya perspective perhaps it might be said that Buddhas in other world systems have minimal influence in our world system, hence why there is no explicit mention of other Buddhas in the Nikāyas.
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Malcolm » Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:02 pm

Huseng wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
Huseng wrote: It also mentions that even if one is incorrect, then one has much to gain from practising Buddha remembrance in this fashion. On the other hand, if one is correct that other Buddhas do indeed exist then there are undesirable consequences for having outright denied the existence of them.


Guess we have to rename Pascal's wager.


It would pre-date Pascal by many centuries indeed.

The reasoning actually would spark some concern in most Buddhist practitioners as one does not want to outright deny the existence of Buddhas. One has nothing to lose by affirming their existence and much to lose by denying it.



At best, no one wants to be a frog in a well.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Indrajala » Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:05 pm

Namdrol wrote:
plwk wrote:Very thoughtful discussions thus far but I guess on top of what the OP has laid out, out there in the competitive world, it's not a matter of whether there are Buddhas mentioned or not but rather perhaps more confined to whose list of Buddhas are more 'authentic' and then we find that it turns into another sectarian mud slinging session of whose list is the IT.... and that's where I think what huseng had posted would be a good counter to such nonsense...



The Nyingmapa tradition never closed their canon. Granted, there are still issues of "authenticity", but nevertheless, we find, for examples, in the teachings of Chogyal Namkhai Norbu transmissions recovered from other world systems via his impressive skills in the dreamtime.


I personally know one bhiksuni who says she has received direct teachings from Bodhisattvas before. She doesn't advertise this or generally tell people about it, but being a friend and fellow Buddhist she revealed to me some exquisite poetry written in Classical Chinese verse which she claimed was transmitted to her through Bodhisattvas. It all contained references to Buddhist concepts and having a background in Classical Chinese I found it impressive.

So this is not necessarily an issue of canons, but at times a matter of experience. Those who have visions of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas need not be convinced of their existence. They already have direct teachings and take them as seriously as they would any canonical text. It is not really uncommon for high-calibre practitioners to have such visions. You might have difficulty meeting them and hearing about their experiences though.
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Malcolm » Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:08 pm

Huseng wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
plwk wrote:Very thoughtful discussions thus far but I guess on top of what the OP has laid out, out there in the competitive world, it's not a matter of whether there are Buddhas mentioned or not but rather perhaps more confined to whose list of Buddhas are more 'authentic' and then we find that it turns into another sectarian mud slinging session of whose list is the IT.... and that's where I think what huseng had posted would be a good counter to such nonsense...



The Nyingmapa tradition never closed their canon. Granted, there are still issues of "authenticity", but nevertheless, we find, for examples, in the teachings of Chogyal Namkhai Norbu transmissions recovered from other world systems via his impressive skills in the dreamtime.


I personally know one bhiksuni who says she has received direct teachings from Bodhisattvas before. She doesn't advertise this or generally tell people about it, but being a friend and fellow Buddhist she revealed to me some exquisite poetry written in Classical Chinese verse which she claimed was transmitted to her through Bodhisattvas. It all contained references to Buddhist concepts and having a background in Classical Chinese I found it impressive.

So this is not necessarily an issue of canons, but at times a matter of experience. Those who have visions of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas need not be convinced of their existence. They already have direct teachings and take them as seriously as they would any canonical text. It is not really uncommon for high-calibre practitioners to have such visions. You might have difficulty meeting them and hearing about their experiences though.


Yes of course. None of the above is meant to question the sincerity of Mahāyāna sūtras, and so on.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:33 pm

That kind of wager was used even before Nagarjuna by Gautama himself: Apannaka Sutta: A Safe Bet.

"The Nyingmapa tradition never closed their canon."

I don't know if there is actually any Buddhist canon that is closed. Just in the 20th century new, revised versions of both East Asian and Theravada canons were published. In fact, in East Asia there is no ultimate canon only groups of texts published at different times.

"The Mahāprājñā-pāramitôpadeśa by Nāgārjuna briefly addresses this by explaining that one can infer the existence of other Buddhas."

Inferring the existence of other buddhas and reporting on individual buddhas in neighbouring realms are not exactly the same thing. Just like it sounds a generally acceptable supposition that because there is life on this planet there are other planets with intelligent beings on them, but reporting on the life of the Queen of Naboo is a quite different matter.

"it's not a matter of whether there are Buddhas mentioned or not but rather perhaps more confined to whose list of Buddhas are more 'authentic'"

While there was considerable efforts made for the propagation of worshipping this and that buddha I find that it was hardly a sectarian issue. Although there could have been incidents.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Malcolm » Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:39 pm

Astus wrote:
I don't know if there is actually any Buddhist canon that is closed. Just in the 20th century new, revised versions of both East Asian and Theravada canons were published. In fact, in East Asia there is no ultimate canon only groups of texts published at different times.



In the case of the Pali canon, did they add new texts?
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Anders » Fri Apr 01, 2011 9:17 pm

Huseng wrote:I personally know one bhiksuni who says she has received direct teachings from Bodhisattvas before. She doesn't advertise this or generally tell people about it, but being a friend and fellow Buddhist she revealed to me some exquisite poetry written in Classical Chinese verse which she claimed was transmitted to her through Bodhisattvas. It all contained references to Buddhist concepts and having a background in Classical Chinese I found it impressive.


This is not that unusual. There are a number of sutras in the Chinese tripitaka, mostly concerning guanyin where the 'composers' are also recorded. These are typically cases of scarcely learned but devout lay people who spontaneously began reciting new sutras betraying style and content that only someone very erudite in Indian sutras could have composed of their own, so they were considered genuine revelatory sutras. I suspect quite a few Indian sutras were originally conceived in a similar manner though of course this is not recorded.
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Re: Other Buddhas

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 01, 2011 10:26 pm

Namdrol wrote:In the case of the Pali canon, did they add new texts?


I thought I remembered where I had read that the works of Mahasi Sayadaw was published in the latest edition of the Burmese canon but now I can't find it. Although I've read that about a year ago. But as I was searching for it I've found a study by Ven. Analayo - who is one of the few monks focusing the early scriptures (all canons included) - written on The Genesis of the Bodhisattva Ideal (PDF), a valuable extra to the works already mentioned.

An article by Ven. Sujato addresses the issue of history and myth:

"It’s time. We need a new paradigm. Buddhism is suffering from schizo­phrenia; there is a split in consciousness between the historical and the mythic concep­tions of the origin of the Dhamma. For 2500 years Buddhism has been constantly changing, adapting, evolving; yet the myths of the schools insist that the Dhamma remains the same. All existing schools of Buddhism justify their idiosyn­cratic doctrines mytho­lo­gically; this is what all religions do. Thus the Theravada insists that the Abhid­hamma was taught by the Buddha in Tāvatiṁsa heaven during his seventh rains retreat. The Mahayana claims that the Mahayana sutras were written down in the time of the Buddha, preserved in the dragon world under the sea, then retreived by Nagarjuna 500 years later. Zen claims authority from an esoteric oral trans­mission outside the scrip­tures descended from Maha Kassapa, symbolized by the smile of Maha Kassapa when the Buddha held up a lotus. All of these are myths, and do not deserve serious consid­er­ation as explan­a­tions of historical truth. Their purpose, as myths, is not to elucidate facts, but to authorize religious convictions."
read on...
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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