From the Compass of Zen

By Zen Master Seung Sahn


From Wikipedia

In the {full} sutra, Avalokiteśvara addresses Śariputra, explaining the fundamental emptiness (śūnyatā) of all phenomena, known through and as the five aggregates of human existence (skandhas): form (rūpa), feeling (vedanā), volitions (saṅkhāra), perceptions (saṃjñā), and consciousness (vijñāna). Avalokiteśvara famously states, “Form is Emptiness (śūnyatā). Emptiness is Form”, and declares the other skandhas to be equally empty—that is, dependently originated.

Avalokiteśvara then goes through some of the most fundamental Buddhist teachings such as the Four Noble Truths, and explains that in emptiness none of these notions apply. This is interpreted according to the two truths doctrine as saying that teachings, while accurate descriptions of conventional truth, are mere statements about reality—they are not reality itself—and that they are therefore not applicable to the ultimate truth that is by definition beyond mental understanding. Thus the bodhisattva, as the archetypal Mahayana Buddhist, relies on the perfection of wisdom, defined in the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Sūtra to be the wisdom that perceives reality directly without conceptual attachment, thereby achieving nirvana.

The sutra concludes with the mantra gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā, meaning “gone, gone, everyone gone to the other shore, awakening, svaha.


Written by

Richard Hayes
Religious Studies
McGill University
Montreal, Quebec

gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā

The key word is BODHI, a feminine noun in the vocative case, which means awakening. All the other words are also in the vocative feminine and therefore modify BODHI.

GATE means gone.

PARAGATE means gone to the further shore and is a stock Sanskrit expression used by Jains and Buddhists to refer to arahants. (The word PARA means the bank of a river opposite to the one on which one is presently standing.)

PARASAMGATE means completely gone to the further shore. (The prefix SAM is intensive in meaning: completely, thoroughly, altogether.)

SVAHA is an indeclinable particle from Vedic Sanskrit. It is said to be the name of the wife of Agni, the god of fire. It is used at the end of a recitation that accompanies a burnt offering made at a Vedic sacrifice (rather as “amen” is used at the end of a prayer in Christian liturgy). It cannot really be translated, since it is a performative word rather than a word that conveys meaning.

The whole mantra, literally translated, comes out a bit like this: “Oh awakening that has gone, gone, gone to the further shore, gone completely to the further shore. Amen.”

Buddha Twirls a Flower

When Buddha was in Grdhrakuta mountain he turned a flower in his fingers and held it before his listeners. Everyone was silent. Only Maha-Kashapa smiled at this revelation, although he tried to control the lines of his face.

Buddha said: “I have the eye of the true teaching, the heart of Nirvana, the true aspect of non-form, and the ineffable stride of Dharma. It is not expressed by words, but especially transmitted beyond teaching. This teaching I have given to Maha-Kashapa.”

 Mumon’s comment: Golden-faced Gautama thought he could cheat anyone. He made the good listeners as bad, and sold dog meat under the sign of mutton. And he himself thought it was wonderful. What if all the audience had laughed together? How could he have transmitted the teaching? And again, if Maha-Kashapa had not smiled, how could he have transmitted the teaching? If he says that realization can be transmitted, he is like the city slicker that cheats the country dub, and if he says it cannot be transmitted, why does he approve of Maha-Kashapa?

At the turning of a flower
His disguise was exposed.
No one in heaven or earth can surpass
Maha-Kashapa’s wrinkled face

Duḥkha –दुःख – Suffering – Dissatisfaction

For a long while, in this lifetime, I had something of a problem with Buddhist teachings. I kept thinking, “why is it so miserable?”. Why do they keep banging on about suffering all the time? Do they have a poor me, victim mind-set? Oh, it is so unfair, life is so hard, and the universe is mean to me. They pretend to be calm and then they whinge on about suffering…

Then one day I saw the translation – dissatisfaction.


After that it all made sense because so many people are so very dissatisfied with their lot. They always want more, and the grass is always greener somewhere else. This materialistic acquisitional dissatisfaction is aback the climate change crisis. Siddhartha saw this 2500 years ago! What a genius.

The world rotates around more and never finds enough, therefore there is dissatisfaction. People do not have their wants desires and ambitions satisfied. They are hungry ghosts.

Over the years I have met many people, some with good health and a well paid job, who have a massive chip on their shoulder and feel very hard done by even when there is much to be grateful for. There are a lot of whingers and moaners out there who think life is unfair to them even when they are “successful”!

They have the “it is not fair mummy” mantra going around.

It is simple.


Are you dissatisfied with your life?

If so, why?

Who is the cause of your apparent dissatisfaction?

Have you ever attained the state of enough?


SIDDHATTHA had cut his waving hair and had exchanged his royal robe for a mean dress of the color of the ground. Having sent home Channa, the charioteer, together with the noble steed Kanthaka, to King Suddhodana to bear him the message that the prince had left the world, the Bodhisattva walked along on the highroad with a beggar’s bowl in his hand.

Yet the majesty of his mind was ill-concealed under the poverty of his appearance. His erect gait betrayed his royal birth and his eyes beamed with a fervid zeal for truth. The beauty of his youth was transfigured by holiness and surrounded his head like a halo. All the people who saw this unusual sight gazed at him in wonder. Those who were in haste arrested their steps and looked back; and there was no one who did not pay him homage.

Having entered the city of Rajagaha, the prince went from house to house silently waiting till the people offered him food. Wherever the Blessed One came, the people gave him what they had; they bowed before him in humility and were filled with gratitude because he condescended to approach their homes. Old and young people were moved and said: “This is a noble muni! His approach is bliss. What a great joy for us!”

And King Bimbisara, noticing the commotion in the city, inquired the cause of it, and when he learned the news sent one of his attendants to observe the stranger. Having heard that the muni must be a Sakya and of noble family, and that he had retired to the bank of a flowing river in the woods to eat the food in his bowl, the king was moved in his heart; he donned his royal robe, placed his golden crown upon his head and went out in the company of aged and wise counselors to meet his mysterious guest.

The king found the muni of the Sakya race seated under a tree. Contemplating the composure of his face and the gentleness of his deportment, Bimbisara greeted him reverently and said: “O samana, thy hands are fit to grasp the reins of an empire and should not hold a beggar’s bowl. I am sorry to see thee wasting thy youth. Believing that thou art of royal descent, I invite thee to join me in the government of my country and share my royal power. Desire for power is becoming to the noble-minded, and wealth should not be despised. To grow rich and lose religion is not true gain. But he who possesses all three, power, wealth, and religion, enjoying them in discretion and with wisdom, him I call a great master.”

The great Sakyamuni lifted his eyes and replied: “Thou art known, O king, to be liberal and religious, and thy words are prudent. A kind man who makes good use of wealth is rightly said to possess a great treasure; but the miser who hoards up his riches will have no profit. Charity is rich in returns; charity is the greatest wealth, for though it scatters, it brings no repentance.

“I have severed all ties because I seek deliverance. How is it possible for me to return to the world? He who seeks religious truth, which is the highest treasure of all, must leave behind all that can concern him or draw away his attention, and must be bent upon that one goal alone. He must free his soul from covetousness and lust, and also from the desire for power.

“Indulge in lust but a little, and lust like a child will grow. Wield worldly power and you will be burdened with cares. Better than sovereignty over the earth, better than living in heaven, better than lordship over all the worlds, is the fruit of holiness. The Bodhisattva has recognized the illusory nature of wealth and will not take poison as food. Will a fish that has been baited still covet the hook, or an escaped bird love the net? Would a rabbit rescued from the serpent’s mouth go back to be devoured? Would a man who has burnt his hand with a torch take up the torch after he had dropped it to the earth? Would a blind man who has recovered his sight desire to spoil his eyes again?

“The sick man suffering from fever seeks for a cooling medicine. Shall we advise him to drink that which will increase the fever? Shall we quench a fire by heaping fuel upon it?

“I pray thee, pity me not. Rather pity those who are burdened with the cares of royalty and the worry of great riches. They enjoy them in fear and trembling, for they are constantly threatened with a loss of those boons on whose possession their hearts are set, and when they die they cannot take along either their gold or the kingly diadem.

“My heart hankers after no vulgar profit, so I have put away my royal inheritance and prefer to be free from the burdens of life. Therefore, try not to entangle me in new relationships and duties, nor hinder me from completing the work I have begun. I regret to leave thee. But I will go to the sages who can teach me religion and so find the path on which we can escape evil.

“May thy country enjoy peace and prosperity, and may wisdom be shed upon thy rule like the brightness of the noon-day sun. May thy royal power be strong and may righteousness be the scepter in thine hand.”

The king, clasping his hands with reverence, bowed down before Sakyamuni and said: “Mayest thou obtain that which thou seekest, and when thou hast obtained it, come back, I pray thee, and receive me as thy disciple.” The Bodhisattva parted from the king in friendship and goodwill, and purposed in his heart to grant his request.


Excerpted from:


By Paul Carus

Chicago, The Open Court Publishing Company,


At Sacred texts

Adopter la bodhicitta

Bodhicaryāvatāra — Chapitre 3

Par Śāntideva

Excerpted from Lotsawa House translated by Adam Pearcey and Christian Magis.


Je célèbre avec joie tous les actes vertueux

Qui allègent les peines des royaumes inférieurs,

Et je me réjouis aussi quand ceux qui souffrent

Trouvent le bonheur.

Je me réjouis de l’accumulation de vertus

Qui est la cause de l’Éveil,

Et de la libération définitive

Des êtres des peines du samsâra.

L’Éveil des bouddhas m’emplit de joie

Ainsi que les bhûmi atteints par les bodhisattvas.

L’allégresse me saisit à l’évocation de cet océan de vertus

Qu’est la noble intention de la bodhicitta,

Dont le but est d’obtenir le bonheur pour tous les êtres

Et dont l’activité est, pour tous, bénéfique.

Je joins maintenant les mains et vous prie,

Bouddhas de toutes les directions,

De faire briller la lampe du Dharma sur nous

Qui souffrons dans l’obscurité de la confusion.

Les mains jointes sur le cœur,

J’enjoins tous les bouddhas aspirant au nirvâna

De ne pas nous abandonner aveugles et seuls,

Mais de demeurer parmi nous pour d’innombrables kalpas.

Grâce à toutes les vertus

Que j’ai ainsi accumulées,

Puissé-je être pour tous les êtres

Celui qui calme la douleur.

Puissé-je être médecin et remède,

Puissé-je être celui qui soigne

Jusqu’à la guérison complète

Tous ceux qui souffrent en ce monde.

Faisant tomber en pluis mets et boissons,

Puissé-je éliminer la faim et la soif,

Et dans les temps de pénurie et de famine,

Puissé-je devenir moi-même nourriture et boisson.

Pour tous ceux qui sont pauvres et démunis,

Puissé-je être un trésor aux ressources inépuisables,

La source de tout ce dont ils ont besoin,

À portée de main et toujours accessible.

Mon propre corps et toutes mes possessions,

Mes mérites passés, présents et futurs,

Je les dédie en totalité, n’en retenant aucun,

Pour le bienfait des êtres.

C’est en lâchant prise de tout que j’atteindrai le nirvana,

Cet état qui transcende la souffrance ;

Puisque tout doit, un jour, être abandonné,

Il vaut mieux que, dès maintenant, je le distribue.

J’ai maintenant renoncé à mon corps,

Et l’ai donné pour le bien de tout ce qui vit.

Qu’ils le tuent, le battent et le maltraitent,

Qu’ils en fassent ce que bon leur semble.

Et s’ils le traitent comme leur jouet,

S’ils le tournent en objet de ridicule et de moquerie,

Puisque je leur en ai fait don,

Pourquoi en prendrai-je ombrage ?

Qu’ils fassent de moi ce qu’ils veulent :

Tout, hormis ce qui leur causerait tort.

Et puisse cela servir d’enseignement

À quiconque en serait le témoin.

Si, juste en me voyant, d’autres sont inspirés

De pensées de colère ou de dévotion,

Puissent ces pensées éternellement

Servir à combler leurs désirs.

Puissent ceux qui m’insultent ouvertement,

Ceux qui me nuisent autrement,

Même ceux qui me rabaissent en secret,

Trouver le bonheur de l’Éveil.

Puissé-je être le protecteur des abandonnés,

Le guide de ceux qui cheminent,

Et pour ceux qui aspirent à l’autre rive,

Être une barque, un pont, un gué.

Puissé-je être une île à qui souhaite toucher terre,

Une lampe à qui cherche la lumière,

Un lit pour qui désire le repos,

Un serviteur pour qui vit dans le besoin.

Puissé-je être un joyau qui exauce les souhaits, un vase merveilleux,

Un puissant mantra ou un remède infaillible ;

Puissé-je devenir cet arbre miraculeux qui comble les vœux,

Une vache d’abondance, nourrice du monde.

De même que l’espace,

La terre et les éléments,

Puissé-je toujours soutenir la vie

Des êtres en nombre illimité.

Et tant qu’elles ne seront pas libérées de la souffrance,

Puissé-je aussi être source de vie

Pour les créatures innombrables

Qui peuplent l’espace infini.

Tout comme les sugata des temps passés

Ont réalisé la bodhicitta

Et se sont établis progressivement

Dans l’entraînement d’un bodhisattva,

De même, pour le bien des êtres,

J’éveillerai la bodhicitta

Et m’entraînerai moi aussi

Graduellement dans ces disciplines.

Ainsi, tous ceux dont l’esprit est avisé,

Et qui ont adopté la bodhicitta avec joie,

Pourront, afin de la développer davantage,

En faire l’éloge de la manière qui suit :

Aujourd’hui, ma naissance est devenue fructueuse ;

J’ai bien obtenu une existence humaine.

Aujourd’hui, je nais dans la famille du Bouddha,

Je suis maintenant un fils (une fille) de Bouddha.

Désormais, j’accomplirai

Les actions dignes de ma famille,

Je ne ferai pas tache

Dans cette noble famille sans défauts.

Comme un aveugle

Qui trouve un joyau dans un tas d’ordures,

Ainsi s’est levée en moi,

Par quelque coïncidence heureuse, la bodhicitta.

C’est l’élixir suprême

Qui abolit la souveraineté de la mort,

Le trésor inépuisable

Qui élimine la misère du monde,

Le remède incomparable

Qui guérit les maladies du monde,

L’arbre qui abrite tous les êtres

Las d’errer sur les chemins de l’existence conditionnée,

Le pont universel

Qui mène à la libération des existences douloureuses,

La lune de l’esprit qui se lève

Et apaise la brûlure des passions du monde,

Le grand soleil qui finalement dissipe

Les brumes de l’ignorance du monde,

Le beurre le plus fin, baratté à partir

Du lait du Dharma sacré.

Aux êtres qui errent sur les chemins de l’existence

Et cherchent à en goûter les joies,

Elle offre le bonheur le plus élevé,

Satisfaisant ces éternels vagabonds.

Aujourd’hui en présence de tous les protecteurs,

Je convie tous les êtres à l’état de sugata

Et, en attendant, au bonheur.

Que les dieux, les asuras et tous les autres se réjouissent !


My own body and all that I possess,
My past, present and future virtues—
I dedicate them all, withholding nothing,
To bring about the benefit of beings.

By letting go of all I shall attain nirvāṇa,
The transcendence of misery I seek,
Since everything must finally be abandoned,
It would be best if I gave it all away.

This body of mine I have now given up,
Entirely for the pleasure of all who live.
Let them kill it, beat it and abuse it,
Forever doing with it as they please.

And if they treat it like a toy,
Or an object of ridicule and jest,
When I have given it away,
Why should I then become upset?

Let them do to me as they please,
Whatever does not harm them;
And when anyone should think of me,
May that only serve them well.

If the sight of me inspires in others
Thoughts of anger or devotion,
May such states of mind be causes
For eternally fulfilling their desires.

May those who insult me to my face,
Or cause me harm in any other way,
Even those who disparage me in secret,
Have the good fortune to awaken.

May I be a guard for those without one,
A guide for all who journey on the road,
May I become a boat, a raft or bridge,
For all who wish to cross the water.

May I be an isle for those desiring landfall,
And a lamp for those who wish for light,
May I be a bed for those who need to rest,
And a servant for all who live in need.

May I become a wishing jewel, a magic vase,
A powerful mantra and a medicine of wonder.
May I be a tree of miracles granting every wish,
And a cow of plenty sustaining all the world.

Siddhartha Entering the Womb

“Queen Māyā of Shakya (Sanskrit: मायादेवी, Pali: Māyādevī) was the birth mother of Gautama Buddha, the sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. She was sister of Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, the first Buddhist nun ordained by the Buddha.

In Buddhist tradition, Maya died soon after the birth of Buddha, generally said to be seven days afterwards, and came to life again in a Hindu-Buddhist heaven, a pattern that is said to be followed in the births of all Buddhas. Thus Maya did not raise her son who was instead raised by his maternal aunt Mahapajapati Gotami. Maya would, however, on occasion descend from Heaven to give advice to her son.

Māyā (माया) means “illusion” in Sanskrit. Māyā is also called Mahāmāyā (महामाया, “Great Māyā”) and Māyādevī (मायादेवी, “Queen Māyā”). In Chinese, she is known as Móyé-fūrén (摩耶夫人, “Lady Māyā”), in Tibetan she is known as Gyutrulma and in Japanese she is known as Maya-bunin (摩耶夫人). Also, in Sinhalese she is known as මහාමායා දේවී (Mahāmāyā Dēvi).”


This from Wikipedia:

Tathāgata (Sanskrit: [tɐˈtʰaːɡɐtɐ]) is a Pali and Sanskrit word; Gautama Buddha uses it when referring to himself in the Pāli Canon. The term is often thought to mean either “one who has thus gone” (tathā-gata), “one who has thus come” (tathā-āgata), or sometimes “one who has thus not gone” (tathā-agata). This is interpreted as signifying that the Tathāgata is beyond all coming and going – beyond all transitory phenomena. There are, however, other interpretations and the precise original meaning of the word is not certain.

The Buddha is quoted on numerous occasions in the Pali Canon as referring to himself as the Tathāgata instead of using the pronouns me, I or myself. This may be meant to emphasize by implication that the teaching is uttered by one who has transcended the human condition, one beyond the otherwise endless cycle of rebirth and death, i.e. beyond dukkha.

The term Tathāgata has a number of possible meanings.

Etymology and interpretation

The word’s original significance is not known and there has been speculation about it since at least the time of Buddhaghosa, who gives eight interpretations of the word, each with different etymological support, in his commentary on the Digha Nikaya, the SUMAṄGALAVILĀSINĪ.

  1. He who has arrived in such fashion, i.e. who has worked his way upwards to perfection for the world’s good in the same fashion as all previous Buddhas.
  2. He who walked in such fashion, i.e. (a) he who at birth took the seven equal steps in the same fashion as all previous Buddhas or (b) he who in the same way as all previous Buddhas went his way to Buddhahood through the four Jhanas and the Paths.
  3. He who by the path of knowledge has come at the real essentials of things.
  4. He who has won Truth.
  5. He who has discerned Truth.
  6. He who declares Truth.
  7. He whose words and deeds accord.
  8. The great physician whose medicine is all-potent.

Monks, in the world with its devas, Mara and Brahma, in this generation with its ascetics and brahmins, devas and humans, whatever is seen, heard, sensed and cognized, attained, searched into, pondered over by the mind—all that is fully understood by the Tathagata. That is why he is called the Tathagata. (Anguttara Nikaya 4:23)

Modern scholarly opinion generally opines that Sanskrit grammar offers at least two possibilities for breaking up the compound word: either tathā and āgata (via a sandhi rule ā + ā → ā), or tathā and gata. Tathā means “thus” in Sanskrit and Pali, and Buddhist thought takes this to refer to what is called “reality as-it-is” (yathābhūta). This reality is also referred to as “thusness” or “suchness” (tathatā), indicating simply that it (reality) is what it is.

Tathāgata is defined as someone who “knows and sees reality as-it-is” (yathā bhūta ñāna dassana). Gata “gone” is the past passive participle of the verbal root gam “go, travel”. Āgata “come” is the past passive participle of the verb meaning “come, arrive”. In this interpretation, Tathāgata means literally either “the one who has gone to suchness” or “the one who has arrived at suchness”.

Another interpretation, proposed by the scholar Richard Gombrich, is based on the fact that, when used as a suffix in compounds, -gata will often lose its literal meaning and signifies instead “being”. Tathāgata would thus mean “one like that”, with no motion in either direction.

According to Fyodor Shcherbatskoy, the term has a non-Buddhist origin, and is best understood when compared to its usage in non-Buddhist works such as the Mahabharata. Shcherbatskoy gives the following example from the Mahabharata (Shantiparva, 181.22): “Just as the footprints of birds (flying) in the sky and fish (swimming) in water cannot be seen, Thus (tātha) is going (gati) of those who have realized the Truth.”

The French author René Guénon, in an essay distinguishing between Pratyēka-Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, writes that the former appear outwardly superior to the latter, simply because they are allowed to remain impassible, whereas the latter must in some sense appear to rediscover “a way” or at least recapitulate it, so that others, too, may “go that way,” hence tathā-gata

The nature of a Tathāgata

A number of passages affirm that a Tathāgata is “immeasurable”, “inscrutable”, “hard to fathom”, and “not apprehended”. A tathāgata has abandoned that clinging to the skandhas (personality factors) that render citta (the mind) a bounded, measurable entity, and is instead “freed from being reckoned by” all or any of them, even in life. The aggregates of form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and cognizance that compose personal identity have been seen to be dukkha (a burden), and an enlightened individual is one with “burden dropped”. The Buddha explains “that for which a monk has a latent tendency, by that is he reckoned, what he does not have a latent tendency for, by that is he not reckoned. These tendencies are ways in which the mind becomes involved in and clings to conditioned phenomena. Without them, an enlightened person cannot be “reckoned” or “named”; he or she is beyond the range of other beings, and cannot be “found” by them, even by gods, or Mara. In one passage, Sariputta states that the mind of the Buddha cannot be “encompassed” even by him.

The Buddha and Sariputta, in similar passages, when confronted with speculation as to the status of an arahant after death, bring their interlocutors to admit that they cannot even apprehend an arahant that is alive. As Sariputta puts it, his questioner Yamaka “can’t pin down the Tathagata as a truth or reality even in the present life.” These passages imply that condition of the arahant, both before and after parinirvana, lies beyond the domain where the descriptive powers of ordinary language are at home; that is, the world of the skandhas and the greed, hatred, and delusion that are “blown out” with nirvana.

In the Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta, an ascetic named Vaccha questions the Buddha on a variety of metaphysical issues. When Vaccha asks about the status of a tathagata after death, the Buddha asks him in which direction a fire goes when it has gone out. Vaccha replies that the question “does not fit the case … For the fire that depended on fuel … when that fuel has all gone, and it can get no other, being thus without nutriment, it is said to be extinct.” The Buddha then explains: “In exactly the same way …, all form by which one could predicate the existence of the saint, all that form has been abandoned, uprooted, pulled out of the ground like a palmyra-tree, and become non-existent and not liable to spring up again in the future. The saint … who has been released from what is styled form is deep, immeasurable, unfathomable, like the mighty ocean.” The same is then said of the other aggregates. A variety of similar passages make it clear that the metaphor “gone out, he cannot be defined” (atthangato so na pamanam eti) refers equally to liberation in life. In the Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta itself, it is clear that the Buddha is the subject of the metaphor, and the Buddha has already “uprooted” or “annihilated” the five aggregates. In Sn 1074, it is stated that the sage cannot be “reckoned” because he is freed from the category “name” or, more generally, concepts. The absence of this precludes the possibility of reckoning or articulating a state of affairs; “name” here refers to the concepts or apperceptions that make propositions possible.

Nagarjuna expressed this understanding in the nirvana chapter of his Mulamadhyamakakarika: “It is not assumed that the Blessed One exists after death. Neither is it assumed that he does not exist, or both, or neither. It is not assumed that even a living Blessed One exists. Neither is it assumed that he does not exist, or both, or neither.”

Speaking within the context of Mahayana Buddhism (specifically the Perfection of Wisdom sutras), Edward Conze writes that the term ‘tathagata’ denotes inherent true selfhood within the human being:

Just as tathata designates true reality in general, so the word which developed into “Tathagata” designated the true self, the true reality within man.

{My note…people like to speculate on things about which they know not…}

Nut Job or Bodhisattva?

Not so long ago I said to someone either there has been an almighty foxtrot up or I am a complete nut job.

Based on various circumstantial factors it is possible that a being who once was a close disciple of Siddhartha managed to incarnate as a non-returner, anāgāmin , four lifetimes later in such a way as to find itself associated with some of the top-flight UK educational establishments and essentially be ignored and possibly maltreated, gossiped about. It worked at each of the top four, in two cases very briefly and studied for a Ph.D. at the most niche of institutions. The incarnation into a family with “become a teacher or a preacher” mantra so as to escape the coal pit, pointed it at education and it subsequently found itself at the very core of education. It met many famous science dudes. This being is living now, socially isolated on a tiny income in rural Brittany, in a kind of exile. There are vast widespread karmic implications in this version.

The alternative narrative is that this being burned out, took too many drugs, drank way too much and turned into a complete nut job. It invented an extremely convoluted story so as to justify to itself how it squandered a wonderful opportunity. White trash from the Rhondda valleys and the Cardiff docks could not hack the transition to the upper civilised classes. It returned to roots as so often they do. There are only localised karmic implications in this one.

This is not a binary thing; it is not a superposition state.

Take your pick, which is accurate?

The Total Extinction of the Dharma

The Sutra Preached by the Buddha on the Total Extinction of the Dharma

(Taisho Tripitaka 0396)

Thus I have heard. Once, the Buddha was in the state of Kushinagara; he was to attain Parinirvana in three months. Together with all the monks and all the bodhisattvas, an innumerable crowd came to visit the place where the Buddha was, and bowed themselves to the earth. The World-Honored One was still, silent and preaching nothing; his radiant brilliance was not manifested.

The sage Ananda did obeisance, and said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, whenever you have preached the Dharma, your majestic brilliance has been uniquely illustrious. But now, a great multitude has come together, and your radiance is not manifested in the slightest. What is the reason for this? A reason there certainly must be, and we wish to be taught its significance.”

The Buddha was silent, and made no response. After Ananda had repeated the question three times, the Buddha told him, “After my nirvana, when the Dharma is about to be extinct, the Five Mortal Sins will foul the world, and the demonic-way will flourish exceedingly. The demons will become monks, to spoil and wreck my Way. They will wear lay dress [rejoicing in cassocks] and multicolored clothing. They will drink wine and eat meat, killing living things in their desire for fine flavors. They will not have compassionate minds, and will hate and envy each other.

“At times, there will be Bodhisattvas, Pratyeka-buddhas, and Arhats, who cultivate merits diligently and treat all beings with reverence; being the objects of the people’s devotion, they will impartially preach and convert. They will pity the poor and keep the old in their thoughts, and take care of those in poverty and difficulty. They will constantly persuade the people to worship and serve Sutras and images, doing all good acts that bring merit; their wills and natures will be kind and good. They will not harass or injure people, but sacrifice themselves to save others. They will not spare themselves, but will put up with insult, being benevolent and harmonious.”

Should there be such a being, the gang of demonic monks will unite in hating him, slandering him and blazoning forth his errors. He will be expelled and banished; they will not let him remain at that place. From then onwards, they will all fail to cultivate merit according to the Way. Temples will be empty and desolate, and will no longer be repaired, but will be allowed to fall into ruin. The monks will covet nothing but material goods, accumulating them without distribution, not doing good deeds. They will deal in male and female slaves, plow the fields and plant them, burning off the mountain forests and harming all living things; they will not have compassionate minds. Male slaves will become monks, female slaves will become nuns; they will have none of the merit that comes from practicing the Way, but rather will be filthy and depraved, foul and turbulent; men and women will not be kept separate. The reason the Way will become shallow and weak, is all because of that type of person.”

“Some will evade the constables by taking refuge in my Way, seeking to become monks, but not practicing the precepts and ordinances. At the middle and end of the lunar month, although in name they should chant the precepts, they will be tired of it and resentful; lazy and careless, they will not wish to listen. They will select and abbreviate here and there, unwilling to speak everything. The Sutras will not be recited, and should there be readers, they will not know the characters and phrases; they will force interpretations and allege their accuracy, not bothering to ask people who know. In their haughtiness they will pursue fame, making a vain display of elegant manners with which to glorify themselves, and hope for people’s offerings.

“This gang of demonic monks will be doomed to fall spirit and soul into Avici Hell after the end of their fated lives. In their punishment for the Five Mortal Sins, there is nothing they will not suffer as hungry ghosts and animals, for as many kalpa as there are grains of sand in the Ganges. Their sin atoned for, only then will they come forth, but they will be born in a frontier state, where there will be no place that has the Three Treasures.”

When the Dharma is on the verge of being destroyed, it is women who will concentrate on advancement, and have the habit of performing good deeds. Men will be lazy and indolent; they will have no use for the words of the Dharma. They will consider monks to be like befouled earth; they will not have believing minds.”

The Dharma is about to be wiped out, and when the time for that comes, all the gods will weep tears. Rainy and dry seasons will be untimely, the Five Grains will not ripen, pestilential vapors will be prevalent; there will be many dead. The common people will toil in hardship, the public officials will be calculating and harsh; not compliant with the principles of the Way, all will have their hearts set on pleasure or disorder. Wicked men will steadily increase in number, to become like the sands of the sea; the good will be very scarce, no more than one or two.

“Because the kalpa is nearly at its end, the days and months will become shorter and shorter, and men’s lives will pass more and more hastily; their heads will be white at forty. Men will indulge in sexual conducts so that their vital energy will exhaust quickly and their lives will be shortened, or they may live at most to the age of sixty. The lives of men will become shorter, but the lives of women will become longer, to seventy or eighty or ninety; some will reach a hundred years.”

Great floods will suddenly occur; they will strike by surprise, unlooked-for. The people of the world will have no faith, and hence they will take the world to be permanent. Living creatures of every variety, with no distinction between gentry and the base, will be drowned and float away, dashed about, to be eaten by fish or turtles.”

“At that time, there will be Bodhisattvas, Pratyeka-Buddhas, and Arhats; the gang of demons will drive them away, and they will not participate in the religious community. These three types of disciples will enter 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 gods will protect and watch over them, and Moon-Light [Bodhisattva] will appear in the world. They will be able to meet him, and together they will make my Way flourish.”

“In fifty-two years after that, the Shurangama Sutra and the Pratyutpanna-Samadhi Sutra will vanish first, 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.”

“When my Dharma is destroyed, the process will be comparable to an oil lamp, which, drawing close to the time it will go out, will shed an even greater radiance and brilliance, and then be extinguished. When my Dharma is destroyed, it will surely be like a lamp going out.”

“What will happen then is not possible to describe in detail. But several thousand myriad years after this happens, Maitreya will descend to be Buddha in the world. All-under-Heaven will enjoy peace, prosperity, and equality; the pestilential vapors will be dispersed and expelled. The rain will be suitable to growth and no more, and the Five Grains will grow and flourish. Trees will grow large, and men will be eight Tzerng tall. All of them will live eighty-four thousand years. It is impossible to count how many living things will be able to be saved.”

The wise and worthy Ananda made obeisance and said to the Buddha, “What shall we name this Sutra? How is it to be venerated and practiced?”

The Buddha said to Ananda, “The name of this Sutra is The Total Extinction of the Dharma. Propagate it to all; you should cause all to have a clear, complete understanding of it. The merits of its accomplishments are limitless, and cannot be counted up.”

The four groups of disciple heard the Sutra; grief-stricken and rueful, all aroused their minds to attain the Way of the Unsurpassed Holy Truth. All did obeisance to the Buddha, and departed.

Buddhism is Radical

It is possible that through my actions in reading Śāntideva and his Bodhisattva Vow that I have, in effect, taken that vow in this lifetime. It is also possible that I took a similar vow in two of my previous lifetimes. Two of these lives were monastic. This one is not.

It is a moot point as to whether running away from biological function to be a monk is the best way to overcome it. This kind of denial causes problems in many churches. Stuff gets bottled up and not faced. It can be dangerous. It is a tad absolute.

There are a lot of challenges in trying to relate to another human being in an intimate relationship, a good testing ground if you like. It is harder to put into practice in the middle of a “domestic”.

The basic tenets of Buddhism are inconsistent with modern day grasping hedonistic materialism and this bizarre notion of vacuous self-obsessed influencing. If one is striving to become detached and non-attached, that is the antithesis of aquistional materialism. If one sees glamours like kudos and power as impermanent, why would one even bother to chase after them? Some people think you should.

People can be very ambitious to self-advance and rely on this quality being present in others in order to facilitate socio-political negotiations. I don’t really want my back scratched so there is no incentive for me to scratch yours…It does not always work.

It is possible that many people only pay lip service to the religion or philosophy to which they publicly subscribe. The application of tenets is only so far, full attainment rare. There is much social benefit in church or sangha. And that is a good thing.

I’ll posit that although I could have a conversation about non-linear optics with an academic or a laser jock, our orientation towards life would likely be vastly different. If I said that to the other person, they would not know how different. He/she might assume marginal difference within their social conditioned world framing. But I know how radically different my outlook is. Even if I tried to get this across, I would fail.

I call this the Levi’s and robe problem.

Because I wear Levi’s, drink wine and eat steak, it is unlikely that people would accept that I have attained impermanence and to a very large degree detachment. If I wore a monk’s robe it would be less of a perceptual stretch.

People have preconceived ideas about what a perhaps, evolved being, might look like and how they might behave.

Is this my Ego talking, look at me aren’t I clever?

You can make your own mind up. I am not interested in being right nor arguing the toss. I don’t do petty nit picking to score points.

There is a phenomenon which I think of as inverted Ego. It is a close relative of inverted snobbery. People feign a humility which they do not possess in order to look good in front of their peers. I also call this religious top trumps. I did a 3 year silent retreat at “The Priory”. People can be holier than thou…

Siddhartha favoured the middle path. Which might well mean living a pretty “normal” existence without ostentation and excess: not self-flagellating nor overly blowing one’s own trumpet. That middle path is not about power over any other beings, trying to beat others, being avaricious and envious. That path would recognise that imperfection is a quality of all of humanity and would not seek to judge. It would certainly not include obsession about the appearance of the carnate form.

It would see beyond doubt that there is only ONE humanity of which we are all part.

It is about satisfaction and enough. It is about fulfilling genuine needs only and not wants and desires. The middle path does not understand greed.


Here are some questions:

What do you own?

What are your possessions?

Are you in fact possessed by what you consider to be your possessions?

Does your aquisitional materialism have you enslaved?