greatest mystery

Vimalakirti’s Silence

Vimalakirti’s Silence

    In the Mahayana Sutras there is a story about the Licchave Vimalakirti when he was on his sickbed.  He invited a multitude of bodhisattvas to his home and a very interesting discussion began. Vimalakirti asked them all how the bodhisattvas enter the dharma-door of nonduality.    Thirty-two bodhisattvas gave each their own explanations, all quite abstract and conclusive. After the bodhisattvas had finished their comments. Vimalakirti was asked to elucidate how to enter into the principle of nonduality. Thereupon, the Licchave Vimalakirti kept his silence and said nothing, and was applauded for having given the most excellent explanation of all.

     Amongst our ancient and more modern sages there are some who have written or said that it is impossible to define nonduality. Presuming that the term “impossible” is itself a type of definition also, we still do not have any alternate way to keep taking potshots at nonduality, but maybe someday somebody will come up with a definition better than all the rest we have seen so far.     But then will this “last and best” definition be the utmost final truth?   That’s very doubtful.

     Now if we look closely at how we usually define our concepts and ideas with words and actions (in Vimalakirti’s case – no words and no actions) we find that our attempts to conjure up a good definition for nonduality are based in three types of approach:
(1) defining by comparison with a word’s opposite meaning
(2) defining by listing associated qualities
(3) making no attempt to define (as was Vimalakirti’s tactic)

     So, in everyday parlance we usually say that “long” can be thought of as “not short”, or “big” seen as it is compared to “small”. Perhaps “air” is thought of as “oxygen” or “wind” or “sky”.   In all cases though, every word term we can invent or use has to be used with our mind and mental capacity. Yet, in all verbal or conceptual cases whatsoever, the definition or idea will never be complete or totally accurate.  Perhaps enough associated terms and opposites can be collected by the mind that it may become possible to get a pretty clear idea about something, some idea or some object, but always it will be incomplete since any word or definition is limited by its relativity, and as all and everything is interconnected and interdependent with everything else, then everything else would also have to be perfectly defined and perfectly understood in order that just one “single” thing would be properly defined. Obviously, all that is “impossible” since relativity and change is infinite and endless.      No thing is the same as it was a moment ago, and certainly the individual mind is never the same as it was a moment ago.

    Then again, “nonduality” has its opposite term also, so let’s make use of it: “duality”.   If there is an absence of duality, then that is nonduality.  There are many and various cognitive obstructions to real understanding, some so obnoxious as to curtail further advancement or even to set the traveler on the Way into a reversal of direction.   The modus operandi of an adept traveler or contemplative should be to remove or subtract these obstructions by identifying them and recognizing their detrimental effects.   There is nothing quite so obstructive as false views, wrong views, or partial views, yet such views can be eliminated through transcending delusion and conceptual error by deconstructing errant mental structures.




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