Contemplating Wisdom

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Reading this excerpt from the Kulayaraja Tantra (courtesy of Erik Pema Kunsang):

“Great Being, listen, keep these sounds in mind,
Through sounds I shall here clarify the meaning, listen Mahasattva.
As I, the All-Creating King, awakened mind itself,
The essence of all dharmas, everything,
Am a timeless sphere, an essence beyond constructs,
Thus, this unconstructed nature, this primordial dimension,
This timeless sphere, this self-existing state,
Is the teacher and the teaching, and the retinue, the time and place,
And so I teach this sphere to be my nature.”

This came to mind:
Why is it that Vajra Being, the one who “remaining as this single vastness of the sphere” is addressed by “The All-Creating King, Awakened Mind” which is “This timeless sphere, this self-existing state, is the teacher and the teaching, and the retinue, the time and place” and commanded to “keep these sounds in mind?” It all just seems silly, unfathomable, interpenetrating, indistinguishable nonsense beyond our ability to unravel… or perhaps it’s not.

“Great Being, listen, keep these sounds in mind”

Where are sounds? Aren’t they outside of us, in the environment around us? Why must we “keep these sounds in mind?”

  • No, sounds are not outside of us. They are manifested in and by our minds. Even in the mundane, dualistic understanding of the world, all that exists outside of us, that we mistakenly believe to be sounds, are just pressure changes in the air.
  • Isn’t that what you hear? No. “Hearing” is the mind manifesting “sound” based on causes and conditions–your hearing faculty, presence in a particular place and time in the world, some event that causes pressure waves to reach your ear, etc. If all we heard were pressure waves, then how could we be wrong sometimes about what we hear?
  • The nature of “hearing” is awakened mind (what else could it be?). But we mistakenly believe that sounds exist on their own outside of us, or even inside of our bodies, such as the sounds of digestion. Nothing has self-nature, so how could this be true?
  • Thus keeping “sounds in mind” means to never forget that what we hear are the manifestations of awakened mind–never falling back into mundane, dualistic understandings of sound as anything other than this, by placing sounds “outside” and believing we are being told to “remember” them.

If sounds are manifested by (awakened) mind then there is no need to listen, they will just manifest. Why is the injunction to listen needed?

  • We listen because it is the most efficient means to understanding the nature of mind. It is the most direct path to understanding this nature called awakened mind–the All-Creating King. But we don’t listen with our ears, placing our attention outside of ourselves. We listen by turning our hearing inward, placing our attention directly on the manifesting sounds as they arise in our mind, realizing that this manifesting is the activity of awakened mind directly. Then we turn our hearing around, so that it is no longer a passive “listener;” but is that which is manifesting sound–awakened mind. This is how we realize awakened mind.

“Through sounds I shall here clarify the meaning, listen Mahasattva.”

Why “sounds?” Why not “words,” “speech,” or “instruction?” This is again an indication to use the support of the hearing faculty in our practice. Mahasattvas like Mañjuśrī, Avalokiteśvara, and Maitreya all used this method. (According to the Surangama Sutra) For example, Avalokiteśvara described the practice this way: “I began with a practice based on the enlightened nature of hearing. First I redirected my hearing inward in order to enter the current of the sages.” And Mañjuśrī added: “Confused about the nature of our hearing, Beings, by permitting their attention to go out pursuing sounds, have bound themselves to birth and death’s unending cycle.” And he added the following exhortation: “Great Assembly! Ānanda! Halt the puppet show of your distorted hearing! Merely turn your hearing round to listen to your genuine true nature, which is the destination of the Path that is supreme. This is the genuine way to break through to enlightenment.”

Human prejudice makes us immediately understand the phrase “through sounds I shall here clarify the meaning” as meaning “listen to these words and understand…” But it is in the investigation of secret, unborn, “unstruck,” sound, which does not arise due to causes and conditions, but is instead the reverberations of the activity of awakened mind, that the true meaning, the original understanding, of the manifestation of all things is won.

The rest of this stanza, while making various points in order to exclude misunderstandings, explains the true meaning:

“And so I teach this sphere to be my nature.”

“To be” in this case means realize–to make real–authentically realizing that which is the nature of all things: awakened mind. A seed, in order to realize its true nature, becomes a tree. Awakened mind, in order to be authentic, must manifest all things–denoted here as “this sphere.” Language gets awkward because this nature, awakened mind, is “beyond constructs,” even that of the layers of conceptual constructions we need to follow to our eventual realization, even that of this tantra.

“As I, the All-Creating King, awakened mind itself,
The essence of all dharmas, everything,”

Awakened mind, called the All-Creating King, is the nature of all things–that which manifests all things (dharmas).

“Am a timeless sphere,”

The nature of all things is not bound by time or space. These (time and space) are, as is said below, just more of that which is manifested–more dharmas. Thus awakened mind is timeless; not eternal—but one could say, “eternity,” because awakened mind is unborn, unchanging, unaffected by what is manifested, so what would “eternal” mean? And awakened mind is not bound by space so that it manifests a perfect sphere encompassing all things (dharmas).

“an essence beyond constructs,”

The nature of all things is not other than “an essence” of that which it manifests. It is not limited in time or space, has no creator, is not a “self,” nor anything other than this naturing of all things–it is not a greater Self, nor “God.”

“Thus, this unconstructed nature, this primordial dimension,”

“Primordial dimension” means it is the locus of all manifestation, all of space, all of time, all things… Logically it can be thought of as “having come first” (is primordial); but that is just to counter the possible error of thinking it somehow arises from something, the way we tend to believe that consciousness arises from matter, or is created… there was never a choice whether “to be” or “not be.” Nature, by it’s nature, natures.

“This timeless sphere, this self-existing state,
Is the teacher and the teaching, and the retinue, the time and place,”

This recapitulates the explanation.

“And so I teach this sphere to be my nature.”


Even the Buddha’s teachings, the Dharma, arises in this way. How else could it?

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