22 August 2012

Surangama Sutra Study Questions, 3

With the intention of getting to the heart of the Great Matter, another installment of Surangama Sutra study questions:  "The Matrix of the Thus-Come One," pages 89-137

*Context:  "Matrix of the Thus-Come One" in this text translates the Sanskrit term Tathagatagarbha (Tathagata means "Thus Come One" and garbha means something like "matrix," but there are other translations available).  This concept is also translated as Buddha-nature or Buddha-potential in contemporary discourse, and is a familiar doctrine in other materials we have read together such as the Awakening of Faith or the Sutra of Complete Enlightenment.

*The Buddha categorically reviews each part of the known world through several classification systems (the five aggregates and so on).  He argues in each case that nothing apparent comes into being on its own, nor by causes and conditions.  This appears to contradict the Buddhist teaching of dependent origination, according to which everything comes into being and falls away by causes and conditions, so it is important to consider this bold claim carefully.   How is it that the Buddha rejects the idea that things arise and have their being (such as it is) due to causes and conditions?  What is he getting at here?

*Meanwhile, the sutra also claims that all these categories are in themselves the Matrix of the Thus-Come One.  Is there anything that is not so, according to the Sutra?  What does it mean in practical to consider consciousness and objects of consciousness as the space or mind or potential of the Buddha?

*Checking in on Ananda:  by p. 137, he seems to be coming around to the Buddha's way of thinking and practicing.  What has he learned so far, and what does he have left to learn in your view?

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