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Lankavatara Sutra

The Lankavatara Sutra is one of the most important sacred texts of Mahayana Buddhism. According to tradition, these are the actual words of the Buddha as he entered Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon). This sutra figured prominently in the development of Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism. It is the cornerstone of Japanese Zen and was translated from Sanskrit into Japanese by the foremost exponent of Zen, Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki[?].

The most important doctrine issuing from the Lanka is that of the primacy of consciousness, often called simply "Mind Only", meaning that consciousness is the only reality. The sutra asserts that all the objects of the world, and the names and forms of experience, are merely manifestations of the mind. It is the erroneous concept of subject/object that ties us to the wheel of rebirth.

The Lanka also suggests another important Mahayana doctrine, developed in later Buddhism, and that is the three bodies of Buddhahood, in effect the three levels of enlightened reality:

  • transcendental dimension ( = Sanskrit dharmakaya) - the ultimate level of enlightenment, which is beyond names and forms

  • celestial dimension, (= Sanskrit sambhogakaya) - expression of the symbolic and archetypal dimension of Buddhahood, to which only the spiritually developed have access

  • terrestrial or transformational dimension, ( = Sanskrit nirmanakaya) - The dimension of Buddhahood to which the unenlightened have access, and where the phenomena of the world exist.



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