Visualization Sutra Study Group

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Visualization Sutra Study Group

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:35 am

I've put this off for the past week, to make sure I wasn't burnt out from the 31 day study group.

Over the course of the next few months, I would like to walk through the visualizations in the Visualization Sutra 佛說觀無量壽佛經 (T12n0365). I'll be relying on Rulu's translation from sutrasmantras.info and the BDK translation in their publication "Three Pure Land Sutras." I will also try to leverage Shantao's Exposition of the Method of Contemplation on Amida Buddha (Jpn:Kannenbomon, Chn:Kuan-nien o-mi-t’o fo hsiang-hai san-mei kung-te fa-men, 觀念阿彌陀佛相海三昧功徳法門 T47n1959). I wish I had access to Shan-tao's Commentary on the Visualization sutra (T37n1753 觀無量壽佛經疏) but there really isn't a good English translation available yet (though there may be some forthcoming from the Jodo Shu Research Institute and the Pristine Pure Land group).

Ideally, I'd like to paste the Chinese, then paste the 2 available English translations, add the pertinent commentary below that, and add my own words at the bottom - but navigating the Chinese is just proving too cumbersome for me at the moment (I am pretty much limited to small passages). As a result, I'll stick with posting the English resources.
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Re: Visualization Sutra Study Group

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Jan 10, 2017 4:52 am

The initial passage we'll start with is basically the Buddha giving an overview of the visualizations:
Rulu's translation of the Visualization Sutra - Explication of the Sixteen Visualizations wrote:The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, “Hearken! Hearken! Ponder it well! For the sake of sentient beings of the future that are tormented captives of their own afflictions, which are like bandits, the Tathāgata now will explicate the pure karmas. Very good, Vaidehī, ask your questions at once. Ānanda, accept and uphold the Buddha’s words, and pronounce them to the multitudes. The Tathāgata will now teach Vaidehī and all sentient beings of the future how to visualize the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. By virtue of the Buddha’s power, you will be able to see that Pure Land, just as you see the reflection of your own face in a clear mirror. Once you see the wonderful and joyful things in that land, you will be delighted and instantly achieve the Endurance in the Realization of the No Birth of Dharmas.”

The Buddha told Vaidehī, “You are an ordinary being with coarse perceptions. Without the god-eye, you cannot see far. Nevertheless, Buddha-Tathāgatas have exceptional ways to enable you to see.”

At that time Vaidehī asked the Buddha, “By virtue of the power of the Buddha, I will be enabled to see that land. However, after the Buddha’s parinirvāṇa, how can sentient beings that are impure, wicked, and burdened by the five kinds of suffering see Amitāyus Buddha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss?”
Alternately:
BDK version of the Visualization Sutra wrote:The Buddha said to Ānanda and Vaidehī, “Listen carefully, listen carefully
and ponder deeply. I, the Tathāgata, shall discourse on pure karma for the
sake of all sentient beings of the future who are afflicted by the enemy, evil
passions. It is very good, Vaidehī, that you have willingly asked me about
this. Ānanda, you must receive and keep the Buddha’s words and widely proclaim
them to the multitude of beings. I, the Tathāgata, shall now teach you,
Vaidehī, and all sentient beings of the future how to visualize the Western
Land of Utmost Bliss. By the power of the Buddha all will be able to see the
Pure Land as clearly as if one were looking at one’s own reflection in a bright
mirror. Seeing the utmost beauty and bliss of that land, they will rejoice and
immediately attain insight into the non-arising of all dharmas.”

The Buddha said to Vaidehī, “You are unenlightened and so your spiritual
powers are weak and obscured. Since you have not yet attained the
divine eye, you cannot see that which is distant. But the buddha tathāgatas
have special ways to enable you to see afar.”

Vaidehī said to the Buddha, “World-honored One, through the Buddha’s
power, even I have now been able to see that land. But after the Buddha’s
passing sentient beings will become defiled and evil and be oppressed by
the five kinds of suffering. How then will those beings be able to see the
Land of Utmost Bliss of Amitāyus?”
Regarding this passage, Shan-Tao Says:
Shan-Tao's Kannenbomon wrote:24 Question: Since the queen had a strong and superior merit-power, she was able to see the Buddha. How can sentient beings of the last Dharma age, who have deep and heavy karmic evils, be compared with the queen? As this implication is extremely profound and broad, please show me clear evidence by quoting extensively from the Buddhist sutras.

Answer: The Buddha is a sage of the three transcendental knowledges, possessed of the six supernatural powers which know no obstructions. After observing the people's capacities, he gives them [appropriate] teachings. Whether the teaching [one practices] is shallow or deep, if only one devotes oneself sincerely to it, there is no doubt that one will see [the Buddha]. It is stated in the Contemplation Sutra:

The Buddha praised Vaidehi, saying: "It is good that you have asked me about this matter. Ananda, keep the Buddha's words and expound them widely to the multitudes of beings. I, the Tathagata, will teach Vaidehi and all sentient beings in the future how to contemplate the Western Land of Utmost Bliss. Through the Buddha's Vow-Power they will be able to see that land as clearly as if they look into a clear mirror and see their own images in it."

This quotation from the sutra is further evidence showing that, due to Amida Buddha's three powers working from outside, one is able to see the Buddha. Hence, we call this the dominant force enabling one to attain the samadhi of seeing the Buddha and the Pure Land.

25 Further, it is stated in the [Contemplation] Sutra:

The Buddha said to Vaidehi: "You are an ordinary person, and your mental faculty is inferior, and so you are not able to see far. Buddhas, Tathagatas, with a special expedient enable people like you to see [the Pure Land]." The queen said to the Buddha, "Now I have seen the Buddha's Land through his power. How can sentient beings, who come after the Buddha's death and, being defiled and evil, are tormented by the five pains, see the Land of Utmost Bliss?" The Buddha said, "Vaidehi, you and other sentient beings should single-mindedly fix your thoughts and contemplate the lapis lazuli ground of the Western Land, all the jewel-bannered pillars under it, manifold jewels on the ground, decorations inside the buildings, etc."

If one single-mindedly concentrates one's thought, one will be able to see [the Pure Land] just as the queen saw it, as stated above. Hence, it is said:

Visualize them very clearly, one by one, so that you can see them whether you close your eyes or not. If you have accomplished this contemplation, it is said that you have roughly seen [the Pure Land].

As this is a visualization in the state of conscious thought, it is said 'roughly seen.' If you have attained a meditative samadhi or a recitation samadhi, your mind's eye will open and you will see with it all the splendors of the Pure Land, which no words can fully describe. This quotation from the sutra is further evidence. All ordinary beings can certainly see [the Pure Land] if only they concentrate their thoughts. You should realize this. If you have heard of someone who has seen [the Pure Land], you should not be surprised or entertain doubt. The reason is that, due to Amida Buddha's Samadhi-Power working on him from outside, he can see it. For this reason, we call this the dominant force enabling one to attain the samadhi of seeing the Buddha's Pure Land.
So the stage is set. The Buddha encourages sentient beings to practice pure karmas and promises to teach them how to visualize the Western Pure Land. He states that it is by the virtue of the Buddha's power and that common people will see the Pure Land and instantly achieve endurance in the realization of the non-arising of dharmas.

In the quote from the Kannenbomon, we can see Shan-tao clearly saying that attaining the samadhi of seeing the Pure Land is due to Other Power.

The Five Sufferings (Five Pains) 五苦 are defined as:
1. Birth
2. Aging
3. Illness
4. Death
5. The pain of separation from loved ones
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Re: Visualization Sutra Study Group - First Visualization

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Jan 11, 2017 3:48 am

Now onto the visualizations themselves...
Rulu's translation of the Visualization Sutra - First Visualization wrote:1. The Setting Sun

The Buddha told Vaidehī, “You as well as other sentient beings should concentrate your mind and focus on the one place, thinking of the west. How does one visualize? All sentient beings with eyes that are not born blind have seen the setting sun. One should sit properly, facing the west, and visualize that the sun is setting. One should focus one’s mind and visualize, with unshakable concentration, the setting sun like a hanging drum. Success in visualizing the setting sun means that one can see it distinctly with eyes open or closed. The vision of the sun is called the first visualization. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization.”
The BDK translation:
BDK version of the Visualization Sutra wrote:The Buddha said to Vaidehī, “You and other sentient beings should concentrate
and, with one-pointed attention, turn your thoughts westward. How
do you contemplate? All sentient beings except those born blind—that is,
all those with the faculty of sight—should look at the setting sun. Sit in the
proper posture, facing west. Clearly gaze at the sun, with mind firmly fixed
on it; concentrate your sight and do not let it wander from the setting sun,
which is like a drum suspended above the horizon. Having done so, you
should then be able to visualize it clearly, whether your eyes are open or
closed. This is the visualization of the sun and is known as the first contemplation.
To practice in this way is called the correct contemplation, and
to practice otherwise is incorrect.”
Shan-tao doesn't explicitly comment on this visualization.

Interestingly, it does somewhat correspond to the "Light Kasina" in Buddhagosa's Visuddhimagga:
The Visuddhimagga - Light Kasina wrote:[THE LIGHT KASINA]
21. Of the light kasina it is said: “One who is learning the light kasina
apprehends the sign in light in a hole in a wall, or in a keyhole, or in a window
opening.” So firstly, when someone has merit, having had previous practice, the
sign arises in him when he sees the circle thrown on a wall or a floor by sunlight
or moonlight entering through a hole in a wall, etc., or when he sees a circle
thrown on the ground by sunlight or moonlight coming through a gap in the
branches of a dense-leaved tree or through a gap in a hut made of closely packed
branches.

22. Anyone else should use that same kind of circle of luminosity just described,
developing it as “luminosity, luminosity” or “light, light.” If he cannot do so, he
can light a lamp inside a pot, close the pot’s mouth, make a hole in it and place
it with the hole facing a wall. The lamplight coming out of the hole throws a
circle on the wall. He should develop that as “light, light.” This lasts
longer than the other kinds.

23. Here the learning sign is like the circle thrown on the wall or the ground. The
counterpart sign is like a compact bright cluster of lights. The rest is as before.
Envisioning the setting sun should be reasonable for anyone who has seen one. Of all the visualizations, I feel like this is the one I have the least trouble with. Later this week, I'll post some pictures as aides for this visualization.
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Re: Visualization Sutra Study Group

Post by Admin_PC » Thu Jan 12, 2017 4:30 am

When I think of sunsets, as pretty as the ones I've seen in Texas have been, my mind usually drifts back to Okinawa - where I went to high school.
I worked on a beach called "Kadena Marina" while home from college one summer.
Here are some pictures

Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
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Re: Visualization Sutra Study Group

Post by shaunc » Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:13 am

They're very beautiful pictures.
To quote Ajahn Chah, a quite famous Thai Buddhist monk. To know nature is to know dharma and to know dharma is to know nature.
Thank you for all of the work and time you're putting in for us all.
Namu Amida Butsu.

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Re: Visualization Sutra Study Group

Post by Admin_PC » Thu Jan 12, 2017 3:45 pm

To be perfectly honest, I'm getting at least as much out of it as you guys. :)
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Re: Visualization Sutra Study Group

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Jan 24, 2017 4:53 am

Sorry, a bit late on this one. My practice has slipped a bit, so I was waiting to post until I caught up. I think I'll just go ahead and move forward.

The second and third visualizations are kind of combined, but I'm going to split them up:
Rulu's translation of the Visualization Sutra - The Second Visualization wrote:2. The Water and the Ground
The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, “Having achieved the first visualization, one should next visualize water. One should visualize that everywhere in the Western Pure Land is an expanse of water, seeing distinctly that the water is pure and clear, not losing this picture.

“Having visualized the water, one then visualizes that it is ice. Seeing the ice as clear and transparent, one then visualizes that it is aquamarine. Having achieved this vision, one can see that the aquamarine ground is completely transparent and that it is supported underneath by golden cylindrical banners made of diamonds and the seven treasures. Each cylindrical banner has eight sides and angles, each side inlaid with 100 gems. Each precious gem emits 1,000 beams of light, and each beam has 84,000 colors, shining through the aquamarine ground like 1,000 koṭi suns, which are too brilliant to be seen in their entirety.

“On the aquamarine ground are crisscrossing golden ropes, which clearly divide the ground into areas for the seven treasures. Each treasure radiates beams of light in 500 colors. These beams are like flowers, also like stars and moons. Gathered in the sky, they form a platform of radiance, on which stand ten million lofty towers, each tower made of 100 treasures. As adornments, on both sides of the platform are 100 koṭi flower banners and innumerable musical instruments. Eight kinds of pure winds flow out of the radiance to stir the musical instruments, which play tones expounding the truths: suffering, emptiness, impermanence, and no self.

“The vision of water is called the second visualization. When one has achieved this vision, one sees each object clearly. One does not lose it, eyes open or closed. Except during sleep,[1] one constantly remembers this picture. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization.”
And the corresponding passage from the BDK translation:
BDK version of the Visualization Sutra wrote:The Buddha said to Ānanda and Vaidehī, “After you have accomplished
the first contemplation, next practice the visualization of water. Envision the
western direction as entirely flooded by water. Then picture the water as clear
and pure, and let this vision be distinctly perceived. Keep your thoughts from
being distracted. After you have visualized the water, envision it becoming
frozen. After you have visualized the ice as transparent to its depth, see it
turning into beryl. When you have attained this vision, next imagine that the
beryl ground shines brilliantly, inside and out, and that this ground is supported
from below by columns that are made of diamond and the seven kinds
of jewels and hung with golden banners. These columns have eight sides and
eight corners, each side being adorned with a hundred kinds of jewels. Each
jewel emits a thousand rays of light, each ray in turn having eighty-four thousand
colors. As they are reflected on the beryl ground, they look like a thousand
koṭis of suns, so dazzling that it is impossible to see them in detail.

“On this beryl ground, golden paths intercross like a net of cords. The land
is divided into areas made of one or the other of the seven jewels, so the partitions
are quite distinct. Each jewel emits a flood of light in five hundred colors.
The light appears in the shape of a flower or a star or the moon; suspended
in the sky, it turns into a platform of light on which there are ten million pavilions
made of a hundred kinds of jewels. Both sides of this platform are adorned
with a hundred koṭis of flowered banners and innumerable musical instruments.
As eight pure breezes arise from the light and play the musical instruments,
they proclaim the truths of suffering, emptiness, impermanence, and no-self.
This is the visualization of the water and is known as the second contemplation.

“When you have attained this contemplation, visualize each object quite
clearly without losing the image, whether your eyes are closed or open.
Except when sleeping,28 always keep it in mind. To practice in this way is
called the correct contemplation, and to practice otherwise is incorrect.”
This is similar to the Water Kasina in Chapter V of the Visuddhimagga:
Visuddhimagga Ch V wrote:[THE WATER KASINA]
1. [170] Now, the water kasina comes next after the earth kasina (III.105). Here
is the detailed explanation.
One who wants to develop the water kasióa should, as in the case of the earth
kasina, seat himself comfortably and apprehend the sign in water that “is either
made up or not made up,” etc.; and so all the rest should be repeated in detail
(IV.22). And as in this case, so with all those that follow [in this chapter]. We
shall in fact not repeat even this much and shall only point out what is different.

2. Here too, when someone has had practice in previous [lives], the sign arises
for him in water that is not made up, such as a pool, a lake, a lagoon, or the ocean
as in the case of the Elder Cúla-Sìva. The venerable one, it seems, thought to
abandon gain and honour and live a secluded life. He boarded a ship at
Mahátittha (Mannar) and sailed to Jambudìpa (India). As he gazed at the ocean
meanwhile, the kasióa sign, the counterpart of that ocean, arose in him.

3. Someone with no such previous practice should guard against the four
faults of a kasina (IV.24) and not apprehend the water as one of the colours, blue,
yellow, red or white. He should fill a bowl or a four-footed water pot to the brim
with water uncontaminated by soil, taken in the open through a clean cloth
[strainer], or with any other clear unturbid water. He should put it in a screened
place on the outskirts of the monastery as already described and seat himself
comfortably. He should neither review its colour nor bring its characteristic to
mind. Apprehending the colour as belonging to its physical support, he should
set his mind on the [name] concept as the most outstanding mental datum, and
using any among the [various] names for water (ápo) such as “rain” (ambu),
“liquid” (udaka), “dew” (vári), “fluid” (salila), he should develop [the kasina] by
using [preferably] the obvious “water, water.”

4. As he develops it in this way, the two signs eventually arise in him in the way
already described. Here, however, the learning sign has the appearance of moving.
[171] If the water has bubbles of froth mixed with it, the learning sign has the
same appearance, and it is evident as a fault in the kasina. But the counterpart
sign appears inactive, like a crystal fan set in space, like the disk of a lookingglass
made of crystal. With the appearance of that sign he reaches access jhána
and the jhána tetrad and pentad in the way already described.
Interesting that solidified clearness (ice, beryl, crystal, etc) follows water on both teachings.

Here are some videos that might help out.
First, the animated version of this sutra:
phpBB [video]

Second, a documentary on the Taima Mandala, which has the Visualizations depicted along the right side:
phpBB [video]

Third, someone reading the Visualization Sutra aloud:
phpBB [video]


I've had a problem understanding the columns supporting the ground. Not just the columns themselves (which sound impossibly decadent), but the idea of the ground being supported by columns. I simply have a hard time wrapping my head around it.
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Re: Visualization Sutra Study Group

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Feb 01, 2017 4:06 am

Rulu's translation of the Visualization Sutra - The Second Visualization wrote:3. The Water and the Ground
The Buddha told Ānanda and Vaidehī, “The vision of water is called a rough visualization of the ground in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. If one enters samādhi, one will see the ground of that land so clearly that the details are too numerous to be described. The vision of the ground is called the third visualization.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Uphold the Buddha’s words and pronounce this Dharma of visualizing the ground to the multitudes of the future who wish to be liberated from their suffering. For those who visualize the ground, their sins which would entail 80 koṭi kalpas of birth and death will all be expunged. After death, they will definitely be reborn, in a future life, in the Pure Land, where they will have no doubts in their minds. This visualization is called the right visualization while other visualizations are called the wrong visualization.”
And the corresponding passage from the BDK translation:
BDK version of the Visualization Sutra wrote:The Buddha said to Ānanda and Vaidehī, “When the visualization of
the water has been accomplished, it is called the general perception of the
ground of the Land of Utmost Bliss. If you attain a state of samādhi, you
will see this ground so clearly and distinctly that it will be impossible to
describe it in detail. This is the visualization of the ground and is known as
the third contemplation.”

The Buddha said to Ānanda, “Keep these words of the Buddha in mind,
and expound this method of visualizing the ground for the benefit of the multitude
of future beings who will seek liberation from suffering. If one has
attained a vision of the ground of that land, the evil karma that would bind
one to birth and death for eighty koṭis of kalpas will be extinguished, and
so one will certainly be born in the Pure Land in the next life. Do not doubt
this. To practice in this way is called the correct contemplation, and to practice
otherwise is incorrect.”
This is similar to the Water Kasina in Chapter V of the Visuddhimagga:
Visuddhimagga Ch IV wrote:[THE WATER KASINA]
[THE EARTH KASIÓA]
[123] When a bhikkhu has thus severed the lesser impediments, then, on his
return from his alms round after his meal and after he has got rid of drowsiness
due to the meal, he should sit down comfortably in a secluded place and
apprehend the sign in earth that is either made up or not made up.

22. For this is said:4
“One who is learning the earth kasióa apprehends the
sign in earth that is either made up or not made up; that is bounded, not
unbounded; limited, not unlimited; with a periphery, not without a periphery;
circumscribed, not uncircumscribed; either the size of a bushel (suppa) or the
size of a saucer (saráva). He sees to it that that sign is well apprehended, well
attended to, well defined. Having done that, and seeing its advantages and
perceiving it as a treasure, building up respect for it, making it dear to him, he
anchors his mind to that object, thinking, ‘Surely in this way I shall be freed from
aging and death.’ Secluded from sense desires … he enters upon and dwells in
the first jhána …”

23. Herein, when in a previous becoming a man has gone forth into
homelessness in the Dispensation or [outside it] with the rishis’ going forth and
has already produced the jhána tetrad or pentad on the earth kasióa, and so has
such merit and the support [of past practice of jhána] as well, then the sign
arises in him on earth that is not made up, that is to say, on a ploughed area or on
a threshing floor, as in the Elder Mallaka’s case.
It seems that while that venerable one was looking at a ploughed area the sign
arose in him the size of that area. He extended it and attained the jhána pentad.
Then by establishing insight with the jhána as the basis for it, he reached
Arahantship.

[MAKING AN EARTH KASIÓA]
24. But when a man has had no such previous practice, he should make a
kasióa, guarding against the four faults of a kasióa and not overlooking any of
the directions for the meditation subject learnt from the teacher. Now, the four
faults of the earth kasióa are due to the intrusion of blue, yellow, red or white. So
instead of using clay of such colours, he should make the kasióa of clay like that
in the stream of the Gangá,5
which is the colour of the dawn. [124] And he
should make it not in the middle of the monastery in a place where novices, etc.,
are about but on the confines of the monastery in a screened place, either under
an overhanging rock or in a leaf hut. He can make it either portable or as a
fixture.

25. Of these, a portable one should be made by tying rags of leather or matting
onto four sticks and smearing thereon a disk of the size already mentioned,
using clay picked clean of grass, roots, gravel, and sand, and well kneaded. At
the time of the preliminary work it should be laid on the ground and looked at.
A fixture should be made by knocking stakes into the ground in the form of a
lotus calyx, lacing them over with creepers. If the clay is insufficient, then other
clay should be put underneath and a disk a span and four fingers across made
on top of that with the quite pure dawn-coloured clay. For it was with reference
only to measurement that it was said above either the size of a bushel or the size of a
saucer (§22). But that is bounded, not unbounded was said to show its delimitedness.

26. So, having thus made it delimited and of the size prescribed, he should
scrape it down with a stone trowel—a wooden trowel turns it a bad colour, so
that should not be employed—and make it as even as the surface of a drum.
Then he should sweep the place out and have a bath. On his return he should
seat himself on a well-covered chair with legs a span and four fingers high,
prepared in a place that is two and a half cubits [that is, two and a half times
elbow to finger-tip] from the kasióa disk. For the kasióa does not appear plainly
to him if he sits further off than that; and if he sits nearer than that, faults in the
kasióa appear. If he sits higher up, he has to look at it with his neck bent; and if
he sits lower down, his knees ache.

[STARTING CONTEMPLATION]

27. So, after seating himself in the way stated, he should review the dangers in
sense desires in the way beginning, “Sense desires give little enjoyment” (M I
91) and arouse longing for the escape from sense desires, for the renunciation
that is the means to the surmounting of all suffering. He should next arouse joy
of happiness by recollecting the special qualities of the Buddha, the Dhamma,
and the Sangha; then awe by thinking, “Now, this is the way of renunciation
entered upon by all Buddhas, Paccekabuddhas and noble disciples”; and then
eagerness by thinking, “In this way I shall surely come to know the taste of the
bliss of seclusion.” [125] After that he should open his eyes moderately, apprehend
the sign, and so proceed to develop it.6

28. If he opens his eyes too wide, they get fatigued and the disk becomes too
obvious, which prevents the sign becoming apparent to him. If he opens them
too little, the disk is not obvious enough, and his mind becomes drowsy, which
also prevents the sign becoming apparent to him. So he should develop it by
apprehending the sign (nimitta), keeping his eyes open moderately, as if he were
seeing the reflection of his face (mukha-nimitta) on the surface of a lookingglass.7

29. The colour should not be reviewed. The characteristic should not be given
attention. But rather, while not ignoring the colour, attention should be given
by setting the mind on the [name] concept as the most outstanding mental
datum, relegating the colour to the position of a property of its physical support.
That [conceptual state] can be called by anyone he likes among the names for
earth (pathavì) such as “earth” (pathavì), “the Great One” (mahì), “the Friendly
One” (medinì), “ground” (bhúmi), “the Provider of Wealth” (vasudhá), “the Bearer
of Wealth” (vasudhará), etc., whichever suits his manner of perception. Still “earth”
is also a name that is obvious, so it can be developed with the obvious one by
saying “earth, earth.” It should be adverted to now with eyes open, now with
eyes shut. And he should go on developing it in this way a hundred times, a
thousand times, and even more than that, until the learning sign arises.

30. When, while he is developing it in this way, it comes into focus as he
adverts with his eyes shut exactly as it does with his eyes open, then the learning
sign is said to have been produced. After its production he should no longer sit
in that place;10 he should return to his own quarters and go on developing it
sitting there. But in order to avoid the delay of foot washing, a pair of singlesoled
sandals and a walking stick are desirable. Then if the new concentration
vanishes through some unsuitable encounter, he can put his sandals on, take
his walking stick, and go back to the place to re-apprehend the sign there. When
he returns he should seat himself comfortably and develop it by reiterated reaction
to it and by striking at it with thought and applied thought.

[THE COUNTERPART SIGN]

31. As he does so, the hindrances eventually become suppressed, the
defilements subside, the mind becomes concentrated with access concentration,
and the counterpart sign arises.
The difference between the earlier learning sign and the counterpart sign is
this. In the learning sign any fault in the kasióa is apparent. But the counterpart
sign [126] appears as if breaking out from the learning sign, and a hundred
times, a thousand times more purified, like a looking-glass disk drawn from its
case, like a mother-of-pearl dish well washed, like the moon’s disk coming out
from behind a cloud, like cranes against a thunder cloud. But it has neither
colour nor shape; for if it had, it would be cognizable by the eye, gross, susceptible
of comprehension [by insight—(see XX.2f.)] and stamped with the three
characteristics.11 But it is not like that. For it is born only of perception in one
who has obtained concentration, being a mere mode of appearance.12 But as
soon as it arises the hindrances are quite suppressed, the defilements subside,
and the mind becomes concentrated in access concentration.
月影の いたらぬ里は なけれども 眺むる人の 心にぞすむ
法然上人

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eijo
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Re: Visualization Sutra Study Group

Post by eijo » Wed Feb 01, 2017 7:07 am

Admin_PC wrote: I've had a problem understanding the columns supporting the ground. Not just the columns themselves (which sound impossibly decadent), but the idea of the ground being supported by columns. I simply have a hard time wrapping my head around it.
Wonderful project, thank you.

Regarding the columns in the third visualization, the text actually says (my translation):

T12n0365_p0342a09║此想成已,見琉璃地,內外映
T12n0365_p0342a10║徹。下有金剛七寶金幢,擎琉璃地。其幢八方,
T12n0365_p0342a11║八楞具足,一一方面,百寶所成,一一寶珠,有
T12n0365_p0342a12║千光明,一一光明,八萬四千色,映琉璃地,如
T12n0365_p0342a13║億千日,不可具見。
“When this visualization is complete, [next] see the beryl ground, which is translucent inside and out. Below [the ground] are golden banners made up of diamonds and the seven precious substances, which support the beryl ground. These banners are eight-sided, with eight corners. Each surface is made of a hundred jewels. Each jewel has a thousand rays of light. Each ray of light has 84,000 colors that reflect on the beryl ground, [brilliant] like 1,000 koṭīs of suns.”

Two points. The text says 幢 (banner) here. A commentary says:
T37n1754_p0292a19║八面八楞其狀如塔
“The eight surfaces and eight corners in shape are like a stūpa.”

However, the commentaries do not seem to identify these banners as columns. They refer to them as banners throughout. Since they have eight sides, the word "cylindrical" seems to have been added as an interpretation in the BDK version.

Commentaries say there are innumerable banners below:
地下莊嚴七寶幢,無量無邊
T37n1753_p0263a15║無數億,八方八面百寶成,
“There are countless, limitless, and numberless koṭīs of banners adorned with the seven precious substances, with eight sides and eight surfaces made up of a hundred jewels."

There is overtly nothing in the sūtra to indicate a multiplicity of banners, but it certainly can be read that way. However, an Edo period book I have illustrating all sixteen visualizations shows this as a singular and massive pillar with eight sides (below). Aside from the question of number, this seems to support Rulu's "columns."

Regarding the idea of a banner, banners, or columns supporting the visualized beryl ground, the rules of physics do not apply to visualizations, and there is no need to have sufficient weight-bearing supports. :smile:
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DGA
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Re: Visualization Sutra Study Group

Post by DGA » Wed Feb 01, 2017 2:18 pm

I had imagined those banners taking a form similar to the victory banners of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, which are sort of parasol or even stupa-shaped.

http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/rgyal_mtshan

Ven. Eijo's helpful translation seems to confirm this kind of shape.

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Re: Visualization Sutra Study Group

Post by Admin_PC » Wed Feb 01, 2017 3:13 pm

eijo wrote:Wonderful project, thank you.
No, thank you! That explanation really helps a lot. This has been giving me a lot of trouble for a long time! I hadn't even thought to go back to check on the term being used. 幢 on buddhism-dict.net is almost always a banner, but the idea of a single column helps as well. I like the Edo period image. I wish I knew where to find more of this type of stuff.
DGA wrote:I had imagined those banners taking a form similar to the victory banners of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, which are sort of parasol or even stupa-shaped.
That would make sense for the banner. Almost like a comet tail underneath the surface...
月影の いたらぬ里は なけれども 眺むる人の 心にぞすむ
法然上人

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eijo
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Re: Visualization Sutra Study Group

Post by eijo » Sat Feb 04, 2017 7:31 am

DGA wrote:I had imagined those banners taking a form similar to the victory banners of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, which are sort of parasol or even stupa-shaped.

http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/rgyal_mtshan

Ven. Eijo's helpful translation seems to confirm this kind of shape.

Thank you, I'm pretty sure the intention with the banners is something like you say.

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