The Inquiry of Lokadhara
Chapter Eight: The Eightfold Path of the Noble Ones
Degé Kangyur, vol. 60 (mdo sde, ma), folios 7.b–78.b
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
First published 2020
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In The Inquiry of Lokadhara, the bodhisattva Lokadhara asks the Buddha to explain the proper way for bodhisattvas to discern the characteristics of phenomena and employ that knowledge to attain awakening. In reply, the Buddha teaches at length how to understand the lack of inherent existence of phenomena. As part of the teaching, the Buddha explains in detail the nonexistence of the aggregates, the elements, the sense sources, dependently originated phenomena, the four applications of mindfulness, the five powers, the eightfold path of the noble ones, and mundane and transcendent phenomena, as well as conditioned and unconditioned phenomena.
The sūtra was translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the guidance of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. The translation from the Tibetan was produced by Timothy Hinkle. Andreas Doctor checked the translation against the Tibetan, edited the text, and wrote the introduction. James Gentry subsequently compared the translation against Kumārajīva’s Chinese translation and made further edits.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
Chapter Eight: The Eightfold Path of the Noble Ones
“Lokadhara, how are bodhisattva great beings skilled in the path of the noble ones? The bodhisattva great beings are steadfast on the noble path. What is meant by path in this context? It is the eightfold path of the noble ones, which comprises right view, right thought, [F.63.a] right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right absorption. Lokadhara, what is it that bodhisattva great beings practice on the eightfold path of the noble ones? And what means do they obtain on the eightfold path of the noble ones?”
“Bodhisattva great beings with right view are steadfast in right view. In order to disrupt all views, they exert themselves on the path. In order to disrupt all views, they are steadfast on the path and eliminate even their views of nirvāṇa and buddhahood. Why is this? Lokadhara, any view, including even views of nirvāṇa and buddhahood, is a negative view. It is called right view because it destroys and defeats all attachment to views. Furthermore, right view refers to having no view, and not adopting, forming ideas about, becoming attached to, observing, partaking of, or conceptualizing any view.
“What is seen by right view? The fact that this entire world is bound by false and mistaken views is seen. When this is seen, it is called being steadfast in the disruption of all views. Within right view itself, one does not form ideas, view, become attached, or imagine. All views up to and including views of nirvāṇa and buddhahood are eliminated, because one exerts oneself in not generating any views. How is it right view? All phenomena are pacified, so conceptualizing characteristics is unborn, unceasing, and in harmony with nirvāṇa.67 One thus does not conceptualize or imagine any phenomenon; [F.63.b] one does not conceptualize, imagine, or manifest anything.68 The correct view is not high, not low, not adopting, and not rejecting. This is called right view that transcends the world.
“What is meant by right view that transcends the world? It is called right view that transcends the world because it does not observe the world and it does not observe the transcendence of the world; and in thus not observing even the transcendence of the world, it is nonconceptual. Furthermore, right view knows and understands the world to be just like the transcendence of the world. It is called right view that transcends the world because it does not conceptualize the world or the transcendence of the world, and because it disrupts all conceptual perceptions. It is called right view when one does not see anything in terms of right or wrong and has disrupted all mental concepts. Furthermore, right view makes no distinctions between any phenomena: this is right view. Moreover, right view accurately understands the meaning of wrong view. Also, right view understands all wrong views to be sameness. This is how bodhisattvas are steadfast in right view.”
“Lokadhara, once they are steadfast in right view, bodhisattva great beings accurately understand right thought. They think, ‘All thoughts are mistaken. So, even thoughts about nirvāṇa and buddhahood are wrong thoughts. Why is this? Right thought is the disruption of thought.’ Right thought is no thought.69 [F.64.a] Thinking is conceptual. Why is this? By seeing and understanding the characteristics of all thoughts, wrong thoughts are eliminated. They will not think about ‘this or that other thing.’ By abiding in right thought in this way, they will not have any thoughts about right thoughts or wrong thoughts. By being free from all thoughts, they transcend thought. This is right thought. Right thought is seeing and understanding that all thought arises from falsity, untruth, and mistaken perception; it is to not think of any thoughts. When they dwell in right thought in this way, they do not observe right or wrong thoughts; they are free from thoughts, have transcended thoughts, and have disrupted thoughts. This is right thought. At this point, they are no longer bound by any thoughts, and they understand and see that the nature of all thoughts is sameness. This is abiding in right thought.”
“Lokadhara, bodhisattva great beings’ practice of right speech is to know that all spoken words are false, untrue, arisen from mistaken perception, incorrectly imputed, and arisen from many causes and conditions. With this understanding they think, ‘All words that are spoken are unobservable.’ This accurate understanding of all actions of speech, which occurs once all words have ceased, is right speech. When one sees that the speech of spoken words does not come from anywhere or go anywhere, this is right speech. At this point, by being steadfast in this manner in the correct characteristics of speech, all the words they utter are right speech. Therefore, when they are steadfast in right speech, [F.64.b] they are said to abide in the actions of the ultimate and pure speech. Abiding in right speech means to see and understand the characteristics of the acts of speech, to understand all spoken words, and to be unconfused about all spoken words.”
“Lokadhara, bodhisattva great beings understand all actions as wrong and mistaken actions. They understand all actions to be false, nonexistent, unconditioned, and unarisen. Why is this? Because all action lacks true characteristics, and because all action has ceased, it is known as right action. Right action is not conceptualizing actions as right or wrong. By understanding the sameness of action, one does not think of it in terms of right or wrong. Therefore, it is right action. Right action means nonattachment to the three realms; it means accurate knowledge and understanding. Since actions are sameness within the true nature, they are not conceptualized as right or wrong. Because bodhisattvas know and understand all action accurately to be right action in this way, they do not perceive or see any phenomenon. Therefore, they are said to endeavor in the accomplishment of right action. In right action there is no wrong action. Accurately seeing and understanding, one is said to dwell in the accomplishment of right action.”
“Lokadhara, bodhisattva great beings understand all forms of livelihood to be wrong livelihood. Why is this? If one clings to the marks of livelihood, as well as to the marks of phenomena, the marks of appropriation, and so on, up to the marks of nirvāṇa and the marks of buddhahood—thinking that purity and buddhahood have marks—as pure livelihood,70 [F.65.a] then that is wrong livelihood. Right livelihood involves giving up all attachment to the articles of livelihood.71 Once profit-seeking is eliminated, the absence of thoughts, then the absence of concepts, and then the transcendence of all concepts is right livelihood. In not conceptualizing right livelihood as wrong or right livelihood, one gains pure and right livelihood in all respects. Therefore, this is the attainment of pure and right livelihood. Furthermore, since all forms of livelihood are unborn, there is no right or wrong. A person who knows this achieves pure livelihood, is steadfast on the right path, and is free of concepts. When abiding in such right livelihood, one does not take up right livelihood or abandon wrong livelihood. Therefore, one is abiding in right livelihood. At such time, one is not abiding in what is right or what is wrong. One has attained the livelihood of purity and sameness. Since one is free of any marks of livelihood, one is free of concepts, one does not conceive of anything, and one does not think in terms of livelihood or non-livelihood. This is seeing and understanding things accurately. One therefore is said to attain right livelihood.”
“Lokadhara, how are bodhisattva great beings skilled in right effort? How do bodhisattva great beings observe right effort? Bodhisattvas observe right effort by giving up all forms of diligence. Why is this? All forms of effort are mistaken. All forms of creation, action, and practice are mistaken. Why is this? All phenomena are produced from wrong actions, and so they are all false. [F.65.b] That being so, right effort involves no creation, production, practice, or aspiration, for all phenomena are devoid of production. Since bodhisattvas give up action with regard to all phenomena, they do not generate any marks of action—not even any marks of nirvāṇa or any marks of buddhahood. By understanding all actions to be false, they practice in order to eliminate actions. Right effort involves no fabrication, for all phenomena are the same, undifferentiated, without fabrication, and completely beyond any marks of fabrication. Bodhisattvas understand diligence to be the lack of diligence, for observing right effort involves no appropriation or abandonment. Right effort means not apprehending diligence. It means seeing and understanding all phenomena accurately. When one understands right effort in this manner, one does not conceptualize either right effort or wrong effort. This therefore is right effort.”
“Lokadhara, how are bodhisattva great beings skilled in right mindfulness? Bodhisattva great beings understand all forms of mindfulness to be wrong mindfulness. The applications of mindfulness are wrong mindfulness. Why is this? All forms of mindfulness are wrong mindfulness. If one generates mindfulness based on observing an object, that is wrong mindfulness. Right mindfulness is the absence of thought and mindfulness. Why is this? Because all forms of mindfulness arise from the condition of mistakenly observing in a wrong manner. Therefore, any basis that engenders mindfulness is false. Right mindfulness does not generate or inhibit any object of observation. [F.66.a] When one observes no object with mindfulness, one is said to be steadfast in right mindfulness, in that there is no basis for wrong mindfulness to arise. In this way, since one knows and understands that all phenomena are false, there is no mindfulness of true phenomena. Therefore, this is known as observing right mindfulness. Right mindfulness does not discern phenomena in terms of wrong mindfulness and right mindfulness. By knowing and understanding that all forms of mindfulness lack the marks of mindfulness, bodhisattvas continuously practice the six mental states of equanimity. This, therefore, is abiding in right mindfulness. Because they are free from attachment and clinging, they are without mindfulness and thinking. All forms of mindfulness with regard to phenomena are understood to be sameness. By seeing and understanding all forms of mindfulness accurately, they do not appropriate or discard mindfulness or non-mindfulness. Therefore, they observe right mindfulness. With this mindfulness they do not discern in terms of sameness and difference. They neither perceive nor observe mindfulness nor non-mindfulness. Without such observations, bodhisattvas understand all forms of mindfulness to be non-mindfulness, and they do not distinguish between mindfulness and non-mindfulness. Because they abide in right mindfulness in this way, they are indescribable and inexpressible. They eliminate all means of verbal description and are free from all means of verbal description. By understanding all means of verbal description accurately, they do not draw distinctions between self and other. Therefore, this is abiding in right mindfulness.”
“Lokadhara, how do bodhisattva great beings abide in right absorption? Bodhisattva great beings understand all forms of absorption to be wrong absorption. Why is this? [F.66.b] When they do not observe any phenomenon as absorption—such as by perceiving absorption to have marks, or by entering the joy of absorption—they understand the falsity of all the marks of absorption. Falsity implies attachment, which is not present in absorption. Regarding the marks that result from engaging in observation, bodhisattvas are devoid of such false marks. They have no such expectations, do not form any such thoughts, and do not have any such concepts. This is absorption. If they have eliminated attachment and clinging, they will not conceptualize self or other. Having eliminated all attachment to joy, they do not appropriate the experience of absorption and prevent themselves from entering absorption. Right absorption is when the mind does not dwell on anything at all. Furthermore, right absorption entails not abiding in any states of absorption; it entails realizing the intrinsic nature of phenomena accurately, while being free from concepts. Thereby, one will become skilled in the characteristics of absorption, and one’s mind will not be attached to anything at all. It is called right absorption because it eliminates all concepts of self and other, because it does not conceptualize anything that is spoken, and because it disrupts all concepts. Furthermore, it is called right absorption because it does not entertain any notions of right or wrong absorption, because it overcomes all notions, because it disrupts all notions, and because it stops all notions. Furthermore, it is called right absorption because it does not generate concepts of right or wrong, and because it does not discern in terms of right or wrong. Why is this? By understanding all practices as absorption and by abiding in right absorption, bodhisattvas are not bound by absorption or the marks of absorption. Transcending the marks of absorption is abiding in right absorption. Furthermore, right absorption is free from concepts about any phenomenon, [F.67.a] and it is free from concepts of right or wrong with regard to phenomena, which are sameness. Right absorption is the sameness of all phenomena. Right absorption transcends all forms of absorption and all the conditioned phenomena of the three realms. Still, it accurately sees and understands all who cycle among the five classes of beings.”
“Lokadhara, in this manner bodhisattva great beings are skilled in the path of the noble ones and the practices of that path. By accurately seeing and understanding this, they will proceed to nirvāṇa.”
This was the eighth chapter: “The Eightfold Path of the Noble Ones.”
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