Tathagata in Mind

Methods are like maps,

helping travelers along their way.

There are many ways to wake up.

Do not forget,

The map is not the territory.”

Seed-Text: ‘A Meditator’s Tools’.

Go here to read a beautiful little text on the good Recollections: ‘A Meditator’s Tools’.

I found this book at a Thai Buddhist Temple near my house. It’s a collection of pieces from various Pali Suttas– a bunch of helpful maps. Reading this morning in the bath, the practice of Recollection of the Tathagata stood out to me. This seems to be a root of Pure Land Buddhism.

..Not making an academic assertion– just noticing the clear similarity.


5 Qualities of Mind

“One who is aroused to practice is one of conviction, not without conviction… is one with persistence aroused, not lazy… is one of established mindfulness, not muddled mindfulness… is centered in concentration, not uncentered. One aroused to practice is discerning, not undiscerning.

These are five qualities displayed by a being tending toward awakening: a Bodhisattva.

  • Conviction
    • It is easy to fall with the Nihilists into apathetic truthlessness. GnoTruth is not No Truth. Although, in reality, all so called ‘truth’ is dualistic and all that is born of dualism lacks wholeness. To understand wholeness, one must drop intellect, take up Gnosis and then drop it as well. Sounds difficult. Like it might take a super-being to accomplish such a feat. Nah. It’s within reach. It is profound.
    • In preparation for Dhyana, commit to GnoTruth, abandon all Truth, including the “truth” of “there are not truths”. Find the whole beyond and between the partitions. The intellect can only digest particles and pieces, it has nothing to do with whole things. This little sword-mind only knows by discrimination– white from black, yes from no, up from down, good from bad, etc… The mind of GnoTruth is gone beyond all such comparison.
    • friedrich-nietzsche-1.jpgOur conviction is in convictionlessness. Taking up Nietzsche’s distrust of convictions [“Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.” ( Human, All-Too-Human)], we also take on his professed love of health. We appreciate his love of self-improvement. The superMan is a baby Buddha. We are convicted to a sentence: not denying health, not denying pleasure, not denying anything, not addicted to anything, not delusively apathetic toward anything.
  • Not Lazy
    • It is not difficult to find people to tell you the things we are telling you. It is not difficult to find books full of words very similar to the words I am now sharing. The thing that is difficult, from a certain perspective, is continuing effort through pleasurable, painful and neutral times. This is the state of being ‘not lazy’.
    • Again, what did he tell us as he died? Keep going, keep going with clean determination, steady effort, and bright bright lights shining everywhere.
    • Go out into the world. Find the hippies frolicking foolishly. Yeah, sure, some of them frolic with GnoTruth. Most of them are just wasting days with lazy apathy hidden under a veneer of fun-loving, psychedelic sex-cult.
  • Clear, Unmuddled, Mindfulness
    • Are you here, now?
    • Are you able to put aside greed and stress with reference to materialistic existence, to drop the small mind of discrimination, and to enter in to the experience of the body / mind in & of itself?
    • Behold, this most awesome definition of Mindfulness:

“And what is the faculty of mindfulness? There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, is mindful, highly meticulous, remembering & able to call to mind even things that were done & said long ago. He remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves… the mind in & of itself… mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. This is called the faculty of mindfulness.”

SN 48.10

  • Centered Concentration
    • “Centered” concentration is a healthy focus. It is balanced. It is not the “focus” of those high on amphetamines. It is razor-sharp, but not necessarily destructive. Like a sharp blade– centered concentration is useful and dangerous at the same time.
  • Discerning
    • With all this swirling experience of absolute one-beyond-zero-beyond-one–without discernment– you are a piece of seaweed thrashed about on the stormy wavy oceans of infinite mutliverses for eternity beyond measure.
    • With all these swirling sensations of absolute one-beyond-zero-beyond-one– with discernment– you are a skilled sailor (a Yogi), using the winds of life (Holy Spirit, Eve, Zoe) to navigate the oceans of beginningless eternity.

And, behold!

These, like all things in the mind system, these things are ’empty’. They lack an isolate self. They are made of each other.



Discernment is born of concentration, mindfulness, effort, and a basic kind of what might be called ‘conviction’.  Concentration, likewise, is born of mindfulness, discernment, effort, conviction. It is true for all of them. It is true for all ‘things’. Things are made of other things. Always. God is made of non-god elements. Buddha is made of non-Buddha elements. Sentient beings are made of non-sentient elements. Nirvana is made of Samsara. The kingdom is here, now. All concepts are made of other concepts and other non-conceptual elements! You are a non-being, existing only in relation to other non-beings. Yet, only a fool would declare that “I don’t exist”. So, just laugh it off. Sleep it off. It will make sense in the morning.

There are non-linear cause-and-result relationships here. What you put into this system is not necessarily what you will get out. What you get out, is not necessarily what you put in.

Complex feedback systems do things you would never expect. While it is indeed deterministic, there is freedom, it is unpredictable. When you kick this dog, it might bite you, it might run away, or it might attain to complete and perfect awakening.

We are describing the mind of an ‘authentic disciple of Awakening [Buddha]’. These are aspects of what has been described as ‘self-power’. Self-power is the energy produced by walking the path, correcting perception, letting go, and opening up to infinite light. Other-power is the infinite, immeasurable, bright bright light shining out from each of the infinite gems constituting Indra’s Net.


Back to the text.

There is the case where you recollect the Tathagata: ‘Indeed, the Blessed One is pure and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.’

Our author gives us some good reasons to celebrate the Tathagata. Help from these wondrous qualities, which are titles of the Tathagata, constitute ‘other-power’.

These are the foundations of faith in the Tathagata. The Tathagata encourages us to practice and see for ourselves. Faith is the thing that gives us strength to put the maps / methods to action. Faith is not intellectual belief in a lie.

Why should we practice recollection of the Tathagata?

At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the Tathagata:

  • his mind is not overcome with passion,
  • not overcome with aversion,
  • not overcome with delusion.
  • His mind heads straight, based on the Tathagata.
  • And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal [determination is set and intention is clear],
  • gains a sense of the Dhamma [the thing, the truth, is experienced],
  • gains joy connected with the Dhamma [that joy is born from contact with clarity].
  • In one who is joyful, rapture arises.
  • In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm.
  • One whose body is calmed senses pleasure.
  • In one sensing pleasure, the mind becomes concentrated.

Mahanama, you should develop this recollection of the Buddha while you are walking, while you are standing, while you are sitting, while you are lying down, while you are busy at work, while you are resting in your home crowded with children.

The Pure Land Patriarchs assert that we should all take refuge in the Buddha Amitabha so that we may attain to rebirth in the Pure Land. Yeah, sure, I agree. But, here, we must take care to define our terms.


Buddha is our truest nature– it is made of us, we are made of it.. like all the things in all the universes, there is nothing but wildest interdependence beyond concept. Buddha is the awareness of that flowing interdependence. Tathagata is Buddha. Tathagata is Buddha among us in differentiation– one who comes from, and returns to, things, as they truly are. Buddha is the observer that collapses the wave function. In this way, it is Buddha that converts waves to particles. And, when we learn to see this way, we find that the Kingdom (the Pure Land) is all around us. We are the prodigal children. After catching tiny glimpses, we might become tempted to celebrate our prowess and rest upon the little wisdom we’ve scraped off reality– no. Don’t do that. Keep going. It is all profound and it appears profound to those who see it.

“It is wonderful, Lord, it is marvelous how profound this teaching of interdependent origination is, and how profound it appears! And yet it appears to me as clear as clear!”

Do not say that, Ananda, do not say that! This dependent origination is profound and appears profound. It is through not understanding, not penetrating this teaching that this generation has become like a tangled ball of string, covered as with a blight, tangled like coarse grass, unable to pass beyond states of woe, the ill destiny, ruin and the round of birth-and-death.

Ananda is taking the teaching of complete interdependence lightly, so the Tathagata urges him to look deeper. The tendency to discount the importance of this teaching has had grave consequences. Not understanding this is ultimately responsible for our inability to mature beyond deficiency.

Understanding this teaching is equivalent to completely letting go of the false notion of isolate self-nature. This, according to many of them, is awakening.

So what?

Pure Land seeds are planted in Theravada soil. Pure Land practice is nourished by teachings preserved in those Pali texts. To get caught up in discussion of self-power vs. other-power is to lose focus on the goal, and it is to forget your sense of the Dharma. Asserting that Pure Land practice is the only practice fit for the people of today, in the “Dharma Ending Age”, is foolish. Sorry.

Hold it together. Remember his last words. That will disappoint. Things will disappoint. That is impermanent. All that has come together will fall apart.

Strive on with diligent mindfulness. Until the last one is liberated from duality (which is, essentially, another way of saying ‘for eternity’), the Greatest Vow Bodhisattva will radiate throughout all of diverse creation as an unborn, undying light beam/source.





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