from The Avatamsaka Sutra

· Articles & Essays · ,

translated by Thomas Cleary

As in all worlds
All the solid elements
Have no independent existence
Yet are found everywhere,
So also does the Buddha-body
Pervade all worlds,
Its various physical forms
Without abode or origin.

Just because of activities
Do we say the name “living beings”—
And there is no action to be found
Apart from living beings.

The nature of action is fundamentally
empty and nil,
But is that on which beings are based,
Everywhere producing all physical forms,
And yet coming from nowhere.

This is the active power of forms.
Impossible to conceive:
If one comprehends the basis,
Therein no object is seen.

The Buddha-body is also like this:
It cannot be conceived;
Its various physical forms
Appear in all lands in the cosmos.

The body is not the Buddha,
Nor is Buddha a body:
Only reality is the body,
Permeating all things.

If one can see the Buddha-body
Pure as the nature of reality.
Such a one has no doubt
Or confusion about the Buddha.

If one sees all things
As in essence like nirvana,
This is seeing the Enlightened
Ultimately without abode.

If one cultivates right awareness
And clearly sees true awakening,
Signless, without discrimination,
This is an inheritor of truth.

It’s like a painter
Spreading the various colors:
Delusion grasps different forms
But the elements have no distinctions.

In the elements there’s no form,
And no form in the elements;
And yet apart from the elements
No form can be found.

In the mind is no painting,
In painting there is no mind;
Yet not apart from mind
Is any painting to be found.

That mind never stops,
Manifesting all forms,
Countless, inconceivably many,
Unknown to one another.
Just as a painter
Can’t know his own mind
Yet paints due to the mind,
So is the nature of all things.

Mind is like an artist,
Able to paint the worlds:
The five clusters all are born thence;
There’s nothing it doesn’t make.
As is the mind, so is the Buddha;
As the Buddha, so living beings:
Know that Buddha and mind
Are in essence inexhaustible.

If people know the actions of mind
Create all the worlds,

They will see the Buddha
And understand Buddha’s true nature.
Mind does not stay in the body,
Nor body stay in mind:
Yet it’s able to perform Buddha-work
Freely, without precedent.

If people want to really know
All Buddhas of all times,
They should contemplate the nature
of the cosmos:
All is but mental construction.


Thomas Cleary is an author and translator of Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian and Muslim classics. He lives in Oakland, California.

From The Avatamsaka Sutra, translated by Thomas Cleary. Copyright © 1984 by Thomas Cleary. Reprinted by arrangement with The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Shambhala Publications Inc.

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