17 - No One Attains Transcendental Wisdom
At that time Subhūti addressed Buddha, saying: World-Honored One, if good men and good women seek the consummation of incomparable enlightenment, by what criteria should they abide and how should they control their thoughts?
Buddha replied to Subhūti: Good men and good women seeking the consummation of incomparable enlightenment must create this resolved attitude of mind: "I must liberate all living beings; yet when all have been liberated, verily not anyone is liberated." Wherefore? If a bodhisattva cherishes the idea of an ego entity, a personality, a being, or a separated individuality, he is consequently not a bodhisattva, Subhūti. This is because in reality there is no formula that gives rise to the consummation of incomparable enlightenment.
Subhūti, what do you think? When the Tathāgata was with Dīpamkara Buddha, was there any formula [dharma] for the attainment of the consummation of incomparable enlightenment?
No, World-Honored One, as I understand Buddha's meaning, there was no formula by which the Tathāgata attained the consummation of incomparable enlightenment.
Buddha said: You are right, Subhūti! Verily there was no formula by which the Tathāgata attained the consummation of incomparable enlightenment. Subhūti, had there been any such formula, Dīpamkara Buddha would not have predicted concerning me: "In the ages of the future you will come to be a buddha called Shākyamuni"; but Dīpamkara Buddha made that prediction concerning me because there is actually no formula for the attainment of the consummation of incomparable enlightenment. The reason herein is that Tathāgata is a signification implying all formulas. In case anyone says that the Tathāgata attained the consummation of incomparable enlightenment, I tell you truly, Subhūti, that there is no formula by which the Buddha attained it. Subhūti, the basis of enlightenment is wholly beyond; it is neither real nor unreal. Hence I say that the whole realm of formulations is not really such, therefore it is called "realm of formulations."
Subhūti, a comparison may be made with [the idea of] a gigantic human frame.
Then Subhūti said: The World-Honored One has declared that such is not a great body; "a great body" is just the name given to it.
Subhūti, it is the same concerning bodhisattvas. If a bodhisattva announces; "I will liberate all living creatures, " he is not rightly called a bodhisattva. Wherefore? Because, Subhūti, there is really no such condition as that called bodhisattvaship, because Buddha teaches that all things are devoid of selfhood, devoid of personality, devoid of entity, and devoid of separate individuality. Subhūti, if a bodhisattva announces, "I will set forth majestic buddha-lands," one does not call him a bodhisattva, because the Tathāgata has declared that the setting forth of majestic buddha-lands is not really such: "a majestic setting forth" is just the name given to it.
Subhūti, bodhisattvas who are wholly devoid of any conception of separate selfhood are truthfully called bodhisattvas.