of the Realm of Phenomena
As the sūtra opens, the Buddha—residing in the Jeta Grove—asks Mañjuśrī to teach on the nature of reality. Mañjuśrī offers a playful and profound response that questions whether the very idea of such a teaching is at all intelligible: how could that which is present everywhere possibly be singled out and set apart from anything? This short-circuiting of the dichotomy between relative and ultimate truths—of the distinction between appearance and reality—recurs throughout the sūtra. Mañjuśrī’s uncompromising account, however, is too much for some of the monks present in the gathering, and they leave, feeling upset. But then, by means of an emanation, Mañjuśrī skillfully teaches the distraught monks, who return expressing their gratitude and explaining that their obstacle had been a conceited sense of attainment, of which they are now free. Mañjuśrī is then requested to teach on nonduality and the nature of the bodhisattva. Thus, as an upshot of its radically nondual approach, the sūtra identifies the very notion of spiritual attainment as an obstacle, classified as an affliction and associated with saṃsāra. Yet it also teaches that true knowledge of affliction and saṃsāra is itself the purification of both. The sūtra’s dramatic story line culminates with the transformation of both Pāpīyān—the ruler of the māras, who create obstacles for those following the Dharma—and Śāriputra, who is the very image of spotless piety, into awakened buddhas. The two then engage in an astonishing Dharma dialogue, explaining the profound intent of Mañjuśrī’s teaching.
Access this and other sūtras in the 84000 Reading Room: The Teaching on the Indivisible Nature of the Realm of Phenomena