13. Such is the Way of Dharma

We discuss the Buddhist doctrine known as “Such is the Way of Dharma (Chinese=法爾如是)” in this post.

This phrase “Such Is The Way of Dharma” comes from Śūraṅgama Sūtra, which is “a Mahayana Buddhist sutra that has been especially influential on Korean Buddhism (where it remains a major subject of study in Sŏn monasteries) and Chinese Buddhism (where it was a regular part of daily liturgy during the Song). It was particularly important for Zen/Chan Buddhism. The doctrinal outlook of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra is that of Buddha-nature, Yogacara thought, and esoteric Buddhism.”

While we understand that dharma means phenomena from the previous post, let’s begin this post by defining Suchness in “Such is the Way of Dharma.”

Suchness (Romanized Sanskrit=tathata), according to the Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, is “a term for ultimate reality, especially in Mahayana schools. Along with terms such as “Dharmata, Dharmadhatu, and Bhutakoti …..referring to the eternal nature of reality that is “ever thus,” or “just so” and free of all conceptual elaborations.” In Yogacara/Vijnanavada, the term refers to the ultimate wisdom that is free from the subject-object distinction (grahyagrahakavikalpa)” “In the Madhyamaka school, any attempt to substantiate the nature of reality is rejected, and tathata is instead identified with emptiness and the cessation of all dichotomizing tendencies of thought.”

Emptiness, as discussed in Post 7, is, according to The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, Emptiness (Romanized Sanskrit=shunyata; Chinese=空), also known as “void,” is a “central notion of Buddhism….Shunyata is often equated with the absolute in the Mahayana since it is without duality and empirical forms.”

In other words, Suchness and Emptiness refer to the Ultimate Reality that is “free of all conceptual elaborations,” “the cessation of all dichotomizing tendencies of thought,” and “without empirical forms.” Furthermore, because the Ultimate Reality is “the cessation of all dichotomizing tendencies of thought,” and “without empirical forms.” it is ineffable and, therefore, can only be described as “ever thus” or “just so.”

It is important to note that while Emptiness refers to the unconditioned mentality of the Ultimate Reality, defined as “without empirical form,” it can also be applied to the mentality in the conditioned realm.

In the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, Buddha defines “Such is the Way of Dharma” as “Not causal, not natural. Such is the Way of Dharma.”

By describing it as “not causal,” Buddha indicates that “Such is the Way of Dharma” exists naturally without anything causing them to appear. In other words, the unconditioned and the conditioned dharma of “Such is the Way of Dharma” are “eternal,” as Suchness indicates also.

The description “not natural” should be understood from the fact that both the conditioned and unconditioned dharma in “Such is the Way of Dharma” are “Nothing but Mentality.” Given that mentality” is “free of all conceptual elaborations” and “without empirical forms” and that the Ultimate Reality is “free from the subject-object distinction (grahyagrahakavikalpa)” and “the cessation of all dichotomizing tendencies of thought,” it is obvious that it is “not nature” to humans living in “the world we experience” because everything in it is with empirical form and has already been conceptualizedin ways we do not govern.

Furthermore, as discussed in the Epistemology Category, an enlightened person with a quiescent mentality is needed to perceive the mental nature of reality directly and understand both “how things stand in themselves” and “the world we experience.” On the other hand, given that “the world we experience” is a “mere projection of consciousness,” an unenlightened person with an active mentality, i.e., consciousness, is needed to manifest it. In other words, both “how things stand in themselves” and “the world we experience” require humans to make them apparent. While an enlightened person can make apparent both “how things stand in themselves” and “the world we experience,” an unenlightened person can make apparent “the world we experience” just by being born into it, even though “we” may not appreciate its mental nature.

In other words, Buddha’s cosmos looks like this:

Rather that this from science:

Again, kudos are needed to Dr. Planck for his rational understanding that “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness,” and “we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve,” even without the ability to perceive mentality directly.

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