In DN 11, Buddha makes an astonishing statement:
“‘Where do water, earth, fire, & wind
have no footing?
Where are long & short,
coarse & fine,
fair & foul,
name & form
brought to an end?
“‘And the answer to that is:
“‘Consciousness without surface,2
luminous all around:
Here water, earth, fire, & wind
have no footing.
Here long & short
coarse & fine
fair & foul
name & form
are all brought to an end.
With the cessation of (the activity of) consciousness
each is here brought to an end.’”
DN 11 Kevaṭṭa Sutta | To Kevaṭṭa
In MN 49, the Buddha says something similar, and Ven. Thanissaro notes that there are good reasons to say that this consciousness is nibbana.
Thanissaro’s idea interesting, but at the same time, it poses a “problem”: if there really is an unconditioned luminous consciousness, what view should we take of Mahayana and Vajrayana practices?
I mean, the idea of an unconditioned luminous consciousness is present in both Mahayana and Vajrayana: it’s tathagatagarbha, Buddha nature. And the Vajrayana insists a lot on clear light, and proposes a lot of sophisticated techniques to realize this clear light and stabilize this realization (for example: visualizations, mandala, mantra, subtle body, etc.). Based on DN 11, it seems that these Buddhist currents have realized something real when they speak of tathagatagarbha. Moreover, other religions (e.g. Sufism) speak of similar experiences.
Are we to conclude that these currents/religions also really enable us to achieve nibbana? If not, how do you explain their success in understanding the reality of the luminous consciousness of DN 11?
I make this topic because I am rather disturbed by DN 11, because if the luminous consciousness of DN 11 is unconditioned, it means that other currents/religions have managed to realize the unconditioned with different doctrines and practices!!! I’d find that really unbelievable.
One might even ask whether perenialism is the truth: do all religions point to the same wisdom?
I find it hard not to ask myself these questions.
Thanks in advance
May all beings destroy jealousy
Edit: side note : I took note of Ven. Analayo’s work (arguing that the sutta does not originally speak of luminous consciousness). But I wasn’t convinced.