Book of Serenity, Case 48

The case:

Vimalakirti asked Manjusri

‘What is a Bodhisattva’s method of entering non duality?’

Manjusri said, “according to my mind, in all things, no speech, no explanation, no direction and no representation. Leaving behind all questions and answers. This is the method of entering non duality.”

Then Manjusri asked Vimalakirti – ‘What is the Bodhisattva’s method of entry into non duality?’

Vimalakirti was silent.

There are three senses of Satori, Enlightenment, and this koan deals with the first. It is sometimes called Practice/Realisation, or Practice/Verification.

Both are an abbreviation of a longer phrase, which means hearing, accepting, practicing, verifying. So: we hear the Buddha’s teachings on non duality, we accept these teachings, we practice, and through practice those teachings are verified as true.

The story is a representation of the mind and sincere practice of Vimilakirti, although there appears to be two people. But Manjusri of course is not a person, but is the Bodhisattva of Wisdom.

And the two questions are subtly different.

Vimalakirti asks ‘What is the Bodhisattva’s method of entering non duality?’
So this refers to the teaching stage. Which is why Manjusri answers.

But Manjusri’s question, ‘What is the Bodhisattva’s method of entry into non duality?’ is the practice stage. Which is why it is met with silence.

So neither answer is the right answer, but the story portrays a progression from teaching to practice.

The teachings are the door that we have to go through, but we have to let go of the handle to experience the vast room.