Lesson
8

Vimalakirti

9 of 13

Vimalakirti and the paramitas

The transcendent practices most emphasized by Vimalakirti are knowledge, powers, wisdom, and skillful means.

Knowledge
Repeatedly in the sutra, Vimalakirti exhibits awareness of the workings of the mind, as when he knows the assembly is coming to visit him, and when he sees Shariputra's desire for a chair. His knowledge is also revealed in his encounters with the disciples and bodhisattvas. He clearly sees the subtle attachments and prejudices of the great disciples and bodhisattvas and knows how to fully reveal and counteract their predispositions. Vimalakirti's perfection of knowledge is also apparent in his skillful involvement with worldly realms. He uses his knowledge of the world to perform beneficial actions and develop beings as thoroughly as possible along the bodhisattva path.

Powers
Vimalakirti displays his perfection of powers extravagantly, but always to help specific beings. He demonstrates the inconceivable teachings, for example fitting myriad immense thrones into his small room, for the sake of awakening Shariputra and the other disciples from their limited views of practice and awakening. While Vimalakirti miraculously displays the paramita of powers as readily as any other bodhisattva, he is simultaneously most intricately engaged in the ordinary affairs of the world. It is fitting that Layman Pang, modeling himself after Vimalakirti, would articulate the perfection of miraculous powers as chopping wood and carrying water.

Wisdom
Like Manjushri, Vimalakirti practices the perfection of wisdom through his eloquent expositions on the emptiness of all formulations and fixed views. Vimalakirti sees the inner meaning of spiritual reality and reveals its fullest implementation even to purified arhats and seasoned bodhisattvas. Vimalakirti even surpasses the bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjushri, by proclaiming the ultimate insight through his thunderous silence.

Skillful means
Vimalakirti practices skillful means in his diverse activities in society. Supported by his knowledge and wisdom, he mixes with a wide range of beings and is said to be among the most skillful in each realm, thereby gaining the opportunity to skillfully expound liberative teaching.