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Omniscience Within the Body

Sometimes in my translation work, I come across a passage that stops me dead in my tracks. I'm currently translating The Sutra on Eliminating King Ajatashatru's Remorse for the 84000 Project, wherein a patricidal king finds redemption in the truth of his being. The bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjushri, never pulls his punches. Anytime someone gets high and mighty about their spiritual insight, he wryly pulls the rug out from under their false certainty with a few incisive questions.

Here, Manjushri tells us quite surprisingly that omniscience is found in the body -- not within the mind-centered conceptual body we tend to inhabit (the one that needs to lose weight again this year), but in this mysterious, living presencing that rises up to meet us when we melt our attention into it. Give up your limited ideas about your body, he asks us, and plunge into it in a spirit of open inquiry. Everything you need to know ("omniscience") about yourself and life is here already, as long as we are able to find ease in the unknowing of our false certainty.

Bodhisattvas should not seek omniscience dissociated from their own bodies, which arise in/as/of the four elements*. Why is this? Though this body is ephemeral, it spontaneously presences throughout both positive and negative experiences. This body cannot be identified as any concrete identity or 'self' and no such identity can be found existing within it. Furthermore, no concrete thing corresponding to the concept 'my body' has ever come into being, nor will it. In never having come into being, anything one imputes upon it is meaningless. That which does not come into being is unknowable and incomprehensible. This unknowing is omniscience.

*earth, water, fire, and wind.


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