Diamond Sutra – Buddha beyond form and appearance
Can the Buddha be seen? Can enlightened beings been recognized by certain appearance or form?
Although there are certain descriptions of how Buddha or Bodhisattva may look, ultimately the reality and awareness of the Buddha, like the nature of the Tao depicted in Daodejing, are beyond form and descriptions. Therefore, real Buddha is beyond form and appearance.
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GENUINE DISCERNMENT OF THE PRINCIPLE OF SUCHNESS, FIVE
“Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Tathagata be seen by means of His bodily form?”
“No, World Honoured One, the Tathgate cannot be seen by means of His bodily form.
“Because when the Tathagata speaks of bodily form, it is not (real) form.”
The Buddha said to Subhuti: “Everything with form is unreal; if all forms are seen as unreal, the Tathagata will be perceived.”
Is there a reason that a student should concern themselves whether they are in the physical presence of a Buddha (or Bodhisattva) or not?
Is a Buddha (or Bodhisattva) also merely a vessel or means by which teachings are transmitted, i.e. is it not true that it is the teachings, not the means by which they are received, that is important?
For the first question, the ability to discern authenticity of a presence will increase alongside with one’s growth and development. A famous Chinese Zen master recommends seeing people around as Buddhas and Bodhisattva, and seeing oneself as an ordinary person, which leads to humility and reverence to all. This recommendation is in line with Confucius teaching – there are teachers everywhere. From this perspective, whether the teachers are indeed Buddha/Bodhisattva becomes less relevant.
For the second question, yes, this is a good way to look at Buddha and Bodhisattva.