In my earlier post on “All the past and future lives” I refer to a Sutra where the Buddha emits all encompassing light rays that transmit infinite wisdom to an infinite number of sentient beings in the universe. That was from Bob Thurman’s podcast. Well, I did some searching and the Sutra was “The Flower Ornament Sutra” or Avatamsaka Sutra in Sanskrit. This is a huge body of literature and would fill a whole book in itself. The passage which I think is relevant to Thurman’s talk is perhaps this one (from the Taisho Tripitaka 0279):
“When those sentient beings hear this, by the Buddha’s preternatural power, they all recollect their past lives and become enraptured. Because their hearts are enraptured, they spontaneously produce clouds of udumbara flowers, clouds of incense, clouds of music, clouds of robes, clouds of canopies, clouds of pennants, clouds of streamers, clouds of fragrant powders, clouds of jewels, clouds of lion pennants and crescent towers, clouds of songs and eulogies, clouds of various adornments, and reverentially offer them all to the Tathagata. Whence? Because all these sentient beings have obtained pure eyes. [Then] the Tathagata gives them prophecies about their attainment of anuttara-samyaksambodhi. Children of the Buddha, in this way the sun of the Tathagata’s wisdom benefits those sentient beings who are born blind, effectuating their wholesome roots to reach full maturity. Children of the Buddha, this is the fifth characteristic of the body of the Tathagata. All Bodhisattva-mahasattvas should perceive it thus.”
“Anuttara-Samyaksambodhi” is perfect Buddhahood, the state of complete enlightenment and omniscience, and “Bodhisattva-mahasattvas” are the Bodhisattvas who have realized non-abiding nirvana, the state of Buddhahood that is beyond nirvana and samsara at the same time. The Bodhisattvas who dwell in non-abiding nirvana are said to be in a way in samsara, but they do not belong to samsara. They are perfectly realized beings, as they have completely eliminated all causes and conditions that afflict sentient beings wandering in samsara. Yet they remain in samsara out of their compassion for all the beings.
This is the traditional teaching of Mahayana. The key is to make this teaching relevant to our condition. The goal of practice is to eventually realize this state of non-abiding nirvana. This is what practitioners aspire to when they are motivated by great compassion to be able to bring all sentient beings in the samsara to the complete and perfect happiness of Buddhahood.