Lankavatara Sutra: Spoken Words of Buddha
(Click heading to go to full text, translation by D.T. Suzuki)
Further, Mahamati, there are four kinds of Dhyanas. What are the four? They are: (1) The Dhyana practised by the ignorant, (2) the Dhyana devoted to the examination of meaning, (3) the Dhyana with Tathata (suchness) for its object, and (4) the Dhyana of the Tathagatas.
What is meant by the Dhyana practised by the ignorant? It is the one resorted to by the Yogins exercising themselves in the discipline of the Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, who perceiving that there is no ego-substance, that things are characterised with individuality and generality, that the body is a shadow and a skeleton which is transient, full of suffering and is impure, persistently cling to these notions which are regarded as just so and not otherwise, and who starting from them successively advance until they reach the cessation where there are no thoughts. This is called the Dhyana practised by the ignorant.
Mahamati, what then is the Dhyana devoted to the examination of meaning? It is the one [practised by those who,] having gone beyond the egolessness of things, individuality and generality, the untenability of such ideas as self, other, and both, which are held by the philosophers, proceed to examine and follow up the meaning of the [various] aspects of the egolessness of things and the stages of Bodhisattvahood. This is the Dhyana devoted to the examination of meaning.
What, Mahamati, is the Dhyana with Tathata for its object? When [the Yogins recognise that] the discrimination of the two forms of egolessness is mere imagination, and that where he establishes himself in the reality of suchness (yathabhuta) there is no rising of discrimination, I call it the Dhyana with Tathata for its object.
What, Mahamati, is the Dhyana of the Tathagata? When [the Yogin], entering upon the stage of Tathagatahood and abiding in the triple bliss which characterises self-realisation attained by noble wisdom, devotes himself for the sake of all beings to the [accomplishment of] incomprehensible works, I call it the Dhyana of the Tathagatas. Therefore, it is said:
There are the Dhyana for the examination of meaning, the Dhyana practised by the ignorant; the Dhyana with Tathata for its object, and the pure Dhyana of the Tathagata.
The Yogin, while in his exercise, sees the form of the sun or the moon, or something looking like a lotus, or the underworld, or various forms like sky, fire, etc.
All these appearances lead him to the way of the philosophers; they throw him down into the state of Sravakahood, into the realm of the Pratyekabuddhas.
When all these are tossed aside and there is a state of imagelessness, then a condition in conformity with Tathata presents itself; and the Buddhas will come together from all their countries and with their shining hands will stroke the head of this benefactor.