My translation of chapter 20: Going beyond manifestations
Subhuti, What do you think? Can Buddha be seen through complete visual manifestations?
No, World Holiness. One cannot see Tathagata through complete visual manifestations. Why so? When Tathagata says in complete visual manifestations, he cannot describe its completeness. He just uses the concept for communication purpose only.
Subhuti, what do you think? Can Tathagata be seen with any manifestation of Tathagata? No, World Holiness, Tathagata can't be seen with any manifestation. Why so? When Tathagata says in any manifestation, he actually can't describe in full any manifestation. He just uses the concept for easy communication.
Paul's comment: The Buddha has many manifestations and which one(s) will be seen depends on the level or stage of enlightenment of each person. These are private and unique "contact points" of each practitioner. Each will therefore has his or her own perception and experience. Needless to say, this is not the "absolute" Buddha, but a "image" of Buddha (a Buddha illusion). This however is the required step towards enlightenment which would mean be "at one with the Buddha" or one becomes a Buddha.
In this chapter, the Buddha warned us against confusing what we perceive to be the absolute. When one is enlightened, one is the perceiving Buddha rather than perceiving a Buddha. Another way of looking at it is: if we are still perceiving the Buddha as an outside entity, we are still not there!
This is a further elaboration of the definitive verse in chapter five:
Every perception is illusion
instead of absolute
You are in one with Tathagata, when
you can see illusion out of absolute