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The Shurangama Sutra With Commentary by the Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua: Volume 3

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The Shurangama Sutra
With Commentary by the Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
Volume 3



CHAPTER 1: False Is Just True

L2 The Tathagata divides the explanation into four parts and thereby shows that the nature is permanently dwelling.
M1 He shows that what is false is just true.
N1 He explains that illusory, ephemeral characteristics are true.

Sutra:

"Ananda, you have not yet understood that all the defiling objects that appear, all the illusory, ephemeral characteristics, spring up in the very spot where they also come to an end. They are what is called ‘illusory falseness’. But their nature is in truth the bright substance of wonderful enlightenment.

Commentary:

Ananda, you have not yet understood. Are you still not clear about it? All the defiling objects that appear - the experiencing of each and every external defiling object - all the illusory, ephemeral characteristics. “Illusory” means unreal, not actual. “Ephemeral” means it seems to exist and yet doesn’t; it doesn’t seem to exist and yet does. Suddenly it exists, suddenly it does not. Illusory, ephemeral characteristics are things which are unreal. It looks to you like they actually exist, but in reality they are entirely illusory and transitory.

These illusory, ephemeral characteristics spring up in the very spot where they also come to an end. They come forth anywhere at all, and wherever they happen to come up, that is where they come to an end. Their arising is an empty illusion, and their extinction is an empty illusion. They arise in an empty illusion and vanish in an empty illusion.

They are what is called “illusory falseness.” They go by the name of “empty falseness.” But their nature is in truth the bright substance of wonderful enlightenment. It is called falseness, but where do the roots of this falseness arise? They, too, come from the bright substance of wonderful enlightenment. They come forth from our true mind. The existence of the true gives rise to the false.

When the false arises, there is seeing and characteristics. There is the division of seeing (jian fen) and the division of characteristics (xiang fen). The existence of the seeing division confers the ability to see things. The characteristics division consists of all the external forms and appearances. The division of seeing and the division of characteristics arise from the bright substance of wonderful enlightenment, from the pure nature and bright substance of the everlasting true mind. They do not come from elsewhere.

N2 Shows that the four parts are true.

Sutra:

"Thus it is throughout, up to the five skandhas and the six entrances, to the twelve places and the eighteen realms; the union and mixture of various causes and conditions account for their illusory and false existence, and the separation and dispersion of the causes and conditions result in their illusory and false extinction.

Commentary:

Thus it is. Why did I say that the illusory, ephemeral characteristics arise in an empty falseness? The doctrine I explained applies throughout, that is, to various divisions up to the five skandhas - form, feeling, thought, activity, and consciousness - and the six entrances - that is, the six sense organs, the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind - to the twelve places - the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind, together with the six defiling objects, which are forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas - and the eighteen realms - the six organs, the six defiling objects, and the six consciousnesses that are produced between the organs and the defiling objects opposite to them - the eye consciousness, the ear consciousness, the nose consciousness, the tongueue-consciousness, the body consciousness, and the mind consciousness. The six organs and the six defiling objects make up the twelve places. With the six consciousnesses added, they are the eighteen realms. When the various form and mind dharmas mix and unite, empty falseness arises. The union and mixture of various causes and conditions account for their illusory and false existence, and the separation and dispersion of the causes and conditions result in their illusory and false extinction. When causes and conditions do not mix and unite, there is an empty falseness which is called extinction. This is the nature of production and extinction.

Sutra:

"Who would have thought that production, extinction, coming, and going are fundamentally the everlasting, wonderful light of the treasury of the Thus Come One, the unmoving, all pervading perfection, the wonderful nature of true suchness! If within the true and eternal nature one seeks coming and going, confusion and enlightenment, or birth and death, there is nothing that can be obtained.

Commentary:

They are all non existent. There isn’t anything at all. When you do not understand, there is coming and going, there is confusion and enlightenment, there is birth and death. But if you understand the everlasting true mind, if you recognize your own basic nature, the pure nature and bright substance of the everlasting true mind, you put an end to all the false production and extinction. Then if you look for such characteristics as coming and going, confusion and enlightenment, and birth and death, you won’t find them. You won’t find anything at all.

CHAPTER 2: The Five Skandhas

M2 He specifically explains that what is false is true.
N1 The five skandhas are the treasury of the Thus Come One.
O1 A general statement.

Sutra:

"Ananda, why do I say that the five skandhas are basically the wonderful nature of true suchness, the treasury of the Thus Come One?

Commentary:

Ananda, why do I say that the five skandhas are basically the wonderful nature of true suchness, the treasury of the Thus Come One? I will tell you, Ananda.

O2 A specific explanation.
P1 The form skandha.
Q1 Explains the dharma with an analogy.

Sutra:

"Ananda, consider this example: when a person who has pure clear eyes looks at clear, bright emptiness, he sees nothing but clear emptiness, and he is quite certain that nothing exists within it.

Commentary:

Ananda, consider this example: when a person who has pure clear eyes looks at clear, bright emptiness, he sees nothing but clear emptiness. His eyes are not diseased, unlike the person who had a film over his eyes. He looks at space - clear for thousands of miles. “He sees nothing but clear emptiness.” It is just empty space, nothing else. There aren’t any clouds in it. And he is quite certain that nothing exists within it. In that emptiness there isn’t anything at all. The treasury of the Thus Come One is the same way. In the treasury of the Thus Come One, if you truly understand, there isn’t anything at all. That’s what the Sixth Patriarch was talking about when he said, “Basically, there is not one thing; where can the dust alight?” That experience, too, is the treasury of the Thus Come One.

Sutra:

"If, for no apparent reason, the person does not move his eyes, the staring will cause fatigue, and then of his own accord, he will see strange flowers in space and other unreal appearances that are wild and disordered.

Commentary:

The person is the one mentioned above who with clear eyes looks at empty space and finds that there is nothing at all there. Empty space is all there is. If, for no apparent reason, the person does not move his eyes - if he fixes his gaze on emptiness and does not move - the staring will cause fatigue. He stares with unmoving eyes, looking straight into empty space and after a long time he gets tired. Then of his own accord, he will see strange flowers in space. After looking at emptiness for a long time, he sees things in it - for example, strange flowers, that is to say, unreal ones. Why are there strange flowers? Because he has looked for so long that his eyes have become fatigued, and so all kinds of strange flowers appeared, as well as other unreal appearances that are wild and disordered. There are not only strange flowers, but other things he has never seen before, in the five colors and six hues, things which all seem to be real but are not. Perhaps the head of an animal is seen on a human body, or perhaps a person’s head is seen with an animal’s body. Many irrational things are seen in emptiness - things never seen before - because the eyes become blurry from too much staring. This kind of circumstance is concerned with the skandha of form.

Sutra:

"You should know that it is the same with the skandha of form.

Commentary:

Now we look at all the things in the world that have form and appearance and we think every one of them is real. In actuality, they follow the same principle as the example of the person who stares into space so that the “staring causes fatigue” and who “of his own accord” sees strange flowers in space. You should know that it is the same with the skandha of form. It is like that, too.

Q2 Explains the analogy in detail.

Sutra:

"Ananda, the strange flowers come neither from emptiness nor from the eyes.

Commentary:

Ananda, do you know that the skandha of form is the wonderful true suchness nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One? You should know, Ananda, that not any of the strange flowers - those strange flowers and all the other wild and disordered unreal appearances - come neither from emptiness nor from the eyes.

Sutra:

"The reason for this, Ananda, is that if the flowers were to come from emptiness, they would return to emptiness. If there is a coming out and a going in, the space would not be empty. If emptiness were not empty, then it could not contain the appearance of the arisal and extinction of the flowers, just as Ananda’s body cannot contain another Ananda.

Commentary:

You should know the reason for this, Ananda, is just as with the doctrine I have explained above, that if the flowers were to come from emptiness, if you say the flowers and the wild and disordered unreal appearances emerge from the emptiness, they would return to emptiness. Since they are produced from emptiness, they should return to emptiness also. If there is a coming out and a going in, the space would not be empty. If the strange flowers can come forth from emptiness and can return to and enter emptiness, it wouldn’t be emptiness. Emptiness is called emptiness because there is not a single thing in it. If something comes out of it and goes back into it, it can’t be counted as emptiness, because there would be something in it. If emptiness were not empty, then it could not contain the appearance of the arisal and extinction of the flowers. If emptiness is not emptiness, the appearance of flowers would have nowhere to come forth and nowhere to be extinguished. Just as Ananda’s body cannot contain another Ananda. Emptiness doesn’t have anything in it, so the flowers do not come from emptiness. Otherwise, emptiness would not be empty and it would be like your body, Ananda, which cannot contain another Ananda. No other Ananda can come into your body, and in the same way, if space is to be empty, it cannot contain external things.

Sutra:

"If the flowers were to come from the eyes, they would return to the eyes.

Commentary:

Perhaps you say that because the eye’s staring causes fatigue, the eyes themselves give rise to the strange flowers and the wild and disorderly, unreal appearances. If the flowers were to come from the eyes, they would return to the eyes.

Sutra:

"If the nature of the flowers were to come from the eyes, it would be endowed with the faculty of seeing. If it could see, then when it left the eyes it would become flowers in space, and when it returned it should see the eyes. If it did not see, then when it left the eyes it would obscure emptiness, and when it returned, it would obscure the eyes.

Commentary:

If the nature of the flowers were to come from the eyes, it would be endowed with the faculty of seeing. Given that it comes from the eyes, it should therefore have a seeing nature. If it could see - if the flowers in space had a seeing nature - then when it left the eyes it would become flowers in space, and when it returned it should see the eyes. When it went out, there would be no flowers in the eyes, and when it returned the flowers would see the eyes. If it did not see - if when it came back it did not see the eyes, then when it left the eyes it would obscure emptiness, and when it returned, it would obscure the eyes. It would be as if there were a film on the eyes and as if the film would disappear when the flowers went out. But when it returned, it would obstruct the eyes. Your eyes won’t hold anything, and so if the flowers in space returned to your eyes, where could your eyes put them?

Sutra:

"Moreover, when you see the flowers, your eyes should not be obscured. So why is it that the eyes are said to be ‘pure and bright’ when they see clear emptiness?

Commentary:

Moreover, when you see the flowers, your eyes should not be obscured. Still, if you assume that the flowers come from your eyes, when you see the flowers out in space, your eyes should not have a film on them; there should be nothing obstructing them. Why is it that the eyes are said to be “pure and bright” when they see clear emptiness? Why is it that the eyes are said to be pure and bright when they see clear emptiness, devoid of the flowers? Your eyes are said to be “pure and bright” because there is no film on them.

Q3 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

"Therefore, you should know that the skandha of form is empty and false, because it neither depends on causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know - because of what has just been said, you should know that the skandha of form basically is empty and false, because it neither depends on causes and conditions for existence - it does not exist because of causes and conditions, nor is spontaneous in nature.

P2 The feeling skandha.
Q1 Teaches with an analogy.

Sutra:

"Ananda, consider the example of a person whose hands and feet are relaxed and at ease and whose entire body is in balance and harmony. He is unaware of his life processes, because there is nothing agreeable or disagreeable in his nature. However, for some unknown reason, the person rubs his two hands together in emptiness, and sensations of roughness, smoothness, cold, and warmth seem to arise from nowhere between his palms.

Commentary:

Ananda, consider the example of a person whose hands and feet are relaxed and at ease. He is at leisure with nothing in particular to do. And whose entire body - the Chinese here is literally “the hundred bones” - is in balance and harmony. The meaning is that he is very natural. He is unaware of his life processes. All of a sudden it is as if he himself forgets his own body and life, because there is nothing agreeable or disagreeable. “Disagreeable” refers to a state of suffering. “Agreeable” refers to a state of bliss. He does not experience either suffering or bliss. However, for some unknown reason, the person rubs his two hands together in emptiness. That person has no reason to put his two hands together and rub them in emptiness, but when he does, sensations of roughness, smoothness, cold, and warmth seem to arise from nowhere between his palms. Some people’s hands are very rough, some people’s hands are supple and soft, as if there were a little oil on them. That softness is what is meant here by “smoothness.” Or he may feel that his hands are cold; when he wrings them for a long time they become warm. These are all parts of the function of feeling. The function of feeling comes about when you have a kind of awareness which arises in your mind. The text says that they arise “for some unknown reason”: that the appearances of roughness, smoothness, cold, and warmth are empty and false.

Sutra:

"You should know that it is the same with the skandha of feeling.

Commentary:

Of the five skandhas, you should know that it is the same with the skandha of feeling.

Q2 Explains the analogy in detail.

Sutra:

"Ananda, all this illusory contact does not come from emptiness, nor does it come from the hands.

Commentary:

The form skandha was discussed before; now the feeling skandha is being discussed. Ananda, all this illusory contact - this empty, false, unreal, contact - does not come from emptiness, nor does it come from the hands.

Sutra:

“The reason for this, Ananda, is that if it came from emptiness, then since it could make contact with the palms, why wouldn’t it make contact with the body? It should not be that emptiness chooses what it comes in contact with.

Commentary:

The reason for this, Ananda, is that if it came from emptiness - if the awareness of contact, his feeling, came from emptiness, then since it could make contact with the palms, why wouldn’t it make contact with the body? Why wouldn’t it come into contact with the entire body? It should not be that emptiness chooses what it comes in contact with. Basically, emptiness has no knowing awareness. It would not have a sense of awareness which would make it choose the hand and not choose the body. It would not have that kind of thought. So the feeling does not come from emptiness. It does not come from the hand, either.

Sutra:

“If it came from the palms, it could be readily felt without waiting for the two palms to be joined.

Commentary:

If it came from the palms - if the feelings of smoothness, roughness, cold, and warmth came from the palms, it could be readily felt without waiting for the two palms to be joined. If the feelings came from the palm, there would be no need to wait until the palms come together before the feelings could exist.

Sutra:

“What is more, if it were to come from the palms, then the palms would know when they were joined. When they separated, the contact would return into the arms, the wrists, the bones, and the marrow, and you also should be aware of the course of its entry.

Commentary:

What is more, if it were to come from the palms - here is another doctrine. If the feeling came out of the palm, then the palms would know when they were joined. When you placed your palms together, the palms would know it. When they separated, the contact would return into the arms, the wrists, the bones, and the marrow. When you separated your palms, the awareness of contact should return through the hands to the arms by way of the wrists, and perhaps into the bones and marrow. And you also should be aware of the course of its entry. How could it get inside without your knowing if it’s smooth or rough or cold or warm? Why wouldn’t you know what its course was, what path it took, when it went into the arm?

Sutra:

“It should also be perceived by the mind because it would behave like something coming in and going out of the body. In that case, what need would there be to put the two palms together to experience what is called ‘contact’?

Commentary:

It should also be perceived by the mind because it would behave like something coming in and going out of the body. It is certain that one would know in one’s mind when the awareness of contact went out and when it returned, because naturally, there would be something which would perhaps go out of or perhaps come into the body. In that case, what need would there be to put the two palms together - why would you have to wait for the palms to be together before you know there is contact - to experience what is called “contact”?

Q3 Concludes by returning false to true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that the skandha of feeling is empty and false, because it neither depends on causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know that the skandha of feeling is empty and false. The feeling skandha is an empty falseness. Because it neither depends on causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature.

P3 The thinking skandha.
Q1 Teaches with an analogy.

Sutra:

Ananda, consider the example of a person whose mouth waters at the mention of sour plums, or the soles of whose feet tingle when he thinks about walking along a precipice.

Commentary:

Ananda, now I will go on to explain the skandha of thinking for you. The skandha of thinking also is the nature of the Thus Come One’s treasury; it also is the nature of wonderful true suchness. Consider, for example, a person whose mouth waters at the mention of sour plums. Ananda, the skandha of thinking is like a person whose mouth begins to pucker as soon as sour plums are as much as mentioned, or the soles of whose feet tingle when he thinks about walking along a precipice. Say that on a very high mountain a very, very deep ten thousand foot gorge yawns below the rocks; if you stand at the edge of that precipice, the soles of your feet will ache. In fact, one need not even speak of actually going to the edge of the precipice; just thinking about it - once the thought enters your mind - you will be aware of an aching in your soles. How does it arise? It arises from the skandha of thinking. Without having eaten any sour plums, but simply from the mere mention of them – “Ah, sour plums are really sour!” - your mouth puckers, and the saliva begins to flow. So there’s a Chinese proverb:

Sour plums can cure thirst,
But painted cakes cannot satisfy hunger.

Why is it that sour plums can cure thirst? It is because the skandha of thinking produces this kind of awareness. During the Three Kingdoms period in China, Cao Cao, a contemporary of Guan Gong, went to Chu Zheng, accompanied by his massive army of more than a million. Ten miles from Chu Zheng they lost the way. They didn’t know where they were and the troops didn’t have any water to drink or any food to eat. They became obsessed by thirst, felt sick, and were unable to walk. They were all about to die of thirst. Cao Cao, who was clever as a fox, issued an order. “Don’t stop to rest. Ahead is a grove of plum trees. When we get there, everyone can eat some plums.” As soon as he mentioned the plums the soldiers’ mouths began to water and their thirst was abated. They marched on in search of the plum grove. As it turned out, there wasn’t any plum grove, but his mention of plums had satisfied their thirst.

Sutra:

“You should know that it is the same with the skandha of thinking.

Commentary:

You should know that it is the same with the skandha of thinking, the skandha of thought.

Speaking of painted cakes reminds me of a story. Once there was a stingy man who decided to make a gift. “When is your birthday?” he asked his friend. “On your birthday I will give you a present. I’ll give you a present worth a dollar.” The other fellow, who was also stingy, said, “Thanks a lot. On your birthday I’ll give you a present, too.” “What are you going to give me?” the first one asked. “I’ll give you a cake.” And the second one took a piece of paper and drew a picture of a cake on it. “There,” he said, “I’ll give you that.”

At that point, a third stingy fellow who was standing by taking all this in said, “That’s still a lot of trouble. When your birthday comes, I’ll give you a birthday cake this big. In fact, now I’ve shown you how big it will be, and that counts as having given it to you. No need for me to draw a picture of it.”

The third one not only couldn’t give up a dollar to buy a present, when the second one drew a picture, he still felt that was too extravagant, so he just made a gesture and counted it as having given a birthday cake.

Q2 Explains the analogy in detail.

Sutra:

Ananda, you should know that the watering of the mouth caused by the mention of the plums does not come from the plums, nor does it come from the mouth.

Commentary:

This situation of the mouth puckering at the mention of sour plums does not arise from the plums. It is because of the functioning of the skandha of thinking.

Sutra:

“The reason for this, Ananda, is that if it were produced from the plums, the plums should speak for themselves, why wait for someone to mention them? If it came from the mouth, the mouth itself should hear, and what need would there be to wait for the ear? If the ear alone heard, then why doesn.t the water come out of the ear?

Commentary:

The reason for this, Ananda - as to the circumstance I have described above, is that if it were produced from the plums - if the watering of the mouth was produced from the plums - the plums should speak for themselves. The plums themselves should speak, it should not be necessary for a person to speak of them. But the plums do not speak for themselves, and one must still wait for a person to speak of the plums for someone’s mouth to water. If it came from the mouth - if it were because of the mouth that saliva flows - the mouth itself should hear. The mouth should be what hears someone speak of plums. It should not be the ear that hears. And what need would there be to wait for the ear? Why wait for the ear to hear it? It should be sufficient for the mouth to hear it. If the ear alone heard - if the hearing nature functioned only when something enters the ear, then why doesn’t the water come out of the ear? If the ear and the mouth haven’t any connection with each other, then when the ear hears someone speak of sour plums, the saliva should come out of the ear. After all, it was the ear that heard it. Is there any such principle as that?

Sutra:

Thinking about walking along a precipice is explained in the same way.

Commentary:

Thinking. You think about a precipice - there you are standing on the rim of ten thousand foot gorge: your legs get weak and the soles of your feet ache. There is a doctor here: doctor, would you agree that such a thing happens? You should know why it is that the soles of one’s feet ache in such a situation. It is not even necessary to go and actually stand on the edge of the precipice; all you have to do is think about it. “Now I’m standing on the rim of a ten thousand foot precipice, and if I’m the least bit careless I will plummet over the side.” Right then the soles of your feet begin to ache and your legs grow weak. People speak of the power of suggestion. Where does the power of suggestion come from? You should find its source. So, thinking about walking along a precipice is explained in the same way. It is the same principle of the mouth watering when one speaks of sour plums. They are both a result of the skandha of thinking.

Q3 Concludes by returning false to true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that the skandha of thinking is empty and false, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence, nor is spontaneous in nature.

Commentary:

If it is not from causes and conditions and is not spontaneous in nature, then ultimately what is its nature?

It is the nature of the Thus Come One’s treasury, the wonderful nature of true suchness of the treasury of the Thus Come One. Therefore, you should know - you ought to know, Ananda - that the skandha of thinking is empty and false. The skandha of thinking, one of the five skandhas, is empty and false. It is empty and false in its arising, and empty and false in its extinction.

What is the origin of this empty and false arising? It arises from within the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury. From the truth, falseness arises, and so these empty and false things occur. Where do these doctrines of the mouth puckering and the feet aching come from? They come from empty falseness. And where does empty falseness come from? It comes from the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury. Since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence, nor is spontaneous in nature.

P4 The skandha of activity.
Q1 Teaches with an analogy.

Sutra:

Ananda, consider, for example, a swift rapids whose waves follow upon one another in orderly succession, the ones behind never overtaking the ones in front.

Commentary:

What was discussed above was the skandha of thinking. This section of text discusses the skandha of activity. The character xing, “activity”, is also read heng. The skandha of activity is like a rapids, a place where the water current flows fastest. Ananda, consider, for example, a swift rapids whose waves follow upon one another in orderly succession, the ones behind never overtaking the ones in front. The waves in front race on ahead, and more waves follow behind them. As you look at it there are waves to the left, and waves to the right, and yet though no one is watching over it, it is very orderly. For the most part, the waves are of one size, and the big ones are conspicuous for being too much wave all at once. Those waves are like the activity in people’s minds. In the mind, in the eighth consciousness, one thought arises and disappears and is followed by the next thought. The arisal and disappearance of thoughts is like the waves on water. They move in orderly succession, each connected to the next, and that next connected to the one that follows, like the thoughts in people’s minds: one thought ceases and the next arises. One thought is extinguished, and the next thought arises; that thought ceases, and still another thought arises, thought after thought without cease. They continue in orderly succession like the waves, never overtaking one another. The waves that come behind can’t run ahead and overtake the ones in front. In the same way, your later thought cannot race ahead of your earlier thought. So between them there is very orderly activity, without the least bit of mistake or confusion. At first glance waves don’t seem to have distinct boundaries, but actually waves move along one by one in very orderly succession without cease.

Sutra:

“You should know that it is the same with the skandha of activity.

Commentary:

The skandha of activity, the fourth of the five skandhas, is just like that swift rapids. The waves of thought in people’s minds continue ceaselessly in orderly succession and that causes people to move from youth to middle age, and from middle age to old age. Once old, they die. And this is the same principle as the waves following on one another.

Q2 Explains the analogy in detail.

Sutra:

Ananda, thus the nature of the flow does not arise because of emptiness, nor does it come into existence because of the water. It is not the nature of water, and yet it is not separate from either emptiness or water.

Commentary:

Ananda, you should know this doctrine for what it is. The nature of the flow, that swift rapids which rushes along so quickly, does not arise because of emptiness. It is not because of emptiness that there are swift rapids. Nor does it come into existence because of the water. Although the waves are in the water, it is not because of the water that the waves exist. It is not the nature of water - the waves are not the water itself - and yet it is not separate from either emptiness or water. Where, then, does it come from?

Sutra:

“The reason for this, Ananda, is that if it arose because of emptiness, then the inexhaustible emptiness throughout the ten directions would become an inexhaustible flow, and all the worlds would inevitably be drowned.

Commentary:

Ananda, I will explain it for you further. Why do I say it is not from emptiness that the waves of the swift rapids arise? I will tell you. The reason for this, Ananda, is that if it arose because of emptiness, then the inexhaustible emptiness throughout the ten directions would become an inexhaustible flow. There is emptiness not only in this world, but in all the worlds throughout the ten directions. If the swift rapids were produced from emptiness, then the inexhaustible emptiness in the ten directions - emptiness which is completely without bounds or limit - would become an indescribably massive swift torrent. And, since the swift torrent would be so massive, all the worlds would inevitably be drowned. All of them would certainly be overwhelmed by the deluge, and all the people living in them and all the things contained in them would drown.

Sutra:

“If the swift rapids existed because of water, then their nature would differ from that of water and the location and characteristics of its existence would be apparent.

"If their nature were simply that of water, then when they became still and clear they would no longer be made up of water.

Commentary:

If the swift rapids existed because of water - if you were to say it is because of the water that there are swift rapids which rush along so quickly, then their nature would differ from that of water. The basic nature of its substance would not be water. It should have a location and characteristics which would be apparent. But the swift rapids have no actual form or appearance.

If their nature were simply that of water - if you were to say that the swift rapids were just water, then when they became still and clear - when there were no waves - they would no longer be made up of water. Without any waves there wouldn’t be any water. If you were to say that waves of the swift current are the water, then when the waves disappeared, the water would also disappear. A change in nature would inevitably result in a change in substance.

Sutra:

“Suppose it were to separate from emptiness and water: there isn’t anything outside of emptiness, and outside of water there isn’t any flow.

Commentary:

Suppose it were to separate from emptiness and water - you want to say that the swift rapids are apart from emptiness and water. But, there isn’t anything outside of emptiness, and outside of water there isn’t any flow. Outside of water there are no rapids. To say it is separate from water is also incorrect. You say it is not separate; but that is also incorrect. In the last analysis, Ananda, what would you say this is all about?

It is not something that exists because of water or because of emptiness. Its source is the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury.

Q3 Concludes by returning false to true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that the skandha of activity is empty and false, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature.

Commentary:

Therefore - earlier you said that causes and conditions and spontaneity are concerned here. Now you should know that the skandha of activity is empty and false - the skandha of activity, the swift rapids, is an empty falseness; it is not real - since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature. This has been a discussion of the skandha of activity. Its source is also the treasury of the Thus Come One. But with the arisal of one ignorant thought, one becomes confused about the true and goes toward the false. You forget about the truth and go running after false things, and in this way the various empty and false appearances in the world are created.

P5 The consciousness skandha.
Q1 Teaches with an analogy.

Sutra:

Ananda, consider, for example, a man who picks up a kalavinka pitcher and stops up its two holes. He lifts up the pitcher filled with emptiness and, walking some thousand li away, presents it to another country. You should know that the skandha of consciousness is the same way.

Commentary:

Form, feeling, thinking, and activity have already been discussed, and now the skandha of consciousness will be explained. First I will give a general review of the first four.

The skandha of form refers to things which have shape and appearance, which have material substance. When the staring eye looks into emptiness, strange flowers come into being. Although the strange flowers are empty and false, nonetheless they have form and appearance.

Feeling means reception. When the hands are rubbed together, there arises an awareness of coarseness and smoothness and of cold and warmth.

The skandha of thinking simply depends on the characteristic of thought. For instance, your ears hear someone speak of plums, and you begin to think about them. As soon as you do so, your mouth waters. This is a result of the skandha of thinking. “Thinking” here refers to false thinking.

Activity means movement. It is ceaseless. People are first young, and they become middle aged, and then old, and then they die. Thought after thought arises and is extinguished, thought after thought without cease. This is the skandha of activity.

The skandha of consciousness involves the making of distinctions. It discriminates, considers, and seeks advantages from circumstances. Thus, Ananda had not developed his skill, had not cultivated samadhi power, but was greedy for erudition: that is to seek advantage from circumstances. The functionings of the mind which seeks advantages from circumstances are not actual.

Now the skandha of consciousness will be explained. Ananda, consider, for example, a man who picks up a kalavinka pitcher. “Kalavinka” is a Sanskrit word which means “wonderfully sounding bird.” The kalavinka pitcher is made from the shape of that bird and has two holes. The call of the “wonderfully sounding bird” is extremely beautiful. It is able to cry out while still in the egg. Its sound transcends that of all other birds; and so everyone likes to hear it. The man in the Buddha’s example stops up its two holes. He plugs up the two holes in the kalavinka pitcher. He lifts up the pitcher filled with emptiness and, walking some thousand li away, presents it to another country. What has he done? He has filled the pitcher up with emptiness. He takes the emptiness a thousand li away. A Chinese li is about a third of a mile. Maybe he walked, maybe he took a boat. At that time there weren’t any airplanes or cars or trains. Now we can cover a thousand li in a day and think nothing of it. But at that time the way to cover a thousand li was to walk. What did he do with the emptiness? He made a gift of it to another country. Would you say this is possible?

You should know that the skandha of consciousness is the same way. The skandha of consciousness, the mind that makes distinctions, involves the same principle as capturing some emptiness and carrying it a thousand li to give to someone.

Sutra:

“Thus, Ananda, the space does not come from one place, nor does it go to another.

Commentary:

The man made a gift of emptiness, but are the emptiness from one place and the emptiness of another place of two kinds? Basically there is no distinction between them. Emptiness is all the same. If you capture a bottle of emptiness in one place and take it a thousand li away to another country and pour it out, it unites with the emptiness there. What distinction is there between them? Emptiness neither comes nor goes.

Q2 Explains the analogy in detail.

Sutra:

“The reason for this, Ananda, is that if it were to come from another place, then when the stored up emptiness in the pitcher went elsewhere there would be less emptiness in the place where the pitcher was originally.

Commentary:

The reason for this, Ananda - why do I say that the emptiness does not come from one place nor go to another place? With emptiness there is no coming or going. If it were to come from another place, then when the stored up emptiness in the pitcher went elsewhere - in the kalavinka pitcher one stores a pitcherful of emptiness, and then one goes elsewhere - then there would be less emptiness in the place where the pitcher was originally. You took a pitcherful of emptiness, so the emptiness in that place is less, right? Does it look to you like the emptiness is less? Does the place you took the pitcher to have more emptiness?

So this is a case of having nothing to do and going to look for something to do. Consciousness is also like that. Not having anything to do, it makes distinctions in the east, makes distinctions in the west, makes distinctions among various characteristics and among all kinds of situations. It is the same principle as putting some emptiness in a pitcher and carrying it off to another country to give as a gift.

Sutra:

“If it were to enter this region: when the holes were unplugged and the pitcher was turned over, one would see emptiness come out.

Commentary:

If there were a leaving and entering, if you say the emptiness is taken from one region to another region, then you would be able to see emptiness come out when the pitcher was unplugged and turned over. If you say you don’t see it, then emptiness is non existent. If you could see it, it wouldn’t be emptiness. So you cannot transport emptiness. You cannot move emptiness from one place to another.

Q3 Concludes by returning false to true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that the skandha of consciousness is empty and false, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature.

Commentary:

Therefore - because of this, Ananda - you should know that the skandha of consciousness is empty and false - it, too, is empty and false - since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence - it is not because of causes and conditions that consciousness exists - nor is spontaneous in nature. Nor is there consciousness because of spontaneity. Its origin, too, lies in the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury.

CHAPTER 3: The Six Entrances

N2 The six entrances are the treasury of the Thus Come One.
O1 General statement.

Sutra:

“Moreover, Ananda, why do I say that the six entrances have their origin in the wonderful nature of true suchness, the treasury of the Thus Come One?

Commentary:

The five skandhas of form, feeling, thinking, activity, and consciousness have now been explained. All five are a manifestation of the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury. Now the Buddha again calls out: Moreover, Ananda, why do I say that the six entrances have their origin in the wonderful nature of true suchness, the treasury of the Thus Come One? Why is it said that the six entrances - the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind - are all the nature of the Thus Come One’s treasury? The six entrances will be distinguished below, and it will be explained.

O2 Specific explanation.
P1 The eye entrance.
Q1 Brings up example to reveal the false.

Sutra:

Ananda, although the eye’s staring causes fatigue, the eye and the fatigue originate in Bodhi. Staring gives rise to the characteristic of fatigue.

Commentary:

The Buddha called out: Ananda, although the eye’s staring causes fatigue - this refers to the earlier discussion of the eye that looks into emptiness until its staring gives rise to the characteristic of fatigue. The eye stares and eventually becomes tired. The eye and the fatigue originate in Bodhi. Staring gives rise to the characteristic of fatigue. These two kinds of manifestations are not apart from Bodhi. In the true nature of Bodhi, the characteristic of fatigue is produced.

Q2 Explains that the false has no substance.

Sutra:

“Because a sense of seeing is stimulated in the midst of the two false, defiling objects of light and dark, defiling appearances are taken in; this is called the nature of seeing. Apart from the two defiling objects of light and dark, this seeing is ultimately without substance.

Commentary:

Why do I say that within the true nature of Bodhi the staring gives rise to the characteristic of fatigue? Ananda, you should know that because a sense of seeing is stimulated in the midst of the two false, defiling objects of light and dark - it becomes involved with the two characteristics of form, light and dark, two false, defiling objects. Light and dark are part of the empty and false environment which lies before you. With the existence of this empty, false environment, there arises the nature of seeing. Defiling aspects are taken in - the seeing takes in the forms and appearances of the defiling environment which lies before it. This is called the nature of seeing. It is the nature of the substance of seeing. This “nature of seeing” does not refer to the “understanding the mind and seeing the nature” which is discussed in the Chan school. Here, the “nature of seeing” refers to the substance and nature of one’s ordinary seeing. “Understanding the mind and seeing the nature” means one understands one’s own mind and sees one’s own nature. “Seeing the nature” refers in that case to seeing one’s own inherent Buddha nature. But the “seeing-nature” referred to here is just the nature of ordinary seeing. Apart from the two defiling objects of light and dark, this seeing - when this nature of seeing becomes separate from the two defiling objects of light and dark - is ultimately without substance. It hasn’t any actual substance. There is nothing which actually exists.

Q3 It has no source.

Sutra:

“Thus, Ananda, you should know that seeing does not come from light or dark, nor does it come forth from the sense organ, nor is it produced from emptiness.

Commentary:

Thus, Ananda, you should know that seeing does not come from light or dark. The nature of seeing does not come from light, nor is it produced from within darkness. Nor does it come forth from the sense organ - nor is it produced from the eye, nor is it produced from emptiness. Nor is it produced from within emptiness.

Sutra:

“Why? If it came from light, then it would be extinguished when it is dark, and you would not see darkness. If it came from darkness, then it would be extinguished when it is light, and you would not see light.

Commentary:

Why? If it came from light - if the nature of seeing came from the defiling object of light - then it would be extinguished when it is dark. The two defiling objects of light and dark cannot exist simultaneously. When one comes, the other goes. They cannot stand together. If you want to say that the seeing comes from light, then there could not be any darkness. And you would not see darkness. And so the nature of seeing would not see dark things. But when the light goes, the seeing can see the darkness. So the seeing does not come from light, nor does it come from darkness. If it came from darkness, then it would be extinguished when it is light. If the nature of seeing arose from the defiling object of darkness, there would not be any light. We would not be able to see the characteristic of light.

Sutra:

“Suppose it came from the sense organ, which is obviously devoid of light and dark: a nature of seeing such as this would have no self-nature.

Commentary:

If you say the seeing is produced from the eye, suppose it came from the sense organ, which is obviously devoid of light and dark. If it came from the eye, it would not be composed of the two kinds of defiling appearances of light and dark. According to that explanation, a nature of seeing such as this - the seeing essence - would have no self-nature. If it came from the eye, it would not have its own substantial nature. So it is not brought about from the sense organ.

Sutra:

“Suppose it came forth from emptiness. When it looks in front of you, it sees the shapes of the defiling dust; turning around, it would see your sense organ. Moreover, if it were emptiness itself which sees, what connection would that have with your entrance?

Commentary:

Suppose it came forth from emptiness. Suppose you say the essence of seeing is produced from within emptiness. When it looks in front of you, it sees the shapes of the defiling dust. Looking in front, it can see the defiling dust. Turning around, it would see your sense organ. When the seeing turned back, it would see your eye. It sees in front; why can’t it see when it turns around? Nothing is obstructing it. Why can’t you see your own eyes? Moreover, if it were emptiness itself which sees - moreover, if you say it is produced from emptiness, if emptiness itself sees emptiness, what connection would that have with your entrance? Would it have any connection with your own basic nature? Do you have anything to do with what goes on with emptiness? So it is not produced from emptiness.

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that the eye entrance is empty and false, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature.

Commentary:

Therefore, because of this, Ananda, you should know that the eye entrance, the first of the six entrances, the eye organ, is empty and false. Its arisal is empty and false, and its extinction is empty and false, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence - it is not produced from causes and conditions, and its extinction is not based on causes and conditions - nor is spontaneous in nature. Nor does it come about spontaneously. Its place of origin is within the treasury of the Thus Come One.

P2 The ear entrance.
Q1 Brings up an example to reveal the false.

Sutra:

Ananda, consider, for example, a person who suddenly stops up his ears with two fingers. Because the sense organ of hearing has become fatigued, a sound is heard in his head. However, both the ears and the fatigue originate in Bodhi. Monotony will produce the characteristic of fatigue.

Commentary:

Now the ear entrance will be discussed. Ananda, consider, for example, a person - basically there is no such person who plays around like this. The Buddha just supposes there might be such a person - who suddenly stops up his ears with two fingers. He plugs up his ears. Because the sense organ of hearing has become fatigued, a sound is heard in his head. After you have plugged up your ears for a long time, they don’t hear the sounds outside, but inside something goes haywire. A sound comes forth inside. The sounds we hear are sounds outside, but now he stops up his ears so he can’t hear outside, and he hears a sound inside. To plug up your ears for that long would be like staying in your room for a long time and not going outside to look at things. After a long while you will feel very depressed, and you’ll want to go out for a walk and run around. In the same way the ear usually listens to things going on outside. If you do not permit it to listen, but instead stop it up so it cannot hear, it will listen inside. What kind of sound occurs inside the head? Try it out. Stop up your ears for a couple of days and see what sound you hear. Then you will know. So I won’t discuss now what kind of sound the person in the example heard.

However, both the ears and the fatigue originate in Bodhi. The characteristic of fatigue and the ear are both the true nature of Bodhi within the treasury of the Thus Come One. Monotony will produce the characteristic of fatigue. One ignorant thought produces falseness, and then it turns into the functioning of the ear organ.

Q2 Explains that the false has no substance.

Sutra:

“Because a sense of hearing is stimulated in the midst of the two false, defiling objects of movement and stillness, defiling appearances are taken in; this is called the nature of hearing. Apart from the two defiling objects of movement and stillness, this hearing is ultimately without substance.

Commentary:

Because it relies on the two false, defiling objects of movement and stillness - hearing dwells in the midst of them. In the midst of them arises a hearing nature - defiling appearances are taken in. The two defiling objects of movement and stillness cause the nature of hearing to arise in the ear. The hearing nature is like a magnet which attracts pieces of metal. These defiling appearances are not pure and clean. They are called “dust” in Chinese. Why is there defilement in people’s self natures? I’ll tell you why. It is because the eyes look at things and attract defiling appearances, which makes them unclean. The ears hear sounds and attract the defiling appearances. They attract unclean things. Basically the self nature is clear and pure. It has no defilement. But because the eye and ear attract unclean external things, the self nature within becomes defiled also.

The word “attract” (xi ) can also mean to “inhale,” as in inhaling cigarette smoke. When one inhales cigarette smoke, it passes into the lungs, and although ordinary people cannot see into their own insides, the fact remains that one’s throat, windpipe, and lungs become coated with tar. Haven’t you seen the black tar collected in a chimney? People who smoke have the same kind of deposits of tar in their lungs. But since you haven’t had an operation to disclose this, your intestines, throat, and internal organs can be coated with tar and you still are unaware of it. “Defiling aspects are taken in” is the same kind of principle. Because you take in external defiling appearances, your self nature is coated with a kind of tar, although you cannot see it. It is defiled by these things, and because it is covered over, it lacks light. Shen Xiu said,

The body is a Bodhi tree,
The mind a bright mirror stand.
Time and again brush it clean,
And let no dust alight.

Basically this verse is a fine expression of principle, but these are not the words of one who has seen his nature. It talks about cultivation, a level prior to seeing the nature. It likens cultivation of the Way to dusting a mirror, over and over again to keep it bright. One who cultivates the Way is like one who wipes the dust off the mirror. After Great Master Shen Xiu spoke this verse, the Sixth Patriarch, the Great Master Hui Neng, replied with the following verse:

Originally Bodhi has no tree,
Nor any bright mirror stand.
Originally there is not one thing.
Where can the dust alight?
That is to say, everything is taken care of. In cultivating the Way he has already been certified as having obtained the fruition. After one has been certified as having attained the fruition, it is not necessary to do the kind of work the Great Master Shen Xiu’s verse speaks of. Most people say that Great Master Hui Neng’s verse is well said, but that the Great Master Shen Xiu’s is poorly stated. Actually, both verses are good. For those who understand the Buddhadharma, every dharma is Buddhadharma. When you speak Buddhadharma to those who do not understand, they do not realize it is Buddhadharma. So you should conscientiously investigate this doctrine. If you understand it, you can understand all doctrines.

This is called the nature of hearing - when the organ of the ear takes in the defiling objective realm. Apart from the two defiling objects of movement and stillness - if the hearing nature is separated from the two defiling objects of movement and stillness - this hearing is ultimately without substance. It hasn’t any nature of its own.

Q3 It has no source.

Sutra:

“Thus, Ananda, you should know that hearing does not come from movement and stillness; nor does it come from the sense organ, nor is it produced from emptiness.

Commentary:

Thus refers to the circumstance spoken of above, in which “the ear and the fatigue are both Bodhi. Monotony gives rise to the characteristic of fatigue.” Ananda, you should know that hearing does not come from movement and stillness. It is not from movement and stillness that the hearing nature comes. Nor does it come from the sense organ. Nor does the hearing nature come from the ear. Nor is it produced from emptiness. Nor is the nature of hearing produced from within emptiness.

Sutra:

“Why? If it came from stillness, it would be extinguished when there is movement, and you would not hear movement. If it came from movement, then it would be extinguished when there is stillness, and you would not be aware of the stillness.

Commentary:

Why? If it came from stillness - this is more or less like the meaning presented above, but you should not be annoyed. The doctrine must be explained in minute detail. The Buddha explained the realm of the six organs in great detail.

It would be extinguished when there is movement, and you would not hear movement. If the nature of hearing came from stillness, then when there is movement it would be destroyed. There would not be any hearing nature. But there is a hearing nature when there is stillness, and there is a hearing nature when there is movement.

If it came from movement, then it would be extinguished when there is stillness, and you would not be aware of the stillness. If the hearing nature came from within movement, there wouldn’t be any stillness. You wouldn’t know about the characteristic of stillness. If it came from within stillness, then you wouldn’t know there is a characteristic of movement. Therefore, the hearing nature is not produced from the two defiling objective appearances of movement and stillness.

Sutra:

“Suppose it came from the sense organ, which is obviously devoid of movement and stillness: a nature of hearing such as this would have no self nature.

Commentary:

Suppose it came from the sense organ, which is obviously devoid of movement and stillness. The two defiling objects of movement and stillness would be absent. A nature of hearing such as this spoken of above, would have no self nature. Why? If it had a substance, it would have a substantial nature, but you cannot find the substantial nature of the hearing nature.

Sutra:

“Suppose it came from emptiness: emptiness would then become hearing and would no longer be emptiness. Moreover, if it were emptiness itself which hears, what connection would it have with your entrance?

Commentary:

Suppose it came from emptiness - if it is produced from within emptiness - emptiness would then become hearing and would no longer be emptiness. Suppose the hearing nature arose from within emptiness. Emptiness is devoid of knowing and awareness; it is senseless, and so if emptiness were to have a nature of hearing, it could no longer be called emptiness. Therefore, hearing does not come from emptiness. Moreover, if it were emptiness itself which hears - suppose we say that the hearing nature is produced from emptiness, then what connection would it have with your entrance? What would it have to do with you? It wouldn’t have any connection with anyone.

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that the ear entrance is empty and false, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence, nor is spontaneous in nature.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know that the ear entrance is empty and false. Because of this, you ought to know that the ear entrance - that kind of hearing nature - is an empty falseness, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence, nor is spontaneous in nature. It does not originate by being produced either from causes and conditions or by spontaneity.

P3 The nose entrance.
Q1 Brings up an example to reveal the false.

Sutra:

Ananda, consider, for example, a person who inhales deeply through his nose. After he has inhaled for a long time it becomes fatigued, and then there is a sensation of cold in the nose. Because of that sensation, there are the distinctions of penetration and obstruction, of emptiness and actuality, and so forth, including all fragrant and stinking vapors. However, both the nose and the fatigue originate in Bodhi. Overexertion will produce the characteristic of fatigue.

Commentary:

The eyes and ears have already been explained above. Now it is the nose entrance which will be discussed. “Ananda,” Shakyamuni Buddha calls Ananda’s name in order to cause him to be particularly attentive. “You should listen well to the doctrines I explain for you. Consider, for example, a person” - suppose there were such a one. What does this person do? He hasn’t anything to do, so he plays a joke on him self. How? He inhales deeply through his nose. He keeps sniffing in. He inhales sharply. Now, usually we make use of our sense of smell when there is something to smell, but this person inhales deeply through his nose, and not only does he do it deeply, he does it for a long time. After he has inhaled for a long time it becomes fatigued. If you breathe in for a long time, you will feel tired. The nose will get tired. And when it gets tired false thinking arises. The nose gives rise to false thinking. What kind of false thinking? Probably it thinks, “Rest. Rest.” But the person does not let it rest. And so then it has a sensation. What sensation? Then there is a sensation of cold in the nose. The breath it takes in feels cold. Extremely icy. Because of that sensation, there are the distinctions made. In the midst of that icy breath, it gives rise to discriminations concerning the sensation of the breath entering the nostrils. What distinctions does it make? Penetration and obstruction. “Ah, my nostrils are stopped up.” Or, “I can breathe through my right nostril but not through my left one.” He starts making distinctions. Not having anything to do, he finds something to do, producing all those discriminations. Emptiness and actuality. “Emptiness” refers to penetration, and “actuality” refers to obstruction. He thinks, “Ah, do I have a cold now, since I can’t breathe through my nose?” He makes these kinds of distinctions.

And so forth, including all fragrant and stinking vapors. What is meant by “stinking?” The Chinese character (xiu, to stink) is a combination of the character (zi, self) and the character (da, great); so “stinking” is explained as “a great self.” To look upon oneself as very great is what is meant by “stinking.” So it is said, “a great self stinks.” Some people don’t know what “fragrant and stinking vapors” refers to. I’ll tell you. Take a fish, set it down somewhere, and pay no further attention to it. After a while it will stink. And when it begins to stink, it will produce worms. Basically fish are edible, but once there are worms in them, you don’t want to eat them. Not to speak of eating them, all you have to do is think about what they would smell like, and that is enough to make you want to vomit. Just as when someone speaks of sour plums your mouth waters, or when you think about standing on the rim of a ten thousand foot precipice, your legs grow weak, and the soles of your feet begin to ache: it’s the same principle. If you think about stinking things, you want to vomit.

It’s very strange: people from Shanghai only like to eat things that stink. They like to eat bean curd that smells like excrement from a toilet. Wouldn’t you say that is strange? I’m not slandering people from Shanghai: that’s really the way they are. Then again, when I went to Pu Tou mountain, to Fa You monastery and Pu Ti monastery, the people native to these areas ate nothing but stinking sugar cane. Basically sugar cane is for making sugar, and I don’t know what they did to it, but it stank to high heaven. Basically I am not choosy about what I eat. I eat the good and bad alike. When it comes to food, I don’t make use of the consciousness of the mind which makes distinctions. But that sugar cane stank so badly it was not easy to eat. The people of that area could not get along without eating it, though. That’s an example of “to each his own.” They like to eat that stinking sugar cane, and if you didn’t give it to them to eat, they thought you were mistreating them. And so it is in this world; there are many kinds of things to eat, and people like to eat things with different tastes. People’s natures are different every single place you go.

You don’t have to pay any attention to whether things stink as long as you don’t have a “great self.” Looking upon one’s self as very great is stinking. It is more stinking than stinking fish and stinking excrement. No one dares get near you. Why? It is not because you are great; it is because you have turned into something stinking.

Q2 Explains the false has no substance.

Sutra:

“Because a sense of smelling is stimulated in the midst of the two false, defiling objects of penetration and obstruction, defiling appearances are taken in; this is called the nature of smelling. Apart from the two defiling objects of penetration and obstruction, this smelling is ultimately without substance.

Commentary:

Because a sense of smelling is stimulated in the midst of the two false, defiling objects of penetration and obstruction - the defiling objects of penetration and obstruction, those unclean things become manifest, and within them arises a smelling nature. The Chinese character (wen), can mean both to hear and to smell. Here it does not refer to hearing, but rather to the smelling nature. Defiling appearances are taken in. Because the smelling nature inhales the two defiling appearances of penetration and obstruction, this is called the nature of smelling. Once again, the smelling nature (wen xing, ) does not refer to the hearing nature (also wen xing) which returns the hearing to hear the self nature. It is not what Guan Yin Bodhisattva refers to when he says, “returning the hearing to hear the self nature, which I practiced to accomplishment of the Unsurpassed Way.” He listened to his own self-nature, and practiced to accomplishment the Unsurpassed Way. He obtained the perfect penetration of the ear organ. The text here, though, refers to the ability to smell. Apart from the two defiling objects of penetration and obstruction, this smelling is ultimately without substance. Apart from the two defiling states of penetration and obstruction, apart from these two defiling objects before one, smelling basically has no substantial nature.

Q3 It has no source.

Sutra:

“You should know that smelling does not come from penetration and obstruction, nor does it come forth from the sense organ, nor is it produced from emptiness.

Commentary:

This is the same as the doctrine explained above. You should know, Ananda, that smelling, the smelling nature, does not come from penetration and obstruction. It is not from penetration and obstruction that the smelling nature comes into being. Nor does it come forth from the sense organ. Nor is it that the nose produces the smelling nature. Nor is it produced from emptiness. Where does it come from?

Sutra:

“Why? If it came from penetration, the smelling would be extinguished when there is obstruction, and then how could it experience obstruction? If it existed because of obstruction, then where there is penetration there would be no smelling; in that case, how would the awareness of fragrance, stench, and other such sensations come into being?

Commentary:

Why? What doctrine leads me to say that it does not come from penetration and obstruction, nor from the sense organ, nor from emptiness? I will explain it to you. Listen. If it came from penetration, the smelling would be extinguished when there is obstruction. Penetration and obstruction are direct opposites, and so if the nature of smelling came from penetration, obstruction would not have a smelling nature. The nature that smells obstructions would be extinguished. And then how could it experience obstruction? If the nature that smells obstructions were absent, how would you be able to know there are obstructions? If it existed because of obstruction - if the smelling nature existed because of obstructions, then where there is penetration there would be no smelling. You would not be able to smell with the smelling nature. How is it that you could perceive penetration and could perceive obstruction? Therefore, it does not come from penetration, and it does not come from obstruction. You should understand the nature of smelling. In that case, how would the awareness of fragrance, stench, and other such sensations come into being? Since it is neither penetrations nor obstructions, how do the sensations of fragrance and stench come into being?

Sutra:

“Suppose it came from the sense organ, which is obviously devoid of penetration and obstruction. A nature of smelling such as this would have no self nature.

Commentary:

Suppose it came from the sense organ - if it were produced from the nose - which is obviously devoid of penetration and obstruction. It hasn’t any connection with penetration and obstruction. A nature of smelling such as this would have no self nature. However you explain it, it hasn’t any self nature either.

Sutra:

“Suppose it came from emptiness: smelling itself would turn around and smell your own nose. Moreover, if it were emptiness itself which smelled, what connection would it have with your entrance?

Commentary:

Suppose it came from emptiness - if the smelling nature came forth from emptiness - smelling itself would turn around and smell your own nose. It should first smell your nose. Moreover, if it were emptiness itself which smelled, what connection would it have with your entrance? Moreover, there’s another way to explain it. Let’s just suppose that the smelling nature did come from emptiness. Then what connection would it have with your nose entrance? Think it over. Is there any such principle?

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that the nose entrance is empty and false, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know - you ought to know the reason behind this doctrine is - that the nose entrance is empty and false. The nose organ, along with the smelling nature which is produced in it, is also empty, false, and unreal, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature. As to its origin, it is not counted as a dharma produced from causes and conditions. Nor is its origin a spontaneous coming into being. Ultimately where does it come from? Have I not already explained it above? The five skandhas, the six entrances, the twelve places, and the eighteen realms - all these functions and awareness - do not go beyond the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury. They are all produced from the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury. Because of the first ignorant thought, all kinds of false views and false characteristics arise. The division into seeing and characteristics arises. “Seeing” is the ability to perceive; “characteristics” refers to things with form and appearance which are perceived. They are all created from the ignorant thought of the false thinking mind.

P4 The tongue entrance.
Q1 Brings up an example to reveal the false.

Sutra:

Ananda, consider, for example, a person who licks his lips with his tongue. His excessive licking causes fatigue. If the person is sick, there will be a bitter flavor; a person who is not sick will have a subtle sweet sensation. Sweetness and bitterness demonstrate the tongue’s sense of taste. When the organ is inactive, a sense of tastelessness prevails. However, both the tongue and the fatigue originate in Bodhi. Stress produces the characteristic of fatigue.

Commentary:

Before you heard the sutra, you were together with your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind every day, but in all that time you never knew where they came from. Who would have guessed that there were so many things in the treasury of the Thus Come One?

How big is the treasury of the Thus Come One, anyway, that it is able to contain so many things?

The treasury of the Thus Come One is bigger than anything else, and so it can contain everything. If it were not bigger than anything else then it would never be able to contain so many things.

Where does it put so many things?

Divide it up into categories. You have your own eye-entrance, and other people have their own eye entrances; you have your ear entrance, and other people have their ear-entrances; you have your nose entrance, others have their nose entrances; you have your tongue entrance, and they have their tongue entrances. If they were all just jumbled up together, when it came time to use them, how would you be able to? If they were not simply lumped together but were divided so that each person’s entrances were in an individual place, there would have to be a lot of places. It would have to be a big space. That’s why I say that the treasury of the Thus Come One is bigger than anything else and can contain everything. There is nothing it does not contain. Where are we now? We are all in the treasury of the Thus Come One.

”We haven’t seen what the treasury of the Thus Come One looks like,” you say.

You see it every day, but you don’t recognize it. In all your daily activities you are within the treasury of the Thus Come One. What your eyes see, what your ears hear - absolutely everything is within the treasury of the Thus Come One. Yet you don’t know what the treasury of the Thus Come One looks like. In China there is the saying,

I can’t tell what Lu mountain
really looks like,
Because I myself am standing
on Lu mountain.
Why can’t you tell what Lu mountain looks like? Because you are on the mountain itself, and so you cannot see it in its entirety. Those of you who understand know that everything is a manifestation of the treasury of the Thus Come One. Those who don’t understand the Buddhadharma don’t even know what is meant by the treasury of the Thus Come One. Such people slander the Buddha. How? They say, “All Buddhism talks about is the treasury of the Thus Come One, the treasury of the Thus Come One, and how it contains everything. The Buddha’s greed is greater than anyone else’s. He stores away absolutely everything.” But this is a mistake. The treasury of the Thus Come One is not the Buddha’s. Everyone has a share in it. So that kind of view is a mistake.

Ananda, consider, for example, a person who licks his lips with his tongue. He uses his tongue to lick his own lips. I’ll tell you something funny. More than likely that man didn’t have a girlfriend, so he took to kissing himself. Do you believe that? It’s true! His excessive licking causes fatigue. He doesn’t just lick them once and let it go at that. He continually licks his lips. He licks himself for a long time and then gets tired. If the person is sick - if the person who is licking his lips is sick, there will be a bitter flavor. After licking for a long time he will be aware of a very bitter flavor. What kind of sickness does this sick person have? Perhaps he’s love sick; that is, he’s thinking about women. So he licks his own lips for a long time and is aware of bitterness. He feels, “Ah, this isn’t flavorful – it’s not very interesting.” Do you notice how when I speak Buddhadharma nobody seems to understand very well, but as soon as I begin to explain such matters as this, everyone understands?

A person who is not sick will have a subtle sweet sensation. Someone who is not sick will have ever so slight a sensation of sweetness. Sweetness and bitterness demonstrate the tongue’s sense of taste. Because of these two flavors, the organ of the tongue manifests. Then the function of the tongue can appear. When the organ is inactive, a sense of tastelessness prevails. When the tongue is not in motion, tastelessness constantly prevails in the tongue. “Tastelessness” means no flavor whatsoever. However, both the tongue and the fatigue come together. They originate in Bodhi. Why does the tongue get fatigued in that way? Stress produces the characteristic of fatigue. It occurs when, in the true nature of Bodhi, a falseness arises, and prolongation produces the characteristic of fatigue.

Q2 Explains that the false has no substance.

Sutra:

“Because the two defiling objects of sweetness and bitterness, as well as tastelessness, stimulate a recognition of taste which in turn draws in these defiling sensations, it becomes what is known as a sense of taste. Apart from the two defiling objects of sweetness and bitterness and apart from tastelessness, the sense of taste is originally without a substance.

Commentary:

Because the two defiling objects of sweetness and bitterness, as well as tastelessness, stimulate a recognition of taste which in turn draws in these defiling sensations, it becomes what is known as a sense of taste. The word “tastelessness” appears here, but you can say that it doesn’t count as a flavor, so the text merely says, “two false, defiling objects.” “Plain cabbage boiled in plain water is tasteless and hasn’t any flavor.” If one doesn’t add any salt or any oil but just cooks the cabbage in plain water, it will be tasteless. Within bitterness and sweetness a kind of awareness arises and takes in the two appearances. Apart from the two defiling objects of sweetness and bitterness and apart from tastelessness, the sense of taste is originally without a substance. Although tastelessness basically lacks flavor, it gives rise to sweetness and bitterness, and so you could say that tastelessness is the sweet and is the bitter, and that is why the text refers to “two kinds of defiling objects.” Apart from them, taste has no substantial nature of its own.

Q3 It has no source.

Sutra:

“Thus, Ananda, you should know that the perception of sweetness, bitterness, and tastelessness does not come from sweetness or bitterness, nor does it exist because of tastelessness, nor does it arise from the sense organ, nor is it produced from emptiness.

Commentary:

This is the same principle as was stated above. Thus, Ananda, you should know that the perception - the tasting that was explained above - of sweetness, bitterness, and tastelessness - when your own tongue recognizes the flavor of bitterness and of tastelessness - does not come from sweetness or bitterness. It is not from the flavors of bitterness and sweetness that the recognition arises. Nor does it exist because of tastelessness. Nor is it because of tastelessness that there is that kind of recognition. Nor does it arise from the sense organ. It is also not produced from the tongue. Nor is it produced from emptiness.

Sutra:

“For what reason? If it came from sweetness and bitterness, it would cease to exist when tastelessness was experienced, so how could it recognize tastelessness? If it arose from tastelessness, it would vanish when the flavor of sweetness was tasted, so how could it perceive the two flavors, sweet and bitter?

Commentary:

Why? If it came from sweetness and bitterness - if the nature which recognizes tastes came from sweetness and bitterness - it would cease to exist when tastelessness was experienced. There would be no recognition of tastelessness. So how could it recognize tastelessness? Then how would one know the flavor of tastelessness? If it arose from tastelessness - if the taste recognizing nature arose from tastelessness - it would vanish when the flavor of sweetness was tasted. The nature that recognizes sweetness would disappear. So how could it perceive the two flavors, sweet and bitter? If, in fact, there were no recognition of sweetness, how could he still know of the two characteristics of sweetness and bitterness?

Sutra:

“Suppose it came from the tongue which is obviously devoid of the defiling objects of sweetness and bitterness and of tastelessness. An essence of tasting such as this would have no self nature.

Commentary:

Suppose it came from the tongue which is obviously devoid of the defiling objects of sweetness and bitterness and of tastelessness. If it came from the tongue, there would not be the flavors of sweetness and tastelessness, and bitterness. Why not? The tongue itself doesn’t have a flavor of sweetness or tastelessness or of bitterness. An essence of tasting such as this would have no self nature. The taste recognizing nature would not have a self nature.

Sutra:

“Suppose it came from emptiness: the sense of taste would be experienced by emptiness instead of by the mouth. Suppose, moreover, that it was emptiness itself which tasted; what connection would that have with your entrance?

Commentary:

Suppose it came from emptiness. If the taste recognizing nature came from within emptiness, the sense of taste would be experienced by emptiness instead of by the mouth. Emptiness would naturally know what it tastes; how would you know? If the taste recognizing nature tastes were to come from emptiness, emptiness itself would recognize them, and your mouth would not be able to recognize them. Suppose, moreover, that it was emptiness itself which taste - if emptiness itself knew of this taste recognizing nature, what connection would that have with your entrance? It wouldn’t have any connection with your tongue entrance.

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that the tongue entrance is empty and false since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence nor is it spontaneous in nature.

Commentary:

Therefore, because of that, you should know, Ananda. Don’t continue to be so confused; don’t continue to be so stupid; don’t continue to be so unclear. You ought to know that the tongue entrance is empty and false. It is an empty falseness. It is not counted as causes and conditions. It neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence nor is it spontaneous in nature. It, too, is produced from within the true nature of Bodhi, the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury.

P5 The body entrance.
Q1 Brings up an example to reveal the false.

Sutra:

Ananda, consider, for example, a person who touches his warm hand with his cold hand. If the cold is in excess of the warmth, the warm hand will become cold; if the warmth is in excess of the cold, his cold hand will become warm. So the sensation of warmth and cold is felt through the contact and separation of the two hands. Fatiguing contact results in the interpenetration of warmth and cold. However, both the body and the fatigue originate in Bodhi. Protraction produces the characteristic of fatigue.

Commentary:

Ananda, consider, for example, a person who touches his warm hand with his cold hand. If the cold is in excess of the warmth - the cold is more powerful - his the warm hand will become cold. The warm hand will be cold, too. If the warmth is in excess of the cold, his cold hand will become warm. The cold hand will turn warm. So the sensation of warmth and cold is felt through the contact and separation of the two hands. The contact of the cold and warm hands involves an awareness of union. The knowledge of contact and the separation which is called lack of contact are manifested. Fatiguing contact results in the interpenetration of warmth and cold. If the characteristics of cold and warmth are brought about, it is because of fatigue which results from the contact of the two hands. The body and the fatigue originate in Bodhi. The body and the awareness of touch are both Bodhi. Protraction produces the characteristic of fatigue. This is a case of protraction within the true nature of Bodhi giving rise to the characteristic of fatigue.

Q2 Explains that the false has no substance.

Sutra:

“Because a physical sensation is stimulated in the midst of the two defiling objects of separation and union, defiling appearances are taken in; this is called the awareness of sensation. Apart from the two sets of defiling objects of separation and union, and pleasantness and unpleasantness, the awareness of sensation is originally without a substance.

Commentary:

Because a physical sensation is stimulated in the midst of the two defiling objects of separation and union, defiling appearances are taken in; this is called the awareness of sensation. Because there is separation and union - these two kinds of sensations of contact, these two kinds of false, defiling objects - a feeling arises within them, and the body’s two hands draw in the feeling of these defiling appearances, the separation and the union. Apart from the two sets of defiling objects of separation and union, and pleasantness and unpleasantness, the awareness of sensation is originally without a substance. “Unpleasant” refers to a state of suffering; “pleasant” refers to a state of bliss. That which one likes is a state of bliss. That which one dislikes is a state of suffering. So apart from the two defiling objects of separation and union, the sensation of contact hasn’t any fundamental substance, either. It hasn’t a substance of its own.

Q3 It has no source.

Sutra:

“Thus, Ananda, you should know that this sensation does not come from separation and union, nor does it exist because of pleasantness and unpleasantness, nor does it arise from the sense organ, nor is it produced from emptiness.

Commentary:

Thus, Ananda, from this you should know that this kind of nature of sensation does not come from separation and union. Although it is said that it senses the existence of the defiling objects of separation and union, the nature that is aware of sensation itself does not come from separation and union. Nor does it exist because of pleasantness and unpleasantness, nor does it arise from the sense organ - nor is it produced from the body, nor is it produced from emptiness - nor is it brought forth from emptiness.

Sutra:

“For what reason? If it arose when there was union, it would disappear when there was separation, so how could it sense the separation? The two characteristics of pleasantness and unpleasantness are the same way.

Commentary:

For what reason? What is the principle? If it arose when there was union - if it were because of union that one had the nature that is aware of sensation - it would disappear when there was separation. When the palms separated, there would no longer be a nature that was aware of sensation; yet the nature is still there. So how could it sense the separation? If it were extinguished when there was separation, how could you still sense the separation? The two characteristics of pleasantness and unpleasantness are the same way. States of suffering and states of bliss follow the same principle.

Sutra:

“Suppose it came from the sense organ, which is obviously devoid of the four characteristics of union, separation, pleasantness, and unpleasantness; an awareness of physical sensation such as this would have no self nature.

Commentary:

Suppose it came from the sense organ - if you want to say that the awareness of contact comes from the body - which is obviously devoid of the four characteristics of union, separation, pleasantness, and unpleasantness. How is it shown that sensation is not produced from the body? If it were, the body would have no way to be aware of union, of separation, of what is disagreeable, or of what is agreeable. An awareness of physical sensation such as this - your awareness of yourself - would have no self nature. The nature that is aware of sensation would not have a self-nature, either.

Sutra:

“Suppose it came from emptiness; the awareness of sensations would be experienced by emptiness itself, what connection would that have with your entrance?

Commentary:

Suppose it came from emptiness - if you then say that this nature that is aware of sensation is produced from within emptiness; the awareness of sensations would be experienced by emptiness itself, what connection would that have with your entrance? It would have no connection with your body entrance. Since all these various propositions are not possible, what conclusion is to be drawn?

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore you should know that the body entrance is empty and false, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence, nor is spontaneous in nature.

Commentary:

Therefore you should know that the body entrance is empty and false - because of that, you, Ananda, should know that the realm of the body entrance is also an empty falseness. Since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence, nor is spontaneous in nature. It is also produced from within the wonderful true nature of Bodhi.

P6 The mind entrance.
Q1 Brings up example to reveal the false.

Sutra:

Ananda, consider, for example, a person who becomes so fatigued that he goes to sleep. Having slept soundly, he awakens and tries to recollect what he experienced while asleep. He recalls some things and forgets others. Thus, his upside-downness goes through production, dwelling, change, and extinction, which are taken in and returned to a center habitually, each following the next without ever being overtaken. This is known as the mind organ or intellect. The mind and the fatigue are both Bodhi. Persistence produces the characteristic of fatigue.

Commentary:

Ananda, consider, for example, a person who becomes so fatigued that he goes to sleep. He’s too tired and wants to sleep. Having slept soundly, he awakens and tries to recollect what he experienced while asleep. He recalls some things and forgets others. When he wakes up, he sees the defiling objects before him, and he will be able to think about some of the experiences he encountered and unable to think about others because he has forgotten them. Thus, his upside-downness - this is upside-downness in the mental process, and in it are the four aspects of production, dwelling, change, and extinction. Take sleeping, for example: thinking about going to sleep is production. Actual sleeping is dwelling. On the verge of waking from sleep is the state of change. Having awakened and not wishing to sleep any more is the extinction of sleep. So, within sleeping itself there is production, dwelling, change, and extinction. There is also production, dwelling, change, and extinction in people’s thoughts. First thinking of something is production. Dwelling is your actually thinking about your pursuing the false thought you struck up. Change is when you finish thinking about it. Extinction is when you are no longer thinking of it. Just within one thought there are the four divisions. The Buddhadharma is inexhaustible and unending, once you look into it deeply. Take a telephone call, for example. Production is the phone ringing; dwelling is when you are talking on the phone; change is when you are about to complete the call; and extinction is when you have finished speaking. There is production, dwelling, change, and extinction to everything, no matter what it is.

There is production, dwelling, change, and extinction in the human lifespan, as well. One’s birth is production. One has a period of dwelling in the world. Sickness is change, and death is extinction. But, does a person return to emptiness after one process of production, dwelling, change, and extinction? No. There is still the production, dwelling, change, and extinction of future lives. In a future life the environment changes, but there is still production, dwelling, change, and extinction. So production, dwelling, change, and extinction is a very important concept within Buddhism. Absolutely anything can be used to illustrate the principle. This table is another example. When this piece of wood was growing it was sealed with the destiny to become this table; that is production. Dwelling is when it was made into the table. It will not always remain as it is now, and after a long period of use it will fall apart, and that is change. Once it falls apart it cannot be used any longer, so it is burned, and that is extinction.

Worlds also undergo production, dwelling, change, and extinction. A world takes a long time to undergo production. It takes twenty small kalpas to produce a world. It dwells for twenty small kalpas. It undergoes destruction for twenty small kalpas, and it is empty for twenty small kalpas. That is production, dwelling, destruction, and emptiness, which is the same as production, dwelling, change, and extinction.

How many years is a kalpa?

It is 139,600 years. A thousand kalpas is counted as one small kalpa. Twenty small kalpas count as one medium kalpa. Four medium kalpas make one great kalpa. Production, dwelling, destruction, and emptiness take a great kalpa. Our knowledge of history reaches back for only a few thousand years - not even the extent of a single kalpa. The reach of our knowledge is very small. Kalpas, too, have production, dwelling, destruction, and emptiness - production, dwelling, change, and extinction.

Taken in and returned to a center habitually. The mind takes in the defiling appearances of production, dwelling, change, and extinction, in this case during sleep. These appearances return to the organ of the human mind, each following the next without ever being overtaken. The production, dwelling, change, and extinction of thoughts in the mind are like waves on water.

This is known as the mind organ or intellect. Of the six organs of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind, the mind is now being discussed. The mind and the fatigue originate in Bodhi. Persistence produces the characteristic of fatigue. This is also a perseverance within the true nature of Bodhi which produces the characteristic of fatigue.

Q2 Explains that the false has no substance.

Sutra:

“The two defiling objects of production and extinction stimulate a sense of knowing which in turn grasps these inner sense data, reversing the flow of seeing and hearing. Before the flow reaches the ground it is known as the faculty of intellect.

Commentary:

The two defiling objects of production and extinction stimulate a sense of knowing. The defiling objects of the mind lie within the mind. The mind conditions dharmas which are subject to production and extinction. There are also dharmas which are not subject to production and extinction, but the dharmas conditioned by the mind are dharmas of production and extinction, which are defiling objects. A nature of aware knowing accumulates and dwells in their midst, and in turn grasps these inner sense data. “Grasps” here means the same as “taking in,” mentioned above. Reversing the flow of seeing and hearing. The defiling objects of seeing and hearing revert to the sixth mind consciousness. Before the flow reaches the ground - before this reverting current has reached the eighth mind consciousness - it is known as the faculty of intellect. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, bodily sensation, and knowing: the sixth of these consciousnesses is the knowing awareness nature in the organ of the mind.

”Before the flow reaches the ground” can also refer to the reverting current flowing back into the mind. What is the reverting current? When the mind’s thought conditions dharmas, it is as if there is a current which flows back into the mind. Before the flow reaches the eighth consciousness, there is a nature of aware knowing in the sixth mind consciousness.

Sutra:

“Apart from the two sets of defiling objects of waking and sleeping and of production and extinction, the faculty of intellect is originally without substance.

Commentary:

Apart from the two sets of defiling objects of waking and sleeping - of being asleep and of being awake - and of production and extinction - and of the two defiling objects of production and extinction - the faculty of intellect is originally without substance. It, too, does not have a substantial nature.

Q3 It has no source.

Sutra:

“Thus, Ananda, you should know that the faculty of intellect does not come from waking, sleeping, production, or extinction, nor does it arise from the sense organ, nor is it produced from emptiness.

Commentary:

Thus, Ananda - from the doctrine which has been explained, Ananda, you should know that the faculty of intellect - the nature of aware knowing - does not come from waking, sleeping, production, or extinction, nor does it arise from the sense organ - nor does it come out of the organ of the mind. Nor is it produced from emptiness. Nor is it produced from within emptiness.

Sutra:

“For what reason? If it came from waking, it would disappear at the time of sleeping, so how could it experience sleep? If it came from production, it would cease to exist at the time of extinction, so how could it undergo extinction? If it came from extinction it would disappear at the time of production, so how could it know about production?

Commentary:

For what reason? If it came from waking - if the nature of aware knowing arose when one was awake - it would disappear at the time of sleeping. It would disappear when one is asleep, and how could it experience sleep? If it weren’t there when one was asleep, what would be meant by sleep? If it came from production, it would cease to exist at the time of extinction. When there was extinction, it would be gone, so how could it undergo extinction? Who is it who would undergo extinction? If it came from extinction it would disappear at the time of production, so how could it know about production? In that case, it would cease to be when there was production. Without the nature of aware knowing, who would know there was production?

Sutra:

“Suppose it came from the sense organ; waking and sleeping cause only a physical opening and closing respectively. Apart from these two movements, the faculty of intellect is as unsubstantial as flowers in space, because it is fundamentally without a self nature.

Commentary:

Suppose it came from the sense organ - if you say it comes from the organ of the mind, then waking and sleeping - these two characteristics - cause only a physical opening and closing respectively. There is an opening and closing in accord with your own body. Apart from these two movements of wakefulness and sleep the faculty of intellect is as unsubstantial as flowers in space, because it is fundamentally without a self nature. Apart from the opening and closing, it is the same as nonexistent. It has no self-nature.

Sutra:

“Suppose it came from emptiness; the sense of intellect would be experienced by emptiness instead of by the mind. Then what connection would that have with your entrance?

Commentary:

Suppose it came from emptiness - if it were emptiness that produced the nature of aware knowing - the sense of intellect would be experienced by emptiness instead of by the mind. If it were emptiness itself that knew, then what connection would that have with your entrance? What connection would that have with you?

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that the mind entrance is empty and false, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know that the mind entrance is empty and false. The mind entrance is also an empty falseness. Since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence - it is not produced from causes and conditions - nor is spontaneous in nature. Ultimately, then, why do you have a nature of aware knowing? It is produced from a persistence within the nature of the wonderful true suchness of the treasury of the Thus Come One, which gives rise to the characteristic of fatigue.

CHAPTER 4: The Twelve Places

N3 The twelve places are the treasury of the Thus Come One.
O1 A general statement.

Sutra:

“Moreover, Ananda, why do I say that the twelve places are basically the wonderful nature of true suchness, the treasury of the Thus Come One?

Commentary:

Moreover, Ananda, I will explain it further for you. You should listen carefully. Why do I say that the twelve places are basically the wonderful nature of true suchness, the treasury of the Thus Come One? A “place” refers to a specific location. What are these twelve places? They are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind - they make six - and forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas - another six; together they make twelve places. Sometimes they are also called the twelve entrances, like the six entrances mentioned above. But, the twelve places also include forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas. The combination of the six sense organs and six defiling objects are called the twelve places.

O2 A specific explanation.
P1 The place of the eye and form.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss the organ and object.

Sutra:

Ananda, look again at the trees in the Jeta Grove and the fountains and pools.

Commentary:

Ananda, look again at the trees in the Jeta Grove and the fountains and pools. Take a look at Prince War Victor’s grove of trees.

Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

Sutra:

“What do you think? Do these things come into being because the forms are produced and thus the eyes see, or because the eyes produce the characteristics of form?

Commentary:

“What do you think?” the Buddha asks Ananda’s opinion. “Do these things come into being because the forms are produced and thus the eyes see, or because the eyes produce the characteristics of form? Is it that the forms are produced and the eyes see them, or is it that the eyes produce these characteristics of form? Explain this doctrine for me. I’ll listen.” The Buddha has another question, and I believe that by now Ananda has a bit of a headache. How do I know that? Because he didn’t say anything. He didn’t answer. So the Buddha continues:

Q3 Discusses each and refutes both.
R1 Refutes the possibility that the eyesight gives rise to form.

Sutra:

Ananda, if the organ of sight were to produce the characteristics of form, then the nature of form would be obliterated when you see emptiness, which is not form. Once it was obliterated, everything that is manifest would disappear. Since the characteristics of form would then be absent, who would be able to understand the nature of emptiness? The same is true of emptiness.

Commentary:

Ananda, if the organ of sight were to produce the characteristics of form - if you say that the existence of the organ of sight produces the external defiling objects, the characteristics of form - then the nature of form would be obliterated when you see emptiness, which is not form. Once it was obliterated, everything that is manifest would disappear. The nature of form would disappear, and when the characteristics of form were obliterated, everything would disappear. Since the characteristics of form would then be absent, who would be able to understand the nature of emptiness? Who could know of emptiness? The same is true of emptiness. The proposition that the eye produces the characteristic of emptiness would be wrong for the same reasons.

R2 Refutes the possibility that form gives rise to the eyesight.

Sutra:

“If, moreover, the defiling objects of form were to produce the eye’s seeing, then seeing would perish upon looking at emptiness, which is not form, and once it perished, everything would disappear. Then who would be able to understand emptiness and form?

Commentary:

If, moreover, the defiling objects of form were to produce the eye’s seeing - if you want to say that forms produce the eyesseeing, then when there isn’t any form the eyes could not see, then seeing would perish upon looking at emptiness, which is not form. Emptiness is not form. It has no form or appearance. If you postulate that seeing is produced from forms, then you should not be able to see emptiness, and when there was no form, there would not be any seeing. Once it, the seeing, perished, everything would disappear. When the seeing was gone, nothing could be seen. Then who would be able to understand emptiness and form? Who would know that one thing was emptiness and that something else was form? If there were no seeing, who could know?

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that neither seeing nor form nor emptiness has a location, and thus the two places of form and seeing are empty and false. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

Therefore, because of this, Ananda, you should know that neither seeing nor form nor emptiness has a location, and thus the two places of form and seeing - now just as to form and seeing, both places are empty and false. Form has no nature of its own, and the seeing has no nature of its own, either. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. Rather, they are false views which are produced from within the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury.

P2 The place of the ear and sound.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss the organ and object.

Sutra:

Ananda, listen again to the drum being beaten in the Jeta Garden when the food is ready. The Assembly gathers as the bell is struck. The sounds of the bell and the drum follow one another in succession.

Commentary:

This passage explains the two places of the ear and sound. Ananda, listen again to the drum being beaten in the Jeta Garden when the food is ready - when the food has been prepared, the drum is hit, and everyone comes to eat. The Assembly gathers as the bell is struck. If you want to gather together, you strike the bell. Nowadays, when it is time to eat, it is not a drum which is hit but rather an instrument called the “wooden fish.” It is a hollow woodblock shaped like a big fish. When it is time to eat, the fish is beaten, and it makes the sound bong, bong, bong. So in Chinese it is called a bong. In a large monastery there are many monks, and if no signal were given, people wouldn’t know it was time to eat. In fact, some might even be sleeping away the morning in their rooms, like certain disciples I have who are fond of sleep. If you didn’t make some signal to wake them up, they would miss lunch. So in large monasteries where hundreds or even thousands of monks lived, the bong was hit when it was time to eat. It was beaten for a long time, and the louder the better. Why? To wake everyone up. And, as soon as people who were asleep heard the “bong,” they leapt up, grabbed their robes and sashes, and hurried off to eat. When monks eat, they wear their formal robes and sashes, and they are very awesome and adorned. They do not talk while they eat. In the dining hall a thousand monks may be gathered together to eat, and not one of them is speaking. Everyone is silent.

When people have left the home life, they must abide by the rule of eating at one sitting. They cannot get up and then come back and sit down and eat more. When the dining hall attendant comes around, he will give you one more of whatever you have not had enough of. He’ll give you as much as you want. If you want a bowlful, he’ll give you a bowlful; if you want half a bowlful, you can indicate how much with your finger or your chopstick, and he’ll give you that much.

In the past, an old cultivator who was a layman, not a left home person, had taken the five precepts and also the precept against talking while eating. But he had violated all five precepts, and there remained only the precept against talking while eating, which he had not violated. So the spirit who protected that precept still accompanied him, but he wished the layman would violate the precept so he could go, too, and no longer protect him. But the layman never violated the precept. When he ate, he never talked. Finally, the spirit of the precept came to him in a dream and said, “You should talk when you eat. Since you’ve violated all the other precepts, why don’t you violate the precept against talking when you eat? Hurry up and violate it, because I’d like to leave you, too.”

The dream set the layman thinking. “I’ve kept that precept against talking while eating, and it turns out there is a precept spirit who protects me!” After that he found a dharma master with Way-virtue and took the precepts over again. As a result of that, he cultivated and accomplished the Way. Every person has his own particular causes and conditions, and in Buddhism taking the precepts is a very important matter.

It is said that the bong, which is hit when it is time to eat, was originally an evil man who became a fish in the sea. A tree grew out of the fish’s body, and the fish made a practice of using the tree to bash in ships and wreck them. When a ship was wrecked the fish would eat the people. Later the fish met up with an arhat who crossed it over, and afterward the tree was used to make a bong shaped like a fish. And that is why the bong is beaten when it is time to eat. It represents helping to wipe out that fish’s karmic offenses, so the fish could be reborn as a human. There’s no foundation in this, it’s only a legend, and I’m just passing it along to you.

The sounds of the bell and the drum follow one another in succession. Maybe the bell is struck first, or maybe the drum is beaten first. In any case, the sounds follow one another in succession.

Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

Sutra:

“What do you think? Do these things come into existence because the sound comes to the region of the ear, or because the ear goes to the place of the sound?

Commentary:

In explaining about the ear, the Buddha has more to ask Ananda. He said, “What do you think about the sound of the bell and drum? What’s your opinion, Ananda? Do these things come into existence because the sound comes to the region of the ear?” “These things” are the sounds of the bell and drum. “Do they come up beside your ear, and then do you hear? Or because the ear goes to the place of the sound? Or is it that your ear goes to the place of the sound?” He asks Ananda, and Ananda doesn’t have anything to say in return. Ananda isn’t as brash as he was before, when he had an immediate answer for everything that was asked. Now he doesn’t make a sound. He waits for the Buddha to explain it.

Q3 Discusses each and refutes all possibilities.
R1 The possibility that the sound comes to the region of the ear.

Sutra:

“Again, Ananda, suppose that the sound comes to the region of the ear. Similarly, when I go to beg for food in the city of Shravasti, I am no longer in the Jeta Grove. If the sound definitely goes to the region of Ananda’s ear, then neither Maudgalyayana nor Kashyapa would hear it, and even less the twelve hundred and fifty shramanas who, upon hearing the sound of the bell, come to the dining hall at the same time.

Commentary:

Shakyamuni Buddha said: Again, Ananda, suppose that the sound comes to the region of the ear. Similarly, when I go to beg for food in the city of Shravasti, I am no longer in the Jeta Grove. The Buddha is referring here to himself. “Shravasti” is Sanskrit; does anyone remember what it means? I explained this at the very beginning of the sutra, when I discussed the six realizations. You all have forgotten? Well, I can’t remember it either. So we’ll all just forget it, right? I never explained it, and you never heard it. No speaking and no hearing is true Prajna. The city of Shravasti had an abundance of the five desires and of wealth and riches, and the people had the virtues of learning and liberation. So it is called “abundance and virtue.” You should remember this. In Chinese, the Sanskrit shravasti may appear as she wei guo, or shi luo fa cheng. If you can’t remember even that, this little bit, then when someone asks you to explain the six realizations, and when the fifth realization, place, is Shravasti, all you’ll be able to say is “I don’t know,” if someone asks you what Shravasti means. How much face will you lose then? You who are propagating the dharma will suddenly find yourself stumped by a question. If someone should ask you some strange question, it is all right not to answer. But, if the question deals with something you should know about in the Buddhist sutras, and you can’t come up with the answer, it will be very embarrassing.

”When I go to the city of Shravasti to beg for food,” the Buddha said, “I’m no longer here in the Jeta Grove.” This is an example of the fact that something can’t be in two places at once. Thus, if the sound definitely goes to the region of Ananda’s ear, then neither Maudgalyayana nor Kashyapa would hear it. (The ear’s going out to the sound is yet another possibility which will be discussed later.) “If the sound comes up beside your ear, Ananda, then Maudgalyayana, who was first in spiritual penetrations, and Kashyapa would not hear it. Why? Because the sound has come to your ear.” The Buddha is really not speaking with any principle. Sound is basically all pervasive. Everyone can hear it, and yet he explains it in this way. He is deliberately trying to befuddle Ananda. He is not speaking reasonably to Ananda, just to see how Ananda will answer. Even less the twelve hundred and fifty shramanas who, upon hearing the sound of the bell, come to the dining hall at the same time. How much the less the twelve hundred and fifty bhikshus, who as soon as they hear the bell, all hurry in together to eat.

R2 The possibility of the ear going to the region of sound.

Sutra:

“Again, suppose that the ear goes to the region of the sound. Similarly, when I return to the Jeta Grove, I am no longer in the city of Shravasti. When you hear the sound of the drum, your ear will already have gone to the place where the drum is being beaten. Thus, when the bell peals, you will not hear the sound - even the less that of the elephants, horses, cows, sheep, and all the other various sounds around you.

Commentary:

It was explained above that there is no principle in saying that the sound comes up beside your ear. If it were to come up beside your ear, other people would not hear it; and yet, in fact, the others can also hear the sounds of the drum and the bell. This proves that the sound of the bell and drum do not come to the region of your ear. Again, suppose that the ear goes to the region of the sound. Perhaps you say that your ears go to where the sound is in order to listen to it.

Similarly, when I return to the Jeta Grove, I am no longer in the city of Shravasti. Will you accept that doctrine, Ananda? Would you say I have spoken correctly here? You cannot argue with that principle. Therefore, when you hear the sound of the drum, your ear will already have gone to the place where the drum is being beaten. Thus, when the bell peals - then when the bell is sounded - you will not hear the sound. Your ear has already gone, so when there is another sound, you won’t hear it, because what will there be to hear it? It’s the same as when I return from the city of Shravasti; at that time I am no longer in the city. So you say your ear has gone; and yet, in fact, you still can hear. When the bell’s sound rings out, you hear it as well as the drum. How can this be? Even the less that of the elephants, horses, cows, sheep, and all the other various sounds around you. Nor only is it the case that you can hear the sound of the drum and the sound of the bell, but there are the sounds of elephants, horses, cows, sheep - all kinds of sounds that you can hear. Ultimately, has your ear gone out or not? Has your ear really gone to the place of the sound? If so, how is it that you have enough ears to go to the places of all those other sounds? You only have two ears: how can you have so many ears?

R3 The possibility of there being no coming and no going.

Sutra:

“If there is no coming or going, there will be no hearing, either.

Commentary:

“If you say that the ear does not go to the place of the sound, and the sound does not come to the place of the ear - if there is no coming or going - then what do you hear? There will be no hearing, either. You wouldn’t hear anything.” What is this doctrine all about? It demonstrates that the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury is neither produced nor extinguished. It pervades everywhere and everything. It is not like a person, who when he is at one particular place is there, and when he leaves he is no longer there. Rather, it has neither production nor extinction. This demonstrates that the root-nature is true and that false thinking is false.

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that neither hearing nor sound has a location, and thus the two places of hearing and sound are empty and false. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

Therefore - because of the principle I have just explained - you should know - Ananda, you ought to know - that neither hearing nor sound has a location. There is nowhere that the defiling sound objects and your awareness of hearing reside. They haven’t any home. They are probably more or less like beggars - they don’t even have a place to live. And thus the two places of hearing and sound are empty and false. Both places are an empty falseness. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. They are not produced from causes and conditions, and they are not produced out of spontaneity. They are a representation from within the wonderful nature of true suchness of the treasury of the Thus Come One. So don’t use the distinction making mind to indulge in making distinctions among these kinds of defiling objects.

P3 The place of the nose and smells.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss the organ and object.

Sutra:

“Moreover, Ananda, you smell the chandana in this censer. When one particle of this incense is lit, it can be smelled simultaneously through forty li around the city of Shravasti.

Commentary:

Now the two places of fragrance and the nose with its awareness of smells will be discussed. Moreover, Ananda, you smell the chandana in this censer. You sniff the burning incense burning. When one particle of this incense is lit. In Chinese the measure, one particle (zhu ) is one twenty fourth of a liang, and sixteen liang make one jin, about one and a third pounds. So, one particle would be a very small piece of the incense. Chandana incense, also called “ox head chandana,” is said to come from Uttarakuru the northern continent. When you light a very small piece of this incense its fragrance almost immediately pervades a radius of forty li - about thirteen miles. We are not speaking here of the smoke, which rises to the heavens, but of the fragrance which accompanies it. What is more, any pestilence or contagious disease is wiped out when this incense perfumes the atmosphere. The germs all disappear.

When one particle of this incense is lit, it can be smelled simultaneously through forty li around the city of Shravasti.

Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

Sutra:

“What do you think? Is this fragrance produced from the chandana wood? Is it produced in your nose, or does it arise within emptiness?

Commentary:

What do you think? Ananda, what is the case here, in your opinion? Is this fragrance produced from the chandana wood? Does the chandana fragrance arise from the chandana wood? Is it produced in your nose? Or does it come from the organ of your nose? Or does it arise within emptiness? Or is it produced in emptiness?

Q3 Discusses each and refutes all possibilities.
R1 Refutes the possibility that it comes from the nose.

Sutra:

“Again, Ananda, suppose this fragrance is produced from your nose. What is said to be produced from the nose should come forth from the nose. Your nose is not chandana, so how can the nose have the fragrance of chandana? When you say you smell fragrance, it should enter your nose. For the nose to emit fragrance is not the meaning of smelling.

Commentary:

Again, Ananda, suppose this fragrance is produced from your nose. You say it is produced from the organ of your nose. What is said to be produced from the nose should come forth from the nose. If it is the case that it is produced from the organ of the nose, the fragrance should come out of your nose. Your nose is not chandana. But the organ of your nose is certainly not chandana wood. So how can the nose have the fragrance of chandana? There’s no such principle. When you say you smell fragrance, it should enter your nose. If you say you smell fragrance, it is smelled by your smelling nature, and it should enter your nostrils. For the nose to emit fragrance is not the meaning of smelling. If you say the fragrance comes out of your nostrils, then it is not right to say you can still smell the fragrance, because your nostrils can only smell what enters them. It cannot be that the fragrance is emitted by your nostrils.

Now, basically, everyone knows that the fragrance arises from the chandana wood. When the incense is lit, smoke rises into the air. However, the fragrance is certainly not the incense smoke, for as soon as the incense is lit, the fragrance can be smelled within a radius of forty li of where the incense was lit. The incense smoke, on the other hand, simply rises up into emptiness.

Why does the Buddha question Ananda in this way, asking him whether the fragrance of chandana comes from the nostrils or from the chandana incense? Everyone realizes without its being explained that if the chandana incense is not lit, there isn’t any fragrance, which proves that the fragrance comes from the incense. The Buddha is deliberately questioning Ananda in this way to see how he will answer. However, although the fragrance comes from the chandana, the nature of smelling comes from the Thus Come One’s treasury. So the meaning does not lie in the fragrance, but in the nature of smelling. The nature of smelling is all pervading and is neither produced nor extinguished. That is the important point.

R2 Refutes the possibility that it comes from emptiness.

Sutra:

“Suppose it is produced from within emptiness. The nature of emptiness is everlasting and unchanging, and so the fragrance should be eternally present. What need should there be to rely on burning the dry wood in the censer?

Commentary:

Suppose it is produced from within emptiness. The nature of emptiness is everlasting and unchanging. If you say the fragrance comes forth from emptiness, the fragrance should be eternally present. The fragrance should always be there. It couldn’t disappear. It would not be necessary to wait until the chandana incense wood is burned in order for there to be the fragrance of chandana. It should also be there at ordinary times. What need should there be to rely on burning the dry wood in the censer? “Rely on” means that one must burn the incense in order for the fragrance to come into being. This passage proves that the fragrance is not produced from emptiness.

R3 Refutes the possibility that it comes from the smell.

Sutra:

“Suppose it is produced from the wood. Now, the nature of this incense is such that it gives off smoke when it is burned. If the nose smells it, it should be filled with smoke. The smoke rises into the air, and before it has reached the distance, how is it that the fragrance is already being smelled at a distance of forty li?

Commentary:

Suppose it is produced from the wood. Now, the nature of this incense is such that it gives off smoke when it is burned. When it is lit, it turns into smoke. If the nose smells it, it should be filled with smoke. When the organ of the nose smells it, there should be some smoke there. But, this fragrance is not due to the smoke. The smoke rises into the air, but the fragrance pervades all places. There is fragrance even where there is no smoke. And before it has reached the distance, how is it that the fragrance is already being smelled at a distance of forty li? The smoke has not yet traveled the forty li, but the fragrance has already reached that distance, and everywhere within that area the fragrance can be smelled. “Where would you say it comes from?” the Buddha asks Ananda.

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that neither the fragrance, nor the nose’s smelling has a location, and so the two places of smelling and fragrance are empty and false. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know that neither the fragrance, nor the nose’s smelling has a location. Because of what has been explained, you should know that both the fragrance and the awareness of smelling have no location. They haven’t any fixed place. And so the two places of smelling and fragrance - the awareness of smelling in the nose and the fragrance - are empty and false. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. They are all representations which flow forth from the wonderful nature of true suchness within the nature of the Thus Come One’s treasury.

P4 The place of the tongue and tastes.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss organ and object.

Sutra:

Ananda, twice every day you take up your bowl along with the rest of the assembly, and among what you receive may be things of supreme flavor, such as curds, buttermilk, and clarified butter.

Commentary:

From whole milk comes buttermilk; from buttermilk comes curds, and from curds comes butter. Butter can be further refined into clarified butter, or ghee.

The first period of the Buddha’s teaching of dharma is called the Avatamsaka period. The Avatamsaka period is likened to the time when the sun is first rising, for when the sun first rises it first The Twelve Places 75 illumines the high mountains. The high mountains represent the great Bodhisattvas. The Avatamsaka Sutra teaches and transforms great Bodhisattvas. So, when the Buddha spoke the Avatamsaka, those of the two vehicles, the sound-hearer and those who are enlightened to conditions, “had eyes but did not see.” They could not see the Buddha manifesting the ten thousand foot Nishyanda body. Those of the two vehicles saw Shakyamuni Buddha as usual in the six foot body of an old bhikshu. They “had ears but did not hear the perfect sudden teaching.” They did not hear Shakyamuni Buddha speaking the perfect sudden, wonderful teaching of the Avatamsaka Sutra.

The five periods of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching are likened to dairy products. The dharma of the Avatamsaka is like whole milk. Adults can digest whole milk, but infants cannot usually take whole cow’s milk. The period of the Avatamsaka Sutra was devoted exclusively to the teaching and transforming of Bodhisattvas. It was like milk taken directly from the cow.

The second was the agama period. Agama is a Sanskrit word which is interpreted as meaning “incomparable dharma,” which means none of the dharmas of externalist sects can compare to it. It is also called abhidharma, that is, the small vehicle. In the milk analogy, the agama period is likened to the buttermilk which can be made from whole milk. The nature of buttermilk is not so strong, and children can drink it as well. It is easy to digest. In the analogy of the rising sun, the second period is represented by the illumining of the mountain valleys, which means that the lower lands are also shone upon.

The third is the vaipulya period. In the milk analogy, this period is represented by the curds extracted from buttermilk. And in the analogy of the rising sun, the plains are now illuminated.

The fourth period is the prajna period. In the milk analogy, it is represented by the butter which is processed from curds. In the sun analogy it is close to the full light of noon.

The fifth is the dharma-flower/nirvana period. It is represented in the milk analogy by clarified butter. The flavor of the Dharma Flower Sutra - the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of Wonderful Dharma, sometimes called the Lotus Sutra - is as wonderful as the flavor of clarified butter. In the analogy of the rising sun, the Dharma Flower Sutra is the sun when it is directly overhead. At midday the sun shines on everything, illumining the high mountains, the valleys, and the plain.

The Dharma Flower Sutra is a most important sutra in Buddhism. The Shurangama Sutra is for the opening of wisdom. The Shurangama Sutra points out the path, the way of cultivation. The Lotus Sutra is for accomplishing Buddhahood. Everyone in the Dharma Flower assembly should become a Buddha. As the sutra says, “With one recitation of Namo Buddha, all can accomplish the Buddha Way.” The Dharma Flower Sutra is for opening out the provisional and manifesting the actual. In its doctrine, the empty and false are rejected, and only the actual is spoken. The Shurangama and the Dharma Flower Sutra are extremely important, extremely important in Buddhism. The doctrine of the Dharma Flower Sutra is the most esoteric and wonderful. Great Master Chi Zhe of the Tian Tai school opened enlightenment while reading it.

Soon after he had opened enlightenment, he heard of the existence of the Shurangama Sutra, and he proceeded to face the west every day and bow to the Shurangama Sutra, hoping to be able to read it. But, although he bowed for eighteen years, he never did see it. Wouldn’t you say that was regrettable? The practices which the virtuous patriarchs of China followed in displaying their respect for the Buddhadharma show how extremely reverent they were.

Some people bow to the Dharma Flower Sutra and the Shurangama Sutra. They bow once for every word, bowing all day long from morning to night. Some have become enlightened while bowing to a sutra. Thus, there are all kinds of different methods of cultivation. No matter which method you cultivate all you have to do is to do it single-mindedly. Don’t cultivate on the one hand and strike up false thoughts on the other. For instance, I know there are some people here listening to the sutra who are not really listening. They are thinking, “After a while I’m going to telephone my girlfriend,” or “How am I going to answer that letter I got?” With their attention focused on these kinds of questions, how can they expect to have any response as far as the Buddhadharma is concerned? But, they still haven’t awakened. They don’t say, “Ah, now I am studying the Buddhadharma, and I should put everything down and concentrate my attention on studying the Buddhadharma.” So, in the end they have no idea what I have been explaining. And sometimes, if they become aware of it, they say it is meaningless. That’s the kind of fault they have.

Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

Sutra:

“What do you think? Are these flavors produced from emptiness, do they come forth from the tongue, or are they produced from the food?

Commentary:

Ananda, what is your opinion about the flavors of these curds, buttermilk, and clarified butter which you say are supreme? What do you think? Are these flavors produced from emptiness? Does emptiness bring forth these defiling objects of flavors? Do they come forth from the tongue? Are these defiling objects of flavor produced from the organ of your tongue? Or are they produced from the food? Or is it that the defiling objects of flavor arise from the things eaten?

Q3 Discusses each and refutes all possibilities.
R1 Refutes the possibility that it comes from the tongue.

Sutra:

“Again, Ananda, suppose that the flavors came from your tongue; now there is only one tongue in your mouth. When that tongue had already become the flavor of curds, then it would not change if it encountered some dark rock candy.

Commentary:

Again, Ananda, what do you say this flavor is produced from? Is it produced from emptiness, is it produced from the tongue, or is it produced from the food? Tell me. Suppose that the flavors came from your tongue. You may say the organ of your tongue produces this flavor. Then when you ate something, say curds for example, the tongue would become the flavor of curds. Now, there is only one tongue in your mouth. When that tongue had already become the flavor of curds, then it would not change if it encountered some dark rock candy. Dark rock candy is made out of sugar cane, and it is as hard as a rock. It was probably an ancient method for making candy that created it. Your tongue has already changed to the flavor of curds, so when you eat candy it will not be sweet. Why? You only have one tongue, and so it will have only one flavor. You cannot change one tongue into so many flavors.

Sutra:

“Suppose it did not change: that would not be what is called knowing tastes. Suppose it did change: the tongue is not many substances, and how could one tongue know so many tastes?

Commentary:

Suppose it did not change. If, when you ate dark rock-candy, it did not change to sweet, that would not be what is called knowing tastes. Then your tongue would not be functioning as an organ that recognizes tastes. Suppose it did change. Suppose that when you ate curds, for instance, there was the flavor of curds, and when you ate candy the flavor changed to sweet. Now, the tongue is not many substances. There is only one tongue-organ. And how could one tongue know so many tastes? If flavors came from your one tongue, how could you recognize so many flavors? And yet you can; so this argument doesn’t hold.

R2 Refutes the possibility that it comes from flavor.

Sutra:

“Suppose it were produced from the food. The food does not have consciousness; how could it know tastes? Moreover, if the food itself were to recognize them, that would be the same as someone else eating. Then what connection would that have with what is called your recognition of tastes?

Commentary:

Suppose it were produced from the food. Suppose the flavor arose in the food. The food does not have consciousness. Edible things are devoid of awareness. They haven’t any consciousness. How could it know tastes? Since food hasn’t any awareness, any consciousness, how could it know tastes? Moreover, if the food itself were to recognize them - if it were the edible things that knew their own flavor - that would be the same as someone else eating. That would be the same as if it ate its own flavor. Then what connection would that have with what is called your recognition of tastes? How could that be called knowing the flavor of what one eats?

R3 Refutes the possibility that it comes from emptiness.

Sutra:

“Suppose it were produced in emptiness. When you eat emptiness, what flavor does it have? Suppose that emptiness had the flavor of salt. Then since your tongue was salty, your face would also be salty, and likewise everyone in the world would be like fish in the sea. Since you would be constantly influenced by salt, you would never know tastelessness. If you did not recognize tastelessness, you would not be aware of the saltiness, either. You would not know anything at all. How could that be what is called taste?

Commentary:

Suppose it were produced in emptiness. Perhaps you want to say that flavors are produced in emptiness. When you eat emptiness, what flavor does it have? Taste it. Take a bite of emptiness, and see what it tastes like. Suppose that emptiness had the flavor of salt. Say, for example, that emptiness tasted like salt. Then since your tongue was salty - since your tongue was turned salty by the salty flavor, your face would also be salty, and likewise everyone in the world would be like fish in the sea. If flavor arose in emptiness, it wouldn’t just be your tongue that it imparted its flavor to. If it made your tongue salty, it would also make your face salty. Your body, too, would be salty, and so would everyone else’s. If everyone’s body were salty, then the people of this world would become like fish in the sea. They would all take on the flavor of salt. Since you would be constantly influenced by salt - you should realize that if you were constantly soaked and drowned in saltiness, you would never know tastelessness. You wouldn’t know what was meant by tastelessness. If you did not recognize tastelessness, you would not be aware of the saltiness, either. Why not? If you were not aware of tastelessness, you wouldn’t know about flavors, and since you wouldn’t know flavors, you wouldn’t be aware of salt. You would not know anything at all. You basically wouldn’t recognize any flavor at all. How could that be what is called taste? Then why would you come up with a name and call it the defiling object of taste?

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that neither flavors nor the tongue’s tasting has a location; and, so the two places of tasting and flavor are empty and false. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know that neither flavors nor the tongue’s tasting has a location. They have no fixed place. And, so the two places of tasting and flavor are empty and false. Tasting and flavor - just to speak of these two places - are emptily and falsely produced and emptily and falsely extinguished. Their origin is not in causes and conditions - they are not created from causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. Nor are they created from spontaneity. They are a representation of the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury, and nothing more.

P5 The place of the body and touches.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss the organ and object.

Sutra:

Ananda, early every morning you rub your head with your hand.

Commentary:

Buddhist monks are supposed to rub their heads three times every morning, to see if they have any hair. If not, why not? Oh, they are monks. They are people who have left the home life. This practice was adopted because when Shakyamuni Buddha was in the world, the adherents of a lot of externalist sects took refuge with the Buddha. Afterward, the Buddha taught the monks to rub their own heads three times every day in order to help them remember that they were monks. Ananda was very attentive to the teachings, and so he faithfully put this instruction into practice every day at daybreak without fail. Ananda, early every morning you rub your head with your hand. You rub your monk’s head with your hand in order to help you remember why you haven’t any hair. It is done to teach people not to forget what they are all about. The Buddha asks Ananda about it in order to begin his explanation of the two places of the body and the defiling objects of touch - the ninth and tenth of the twelve places.

Q2 Questions whether the awareness of touch is dual.

Sutra:

“What do you think? When there is a sensation of the rubbing, where does the ability to make contact lie? Is the ability in the hands or is it in the head?

Commentary:

Where does the sensation of contact lie? Ananda, I’m asking you a question. When you rub your head, a sensation of contact arises. What do you think? When there is a sensation of the rubbing, where does the ability to make contact lie? Your hand is aware of the rubbing, and so is your head. Which is the one that is able to do the touching? Which is the one that is touched? Is the ability in the hands or is it in the head? Does the ability to make contact lie in the hands or in the head? Speak up.

Sutra:

“If it were in the hands, then the head would have no knowledge of it, and how could that be what is called touch? If it were in the head, then the hands would be useless, and how could that be what is called touch?

Commentary:

If it were in the hands, then the head would have no knowledge of it. If you say the touch lies in the hands, then the head would not know when you rubbed it. And how could that be what is called touch? If the head does not know, it cannot be a case of touch. If it were in the head, then the hands would be useless. If you say the power of touch lies in your head, then your hands would not be aware of any sensation. And how could that be what is called touch? Ananda, you explain it for me.

When the monks rub their heads three times, they recite a very meaningful verse, which I will recite for you.

Guard your mouth, collect your mind,
and do not commit transgressions with your body.
Do not bother any sentient being.
Stay far away from non-beneficial ascetic practices.
One who cultivates like this can save the world.

"Guard your mouth” means do not just say whatever you feel like. “Collect your mind” means keep your thoughts from wandering about. Don’t engage in false thinking. Don’t continually seek advantage from circumstances. “And do not commit transgressions with your body.” Make sure you don’t commit offenses with your body.

When the mouth is guarded, it is free of the four evils: it does not engage in abusive language, in lying, in profanity, or in gossip. With a collected mind, one has no greed, hatred, or stupidity. When no transgressions are committed with the body, one does not engage in killing, stealing, or sexual misconduct. Even thinking of such things is not permissible.

"Do not bother any sentient being.” Don’t cause any person or any living being whatever that you come in contact with to give rise to affliction. Don’t give living beings trouble. Even less should you bother the people you are cultivating with. Sometimes you unintentionally make a mistake and cause someone else to be upset. In such a case you should find an opportunity to explain yourself and not just let the problem escalate.

"Stay far away from non-beneficial ascetic practices.” These are bitter practices which are of no benefit, such as the way some people in India imitate the behavior of cows and dogs, sleep on beds of nails, or roll in ashes to cover their bodies with filth. What meaning is there in such practices? What aid is that in cultivating the Way? The filthier you are, the dirtier your mind is. When the outside gets dirty and you are always thinking about filth, your mind is also filthy. These are what are called “non-beneficial ascetic practices.” Do not engage in them. You should do things which are of benefit to people. Do not do things which are of no benefit to people. Stay far away from non-beneficial ascetic practices.

"One who cultivates like this can save the world.” “Like this” means that you do not bother any sentient being, do not engage in non-beneficial ascetic practices, and do not practice the dharmas of externalist sects.

What is meant by the dharmas of externalist sects?

Shakyamuni Buddha practiced the Middle Way. According to his method of cultivation, he taught his disciples to eat vegetarian food, not to eat meat. Or, if they ate meat, to eat the three kinds of pure meat:

  1. What I did not see killed. You did not see the animal being killed.
  2. What I did not hear killed. You did not hear the sounds of the slaughter.
  3. What was not killed for me. The pig or cow or sheep was not killed especially for me.


According to the Buddha’s teaching, it is permissible to eat these three kinds of pure meat if one’s body is not strong.

Thus, the Buddha taught his disciples to eat vegetarian food, and what do you suppose Devadatta did, with his deviant knowledge and deviant views? He thought, “Huh. You teach your disciples to eat vegetarian food, do you? I teach my disciples not to eat salt. They don’t even eat salt.” This practice also exists in Taoism, and is referred to as superior pure vegetarianism. Actually, it is not in accord with the Middle Way. But, that’s the way Devadatta did it. The Buddha taught his disciples to not eat after noon. In the morning they ate rice gruel and at noon they had a full meal. Every day they ate twice, although the Buddha himself ate only once a day, at noon. He did not eat in the morning, and he did not eat at night. What did Devadatta teach his disciples to do? He taught them to fast for a hundred days. “You eat once a day? I eat once every hundred days. See how much higher I am than you? You eat vegetarian food? I don’t even eat salt. I’m always a bit higher than you.” He constantly wanted to compete with the Buddha. He kept wanting to pit his dharmas against the Buddha’s, and he always said that the Buddha could not compare with him. So Devadatta provoked King Ajatashatru into killing his father and mother and then told Ajatashatru to become the new king, saying that he himself would become the new Buddha, that Shakyamuni Buddha was the old, decrepit Buddha - Devadatta wanted to overthrow the Buddha so he could become the new Buddha. But, in the end he messed things up so badly that he fell alive into the hells. He just took his flesh body right along with him to hell. He was intent upon doing things differently from the Buddha, different from the way it is done in Buddhism. This is how externalist sects are. You could also say that Devadatta was battling to be number one. He wanted to be first. He wanted this and wanted that - and in the end his retribution was to fall into the hells! So it is useless to cultivate non-beneficial ascetic practices.

The ancients said about eating meat:

The pots of stew simmered
during hundreds of thousands of years,
Have brewed oceans of deep resentment
into hatred that’s hard to contain.
If you want to know the reason
for the disaster of weapons and troops,
Try listening at the door of a slaughterhouse
to the haunting midnight cries.
"The pots of stew simmered during hundreds of thousands of years,” refers to the meat broths and meat soups which people have been cooking day in and day out for hundreds of millennia.

The pots, “Have brewed oceans of deep resentment into hatred that’s hard to contain”. Resentment as vast as the sea is contained in those pots of beef stew. Such hate and resentment cannot be smoothed over. “If you want to know the reason for the disaster of weapons and troops.” In the past, only hand weapons were used in battle. It was not like the present, when rockets, bombs, and guns make it possible to strike from long range. Before, soldiers engaged in hand to hand combat. The way it is nowadays is much more vicious. If you want to know why there are wars in the world, “Try listening at the door of a slaughterhouse to the haunting midnight cries.” Go to a slaughterhouse at night - go to a place where cows, pigs, and sheep are killed and listen to the sounds. What do you hear at midnight at a slaughterhouse? Nowadays, slaughterhouses are usually located far away from populated areas, and so the sounds are not easy to hear. But, we can think about it. People have killed so many living creatures! And, as those creatures are reborn as people, they will want to get revenge. That is why day by day the resentment deepens, day by day the resentment grows. There is no way to resolve it. It has reached the point that the cycle doesn’t even wait for those who have killed to die and become animals before the revenge is taken, people have simply taken to killing off their own kind. You kill me, and I kill you. You killed me in a past life, so now I am going to kill you. The disaster of weapons and troops is based on killing, and nothing else. That is why Buddhism explains that we must refrain from killing. Instead, we should liberate life and take the precepts.

If one person refrains from killing, the world has that much less violent energy in it - that much less evil influence. If ten people do not kill, then there are ten spots of auspicious energy in the world. Those spots are devoid of negative influences and contain only positive ones. As with a single person, so with the entire world. If you are murderous and kill living beings, then living beings will not have any good feelings toward you. If you are kind to living beings, then the living beings will be good to you. Thus, there is a definite connection between the human realm and the realm of animals.

Time prohibits me from going into detail about this matter of refraining from killing, liberating life, and protecting the precepts. I could easily speak for three months on that topic alone. In fact, in three years I couldn’t exhaust the subject. But, I won’t say any more now. I’ll continue with the sutra text.

Sutra:

“If each had it, then you, Ananda, would have two bodies.

Commentary:

If each had it - if you propose that both your hand and your head have the ability to make contact, so that there is touch in both places - then you, Ananda, would have two bodies. You would have two bodies, because you would have two sensations of touch.

Q3 Questions whether the sensation of touch is singular.

Sutra:

“If there were only one touch in the head and the hand, then the hand and the head would be of one substance. If they were one substance, then no touch would be possible.

Commentary:

If there were only one touch in the head and the hand - you proposed before that there were two powers of touch, one in the head and one in the hand; now you propose that there is only one power to touch - only one contact - not two. But, then the hand and the head would be of one substance. They would be one. If they were, there would be no sensation of contact. If they were one substance, then no touch would be possible. If there is only one touch in the head and the hand, how can touch be experienced? Do you see how this principle is being explained? - wonderful to the ultimate point.

Sutra:

“If they were two substances, to which would the touch belong? The one which was capable of touch would not be the one that was touched. The one that was touched would not be the one that was capable of touch. Nor should it be that the touch came into being between you and emptiness.

Commentary:

If they were two substances, to which would the touch belong? The Buddha has just shown that a single substance cannot be said to experience touch. “If, then, you propose that the head and hand are two substances, making two kinds of touch, in which one does the touch reside? The actual sensation of touch should lie in one of them. Which one is it? It is clear that one will be capable of touch, and the other will be the thing touched. The one which was capable of touch would not be the one that was touched. The one that was touched would not be the one that was capable of touch. You cannot say that they are both capable of initiating the sensation of touch. For instance, I am now touching this table. Basically the table hasn’t any awareness; but my hand is the one that is capable of touch; while the table is the one that is touched. In the case of the hand and the head, though, which would be which? The one that was touched would not be the one capable of touch. The one that was capable of touch would not be the one that was touched. So, then, which would you say touched which? Would the hand touch the head, or would the head touch the hand? Speak up! Nor should it be that the touch came into being between you and emptiness, since empty space is basically nothing at all.”

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that neither the sensation of touch nor the body has a location. And so the two places of the body and touch are empty and false. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know - because of the various principles that I have just explained, you ought to know that neither the sensation of touch nor the body - neither the existence of a reaction to touch nor the body - has a location. The sensation of touch does not have a fixed place. You cannot say for certain what it is like. And so the two places of the body and touch - the place of the body and the place of touch - are empty and false. They are not actual. Don’t become attached to the objects of touch. Don’t get attached and think, “So and so is the fairest of the fair,” and give rise to greed and attachment. It’s empty and false, so what are you doing getting attached to it?

Their origin is not in causes and conditions. The awareness of touch is not produced from causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. Nor are they spontaneously produced from within emptiness. They flow forth from the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury. But, they are empty and false just the same. Don’t become attached to them. You should return to your origin and return to your own treasury of the Thus Come One. Put down those false characteristics, and return to your genuine basic nature.

P6 The place of the mind and dharmas.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss the organ and object.

Sutra:

Ananda, your mind is always conditioned by three qualities - good, bad, and indeterminate - which produce patterns of dharmas.

Commentary:

Now I will explain the doctrine of how the mind creates conditions for the defiling objects of dharmas. Ananda, your mind is always conditioned by three qualities. There are conditions continually in your mind. What is meant here is seizing upon conditions. The most important thing that those who cultivate the Way must avoid is to seize upon conditions. Once the mind begins to seize upon conditions, obstructions are created. The sixth consciousness, the mind consciousness, goes haywire and its whole outlook becomes caught up in seizing upon conditions. Then it is not at all easy to cultivate the Way. No matter how many good deeds you accomplish, they are all phony if you accomplish them with an attitude of seizing upon conditions. It is also phony if you take living beings across - no matter how many - with a mind that seizes upon conditions.

Ananda, in your mind there are always conditions, good, bad, and indeterminate. The “good” refers to all wholesome dharmas. The “evil” refers to unwholesome dharmas. “Indeterminate” refers to that which is neither good nor bad. There exist these three natures which produce patterns of dharmas. This refers to the ordinary reaction to the defiling objects of dharmas, not to Buddhadharma. “Patterns” means that fixed patterns emerge among the defiling objects, dharmas.

Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

Sutra:

“Are these dharmas produced by the mind, or do they have a special place apart from the mind?

Commentary:

Would you say that the dharmas that the mind creates conditions for are produced right there in the mind? Are these dharmas produced by the mind, or do they have a special place apart from the mind? The “mind” here is the sixth mind consciousness. “Do they have a place apart from the sixth mind consciousness? Express your views on this. Speak up, Ananda.”

Now, Ananda does not chart the heights and fathom the depths. Ananda doesn’t dare to guess at the state of the Buddha. He doesn’t answer the Buddha’s question, so the Buddha calls to him again to make sure that he is paying attention. If Ananda were dozing off, the Buddha would be speaking in vain. So, he calls out to jar Ananda out of his dreams.

Q3 Cites dharmas to debate their falseness.
R1 Refutes that they are produced because of the mind.

Sutra:

Ananda, if they were the mind, the dharmas would not be its defiling objects. Since they would not be conditions of the mind, how could you say that they had a location?

Commentary:

Ananda, if they were the mind - if you propose that dharmas are simply produced from the mind, that they are the sixth mind consciousness - then the dharmas would not be its defiling objects. Then the dharmas your mind gives rise to would not be the defiling objects of the mind.

Since they would not be conditions of the mind - what your mind seizes upon are the states of defiling objects. However, according to your argument these dharmas are not defiling objects; in that case, your mind would not be able to seize upon them. Then, how could you say that they had a location? Since there would be no conditions for them in the mind, how could they have a location? So, the dharmas the mind seizes upon have no location.

R2 Refutes that they exist apart from the mind.

Sutra:

"Suppose they were to have a special place apart from the mind: then would the dharmas themselves be able to know?

Commentary:

Suppose they were to have a special place apart from the mind. They would be in another place. But, if they were in another place, then would the dharmas themselves be able to know? Is the nature of the dharmas such that they know they are dharmas? Speak up!

Sutra:

“If they were to have a sense of knowing, they would be called a mind. If they were something other than you, they would be someone else’s mind, since they are not defiling objects. If they were the same as you, they would be your own mind. But, how could your mind stand apart from you?

Commentary:

If they were to have a sense of knowing, they would be called a mind. Suppose you say that dharmas know - that they have knowing awareness; but what has knowing awareness is called the mind. If they were something other than you, they would be someone else’s mind, since they are not defiling objects. “Something other than you” means that they would be separate from you. They would be apart from you. But, according to your argument, they are not defiling objects, either, because they have knowing awareness. If they were apart from you and had knowing awareness, they would be someone else’s mind. If they were the same as you, they would be your own mind - perhaps you insist that what is apart from you and yet has knowing awareness is actually your mind. But, how could your mind stand apart from you? If you explain it by saying that they are not someone else’s mind but are actually your own, why aren’t they one with you? If they have knowledge, then they are the mind; but, how can your mind and you be two different things?

Sutra:

“Suppose they were to have no sense of knowing; yet these defiling objects are not forms, sounds, smells, or tastes; they are neither cold nor warmth, nor the characteristic of emptiness. Where would they be located?

Commentary:

Suppose they were to have no sense of knowing. If you agree with the principle I have just explained, you will say they do not know. Yet these defiling objects are not forms, sounds, smells, or tastes. They differ from the realms of the five defiling objects discussed above - form, sounds, smells, tastes, and objects of touch. What the Buddha is discussing now are the dharmas - defiling objects which haven’t any form, nor any sound, nor any smell, nor any taste. They are neither cold nor warmth. Nor do they have the awareness of touch which knows separation, unity, cold and warmth. Nor the characteristic of emptiness. Nor do they have the characteristic of emptiness. Where would they be located? Then, where would you say the dharmas reside? This is what the Buddha asks Ananda, but now Ananda does not dare answer.

Sutra:

“We have established that they are represented in neither form nor emptiness; nor is it likely that they exist somewhere in the human realm beyond emptiness, for if they did, the mind could not be aware of them. Whence, then, would they arise?

Commentary:

We have established that they are represented in neither form nor emptiness. In the two kinds of defiling objects of form and emptiness, there is no representation of them. Nor is it likely that they exist somewhere in the human realm beyond emptiness. It cannot be that the dharmas exist somewhere beyond emptiness. For if they did, the mind could not be aware of them. Since the mind is not the dharmas which it creates conditions for, whence, then, would they arise? Where are dharmas established? Who establishes them?

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that neither dharmas nor the mind has a location. And, so the two places of mind and dharmas are empty and false. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

Therefore because of this, Ananda - you should know that neither dharmas nor the mind has a location. These two have no place that can be found, either. And, so the two places of mind and dharmas are empty and false. In the doctrine of the mind conditioning dharmas, both places are empty and false. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. They are an illusory falseness which arises from within the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One.

CHAPTER 5: The Eighteen Realms

N4 The eighteen realms are the treasury of the Thus Come One.
O1 General statement.
Sutra:

“Moreover, Ananda, why do I say that the eighteen realms are basically the wonderful nature of true suchness, the treasury of the Thus Come One?

Commentary:

Shakyamuni Buddha said to Ananda, “How is it that the eighteen realms are basically the wonderful nature of true suchness, the treasury of the Thus Come One?”

What are the eighteen realms? They are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind - that makes six - together with forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas, the six defiling objects, which are six more realms. To them are added the six consciousnesses: the eye consciousness, the ear consciousness, the nose consciousness, the tongue consciousness, the body consciousness, and the mind consciousness. These three groups of six are the eighteen realms. The six sense organs are matched to the six defiling objects, and between them are produced the six consciousnesses. The consciousnesses are defined as that which makes distinctions. The sense organs are defined as that which grows, in that they are grown on our bodies. The defiling objects are defined by their quality of defilement. They are unclean, and they defile the nature of the six organs. When the six organs are matched with the six defiling objects, consciousnesses arise. The eyes see forms and make distinctions among them as being attractive or unattractive. They like the forms or they do not, and thus give rise to discriminations. With the ears it is the same: they hear sounds as pleasing or displeasing. Either they like a sound or they do not like it. The production of such distinctions is called the ear consciousness. The nose smells fragrance and stench. The two defiling objects of fragrance and stench are distinguished as such. You may like some odors and dislike others, and in this way you give rise to a nose consciousness. The tongue distinguishes flavors. Because the organ of the tongue is matched to the defiling objects of flavors, there is the discrimination of flavor. Flavors are either pleasant or disgusting - you either like them or you don’t. The body organ is matched with defiling objects of touch - smooth or abrasive, coarse or fine, various kinds of sensations, either pleasant or unpleasant. The body organ matched with the defiling objects of touch produces a consciousness which discriminates these sensations.

The organ of the mind is matched with the defiling objects of dharmas. The five defiling objects just discussed - forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and objects of touch - all have form and appearance. Only the defiling objects of dharmas are without form or appearance. There is no representation of them. Nonetheless, when the organ of the mind is matched with the defiling objects of dharmas, discrimination is produced in the mind, and so the mind also has a consciousness. In this way the six organs matched with the six defiling objects produce the six consciousnesses, and together they make up the eighteen realms. Although they are divided into eighteen realms, they are entirely contained within the wonderful nature of true suchness of the treasury of the Thus Come One.

O2 Specific explanation.
P1 The realm of eye, form, and consciousness.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss organ, object, and consciousness.

Sutra:

Ananda, as you understand it, the eyes and form create the conditions that produce the eye consciousness.

Commentary:

Ananda, as you understand it - Ananda, it is like the principle which you have already understood - the eyes and form create the conditions that produce the eye consciousness. The organ of the eye matched with the defiling object of form are the conditions.

Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

Sutra:

“Is the consciousness produced because of the eyes, such that the eyes are its realm? Or is it produced because of form, such that form is its realm?

Commentary:

As to this consciousness which is produced when the six organs match up with the six defiling objects: is the consciousness produced because of the eyes, such that the eyes are its realm? Is it because of the eyes that the consciousness is produced, and does it take the eyes as its boundaries? Or is it produced because of form, such that form is its realm? Is it because of the defiling objects of form that the eye consciousness is produced, and does it take the defiling objects of form as its boundary?

Q3 Discusses them separately and together and refutes all possibilities.
R1 Refutes that it comes from the eyes.

Sutra:

Ananda, if it were produced because of the eyes, then in the absence of emptiness and form it would not be able to make distinctions; and, so even if you had a consciousness, what use would it be?

Commentary:

Ananda, if it were produced because of the eyes - Ananda, if it were because of the eyes that the eye-consciousness was produced, then it would have no connection with form and emptiness. Thus, the causes and conditions of form and emptiness would be non existent with regard to the eye-consciousness. In the absence of emptiness and form it would not be able to make distinctions. If there were no form and no emptiness, there would not be anything which was distinguished, either. This is because you have to be facing form for a distinction to be made. Or, if you are facing emptiness, a distinction can also be made. But, what you propose here is that there isn’t any form or any emptiness. Then, what distinctions can be made? There isn’t anything you can discriminate. So even if you had a consciousness, what use would it be? Just suppose you did have a consciousness; how could you use it? It would be useless.

Sutra:

“Moreover, your seeing is neither green, yellow, red, nor white. There is virtually nothing in which it is represented, therefore, what is the realm established from?

Commentary:

Your seeing means your vision. Your eyes see forms and are able to produce a consciousness. Your seeing, which is capable of vision is neither green, yellow, red, nor white. It is not of those colors. There is virtually nothing in which it is represented, therefore, what is the realm established from? Where do you set up the realm?

R2 Refutes that it is produced from form.

Sutra:

“Suppose it were produced because of form. In emptiness, when there was no form, your consciousness would be extinguished. Then, why is it that the consciousness knows the nature of emptiness?

Commentary:

Suppose it were produced because of form. If you want to say, “Ah, the eye consciousness is produced because of the defiling objects of form.” In emptiness, when there was no form, your consciousness would be extinguished. When there were no forms in emptiness and there was nothing for you to discriminate, your consciousness would be extinguished. If the eye consciousness is based on form, then when there are no forms to see, your eye consciousness should disappear. Why is it that the consciousness knows the nature of emptiness? How, then, do you know that it is emptiness? Since you are able to know that it is the nature of emptiness, your consciousness has clearly not disappeared. You still have it. Therefore, it is not based on form. So, where does your consciousness come from?

Sutra:

“Suppose a form changes. You are also conscious of the changing appearance; but your eye consciousness does not change. Where is the boundary established?

Commentary:

You say that it is because of form that the eye-consciousness is produced. Suppose a form changes. You are also conscious of the changing appearance. You know that the appearance of the form is changing. But your eye consciousness does not change. But, your eye consciousness hasn’t changed. Where is the boundary established? If it were produced from the form, your consciousness would change when the form changes. But it does not. So, where is the realm of the consciousness established? If consciousness were produced from form, the realm would be established at the place of the form. But, when the form changes, your consciousness does not chase off after the form and change along with it. Ultimately, where is the realm of your consciousness?

Sutra:

“If the eye consciousness were to change when form changed, then there would be no appearance of a realm. If it were not to change, it would be constant, and given that it was produced from form, it should have no conscious knowledge of where there was emptiness.

Commentary:

If the eye consciousness were to change when form changed. The way it was stated above was that the eye-consciousness does not change. If you say that it does change when it encounters changes in form, then there would be no appearance of a realm. Then there would be no realm. It would be constantly changing. If it were not to change, it would be constant. If it does not go along with the changes, it is there eternally. And given that it was produced from form - since it has been said that the consciousness is produced from form - it should have no conscious knowledge of where there was emptiness. If the consciousness were produced from something with characteristics and an appearance, it would not know where emptiness is, because its realm would lie within form. Belonging with things that have a material nature, it would be a kind of consciousness which would not know of emptiness.

R3 Refutes that it arises from a combination of the two.

Sutra:

“Suppose the eye consciousness arose both from the eyes and from form. If they were united, there would still be a point of separation. If they were separate, there would still be a point of contact. Hence, the substance and nature would be chaotic and disorderly; how could a realm be set up?

Commentary:

Suppose the eye consciousness arose both from the eyes and from form. Suppose the organ of the eye, matched with the defiling objects of form, and they produced it together. If they were united, there would still be a point of separation. If the two together produced the consciousness, then when the two were joined, there would certainly be a boundary between them, because they would not be a single entity. You propose that the eye produces the eye consciousness and the defiling objects of form also produce it. The defiling objects of form have no knowledge, while the eye organ has a knowing awareness. What the form produces will be without awareness; what the eye organ produces will have a knowing awareness. When something that has knowing awareness unites with something that lacks it, their dissimilarity means that there certainly will be a boundary between them. There will still be a point of separation.

If they were separate, there would still be a point of contact. If they are separate, half is the sense organ and half is the defiling object. One half has knowing awareness, and the other half lacks it. It is a combination of two things. Hence, the substance and nature would be chaotic and disorderly; how could a realm be set up? If it is explained this way, the substance and nature are scattered, and there can be no organization. Therefore, if in its basic substance it cannot be distinguished clearly, how can this realm of consciousness exist? The realm cannot be established.

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that as to the eyes and form being the conditions that produce the realm of eye-consciousness, none of the three places exists. Thus, the three aspects of the eyes, form, and the form realm do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know - because of this, Ananda - that as to the eyes and form being the conditions - the joining together of the eye organ and the defiling objects of form - that produce the realm of eye-consciousness, none of the three places exists. If you pursue this doctrine in detail, you will see that none of the three places has a location. Thus, the three aspects of the eyes, form, and the form realm - the organ of the eye, the form dust, and the eye consciousness - do not have their origin in causes and conditions. At their basis, they are not produced from causes and conditions. Nor do their natures arise spontaneously. They are a representation of the nature of true suchness of the treasury of the Thus Come One.

P2 The realm of ear, sound, and consciousness.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss organ, object, and consciousness.

Sutra:

“Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it, the ear and sound create the conditions that produce the ear consciousness.

Commentary:

Ananda, as you ordinarily conceive of it, as you understand it, the ear and sound create the conditions that produce the ear consciousness. The organ of the ear hears the defiling objects of sound and together they give rise to causes and conditions. The ear consciousness is then produced. With the ear comes the production of a nature which makes discriminations, which is the ear consciousness.

Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

Sutra:

“Is this consciousness produced because of the ear such that the ear is its realm, or is it produced because of sound, such that sound is its realm?

Commentary:

Is this consciousness produced because of the ear such that the ear is its realm? What do you say? Is this consciousness called the ear consciousness because it is produced by the ear? Or is it produced because of sound, such that sound is its realm? Or is it produced because of sound, taking the defiling objects of sound to make up its realm? What do you say its realm is? The Buddha challenges Ananda to understand his meaning, but Ananda doesn’t have anything to say. The more the doctrine is explained, the more he feels he doesn’t understand. So, once again he doesn’t dare to speak. Shakyamuni Buddha continues:

Q3 Discusses them separately and together and rejects all possibilities.
R1 Refutes that it comes from the ear.

Sutra:

Ananda, suppose the ear consciousness were produced because of the ear. The organ of hearing would have no awareness in the absence of both movement and stillness. Thus, nothing would be known by it. Since the organ would lack awareness, what would characterize the consciousness?

Commentary:

Ananda, suppose the ear consciousness were produced because of the ear. Suppose you say that the ear consciousness was produced because of the ear. Yet, the two characteristics of movement and stillness must be present, perhaps one, perhaps the other. So, the organ of hearing would have no awareness in the absence of both movement and stillness. When the characteristic of neither movement nor stillness appeared, the ear by itself would not be aware of anything. By itself it would have no knowing awareness. Thus, nothing would be known by it. The ear definitely would not know of the existence of the defiling objects of sound. If the two characteristics of movement and stillness did not exist, there would be no sound, and without any sound, obviously nothing would be known. Since the organ would lack awareness - since it would not be able to know - what would characterize the consciousness? Where would your consciousness come from? What would the consciousness be like? This consciousness does not exist either.

Sutra:

“You may hold that the ears hear, but when there is no movement and stillness, hearing cannot occur. How, then, could the ears, which are but physical forms, unite with external objects to be called the realm of consciousness? Once again, therefore, how would the realm of consciousness be established?

Commentary:

You may hold that the ears hear. Suppose you say that the ear consciousness is not produced because of the ear, but rather that the ear has a nature of hearing and that, therefore, the consciousness is produced from within the nature of hearing. But when there is no movement and stillness, hearing cannot occur. If there isn’t any sound of movement or of stillness, then you don’t hear anything. Since you do not hear anything, hearing is not accomplished. You cannot call it hearing. How, then, could the ears, which are but physical forms, unite with external objects to be called the realm of consciousness? You can consider the ear to be among the defiling objects of form, and so how can they combine with external objects, which are also form, to produce a realm? This cannot be. Once again, therefore, how would the realm of consciousness be established? Then where, ultimately, would the realm of the ear consciousness come from? Would it be established with the ear or with the defiling objects of sound? It certainly should come from one or the other. Which one?

Sutra:

“Suppose it was produced from sound. If the consciousness existed because of sound, then it would have no connection with hearing. Without hearing, then the characteristic of sound would have no location.

Commentary:

Suppose you were to say that the realm of the ear-consciousness was produced from sound. If the consciousness existed because of sound - if the sound brings about the realm of the ear consciousness - then it would have no connection with hearing. Without hearing, then the characteristic of sound would have no location. If there isn’t any hearing, then there isn’t any sound, and without sound the consciousness would be absent. When the nature of hearing is gone, the characteristic of sound is gone, too. Without any hearing, how can there be a consciousness, a hearing nature?

R2 Refutes that it is produced from the sound.

Sutra:

“Suppose consciousness existed because of sound. Given that sound exists because of hearing, which causes the characteristic of sound to manifest, then you should also hear the hearing consciousness.

Commentary:

Suppose consciousness existed because of sound. Suppose that the consciousness is produced from sound. Perhaps you want to say that the ear consciousness arises from sound. Given that sound exists because of hearing, which causes the characteristic of sound to manifest - we can say that sound exists because of the hearing nature; that is how the characteristic of sound arises. But, if that is the case, then you should also hear the hearing consciousness. The hearing should hear what its own consciousness sounds like. You say that the consciousness is produced from sound, that without any sound there wouldn’t be any consciousness; then, because you hear sound, you should also hear the consciousness.

Sutra:

“If the hearing consciousness is not heard, there is no realm. If it is heard, then it is the same as sound. If the consciousness itself is heard, who is it that perceives and hears the consciousness? If there is no perceiver, then in the end you would be like grass or wood.

Commentary:

If the hearing consciousness is not heard, there is no realm. If it is not heard, there is no realm. If the consciousness is produced because of sound, then there can be the consciousness when there is sound. When there is no sound there isn’t any consciousness. When you hear the sound, you should hear the consciousness, and, by the same token, when the consciousness is not heard there will be no realm. If it is heard, then it is the same as sound. What is heard is sound. What you can hear cannot be called a consciousness; it is a sound. If the consciousness itself is heard, who is it that perceives and hears the consciousness? The hearing consciousness has the ability to know. But, if the hearing consciousness has already been heard, whose consciousness heard it? Someone else’s? Whose consciousness perceived the consciousness? Who is it who knew: “Oh, now I am hearing the consciousness.” If there is no perceiver - if you say no one perceives it, that there is no other consciousness which knows the circumstances of the hearing consciousness, then in the end you would be like grass or wood. If the hearing lacked perception, then you would be like grass and trees. So, this proposition will not stand.

R3 Refutes that it arises from a combination of the two.

Sutra:

“Nor is it likely that the sound and hearing mix together to form a realm in between. Since a realm in between could not be established, how could the internal and external characteristics be delineated?

Commentary:

Nor is it likely that the sound and hearing mix together to form a realm in between. Nor can you say that sound and the hearing of sound mix together haphazardly, without their being distinguished at all clearly. In that way the boundaries of the realm would be unclear, because things incongruous cannot be clearly marked to form an intermediate realm. Since a realm in between could not be established - thus, if there is no clear indication of the position of the realm, how could the internal and external characteristics be delineated? The inside, outside, and middle of the ear consciousness realm are not delineated - the boundaries between the ear, the sound, and the point between them are not established anywhere. So, the consciousness can have no realm.

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that as to the ear and sound creating the conditions which produce the realm of the ear consciousness, none of the three places exists. Thus, the three aspects of the ear, sound, and sound consciousness do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

Therefore, because of this, you should know, Ananda, that as to the ear and sound creating the conditions - the mutual causes and conditions of the ear and sound - which produce the realm of the ear consciousness, none of the three places exists. The realm of the ear consciousness, the realm of the ear organ, and the realm of the defiling objects of sound are all non existent; they have no fixed location. Thus, the three aspects of the ear, sound, and sound consciousness - the realms of the ear organ, of the defiling objects of sound, and of the consciousness of the existence of sound - these three realms - do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. They, too, are nothing but representations from the wonderful nature of true suchness of the treasury of the Thus Come One.

P3 The realm of nose, smell, and consciousness.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss the organ, object, and consciousness.

Sutra:

"Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it, the nose and smells create the conditions that produce the nose-consciousness.

Commentary:

Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it. You have heard this teaching of the provisional vehicle before. The provisional vehicle discusses the five skandhas, the six entrances, the twelve places, and the eighteen realms. You understand all these doctrines. But, the eighteen realms were then described as expedient dharma doors for those of the two vehicles and those of externalist sects, in order to take them across. Now I am going to discuss this doctrine with you in more detail. Don’t become attached to these defiling objects of dharma.

The nose and smells create the conditions that produce the nose-consciousness. The nose and smells together give rise to causes and conditions, which are that the nose smells a smell, and the smell comes to the organ of the nose. They together produce the conditions that give rise to the nose consciousness. When it does arise, where would you say it comes from in the last analysis? Ultimately, is there such an entity as a nose consciousness?

Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

Sutra:

“Is this consciousness produced because of the nose, such that the nose is its realm? Or, is it produced because of smells, such that smells are its realm?

Commentary:

Is this consciousness produced because of the nose? Would you say the nose consciousness was produced because of the nose organ, such that the nose is its realm? Or, is it produced because of smells, such that smells are its realm? What is the location of the realm of the nose consciousness?

Q3 Discusses them separately and together and refutes them all.
R1 Refutes that it is produced from the nose.

Sutra:

“Suppose, Ananda, that the nose consciousness were produced because of the nose, then in your mind, what do you take to be the nose? Do you hold that it takes the form of two fleshy claws, or do you hold it is an inherent ability of the nature which perceives smells as a result of movement?

Commentary:

Suppose, Ananda, that the nose consciousness were produced because of the nose. Suppose it were the nose organ that produced the consciousness which lies between the nose organ and the defiling objects of smells. Then in your mind, what do you take to be the nose? In that case, what do you consider to be your nose, when you think about it?

Basically a nose is a nose, and yet the Buddha still asks him what he takes to be his nose. Probably the Buddha was trying to get Ananda to say he took his eyes for his nose or his ears for his nose, but Ananda still did not understand this doctrine.

Do you hold that it takes the form of two fleshy claws? Do you hold that the nose is that piece of flesh which looks like two claws? Or do you hold it is an inherent ability of the nature which perceives smells as a result of movement? Or do you hold it is the awareness of smell, the ability to smell? When there is awareness of smells there is movement sniffing. Do you take this nature to be the nose?

Sutra:

“Suppose you hold that it is fleshy claws which form an integral part of your body. Since the body’s perception is touch, the sense organ of smelling would be named ‘body’ instead of ‘nose,’ and the objects of smelling would be objects of touch. Since it would not even have the namenose,’ how could a realm be established for it?

Commentary:

The Buddha said further to Ananda: Suppose you hold that it is fleshy claws. Suppose you consider the nose consciousness to have the nature of flesh - which form an integral part of your body. Things which are flesh are part of the human body. Since the body’s perception is touch - what the body is aware of is called touch; it is not called the nose consciousness - the sense organ of smelling would be named “body” instead of “nose,” and the objects of smelling would be objects of touch. What has the nature of flesh is the body and what the body is aware of is the defiling object of touch. Since it would not even have the namenose,” how could a realm be established for it? In this case, there wouldn’t be anything with the namenose consciousness.” Without even the namenose,” how could you establish a realm for it?

The Buddha isn’t being logical. We all know that we have noses. Now he’s caused Ananda’s nose to disappear. Ultimately, do people’s nostrils point up or down? The Buddha didn’t ask Ananda that, but now I am asking you who are studying the Shurangama Sutra: Do you all know whether your nostrils point up or down? If you can answer that question, you will pass your monthly examination.

Sutra:

“Suppose you held that the nose was the perceiver of smells. Then, in your mind, what is it that perceives? Suppose it were the flesh that perceived. Basically, what the flesh perceives is objects of touch, which have nothing to do with the nose.

Commentary:

Suppose you held that the nose was the perceiver of smells. Suppose you consider the perception of smells, that kind of knowing awareness, to be your nose consciousness. Then, in your mind, what is it that perceives? What do you take to be the perceiver? Suppose it were the flesh that perceived. Do you say that you perceive smells with your flesh? Basically, what the flesh perceives is objects of touch, which have nothing to do with the nose. What the flesh is aware of is called objects of touch. So, it can’t be called the nose.

Sutra:

“Suppose it were emptiness that perceived. Then emptiness would itself be the perceiver, and the flesh would have no awareness. Thus, empty space would be you, and since your body would be without perception, Ananda would not exist.

Commentary:

Ananda, suppose it were emptiness that perceived. The emptiness that the Buddha is referring to is the emptiness close to the nostrils. He proposes that the nose-consciousness exists at the place where the nostrils and the emptiness come together. Then emptiness would itself be the perceiver, and the flesh would have no awareness. If you took the emptiness to be the nose consciousness, which does the perceiving, then emptiness would know itself, while your flesh would have no awareness. Thus, empty space would be you. If you say that the consciousness is produced from emptiness, then emptiness would be your body, Ananda. Why? Because your consciousness would be in the emptiness in front of your nostrils. This emptiness would have self-awareness. If you don’t share this awareness, then it doesn’t have anything to do with you. But, if you do share it, if you know that it is a consciousness that makes distinctions, then your body would be emptiness along with it. Since your body would be without perception, Ananda would not exist. In that case, you, Ananda, would not even have a place to stand. There wouldn’t be any place for you, because, after all, you are emptiness.

Sutra:

“If it is the smell that perceives, perception itself would lie with the smell. What would that have to do with you?

Commentary:

If it is the smell that perceives - if you say that your nose consciousness comes from the defiling object of smells, perception itself would lie with the smell. If it were the smell that produced the perception, then the consciousness would belong to the smell and not to you. So, what would that have to do with you? It wouldn’t have anything to do with you.

Sutra:

“If it is certain that vapors of fragrance and stench are produced from your nose, then the two flowing vapors of fragrance and stench would not arise from the wood of airavana or chandana. Given that the smell does not come from these two things, when you smell your own nose, is it fragrant, or does it stink? What stinks does not give off fragrance; what is fragrant does not stink.

Commentary:

The word for “stench” in Chinese is pronounced xiu or chou. Basically, it should be pronounced chou here, but when people hear that word they immediately get a bad impression, so here we will pronounce it xiu. If it is certain that vapors of fragrance and stench are produced from your nose - you say that pleasant and unpleasant smells are produced from your nose - then the two flowing vapors of fragrance and stench - that is, the fragrant scent and the unpleasant smell - would not arise from the wood of airavana or chandana. In this case, the stench would not be produced from the airavana, which is a kind of tree with an extremely bad smell.

How bad does it smell?

The wood puts forth a stench like that of a three-to-five-week-old corpse which is decaying under the blazing sun and can be smelled for a long way off. The red flowers of the airavana are very beautiful but very poisonous, and if someone were to eat one of them, that person would immediately die. Chandana has been discussed before. It is also called oxhead chandana, and it comes from Uttarakuru, the northern continent. As soon as the fragrant chandana wood is lit, it can be smelled for thirteen miles. Sometimes the airavana grows near the chandana, and when this happens the airavana doesn’t stink. This is an example of the ultimate stench becoming fragrance, and the ultimate fragrance becoming stench. The same is true of people. Places where there are only bad people have a kind of stench - everyone smells bad. But, perhaps there is a good person among them who exerts his influence and changes them all into good people; his presence is like the fragrance of chandana wood. When a thing reaches the furthest point there will certainly be change.

When stagnation reaches its furthest point,
peace comes along.
When something is as bad as it can get, it gets better. And, when things are as good as they can get, they go bad. For example, in this world, scientific progress has now led to a lot of discoveries, but when the discoveries reach their furthest point, the world will be destroyed. And, afterward, people will be totally ignorant. Then, after a time of ignorance, they will begin to discover things again, and when they discover a lot of things again, the world will be destroyed again. That’s how this world is. It goes in cycles.

Given that the smell does not come from these two things - if airavana and chandana do not give off vapors - when you smell your own nose, is it fragrant, or does it stink? What stinks does not give off fragrance; what is fragrant does not stink. If the smell is not good, then it is not fragrant. If it is a good smell, then it does not stink.

Sutra:

“Suppose you say you can smell both the fragrance and the stench; then you, one person, would have two noses, and I would now be addressing questions to two Anandas. Which one is you?

Commentary:

Suppose you say you can smell both the fragrance and the stench - if you say that you yourself can smell and that what you smell is both fragrant and stinking, then you, one person, would have two noses. Why? Didn’t the Buddha just say that what is fragrant does not stink, and what stinks is not fragrant? If you say you smell both smells, and if you say that smells are produced from the nose, then you should have two noses. How could your one nose smell two scents? And I would now be addressing questions to two Anandas. After all, there are two noses, so there should be two Anandas whom I am questioning about the Buddhadharma. Which one is you? Which is your body?

Sutra:

“Suppose there is one nose; then fragrance and stench would not be two. Since stench would be fragrance and fragrance would become stench, there would not be two natures, thus what would make up the realm?

Commentary:

Suppose there is one nose. Perhaps you insist that there is just one nose, not two, saying that you haven’t two bodies, so you must have only one nose. Then fragrance and stench would not be two. Fragrance would simply be stench, and stench would be nothing but fragrance; there wouldn’t be any distinction between them. Since stench would be fragrance and fragrance would become stench, there would not be two natures. If the two scents of fragrance and stench mix together, neither nature remains. The fragrance isn’t fragrant and the stench doesn’t stink. Without these two natures, where would your realm of nose consciousness come from? Where could you establish its bounds?

R2 Refutes that it is produced from smells.

Sutra:

“If the nose consciousness were produced because of smells, it follows that it is in existence just because of smells. Just as the eyes can see but are unable to see themselves, so, too, if it exists because of smells, it would not be aware of smells.

Commentary:

If the nose consciousness were produced because of smells - if you say that the nose consciousness is produced because of smells - it follows that it is in existence just because of smells. Suppose that the nose consciousness exists because of the smell of vapors. Just as the eyes can see but are unable to see themselves - the eyesvision cannot return the light and illumine within to see themselves - so, too, if it exists because of smells, it would not be aware of smells. If it is because of smells that the nose-consciousness exists, then basically you should not be aware of smells in your nose consciousness. How could you still be aware of them? However, in fact, you are aware of smells, so it is not from smells that the nose consciousness is produced.

Sutra:

“If it is aware of smells, then it is not produced from smells. If it had no awareness, the realm of smelling would not come into being. If the consciousness were not aware of smells, then the realm would not be established from smells.

Commentary:

If it is aware of smells, then it is not produced from smells. If there is an awareness of smells, then how could awareness arise from the smells? A nose consciousness both produced from smells and aware of smells would be like eyes which could see themselves. If you say it is aware of smells, then it is not produced from smells. On the other hand, if you say it has no awareness, it cannot be the nose-consciousness. Something that lacks awareness is not consciousness. The meaning of consciousness is that it makes distinctions; it must have awareness.

If it had no awareness - for the defiling objects of smell are devoid of knowing awareness - the realm of smelling would not come into being. It cannot be that smells, which lack awareness, are what establish the realm of nose consciousness. If the consciousness were not aware of smells, then the realm would not be established from smells. Furthermore, it’s been proved that if the nose consciousness comes from smells, it cannot also be aware of them. If it is aware of smells, then it cannot come about because of them.

R3 Refutes that it arises from a combination of the two.

Sutra:

“Since there is no intermediate realm of consciousness, there is no basis for establishing anything internal or external, either. Therefore, the nature of smelling is ultimately empty and false.

Commentary:

It has no location. Where would you say it arose from? Since it is not produced from smells, nor from the nose, nor from emptiness, it is ultimately empty and false.

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that, as to the nose and smells being the conditions which produce the realm of the nose consciousness, none of the three places exists. Thus, the three aspects of the nose, smells, and the realm of smelling do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know - because of what has been said, you should know, Ananda - that, as to the nose and smells being the conditions - the mutual causes and conditions - which produce the realm of the nose consciousness, none of the three places exists. There is no realm of the nose organ, nor is there a realm of the defiling object of smells, nor is there a realm of a smelling consciousness; none of these three realms exists. Thus, the three aspects of the nose, smells - the nose organ and the defiling object of smells - and the realm of smelling - the consciousness which enables you to be aware of the defiling objects of smell - these three realms - do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. They, too, are a manifestation of the wonderful nature of true suchness from within the treasury of the Thus Come One. They definitely do not have a fixed location.

Don’t be attached to the provisional dharma doors which I spoke previously: the eighteen realms and the twelve places. All of them are empty, false, not actual. But, in order to draw in those of the small vehicle, it was necessary to explain all those dharma doors, all those places. Basically, they do not exist. Now, in explaining this, I am explaining the dharma door of the characteristic of reality - the primary truth, the great Shurangama Samadhi - and, so you cannot bring up all those theories I explained before and compare them to the dharma door of the primary truth which I am now explaining. Thus, none of those realms discussed before holds up; they are not fully correct. They don’t count as the Buddha’s dharma.

When there is a day without a lecture on the sutra, don’t just treat it as a vacation. If you do, your minds can become scattered. When you have a day off, you should keep your body and mind under control. Don’t be too scattered. You should study with great intensity and not just do a passable job of things.

Further, there is the matter of taking precepts. At our Shurangama Sutra Cultivation and Lecture Session, there are people who wish to take the five lay precepts, the eight lay precepts, and the Bodhisattva precepts. Those who take the five precepts and the eight precepts are called upasakas and upasikas - precepted laymen and laywomen. Someone who takes the Bodhisattva precepts is called a Bodhisattva. People who have taken the Bodhisattva precepts are Bodhisattvas. Originally it was only left home people who received the Bodhisattva precepts, but since the definition of a Bodhisattva is one who benefits himself and benefits others, laypeople can also take the Bodhisattva precepts. Receiving precepts is extremely important in Buddhism. All of you who want to take precepts should not miss an opportunity to do so. You can take one precept, two precepts, three precepts, four precepts, five precepts, eight precepts, and the ten major and forty eight minor precepts. Laypeople cannot take the ten precepts, because the ten precepts are for sramanera (novice monks and nuns). Receiving one precept is called taking the small half. Receiving two precepts is called taking half the precepts; taking three precepts is called taking more than half, and taking five precepts is called taking the entire five.

The first precept prohibits killing; but, if you cannot stop killing, you can take the second precept, which prohibits stealing. If you like to drink, like a drinking disciple I have, and you don’t want to take the fifth precept, which prohibits taking intoxicants, you can take the precept against killing, the precept against stealing, and the third and fourth precepts, which prohibit sexual misconduct and lying. If you say, “I like to lie, I can’t take the precept that prohibits lying,” you can take the precepts against killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, and intoxicants. Perhaps you say you can’t stop killing - sometimes you unintentionally kill ants, or mosquitoes - and to take the precept and break it afterward would involve an even greater offense. Then you can decide against taking the precept that prohibits taking life. It is up to you. So, don’t miss the opportunity.

I don’t mind telling you that in China, if you want to receive precepts, you can’t do it without paying two hundred dollars. Why? It is like a business. You certainly have to pay. The money I am speaking of is not the money used to buy the robe and sash which are worn by precepted disciples. That is something for you, and how much money you spend on that is your business. The two hundred dollars is charged as a payment to the master and the temple. However, I don’t charge. Whether or not you have money doesn’t matter. In fact, I am giving a pair of arhat shoes to all of you who have participated in the Shurangama session. But, these arhat shoes are not meant to encourage you to practice the Way of an arhat - to benefit just yourself and not to benefit others. They are meant to teach you to remember that arhats are of the small vehicle, and that you should go down the path of the great vehicle. You should put on your arhat shoes and practice the Bodhisattva Way.

P4 The realm of tongue, flavors, and consciousness.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss the organ, object, and consciousness.
Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

Sutra:

“Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it, the tongue and flavors create the conditions that produce the tongue-consciousness.

"Is the consciousness produced because of the tongue, such that the tongue is its realm, or is it produced because of the flavors, such that the flavors are its realm?

Commentary:

The Buddha calls out to Ananda: Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it - in the past, when I explained the Buddhadharma of the small vehicle to you, the provisional vehicle, in order to teach and transform all living beings, I spoke about the realms of the tongue and flavors among the eighteen realms. The tongue and flavors create the conditions that produce the tongue-consciousness. Together they create the conditions. By having a tongue, one recognizes tastes. When there are flavors, the tongue is able to know of them. They work together to produce the tongue consciousness. The organ of the tongue and the defiling objects of flavors stand paired with one another, and in their midst is produced a mind which makes distinctions; this is called the tongue consciousness. But, ultimately, where are the bounds of the tongue consciousness? Is the consciousness produced because of the tongue, such that the tongue is its realm? Is the consciousness born from the tongue, and does the tongue consciousness use the tongue to form its boundaries? Or is it produced because of the flavors, such that the flavors are its realm? Perhaps it is produced because of the defiling object of flavors and takes the defiling objects of flavors as its boundaries. Tell me, Ananda.

Q3 Discusses them separately and together and refutes all possibilities.
R1 Refutes that it is produced from the tongue.

Sutra:

“Suppose, Ananda, that it were produced because of the tongue. Then all the sugar cane, black plums, huang lien, salt, wild ginger, ginger, and cassia in the world would be entirely without flavor. Also, when you taste your own tongue, is it sweet or bitter?

Commentary:

Suppose, Ananda, that it were produced because of the tongue. If the tongue consciousness were produced because of the tongue organ, then all the sugar cane, black plums - these are the sour plums mentioned earlier, when the Buddha said that just thinking of them caused the mouth to water. Huang lien (coptis japonica) is an extremely bitter medicine. Salt simply refers to the kind of salt we eat. Wild ginger (asarum sieboldi) is another kind of medicine. Ginger and cassia are also herbal medicines. All such substances in the world would be entirely without flavor. If the tongue consciousness were produced because of the tongue, the flavors of these medicines would not exist.

"Also, when you taste your own tongue, is it sweet or bitter? Further, you say that the tongue consciousness comes from the tongue. Try it, then. What does your tongue taste like?” the Buddha asks Ananda.

Sutra:

“Suppose the nature of your tongue were bitter. Then, what would it be that tasted the tongue? Since the tongue cannot taste itself, who would have the sense of taste?

“If the nature of the tongue were not bitter, there would be no flavor engendered by it. Thus, how could a realm be established?

Commentary:

Suppose the nature of your tongue were bitter. Ananda, if upon tasting your tongue you found it was bitter, what would it be that tasted the tongue? Since the tongue cannot taste itself, who would have the sense of taste? Who would it be who was aware of and knew of the tongue consciousness?

If the nature of the tongue were not bitter, there would be no flavor engendered by it. If the tongue had no flavor, then the tongue itself would not produce flavor. Thus, how could a realm be established? Then where would the realm of the tongue consciousness be established? Where would it be?

R2 Refutes that it is produced from flavors.

Sutra:

“If it were produced because of flavor, the consciousness itself would be a flavor. The case would be the same as with the tongue organ being unable to taste itself. How could the consciousness know whether it had flavor or not?

Commentary:

If it were produced because of flavor, the consciousness itself would be a flavor. If you say that flavor produces the consciousness, then consciousness also becomes a flavor. Then the case would be the same as with the tongue organ being unable to taste itself. You say the consciousness is itself a flavor. But, a flavor cannot know its own flavor, just as the tongue cannot taste itself. Bitterness, for example, could not taste itself and say, “Oh, I am bitter.” Flavor basically has no knowing awareness. How could the consciousness know whether it had flavor or not? Since flavor is without a knowing awareness, how could it have within it a consciousness which makes distinctions? How could it tell whether it was sweet or bitter? Flavor cannot taste itself.

Sutra:

“Moreover, flavors do not all come from one thing. Since flavors are produced from many things, the consciousness would have many substances.

Commentary:

You say the consciousness is produced from the flavor, but there is not just one kind of flavor. There are many kinds. Moreover, flavors do not all come from one thing. Sour, sweet, bitter, hot, salty - there are many kinds of flavors produced from many things. For instance, hot peppers are hot, black plums are sour, sugar cane is sweet, huang lian is bitter, salt is, of course, salty. Since flavors are produced from many things, the consciousness would have many substances. But, the substance of consciousness does not have a variety of natures.

This passage points to the fact that consciousness is unchanging. It “accords with conditions and does not change; it is unchanging, and yet it accords with conditions.” Thus, although there are many kinds of things which produce many kinds of flavors, the tongue consciousness does not imitate flavors in having so many substances. Shakyamuni Buddha is explaining this way intentionally in order to cause Ananda to understand that the consciousness is produced from the treasury of the Thus Come One. It is not a particular flavor or the tongue that produces the consciousness.

Sutra:

“Suppose that the consciousness were of a single substance and that the substance was definitely produced from flavor. Then, when salt, bland, sweet, and pungent were combined, their various differences would change into a single flavor and there would be no distinctions among them.

Commentary:

Suppose that the consciousness were of a single substance and that the substance was definitely produced from flavor. It was stated above that one substance cannot be produced from many flavors; however, if we say that the consciousness is, nevertheless, one substance and that it is produced from the various flavors, then we have to say that the various flavors combine and change into a single flavor. Then, when salt, bland, sweet, and pungent were combined, their various differences would change into a single flavor. In that case, there would be no distinctions among them. There wouldn’t be all those flavors of sour, sweet, bitter, hot, and salty. “Pungent” here means hot. “Bland” means tasteless. They would be a single flavor.

Sutra:

“If there were no distinctions, it could not be called consciousness. So, how could it further be called the realm of tongue, flavor, and consciousness?

Commentary:

A lot of flavors are combined into one substance, and each loses its original flavor. For instance, if you add something sweet to hot things, they are no longer as hot, and the sweet is no longer as sweet. Their flavors change. If you combine sour, sweet, bitter, hot, and salty together you alter their original flavor. So, when the original flavors disappear they change into a single flavor. And, within this flavor nothing can be distinguished. If there were no distinctions - if there were no flavor to be distinguished - it could not be called consciousness. The consciousness makes distinctions, but here it does not make distinctions, it cannot be called consciousness. It can’t even be called consciousness, so, how could it further be called the realm of tongue, flavor, and consciousness? It could not.

R3 Refutes that it is produced from emptiness.
Sutra:

“Nor can it be that empty space produces your conscious awareness.

Commentary:

Your tongue consciousness cannot be produced from empty space. It can’t be that emptiness produces your consciousness, your mind.

R4 Refutes that it arises from a combination of these.

Sutra:

“The tongue and flavors could not combine without each losing its basic nature. How could a realm be produced?

Commentary:

The tongue and flavors could not combine without each losing its basic nature. If the tongue and flavors combine, neither would retain a nature. How could a realm be produced? How can you give it a name and set it up as the tongue consciousness realm? You cannot.

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that, as to the tongue and flavors being the conditions that produce the realm of tongue consciousness, none of the three places exists. Thus, the three aspects of the tongue, flavors, and the realm of the tongue do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

Therefore - because of this, Ananda, you should know that, as to the tongue and flavors being the conditions - as to the tongue and flavors together producing the causes and conditions that produce the realm of tongue consciousness, none of the three places exists. You say that the consciousness is produced from the tongue organ, but it isn’t. You say it is produced from the defiled objects of flavors, but it isn’t. Nor can it be produced from the tongue consciousness itself. Thus, none of those three places has a substantial nature. Thus, if it is explained this way you can realize that the three aspects of the tongue, flavors, and the realm of the tongue - the consciousness realm of the tongue - these three - do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. They are not produced from causes and conditions, nor are they produced spontaneously. For them to be produced from causes and conditions would be for them to fall into the realm of existence. For them to be produced spontaneously would be for them to fall into the realm of emptiness. Emptiness and existence are two kinds, and they are not the completed meaning of the Middle Way. They are the causes and conditions taught by the provisional teaching, and the spontaneity taught by adherents of externalist sects. Where does the tongue consciousness realm ultimately come from? It, too, is a manifestation of the wonderful nature of true suchness of the treasury of the Thus Come One.

P5 The realm of body consciousness, objects of touch.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss the organ, object, and consciousness.
Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

Sutra:

“Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it, the body and objects of touch create the conditions that produce the body consciousness.

"Is this consciousness produced because of the body, such that the body is its realm, or is it produced because of objects of touch, such that objects of touch are its realm?

Commentary:

Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it - in the doctrines of the small vehicle, the Provisional Teaching, which you have heard, the body and objects of touch create the conditions that produce the body consciousness. The organ of the body and the defiling objects of touch combine to produce conditions, and the existence of these conditions produces the body consciousness. The distinction of the body consciousness is produced.

Is this consciousness produced because of the body? Does this consciousness exist because the body produced it, such that the body is its realm? Is the body the realm of the body consciousness? Or is it produced because of objects of touch? Or is it the defiling objects of touch that produce the consciousness which makes distinctions?

Q3 Discusses them separately and together and refutes all possibilities.
R1 Refutes that it is produced from the body.

Sutra:

“Suppose, Ananda, that it were produced because of the body. When there was no awareness of the two conditions of contact with and separation from objects of touch, what would the body be conscious of?

Commentary:

Suppose, Ananda, that it were produced because of the body. Suppose you say the consciousness is produced because of the body. When there was no awareness of the two conditions of contact with and separation from objects of touch, what would the body be conscious of? What about the case when there is neither unity nor separation for the body to be conscious of? What is the body aware of then? What consciousness would it have? Thus, how can the consciousness be produced only from the body?

R2 Refutes that it is produced from objects of touch.

Sutra:

“Suppose it were produced because of objects of touch. Then you would not need your body. Without a body, what could perceive contact with and separation from objects of touch?

Commentary:

Suppose it were produced because of objects of touch. If you say the objects of touch produce the consciousness, then it is not produced from your body. Then you would not need your body. It would have nothing to do with your body. Without a body, what could perceive contact with and separation from objects of touch? Is there anyone in this world who can say, “It is not I who experience objects of touch with my body, but another body which perceives the sensation of unity and separation.” This doesn’t happen either.

Why do I say that?

R3 Refutes that it is produced from a combination of these.

Sutra:

"Ananda, things do not perceive objects of touch. It is the body that perceives objects of touch.

Commentary:

Ananda, you should know that things do not perceive objects of touch. It is the body that perceives objects of touch. Things do not have the power of awareness. They do not have a nature that makes distinctions. You say the consciousness that makes distinctions comes from things; this is a mistake. If you can perceive the existence of objects of touch, the defiling objects of touch, it is your body that perceives them. If it were not for your body, how would you know there had been objects of touch? It is because objects of touch come into contact with your body that there is that awareness. Ultimately, however, where is the realm of the consciousness that is produced in the midst of the objects of touch and your body? Is it in the body, or is it in objects of touch?

Sutra:

“What the body knows is objects of touch, and what is aware of objects of touch is the body. What is objects of touch is not the body, and what is the body is not objects of touch.

Commentary:

What the body knows is objects of touch. The consciousness which makes distinctions is aware of objects of touch by means of your body. The body’s awareness comes about because of objects of touch. Thus, contact is what is known, and the body is what experiences contact. So your consciousness knows of the body because of contact. The awareness arises from the contact.

And what is aware of objects of touch is the body. “Awareness” here refers to consciousness. With the consciousness you are aware of a sensation of touch, and that sensation of touch comes from the body.

However, what is objects of touch is not the body. To speak of the body by itself, the defiling object of touch is simply the defiling object of touch - it is not the body. And what is the body is not objects of touch. And your body is not the defiling objects of touch. The two work together, but they are not the same. So, if we try to determine exactly where, between your body and the defiling objects of touch, the consciousness is, if you say that the consciousness definitely lies on one side or the other - either on the side of the body or on the side of the objects of touch - you won’t be able to find it. If you cannot find it between the body and the objects of touch, then you fail to locate the actual place of the consciousness. So where will you go to find the consciousness?

Sutra:

“The two characteristics of body and objects of touch are basically without a location. If it united with the body, it would be the body’s own substance and nature. If it were apart from the body, it would have the same appearance as empty space.

Commentary:

The two characteristics of body and objects of touch have no fixed location. You try to find out where the characteristic of the body and the characteristic of objects of touch ultimately are, but they are basically without a location. If it united with the body, it would be the body’s own substance and nature. If the consciousness unites with the body, if you want to say that the consciousness is produced from the body, then it would be the body’s own substance and nature. If it were apart from the body, it would have the same appearance as empty space. Suppose you say the consciousness is apart from the body. But, what is apart from the body is empty space, and you cannot find the appearance of a consciousness. So, the consciousness does not have the characteristic of a substance.

Sutra:

“Since the inside and the outside don’t stand up, how can one set up a middle? The middle cannot be set up, either. The inside and the outside are by nature empty. From what realm, then, is your consciousness born?

Commentary:

Since the inside and the outside don’t stand up, how can one set up a middle? You say the consciousness is inside, but it is not; you say it is outside, but it is not; you say it is in the defiling objects of touch, but it is not; you say it is in the organ of the body, but it is not. Since, then, neither the inside nor the outside exist, how can there be an appearance of a middle? The middle cannot be set up, either. You cannot distinguish where the middle is. The inside and the outside are by nature empty. There isn’t any middle, and there isn’t any inside or outside. They are by nature empty. From what realm, then, is your consciousness born? There isn’t any inside, there isn’t any outside, and there isn’t any middle. So, ultimately, what does the consciousness make use of to form its realm? Where can it set up a realm?

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that, as to the body and objects of touch being the conditions that produce the realm of body consciousness, none of the three places exists. Thus, the three aspects of the body, objects of touch, and the realm of the body do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

The various principles explained above demonstrate that the realm of the body consciousness cannot be found. It has no realm. Therefore, you should know - because of this, Ananda, you ought to know - that, as to the body and contact being the conditions - the body and the defiling objects of touch being the mutual conditions - that produce the realm of body consciousness - earlier, in the teaching of the provisional vehicle, the principle of the production of the body consciousness realm was discussed - none of the three places exists. Thus, the three aspects of the body, objects of touch - the organ of the body and the defiling objects of touch - and the realm of the body - the realm of body consciousness - these three - do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. They are a manifestation from within the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One. You cannot find a fixed location for them. So, you should not compare the teaching methods of the provisional vehicle to the true and actual principles of the actual vehicle.

What was spoken before was expedient dharma. The dharma which is now spoken is the number one truth, it is the teaching method of the complete meaning of the Middle Way, which is totally different from the former dharma door. The five skandhas, the six entrances, the twelve places, and the eighteen realms - all these various dharmas do not arise from causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Earlier, the Buddha used the dharma of causes and conditions to smash theories of spontaneity propounded by externalist sects. That is why Ananda became attached to the dharma of causes and conditions and couldn’t reject it. He couldn’t give up the idea. He thought that the dharma which had been spoken previously could not be altered, could not be changed. Why is the Buddha now negating the principles which he previously explained? For the Buddha himself not to recognize the dharma which he himself had spoken before is to contradict himself, isn’t it? He contradicts what he himself said. It is at this point that Ananda gives rise to all kinds of doubts and keeps coming up with questions. So now the Buddha tells Ananda that he explained the dharma of causes and conditions earlier in order to counteract the externalist sects’ explanation of the dharma of spontaneity; it was certainly not ultimate. It was certainly not the essential dharma door. Now the complete meaning of the Middle Way, the number one truth, the genuine dharma-door is being explained, and the former methods cannot be used; you cannot continue to hold on to them. Ananda had not understood that, so he kept asking questions.

P6 The realm of mind, dharmas, and consciousness.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss the organ, and object, and consciousness.

Sutra:

“Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it, the mind and dharmas create the conditions that produce the mind consciousness.

Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

“Is this consciousness produced because of the mind, such that the mind is its realm, or is it produced because of dharmas, such that dharmas are its realm?

Q3 Discusses them separately and together and refutes all possibilities.
R1 Refutes that it is produced from the mind.

“Suppose, Ananda, that it were produced because of the mind. In your mind there certainly must be thoughts; these give expression to your mind. If there are no dharmas before you, the mind does not give rise to anything. Apart from conditions, it has no shape; thus, what use would the consciousness be?

Commentary:

Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it - you heard this dharma in the past - the mind and dharmas create the conditions - the organ of your mind and the dusts of dharmas together produce conditions - that produce the mind consciousness. In the midst of these conditions, the mind consciousness arises. Is this consciousness produced because of the mind? Is it because of the mind that the mind consciousness arises, such that the mind is its realm? Or is it produced because of dharmas - or is it dharmas that produce the mind consciousness - such that dharmas are its realm?

Suppose, Ananda, that it were produced because of the mind. Suppose you say that the mind consciousness is produced because of the mind. In your mind there certainly must be thoughts. In the organ of your mind you certainly will have some kind of thinking. And, it is these thoughts of yours which give expression to your mind. They bring forth the mind consciousness of the organ of the mind. If there are no dharmas before you – “dharmas before you” means your present thoughts. If you are not thinking, if you haven’t any thoughts, the mind does not give rise to anything. In the organ of your mind there are no defiling objects of dharmas - no thoughts. No dharma can arise. Apart from conditions, it has no shape. Apart from these causes and conditions - the mind and the defiling objects - the mind consciousness has no shape. There basically is no form or shape, because the mind is conditioned by dharmas. So then, what is its appearance? It has none. Apart from the mind that seizes on conditions, there is no form or shape. Thus, what use would the consciousness be? When there is no form or shape, where is the consciousness? What ability does it have to create its own function as a consciousness?

Sutra:

“Moreover, is your conscious awareness the same as your mind organ, with its capacity to understand and make distinctions, or is it different? If it were the same as the mind, it would be the mind; how could it be something else that arises? If it were different from the mind, it should thereby be devoid of consciousness. If there were no consciousness, how would it arise from the mind? If there were consciousness, how would it differ from the mind? Since it is by nature neither the same nor different, how can a realm be established?

Commentary:

The Buddha said to Ananda: Moreover, is your conscious awareness the same as your mind organ, with its capacity to understand and make distinctions, or is it different? That is, are the natures of your conscious mind and the organ of your mind the same? If it were the same as the mind, it would be the mind. You may say that the conscious mind is the same as the organ of the mind, but what is the same as the organ of the mind is the organ of the mind and cannot be called the consciousness. How could it be something else that arises? If the mind consciousness is the organ of the mind, how can you say the consciousness arises within the organ of the mind? If it were different from the mind, it should thereby be devoid of consciousness. “Different from the mind” means the same as defiling objects of dharmas. Defiling objects of dharmas have no ability to make distinctions. The organ of your mind has the ability to make distinctions. The consciousness also has the ability to make distinctions. If it is different from the mind, if it were produced from the mind, it would not be the same as the mind. If it were not the same, it would have no consciousness.

If there were consciousness - if you say there is consciousness - how would it differ from the mind? How can your mind know your own mind? Since it is by nature neither the same nor different - neither nature is possible - how can a realm be established? You say that your consciousness and the organ of the mind are the same, but that doesn’t work; you say they are different, but that doesn’t work, either. Neither case is possible. And, since they are impossible, how can you set up a realm in the midst of them and say there is a mind consciousness realm?

R2 Refutes that it is produced from dharmas.

Sutra:

“Suppose it were produced because of dharmas. None of the dharmas of the world exists apart from the five defiling objects. Consider the dharmas of form, the dharmas of sound, the dharmas of smell, the dharmas of taste, and the dharmas of touch: each has a clearly distinguishable appearance and is matched with one of the five organs. They are not what the mind takes in.

Commentary:

Suppose it were produced because of dharmas. You may want to say that the mind consciousness is produced because of dharmas, since the mind is conditioned by dharmas. But, none of the dharmas of the world exists apart from the five defiling objects. “The world” here refers to the sentient world and the material world. None of the dharmas in these worlds is apart from the realms of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and objects of touch. Consider the dharmas of form, the dharmas of sound, the dharmas of smell, the dharmas of taste, and the dharmas of touch. You should take a look at them. Each has a clearly distinguishable appearance - forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and objects of touch all have their own appearances which are very clear - and is matched with one of the five organs. They are opposite the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body. The five organs are matched with the five defiling objects. They are not what the mind takes in. They do not belong to the organ of your mind.

Sutra:

“Suppose your consciousness were indeed produced through a reliance on dharmas. Take a close look at them now: what does each and every dharma look like?

Commentary:

Your mind consciousness has no connection with the first five defiling objects. Now, suppose your consciousness were indeed produced through a reliance on dharmas. Perhaps you believe that the defiling objects of dharmas produce the mind consciousness. As you now take a close look at them now - you should contemplate then carefully and in detail; take a good, close look. What does each and every dharma look like? What are the dharmas which can produce the mind consciousness like? Are they apparent, or are they non apparent?

Sutra:

“Underlying the characteristics of form and emptiness, movement and stillness, penetration and obstruction, unity and separation, and production and extinction there is nothing at all.

Commentary:

If you depart from the defiling objects of form and emptiness, movement and stillness, penetration and obstruction, unity and separation, and production and extinction - these various dharmas - there is nothing at all. “Underlying” means to have no connection with the dharmas just mentioned; if you depart from these characteristics and break all connections with them, “there is nothing at all.” No matter how you look at it, it is to be feared you won’t come up with anything. The defiling objects of dharmas are invisible. So, you may look for their appearance, but you cannot find it.

Sutra:

"When there is production, then form, emptiness, and all dharmas are produced. When there is extinction, then form, emptiness, and all dharmas are extinguished. Since what is causal does not exist, if those causes produce the consciousness, what appearance does the consciousness assume? If there is nothing discernable about the consciousness, how can a realm be established for it?

Commentary:

When there is production, then form, emptiness, and all dharmas are produced. If the dharmas of form, emptiness, and the like mentioned above are produced, they are produced simultaneously. When there is extinction, then form, emptiness, and all dharmas are extinguished. When there is extinction, forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas are all extinguished at the same time. Since what is causal does not exist, if those causes produce the consciousness, what appearance does the consciousness assume? “What is causal” refers to the defiling objects of dharmas. They are gone; you cannot find them. Since the defiling objects of dharmas are gone, how can there be consciousness? Basically, it does not exist. Basically, the defiling objects of dharmas which are produced haven’t any substance or nature of their own. Thus, where will you go to find a consciousness? The consciousness, basically, cannot exist, either. Suppose the consciousness did exist; what would its appearance be? What is the consciousness like? Does it have an appearance, or not? If there is nothing discernable about the consciousness - since it has no appearance that can be found - how can a realm be established for it? The consciousness doesn’t even have any characteristics; how can you set up a realm for it? Therefore, the realm of the mind consciousness does not exist, either.

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that, as to the mind and dharmas being the conditions that produce the realm of the mind consciousness, none of the three places exists. Thus, the three aspects of the mind, dharmas, and the realm of the mind do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.”

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know - because of this, Ananda, you should understand this principle - that, as to the mind and dharmas being the conditions that produce the realm of the mind-consciousness, none of the three places exists. You, basically, cannot find a mind realm, and you cannot find a mind consciousness realm, nor can you find a realm of dharmas. These three places, among the eighteen realms, are all non existent. Thus, the three aspects of the mind, dharmas, and the realm of the mind - the organ of the mind, the defiling objects of dharmas, and the mind consciousness realm - these three - do not have their origin in causes and conditions - basically, they do not belong to what is included among dharmas of cause and condition - nor do their natures arise spontaneously. Nor do they belong to what is said to be spontaneous by adherents to externalist sects.

What are they then? The mind, the defiling object of dharmas, and the mind consciousness produced in their midst are all one part of the nature of wonderful true suchness of the treasury of the Thus Come One.

CHAPTER 6: The Seven Elements Are All-Pervasive



L3 Finally he shows that the nature of the seven elements is all pervasive.
M1 Ananda, in turn, has doubts about the non existence of the other two teachings.

Sutra:

Ananda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, the Thus Come One has often spoken of the mixture and union of causes and conditions, saying that the transformations of everything in the world are created from the mixing and uniting of the four elements.

Commentary:

Ananda again said to the Buddha: World Honored One, the Thus Come One has often spoken - Thus Come One, you’re always talking about the dharma of the mixture and union and the dharma of causes and conditions. You say that the transformations of everything in the world – “the world” again refers to the sentient world and the material world - all kinds of different circumstances and change are created from the mixing and uniting of the four elements.

What are the four elements? They are earth, water, fire, and wind. People’s bodies are a combination of the four elements. How is it that the body is composed of the four elements? The places in our bodies which are hard and solid belong to the element earth. The warmth in our bodies belongs to the element fire. Saliva, tears, and mucus belong to the element water. Our breath belongs to the element wind. While we are alive, our body is under our control, but after we die the four elements disperse. The warmth in our bodies returns to the element fire. The moisture returns to the element water. The solids return to the element earth. Our breath returns to the element wind.

People who do not understand about the body want to help it in all that it does. What they don’t know is that in this way the true nature becomes a slave to a false form. Every day one is upside- down, toiling and desperately rushing back and forth. Ultimately, what’s it all for? Ultimately, what meaning is there in it? You ask people this and they are like Ananda - mouth agape and speechless. They can’t come up with a reason. Because people do not understand about the body, they spend all their energy on a dead thing. They don’t apply their effort to a living thing. What “dead thing” is being referred to? Although we are still alive, our bodies may be considered already dead. What living thing is being referred to? Although we are not aware that it is alive, our spirit is young and full of life - it is our originally existent Buddha nature.

But people don’t know that they should investigate their own Buddha nature, and they apply effort to their bodies instead. From morning till night they help the body get good things to eat. They are controlled by their body. They help the body get fine clothes to wear. Just what is this body, anyway? I will tell all of you, and whether you admit it or not is your business. If someone likes to drink wine, then the body becomes a wine sack. If someone likes to eat fine food, then the body becomes a bread basket. If someone likes to wear fine clothing, the body becomes a clothes horse. It isn’t anything to grasp onto. Don’t look upon it as so important. But, you can’t put it down; you can’t see through it. Though you can’t see through it, and though you can’t put it down, when you die and the four elements disperse, you will have to see through what you couldn’t see through. Time waits for no one. You can never say to time, “Wait a minute for me. Wait a bit.” It will not wait.

Sutra:

“Why does the Thus Come One reject causes and conditions and spontaneity as well? I do not know how to understand your meaning now.

Commentary:

Buddha, you’ve said that everything in the world comes forth from and is created from the causes and conditions of the mixing and uniting of the four elements. Why is it now that you say that causes and conditions and spontaneity are all incorrect?” Ananda’s attachments are quite strong. In the past he has heard the Buddha explain the principle of causes and conditions. Basically that was a provisional teaching, a provisional, clever expedient; it was not true and actual. Now the Buddha explains the true and actual dharma door, and Ananda does not believe it. He firmly believes in the expedient dharma door that the Buddha explained in the past, and in turn he doubts the true and actual dharma door. So he asks, “Why does the Thus Come One reject causes and conditions and spontaneity as well? Buddha, you have criticized causes and conditions and spontaneity and pronounced them incorrect. Isn’t that contradicting yourself? You are destroying the very principles which you yourself established. You are refuting your own thesis. I do not know how to understand your meaning now. I don’t see what principle this is now. What dharma door does it belong to? I don’t understand.”

Sutra:

“Please be so compassionate as to instruct us living beings in the final meaning of the Middle Way: in the dharmas which are not idle theories.”

Commentary:

Please be so compassionate - I now only hope that the Buddha will sympathize with us, bring forth compassion towards us living beings - as to instruct us living beings in the final meaning of the Middle Way, in the dharma door which does not joke around. We want an explanation of the truth, of the dharmas which are not idle theories.

What is meant by “idle theories?” All the dharma doors of the provisional vehicle and of the teachings of the externalist sects are called “idle theories.” The present explanation of the real vehicle, the explanation of the true and actual dharma door, is called the final meaning of the Middle Way. The Middle Way does not fall into emptiness, nor does it fall into existence. The spontaneity taught by externalist sects falls into emptiness. Causes and conditions belong to existence. Now it is neither emptiness nor existence that is being explained; it is the final meaning of the Middle Way, a dharma door which is not an idle theory.

M2 The Buddha proceeds to explain thoroughly.
N1 He scolds him for his confusion and promises to explain.

Sutra:

The World Honored One then told Ananda, “You have renounced the small vehicle dharmas of the sound-hearers and those enlightened to conditions and have resolved to diligently seek unsurpassed Bodhi. Because of that, I will now explain the foremost truth to you.

Commentary:

The World Honored One, the Buddha, then told Ananda, “You have renounced the small vehicle dharmas of the sound-hearers and those enlightened to conditions. You have already decided to renounce the dharma doors of the two vehicles of the sound-hearer and those enlightened to conditions, the dharmas of the agamas, and have resolved to diligently seek unsurpassed Bodhi. You now diligently seek the Unsurpassed Way to enlightenment, the dharma of the Bodhisattva. Because of that, I will now explain the foremost truth to you. I will explain the dharma door of the real appearance to you.” The foremost truth is the real appearance.

There are three kinds of real appearances:

  1. the real appearance which is without an appearance;
  2. the real appearance which is not without an appearance;
  3. the real appearance which is without an appearance and yet not without an appearance.


Although they are said to be three kinds, they are one kind: the real appearance. The real appearance has no appearance, and yet there is nothing which does not appear. Within this is the principle of true emptiness and wonderful existence.

If one explains it to the ultimate point, there basically isn’t anything at all. Yet, within that nothing at all there is everything. So, nothing at all is true emptiness, and the existence of everything is wonderful existence.

The principle now being explained will lead to an explanation of the seven elements - earth, water, fire, wind, emptiness, perception, and consciousness - as pervading the dharma-realm. The five skandhas, the six entrances, the twelve places, the eighteen realms discussed before explained the wonderful true suchness nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One, but it was not said that they pervaded the dharma-realm.

Sutra:

“Why do you still bind yourself up in the idle theories and false thoughts current among people of the world?

Commentary:

The Buddha said to Ananda, “You have just decided to renounce the dharma doors of the small vehicle, to bring forth the resolve for the great vehicle - the Bodhisattva vehicle - and to seek unsurpassed Bodhi. Therefore, I will instruct you in the principle of the real appearance.” Why - the tone here is one of accusation - do you still bind yourself up in the idle theories, the worldly explanation of doctrines which are not true, and false thoughts current among people of the world? It’s just as if you took a rope and tied yourself up with it. You cannot get free. You cannot be liberated. Why do you want to be like that? What I am explaining to you is the foremost truth. Why is it you still don’t understand?

Sutra:

“Although you are very learned, you are like someone who can discuss medicines but cannot distinguish a real medicine when it is placed before you. The Thus Come One says that you are truly pitiful.

Commentary:

Although you are very learned - Ananda, although you have a strong memory and have memorized many sutras - you are like someone who can discuss medicines. You are learned, but what is it like? You are like someone who can recite the medicine texts and can say which medicines cure which illnesses and which medicines have what effect - like someone who can recite the Yao Xing Fu. You, too, have memorized well, but you’re like someone who cannot distinguish a real medicine when it is placed before you. When you see the true medicine you don’t recognize it. You cannot tell if it’s the true one. Why can’t you make these distinctions? Because all you do is advocate intellectual talk Chan. You can talk about it very well, but when you investigate the truth, you don’t understand. The Thus Come One says that you are truly pitiful.

Sutra:

“Listen attentively now as I explain this point in detail for you and also for those of the future who cultivate the great vehicle, so that you all can penetrate to the real appearance.”

Ananda was silent and awaited the Buddha’s holy instruction.

Commentary:

Listen attentively now. Don’t be confused any longer. You should pay attention, be alert, and listen as I explain this point in detail for you. For your sake, Ananda, I will now distinguish and explain it. I will divide and categorize and explain it for you in great detail, and also for those of the future.

You and I here are included among “those of the future.” It is now the future that the Buddha then referred to. We now form the assemblies of what was the future then.

Who cultivate the great vehicle - we are now cultivating the great vehicle, not the small vehicle, in order to penetrate to the real appearance, to understand the principle of the real appearance. As was explained before, real appearance is no appearance. With no appearance, what still exists? Everything exists. “No appearance” means that it cannot have any empty, false appearance. The real appearance is totally real.

Ananda was silent. Ananda heard that the Buddha was going to explain the principle of the real appearance, but he didn’t know what was meant. The real appearance was a new term when the Buddha brought it up at that point, and Ananda didn’t understand what it meant. So, he awaited the Buddha’s holy instruction. On tip toe, with his eyes glued on the Buddha, he waited for him to speak the dharma.

N2 He gives a general analogy about the nature and its characteristics.

Sutra:

Ananda, according to what you said, the mixing and uniting of the four elements create the myriad transformations of everything in the world.

Commentary:

Ananda, according to what you said, as you understand it, the mixing and uniting of the four elements - earth, water, fire, and wind - combine to create the myriad transformations of everything in the world.

Sutra:

Ananda, if the nature of those elements does not mix and unite in substance, then they cannot combine with other elements, just as empty space cannot combine with forms.

Commentary:

Ananda, if the nature of those elements - if the nature of the substance of the elements does not mix and unite in substance - basically the nature of their substance is not one which unites - then they cannot combine with other elements. The elements cannot intermingle and merge with one another, just as empty space cannot combine with forms. It is the same as with empty space, which cannot unite with things that have form. If there is a union, then it is not empty space. This contradiction is also evident in the nature of the elements.

Sutra:

“Assuming that they do mix and unite, they are then only in a process of transformation in which they depend on one another for existence from beginning to end. In the course of transformation they are produced and extinguished, being born and then dying, dying and then being born, in birth after birth, in death after death, the way a torch spun in a circle forms an unbroken wheel of flame.

Commentary:

Assuming that they do mix and unite - suppose you want to say that the four elements mix and unite - they are then only in a process of transformation in which they depend on one another for existence. They mix with everything and are subject to change. From beginning to end, they change and come into being, and in the course of transformation they are produced and extinguished, extinguished then produced, again and again unendingly, being born and then dying, dying and then being born, in birth after birth, in death after death, the way a torch spun in a circle forms an unbroken wheel of flame. It never stops. Is that the way it is?

Sutra:

Ananda, the process is like water becoming ice and ice becoming water again.

Commentary:

Ananda, you should know that the true suchness of the self nature accords with conditions yet does not change; it does not change, yet accords with conditions. How is that explained? The true suchness of the self nature, which is also the treasury of the Thus Come One, and also the real appearance, and also our true mind, is like water becoming ice and ice becoming water again.

It is like water which becomes ice: that is, it accords with conditions, just as water can turn into ice. But the ice can also melt and become water again. I have often explained this principle to you. People’s Buddha-nature is the true nature. Bodhi enlightenment is water; affliction is ice. Your Bodhi is like water, useful to everyone; it cannot harm people. Everyone needs water.

You say, “Dharma master, I don’t agree with the principle you are explaining. Why? Because a lot of water can drown people.”

You are really intelligent. You know that too much water can drown people. But when there isn’t any water, can’t people die of thirst? So water is necessary for everyone. Of course too much of it can harm people. It’s that way with anything: too much is harmful. If you don’t eat, you get hungry, but if you eat day after day without cease, see if your stomach has a place to put it all. Having too much is the same as not having enough. Eating too much is the same as being fiercely hungry.

So, water can turn into ice. I often say that if you were to pour a bowl of water over someone’s head, he wouldn’t feel any pain. But, if you hit someone over the head with a piece of ice, you certainly could kill him. A piece of ice can kill someone. A bowlful of water cannot kill anyone. Ice and water are actually the same thing, but in the form of ice it can kill people, and in the form of water it cannot. Because of this, affliction is compared to ice; Bodhi is compared to water. The Buddha’s sutras say, “Affliction is just Bodhi.” The ice is just water. There is no ice in addition to the water, and no water in addition to the ice. The ice is in the water, and the water is in the ice. Thus, the sutra says, “Ice becoming water again.” But in order to turn your ice into water, you have to develop a certain amount of skill. What is required? You have to use yang light to illumine it. And then the ice can turn into water. This refers to our daily practice of sitting in meditation and investigating Chan. That illumines our afflictions so that they turn into water.

There is another bit of important principle I would like to explain to you now. This dharma assembly we have convened is a subtle and wonderful one. In what way? I explain the sutras in Chinese, and my Chinese is translated into English. So we explain the Buddhadharma in two languages. But when you are listening to the sutra, regardless of whether you understand the language you are hearing it in, you should pay close attention.

First, everyone who listens to sutras should thank Shakyamuni Buddha. Why? Because several thousand years ago Shakyamuni Buddha spoke this wonderful dharma, preparing a bright lamp in the dark night, for the sake of us living beings in suffering and difficulty. He spoke the dharma in order to cause us to be able to leave suffering and obtain bliss, to be apart from the afflictions of this world, and to come to understand the Way and bring forth bliss. He spoke the dharma to cause us people with a lot of afflictions to be free of afflictions and to turn our ice into water, so that we can return to the source to go back to our origin. And so we should be thankful to Shakyamuni Buddha.

Second, we should thank the Venerable Ananda. Why? Because if the Venerable Ananda had pretended to be intelligent back then and had said, “Buddha, you don’t have to explain it. I understand. Whatever you are going to say, I already understand,” then the Buddha would not have spoken the dharma; he wouldn’t have spoken the Shurangama Sutra. It is not easy for us to understand these principles, either. So we should thank the Venerable Ananda for having requested the dharma beforehand on our behalf. He asked Shakyamuni Buddha to speak the dharma for us.

I have something else to tell you that’s not very important. What is it? You should also thank the dharma master who is lecturing the sutra. That’s me. Don’t neglect that! I say it’s not too important, but you shouldn’t look upon it too lightly, either. Basically, I am a dharma master who only half understands; I don’t explain the sutras well. You say, “Oh, basically you can’t explain the sutras well, yet you have come here to explain them to us who don’t understand the Buddhadharma. No wonder we don’t understand what we’re hearing. Basically you only half understand it yourself.”

But if you can understand half of the Buddhadharma that’s actually not bad. Why? Because the Buddhadharma is as deep as the sea. You may want to understand it completely, but that’s not at all an easy thing to do. I have studied the Buddhadharma for several decades - thirty or forty years - and yet I feel that I have not finished drinking a single drop of the great sea, because the Buddhadharma is so deep, so wonderful. That’s why I said I was a dharma master who only half understands. But you should say that you now understand completely, because you are like the green extracted from the blue, which is to say, there are top ranking students but no top ranking teachers. “My master only half understands, but I, his disciple, have studied very well.” That’s the way you should talk.

Lastly, you should thank the translator of the sutra. No matter who is doing the translating, you should pay close attention and listen especially respectfully. You should be particularly attentive to every word and every sentence. Because I explain the sutras in Chinese and most of you don’t understand it, it is necessary for you to rely on the merit and virtue of the translation in order to hear the principles of the Shurangama Sutra. So you should be thankful to the translator; be very careful not to slight him or her.

Why do I say this today? Because in the summaries I had you write I saw that someone had written, “I listen to the sutra here and I don’t understand what the dharma master is explaining, and the translation isn’t very good, so I’m not going to study here any more.” The person who wrote this is basically a very intelligent person, but unfortunately she tends to outwit herself a bit. Why do I say that? Because she hasn’t any patience. When you listen to sutras, you should be patient whether you understand or not. When you remain in the dharma assembly, you become permeated with the dharma, just like the incense permeates the air, and eventually the light of your wisdom will shine forth. The people who have become enlightened while listening to sutras are many indeed. You shouldn’t look lightly upon listening to sutras.

When I was in Hong Kong, there was an elder laywoman who couldn’t listen to the sutras at all. She was deaf. But every time there was a sutra lecture she had to come and listen. She climbed over three hundred steps to the temple, although she was over seventy, and she came by herself. When the sutra lecture was over, after nine o’clock at night, she would go back down all by herself; and when she got to the bottom she would have to take a bus. She was deaf, so how could she listen? It was strange, but after she had listened to the sutras for a little over a month, she suddenly could hear. The deaf woman listened and was no longer deaf.

You hear this and think it quite profound, but actually it isn’t the least bit unusual. It was simply that she was sincere. “Even if I can’t hear, I’m going to listen,” she told herself, and as a result she could hear. So, if a seventy year old woman could have that kind of response, then if each of you is sincere, regardless of whether you understand or not, you will understand. Don’t be afraid of not understanding right away.

All you have to do is to be sincere and a day will come when you do understand. If you aren’t sincere, you may say, “I’ve been listening and listening and I don’t understand, so I’m going to become one of the five thousand who retreat.” If you do retreat, it’s because your virtuous conduct is not sufficient.

In general, to be close to a dharma assembly, you have to have virtue in the Way. People without Way virtue can’t sit still in a dharma assembly. They sit and then stand and then sit again, and they’re nervous, and they want to go. Why? Because their karmic obstacle ghost is pulling at them. The ghost says, “You can’t stay here. We’re good friends. Let’s go off together and create offenses.”

So you should be attentive to these four points when listening to sutras. In fact, you should not only thank the person who is doing the translating, you should be compatible with all your fellow students who are studying the sutra with you. Everyone should be happy. This is an important principle in listening to sutras, and you should not neglect it.

N3 He gives a detailed account about the nature and its characteristics.
O1 The element earth.
P1 He reveals its nature and divides it.

Sutra:

“Consider the nature of earth: its coarse particles make up the great earth. Its fine particles make up motes of dust, down to and including motes of dust bordering upon emptiness.

Commentary:

Consider the nature of earth. Now I will explain the element earth to you, Ananda; you should be particularly attentive. Don’t be like you were before when you neglected samadhi power and concentrated on being learned. Now I am explaining for you the basic doctrines of samadhi power.

Take a look at the nature of earth: its coarse particles make up the great earth. “Coarse” means that, for the most part, the earth consists of accumulations of dust bound together. Its fine particles make up motes of dust. The smallest parts are motes of dust, down to and including motes of dust bordering upon emptiness.

"Motes of dust bordering upon emptiness” are the smallest particles, invisible to the ordinary eye. They are neighbors of emptiness; they are more or less empty space, which isn’t anything at all. You say, “When the sun shines through a crack we can see fine motes of dust dancing in empty space.” That’s something you can still see. A mote of dust bordering upon emptiness cannot be seen with the ordinary eye.

Sutra:

“If one divides those fine motes of dust, their appearance is at the boundaries of form. Then divide those into seven parts.

Commentary:

If one divides those fine motes of dust, their appearance is at the boundaries of form. Motes of dust bordering on emptiness are the very finest, the most minute among things which have form. Nothing is smaller than they are. Still, they have an appearance of form which can be perceived. Then divide those into seven parts. If you divide these finest of fine motes of dust which border upon emptiness into seven parts, so that they border even more upon emptiness, these divided motes are actually emptiness itself. Basically there is no appearance of form. This is an explanation of the nature of earth.

P2 He explains the division in detail.

Sutra:

Ananda, if this mote of dust bordering upon emptiness is divided and becomes emptiness, it should be that emptiness can give rise to form.

Commentary:

Ananda, if this mote of dust bordering upon emptiness is divided and becomes emptiness - although motes of dust bordering on emptiness are very small, they still have a visible shape. There is still something there. But, if the motes of dust bordering upon emptiness are divided into seven parts, they are truly and actually emptiness itself. Therefore, it should be that emptiness can give rise to form. Form can become emptiness, and emptiness contains form within it.

Sutra:

“Just now you asked if mixing and uniting doesn’t bring about the transformations of everything in the world.

Commentary:

Just now you asked - Ananda has just now asked - if mixing and uniting doesn’t bring about the transformations of everything in the world. Isn’t that why there are all these changing and transforming appearances?

Sutra:

“You should carefully consider how much emptiness mixes and unites to make a single mote of dust bordering upon emptiness, since it makes no sense to say that dust bordering on emptiness is composed of dust bordering on emptiness.

Commentary:

You should carefully consider - take a look at this - how much emptiness mixes and unites to make a single mote of dust bordering upon emptiness. When you divide a mote of dust bordering upon emptiness, it becomes emptiness. But, to proceed in the opposite direction, how much emptiness must you mix and unite to make a mote of dust bordering upon emptiness? Since it makes no sense to say that dust bordering on emptiness is composed of dust bordering on emptiness. You should not say that motes of dust bordering upon emptiness combine to make motes of dust bordering upon emptiness. It is emptiness which must unite to make motes of dust bordering upon emptiness. But how much emptiness would you say is needed? Would you use seven parts, since one mote of dust bordering upon emptiness divided into seven parts becomes emptiness? How much emptiness?

This is what he asked Ananda.

Sutra:

“Moreover, since motes of dust bordering upon emptiness can be reduced to emptiness, of how many motes of such form as this must emptiness be composed?

Commentary:

Moreover, since motes of dust bordering upon emptiness can be reduced to emptiness - since when they are divided they become united with emptiness - of how many motes of such form as this must emptiness be composed? How many particles of dust make up the entirety of empty space? How many motes of dust bordering upon emptiness are united into emptiness? That would not be a small number! Here the wordform” is used to represent the element earth.

Sutra:

“When these motes of form mass together, a mass of form does not make emptiness; when emptiness is massed together, a mass of emptiness does not make form. Besides, although form can be divided, how can emptiness be massed together?

Commentary:

When these motes of form mass together, a mass of form does not make emptiness. You have been postulating that particles of form unite with particles of form in order to make emptiness; but actually, a union of particles of form cannot make emptiness. Didn’t the Buddha just say, “It makes no sense to say that dust bordering on emptiness is composed of dust bordering on emptiness?” Now he says that motes bordering upon emptiness cannot unite with motes bordering upon emptiness to create emptiness. The motes of dust bordering on emptiness have already become emptiness; how can there still be motes bordering upon emptiness to unite with each other? When emptiness is massed together - suppose you say that you can combine emptiness to get motes of dust bordering upon emptiness - a mass of emptiness does not make form. Since it is empty, how can it also have a shape, a form, and an appearance? Besides, although form can be divided - when you have the appearance of form you can divide it up into minute particles - how can emptiness be massed together? Since emptiness is empty, what method can there be of making the emptiness come together? How can you unite emptiness with emptiness? It has already become emptiness, is it possible that you can bring the emptiness together further to form a mote of dust bordering upon emptiness?

P3 He concludes by showing the substance and function.

Sutra:

“You simply do not know that in the treasury of the Thus Come One the nature of form is true emptiness, and the nature of emptiness is true form. Pure at its origin, it pervades the dharma-realm. It accords with living beingsminds, in response to their capacity to know.

Commentary:

You simply do not know, Ananda, that in the treasury of the Thus Come One - the treasury of the Thus Come One is the true mind, the real appearance. You don’t know that if you investigate the question of emptiness and the motes of dust bordering upon emptiness to its primary source, you still won’t be able to resolve it. But the principle is found in the treasury of the Thus Come One: The nature of form is true emptiness, and the nature of emptiness is true form. At its ultimate point, the appearance of form is true emptiness; and at its ultimate point, the nature of emptiness has true form. Basically, it is not defiled, not pure, not produced, not extinguished, and it neither increases nor diminishes. Basically, it is unmoving. In its basic nature, pure at its origin, it pervades the dharma-realm with nothing in excess and nothing deficient.

“The nature of form is true emptiness, and the nature of emptiness is true form.” This kind of wonderful function accords with living beingsminds, in response to their capacity to know. It responds to their capacity: the extent of the wonder which each living being is capable of is revealed.

P4 He rejects the two theories for being mere conjectures.

Sutra:

"It is experienced to whatever extent is dictated by the law of karma. Ignorant of this fact, people in the world are so deluded as to assign its origin to causes and conditions or to spontaneity. These mistakes, which arise from the discriminations and reasoning processes of the conscious mind, are nothing but the play of empty words which have no real meaning.

Commentary:

It is experienced to whatever extent is dictated by the law of karma. It accords with living beingsminds and appears in accordance with the karma of each living being, in the amount that each is capable of knowing. The nature of form is true emptiness, and the nature of emptiness is true form. Pure in its origin, it pervades the dharma-realm. This wonderful function follows the karmic responses of each living being and gives rise to the kind of retribution that each should receive.

People in the world are so deluded as to assign its origin to causes and conditions. Who are they? They are people who cultivate according to externalist sects and provisional vehicles and ordinary people. They are confused about the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One, which is pure at its origin and pervades the dharma-realm. They do not recognize it. They believe it is based on causes and conditions. This is the attachment of adherents of the small vehicle: the dharma of causes and conditions. Or they assign it to spontaneity. Adherents of externalist sects are attached to the nature of spontaneity. How is it that they get cheated in this way? These mistakes, which arise from the discriminations and reasoning processes of the conscious mind - it is the distinction making conscious mind of adherents of the small vehicle, of externalist sects, and of ordinary people, making distinctions and calculations. They make calculations with considerations and distinctions. They speculate about things which have not yet happened, speculations which are nothing but the play of empty words which have no real meaning. The false thinking, distinctions, and calculations of the conscious mind - whether you talk about causes and conditions or spontaneity - are all just words. None of it is real. There isn’t any true and actual principle which can be spoken.

O2 The element fire.
P1 He reveals its nature and searches for it.

Sutra:

Ananda, fire, which has no nature of its own, depends upon various causes and conditions for its existence. Consider a family in the city that has not yet eaten. When they wish to prepare food, they hold up a speculum to the sun, seeking fire.

Commentary:

Ananda, fire, which has no nature of its own, depends upon various causes and conditions for its existence. The nature of fire has no substance of its own. There must be causes and conditions before it can arise. “Nature of its own” here refers not to a person but to the substance of fire. This passage of text should not be read, “I am devoid of fire,” which is to say, “I haven’t any temper.” If you didn’t have any fire in your nature, you would be a Bodhisattva.

Fire depends upon various causes and conditions for its existence. It has no nature of its own. It is inherent in all conditions. When the causes and conditions for fire are present, fire will appear. If the causes and conditions are not there, there will be no fire. Where is the nature of fire? The nature of fire pervades all places. Although it has no substance of its own, there is not a single place which is devoid of fire.

Consider a family in the city that has not yet eaten. Ananda, take a look at a family, in the city of Shravasti, that has not yet eaten. When they wish to prepare food, they go to the kitchen to make rice and vegetables. At this time, the sun is still shining; otherwise, fire could not come forth. They hold up a speculum to the sun, seeking fire. A speculum is a “fire mirror,” made out of metal. Facing the sun, they hold the speculum in one hand, and in the other they hold a piece of moxa for tinder. The sun strikes the speculum, and the reflected light heats the tinder until it catches fire. This ancient method of seeking fire from the sun was used before there were matches. Further on in the text the Buddha asks whether the fire comes from the sun, from the speculum, or from the moxa tinder.

P2 He explains the search in detail.

Sutra:

Ananda, let us look into your suggestion that the fire comes forth from mixing and uniting. By way of example, you and I and the twelve hundred and fifty bhikshus unite together to form a community. However, a careful analysis of the community reveals that every member composing it has his own body, birthplace, clan, and name. For instance, Shariputra is a brahman, Uruvilva is of the Kashyapa clan, and you, Ananda, come from the Gautama family.

Commentary:

Ananda, let us look into your suggestion that the fire comes forth from mixing and uniting. If there is a mixing and uniting, it certainly has to be apparent in some way. A lot of things coming together is called a mixing and uniting. What is it like? By way of example, you and I and the twelve hundred and fifty bhikshus unite together to form a community. It is like our assembly here, Ananda. You and I and the twelve hundred and fifty bhikshus have now come together to form one assembly, but that one assembly is not a single thing. However, a careful analysis of the community reveals that every member composing it has his own body. This group has come together as an assembly and this is called mixing and uniting. Suppose you ask about and investigate each person’s origin. It is said to be a single assembly, but each person nonetheless has his own body. Not only that, but each has his own body, birthplace, clan, and name. Those born into the Smith family are called Smith; those born into the Lee family are called Lee.

For instance, Shariputra. I have already discussed Shariputra. His mother’s eyes were as beautiful as those of the egret (white pelican). The egret is shari in Sanskrit, and putra means “son.” So his name means the “son of Shari.” He was a brahman. The brahman caste is the highest of India’s four classes. “Brahman” is a Sanskrit word which is explained as meaning “pure lineage,” pure seed. But, actually, the human seed is not pure, it is the brahman’s nature which is pure. “Brahman” also is explained as meaning “pure purpose.” They say that their patriarch came from the Brahma Heaven, and so they say they are of a pure lineage.

Uruvilva is of the Kashyapa clan. Uruvilva means “papaya grove.” He cultivated the Way beside a papaya grove, and so he called himself by that name. The name Kashyapa means “turtle clan.” They were so named because in the past their ancestors found a turtle with a map on its back.

And you, Ananda, come from the Gautama family. The nameAnanda” means “blissful.” He and Shakyamuni Buddha were both of the Gautama family. Later the