Shurangama Sutra- 2

Blind Man Seeing

 “Ánanda, you have told me that you saw my fist of bright light.  How did it take the form of a fist?  How did the fist come to emit light?  How was the fist made? By what means could you see it?”

Ánanda replied, “The body of the Buddha is born of purity and cleanness, and therefore, it assumes the color of Jambu river gold with deep red hues.  Hence, it shone as brilliant and dazzling as a precious mountain. It was actually my eyes that saw the Buddha bend his five-wheeled fingers to form a fist which was shown to all of us.”

The Buddha told Ánanda, “Today the Thus Come One will tell you the truth: all those with wisdom are able to achieve enlightenment through the use of examples. “Ánanda, take, for example, my fist: If I didn’t have a hand, I couldn’t make a fist.  If you didn’t have eyes, you couldn’t see.  If you apply the example of my fist to the case of your eyes, is the principle the same?”

Ánanda said, “Yes, World Honored One.  Since I can’t see without my eyes, if one applies the example of the Thus Come One’s fist to the case of my eyes, the principle is the same.”

The Buddha said to Ánanda,  “You say it is the same, but that is not right. “Why?  If a person has no hand, his fist is gone forever.  But one who is without eyes is not entirely devoid of sight. “Why not? Try consulting a blind man on a street: ‘What do you see?’ Any blind person will certainly answer, ‘Now I see only darkness in front of my eyes.  Nothing else meets my gaze.’ “The meaning is apparent: If he sees dark in front of him, how could his sight be considered ‘lost’?”

Ánanda said, “The only thing blind people see in front of their eyes is darkness.  How can that be called seeing?”

The Buddha said to Ánanda, “Is there any difference between the darkness seen by blind people, who do not have the use of their eyes, and the darkness seen by someone who has the use of his eyes when he is in a dark room?”

“Stated in that way, World Honored One, there is no difference between the two kinds of blackness, that seen by a person in a dark room and that seen by the blind.”

“Ánanda, if the person without the use of his eyes who sees only darkness were suddenly to regain his  sight and see all kinds of forms, and you say it is his eyes which see, then when a person in a dark room who sees only darkness suddenly sees all kinds of forms because a lamp is lit, you should say it is the lamp which sees. “If the lamp did the seeing, it would be endowed with sight. But then we would not call it a lamp anymore. Besides, if the lamp were to do the seeing, what would that have to do with you?  “Therefore you should know that while the lamp can reveal forms, the eyes, not the lamp, do the  seeing.  And while the eyes can reveal forms, the seeing-nature comes from the mind, not the eyes.”

Although Ánanda and everyone in the great assembly had heard what was said, their minds had not yet  understood, and so they remained silent. Hoping to hear more of the gentle sounds of the Thus Come One’s teaching, They put their palms together, purified their minds, and stood waiting for the Thus Come One’s compassionate instruction.

Then the World Honored One extended his bright hand that is as soft as tula cotton, opened his five  webbed fingers, and told Ánanda and the great assembly, “When I first accomplished the Way I went to the Deer Park, and for the sake of Ajnatakaundinya and all five of the Bhikshus, as well as for you of the  four-fold assembly, I said, ‘It is because beings are impeded by transitory defilements and afflictions that they do not realize Bodhi or become Arhats.’  At that time, what caused you who have now realized the various fruitions of sage hood to become enlightened?”

Then Ajnatakaundinya arose and said to the Buddha, “Of the elders now present in the great assembly,  only I received the name “Understanding” because I was enlightened to the meaning of transitory defilements and realized the fruition.



“World Honored One, the analogy can be made of a traveler who stops as a guest at a roadside inn,  perhaps for the night or perhaps for a meal.  When he has finished lodging there or when the meal is finished, he packs his baggage and sets out again.  He does not remain there at his leisure.  The host himself, however, does not leave.

“Considering it this way, the one who does not remain is called the guest, and the one who does remain is called the host. The transitory guest, then, is the one who does not remain.

“Again, the analogy can be made to how when the sun rises resplendent on a clear morning, its golden rays stream into a house through a crack to reveal particles of dust in the air.  The dust dances in the rays of light, but the empty space is unmoving.

“Considering it is that way, what is clear and still is called space, and what moves is called dust.  The defiling dust, then, is that which moves.”

The Buddha said, “So it is.”

Then in the midst of the great assembly the Thus Come One bent his five webbed fingers.  After bending them, he opened them again. After he opened them, he bent them again, and he asked Ánanda, “What do you see now?”

Ánanda said, “I see the Thus Come One’s hand opening and closing in the midst of the assembly, revealing his hundred-jeweled wheeled palms.”

The Buddha said to Ánanda, “You see my hand open and close in the assembly.  Is it my hand that  opens and closes, or is it your seeing that opens and closes?”

Ánanda said, “The World Honored One’s jeweled hand opened and closed in the assembly.  I saw the Thus Come One’s hand itself open and close while my seeing-nature neither opened nor closed.”

The Buddha said, “What moved and what was still?”

Ánanda said, “The Buddha’s hand did not remain at rest.  And since my seeing-nature is beyond even stillness, how could it not be at rest?”

The Buddha said, “So it is.”

Then from his wheeled palm the Thus Come One sent a gem-like ray of light flying to Ánanda’s right.  Ánanda immediately turned his head and glanced to the right.  The Buddha then sent another ray of light to Ánanda’s left.  Ánanda again turned his head and glanced to the left. The Buddha said to Ánanda,  “Why did your head move just now?”

Ánanda said, “I saw the Thus Come One emit a wonderful gem-like light which flashed by my left and right, and so I looked left and right.  My head moved by itself.”

“Ánanda, when you glanced at the Buddha’s light and moved your head left and right, was it your head that moved or your seeing that moved?”

“World Honored One, my head moved of itself.  Since my seeing-nature is beyond even cessation, how could it move?”

The Buddha said, “So it is.”

Then the Thus Come One told everyone in the assembly, “Normally beings would say that the defiling  dust moves and that the transitory guest does not remain.

“You have observed that it was Ánanda’s head moved; yet his seeing did not move.  You also have observed my hand open and close; yet you’re seeing did not stretch or bend.

“Why do you continue to rely on your physical bodies which move and on the external environment which also moves? From the beginning to the end, this causes your every thought to be subject to production and extinction.

“You have lost your true nature and conduct yourselves in upside-down ways. Having lost your true  nature and mind, you take objects to be yourself, and so you cling to revolving on the wheel of rebirth.”

When Ánanda and the great assembly heard the Buddha’s instructions, they became peaceful and composed both in body and mind. They recollected that since time without beginning, they had strayed from their fundamental true mind by mistakenly taking the shadows of the differentiations of conditioned defilements to be real. Now on this day as they awakened, they were each like a lost infant who suddenly finds its beloved mother. They put their palms together to make obeisance to the Buddha.

They wished to hear the Thus Come One enlighten them to the dual nature of body and mind, of what is false, of what is true, of what is empty and what is existent, and of what is subject to production and extinction and what transcends production and extinction.


King Prasenajit on the Aging Body

 Then King Prasenajit rose and said to the Buddha, “In the past, when I had not yet received the  teachings of the Buddha, I met Katyayana and Vairatiputra, both of whom said that this body ends at death, and that this is Nirvana.  Now, although I have met the Buddha, I still wonder about that. How can  I go about realizing the mind at the level of no production and no extinction?  Now all in this Great Assembly who still have outflows also wish to be instructed on this subject.”

The Buddha said to the great king, “Let’s talk about your body as it is right now. Now I ask you, will your physical body be like vajra, indestructible and living forever?  Or will it change and go bad?”

“World Honored One, this body of mine will keep changing until it eventually perishes.”

The Buddha said, “Great king, you have not yet perished.  How do you know you will perish?”

“World Honored One, although my impermanent, changing, and decaying body has not yet become extinct, I observe it now, as every passing thought fades away.  Each new one fails to remain, but is gradually extinguished like fire turning wood to ashes. This ceaseless extinguishing convinces me that this body will eventually completely perish.”

The Buddha said, “So it is.”

“Great king, at your present age you are already old and declining.  How does your appearance and complexion compare to when you were a youth?”

“World Honored One, in the past when I was young my skin was moist and shining.  When I reached the prime of life, my blood and breath were full.  But now in my declining years, as I race into old age, my form is withered and wizened and my spirit dull.  My hair is white and my face is wrinkled and not much time remains for me.  How could one possibly compare me now with the way I was when in my prime?”

The Buddha said, “Great king, your appearance should not decline so suddenly.”

The king said, “World Honored One, the change has been a hidden transformation of which I honestly have not been aware.  I have come to this gradually through the passing of winters and summers.

“How did it happen?  In my twenties, I was still young, but my features had aged since the time I was  ten.  My thirties were a further decline from my twenties, and now at sixty-two I look back at my fifties as hale and hearty.

“World Honored One, I now contemplate these hidden transformations.  Although the changes wrought  by this process of dying are evident through the decades, I might consider them further in finer detail: these changes do not occur just in periods of twelve years; there are actually changes year by year.  Not only are there annual changes, there are also monthly transformations.  Nor does it stop at monthly transformations; there are also differences day by day.  Examining them closely, I find that kshana by kshana, thought after thought, they never stop.”

“And so I know my body will keep changing until it has perished.”

The Buddha told the Great King,  “By watching the ceaseless changes of these transformations, you awaken and know of your perishing, but do you also know that at the time of perishing there is something in your body which does not become extinct?”

King Prasenajit put his palms together and said to the Buddha, “I really do not know.”

The Buddha said, “I will now show you the nature which is neither produced and nor extinguished.

“Great King, how old were you when you saw the waters of the Ganges?”  The King said, “When I was three years old my compassionate mother led me to visit the goddess Jiva.  We passed a river, and at the time I knew it was the waters of the Ganges.”

The Buddha said, “Great King, you have said that when you were twenty you had deteriorated from when you were ten.  Day by day, month-by-month, year by year until you reached sixty, in thought after thought there has been change. Yet when you saw the Ganges River at the age of three, how was it different from when you were thirteen?”

The King said, “It was no different from when I was three, and even now when I am sixty-two it is still no different.”

The Buddha said, “Now you are mournful that your hair is white and your face wrinkled.  In the same  way that your face is definitely more wrinkled then it was in your youth, has the seeing with which you look at the Ganges aged, so that it is old now but was young when you looked at the river as a child in the past?”

The King said, “No, World Honored One.”

The Buddha said, “Great King, your face is wrinkled, but the essential nature of your seeing will never wrinkle. What wrinkles is subject to change. What does not wrinkle does not change.

“What changes will perish, but what does not change is fundamentally free of production and extinction.  How could it be subject to your birth and death? Furthermore, why bring up what Maskari Goshaliputra and the others say: that after the death of this body there is total annihilation?”

The king heard these words, believed them, and realized that when the life of this body is finished, there  will be rebirth.  He and the entire great assembly were greatly delighted at having obtained what they never had before.


Ananda Asks Question on Going About Things in an Upside-down Way

 Ánanda then arose from this seat, made obeisance to the Buddha, put his palms together, knelt on both knees, and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, if this seeing and hearing are indeed neither produced nor extinguished, why did the World Honored One refer to us people as having lost our true natures and as going about things in an upside-down way?  I hope the World Honored One will give rise to great compassion and wash my dust and defilement away.”

Then the Thus Come One let his golden-colored arm fall so his webbed fingers pointed downward, and demonstrating this to Ánanda, said, “You see the position of my hand: is it right-side-up or upside-down?”

Ánanda said, “Being in the world take it to be upside-down. I myself do not know what is right-side-up and what is upside-down.”

The Buddha said to Ánanda,  “If people of the world take this as upside-down, what do people of the  world take to be right-side-up?

Ánanda said, “They call it right-side-up when the Thus Come One raises his arm, with the fingers of his cotton-soft hand pointing up in the air.”

The Buddha then held up his hand and said: “And so for it to be upside-down would be for it to be just the opposite of this. Or at least that’s how people of the world would regard it. “In the same way they will differentiate between your body and the Thus Come One’s pure Dharma body and will say that the Thus Come One’s body is one of right and universal knowledge, while your body is upside down. “But examine your body and the Buddha’s closely for this upside-downness: What exactly does the term ‘upside down’ refer to?”

Thereupon Ánanda and the entire great assembly were dazed and stared unblinking at the Buddha.  They did not know in what way their bodies and minds were upside down.

The Buddha’s compassion arose as he empathized with Ánanda and all in the great assembly and he spoke to the great assembly in a voice that swept over them like the ocean-tide. “All of you good people, I have often said that all conditions that bring about forms and the mind as well as dharmas pertaining to the mind and all the conditioned dharmas are manifestations of the mind only. Your bodies and your minds all appear within the wonder of the bright, true, essential, magnificent mind. “Why do I say that you have lost track of what is fundamentally wonderful, the perfect, wonderful bright  mind, and that in the midst of your gem-like bright and wonderful nature, you wallow in confusion while being right within enlightenment.

“Mental dimness turns into emptiness.  This emptiness, in the dimness, unites with darkness to become form.

“Form mixes with false thinking and the thoughts take shape and become the body.

“As causal conditions come together, there are perpetual internal disturbances, which tend to gallop outside. Such inner turmoil is often mistaken for the nature of the mind.

“Once that is mistaken to be the mind, a further delusion determines that it is located in the physical  body.

“You do not know that the physical body as well as the mountains, the rivers, empty space, and the great earth are all within the wonderful bright true mind.

Such a delusion is like ignoring hundreds of thousands of clear pure seas and taking notice of only a single bubble, seeing it as the entire ocean, as the whole expanse of the great and small seas.

“You people are doubly deluded among the deluded. Such delusion does not differ from that caused by  my lowered hand. The Thus Come One says you are pathetic.”


Pointing a Finger at the Moon

 Having received the Buddha’s compassionate rescue and profound instruction, Ánanda wept, folded his hands, and said to the Buddha, “I have heard these wonderful sounds of the Buddha and have awakened to the primal perfection of the wonderful bright mind as being the eternally dwelling mind-ground.

“But now in awakening to the Dharma-sounds that the Buddha is speaking, I know that I have been using my conditioned mind to regard and revere them. Having just become aware of that mind, I dare yet claim to recognize that fundamental mind-ground.

“I pray that the Buddha will be compassionate and with his perfect voice explain to us in order to pull our  doubts out by the roots and enable us to return to the unsurpassed Way.”

The Buddha told Ánanda, “You and others like you still listen to the Dharma with the conditioned mind, and so the Dharma becomes conditioned as well, and you do not obtain the Dharma-nature. This is similar to a person pointing his finger at the moon to show it to someone else.  Guided by the finger, the other person should see the moon. If he looks at the finger instead and mistakes it for the moon, he loses not only the moon but the finger also. Why, because he mistakes the pointing finger for the bright moon.

“Not only does he lose the finger, but he also fails to recognize light and darkness. Why? He mistakes the solid matter of the finger for the bright nature of the moon, and so he does not understand the two natures of light and darkness. The same is true of you.

“If you take what distinguishes the sound of my speaking Dharma to be your mind, then that mind  itself, apart from the sound which is distinguished, should have a nature which makes distinctions. Take the example of the guest who lodged overnight at an inn; he stopped temporarily and then went on.  He did not dwell there permanently, whereas the innkeeper did not go anywhere, since he was the host of the inn.

“The same applies here. If it were truly your mind, it would not go anywhere. And so why in the absence of sound does it have no discriminating nature of its own?

“This, then, applies not only to the distinguishing of sound, but in distinguishing my appearance, that mind has no distinction-making nature apart from the attributes of form.

“This is true even when the making of distinctions is totally absent; when there is no form and no  emptiness, or in the obscurity which Goshali and others take to be the ‘profound truth’: that mind still does not have a distinction-making nature in the absence of casual conditions.

“How can we say that the nature of that mind of yours plays the part of host since everything perceived by it can be returned to something else?”

Ánanda said, “If every state of our mind can be returned to something else as its cause, then why does the wonderful bright original mind mentioned by the Buddha return nowhere?  We only hope that the Buddha will empathize with us and explain this for us.”

The Buddha said to Ánanda, “As you now look at me, the essence of your seeing is fundamentally  bright. Although that seeing is not the wonderful essential brightness of the mind, it is like a second moon, rather than the moon’s reflection.

“Listen attentively, for I am now going to explain to you the concept of not returning to anything.

“Ánanda, this great lecture hall is open to the east. When the sun rises in the sky, it is flooded with light. At midnight, during a new moon or when clouds or fog obscures the moon, it is dark. Looking out through open doors and windows your vision is unimpeded; facing walls or houses your vision is hindered. In such places where there are forms of distinctive features your vision is causally conditioned.  In a dull void, you can see only emptiness.  Your vision will be distorted when the objects of seeing are shrouded in dust and vapor; you will perceive clearly when the air is fresh.

“Ánanda, observe all these transitory characteristics as I now return each to its source. What are their sources? Ánanda, among these transitions, the light can be returned to the sun.  Why?  Without the sun there would be no light; therefore the cause of light belongs with the sun, and so it can be returned to the sun.

“Darkness can be returned to the new moon.  Penetration can be returned to the doors and windows while obstruction can be returned to the walls and eaves.  Conditions can be returned to distinctions.   Emptiness can be returned to dull emptiness.  Darkness and distortion can be returned to mist and haze.  Bright purity can be returned to freshness, and nothing that exists in this world goes beyond these  categories.”

“To which of the eight states of perception would the essence of your seeing be reducible? Why do I  ask that? If it returned to brightness, you would not see darkness when there was no light.  Although such states of perception as light, darkness, and the like differ from one another, your seeing remains unchanged.

“That which can be returned to other sources clearly is not you; if that which you cannot return to  anything else is not you, then what is it?

“Therefore I know that your mind is fundamentally wonderful, bright, and pure.  You yourself are  confused and deluded.  You abuse what is fundamental, and end up undergoing the cycle of rebirth, bobbing up and down in the sea of birth and death. No wonder the Thus Come One says that you are the most pathetic of creatures.”

Ánanda said, “Although I recognize that the seeing-nature cannot be traced back to anything, but how can I come to know that it is my true nature?”

The Buddha told Ánanda, “Now I have a question for you.  At this point you have not yet attained the purity of no outflows.  Blessed by the Buddha’s spiritual strength, you are able to see into the first dhyana heavens without any obstruction, just as Aniruddha looks at Jambudvipa with such clarity as he might at an amala fruit in the palm of his hand.

“Bodhisattvas can see hundreds of thousands of realms. The Thus Come Ones of the ten directions see everything throughout pure lands as numerous as fine motes of dust. By contrast, ordinary beings’ sight does not extend beyond a fraction of an inch.

“Ánanda, as you and I now look at the palace where the four heavenly kings reside, and inspect all that moves in the water, on dry land, and in the air, some are dark and some are bright, varying in shape and appearance, and yet all of these are nothing but the dust before us, taking solid form only through our  own distinction-making.

“Among them you should distinguish which is self and which is other. I ask you now to select from within your seeing which is the substance of the self and which is the appearance of things.

“Ánanda, if you take a good look at everything everywhere within the range of your vision extending from the palaces of the sun and moon to the seven gold mountain ranges, all that you see is phenomena of different features and degrees of light.  At closer range you will gradually see clouds floating, birds flying, wind blowing, dust rising, trees, mountains, streams, grasses, seeds, people, and animals, all of which are phenomena, but none of which are you.

“Ánanda, all phenomena, near and far, have their own nature.  Although each is distinctly different, they are seen with the same pure essence of seeing. Thus all the categories of phenomena have their individual distinctions, but the seeing-nature has no differences. That essential wonderful brightness is most certainly your seeing-nature.

“If seeing were a phenomenon, then you should also be able to see my seeing.

“If we both looked at the same phenomenon, you would also be seeing my seeing. Then, when I’m not  seeing, why can’t you see my not seeing?

“If you could see my not-seeing, it clearly would not be the phenomenon that I am not seeing. If you cannot not see my ‘not seeing’, then it is clearly not a phenomenon. How could it not be you?

Besides that, if you’re seeing of phenomena was like that then when you saw things, things should also see you.  With substance and nature mixed together, you, I, and everyone in the world would no longer be distinguishable from each other.

“Ánanda, when you see, it is you who sees, not me. The seeing-nature pervades everywhere; whose is it if it is not yours?

“Why do you have doubts about your own true-nature and come to me seeking verification, thinking your nature is not true?”

Ánanda  said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, given that this seeing-nature is certainly mine and no one else’s, when the Thus Come One and I regard the hall of the Four Heavenly Kings with its supreme abundance of jewels or stay at the palace of the sun and moon, this seeing completely pervades the lands of the Saha World.  Upon returning to this sublime lecture hall, the seeing only observes the monastic grounds and once inside the pure central hall, it only sees the eaves and corridors.

“World Honored One that is how the seeing is. At first its substance pervaded everywhere throughout  the one realm, but now in the midst of this room it fills one room only. Does the seeing shrink from great to small, or do the walls and eaves press in and cut it off? Now I do not know where the meaning of this lies and hope the Buddha will extend his vast compassion and proclaim it for me thoroughly.”

The Buddha told Ánanda,  “All the aspects of everything in the world, such as big and small, inside and outside, amount to the dust before you.  Do not say the seeing stretches and shrinks.

“Consider the example of a square container in which a square of emptiness is seen. I ask you further: is  the square emptiness that is seen in the square container a fixed square shape, or is it not fixed as a square shape?

“If it is a fixed square shape, when it is switched to a round container the emptiness would not be  round.  If it is not a fixed shape, then when it is in the square container it should not be a square-shaped emptiness.

“You say you do not know where the meaning lies.  The nature of the meaning being thus, how can  you speak of its location?

Ánanda, if you wished there to be neither squareness nor roundness, you would only need to remove the container. The essential emptiness has no shape, and so do not say that you would also have to remove the shape from the emptiness.

“If, as you suggest, your seeing shrinks and becomes small when you enter a room, then when you look up at the sun shouldn’t your seeing be pulled out until it reaches the sun’s surface? If walls and eaves can press in and cut off your seeing, then why if you were to drill a small hole, wouldn’t there be evidence of the seeing reconnecting? And so that idea is not feasible.

“From beginningless time until now, all beings have mistaken themselves for phenomena and, having lost sight of their original mind, are influenced by phenomena, and end up having the scope of their observations defined by boundaries large and small.

“If you can influence phenomena, then you are the same as the Thus Come One.

“With body and mind perfect and bright, you are your own unmoving Way-place.

“The tip of a single fine hair can completely contain the lands of the ten directions.”

Ánanda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, if this seeing-essence is indeed my wonderful nature, my wonderful nature should no be right in front of me.  The seeing being truly me, what, then, are my present body and mind?  Yet it is my body and mind, which make distinctions, whereas the seeing does  not make distinctions and does not discern my body.

“If it were really my mind which caused me to see now, then the seeing-nature would actually be me, and my body would not be me.

“How would that differ from the question the Thus Come One asked about phenomena being able to see me?  I only hope the Buddha will extend his great compassion and explain for those who have not yet awakened.”

The Buddha told Ánanda, “What you have just now said–that the seeing is in front of you–is actually not the case.”

“If it were actually in front of you, it would be something you could actually see, and then the seeing-essence would have a location. There would have to be some evidence of it.

“Now as you sit in the Jeta Grove you look about everywhere at the grove, the pond, the halls, up  at the sun and moon, and at the Ganges River before you.  Now, before my Lion’s Seat, point out these various appearances: what is dark is the groves, what is bright is the sun, what is obstructing is the walls, what is clear is emptiness, and so on including even the grasses and trees, and the most minute objects.  Their sizes vary, but since they all have appearances, all can be located.

“If you insist that you’re seeing is in front of you, then you should be able to point it out. What is the seeing?  Ánanda, if emptiness were the seeing, then since it had already become your seeing, what would have become of emptiness?  If phenomena were the seeing, since they had already become the seeing, what would have become of phenomena?

“You should be able to cut through and peel away the myriad appearances to the finest degree and thereby distinguish and bring forth the essential brightness and pure wonder of the source of seeing, pointing it out and showing it to me from among all these things, so that it is perfectly clear beyond any doubt.”

Ánanda said, “From where I am now in this many-storied lecture hall, reaching to the distant Ganges River and the sun and moon overhead, all that I might raise my hand to point to, all that I indulge my eyes in seeing, all are phenomena; they are not the seeing.

World Honored One, it is as the Buddha has said: not to mention someone like me, a Hearer of the first stage, who still has outflows, even Bodhisattvas cannot break open and reveal, among the myriad appearances which are before them, an essence of seeing which has a special nature of its own apart from all phenomena.”

The Buddha said, “So it is, so it is.”

The Buddha further said to Ánanda,  “It is as you have said.  No seeing-essence that would have a nature of its own apart from all phenomena can be found. Therefore, all the phenomena you point to are phenomena, and none of them is the seeing.

“Now I will tell you something else: as you and the Thus Come One sit here in the Jeta Grove and look again at the groves and gardens, up to the sun and moon, and at all the various different appearances, having determined that the seeing-essence is not among anything you might point to. I now advise you to go ahead and discover what, among all these phenomena, is not your seeing.”

Ánanda said, “As I look all over this Jeta Grove, I do not know what in the midst of it is not my seeing.

“Why is that?  If trees were not the seeing, why would I see trees?  If trees were the seeing, then how could they also be trees?  The same is true of everything up to and including emptiness: if emptiness were not the seeing, why would I see emptiness?  If emptiness were the seeing, then how could it also be emptiness?

“As I consider it again and explore the subtlest aspects of the myriad appearances, none is not my  seeing.”

The Buddha said, “So it is, so it is.”

Then all in the great assembly who had not reached the stage beyond study were stunned upon hearing these words of the Buddha, and could not make heads or tails of it all.  They were agitated and taken aback at the same time, having lost their bearings.

The Thus Come One, knowing they were anxious and upset, let empathy rise in his heart as he consoled Ánanda and everyone in the great assembly.  “Good people, what the unsurpassed Dharma King says is true and real.  He says it just as it is.  He never deceives anyone; he never lies.  He is not like Maskari Goshaliputra advocating his four kinds of non-dying, spouting deceptive and confusing theories.  Consider this carefully and do not be embarrassed to ask about it.”


Manjushri Asks about the Essence of Seeing as Being both Form and Emptiness and as Being Neither of Them

 Then Dharma Prince Manjushri, feeling sorry for the fourfold assembly, rose from his seat in the midst of  the great assembly, bowed at the Buddha’s feet, placed his palms together respectfully, and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, the great assembly has not awakened to the principle of the Thus Come One’s two-fold disclosure of the essence of seeing as being both form and emptiness and as being neither of them.

“World Honored One, if conditioned forms, emptiness, and other phenomena mentioned above were the  seeing, there should be an indication of them; and if they were not the seeing, there should be nothing there to be seen.  Now we do not know what is meant, and this is why we are alarmed and concerned.

Yet our good roots from former lives are not deficient. We only hope the Thus Come One will have the great compassion to reveal exactly what all the things are and what the seeing-essence is. Among all of those, what exists and what doesn’t?

The Buddha told Manjushri and the great assembly, “To the Thus Come Ones and the great Bodhisattvas of the ten directions, who dwell in this samadhi, seeing and the conditions of seeing, as well as thoughts regarding seeing, are like flowers in space–fundamentally non-existent.

“This seeing and its conditions are originally the wonderful pure bright substance of Bodhi.  How could one inquire into its existence or non-existence?

Manjushri, I now ask you: Could there be another Manjushri besides you? Or would that Manjushri not be you?

“No, World Honored One: I would be the real Manjushri. There couldn’t be any other Manjushri. Why not? If there were another one, there would be two Manjushris.  But as it is now, I could not be that non-existent Manjushri.  Actually, neither of the two concepts ‘existent’ or ‘non-existent’ applies.”

The Buddha said, “That is how the basic substance of wonderful Bodhi is in terms of emptiness and  mundane objects. They are basically misnomers for the wonderful brightness of unsurpassed Bodhi, the pure, perfect, true mind. Our misconception turns them into form and emptiness, as well as hearing and  seeing.

“They are like the second moon: does that moon exist or not? Manjushri, there is only one true moon. That leaves no room for questioning  its existence or non-existence.

“Therefore, your current contemplating of the seeing and the mundane objects and the many observations that entails are all false thoughts. You cannot transcend existence and non-existence while caught up in them.

“Only the true essence, the wonderful enlightened bright nature is beyond pointing out or not pointing  out.”

Ánanda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, it is truly as the Dharma King has said: the condition of enlightenment pervades the ten directions. It is clear and eternal its nature is neither produced nor extinguished.  “How does it differ, then, from the Elder Brahmin Kapila’s teaching of the mysterious truth or from the teaching of the ash-smeared ascetics or from the other externalist sects that say there is a true self which pervades the ten directions?

“Also, in the past, the World Honored One gave a lengthy lecture on this topic at Mount Lanka for the  sake of Great Wisdom Bodhisattva and others: ‘Those externalist sects always speak of spontaneity.  I speak of causes and conditions which is an entirely different frame of reference.’

“Now as I contemplate original enlightenment in its natural state, as being neither produced nor  extinguished, and as apart from all empty falseness and inversion, it seems to have nothing to do with your causes and conditions or the spontaneity advocated by others.  Would you please enlighten us on this point so we can avoid joining those of deviant views, thus enabling us to obtain the true mind, the bright nature of wonderful enlightenment?”

The Buddha told Ánanda, “Now I have instructed you with such expedients in order to tell you the truth, yet you do not awaken to it but mistake what I describe for spontaneity.

“Ánanda, If it definitely were spontaneous, you should be able to distinguish the substance of the spontaneity.

“Now you investigate the wonderful bright seeing. What is its spontaneous aspect? Is the bright light its spontaneous aspect?  Is darkness its spontaneous aspect?  Is emptiness its spontaneous aspect?  Are solid objects its spontaneous aspect?

“Ánanda, if its spontaneous aspect consisted of light, you should not see darkness.  Or, if its spontaneous aspect were emptiness, you should not see solid objects.  Continuing in the same way, if its spontaneous aspect were all dark appearances, then, when confronted with light, the seeing-nature should be cut off and extinguished, so how could you see light?”

Ánanda  said, “The nature of this wonderful seeing definitely does not seem to be spontaneous. And so I propose that it is produced from causes and conditions.  But I am not totally clear about this. I now ask the Thus Come One whether this idea is consistent with the nature of causes and conditions.”

The Buddha said, “You say  the nature of seeing is causes and conditions. I ask you about that: because you are now seeing, the seeing-nature manifests.  Does this seeing exist because of light?  Does it exist because of darkness?  Does it exist because of emptiness? Does it exist because of solid objects?

“Ánanda, if light is the cause that brings about seeing, you should not see darkness.  If darkness is the cause that brings about seeing, you should not see light.  The same question applies to emptiness and solid objects.

“Moreover, Ánanda, does the seeing derive from the condition of there being light?  Does the seeing derive from the condition of there being darkness?  Does the seeing derive from the condition of there being emptiness?  Does the seeing derive from the condition of there being solid objects?

“Ánanda, if it existed because there is emptiness, you should not see solid objects.  If it exists because of there are solid objects, you should not see emptiness:  It would bethe same with light or darkness as it would be with emptiness or solid objects.

“Thus you should know that the essential, enlightened wonderful brightness is due to neither causes nor conditions nor does it arise spontaneously.

“Nor is it the negation of spontaneity. It is neither a negation nor the denial of a negation.

“All dharmas are defined as being devoid of any attributes.

“Now in the midst of them, how can you use your mind to make distinctions that are based on clever debate and technical jargon? To do that is like  grasping at empty space: you only end up tiring yourself out.  How could empty space possibly yield to your grasp?”


The Four Conditions of Emptiness, Brightness, the Mind, and the Eyes

 Ánanda said to the Buddha, “If the nature of the wonderful enlightenment has neither causes nor conditions then why does the World Honored One always tell the bhikshus that the nature of seeing derives from the four conditions of emptiness, brightness, the mind, and the eyes?  What does that mean?”

The Buddha said, “Ánanda,  what I have spoken about causes and conditions in the mundane sense does not describe the primary meaning. ”

Ánanda,  I ask you again: people in the world say, ‘I can see.’  What is that ‘seeing’?  And what is ‘not seeing’?”

Ánanda said, “The light of the sun, the moon, and lamps is the cause that allows people in the world to see all kinds of appearances: that is called seeing.  Without these three kinds of light, they would not be  able to see.”

“Ánanda, if you say there is no seeing in the absence of light then you should not see darkness.  If in fact you do see darkness, which is just lack of light, how can you say there is no seeing?”

“Ánanda, if, when it is dark, you call that ‘not seeing’ because you do not see light, then since it is now light and you do not see the characteristic of darkness, that should also be called ‘not seeing.’  Thus, both aspects would be called ‘not seeing.’”

“Although these two aspects counteract each other, your seeing-nature does not lapse for an instant.   Thus you should know that seeing continues in both cases.  How, then, can you say there is no seeing?

“Therefore, Ánanda, you should know that when you see light, the seeing is not the light.  When you see darkness, the seeing is not the darkness.  When you see emptiness, the seeing is not the emptiness.  When you see solid objects, the seeing is not the solid objects.

And by extension of these four facts, you should also know that when you see your seeing, the seeing is not that seeing.  Since the former seeing is beyond the latter, the latter cannot reach it.  Such being the case, how can you describe it as being due to causes and conditions or spontaneity or that it has  something to do with mixing and uniting?

“You narrow-minded Hearers are so inferior and ignorant that you are unable to penetrate through to the purity of ultimate reality.  Now I will continue to instruct you.  Consider well what is said.  Do not become weary or negligent on the wonderful road to Bodhi.”

Ánanda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, we have still not understood what the Buddha, the World Honored One, has explained for me and for others like me about causes and conditions, spontaneity, the attributes of mixing and uniting, and the absence of mixing and uniting.  And now to hear further that the seeing that can be seen is not the seeing adds yet another layer of confusion.

“Humbly, I hope that with your vast compassion you will bestow upon us the great wisdom-eye so as to show us the bright pure enlightened mind.”  After saying this he wept, made obeisance, and waited to receive the sacred  instruction.


The Wonderful Path of Cultivation for All Samadhis of the Great Dharani

 Then the World Honored One, out of pity for Ánanda and the great assembly, began to explain extensively the wonderful path of cultivation for all samadhis of the Great Dharani, and said to Ánanda, “Although you have a keen memory, it only benefits your extensive learning. But your mind has not yet understood the subtle secret contemplation and illumination of shamatha. Listen attentively now as I explain it for you in detail,

“And cause all those of the future who have outflows to obtain the fruition of Bodhi.

“Ánanda, all living beings turn in the cycle of rebirth in this world because of two upside-down discriminating false views.  Wherever these views arise, they cause one to revolve through the cycle in accord with their corresponding karma.

“What are the two views? The first consists of the false view based on living beings’ individual karma.  The second consists of the false view based on living beings’ collective karma.

“What is meant by false views based on individual karma? Ánanda, take for example someone who has cataracts on his eyes so that at night he alone sees around the lamp a circular reflection composed of layers of five colors.

“What do you think?  Are the colors that compose the circle of light that appears around the lamp at night created by the lamp or are they created by the seeing?

“Ánanda, if the colors were created by the lamp, why is it that someone without the disease does not see the same thing, and only the one who is diseased sees the circular reflection? If the colors were created by the seeing, then the seeing would have already become colored; what, then, should the circular reflection that the diseased person sees to be called?

“Moreover, Ánanda, if the circular reflection were a thing in itself, apart from the lamp, then it should be seen around the folding screen, the curtain, the table, and the mats. On the other hand, if it had nothing to do with the seeing, the eyes should not see it.  So why does the man with cataracts see the circular reflections with his eyes?

“Therefore, you should know that in fact the colors originate from the lamp, and the disease of the seeing brings about the reflection.  Both the circular reflection and the faulty seeing are the result of the cataract.  But that which sees the diseased film is not sick. Thus you should not say that the cause is the lamp or the seeing or neither the lamp nor the seeing.

“Consider the example of which is neither substantial nor a reflection. This is because the double image of the moon is merely a result of applying pressure on the eyeball.  Hence, a wise person would not try to argue that the second moon either has or doesn’t have a form, or that it is apart from the seeing or not apart from the seeing.

“The same is true in this case: the illusion is created by the diseased eyes.  You cannot say it  originates from the lamp or from the seeing: even less can it be said not to originate from the lamp or the seeing.

“What is meant by the false view of the collective karma? Ánanda, in Jambudvipa, besides the waters of the great seas, there is level land that forms some three thousand continents. “East and west, throughout the entire expanse of the great continent, there are twenty-three hundred large countries. In the other smaller continents in the seas there may be two or three hundred countries, or perhaps one or two, or perhaps thirty, forty, or fifty.

“Ánanda, suppose that among them there is one small continent where there are only two countries.  The people of just one of the countries collectively experience evil conditions.  On that small continent, all the people of that country see all kinds of inauspicious omens. “Perhaps they see two suns, perhaps they see two moons, perhaps they see the moon with circles of, or a dark haze, or girdle-ornaments around them (white vapor around it, or half around it); or comets with long rays, or comets with short rays, moving (or “flying”) stars, shooting stars, ‘ears’ on the sun or moon,  (evil haze above the sun, or evil haze besides the sun), (morning) rainbows, secondary (evening) rainbows, and various other evil signs.

“Only the people in that country see them. The beings in the other country never do see or hear anything unusual.

“Ánanda, I will now summarize and compare these two cases for you, to make both of them clear. “Ánanda  let us examine the case of the being’s false view involving individual karma. He saw the appearance of a circular reflection around the lamp.  Although this appearance seemed to be real, in the end, what was seen came about because of the cataracts on his eyes.

“The cataracts are the result of the weariness of the seeing rather than the products of form.  However, what perceives the cataracts is free from all defects.  By the same token, you now use your eyes to look at the  mountains, the rivers, the countries, and all the living beings: and they are all brought about by the disease of your seeing contracted since time without beginning.

“Seeing and the conditions of seeing seem to reveal what is before you. Originally our enlightenment is bright. The cataracts influence the seeing and its conditions, so that what is perceived by the seeing is affected by the cataracts. But no cataract affects the perception and the conditions of our  fundamentally enlightened bright mind.

The perception that perceives the cataracts is a perception not affected by the cataracts. That is the true perception of seeing. Why name it other things like awareness, hearing, knowing, and seeing?

“Therefore, you now see me and yourself and the world and all the ten kinds of living beings because of a disease in the seeing.  What perceives the disease is not diseased.

“The nature of true essential seeing has no disease.  Therefore it is not called seeing.

“Ánanda let us compare the false views of those living beings’ collective karma with the false views of the individual karma of one person.

“The individual person with the diseased eyes can be likened to the people of that one country.  He  sees circular reflections, erroneously brought about by a disease of the seeing.  The beings with a collective share see inauspicious things.  In the midst of their karma of identical views arise pestilence and evils.

“Both are produced from a beginningless falsity of seeing. It is the same in the three thousand continents of Jambudvipa, throughout the four great seas in the Saha World and on through the ten directions. All countries that have outflows and all living beings are the enlightened bright wonderful mind without outflows. Seeing, hearing, awareness, and knowing are an illusory falseness brought about by the disease and its conditions. Mixing and uniting with that brings about a false birth; mixing and uniting with that creates a false death.

“If you can leave far behind all conditions which mix and unite as well as those which do not mix and unite, then you can also extinguish and cast out the causes of birth and death, and obtain perfect  Bodhi, the nature of which is neither produced nor extinguished. That is the pure clear basic mind, the eternal fundamental enlightenment.

“Ánanda, although you have already realized that the wonderful bright fundamental enlightenment is not originated by conditions nor is it originated by spontaneity, you have not yet understood that the source of enlightenment does not originate from mixing and uniting or from a lack of mixing and uniting.

“Ánanda, now I will once again make use of the mundane objects before you to question you.  You now hold that false thoughts mix and unite with the causes and conditions of everything in the world, and you wonder if the Bodhi mind one realizes might arise from mixing and uniting.

“To follow that line of thinking, right now, does the wonderful pure seeing-essence mix with light, does it mix with darkness, does it mix with penetration or does it mix with obstructions?  If it mixed with light,  then when you looked at light, when light appeared before you, at what point would it mix with your seeing? Given that seeing has certain attributes, what would the altered shape of such a mixture be?

“If that mixture were not the seeing, how could you see the light?  If it were the seeing, how could the seeing see itself?

“If you insist that seeing is complete, what room would there be for it to mix with the light?  And if light were complete in itself, it could not unite and mix with the seeing.

“If seeing were different from light, then, when mixed together, both its quality and the light would lose their identity.  Since the mixture would result in the loss of the light and the quality of seeing, the  proposal that the seeing-essence mixes with light doesn’t hold. The same principle applies to its mixing with darkness, with penetration, or with all kinds of solid objects.

“Moreover, Ánanda, as you are right now, once again, does the wonderful pure seeing-essence unite with light, does it unite with darkness, does it unite with penetration, or does it unite with solid objects?

“If it united with light, then when darkness came and the attributes of light ceased to be, how could you see darkness since the seeing would not be united with darkness?  If you could see darkness and yet at the same time there was no union with darkness, but rather a union with light, you should not be able to see light. Since you could not be seeing light, then why is it that when your seeing comes in contact with light, it recognizes light, not darkness?

“The same would be true of its union with darkness, with penetration, or with any kind of solid object.”

“Ánanda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, as I consider it, the source of this wonderful enlightenment does not mix or unite with any conditioned mundane objects or with mental speculation. Is that the case?”

“The Buddha said, “Now you want to say that the enlightened nature neither mixes nor unites.  So now I ask you further: as to this wonderful seeing-essence’s neither mixing nor uniting, does it not mix with light?  Does it not mix with darkness?  Does it not mix with penetration?  Does it not mix with solid objects?

“If it does not mix with light, then there should be a boundary between seeing and light.

“Examine it closely: At what point is there light?  At what point is there seeing?  Where are the  boundaries of the seeing and the light?

“Ánanda, if there were no seeing within the boundaries of light, then there would be no contact between them, and clearly one would not know what the attributes of light were. Then how could its boundaries be defined?

“As to its not mixing with darkness, with penetration, or with any kind of solid object, the principle would be the same.

“Moreover, as to the wonderful seeing essence’s neither mixing nor uniting, does it not unite with light?  Does it not unite with darkness?  Does it not unite with penetration?  Does it not unite with solid objects?

“If it did not unite with light, then the seeing and the light would be at odds with each other by their nature, as are the ear and the light, which do not come in contact.

“Since the seeing would not know what the attributes of light were, how could it determine clearly whether there is union?”

“As to its not uniting with darkness, with penetration, or with any kind of solid object, the principle  would be the same.”

Return to TOP