|Chapter 1: Pramuditā|
|Chapter 2: Vimalā|
|Chapter 3: Prabhākarī|
|Chapter 4: Arciṣmatī|
|Chapter 5: Sudurjayā|
|Chapter 6: Abhimukhī|
|Chapter 7: Dūraṃgamā|
|Chapter 8: Acalā|
|Chapter 9: Sādhumatī|
|Chapter 10: Dharmameghā|
|Chapter 11: buddhabhūmi|
Chandrakirti’s Auto-Commentary to Entering the Middle Way
In the language of India: Madhyamaka-avatārabhāṣyanāma
In the language of Tibet: Dbu ma la ’jug pa’i bshad pa zhes bya ba
In English: Commentary to Entering the Middle Way
With the aim to compose an introduction (avatāra) to the Middle Way (madhyamaka) that may help one access (avatāra) the Middle Way Treatise, it seemed appropriate to present at first a praise to the illustrious lady Great Compassion, the perfect cause of buddhahood and characterised by being the complete protection for all the untold numbers of defenceless sentient beings without exception trapped in the prison of cyclic existence, even before praising the true and complete buddhas and the bodhisattvas. Hence, I expressed two stanzas, this and the following one:
From mighty sages hearers and half-buddhas come,
While buddhas from the bodhisattvas are conceived.
Compassion, non-duality, awakening mind –
These are what serve as causes of the victor’s heirs. (1.1)
The illustrious buddhas are here termed mighty sages (munīndra) because they possess perfect mastery as unsurpassed lords of Dharma, are also perfect supreme lords over the hearers, solitary buddhas and bodhisattvas, and because the hearers and so forth are governed by their command. From them the hearers and so forth come, meaning that they are born from them. How so? Due to the fact that, when buddhas appear and teach the unmistaken ways of dependent origination, they engage with that teaching through the stages of learning, contemplation and meditation, and according to their particular propensities will then actualise the final complete result of the hearers and so forth.
For some it may be that, although they do become erudite, realising the ultimate truth through just listening to the teachings on interdependent origination, they do not attain transcendence in their present existence. Although this might be the case, those who practice what is taught will without doubt attain it in a future lifetime when the result of their yearning ripens, in the same way that the ripening of karma will definitely come to fruition. As Āryadeva states:
When reality is understood, though here
They may not reach transcendence,
They will certainly attain it effortlessly
In another lifetime, just as with karma.1
That is also why the Middle Way Treatise states:
When the complete buddhas do not appear
And the hearers as well are no more,
The wisdom of the solitary buddhas
Will be actualised independently.2
They are called hearers (śrāvaka) because they facilitate attainment of the result of the instructions: ‘It has been completed. After this I will not know another existence.’ Alternatively, they are hearers because they hear (śrutvā) about the supreme result or the path of unsurpassed true and complete awakening from the tathāgatas, and then proclaim (śrāvaṇatva) it to those who aspire to it. Just as the White Lotus of Sacred Dharma Sutra states:
Protector, today we have become hearers,
And will now proclaim supreme awakening.
We will clarify the awakening statements.
Thus we are like the formidable hearers.3
Although bodhisattvas also fit this description, the hearers proclaim it without actually practicing in accord with it, which is not the case for bodhisattvas.
The term buddha, awakened to reality, applies to all three: hearers, solitary buddhas and unsurpassed true and complete buddhas. Hence, the term buddha is here used to refer to solitary buddhas. These surpass the hearers due to their comparatively excellent development of merit and wisdom, but are inferior to the true and complete buddhas as they lack their accumulation of merit and wisdom, great compassion, two types of omniscience and so on. Hence, they are half-. They are solitary buddhas (pratyekabuddha) since they develop wisdom without being taught and gain awakening solely for themselves. As has been explained, the hearers and solitary buddhas are from mighty sages … come, in the sense that they originate from the tathāgatas teaching the Dharma.
From where then, are the mighty sages born? As stated, while buddhas from the bodhisattvas are conceived. But aren’t the bodhisattvas described as children of the victor because they too are born from the teachings of the tathāgatas? Why then is it said that that the illustrious buddhas are born from bodhisattvas? That is indeed true. Still, there are two reasons why the bodhisattvas are considered the cause for the illustrious buddhas: because they are the particular circumstance and because they inspire the adoption.
That they are the particular circumstance means that that which acts as the cause for the circumstance of being a tathāgata is the circumstance of being a bodhisattva. That they inspire the adoption refers to the case of noble Mañjuśrī who as a bodhisattva was the very first to inspire the illustrious Śākyamuni and the other tathāgatas to adopt the mind of awakening. Being thus regarded as the principal cause that enabled the final result, it is taught that the tathāgatas are born from the bodhisattvas.
Bodhisattvas are therefore to be esteemed, since it is recognised that they are the immensely valuable perfect cause; since expressing veneration for the cause automatically implies veneration also for the result; since the blessed buddhas teach that just as when a great medicinal tree that will definitely yield limitless fruits is still at the stage of a sprout and so on, and its leaves are tender, one must take care to protect it; and since the multitudes of sentient beings they encounter that have a predilection for the three vehicles will with certainty be impelled towards the Greater Vehicle.
As stated in the noble Heap of Jewels Sutra:
Kāśyapa, it is like when honour is shown to the new moon and not the full moon. Just so, Kāśyapa, should those who have faith in me pay homage to the bodhisattvas, not to the tathāgatas. Why? Because it is from bodhisattvas that the tathāgatas arise. And from the tathāgatas all the hearers and solitary buddhas arise.4
With this, it has been established through reasoning and scripture that the tathāgatas are born from the bodhisattvas.
What then is the cause of the bodhisattvas? As was stated: compassion, non-duality, awakening mind – these are what serve as causes of the victor’s heirs. Compassion means sympathy (anukampā), and its aspects and nature will be explained. Non-dual mind is the intelligence that is free from the two extremes of entities, absence of entities and so forth.
The awakening mind is described in the noble Omnipresent Dharmas Sutra:
Through the mind of awakening the bodhisattva will come to understand all dharmas: that all dharmas are equal in the dharmadhātu. All dharmas, being adventitious and unstable, are empty of something to be known and a knower. When within this mere recognition a bodhisattva gives rise to the sentiment of thinking that, ‘All beings must reach the recognition that this is the nature of things,’ that is what we call the awakening mind of the bodhisattva. It is the mind that aims for the benefit and happiness of all beings; that aims for the unsurpassed; a tender mind of love; an irreversible mind of compassion; a joyous mind that knows no regret; an equanimous mind without stains; an unchanging mind of emptiness; an unobscured mind not encumbered by labelling; a non-abiding mind free from aspirations.5
That the principal causes of the bodhisattvas are these three – compassion, non-dual intelligence and the mind of awakening – is expressed in the Precious Garland:
Its roots are the mind of awakening
Firm as the king of mountains,
Compassion without prejudice
And wisdom not tied to duality.6
Since compassion is the very root of the mind of awakening and wisdom of non-duality, the following was stated with the wish to illustrate the preeminence of compassion:
Since love is like the seed for the abundant crop
Of victorhood, is like the water for its growth,
Like maturation for its yield to then endure,
It’s therefore that I praise compassion first of all. (1.2)
Just as seeds, water and the process of ripening are the essential prerequisites in the beginning, middle and end respectively for a perfect harvest of grains and so forth on the outer level, it is compassion that is said to be the very prerequisite in the three periods for the perfect harvest of the victors. Likewise, when others are experiencing the suffering of suffering, a compassionate individual wanting to protect all suffering sentient beings without exception, will develop the firm resolve: ‘I must by all means deliver this world from suffering and bring it to the state of buddhahood.’ And since one will not be able to bring this commitment to fruition if one has discarded the wisdom of non-duality, it is essential to engage in it through the wisdom of non-duality. Thus, the seed of all the qualities of buddhahood is compassion. As stated in the Precious Garland:
What rational individual would disparage
The Greater Vehicle which teaches
Compassion as the prerequisite of all
And wisdom that is free from stains?7
Though the mind of awakening has been generated, if one has not repeatedly moistened it with the water of compassion, preparations for the vast fruition will not be accumulated, and one will inevitably transcend to the nirvana of hearers and solitary buddhas. And, although one may reach the state of the boundless fruition, without fully ripened compassion this will not become a lasting resource, and the unbroken one-to-one lineage of the great assembly of noble fruition will not flourish for long.
Now, to clarify the distinctive forms of compassion according to how they relate to particular objects, I wished to express this as an homage:
At first, the though of ‘I’ and clinging to a self;
Then ‘This is mine’ as they become attached to things.
I bow to that compassion which sees every life
As powerless as buckets on a water-wheel. (1.3)
In the world, self-clinging develops before the clinging of ownership, as one imputes the idea ‘it exists’ onto a non-existent self and ends up clinging to it as real. And then, with the thought, ‘This is mine,’ clinging to all other objects not included within this self-clinging comes.
The worldly state of clinging to self and mine is (1) to be tightly bound by the ropes of karma and afflictions; (2) to be reliant on the movements of consciousness, the operator of the machinery; (3) to be ceaselessly rambling through the depths of the great well of cyclic existence, from its peak to the Incessant hell; (4) to descend effortlessly of one’s own accord but having to be drawn up with great effort; (5) not to be following a fixed order of prior, latter and middling components when it comes to the torments (saṃkleśa) of afflictions, such as ignorance, of karma and of birth; and (6) to each day be battered by the suffering of suffering and the suffering of change – and hence to never transcend this water-wheel condition. Since the bodhisattva, motivated by immense compassion for those tormented by suffering, develops the wish to protect them, homage is offered to the illustrious lady great compassion before anything else. This is the compassion of the bodhisattvas that is focussed on sentient beings.
To illustrate what the compassion focussed on dharmas and without a focus relate to, it was stated:
Just like the moon reflected in a rippling pond,
They see them waver, empty of inherent being.
To this one should add the line, ‘I bow to such compassion.’ In a pool of limpid water slightly rippled by a mild breeze, the image of the moon keeps breaking up on the surface of what supports its reflection, and the combination of these two is visible as a clearly perceptible thing. The supreme ones see that these two facets illustrate the nature of things, namely moment-by-moment impermanence and absence of intrinsic nature. In the same way, bodhisattvas governed by compassion see that beings dwelling in the vast blue water of ignorance filling the ocean of the view of identity (satkāyadṛṣṭi) stirred by the winds of mistaken concepts, appearing in front of them as reflections of their individual karma, moment-by-moment encounter the suffering of impermanence and are empty of inherent existence. The bodhisattvas then develop the wish to help them fully attain the state of awakening, which is like the annihilator of the suffering of impermanence they undergo with respect to these two facts; which is a perfect source of the nectar of the sublime Dharma; which is characterised by a total reversal of all mistaken concepts; and is the true friend of all the world.8 Having bowed to their compassion focussed on sentient beings, focussed on dharmas and without a focus …
…, wishing then to speak of the ten divisions of the awakening mind of bodhisattvas, regarding the first mind of awakening:
The victor’s offspring filled with these compassionate thoughts
Will feel compelled to rescue each and every one. (1.4)
They dedicate just like Samantabhadra prayed,
Established on the Joyous which is called the first.
The various levels encompassed by the bodhisattvas’ compassion of undefiled wisdom receive the name grounds (bhūmi) since they are supports for qualities. We designate ten particular grounds with the names Joyous (pramudita) and so forth, not because there is any distinction with respect to their actual nature, but based on there being an increasing number of qualities, attainment of superior powers, advancement in the perfections such as generosity, and flourishing maturation. As stated:
Even the wise cannot express or see
The path a bird takes in the sky;
And likewise, the grounds of the victor heirs
Cannot be expressed, much less heard about.9
The bodhisattva ground Joyous is the initial resolve of the bodhisattvas, while the last and tenth resolve is Cloud of Dharma.
As explained, the mind of the bodhisattva is at this point seized by the special compassion which sees the lack of inherent nature of beings, and filled with these compassionate thoughts they dedicate just like Samantabhadra prayed. Thus it is given the name Joyous, indicating that this result has non-dual wisdom as its cause, and is considered the first. Generating the resolve for the first time, the bodhisattva makes ten innumerable hundred thousand aspirations, such as those expressed in the Ten Great Aspirations, and all of these are included within the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra’s Aspiration. In order to include every aspiration without omission, the Aspiration of Samantabhadra is here singled out.
Just as, in the vehicle of the hearers we designate eight types of hearers who have entered or abide in the result,10 in the Greater Vehicle as well we have the bodhisattvas’ ten bodhisattva grounds. And just as we do not consider that someone having reached the stage of propensity for definite separation11 (nirvedhabhagīya) has reached the stage of entry into the first result, the same is true for the potential bodhisattvas. As taught in the Cloud of Jewels Sutra:
The state just before the attainment of the first ground, having the nature of magnificent aspirations aimed at great conduct, is a ground where the bodhisattva has not yet generated the mind of awakening.12
It continues, explaining about this instance of aspiring towards practice:
O son of good family. Take the example of a universal monarch, who though he transcends the ranks of humans, has not yet reached the ranks of gods. Just so, a bodhisattva can be completely beyond worldly people, hearers and solitary buddhas, without having reached the ultimate ground of the bodhisattva.13
As they enter Joyous, the first ground:
At present, signifying what they have attained,
The epithet of bodhisattva is now theirs. (1.5)
Having attained this mind they are in every respect beyond the level of ordinary beings, at this stage only referred to as bodhisattvas and nothing else, because they are now noble beings. As stated for instance in the Illustrious Lady in Two Thousand Five Hundred Lines:
Bodhisattva is an epithet for sattvas14 whose insight has awakened (anubuddha), who have gained realisation (buddha) and understanding (jñāna) of all dharmas. How do they understand them? As non-existent (abhūta), unproduced (asaṃbhūta) and incorrect (vitatha), and not the way immature ordinary beings conceive of them; not how immature ordinary beings ascertain them. Therefore they are called bodhisattvas, beings with awakened insight. How so? Awakening is not conceived. Awakening is not accomplished. Awakening is not ascertained. O Suvikrāntavikrāmin. The Tathāgata did not attain awakening, because no dharmas can be attained. Since no dharmas are ascertained it is called awakening (bodhi). Likewise, we say, ‘the awakening of Buddha’ – but that actually defies expression. If, Suvikrāntavikrāmin, when generating the mind of awakening they think, ‘We shall generate this mind of awakening’, and there is a sense of this awakening being an existent awakening towards which, ‘We generate this mind’, then they are not called bodhisattvas but generating sattvas (utpannasattva).15 Why? They are fixated on giving rise to it. They are focussed on this mind. They are determined to awaken.16
And likewise, among other things it is stated that:
Awakening is without characteristics; it is free from the nature of characteristics. The one for whom this realisation dawns awakens (bodhi) – but that actually defies expression. O Suvikrāntavikrāmin. Since the realisation of dharmas has dawned, they are called bodhisattvas. But for those, Suvikrāntavikrāmin, who have not understood these dharmas, who haven’t realised them but still consider themselves bodhisattvas, the grounds of the bodhisattvas are a long way off. They are far from the dharmas of bodhisattvas, and are deceiving the world of gods, humans and demigods by using the name bodhisattva. O Suvikrāntavikrāmin. If a word was all it took to be a bodhisattva, all sentient beings would be bodhisattvas. Thus, Suvikrāntavikrāmin, the grounds of the bodhisattva is more than just a term.17
And when gaining the mind of awakening thus described, not only are they solely referred to by the term bodhisattva, but also:
They’ve taken birth as kin of the tathāgatas;
Their fetters three have thus been utterly dispelled.
These bodhisattvas now endowed with utmost joy
Are able to make hundred world systems vibrate. (1.6)
The bodhisattva has taken birth as kin of the tathāgatas, since they now transcend all the levels of ordinary beings, hearers and solitary buddhas, and have begun to follow the path leading to the ground of the tathāgatas, Fully Illumined. Seeing at this point directly the lack of a personal self, their fetters three have thus been utterly dispelled – the view of identity, doubt and the thought that moral discipline and religious observance is the most excellent thing – since these will not now reappear. When one does not see the actual reality of things, one imputes a self, adopting the identity view; and one entertains doubt, considering the possibility of taking others paths. Not otherwise. Arriving at certainty18 (niścayapraveśa) they gain the accompanying qualities and are free from faults that conflict with the grounds. With that, an extraordinary sense of delight is born, and with this increasing joyous experience the most supreme joy becomes theirs. And it is because this exceptional joy rises up that this ground receives the name Joyous. They are able to shake a hundred world-systems.
As they’re progressing ever higher, ground to ground,
The paths to lower states have now been fully barred,
All ordinary states of being brought to close,
And they are now akin to the eighth noble one. (1.7)
As they gain familiarity with the Dharma thus realised, and are greatly inspired as they progress to the second ground and further, they are progressing ever higher, ground to ground. In short, just as noble stream-enterers are free from faults and gain qualities when realising the noble Dharma that agrees with them, the bodhisattvas realising the grounds gain the accompanying qualities and eliminate faults. The example of the stream-enterer is here employed to clarify this.
Concerning these bodhisattvas:
Though just the first taste of complete awakening,
In strength of merit they now conquer and surpass
The solitary buddhas and the Sage-speech born;
This presents a further distinction in line with the following statements found in the noble Liberation of Maitreya:
O son of good family. It is like the example of a prince, who immediately after birth carries the signs of royalty, and by virtue of his supreme hereditary rank surpasses everyone even among the senior and most important ministers. Just so, as soon as the novice bodhisattva has given rise to the mind of awakening he is born into the family of tathāgatas, the kings of Dharma, and through the power of his awakening mind and compassion surpasses the hearers and solitary buddhas who have long practiced pure conduct. … O son of good family. It is like the example of a fledgling of the mighty garuḍa that soon after birth possesses a powerful wing-thrust and an immaculate eye-sight that cannot be rivalled by any mature birds belonging to other species. Just so, when the mighty garuḍa youngling bodhisattva gives rise to the initial mind of awakening and is born into the family-lineage of the powerful sky-soaring garuḍa tathāgatas, the powerful wing-thrust of his courageous mind dedicated to the state of complete omniscience and his immaculate eye-sight of altruism cannot be matched by any of the hearers or solitary buddhas who have practiced renunciation for a hundred thousand aeons.19
Unrivalled in their insight too on Far Advanced. (1.8)
As stated in the noble Ten Grounds:
O victor-heirs. Take as example the prince who once born into the royal family holds royal characteristics. The status of royalty is such that his birth alone is enough to surpass the whole assembly of ministers, even though he does not do so in terms of analytical ability. But once he has come of age and developed his analytical abilities, he will completely surpass the ministers in every way. O victor-heirs. The same is the case for bodhisattvas. Once they have developed this resolve they surpass the hearers and solitary buddhas in terms of their altruistic determination, even though they do not do so in terms of analytical ability. But bodhisattvas dwelling on the seventh bodhisattva-ground completely surpass the hearers and solitary buddhas in every way due to the exalted nature of their wisdom’s range.20
One should take this as saying that it is only once having reached Far Advanced that bodhisattvas surpass hearers and solitary buddhas also in terms of analytical ability. Those on the lower grounds do not.
This scriptural citation clearly states that hearers and solitary buddhas too understand the lack of intrinsic nature of all dharmas. If this was not the case, and they did not have the realisation of the absence of intrinsic nature of things, they would be surpassed in terms of analytical abilities by the bodhisattva with the initial resolve just as is the case for those free from worldly desires; just like non-Buddhists, they would not abandon all subtle propensities (anuśaya) that perpetuate the three realms, because of still mistakenly perceiving that forms and so forth have intrinsic nature; and they would not even realise the selflessness of the person, because imputation of a self relies on observing the aggregates.
As stated in the Precious Garland:
As long as one clings to the aggregates
There will be clinging to an ‘I’.
And with clinging to ‘I’ there is karma,
Which leads to birth.
This threefold path has no beginning, middle or end.
It revolves by virtue of these reciprocal causes
Just like a circle created by
The arc of a whirling firebrand.
But when it can’t be found to come from itself,
From others, or both at any point in the three times,
This self-clinging ceases,
And with it karma and birth.21
Just like the eye is mistaken
When it perceives the firebrand’s arc,
The faculties too perceive
The objects of the present.
The faculties and the sense-objects
Are held to be of the nature of the five elements,
But since the individual elements are unreal,
These are also in fact unreal.
If the elements were held to be distinct,
It would follow that fire could burn without fuel.
If they merge they lose their defining characteristics.
The same conclusion applies to the other elements.
Since elements are unreal in either case,
Their combination too is unreal.
And since their combination is unreal,
Form is also in actual fact unreal.
Since in and of themselves, consciousness,
Feeling, perception and formation too
Are in every way unreal in terms self-nature,
They are ultimately unreal.
Just as one assumes that it is happiness
When suffering is removed,
And when happiness is prevented
One has the impression of suffering,
This lack of any intrinsic nature
Eliminates the thirst to find happiness
And the desire to be free from suffering –
Those who see this are therefore freed.
You may ask, ‘Who sees this?’
Conventionally, we say it’s the mind.
But without mental events there is no mind.
Being unreal, we do not assert that it exists.
One may ask, ‘Is it just the bodhisattvas who see this lack of intrinsic nature?’ It is not so, because these statements were made with respect to hearers and solitary buddhas. How can one deduce that? Because it is only after these statements that the bodhisattvas are spoken of, starting with:
The bodhisattva also sees this,
And is determined to reach awakening.
It is only because of his compassion
That he remains in existence until awakening.
And in the sutras that were taught to the hearers it is stated among other things that:
Form is like a mass of foam,
Feeling as a water-bubble,
Perception similar to a mirage,
Formations are like plantain trees,
Consciousness like an illusion –
Thus spoke The Sun’s Kinsman.24
In this way, compounded phenomena (saṃskāra) are scrutinised by means of examples such as a mass of foam, water-bubbles, a mirage, the plantain tree’s trunk and an illusion.
Explaining exactly this point, the master said:
According to the Greater Vehicle,
Emptiness is non-arising; for the others it’s destruction.
But destruction and non-arising
Should in fact be considered the same.25
In the Instructions to Kātyāyana
The Illustrious One refuted
Both existence and non-existence
Through his knowledge of entities and non-entities.26
Some might think, ‘If the selflessness of dharmas is also taught in the vehicle of the hearers, then the teachings of the Greater Vehicle are redundant.’ Such a way of thinking is seen to contradict both reasoning and scripture. The teachings of the Greater Vehicle are not solely concerned with the selflessness of dharmas, but also with the bodhisattvas’ grounds, perfections, aspirations, great compassion and so forth, with dedication, the two accumulations and the inconceivable nature of reality (dharmatā).
As stated in the Precious Garland:
In the vehicle of the hearers there is no mention
Of the aspiration of the bodhisattva,
Nor of dedicating one’s activities –
How could one then become a bodhisattva?
In the sutras there is no mention
Of following the bodhisattva conduct.
But this is explained in the Greater Vehicle,
Which should therefore be accepted by the wise.27
Also, as they clarify the selflessness of dharmas, there is good reason for the teachings of the Greater Vehicle, since this is taught there extensively. In the hearer vehicle the selflessness of dharmas receives only a very succinct treatment. As in the words of the master:
If featurelessness is not realised,
You taught there will be no liberation.
And thus, in the Greater Vehicle
You taught this exhaustively.28
We will digress no further. Those whose minds are not very disturbed should be able to gain recognition of the actual reality through this by themselves, and we therefore continue with the general explanation.
To bring the realisation of full buddhahood,
The first which now is stressed is generosity.
Among the ten named generosity, moral discipline, tolerance, diligence, meditative absorption, intelligence, skilful means, aspirations, powers and wisdom, for the bodhisattva on the Joyous ground it is the perfection of generosity which is mainly emphasised; but this does not mean that the others are absent. Generosity is the initial cause of omniscience.
And when they even give their own flesh graciously,
From that one may infer what cannot be perceived. (1.9)
Although the qualities of the bodhisattva may not now be apparent, their realisation and so forth may be readily inferred through observing their extraordinary willingness to give away both external and internal possessions, just as for instance fire is inferred from smoke.
Just as the generosity of bodhisattvas is the initial cause of buddhahood and an indication of qualities that are not apparent, it is also said to alleviate the suffering of ordinary beings, hearers and solitary buddhas, and be the cause for the attainment of lasting happiness. In order to express this, it was said that:
All beings long for only happiness,
But people will not be content when poor.
And seeing that it is what fosters wealth
The Sage would first teach generosity. (1.10)
To the extent that remedies for hunger, thirst, sickness, cold and so forth alleviate suffering, they bring about worldly happiness. But as long as there is mistaken clinging to and concepts of a continuous identity, this is not a type of happiness free from distress, and one remains fully entangled within the world. Any happiness connected with this type of craving for happiness is by its very nature merely an alleviation of suffering, and it is the coveted resources that act as this suffering’s remedy; without such fundamentally mistaken resources it will not be experienced. Seeing how the objects that cause for the alleviation of suffering do not come about in the absence of an accumulation of merit connected with generosity, the Illustrious One, knowing perfectly the basic sentiment of every single being, gave the teachings on generosity as the very first, before all the teachings on moral discipline and so forth.
Even if the generous individual is now someone immoral, generosity has a significant impact on the success of their ventures. To express this:
And even for the inconsiderate,
The crude whose sole pursuit is their own ends,
It’s giving which provides desired wealth
And brings about relief from suffering. (1.11)
Some, like merchants, approve of generosity, and will apply themselves assiduously to giving away very small amounts of wealth at the prospect of a substantial increase in revenue, but do not act in this way motivated by compassion, like the children of the sugatas who without any thought of reward do so as a furtherance of the joyous occasion of generosity. Still, although they disregard the faulty aspects of this generosity and pursue it merely for its advantages, it will lead to excellent and perfect prosperity, which again will remove the unpleasantness of physical sufferings such as hunger and thirst. It thus becomes a cause for alleviating suffering.
Also, those who lack compassion and are only concerned with alleviating their own suffering have a high regard for generosity. Thus it was stated that:
It’s when one trains in generosity
That one can swiftly meet with noble ones,
Thus end the sequence of existences
And reach the goal, the final state of peace. (1.12)
As the saying goes, ‘Saints will keep close to generous donors.’ Thus, when those who are sincerely generous engage in acts of generosity, they will meet with noble beings and through their teachings come to see the futility of cyclic existence. Then, actualising the stainless noble path they eradicate ignorance of how to pacify suffering, terminate the continuous stream of samsaric birth and death that has been ongoing since beginningless time, and reach the transcendence of misery of the hearer and solitary buddha vehicles. In this way, on a temporary level, the generosity of non-bodhisattvas is a cause for the happiness of cyclic existence and transcendence.
For those committed to the benefit of all,
The joy that giving grants will not be long delayed.
It is not certain that non-bodhisattvas will enjoy the results of generosity just described simultaneous with the act of generosity, and it is therefore possible that they will not engage in generous acts because of not directly seeing the results of generosity. Bodhisattvas, however, will at very moment of engaging in generosity fulfil the desires of the beneficiary, and experiencing the sublime joy of their intended generous act coming to perfect fruition, experience the result of giving at that very instance. They therefore delight in acts of generosity at all times.
Thus, as the explanation here has shown, generosity is for all,
So both for tender-hearted and the callous ones
the cause of the higher states and definite goodness. And therefore
Advice on generosity is cardinal. (1.13)
Having such constant high regard for generosity, what is the sort of special joy that bodhisattvas experience when satisfying supplicants by distributing resources? To reply, it was said that:
The joy the buddha heirs experience as they
Are asked ‘Please give!’ and merely contemplate these words,
Won’t even favour sages when they enter peace.
No need to mention then the act of giving all! (1.14)
When they hear supplicants saying, ‘Please give!’, the bodhisattvas will contemplate these words, and upon realising that, ‘They are asking me,’ a joy even more sublime than the joy of transcendence (nirvāṇa) surges forth. What need then to mention that which arises when they satisfy the supplicants by giving away both outer and inner things?
But when the bodhisattvas give away both outer and inner things as just mentioned, do they not feel any physical pain? It is explained that, just as when cutting inanimate things, it is impossible for supreme beings (mahātman) to feel any physical pain. As stated in the noble Absorption Requested by Gaganagañja:
Take for example a great forest of sal-trees. If someone were to cut down one sal-tree, the remaining trees will not think, ‘That tree has been cut down, but we haven’t.’ They feel neither attachment nor anger. They have no thoughts or concepts. That is the kind of forbearance a bodhisattva has; a forbearance that is as immaculate as the sky.29
And from the Precious Garland:
He has no physical suffering;
How can he have mental suffering?
Through compassion for the world’s pain
He remains for a long time.30
However, those who have not attained a state beyond attachment will undoubtedly experience physical pain when anything adverse befalls them physically. To explain how this becomes a cause for them to apply themselves even more for the welfare of sentient beings, it was said:
Their own experience when cutting off their flesh
To offer it to others makes them recognise
How those in hell and elsewhere suffer agony;
They set about to swiftly bring this to an end. (1.15)
The bodhisattva sees through their own experience of suffering how the extremely intense oppressive physical pains of those suffering the relentless horrors in states of hell, as animals, in the world of Yama and so forth, are unbearable sufferings thousands of times greater than the pain they feel when cutting their own body. Disregarding therefore the pain of their body being cut, they apply themselves immediately with enthusiasm to eliminate the suffering of sentient beings in hell and so forth.
To illustrate how, in terms of being a perfection, generosity thus described may be subdivided:
To give without a giver, gift, recipient,
Now this is a perfection that transcends the world.
The word pāra31 means the further bank or shore of the ocean of cyclic existence, and refers to buddhahood which is by nature the abandonment of all afflictive and cognitive obscurations without exception. Pāramitā (‘perfection’) means that one has gone (itā) to the other shore (pāram), and since the qualification, ‘Elision does not take place before the second member of the compound,’ applies, the marker of the accusative case is not removed, and it takes its present form. Alternatively, since ‘pṛṣodara and so forth…’ applies, the ending is retained.32
When embraced by great intelligence (prajñā) it is explained to be special. Since generosity and the others are then similar to being perfected (pāramitā), they are perfections (pāramitā). When brought across (pāragamana) and firmly established through the special feature of dedication, it becomes a generosity receiving the name perfection. This explanation should be taken to apply to moral discipline and the others as well. This generosity referred to as a perfection, when free from the reference points of something given, a recipient and a giver, is a perfection transcending the world. That is what is taught in the Illustrious Lady Perfection of Intelligence.33 When non-referential it transcends the world. If still referential and bound by the truth of conventions, it is very much worldly. This is not something those who have not reached the stage of a bodhisattva are able to comprehend.
As long as there is still attachment to these three,
We call it a perfection that remains mundane. (1.16)
This is saying that if one relates to generosity through these three reference points, it is designated a mundane perfection.
At this point, to conclude what is called the ground under discussion by mentioning the excellent qualities of its particular insight, it was said:
A joy now settles in the bodhisattva’s mind
And gives this fine support a splendid radiance,
A joy just like the moonstone which can banish all
Oppressive darkness, making them victorious. (1.17)
The word thus points to what has been explained above. Joy relates the ground’s name. Victorious (jina; syn. bodhisattva) refers to the state when one has overcome all opposition. This is the occasion when natural wisdom takes hold in the mind of the victor’s heir, and as such it is an exalted state. The supremely joyous ground removes all obscuring darkness, just as the foregoing explanation has shown; hence, it is victorious. The meaning of this is illustrated by way of example, when it was mentioned that it is just like the moonstone.34
‘Joyous’ is the first resolve from the Commentary to Entering the Middle Way. With this the explanation of the initial resolve of the bodhisattva is complete.
Now, in terms of the second, it was said:
Provided with pure traits of perfect discipline
They shun misconduct’s blemish even when they dream,
Since all forms of supreme understanding related to what we call ‘grounds’ are in nature one and the same, it is from the point of view of the qualities which would not arise in their absence, and the preeminent features of the perfection in question, such as moral discipline, that explanations of the special features of the second resolve and so forth are given. In the present context, moral discipline (śīla) is so called since, when one is not under the sway of the afflictions and misdeeds do not occur, this has a cooling effect (śīta) in the sense of quelling the fires that negatively affect the mind. Alternatively, being the very cause of happiness, it is the appropriate thing to rely on for holy beings.35 Its particular characteristic is the seven avoidances.36 The three dharmas – non-attachment, non-anger and having a correct view – are the motivating factors. As such, it is in terms of a moral discipline combined with these motivational factors that the tenfold path of conduct is taught. Perfect discipline refers to a preeminent form of moral discipline, and pure traits means the qualities are purified. Here, these are joined together in the phrase ‘pure traits of perfect discipline’. Since their qualities have been fully purified, their moral discipline is particularly exalted. And since the bodhisattva has that, even in the dream state he is not marred by the stains of faulty moral discipline.
How then is it that such perfect discipline leads to completely pure qualities? Concerning such bodhisattvas who have reached the second bodhisattva ground:
And cultivate the tenfold path of righteous acts
With ways immaculate in body, speech and mind. (2.1)
As stated among other things in the context of the second bodhisattva ground:
O victor heirs. Bodhisattvas dwelling on the bodhisattva ground Immaculate naturally abstain from killing. They avoid sticks and weapons. They avoid hostility. Filled with conscientiousness and compassion, their attitude towards all living beings is one of love and benevolence, wishing for their welfare and happiness. Even the mere thought of causing harm to sentient beings is absent, no need then to mention actually singling out a particular sentient being and deliberately inflicting serious physical harm to them.
They abstain from taking what is not given, being content with their own possessions and filled with benevolence. They are careful with the possessions of others, and considering things owned by others as others’ property, have no intention to steal. Since they would not take even a blade of grass or a leaf, there’s no need then to mention taking actual necessities of life.
They abstain from sexual misconduct, and being content with their own wife do not desire the wife of another. Seeing them to be another’s wife, or that it would be improper in terms of family relationship, signs or dharma, they do not entertain desirous thoughts towards women belonging to another – no need then to mention direct contact between the two sexual organs or unsuitable passageways.
They abstain from telling lies and are truthful, relate fact, speak in a timely fashion and act in accordance with what is said. As even in their dreams they do not tell lies to manipulate appearances, acceptance, wishes or ideas, there’s no need then to mention intentionally uttering them.
They abstain from divisive speech and, being free from any animosity, do not cause dissension among sentient beings. They do not, in order to create discord, report there what they have heard here, or report here what they have heard there. They do not cause disunity among the harmonious, or increase it among the disharmonious. They do not delight in disharmony, do not enjoy disharmony, and will never utter words that create disharmony, irrespective of whether they are true or false.
They abstain from harsh words, avoiding words that are upsetting, abusive, hurt others and expose others’ faults; that are uncivilised, directly or indirectly express vulgarities, are false and unpleasant on the ear; that are motivated by anger or rage, are disagreeable and upsetting, or cause others unease and sadness; and that are destructive to both one’s own and others mental state. Instead, they speak only words that are friendly, soft, delightful, undeceiving, pleasant on the ear, agreeable, civilised, delightful to many and agreeable to many, that spread joy, create satisfaction and are uplifting to both one’s own and others mental state.
They abstain from idle chatter, and give proper responses, speak in a timely fashion, talk about facts, talk about what is real, talk about dharma, speak logically, are disciplined in speech, are patient and speak timely and excellent words. As they even abstain from making any form of unsuitable jokes, there’s no need then to mention words that cause agitation.
They have no covetousness, and do not desire the wealth, pleasures, enjoyments, or goods owned by others. They do not desire, wish for, or have any sense of longing for these things.
They have no malice, and relate to sentient beings with a loving mind, a wish to help, a mind of compassion, a joyous and tender mind, wishing only to be of benefit to all beings. Avoiding aggression, resentment, enmity, grudges, malice and anything that leads to anger, every thought they have is one of love.
They abstain from wrong views, hold correct views and follow the correct path. Avoiding the views of divination, various auspicious signs and faulty discipline,37 they uphold truthful and honest views involving no deception, and remain dedicated to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.38
Of these, the first three paths of virtuous action are practiced with the body, the middle four with speech, and the last three with mind. In this way they observe the tenfold path of virtuous conduct.
Is this path of conduct not then practiced by bodhisattvas of the initial resolve? They too do practice it, but:
And it is in this tenfold virtuous path
They now excel, becoming purer still.
This is not the case for bodhisattvas with the initial resolve.
Forever stainless, like the autumn moon,
It beautifies them with a peaceful glow. (2.2)
Peaceful refers to restrained faculties. Glow describes their radiant physical appearance.
Even having this type of completely pure discipline,
Believing discipline to be by nature pure
Will in itself deprive it of its purity.
As stated in the Heap of Jewels Sutra:
Kāśyapa. There are certain mendicants who uphold moral discipline, abiding strictly by the vows of personal liberation to the extent that they are fearful even of the most subtle transgression in relation to maintaining perfect ritual procedures and a proper environment. Having adopted this way, they follow the foundations of training becoming completely pure in body, speech and mind. But even though they maintain a completely pure way of life, they profess that there is a self. Kāśyapa. This is a mistaken form of moral discipline. It is the first type of feigned moral discipline.
Kāśyapa. There are also some mendicants who adopt the twelve ascetic practices,39 but with a reference point, maintaining their self-clinging and clinging to ownership. Kāśyapa. This is a mistaken form of moral discipline. It is the fourth type of feigned moral discipline.40
And thus they never harbour any concepts which
Consider a distinction in the threefold sphere. (2.3)
They are without a dualistic mind distinguishing entities and non-entities and so forth in relation to the three spheres: a sentient being in relation to which there is abstention, something abstained from and someone abstaining.
Having thus stated how it is that bodhisattvas possess perfect moral discipline, the following provides an explanation of how perfect moral discipline, maintained by others in general, is of much greater consequence than being generous and so forth, and that it is the very support for all perfect qualities.
Although a person’s moral footing is corrupt,
To give grants affluence though in the lower realms.
Through generosity, benefactors who uphold moral discipline will find themselves in situations of perfect and lavish affluence among gods or humans. But if lacking the legs of moral discipline, they fall into the lower miserable states, born as ephemeral hell-beings; cows, horses, elephants, or monkeys; nāgas and so on; or deprived spirits with great magical powers and so on; enjoying various types of excellent prosperity in these states of existence. Therefore,
But when the funds and profits have been fully spent,
One can’t expect that there will be a future yield. (2.4)
Someone may plant very few seeds but gain a great harvest, and to further the yield replant many more seeds. In this way they may in due time gain a great profit that can continuously increase. But those who are wasteful will foolishly spend the original seeds, and with that both the capital and potential profit is squandered. How will a truly excellent yield then ever be brought forth? Similarly, when lacking moral discipline, one ends up experiencing affluence in wretched states of being. With such utter foolishness it becomes impossible to continue enjoying prosperity, since one cannot stimulate what might yet come and is spending all that has already been gained.
Not only is it extremely difficult to gain a situation of perfect resources for someone bereft of the legs of discipline, it is also said to be extremely difficult for them to rise again once they have plunged into the lower miserable states. Thus, it was stated:
If one is free and in an advantageous state
But makes no further effort to remain therein,
When falling into the abyss, all free will lost,
How will one manage to escape these states again? (2.5)
If at this point, when dwelling in the states of gods, humans and so forth, and being able to follow one’s own wishes without being reliant on another – like a mighty warrior dwelling in a conducive place free from bondage – one then makes no effort to uphold oneself, one will end up in the lower states – like a warrior captured and thrown into a deep ravine – how will one then ever emerge again? At that point, due to all the harm one causes, one is certain to continue traipsing through lower states of existence. It is taught that due to that, ‘Even if one is born among humans, two consequences will manifest.’41
Since a great many misdeeds accrue with such faulty discipline,
And thus, as soon as generosity was taught,
The Victor then went on to speak of discipline.
The Victor, who conquered all negative dharmas, therefore gave the teachings on moral discipline directly following the teachings on generosity, in order that positive qualities connected with generosity and so forth not go to waste. Because,
If in the field of discipline one’s qualities
Can flourish, yields can be perpetually enjoyed. (2.6)
Since it is the support for all positive qualities, moral discipline is itself a field. If qualities that come from generosity and so forth can flourish there, the continual and uninterrupted succession of causes and results will lead to a flourishing bounty of good results that one can enjoy for a long time; otherwise not.
For ordinary beings, those born from his words,
Those who will self-awaken and the conqueror’s heirs,
It’s discipline and nothing else that is the cause
That brings about true excellence and higher states. (2.7)
Treading these paths of ten non-virtuous actions to a greater degree is a cause for the states of hell; to a middling degree is a cause for the animal states; while to a lesser degree is a cause for the world of Yama. Killing leads to the hell states, leads to the animal states, leads to the world of Yama. And even if one is born among humans, two consequences manifest: one will have a short life and much disease. Taking what is not given leads to the hell states … (and so forth), one will be materially poor and have to share possessions. Sexual misconduct leads to the hell states … (and so forth), one will have an unreliable retinue and an unruly wife. Lying leads to the hell states … (and so forth), one will be denigrated and tricked by others. Slander leads to the hell states … (and so forth), one will have a disharmonious and cruel retinue. Harsh language leads to the hell states … (and so forth), one will hear unpleasant sounds and end up in quarrels. Idle chatter leads to the hell states … (and so forth), one’s words will not be accepted and one will lack eloquence. Covetousness leads to the hell states … (and so forth), one will lack satisfaction and have much desire. Malice leads to the hell states … (and so forth), one will not find help but be harmed by others. Wrong view leads to the hells states, leads to the animal states, leads to the world of Yama. And even if one is born among humans, two consequences manifest: one will be influenced by negative views and be deceptive.
These paths of ten non-virtuous actions thus result in the amassing of boundless stockpiles of suffering42
…, but by taking up the paths of the ten virtuous actions one will take rebirth amongst gods or humans, or even at the very peak of existence. On top of that, if these ten virtuous ways are cultivated with intelligence and a limited attitude, fear of the three realms, without great compassion, following what one has learnt from others and emulating their words, one will succeed in the hearer vehicle. Further, if without relying on others one can reach awakening for oneself, but lacks great compassion and skilful means, and is purified through fully understanding profound interdependence, one will succeed in the solitary buddha vehicle. Even more so, those who train with a truly vast and limitless broad mind, compassion and mastery in skilful means, have made vast aspiration prayers without ever abandoning any sentient being, and aim for the vast wisdom of buddhahood reach purity, will accomplish the utterly pure bodhisattva grounds and the vast utterly pure practices of the perfections.43
Thus, this is clearly indicating that unless one follows these paths of the ten virtuous actions – in conformity with the respective paths of ordinary beings, hearers, solitary buddhas or bodhisattvas – there is no other method for reaching the samsaric happiness of higher states or achieving the excellent goal, the authentic state of liberation naturally beyond both happiness and suffering.
Regarding these bodhisattvas of the second resolve:
Like corpse and sea will not remain in company,
Like luck and mishap are not seen to coexist,
The eminent who are upholding discipline
Will not with those of wayward conduct wish to mix. (2.8)
Mishap is a synonym for misfortune.
To explain the distinctions in terms of perfections with respect to the above described moral discipline:
When keeping discipline with notions of the three –
Abstention with an agent, object and an act –
It’s said to be perfection that is just mundane.
If moral discipline is practiced with notions of these three, it is taught to be a mundane perfection.
It’s supramundane when not entertaining these. (2.9)
If this discipline is without the above mentioned three notions, it is taught to be a supramundane perfection.
By way of reiterating the qualities of the ground thus explained, the section on the perfection of moral discipline is concluded with the verse:
The moon-born victor’s heir – the glory of this world
While yet transcending it – completely free from stain;
Immaculate, just like a soothing autumn moon
Dispelling all the agonies in beings’ minds. (2.10)
The word immaculate is used in the sense of being free from stains through the path of the ten virtues, and is the descriptive name of the second bodhisattva ground. Just as the stainless shimmer of the autumn moon clears away the agonies of beings, the immaculate moonlight of the victor’s heirs clears away the agonies created by faulty moral discipline. They cannot be included within cyclic existence, thus are transcending it, but are still the glory of this world, because they exhibit all perfect qualities and possess the cause for the splendour of a lord of the four continents.
This concludes the second resolve from the Commentary to Entering the Middle Way.
Now, in terms of the third resolve it was said that:
A fire burning with the fuel of objects known
Produces light; this third ground thus receives its name,
The Luminous …,
Luminous is the name of the third bodhisattva ground. Why is it the Luminous? This is a literal description. At this point, the fire of wisdom burns away the fuel of all knowable things without exception, producing a light that has the nature of pacification, and thus this ground is described as luminous. With the third resolve:
… as here for the sugatas’ heir
A copper-glow appears which is just like the sun. (3.1)
Just like the sun at dawn glows like copper, for the bodhisattva there now appears a similar glow of wisdom.
In order to demonstrate the excellent perfection of tolerance of bodhisattvas who have gained such effulgent wisdom:
If out of baseless fury someone were to come
And sever from their body all their flesh and bone,
To torture them, cut piece by piece and take their time,
Towards their butcher tolerance will only grow. (3.2)
Since bodhisattvas are heedful of the minds of others and have such wisdom, they will not physically, verbally or mentally express any misgivings related to injustices of the three times44 when encountering others’ malice, and the verse therefore specifies that, ‘If out of baseless fury…’. If such a sentient being were to cut flesh and bone from the bodhisattva’s body ounce by ounce, pausing and then starting again, over an extended period of time, not only would the bodhisattva not harbour any anger for such a butcher, but being aware that the individual by virtue of this evil act will have to endure the sufferings of hell and so forth, they develop an exceptional level of tolerance.
When bodhisattvas see that there exists no self,
What’s cut, the cutter, time of cutting and the mode,
Phenomena like these appear reflection-like,
An insight through which they are able to forbear. (3.3)
Not only are they exceptionally tolerant, seeing how these negative karmic acts serve as conditions for the perpetrator to experience the suffering of the hells and so forth, but since these phenomena are also seen to be like reflections, and since they are free from the concepts of self and mine, they have an extraordinary tolerance. The word also is used to include this among the causes of their tolerance.
Not only is tolerance a suitable way of practice for bodhisattvas, it is also for others the very cause of preserving any type of quality. Therefore, to indicate how it is also sensible for the intolerant to avoid anger:
If you resent the one who’s caused you injury,
Does your resentment take away the harm that’s done?
To bear a grudge will serve no purpose here and now,
And also brings adversity in lives to come. (3.4)
Should an occasion arise for one to become upset and develop anger towards another for a harm inflicted, since this will not serve to reverse the harm done, it is pointless to harbour anger against them, as the act has already been done. Not only does resentment serve no purpose here, it also brings adversity in the next world, because harbouring enmity will lead to a furthering of unwanted consequences.
Some will, when experiencing the particular result of a negative act they themselves committed, entertain the deluded idea that, ‘This other individual is harming me,’ and become angry with the harm doer. In order to counteract the wish to seek revenge, and triumph over their harm:
The karmic outcome of non-virtue in the past
Is held to be the thing that brings it to an end.
So why then keep on sowing seeds of suffering
By angrily inflicting harm upon your foe? (3.5)
When someone is overcome by enemies, suffering greatly as their body is subjected to the harm of sharp weapons, that is the concluding result of acts of killing performed in the past, and is a cause for avoiding experiencing terrifying resultant maturations as hell beings, in animal states, in the world of Yama and so forth, and every concurrent result of remaining afflictions that would result in repugnant physical appearances. Since it is actually like the final draught of medicine that cures an ailment once and for all, and the unpleasantness resulting from one’s fury and mistreatment of others has come to an end, why then further this by doing more harm, bringing upon oneself yet additional causes that will lead to their results? Therefore, it makes sense to relate to this resultant suffering with great tolerance, just as when a doctor uses a sharp instrument in order to cure a certain ailment.
Not only will intolerance as explained above cause a proliferation of unwanted maturing consequences, it will also eradicate stores of merit accumulated over a long period of time. To illustrate this it was said that:
One’s anger for the victor’s heirs will instantly
Destroy the virtue gained from generosity
And discipline throughout a hundred aeons; thus
No evil is there quite like one’s intolerance. (3.6)
If a bodhisattva, a supreme being, were to give rise to even an instance of anger towards those who have made the resolve of awakening, and his reaction was triggered by afflictions – regardless of whether or not there was a sense of certainty about the extraordinary nature of the individual, and regardless of the justifiability of the perceived fault – that alone would destroy the stores of merit created by practicing the perfections of generosity and moral discipline, as previously taught, accumulated throughout a hundred aeons. No need then to mention a non-bodhisattva giving rise to that towards bodhisattvas. The consequences of such an act is just as impossible to ascertain as it is impossible to ascertain the weigh all the water in the great oceans using a scale. Therefore, since it leads to a proliferation of unwanted consequences and is harmful to one’s virtues, there is no evil greater than intolerance. And thus we find stated:
Mañjuśrī. Enmity is called ‘enmity’ since it is the enemy that completely destroys virtues accumulated throughout a hundred aeons. That is why enmity is called ‘enmity’.45
Furthermore, of the intolerant, those who are not able to cause harm to others only bring destruction upon themselves, while those who are able but have no compassion, bring destruction upon both themselves and others. And when reborn,
It fouls one’s features, steers one to unholy ones.
Deprives one of the means to tell what’s right from wrong.
And later, when having left this conducive state,
Intolerance will send one straight to lower states.
If these are the faults of intolerance, what are then the qualities of tolerance, its opposite?
The qualities of patience are their opposites. (3.7)
Forbearance makes one beautiful, it grants esteem
Among the holy, makes one morally adept;
In future lives one will be human or divine,
And every negativity will disappear. (3.8)
It should be recognised that these qualities of tolerance are the opposite of the faults of intolerance that were mentioned.
The common beings and the victor heirs who see
The faults of enmity and patience’s qualities,
Should shun intolerance and always try to have
Forbearance, something that is praised by noble ones. (3.9)
Enmity and tolerance refers to having enmity and showing tolerance, and faults and qualities refer to the related faults and qualities respectively.46 Here, the words have been combined in the line the faults and qualities of enmity and tolerance. By appreciating the faults of enmity here described, and their opposites which are the qualities of tolerance, one should strive to avoid intolerance, and at all times maintain only an attitude of tolerance.
Now, to show the divisions of tolerance as a perfection:
Though dedicated for complete awakening,
It’s still mundane if the three reference points remain.
Even if fully dedicated to buddhahood, if there is a presence of the three parts – a tolerance, someone being tolerant and a sentient being towards whom one is tolerant – that tolerance is labeled a mundane perfection of tolerance.
When free from these three references, the Buddha taught
The same to be perfection that transcends the world. (3.10)
Just as the bodhisattvas of this ground gain a fully authentic perfection of tolerance, likewise:
This ground is where the victor heirs now entertain
Absorptions and the supernormal sense powers.
Attachment, anger – these have been completely spent.
They’re able to subdue mundane desirous love. (3.11)
When absorptions (dhyāna) are mentioned, the word absorption is illustrative, and also refers to the equilibrium states (samāpatti) and the immeasurables (apramāṇa).
As stated in the context of the third bodhisattva ground:
The bodhisattvas dwelling on the bodhisattva ground Luminous are separated from desires, are separated from negative non-virtuous ways, and by virtue of deliberation (vitarka) and judgement (vicāra) attain and abide in the first absorption of joy (prīti) and bliss (sukha), emerging from separation. With the cessation of deliberation and judgement, developing inner serenity, the mind becomes one-pointed and they attain and abide in the second absorption of joy and bliss, emerging from a concentration free from deliberation and judgement. With the cessation of desire for joy, dwelling in equanimity, being mindful and aware, there is physical bliss and they attain and abide in the third absorption beyond joy, expressed by the noble ones as the equanimity of dwelling in the bliss of whatever is thought of. Abandoning bliss, abandoning former suffering, comfort and discomfort disappears and they attain and abide in the fourth absorption of perfectly pure equanimity and awareness that is neither happiness nor suffering.47
These are the four meditative absorptions.
Concerning the four formless equilibria it states:
Passing entirely beyond perceptions of form, perceptions of impediments disappear, they do not entertain perceptions of variety, and the thought ‘infinite space’ occurs, as they attain and abide in the sense field of infinite space. Passing entirely beyond the sense field of infinite space, the thought ‘infinite consciousness’ occurs, as they attain and abide in the sense field of infinite consciousness. Passing entirely beyond the sense field of infinite consciousness, the thought ‘nothing whatsoever’ occurs, as they attain and abide in the sense field of nothing whatsoever. Passing entirely beyond the sense field of nothing whatsoever, the thought ‘neither consciousness nor non-consciousness’ occurs, as they attain and abide in the sense field of neither consciousness nor non-consciousness.48
These are the four formless equilibria.
Concerning the four immeasurables it states:
They attain and dwell in a broad mind possessed of love that is vast, non-dual, immeasurable and not hostile; that entertains no rivalry, and is without obscurations and malice; that is all-encompassing, extending throughout the expanse of phenomena (dharmadhātu), reaching to the limits of the element of space, spreading throughout the universe.49
The same as above applies to a broad mind possessed of compassion, joy and equanimity.
Concerning the five supercognitions it states:
They enjoy various types of miraculous abilities. They can make the ground tremble; transform from one to many, and from many to one; appear and disappear; pass directly through walls; pass directly through barriers; even mountains they can pass through without impediment, as if they were empty space. They can move through space in the cross-legged posture, just like a winged bird. They can emerge from and sink into the ground as if it was water. They can move on water without sinking, as if it was solid ground. They can produce smoke or fire as if they themselves were a great bonfire. They can make great torrents of water emerge from their bodies as if they were a great cloud; and with that water they can quell the blazing fires that scorch, burn and incinerate the entire trichiliocosm. They can stretch out their hand and touch the most powerful and mighty moon and sun, and their physical powers reach even up to the world of Brahma.50
Such is their supercognition of miraculous ability.
Since the purified faculty of their divine ear surpasses the human state, they can hear the sounds of gods and humans alike. They can hear sounds however subtle or vast, far away or near, even those of gnats, mosquitos, bees and flies.51
Such is their supercognition of divine ear.
They mentally, and with precision, gain knowledge of the minds of other sentient beings and people. They know desirous states of mind perfectly as desirous states of mind. They know non-desirous states of mind perfectly as non-desirous states of mind; and the same for those filled with anger and those without anger; those filled with confusion and those without confusion; those filled with afflictions and those without afflictions; the ones who are limited, vast, great or limitless; who are gathered, expanded, concentrated or not concentrated; who are liberated and who are not liberated; who have faults and are without faults. They know with precision the coarse-minded to be coarse-minded. They know with precision that those without coarse minds are not coarse-minded. In this way, they mentally and with precision gain knowledge of the minds of other sentient beings and people.52
Such is their supercognition of knowing the minds of others.
They can recall many previous states. They remember one lifetime. They remember two lifetimes, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred, a thousand. They remember many hundreds of lifetimes, many thousands of lifetimes, many hundreds of thousands of lifetimes, many billions of lifetimes, many hundred quintillions of lifetimes; aeons of destruction, aeons of creation, many aeons of destruction and creation. They remember a hundred aeons. They remember a thousand aeons. They remember a hundred thousand aeons, ten million aeons, a billion aeons, ten billion aeons, a trillion aeons, up to ten quintillion aeons. They remember many previous states, their characteristics, evidence and reasons, thinking, ‘At one point I was named so-and-so, belonged to such-and-such a family, to this or that social class, ate such-and-such types of food, reached such-and-such an age, remained for this or that long, had such-and-such experiences of happiness and suffering, and when I died I took such-and-such a rebirth. Again, when I passed from that state, I was born here.’53
Such is their supercognition of recalling previous states.
With their pure divine eye surpassing human capacity, they see sentient beings dying and being born, of good character and negative character, those going to fortunate states and those going to unfortunate states, those who are good and those who are bad. They know with precision the type of karma sentient beings carry: ‘Indeed, these sentient beings engage in negative physical acts, negative verbal acts, negative mental acts. They have wrong views and disparage the noble ones. Having devoted themselves to karmas of wrong view, when their body perishes and they die, they will fall into lower states of misery and be born as hell beings.’ And: ‘Indeed, these sentient beings engage in good physical acts, good verbal acts and good mental acts. They have good views and do not disparage the noble ones. Having devoted themselves to karmas of good view, when their body perishes and they die, they will go to the higher states of happiness and be born among the gods.’ These things they know. Likewise, with their pure divine eye surpassing human capacity, they see sentient beings dying, being born, of good character and negative character … (and so forth), they see all this, their characteristics, evidence and reasons. They know with precision the type of karma sentient beings carry.
Although they enter and emerge from these absorptions, liberations, concentrations and equilibria, if they see a situation where the limbs of awakening may be fulfilled, directing their attention towards that, they are born there by the power of their aspirations. Only then, not under the influence of such states, do they take rebirth there. Why? Because such bodhisattvas possess a stream of mind accomplished in skilful means.54
Hence, at this point the absorptions and supercognitions arise for the bodhisattva.
How then, are worldly attachment and aversion permanently and completely exhausted? The word and serves to include what is not explicitly mentioned, meaning that delusion is also completely exhausted. How so? About this the sutra states:
As they realise that there is no transference and no destruction since all dharmas rely on conditions, all the bonds of desire are that much weakened; all the bonds of form, bonds of existence and bonds of ignorance are weakened. The bonds related to view have already been discarded. The bodhisattvas dwelling on the bodhisattva ground Luminous abandon the faults of attachment that would not decrease throughout many hundreds of aeons, many thousands of aeons, many hundred thousands of aeons, many ten millions of aeons, up to many ten quintillion aeons. They abandon the faults of aversion that would not decrease. They abandon faults of delusion that would not decrease.55
In this way, their attachment, aversion and delusion are wholly exhausted.
How is it that they are able to permanently destroy worldly desirous attachment? As stated:
O victor heirs. This has been a short presentation of Luminous, the third bodhisattva ground. The bodhisattvas who dwell here mostly become kings of the gods and powerful lords of the gods56 . Refined and foremost when it comes to mastering the means of averting sentient beings’ desirous attachment, they are skilled in extracting beings from the mire of attachment.57
In this way, the victor heirs have the power to overcome the world’s desirous attachment.
Thus, having indicated how bodhisattvas on the third bodhisattva ground undoubtedly attain the pure perfection of tolerance, the absorptions, immeasurables, equilibria, supercognitions and the complete exhaustion of attachment and so forth, in order to clarify the particular support of the three perfections up to the perfection of tolerance, their nature as accumulations, and the attained result that is established, it was said:
The Sugata would chiefly recommend these three,
Of giving and so forth, to lay practitioners.
And as they are the merit-type of gathering,
They bring about the buddha in corporeal form. (3.12)
Although only bodhisattvas may serve as the support for the generosity and so forth explained here, there is still mention of a twofold division in terms of householders and renunciates. In this regard, the three dharmas of generosity and so forth, being easier to practice, are mainly for householders, while diligence, meditative absorption and great intelligence are for renunciates. Still, it is not the case that one is impossible for the other. The accumulations that lead to buddhahood are two: the accumulation of merit and the accumulation of wisdom. The accumulation of merit is comprised of these three perfections, while the accumulation of wisdom is comprised of meditative absorption and great intelligence. Diligence is held to be the cause for both. The accumulation of merit is the cause for the form body of an illustrious complete buddha, the variegated marvellous and unimaginable form with hundreds of meritorious characteristics. The cause of the body having the nature of dharma, and characterised by being unborn, is the accumulation of wisdom.
Now, having expressed its greatness in terms of the exaltedness of the support and so forth, to provide a conclusion to the section on the third bodhisattva ground:
On Luminous, where bodhisattvas stay like suns,
The murkiness within themselves has been dispelled.
They now intend to shed all beings of their gloom.
The Luminous58 ground is the sun-like state of the sugata heirs, where the unknowing present in their own being, which constituted an obstacle to the arising of this state, has been dispelled. Acting as examples, they now wish to destroy the gloom that blocks the arising of the third ground for others as well. For these bodhisattvas,
But though intense upon this ground, no anger stirs. (3.13)
Although they are as intense59 as the sun when it comes to defeating the gloom of faults that destroy one’s qualities, they never become angry with individuals filled with defects, the reasons being their excellent cultivation of tolerance and a mind saturated with compassion.
This concludes the third resolve from the Commentary to Entering the Middle Way.
Now, by way of showing how the perfection of diligence surpasses the perfections of generosity, moral discipline and tolerance, the fourth resolve is explained:
Good qualities come in the wake of diligence;
What brings one stores of merit and intelligence.
As this is where their diligence is burning strong,
This ground, the fourth among them, is the Radiant. (4.1)
If one has no enthusiasm for virtuous ways, one will not apply oneself in all manners to generosity and so forth, thus making it impossible for all the good qualities to arise. With a formerly established keenness for accumulating good qualities, what has been gained will increase and what has not been gained becomes achievable. Thus, diligence is the cause of each and every good quality. That it is the cause of the two accumulations was already explained above. Being the ground where diligence blazes forth as it refines all one’s good qualities, this fourth bodhisattva ground is therefore named Radiant (arciṣmatī).
Inquiring further into why it is called ‘Radiant’, the purpose for using this name is now explained:
There now appears for the sugata heirs a light
More bright than copper, born from cultivation of
The thirty-seven factors of enlightenment –
On this ground there appears for the bodhisattvas a glow exceeding the lustre of copper previously explained, and this comes from their practice of the thirty-seven factors of awakening. Thus, since the fire of genuine wisdom blazes brightly, this bodhisattva ground is named Radiant. The thirty-seven factors of awakening are the four applications of mindfulness, the four correct abandonments, the four miraculous legs, the five faculties, the five powers, the seven limbs of awakening and the eightfold noble path.
The four applications of mindfulness are taught at length:
O victor heirs. The bodhisattva dwelling on the bodhisattva ground Radiant is assiduous, attentively and mindfully remaining with the observation of the inner body, abandoning craving and discomfort relating to the world. He is assiduous, attentively and mindfully remaining with the observation of the outer body, abandoning craving and discomfort relating to the world. … remaining with the observation of the inner and outer body … (and so forth, as before). Likewise, he is assiduous, attentively and mindfully remaining with … inner sensations, outer sensations, and inner and outer sensations; (and, as before) … with inner thinking, outer thinking, and inner and outer thinking; … remaining with inner dharmas, outer dharmas, and inner and outer dharmas.60
Concerning the four correct abandonments it is taught:
He sets himself a goal, strives, is diligent, focuses his mind and directs it properly in order not to give rise to negative non-virtuous dharmas that have not yet arisen. Likewise, he … in order to rid himself of negative non-virtuous dharmas that have arisen. Likewise, he … in order to give rise to virtuous dharmas that have not yet arisen. Likewise, he sets himself a goal, strives … in order to stabilise, keep from diminishing, increase, ensure the future arising and complete perfection of virtuous dharmas that have arisen.61
Concerning the four miraculous legs it is taught:
He cultivates the miraculous leg of the concentration of interest, combined with the impulse of abandonment, through relying on isolation, relying on freedom from attachment, relying on extinction and developing renunciation. Likewise, … the miraculous leg of the concentration of diligence, combined with the impulse of abandonment, … ; … the miraculous leg of intention, combined with the impulse of abandonment, … ; … the miraculous leg of investigation, combined with the impulse of abandonment, … .62
Concerning the five faculties it is taught:
He cultivates the faculty of faith, relying on isolation … the faculty of diligence … the faculty of mindfulness … the faculty of concentration … the faculty of intelligence, relying on isolation, relying on freedom from attachment … (and so forth, as before).63
The five powers are exactly the same as those when the disharmonious elements have been overcome.
Concerning the seven limbs of awakening it is taught:
He cultivates the limb of true awakening that is mindfulness, relying on isolation … the limb of true awakening that is investigation of dharmas … the limb of true awakening that is diligence … the limb of true awakening that is joy … the limb of true awakening that is pliancy … the limb of true awakening that is concentration … the limb of true awakening that is equanimity, relying on isolation … (and so forth, as before).64
Concerning the eightfold noble path it is taught:
He cultivates correct view, relying on isolation, relying on freedom from attachment, relying on extinction and developing renunciation. He cultivates correct thought … correct speech … correct action … correct livelihood … correct exertion … correct mindfulness … correct concentration, relying on isolation … (and so forth, as before).65
Not only do they on this ground gain a cultivation of the factors of awakening:
And any sense of self is now entirely gone. (4.2)
On this ground their view of self is also removed. As stated:
O victor heirs. The bodhisattva dwelling on the bodhisattva ground Radiant is free from all things related to the identity view: he is freed from all sense of stimulation, conceptualisation, analysis, sense of permanence, sense of ownership, sense of wealth and sense of abiding arising through attachment to a self, sentient beings, life, maintenance, a person, an individual, aggregates, elements and sense fields.66
This concludes the fourth resolve from the Commentary to Entering the Middle Way.
Now, in terms of the fifth resolve:
Great beings on this ground so Hard to Overcome
Cannot be conquered even by the demon hordes.
The Bodhisattvas dwelling on the fifth bodhisattva ground cannot be overcome even by the divine child-demons (devaputramāra) dwelling in all the realms of the world, let alone all other demons subservient to them. That is why this ground receives the name Hard to Conquer.
It should be recognised of the bodhisattvas that:
With excellent absorption these high-minded ones
Are masters in the subtle nature of the truths. (5.1)
Now, from among the ten perfections, it is the perfection of meditative absorption which is foremost. High-minded ones (sumati) is a reference to noble beings (ārya). Their truths are the truths of the high-minded, meaning the noble truths. Nature (svabhāva) refers to its true condition (svarūpa). The nature that is comprehended through exact understanding is the exact nature, and those who have a subtle understanding of the true condition of the truths of the high-minded are supremely wise. The four noble truths referred to here are those of suffering, origin, cessation and path.
But the Illustrious One taught that there are only two truths, namely the relative truth and the ultimate truth. As stated:
The knowers of the world themselves declared,
And not by hearsay, that there are two truths:
The relative and the ultimate.
There is no such thing as a third truth.67
And from the Middle Way Treatise:
The dharma teachings of the buddhas
Are based on two truths:
The relative truth of the world
And the ultimate truth.68
Why then, it may be asked, do we have these four noble truths as distinct from the two truths? To explain we would say that, although that is indeed so, it is in order to separately indicate the causal and resultant aspects of what to adopt and what to reject that the four noble truths have been related in this manner. The aspect that needs to be rejected is thorough affliction (saṃkleśa), its result being the truth of suffering and its cause the truth of origin. The aspect that needs to be adopted is complete purification, its result being the truth of cessation and the cause for attaining this being the truth of the path. Among these, the truth of suffering, origin and path are included within the relative truth, while the truth of cessation is the essential condition of the ultimate truth. Any other truths, whatever they may be, would likewise certainly also be included within these two truths.
Are there then other truths different from the four truths? Yes, there are. As stated in the context of the fifth bodhisattva ground:
They know with complete accuracy that, ‘This is the noble truth of suffering’. They know with complete accuracy that, ‘This is the noble truth of the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering.’ They are well-versed in the relative truth, well-versed in the ultimate truth, well-versed in the truth of characteristics, well-versed in the truth of distinctions, well-versed in the truth of examination, well-versed in the truth of substance, well-versed in the truth of production, well-versed in the truth of knowing extinction and non-arising, well-versed in the truth of engaging with the knowledge of the path, and well-versed in the truth of mastering the progression through all the levels of the bodhisattva grounds culminating in the wisdom of a tathāgata.
Related to these, accurately satisfying the wishes of other sentient beings, they fully know the relative truth. Applying themselves accurately to the sole path, they fully know the ultimate truth. Having realised their own and the shared characteristics, they fully know the truth of characteristics. Having understood the principles of distinguishing dharmas, they fully know the truth of distinctions. Having experienced what harms body and mind, they fully know substances. Having realised the connections involved in migrating, they fully know rebirth. Having fully pacified all the torments of illness, they fully know extinction and non-arising. Having mastered non-duality, they fully know how to engage with the knowledge of the path. Having perfectly assimilated the knowledge of all aspects, they fully know the truth of achieving the connections up through all the levels of the bodhisattva grounds culminating in the wisdom of a tathāgata.69
This concludes the fifth resolve from the Commentary to Entering the Middle Way.
Now, concerning the sixth resolve, it was explained:
On Presence, with their minds now placed in equipoise,
They’re in the presence of the traits of buddhahood.
Dependent rising is the fact they now perceive –
And reach cessation, resting in intelligence. (6.1)
Having genuinely actualised the perfection of meditative absorption on the fifth bodhisattva ground, on the sixth ground the bodhisattvas place the mind in equipoise and see the reality of profound interdependence. Through genuine actualisation of the perfection of intelligence (prajñā) they now achieve cessation, unlike before. Lacking superior intelligence they were previously unable to reach this cessation through the genuine perfections of generosity and so on. Fully understanding the true nature of reflection-like things, the bodhisattvas have focussed on the truth of the path on the five bodhisattva grounds, and are now in the presence (abhimukha) of the traits of buddhahood. Therefore this ground is called Presence (abhimukhī).70
To explain how all other stores of qualities depend on the perfection of great intelligence, it was said:
A single sighted person may with ease escort
The blind in scores wherever they should need to go.
And likewise, for these virtues that possess no sight,
It’s insight that can shepherd them to victorhood. (6.2)
Just one sighted person with ease can lead great multitudes of blind people to their destination, when the other perfections are led by the perfection of great intelligence, they will reach the ground of the sugatas, Universal Illumination (samantaprabhā), because of its ability to discern correct and incorrect paths.
Some may inquire, when it was said here that, ‘… dependent rising is the fact they now perceive, and reach cessation, resting in intelligence,’ how it is that bodhisattvas upon seeing the dependent origination of dharmas come to see the actual reality of interdependence. To this we reply that the real essence of this is not something we can access as long as our mind’s eye is completely veiled by the thick cataracts of ignorance. But it is accessible to the bodhisattvas dwelling on the higher levels, the sixth and so forth, and therefore should not be inquired of us, but rather addressed to the stainless bodhisattvas and illustrious buddhas whose eyes are free from the blurring cataracts of ignorance, as they have applied the ointment that overcomes the blurring cataracts of ignorance and allows one to see emptiness unmistakably.
One may then ask: ‘Are not statements of how bodhisattvas, practicing the perfection of great intelligence, and thus seeing the reality of interdependent origination, recounted in such sutras as the noble Perfection of Intelligence (prajñāpāramitā) and the noble Ten Grounds (daśabhūmika)? Would it not then suffice to explain by quoting from such scriptures?’
This will also not do, because it is hard to ascertain their intent. One such as myself is not able to teach the actual reality from scriptures, or based on my own independent judgement explain what is stated there. But, by utilising treatises written by trustworthy individuals containing their infallible explanations, the intent of the scriptures may be ascertained:
As he was one who reached the deepest dharmic truths
Relying on the scriptures and through reasoning,
By following the system of Nāgārjuna,
As found within his works, I shall proceed to speak. (6.3)
Just like a bodhisattva practicing the perfection of great intelligence sees the nature of dharmas just as it is, the noble Nāgārjuna had an unmistaken understanding of the scriptures, and through the reasoning and scriptural citations in his Middle Way Treatise he explained in lucid detail how all dharmas are in actuality without any intrinsic nature (niḥsvabhāva). Thus, just as the noble Nāgārjuna explained the actual reality of all dharmas using reasoning and scripture, what I shall now say will be in accord with his manner of instruction.
‘But how,’ some might say, ‘can we be sure that Nāgārjuna unmistakenly ascertained the scriptures?’ This can be gathered from the scriptures. As stated in the noble Descent Onto Langka:
In the south, in the land of Veta,
A mendicant renowned as Śrīmat,
Referred to by the name ‘Nāga’,
Crushing the views of existence and non-existence,
Will teach my vehicle in the world,
The unsurpassed Greater Vehicle,
And accomplishing the Joyous Ground,
He will venture to Sukhavatī.71
And from the noble Great Cloud Twelve Thousand Lines:
Ānanda. Four hundred years after I have passed into transcendence, this young Licchavi named Sarvasattva Priyadarśana72 will become a bhikṣu named Nāga and spread my teachings widely; and eventually, in the world realm called Pure Illumination (prasādābhā), he will become a tathāgata, arhat, true and complete buddha by the name Jñānākaraprabhā.73
Hence, he unmistakenly ascertained the scriptures.
The treatises which contain the complete teachings of interdependent origination exactly as it is, should only be taught to those who have the seed of emptiness within their being from prior acquaintance, not to others. This is because when they hear about emptiness, some may develop mistaken ideas which can lead to very unfortunate results. They may give rise to the perverted conviction that emptiness means ‘non-existence’, and end up entertaining and perpetuating mistaken views of denying all entities. The teacher must therefore determine whether they have a good motivation before explaining the view of emptiness to the student.
It is difficult to determine, so how can one be certain that they are a suitable recipient for the teachings on emptiness and should be taught emptiness? One can reach certainty through external indications, and to describe what these signs are it was said:
Some common people, when they hear of emptiness,
Will find that great delight comes surging from within,
A joy so fervent, filling up their eyes with tears,
And causing every single hair to stand on end. (6.4)
Such ones possess the seed of the awakened mind,
Are vessels for the teachings on reality.
They should …
as they are qualified to receive teachings,
… receive instructions on the ultimate truth,
If one teaches these kinds of students the actual reality, one’s efforts will not be fruitless. Why is that? Since,
As they will see related qualities emerge. (6.5)
Not only will these students not give rise to any negative perverted ideas about emptiness, they will also gain the qualities that come from learning the view of emptiness. How so? They will relate to learning about the view of emptiness like finding a treasure, and in order that it may not be lost:
A person who will always live by discipline,
Who gives in generosity and cultivates
Compassion, trains in tolerance, and dedicates
His virtue to awakening for beings’ sake; (6.6)
Who for the bodhisattvas shows sincere respect,
They understand that, ‘If I transgress the moral discipline I will fall into lower realms and the view of emptiness will be interrupted,’ and thus will continuously and correctly uphold moral discipline. With the thought, ‘Even though I will be born in the higher realms through keeping moral discipline, if I am poor I will have to work very hard to get the basic necessities such as food, medicine and dharma robes, and the view of emptiness will be interrupted,’ they give generously. Thinking, ‘It is when the view of emptiness is encompassed by compassion that it will lead to buddhahood, and not otherwise,’ they cultivate compassion. With the thought, ‘Anger leads to the lower states and gives one a poor complexion, which will displease the noble ones,’ they train in tolerance. Since there will not be an immeasurable and uninterrupted causal and resultant link for the attainment of buddhahood if the practices of moral discipline and so forth have not been dedicated towards the state of omniscience, they dedicate these roots of virtue to awakening for the sake of liberating beings. And thinking, ‘Apart from bodhisattvas nobody else is able to genuinely teach the nature of interdependent origination,’ they have respect for the perfect bodhisattvas.
In this way they will without doubt accumulate an uninterrupted store of virtue for a long time, and then:
And is insightful in the ways profound and vast;
In due course such a person gains the Joyous ground.
If this is your objective, hearken to this path. (6.7)
The last line is saying that, ‘If the Joyous ground is your objective, then ….’ This indicates what is about to be explained.
A quote from the scriptures will serve to illustrate the genuine state of all dharmas. The noble Ten Grounds states:
O victor heirs. The bodhisattvas who have fully completed the path on the fifth bodhisattva ground, enter the sixth bodhisattva ground engaging with the ten equalities of dharmas. Which ten? They are all dharmas’ equality as featureless; all dharmas’ equality as without characteristics; and in the same way their equality in being without arising, unproduced, detached, pure from the outset, unelaborate, without adoption and without rejection; all dharmas’ equality in being like illusions, dreams, optical distortions, echoes, a moon in the water, reflections and apparitions; and all dharmas’ equality in the non-duality of things and non-things. When they realise the nature of all dharmas to be in this way, through their acumen and resultant tolerance they attain the sixth bodhisattva ground, Presence.74
Thus, here only the reasoning of the equality of dharmas in being without production75 is explained. The intention being that, by virtue of that, the other types of equality will be easily understood. As master Nāgārjuna sets forth in the beginning of the Middle Way Treatise:
Not from self, not from other,
Not from both, nor without a cause
Are entities ever produced
At any point as anything.76
Ever (jātu) means at any time. The term at any point (kecana) is a locative relative pronoun (‘support’-word) and synonym for somewhere (kvacid), and can indicate location, time, or tenet-system. The word anything is a relative pronoun (‘supported’-word) expressing outer or inner entities. Thus, one could here elaborate the sentence and say, ‘Outer and inner entities are not produced from self with respect to any place, time or tenet-system.’ Here, when it says not (na), this relates to production from self as an argument for existence, and not to being existent, since the refutation of that is implicit. This should likewise be applied to the other three assertions.
Having thus reiterated this fourfold thesis, in order to prove it through reasoning, it was stated:
It can’t come from itself, and how from other things?
Can’t come from both, how could it be without a cause?
The sense of the statement, ‘Not produced from self …’ is as is stated here: ‘It can’t come from self ….’ The remaining statements should be similarly linked.
How can we be certain of this? As:
If it came from itself there would be nothing gained.
What is produced, produced once more – that makes no sense. (6.8)
It refers to the production, the actor in the act of production, meaning the sprout. From itself means that the production comes from its very own self-identity. Thus, the assertion here is that the sprout’s own identity cannot produce that very sprout’s identity. Why? If that very identity already gained was to come from the same existing identity of that itself, there would be no additional quality achieved at all, since it was existent already.77
To explain how the position of self-production conflicts with reason, it was said, ‘What is produced, produced once more – that makes no sense.’
Immediately following this assertion, logical reasoning is supplied:
To think that what’s produced is then produced again
Would mean that sprouts and such could never be procured.
If one claims that seeds already produced are reproduced, does that imply that its production must stop for the sprout to be produced? What is there to prevent it being produced yet again? The consequence would be that sprouts, stalks, buds and so on would never be produced. Furthermore,
The seed would be produced until the end of time –
… for the very reason already given. If one then thinks, ‘When the conducive conditions such as water, time and so on, are present for the production of a sprout, the seed will transform and the sprout be produced; and since the presence of that agent, the sprout, opposes it, the seed will then be destroyed. Therefore, the mentioned faults do not apply here. And since the seed and the sprout are not really different, it is not the case that it is not produced from self.’ This is untenable, because
How could what will destroy it ever come to be? (6.9)
Since seed and sprout are not really different, it is illogical that the sprout could destroy it – they are thought to be ‘alike in own identity’.
A sprout distinct in shape, hue, taste, strength, ripening,
And different from its cause, could not exist for you.
Shape refers to being long, round and so on; colour to yellow and so on; taste to sweetness and so on; and potential refers to special powers or particular abilities, such as being a remedy for haemorrhoids which makes haemorrhoids disappear when applied to the body, or the oṣadhi-herb which enables one to travel in the sky by merely holding it. Maturation refers to a substance’s special feature acquired as it transforms, such as the pepper-plant (pippalī) becoming sweet. If the seed and the sprout are indeed indistinct, that which is the identity of seed should likewise be observed without difference as the shape and so forth of the sprout. Since this is not observed, just as seeds from for example garlic, are different from sprouts of for example plantain trees, it is untenable that they are not different.
One may think that, ‘Since it abandons the seed-phase and attains another phase, the seed can turn into a sprout.’ In that case:
Its former likeness left behind as it adopts
Another form, what’s left of its identity? (6.10)
Its entity means the thing itself and not something other. But since with this way of thinking the non-otherness of the sprout would be an impossibility, its non-otherness is impaired. They may think that, ‘Although the shape and so forth of the seed and sprout are different, the substance is the same.’ But that cannot be so. If one does not perceive their shape and so forth, one cannot perceive their substance.
And if, for you, the seed and sprout are indistinct,
The so-called sprout should like the seed not be observed.
Or, since they are the very same, just as the sprout
They both should then be seen – thus do not make such claims. (6.11)
When the sprout is present the identity of seed cannot be perceived with its own essence, and likewise since it is not distinct from the seed the identity of sprout should just like the identity of seed not be perceived. Alternatively, when the sprout is perceived, being of the very identity of the sprout the seed should likewise be perceived, since it is not anything other than sprout and so forth. Wanting to avoid the faults of these consequences, one should not assert that the seed and the sprout are indistinct.
Having thus refuted production from self imputed in other traditions claiming to understand reality, in order to shown how these ideas are not even tenable when considered in terms of the conventions of worldly people not trained in other traditions, it is said:
It’s when the cause has ceased that its result is seen,
And thus that they’re the same is not the worldly view.
Since it is when the causal seed has disappeared that the resultant sprout is seen, even worldly people do not see seed and sprout as indistinct. If they were the same, then just like the cause one should not be able to see the result, but it is seen. Therefore, it is not the case that they are indistinct.
Since production from self is in conflict with reason for both sides:
So, neither in reality nor in the world
Is this imagined self-production reasonable. (6.12)
For this reason, the master did not make any distinctions, but refuted production overall when saying, ‘Not from self….’ Some say that, ‘Entities are ultimately not produced from self since they exist, like a sentient being,’ but making such a distinction by adding ultimately should be considered utterly meaningless.
If one accepts self-rising, maker and the made,
As well as act and actor, these would be the same.
They’re not, so self-arising I cannot accept –
The faults entailed have been elaborately explained. (6.13)
It would never make sense
That cause and result are identical.
If cause and result were identical,
The produced and the producer would be the same.78
They cannot be identical, since it would follow that father and son, or the eye and consciousness, would be identical. And thus it was stated:
If the wood were the fire,
Doer and act would be the same.79
Thus, fearing these and other unwanted consequences, and wishing to reach an unmistaken realisation of the two truths, one should not hold that things can be produced from self.
‘That entities do not arise from themselves is certainly the case. This position is indeed reasonable. But the words how could it arise from other? do not make sense. Based on the scriptures which state, “The four external conditions are: the causal, the object, the immediately preceding and the dominant; conditions are the creators of entities,” although undesirable, production from other must be upheld.’
Some say: ‘The causal conditions are five excepting the enabling cause. The object condition is any dharma suitable to be an object of the six consciousnesses perceived as an object. The immediately preceding condition is the mind and mental states other than the mind which has entered transcendence without remaining aggregates. The dominant condition is the enabling cause.’ 80
Others say: ‘From the definition which states, “The cause is what accomplishes,” its causal condition is that which is something’s producer, constituting a seed; while the object condition is the object that causes production, similar to a supporting cane, of the causally arisen mind and mental factors, similar to the old person getting up, which is the sense of the statement, “It is the support of the generated dharmas.” That which is like an immediately preceding condition is that as soon as the cause has ceased the condition is there for the production of the result, just as a sprout immediately succeeds the disappearance of the seed. The dominant condition is that which by its presence makes something arise.81
‘Any other conditions, such as the simultaneously produced or subsequently produced, are included within these. Since an almighty god (īśvara) and so on are not conditions, it is ascertained that “There is no fifth condition.”’82
This cannot be upheld, since it contradicts reasoning and scripture. To explain this in terms of reasoning:
If something different could give rise to something else,
Then utter darkness should emerge from tongues of flame.
This is neither observed nor logical, and thus not the case. Hence, it is stated:
That cause and result are different
Would never be tenable.
If cause and result were different,
A cause and a non-cause would be identical.83
And anything could be produced from everything,
… as any cause and non-cause could lead to the production of any result and non-result. Why is that?
Since in their difference all non-makers are the same. (6.14)
The productive rice seed is just as different from its resultant rice sprout as non-productive fire, charcoal, barley seeds and so on are; and just as the rice sprout is produced from the rice seed that is other, the same could then happen from fire, charcoal, barley seeds and so forth. Also, just as a separate rice sprout arises from a rice seed, so should a pot, a piece of cloth and so forth. This however is not what we see. Hence, this cannot be the case.
To this they reply, ‘Although the cause and effect are indeed different, a consequence of this is not that everything may arise from everything, since one may observe that there is a specific order (niyata) to things. This specific order is such that,
‘What has potential to be made defines result.
What can produce it is the cause, though something else.
In one continuum, from makers, things arise,
And rice sprouts won’t therefore produce barley and such.’ (6.15)
Here, result has a kṛtya-affix84 indicating the sense of potential. ‘That which has the potential to be produced by something is its result, while that which can produce that result, although it is other, is the cause. Therefore, it is only through a specific sense of otherness that entities are related as cause and result, and not a general type of otherness. They are of one continuum, and the producer yields produced – it is not the case that it belongs to a separate continuum, such as for instance a barley seed, nor that it belongs to the same continuum but is not the producer, as is the case for a former instance that cannot come after a latter instance – and therefore it does not follow that everything can arise from everything.’
This too is inadequate. What is it that makes for this specific order? Where does this come from when saying that, ‘The cause of the rice sprout is only the rice seed and nothing other, and the result of the rice seed is only the rice sprout and nothing other’? This is the question that may be asked of those who claim cause and result. If they say, ‘Because we observe a specific order,’ and when further questioned they reply, ‘A specific order is observed,’ that is non-sensical; because by just saying that, ‘Because of observing a specific order, a specific order is observed,’ they provide no reason for the specific order and are not able to even slightly avoid the faults that have been stated.
Furthermore, to illustrate that the general agreement that there is no separation between common and specific otherness disproves this exact claim, it was said:
Take species such as barley, ironwood or dhak:
These can’t produce a rice-sprout, lack that potency,
Don’t share continuum, lack similarity.
With otherness, a rice seed too lacks in these ways. (6.16)
Just as barley, ironwood85 , dhak tree86 and so forth are other, and are therefore not held to be producers of the rice sprout, and do not have the ability to produce a rice sprout, are not part of the same continuum and have no likeness, the rice seed as well is not special in any of the particular ways just mentioned, because it is just something other. Hence, in this context the refutation is done by reiterating as if established, the otherness that others accept to be established.
Now, to explain how cause and result cannot possibly be different:
The sprout is never there the same time as the seed,
So how can seed be other without otherness?
Thus since one cannot prove that seeds give rise to sprouts,
Give up this view that things arise from something else. (6.17)
One can only see a difference between Maitreya and Upagupta based on their correlation, but seed and sprout are not simultaneous objects like that, since without the seed transforming there will be no sprout. Because there is no existence of sprout at the same time as the seed is present, the seed has no otherness in relation to the sprout. And in the absence of otherness one cannot say that, ‘The sprout is produced from something other.’ Therefore, abandon this position of production from other.
The meaning of this is as explained:
The nature of existents
Is not in their conditions and the like.
If there is no self-existence,
How can there be other-existence?87
Here, conditions and the like may be causes or conditions, the gathering of causes and conditions, or something different. If their nature does not transform, the nature of results will not exist, since these will not have been produced. When they are non-existent, there can be no sense of difference in relation to the conditions and so forth. The seventh case implies, ‘The existence of which indicates existence.’ In terms of location, the nature of results do not exist in the conditions and so forth, like a vessel and a juniper tree. When something does not exist in something, it cannot be produced from that, like the example of sand and sesame oil. As stated:
If it is non-existent
And arises from those conditions,
Then why can it not arise
Also from non-conditions?88
Thus, this position of support does not hold true when scrutinised in light of this verse of the master.
‘When you here say, “the sprout cannot exist as the same time as the seed,” this is not reasonable: just as one can see the pans of a balance scale ascending and descending at the same time, the sprout is produced as the seed is being destroyed. Thus, at exactly the same time as the seed is destroyed the sprout is produced, and therefore the destruction of the seed and the production of the sprout are simultaneous, and the seed and sprout are present at the same time. Hence, there is otherness.’ To present this, they say:
‘As when you see the levers of a balance scale
Ascending and descending simultaneously;
Just so producers cease as what’s produced appears.’
‘Hence,’ they claim, ‘we are not at fault.’
If it was like that:
If coinciding, yes – they don’t, so this can’t be. (6.18)
It is unsuitable to think of the arising and destruction of produced and producer as simultaneous as in the example of a balance scale. Why? Even though the ascending and descending are simultaneous in the example of the scale, there is no such simultaneity in the actual case that example is being linked to, thus it does not make sense.
To indicate why it is not so, it was said:
While made it faces its production, isn’t yet.
While ceasing it still is, but tends towards its end.
So how can this be similar to a balance scale?
When we say being produced, it is approaching production and is therefore in the future, and when saying ceasing, it is approaching cessation and is present now. Thus, one is not existent since it has not been produced but will be produced, while one is existent now and can therefore cease. How can this instance be similar to a balance scale? Since the two pans of a balance scale both are in the present, the acts of ascending and descending are simultaneous, but as the seed is in the present and the sprout in the future they are not simultaneous, so this is not similar to a balance scale.
One might then think, ‘Even though they are not simultaneous, there is still simultaneity with respect to the processes.’ But this too is unacceptable, since you would not accept that there is a separation between phenomena and their processes. So, furthermore,
Arising with no subject doesn’t make much sense. (6.19)
Since the sprout, the subject in the process of production, is in the future, it does not exist. Without the existence of that, the unsupported cannot exist; how can that which does not exist be simultaneous with the cessation? Hence, it is certainly illogical that the processes can be simultaneous. As stated:
If an unproduced entity existed somewhere,
It could be under production.
But such an entity being nonexistent,
How can there be production?89
This means that, if the unproduced entity we call ‘sprout’ were to exist somewhere before being produced, it could be said to have production, but one cannot establish this in any way prior to the actual production, because it has as yet not been produced. Hence, since the entity that supports the process of production does not exist before its production, it cannot be endowed with it; so, ‘How is there production?’ Since the word that (tasmin) is referring to the entity (bhāve), they are in case-agreement; entity (bhāve) is in the seventh case, and nonexistent (asati) is a further specification of the entity. The word how (kim) is to be joined with be produced (utpadyate). Hence, the meaning becomes, ‘When that entity is a nonexistent, how can there be production? Not even the slightest thing is being produced.’
If one then asks: ‘But isn’t the example of the balance scale presented in the noble Rice Seedling Sutra, where it says, “In the way that the arms of a pair of scales ascend and descend simultaneously, the sprout is produced just as the seed ceases.”?’90 Yes, that is certainly presented there, but not in order to indicate production from other, nor in order to indicate production of inherent characteristics. Why then? It was done in order to clarify how instantaneous dependent arising is like an illusion when left unexamined. As has been explained:
Since sprouts do not originate
From destruction or non-destruction of seeds,
You stated that any production
Is like the appearance of illusions.91
To this it may be said: ‘Since seed and sprout are not simultaneous and therefore cannot be other, making production nonsensical, production should then be possible when we have simultaneity since there is then otherness, as is the case with eye consciousness and sensations and so forth that are simultaneous with it. Just as the simultaneous occurrence of eye, form and so on, and sensations and so on, produce a coinciding eye consciousness, the eye and so on, and the mind are also the very conditions for the coinciding sensations and so forth.’
That is not the case. Why?
Were eye-mentation separate from what’s making it,
Like co-occurring eyes, perceptions and so forth,
What purpose would production serve for what exists?
The problems faced if it does not have been explained. (6.20)
If you claim that eyes and so forth, and the simultaneous perceptions and so forth, are the very conditions for such an eye consciousness, then being existent at that time it would be an ‘other’ relying on them, but for something existent to be produced serves no purpose at all, hence it would not be produced. Then, if wishing to avoid its non-production, you do not accept that it is existing, saying, ‘At the time in question there is no otherness of the eye and so forth in relation to the non-existent consciousness,’ the faults of such a position have already been explained. Therefore, if you claim such other-production, even if otherness was a possibility, production would be impossible, and since that is impossible both are impossible. Even if production was possible, otherness would be impossible, and since that is impossible both are impossible. Hence, external objects do not exist in any way whatsoever, and with the emptiness of external objects one is left with nothing but mere words, which shows that this way of understanding it is unacceptable.
Now, to explain how from among cause and effect there is no time when there is reliance on a cause, it was said:
If separate things are made by a productive cause,
Do they exist or not? Both? Neither of these two?
Why need producing if they do? What’s done if not?
What’s done if both? What’s done if neither of the two? (6.21)
A producing cause is not the producer of an existent product, because of the faults that have already been explained in such statements as, ‘That the produced is produced once more is senseless;’ there would not then be the slightest purpose to it having conditions. When the produced does not exist, what would the producers do? It is just as non-existent as the horns of a donkey. As stated:
And from the Middle Way Treatise:
If a result has an intrinsic essence,
How can a cause produce it?
If a result does not have an intrinsic essence,
How can a cause produce it?
If there is no production,
Causation becomes unfeasible.
If causation is unfeasible,
What becomes of the result?94
For that which is both, what would conditions do for it? The faults that follow from this are those that have already been explained. A dual entity is both, and when it is both it is in fact two. But since having an essence of existence and non-existent in one thing at the same time is impossible, something having that sort of nature cannot occur. And since it cannot occur, what could producing conditions do for it? As the Treatise states:
How can nirvāṇa be both
An existent and a non-existent?
These two cannot coexist,
Just like light and darkness.95
What both is and is not an agent
Cannot make what both is and is not.
Since they are mutually exclusive,
How could one thing both be and not be?96
If a result could be neither existent nor non-existent, what would be the function of conditions in relation to something which is neither, since a result that defies both existence and non-existence cannot exist? When both existence and non-existence are impossible, to refute them by saying neither existent nor non-existent doesn’t make the slightest difference. When neither are established, to have what is neither existent nor non-existent is impossible. As stated:
Nirvāṇa is taught to be neither
An existent nor a non-existent.
If non-existents and existents were established,
This would be established.97
If they say, ’Since any sort of reasoning we put forth in order to establish production is completely incinerated by the fire of your intellect, like firewood soaked in oil, we will no longer encourage the blazing fire of your intelligence with any more logical fuel. You may ask, “Will not your theory fail without backing it up with logical reasoning?” It will not. This is something established from the point of view of the world, hence there is no use at all for reasoning, since worldly perception is very powerful.’
‘What is the point of all these reasoned arguments
When it’s the normal view the world gives credence to.
The world indeed agrees things come from other things,
Which means other-production – what is there to prove?’ (6.22)
‘When all worldly people maintain a certain view, that is something very influential, and it is certainly other-production that is this view. When reasoning finds faults with something, it is only relevant when it comes to what is not directly perceived, and not what is within the scope of direct perception. Therefore, even though it is not reasonable, things are still produced from other.’
Those who lack an unmistaken realisation of the sense of the treatise, and are faced with the maturation of habitual tendencies for real existence developed since beginningless cyclic existence, cannot bear to hear about what separates them from their cherished fixation for existence, and therefore resort to nonsense about how the world will invalidate this. Since one cannot counteract their ravings about worldly invalidation without explaining to them the many and vast ways of origination in the world, an explanation is at this point given about the principles of the two truths, in order to clarify the particular cases of worldly invalidation:
The things perceived may either be correct or false.
As such all things convey a dual character.
Correctly seen, the object is reality;
As taught, the truth is relative when falsely seen. (6.23)
In this context, the illustrious buddhas knowing unmistakenly the reality of the two truths taught that all external and internal existent things – compounded phenomena, sprouts and so forth – have a dual nature, namely the relative (saṃvṛti) and the ultimate (paramārtha). The ultimate is the actual nature accessible in the domain of superior wisdom for those with genuine vision, but which is not something established in and of itself – this is one nature. The other is the independent existence perceived owing to the false perception of ordinary beings whose mind’s eye is completely covered by the blurring cataracts of ignorance. The objects that the infantile perceive in this manner are not intrinsically established. All existent things are thereby perceived with these two natures. And with respect to these two natures, that which is the object of genuine seeing is the actual reality, which is the meaning of the term ultimate truth. Its nature will be further explained. That which is the object of false seeing is the relative truth.
Then, having in this way presented the principle of two truths, to now demonstrate that in relation to those who see falsely there are two ways of seeing, genuine and false, and hence also a duality in relation to the object and consciousness when perceiving, it was said:
As faculties may function well or be at fault,
One further reckons two types of the falsely seen.
Compared to knowledge stemming from sound faculties,
What’s known through faulty faculties is held as false. (6.24)
Those with clear faculties, free of cataracts and unimpaired by jaundice and so forth, unmistakenly apprehend external objects the way they are. The opposite is the case for those with impaired faculties. Compared to the understanding of those with sound faculties, the understanding of those with impaired faculties is considered mistaken.
In order to illustrate that, ‘Just as their understanding may be of two types, either mistaken or unmistaken, the same is the case with objects,’ it was explained:
Perceptions of the world that happens when
Six faculties have not been compromised
Are true within the world, the rest are all
Considered false according to the world. (6.25)
Internal conditions that impair the faculties are such things as cataracts, jaundice and so on, and ingesting datura and the like. External conditions that distort the faculties are oil, water and mirrors, sounds and so on made inside a cave and the like, and sunlight under particular conditions of location or time, and so on. These impair the faculties without being internal, causing perceptions such as reflections, echoes and mirages of water. Magical formulas, potions and so on, employed for instance by illusionists, should likewise be included within this category. What impairs the mind are these things, as well as mistaken philosophical systems and so on, and apparently sound inferences. These are explained in terms of the principles of dreams and so on. Therefore, the understanding that the world gains through the sixfold faculties, when none of the mentioned conditions impairing one’s faculties are present, is considered true from the worldly perspective, but not for a noble one. Reflections and so forth, appearing with the nature of objects when the faculties are compromised in a certain way, are mistaken from the worldly point of view.
To provide some examples to illustrate the sense of what has just been explained, it was said:
Ideas diverse misguided thinkers have made up
When tossed around within the sleep of ignorance,
And notions from illusions, mirages and such,
Not even worldly folk will think that these are real. (6.26)
The misguided (tīrthika), in their quest to reach the actual reality, fail to properly and unmistakenly comprehend the way of production, cessation and so on of entities well-known even to such uneducated individuals as cowherds, women and so forth. Their search for perfection resembles letting go of the lower branch before having taken hold of the higher branch when climbing a tree: their grave mistakes will send them plummeting into the ravine of faulty views. Not seeing the two truths they fail to reach their goal. Thus, the three properties (guṇa)98 and so on that they conceive of do not exist even in the worldly relative sense.
This being the case:
Perceptions of the ones impaired by eye disease
Cannot invalidate what’s known by healthy ones.
Just so, a mind which lacks the wisdom beyond taint
Cannot invalidate a flawless intellect. (6.27)
The refutation of other-production demonstrated here is not a mere worldly viewpoint. What then? It is the accepted vision of noble ones. This refutation of production being extraordinary, just as an undistorted apprehension cannot be invalidated by someone with cataracts disease who perceives hair-strands and the like, undefiled vision cannot be invalidated by the understanding of ordinary beings lacking undefiled wisdom, and worldly ones cannot therefore invalidate that which falls within this sort of domain. They are truly laughable opponents for a noble one. We therefore have two truths, and by distinguishing between a relative and an ultimate, entities are said to have a dual essence.
In order to describe the worldly relative truth, it was said:
It’s relative, delusion, when the real is masked.
Regarding as the truth what is in fact contrived
Is relative truth, this is what the sage expressed –
And that which is contrived is simply relative. (6.28)
As it obscures sentient beings’ ability to see things for what they are, it is confusion; and this condition of ignorance superimposing non-factual inherent characteristics to things, concealing the perception of the actual, is the relative (saṃvṛti). This relative causes things to be experienced as real, and that which lacks inherent nature is seen as inherently distinct. As this is relatively true for the mistaken world, it is the worldly relative truth. It is contrived interdependence.
Certain dependently arisen things, like reflections, echoes and so forth, appear as false also to the ignorant, while certain things like blueness and the like, and such things as material form, mind and feelings, appear as true. The actual does not appear in any way whatsoever to the ignorant. The latter, as well those things that also relatively are false, are therefore not the relative truth. As such, the relative truth is a principle relevant as long as one has the afflicted ignorance involved in the links of existence.
The hearers, solitary buddhas and bodhisattvas have relinquished afflicted vision, and not entertaining assumptions about truth they experience conditioned things as similar to reflections and such, contrived in nature but not real. For the immature these things are deceptive, while for the others they are dependently originated, like illusions and so forth, and therefore merely relative. Since they relate to this with only cognitively obscured ignorance, it does appear to noble ones in the appearance-associated domain, but not while in the appearance-free domain. Buddhas have fully and perfectly realised phenomena in all their aspects, and it is therefore held that they have arrested the movement of mind and mental factors for good. The Illustrious One thus taught that there is the relative truth and the merely relative.
What is ultimate for ordinary beings is merely relative in the appearance-associated domain of noble ones, while the ultimate for the latter is its emptiness-nature. The buddhas’ ultimate is the very nature itself. As this is undeceiving it is the ultimate truth, and something they have a direct personal experience with. Since the relative truth is deceptive it is not an ultimate truth.
Having covered the relative truth, the ultimate truth should be described. That, however, is impossible to explicitly indicate because it is ineffable and not a knowable object. To elucidate its nature to those who are interested with something they are familiar with, an example is therefore employed:
That faulty image one presumes – those falling hairs
Which come when one is suffering from an eye disease –
Is seen for what it is by one with proper sight;
At present we may thus deduce reality. (6.29)
Witnessing how someone suffering from cataracts, through the influence of that ailment sees such things as accumulating strands of hair filling for instance the rhinoceros-bowl he is holding, and his struggle to get rid of them by repeatedly upending the bowl, the one without cataracts might wonder, ‘What is he doing?’ and approach him. And even though she directs her eyes to the area of the supposed hair she does not perceive any hairs, and will also not entertain concepts of particular attributes related to these hairs, such as being things or non-things, hairs or not, dark blue and so forth. So, when the cataract-ridden individual relates his thinking to the one without cataracts, saying, ‘I see hairs,’ the other will want to clear away these concepts. And although she will certainly reject the perspective of the one with cataracts, and say, ‘There are no hairs,’ she isn’t actually denying them. The healthy one sees the actual reality of the hair-strands; the other doesn’t.
Similarly, the nature of the aggregates, elements, sense fields and so forth perceived by those impaired by the cataracts of ignorance and unable to see the actual reality, is the relative nature of these things. But like the cataract-free individual looking at the hair-strands, when the illustrious buddhas who are free from the habitual patterns of ignorance view those very aggregates and so forth, they see their real nature, and this is their ultimate truth.
‘But there couldn’t be any seeing of such a nature, could there? So how do they then see?’ Though that is true, it is said that, ‘It’s by not seeing it that they see.’ As indicated at length in the noble Accessing the Two Truths:
Devaputra. If ultimately the ultimate truth was a physical, verbal or mental object, it couldn’t be considered the ultimate truth; it would be the relative truth. Ultimately, Devaputra, the ultimate truth is beyond all conventions, undifferentiated, unproduced, unceasing, and beyond something expressed and an expressing, something known and a knowing. The ultimate truth, Devaputra, transcends being an object of the omniscient wisdom of those endowed with the most supreme of all aspects, and isn’t expressed by words such as ultimate truth. All phenomena are false; they are deceptive phenomena. The ultimate truth cannot be described, Devaputra. Why? No such phenomena as someone showing, something shown and someone shown to can appear ultimately. And non-apparent phenomena cannot explain non-apparent phenomena.99
Thus, distinctions such as objective entity and non-entity, own-entity and other-entity, truth and non-truth, durability and termination, permanence and impermanence, happiness and suffering, pure and impure, self and non-self, empty and non-empty, characteristics and characterised, oneness and difference, arising and ceasing and so forth cannot be found in the actual reality, because it has no observable nature. Only noble beings therefore have a valid consideration of actual reality – those who are not noble beings do not.
If one insists that the world can invalidate it, and professes that the worldly perspective is a valid way of analysing actual reality, then:
If worldly standards were correct the world would see
Reality; what need for other noble ones?
Would there be reason to traverse the noble path?
It’s senseless that the standards of a fool are sound. (6.30)
If one were to accept that the worldly perspective is valid knowledge, and that the actual reality is seen by them, one would have to accept that they have relinquished ignorance, because a fool having valid knowledge is unreasonable. Someone who lacks understanding of a certain object is considered unreliable in relation to that thing, such as someone who lacks knowledge of how to examine precious stones. If the eyes and so forth could ascertain the actual reality, then endeavouring in moral discipline, learning, contemplation, meditation and so forth in order to actualise the noble path would be pointless. Hence this cannot be the case.
Since worldly standards are not valid all the way,
The world cannot disprove what is reality.
As was explained above, at the level of actual reality the worldly perspective is in every respect invalid. Thus, when the context is actual reality, the worldly cannot invalidate it.What can the worldly perspective invalidate? To explain:
But worldly objects are agreed on in the world,
So they’ll disprove you if you do reject these things. (6.31)
For instance, if someone were to say, ‘Something of mine has been stolen,’ and another poses the question, ‘What thing was it?’, and they reply, ‘A vase,’ and the other refutes it, saying, ‘A vase is not a thing, because it is a cognitive object, like a dream-vase;’ denials of objects like this the world can invalidate, since there is worldly consensus about mundane things. But when it comes to the level of the noble ones’ vision and learned individuals making valid analyses, the worldly cannot invalidate these. Learned ones may apply this position also when examining other things.100
With this, worldly invalidation has been avoided even if it was the case that worldly convention accepted other-production. However, since there is no other-production even from the worldly perspective, also when resorting to the worldly perspective one will not be able to invalidate the refutation of other-production using their view. To show this, it was said:
A worldly person may just sow a seed
But later say, ‘I have produced this child,’
Or else believe that he, ‘did plant this tree.’
No other-rising hence within the world. (6.32)
When it becomes evident that the child is male, a man will say, ‘I produced this boy.’ However, it is not as though a boy having those features is ejected from his body and put into the mother. There is merely an excretion in the form of a seed. But it is clearly the worldly opinion that, since it was due to his depositing the cause that a child then emerged, semen and child are not separate. If they were separate it would be as if they were distinct entities, and one wouldn’t then express it like that. The same may be applied to the seed and the tree.
Thus, to indicate the virtues of interdependence in terms of avoiding permanence and nihilism when explained in the above manner, it was said:
Because the sprout and seed are not distinct,
Seeds haven’t been destroyed when sprouts are there.
And since they neither are the very same,
We wouldn’t say the seeds exist with sprouts. (6.33)
If the sprout was other than the seed, the sprout’s presence would unequivocally mean that the seed was terminated – since the presence of wild oxen does not prevent dead cattle from ceasing to exist, and the presence of ordinary beings does nothing to the transcendence (nirvāṇa) of noble ones. But because they are not distinct, the identity of being a sprout does not terminate the seed, and in this way nihilism is avoided. And because they are not identical the very thing which is seed is not the sprout, and since this prevents imperishability, permanence is avoided.
If seed exists, so does sprout;
But seed is not the sprout itself.
It is not other, it is not it – hence,
Dharmatā is neither permanence nor nihilism.101
If seed exists… means that, ‘When there is an existence of seed, then….’ If it is suggested that, ‘A sprout arising with the seed as its cause cannot really be different from the seed,’ it states here: But seed is not the sprout itself. If asking, ‘Doesn’t the seed turn into the sprout?’ Then we have the statement: It is not other, it is not it – …. Since both the positions of sameness and otherness are impossible, neither that it is distinct and nor that it is not distinct will be reasonable. Hence, with both options refuted, that the nature of things (dharmatā) is beyond permanence and nihilism becomes manifestly apparent.
The essential point to be understood here is this: If seed and sprout were endowed with any sense of inherent existence (svabhāva), they would have to be either the same or different. But when they have no such inherent existence, being just like seeds and sprouts appearing in a dream, how can there then be actual oneness or difference. This is the very sense of the following explanation:
Formations are the consequence of ignorance,
But those formations are not present in that itself
Formations and ignorance are empty
By nature, free from fluctuation.102
And as stated in the Treatise:
Whatever is dependently arisen from something
Is not then that exact same thing,
Nor is it other than it –
Hence, no permanence, no annihilation.103
That, ‘There is no inherent production whatsoever,’ is something one absolutely must accept. If it wasn’t so:
If things existed with their own identity,
Rejecting this would mean the ruin of these things,
And emptiness would be destroying entities.
This makes no sense, and therefore things do not exist. (6.34)
If things such as material form and sensation were produced from causes and conditions with inherent characteristics, with their own essence and nature, when the yogi then sees entities as empty of inherent nature and realises that all dharmas lack inherent nature, his realisation of emptiness would occur through a rejection of an inherent nature that was actually produced like that. Then, just as such things as hammers can cause the destruction of vases and so forth, this emptiness would discard the intrinsic nature of things, which would not be justified. Therefore, that things have inherent characteristics would never be acceptable.
As taught at length in the noble Heap of Jewels Sutra:
Furthermore, Kāśyapa, the correct middle way approach to analysing dharmas is the following: It is not emptiness that makes dharmas empty; dharmas themselves are empty. It is not characterlessness that makes dharmas characterless; dharmas themselves are characterless. It is not aimlessness that makes dharmas aimless; dharmas themselves are aimless. It is not fabricationlessness that makes dharmas fabricationless; dharmas themselves are fabricationless. It is not productionlessness that makes dharmas productionless; dharmas themselves are productionless. It is not originationlessness that makes dharmas originationless; dharmas themselves are originationless.104
Some assert a dependent nature, and thinking that its contingent emptiness characterised by a lack of apprehender and apprehended can neither be expressed as same nor different – just as with impermanence and so forth – they are saying that, ‘It is only through emptiness itself that all things are empty, and not by their very nature.’105 As the Four Hundred Verses explains:
One cannot regard the non-empty as empty,
And then think, ‘I shall reach nirvana.’
Mistaken ideas do not lead to nirvana –
That is what the tathāgatas have declared.106
And, as the Treatise states:
The victorious ones spoke of emptiness
As the relinquishment of every view,
And stated that those who take emptiness
As a view accomplish nothing.107
Here, some say: ‘Indeed there is no production ultimately, based on the refutation of production from self and other. But direct perception and inference shows us that the nature of material form, sensation and so forth are undoubtedly other-produced. If this is not maintained, why say there are two truths? One would end up with just a single truth. And then other-production would be entirely non-existent.’
To this we reply: That is indeed true, and ultimately there aren’t two truths as seen in statements such as, ‘Mendicants. The highest truth is only one, namely: the undeceiving objective is transcendence. All composite phenomena are deceptive false objects.’108 Accordingly, since the relative truth is the means for accessing the ultimate truth, when production from self and other is left unanalysed, the worldly perspective is acknowledged.
When analysed there’s nothing that remains of things
Except the very nature of reality.
And thus the things which are conventions of the world
Are not to be subjected to analysis. (6.35)
And so, when material form, sensation and so forth are scrutinised in this manner, asking, ‘Are they produced from self, or are they produced from other?’, since there is ultimately neither production nor cessation, apart from the essential nature nothing other by way of production and so forth remains. Therefore, dispensing with thorough analysis of these things, such as asking, ‘Is it from self or other…?’, one should merely take one’s cue from the other and acknowledge what is observed by the worldly when they say, ‘If this is present, this arises.’
As Āryadeva explained:
Just as through a foreign tongue
Barbarians cannot be brought to understanding,
One will not make the world understand
Unless using the worldly perspective.109
And as stated in the Treatise:
Without relying on the conventional
One cannot realise the ultimate.
Without realising the ultimate
One cannot reach transcendence.110
Worldly conventions collapse when subjected to analysis. As taught at length in the sutras:
If for instance three things are combined,
Some wood, some string and a practiced hand,
Pleasant sounds will issue from
The tūṇa, vīnā, sughoṣaka and such.111
But though a learned person were to explore
Where they are going and whence they came,
Searching the four directions and in-between,
He will fail to find the sounds’ coming and going.
Likewise, from causes and conditions
All composite phenomena are produced;
But the yogi endowed with authentic vision
Sees these composites as empty and fickle.
The aggregates, elements and sensory fields
Are empty within and empty without;
The sentient lacking selfhood have no abode –
Space-like nature is the hallmark of dharmas.112
One may interject: ‘If every type of adherence to things is to be eliminated, we are perplexed as to what to do with this adherence to a conventional truth; there has to be some sort of substantial nature produced which acts as the cause for thoroughly afflicted and completely purified states.’ This way of expressing it too though is nothing but mere words. Why?
No reasoning permits production from itself
Or other at the level of reality.
It can’t be justified even conventionally.
So then, by what can your production be sustained? (6.36)
Just as on the ultimate level the above explained reasoning does not allow for production from self or other, also conventionally it renders production illogical – how then can your production of entities be maintained? Therefore, though unwilling, one must by necessity accept the statement, ‘In neither of the two truths does production with distinct characteristics (svalakṣaṇa) occur.’
Some look at the statement, ‘Not from self …,’ and think that master Nāgārjuna is only refuting the imputed nature (parikalpitasvabhāva) and not the dependent nature (paratantrasvabhāva). This assertion of theirs is unreasonable and cannot be maintained, and those who speak like this will certainly be disproved.113
‘But if there is no production with distinct identities in either of the truths, how is it that their distinct natures are observed in the world?’ To explain:
Such empty objects as reflections and the like
Are not unheard of when conditions do convene.
And just as from reflections and such empty things
Cognitions with their aspects are indeed produced, (6.37)
It is the same with every empty entity,
As from these very empty things, things do emerge.
All phenomena remain inseparable from the workings of cause and effect. So, what learned individual, when considering the causality involved in the appearance of an insubstantial reflection, would perceive this mere existence of nothing other than a causal process involving material form, sensation and so forth, and become convinced of it having a truly existent nature? Therefore, although its existence is perceived, there is no intrinsic production taking place. As stated:
O Druma, though it has no true nature,
A reflection may still appear to be
Within a spotless mirror. This is how
You should come to understand phenomena.114
And since true character exists in neither truth,
There’s nothing that’s eternal or that terminates. (6.38)
Because things are empty of an inherent nature, like the appearance of reflections, they are in nature essenceless both in the ultimate and relative truths, and both permanence and nihilism are therefore avoided. As the Treatise for instance states:
‘It is not so that what intrinsically exists
Is non-existent’ – this is eternalism.
To say, ‘It was before, but now is no more,’
Implies that one professes nihilism.115
With the acceptance of existent things
The views of eternalism and nihilism follow,
Because an existent thing must be
Either permanent or impermanent.116
Through mastery of magical emanation
The Teacher can make an emanation appear,
And that emanated emanation again
Can make further emanations appear.
The actor and enacted karmic act
Are similarly a display of emanations –
Like an emanation that emanates
Yet another emanation.
The afflictions, actions, bodies,
Karmic agents and results
Are like the city of gandharvas,
Similar to dreams and mirages.117
This example of magical emanations demonstrates how things lacking inherence produce things lacking inherence.
Since there is therefore no intrinsic nature in either truth, the views of eternalism and nihilism are thoroughly abandoned. In addition, there will be no need to justify the link between the result and the karmic act, even when a long time has passed since the act took place, by resorting to such ideas as a substrate consciousness, karmic indelibility and obtention. How so?
Because it doesn’t really cease to be,
Though there’s no substrate, still the potency
Of karma stays long after it has ceased,
And will produce effects – this you should know. (6.39)
Those for whom karmic acts cease will in response to the critical remark, ‘How can a karmic act that has ceased to be give rise to a result?’, venture to confirm the potential of ceased karmic acts by maintaining a substrate consciousness, a separate indelible dharma similar to a promissory note, obtention, or that there is a continuum of consciousness that takes on the karmic imprints.118 But for those for whom karmic acts are not inherently produced, they also do not cease; and since it is not impossible for a result to manifest from what has not been destroyed, when the karmic acts do not perish the link between the karmic act and its result becomes perfectly tenable. As the Treatise states:
Karma is not produced because
It has no inherent nature at all.
And since it is unproduced,
It also does not cease to be.119
And from the sutras:
A human lifespan is a hundred years,
Thus we call that a lifetime.
But one cannot gather years in a heap.
This is established in a similar way.
When we say, ‘It is not exhausted,’
And when we say, ‘Karma is exhausted,’
The empty aspect is its non-exhaustion,
Conventionally its exhaustion is taught.120
To explain through simile the sense of what was just related:
The foolish man who has a pleasant dream
Is still desirous when waking up.
And likewise, though the karmic act has ceased
And lacks reality, it has results. (6.40)
As stated in the Transmigration Sutra:
Great King. Take for instance a man who is asleep and dreams of having intercourse with a beautiful lady, and on waking keeps yearning for her. What’s your opinion, Great King? Would such a man as this, who first dreams that he has intercourse with a beautiful lady and then having awoken still yearns for her, be a wise man?
He replied: No, Illustrious One, he would not. And why? Illustrious One, that dream-woman is non-existent; she cannot be perceived, let alone be a partner in intercourse. That man has nothing in store for him but misery and fatigue.
The Illustrious One said: It is similar, Great King, for immature and uninformed ordinary beings who on seeing material things crave material enjoyment. Craving these things they become attached. With attachment they bring about physical, verbal and mental karmic actions through desire, anger and confusion. When those karmic acts have been consummated, they cease. Having ceased they do not remain in the east … (and so forth), or in the intermediate directions. At a later time, when the moment of death arrives, the associated karma is activated as the final moment of consciousness ceases. At that time, it is just as in the example of the beautiful lady of he who awoke from sleep: one will tend towards that very mental karma. Thus, Great King, as that final moment of consciousness ceases, the first moment of consciousness belonging to the next birth determines whether one appears among the gods … (and so forth), or among the deprived spirits. As soon as that first moment of consciousness ceases, Great King, a mindstream that accords with the resultant manifest experience arises. While there are no phenomena whatsoever, Great King, that are transferred from this world to the next, death and rebirth are still evident. Great King, the ceasing of the final moment of consciousness is what we call ‘death’, while the initial moment of consciousness belonging to the next birth is what we call ‘rebirth’. But, Great King, as the final moment of consciousness ceases it doesn’t go anywhere. And the initial moment of consciousness belonging to the next birth doesn’t come from anywhere either. How can that be so? Because it is devoid of inherent existence. That final moment of consciousness Great King, is empty of a final moment of consciousness; death is empty of death; karma is empty of karma; the initial moment of consciousness is empty of an initial moment of consciousness; rebirth is empty of rebirth; and karmas do not disappear.121
Some might think: ‘Say one accepts that not being inherently produced it is not spent,122 and this is why there can be a ripening result. In that case, since the ripening manifests without it having ceased, there will likewise be another ripening after the initial ripening has taken place because it hasn’t been spent. And, since after that ripening there will be yet another ripening, this leads to the fault of infinite regress.’ This will not be the case:
Just as with cataracts one will see hairs
And not just any other random thing,
Although as non-existents they’re the same
The ripened won’t be ripening again. (6.41)
As an example, take objects that are similar in that they are nonexistent: someone with cataracts will see nonexistent objects such as strands of hair, but not the appearance of other types of things, such as a donkey’s horns and a barren woman’s child. Likewise, while the natures of karmas are equal in their non-cessation, they have specific ripening results.
This example not only shows that karma isn’t unspecific, but also that its maturation is specific. To explain:
The negative will therefore further woe,
While virtues lead to what is fortunate.
It’s freedom to see neither good nor bad.
To question karmic links was still deterred. (6.42)
Though virtuous and non-virtuous karmas lack intrinsic essence, still, just as there is a sense of certainty for the one seeing hair strands, non-virtue will not have have a pleasant outcome while virtue will not have an unpleasant outcome. When not apprehending karma as virtuous and non-virtuous one is liberated. The Illustrious One saw that if ordinary beings were to enter into very detailed analyses of it, they could end up denying karmic consequences and demolishing the relative. Stating that, ‘The workings of karmic consequences are inconceivable,’ he thus discouraged speculation about the workings of karmic actions and results.
‘If this is how the relationship between karmic actions and results is posited, when it is stated in the Descent Onto Lanka123 that the substrate consciousness is the basis of all the unlimited particular potentials, containing the seeds that cause the production of all things, like the ocean is for the waves, can this then be something utterly unproduced in every respect?’
That is not how it is, because the statements presenting this as something existent were given in order to instruct disciples. It should be understood that it is as an approximation of the nature of all things that what is in fact emptiness is described with the term substrate consciousness. Not only is the substrate consciousness then existent, but the person too exists – such statements of their existence are given in order to nurture individuals who need to be trained. It was for instance stated:
O mendicants. The five aggregates are the burden. The carrier of the burden is the person.124
To some it was taught that there are only the aggregates; and terms such as mind, mentation and consciousness were used when explaining that, ‘By immersing oneself with faith, moral discipline and so forth, one will improve, and in future lives take rebirth in the higher realms.’ But all such teachings were given with intentional ambiguity.
If one wonders what the intention behind them was, it is said:
And so, for those who are not able to
Accommodate the most profound of views,
He taught a substrate, that the person does
Exist, that aggregates alone exist. (6.43)
The kinds of students who have previously had prolonged exposure to misguided (tīrthika) views will struggle to assimilate the profound nature of things (dharmatā), and become frightened when hearing statements such as, ‘I am not, nor will I be ….’125 When from the very outset they relate to the instructions of the Teacher like they would the edge of a precipice, backing away from it, they will not accomplish the supreme goal. By initially presenting them with such topics as the substrate consciousness, their misguided beliefs are counteracted as they are steered towards the greater purpose of these instructions. Since they will later, when gaining an unmistaken understanding of the teachings, naturally abandon these, it is definitely a beneficial approach and in no way mistaken. As Āryadeva explained:
One should first of all assess
Their particular inclinations.
If estranged they will never become
Vessels for the sacred Dharma.126
For didactic reasons not only did he teach topics such as the substrate consciousness, but also:
He taught by saying I and mine, although
Free from the view of an identity.
And likewise, though things lack inherent truth,
He taught provisionally that they exist. (6.44)
Although he had relinquished any ego and mine by leaving behind the identity view in its entirety, as worldly convention uses terms such as I and mine as a means of communication, the Illustrious One taught using the expressions I and mine. Similarly, although things do not have an intrinsic nature, teaching that they exist can be a means for leading the worldly to understanding, and thus he taught their existence.
As stated at length in the Verses Agreeing with the Pūrvaśaila School:
If the guides of the world
Did not conform with the world,
Nobody would know about Buddha
Or the Buddhist teachings.
While knowing that the aggregates,
Elements and sense fields are of one nature,
He taught about the three realms
To accord with the world.
Though phenomena are unnameable,
He expressed himself to beings
Using an inconceivable variety of terms
To accord with the world.
He taught the non-existence of things,
While dwelling in the nature of awakening
Where there is no non-existence at all,
To accord with the world.
Though seeing no objects nor non-objects,
The supreme of speakers professed
Cessation and the ultimate truth
To accord with the world.
Though being without destruction and creation
Things are equal in the realm of phenomena,
He taught about the inferno of the aeon
To accord with the world.
Although the nature of sentient beings
Is not observed throughout the three times,
He taught about the characters of beings
To accord with the world.127
The proponents of consciousness cannot accept the teachings of the Middle Way, and therefore express the tradition they themselves have conceptually fashioned regarding how to regard objects in order to dispel what has been explained here, saying:
When bodhisattvas dwell within intelligence
They know reality to be just consciousness;
No subject can be seen without the object, thus
They find the triple realm to be the mind alone. (6.45)
The word established means to dwell. To be established in intelligence is to dwell in intelligence (prajñā); and the one who is there is established in intelligence, is practicing intelligence. The bodhisattvas refers to those who have reached Present. Those who unmistakenly and without any superimposition whatsoever know, see and fully comprehend the actual reality, know reality. This then forms part of the phrase … know reality to be simply consciousness. Since they realise that in the absence of material form the mind and mental states are merely dependently arisen entities, they know reality to be simply consciousness.
One may ask how they know the actual reality to be simply consciousness. That is why it is said, ‘Seeing no subject in the absence of objects, and realising the three realms as mere consciousness….’ Through the presented reasoning the bodhisattvas come to see that, as there are no apprehended objects, there is also no apprehending subject, and then cultivate the thought, ‘…the three realms are mere consciousness…,’ over an extended period of time. Through this cultivation they come to see mere inexpressible entities through self-cognition, and gradually realise the actual reality as mere consciousness.
‘If they are simply consciousness; in the absence of external objects how can a consciousness bearing their aspects arise?’ To this they say:
It is just like the waves that will appear
Upon the ocean as by wind it’s stirred,
When from the substrate, seed of all, appears
Just consciousness by self-potential spurred. (6.46)
When a stretch of water in the ocean, the supporter of waves, is agitated by the wind, through the conditioning wind’s stirrings one can discern the movements of rising waves previously dormant, as if they are competing to assume a physical identity.
Similarly, the continuum of consciousness has been ongoing since beginningless time, and as tendencies for grasping at subject and object ripen things assume particular identities. When these cease they leave particular imprints in the substrate consciousness that serve as causes for later occurrences of consciousnesses with similar features. Eventually the conditions for them to ripen stir, and they reach ripening. It is in relation to these impure merely dependent occurrences that immature beings then impute concepts of subject and object where there are in fact no objects whatsoever apart from consciousness.
As the proponents of an almighty god (īśvara) and so forth will say:
Just as the spider is the cause of the spiderweb,
The water-crystal is for water,
And the fig-tree for its branches,
He is the cause for all things embodied.128
Just as those who profess such things as an almighty god as the creator of the world, the proponents of a substrate consciousness claim that the substrate consciousness is the omnific source (sarvabījaka), since it is the fundamental seed of all things perceived. The only difference between them is that the almighty god is said to be permanent while the substrate consciousness is impermanent.
‘Since this is the way it is clearly presented in the scriptures:
And this dependent nature is the source
From whence ideas of real things then appear –
Appears without external things, exists,
In nature free from all abstracting thought. (6.47)
‘The dependent nature must unquestionably be accepted, since it is held to be the basis for the entire interlacing matrix of thought. One cannot mistake a rope for a snake without the rope as a contingent cause, and one cannot mistake earth and so forth for a vase without the contingent causes of earth and so forth; the latter would not happen in relation to the element of space. Likewise, in the absence of external objects, what would be the rationale for such thoughts as blue and so forth to occur? Hence, one must inevitably accept that the dependent nature is the cause of thoughts; it is the cause for the conditions of thorough affliction and complete purification. In this way, emptiness may be properly understood through statements such as:
“What lacks a certain thing is found to be empty of that, while that which remains is what actually exists.” This is the authentic and precise understanding granting unmistaken access to emptiness.129
‘It is by nature beyond the scope of all elaboration, and since verbal expression relies on designations there is no way to communicate it through the medium of words. Thus, to summarise, the dependent nature is here presented as threefold: (1) it arises solely from its own imprints without knowable objects; (2) it has existence; and (3) it is not within the scope of any mental elaboration. That it is the cause for things having imputed existence is established by the fact of its existence, and this is therefore not a point apart from the aforementioned three.’
To this we say:
But how can mind be there without external things?
This should be investigated. They might reply:
‘It’s like a dream,’ you say. …
‘Someone asleep inside a tiny room might dream that the room is filled with a herd of mad elephants, which is not at all the case. That there can be consciousness in the absence of external objects must therefore necessarily be acknowledged.’
To show that this is completely unfounded, it is said:
… Well, let’s consider that:
For me, in dreams as well my mind does not exist,
Which means that your example is not relevant. (6.48)
The cognition appearing as a herd of mad elephants130 is for us as non-existent as the object itself, because it is unproduced. And when consciousness is non-existent, this example will not be applicable for both of us, and therefore there is no existent consciousness in the absence of external things.
They might think, ’But if the mistaken cognition of the dream does not exist, one shouldn’t then be able to remember one’s dream-experiences when waking up.’ This too is unsound, in that
If mind exists since dreams can be recalled
When waking, then external things should too,
Since just as you recall the thought ‘I saw,’
You do remember these external things. (6.49)
If the memory of the dream-experience meant that mind exists, the object too would then exist since the experience of the object is also remembered. The unavoidable alternative is to say that consciousness does not exist.
To this they reply: ‘If appearances of such things as elephants in dreams did exist, the eye-consciousness should also be operative then since they are being apprehended; but it is not, since the fivefold collection of consciousness is interrupted by sleep and hence not present.’ Thus,
You claim, ‘It’s not there when one is asleep, because
There is no visual consciousness, just conscious mind,
Its images believed to be external things.
And as in dreams, the same is taking place right now.’ (6.50)
‘When dreaming the eye-consciousness is in every way absent, and with that absent there cannot be an eye sense field (āyatana) apprehending the appearances of such things as elephants; but the mental consciousness is operative. Therefore, it cannot be denied that external forms are absent, and that it is the features of one’s own consciousness that are taken to be external. And just as it is only consciousness appearing in dreams without external things, the same is the case now.’
That is not so, since it is impossible for the mental consciousness to arise in dreams. So,
Just like for you externals are not there
In dreams, the mind as well is not produced.
All three, the eye, the object seen, the mind
Which they engender, each of these are false. (6.51)
The perception of forms happens when the eye, the form and the mind are in proximity. Likewise, when objects are distinguished in dreams, a coming together of these three is observed. And just as in that context eyes and form are found to be non-existent, eye-consciousness too has no existence. And just as with these three, the same is the case for the rest:
The rest, with ears and such, are unproduced.
The words ears and so forth include the rest, from sound and ear consciousness up to and including mentation, mental phenomena and mental consciousness. Thus, since all of these triads are false within the dream, it makes no sense to say that the mental consciousness exists in dreams.
Some think that, ‘The form apprehended by the mental consciousness belongs to the sense field of mental phenomena, and does exist in the dream. Hence, it is not at all the case that consciousness exists without objects.’ But this sentiment is also unreasonable, since the three are utterly unfeasible in dreams. If they say they have accepted this in order disprove the scriptural tradition of the others, the dream example becomes meaningless, because what is deemed not false cannot serve to illustrate things that are considered false.
To explain that, since the three are unreal in dreams, this may be used as a proof to confirm unsubstantiality, and that therefore in the waking state as well all phenomena are shown to be without intrinsic nature, it was said:
The same holds true awake as when you dream
Since all things are deceptive; there’s no mind,
There are no objects and no faculties. (6.52)
It should be acknowledged that, just as in dreams objects, faculties and consciousness are false, the same is the case in the waking state. Hence:
As when perceiving illusory beings
That appear while not really there,
The Sugata taught that these phenomena
Are like illusions, similar to dreams.131
Existence as a being is like a dream –
None are born, there are none who die.
The labels and lives of beings are not found;
These dharmas are like bubbles and plantain trees.132
These and similar statements clearly express this.
Thus, these three are explained to be unproduced both with regard to the cognition of waking life and the dream state:
But just as one may see them when asleep,
The three are still here now when we’re awake.
While the sleep of unknowing remains, for those who have emerged from the sleep state and are awake, these three parts continue to be present – even though not produced in and of themselves – as dream perceptions caused by the sleep of ignorance. The same is the case for those who are asleep and have not emerged from the state of dreaming; this triad exists with the same type of nature also then.
And just as when awake the three are gone,
They’re gone when from delusion’s sleep we wake. (6.53)
When sleep ends and one is awake, the dream perceptions involving the three do not persist. Likewise, for those who have fully eradicated the sleep of ignorance and directly perceive the dharma expanse (dharmadhātu), these three do not exist. Hence, consciousness does not exist in the absence of external phenomena.
They might argue: ’Someone with cataracts does perceive things that are non-existent, such as hairs. Therefore consciousness must exist without external things.’ This is also untenable. Why?
The hairs an eye disease will make appear;
The mind which the afflicted sense affects;
His intellect will see them both as real.
With healthy sight they are both seen as false. (6.54)
This is to be regarded exactly as with dreams. From the perspective of the one with cataracts the appearance of hairs exists, while from the perspective of the one without cataracts both are unproduced, since one can hardly confirm consciousness in the absence of objects.
This must necessarily be agreed to. Otherwise,
If there could be cognition without something known,
One would expect that healthy vision too should know
These hairs when gazing at the spot where hairs appear.
This doesn’t happen, hence this cannot be the case. (6.55)
If a cognition having the features of hair strands could arise for the one with cataracts without existing hair strands, then someone without cataracts directing their gaze to the same place where the one with cataracts is seeing hairs should also have a mental experience of them, since they are equally non-existent for both. Hence it is illogical to say that consciousness arises in the absence of objects.
They might say: ’This would be the case if an existent object was the cause for the arising of consciousness. So how is it? It is the ripening or non-ripening of former imprints deposited in the consciousness that determines whether a particular consciousness arises or not. Hence, only when an imprint of another cognition in the form of hair strands left there ripens, does a cognition having these features occur; otherwise not.’ To then explain how this too is unfeasible:
‘There is no ripe potential for the healthy one,
And therefore he does not have this experience;
It’s not because there’s nothing there that can be known.’
But since potential is unreal this doesn’t work. (6.56)
… such a knowable object is lacking means that the knowable thing does not exist. Only if a so-called potential was something existent would there be the occurrence or non-occurrence of consciousness related to its ripening or non-ripening. Therefore this doesn’t prove it.
So why can’t potential exist? To explain:
Potential for what has arisen cannot be,
Nor can it be for what in fact is unproduced.
Is this assumed potential something connected with a present consciousness, or with a past or future consciousness? In the case of a produced present consciousness, there cannot be potential. When we talk of the potential’s we are using the sixth case,133 and to say that the essentially resultant consciousness is itself the very cause is illogical. If it were, we would have a causeless result, and once the sprout is produced the seed would also not be destroyed. Therefore it is impossible for a produced consciousness to have potential.
When we say from the potential we are using the fifth case,134 and as has already been explained, since it is existent it would be illogical for a produced consciousness to then originate from a potential. Hence there cannot be potential for that which is already a product.
Nor can that consciousness, when by nature unproduced, have potential. Because
With no distinction one cannot distinguish it,
Or else the barren woman’s son would be a fact. (6.57)
Without something distinct one cannot make distinctions. How so? When referring to consciousness potential, consciousness distinguishes the potential, and potential is the basis distinguished. But a thing yet to be produced cannot be used to indicate negation or affirmation in relation to something, saying it is a consciousness such-and-such or non-consciousness such-and-such. That being the case, what sort of distinction would one then actually be making by saying it is the potential for that? And when it can’t be distinguished as such, to say that will come from it won’t serve to identify it, and one isn’t actually indicating anything at all.
If one still insists that something unproduced can have potential, one would have to agree that a barren woman can have a son. Therefore, potential for something unproduced cannot exist.
They might then think: ‘The consciousness in question is an anticipated consciousness that will arise by virtue of this potential, and as it is the potential for that consciousness we can say, “It arises from this.” In this way the entities of distinguisher and basis distinguished are established, just as in everyday language one might say, “Please make some boiled rice,” or “Please weave a garment from this yarn.” This is explained in a treatise as well:’
‘There are three that enter the womb,
The cakravartin and the two self-manifest ones,
To explain how this is empty rhetorics:
You may suggest that in the future it will be.
But lacking in potential it cannot spring forth.
Things that may occur at certain times can arise, but what is certain never to arise – such as a barren woman’s son or things such as space – will not. Thus in this context, if the potential did exist, consciousness could certainly come into being. But when the future consciousness does not exist, and its potential therefore doesn’t exist, as is the case for such things as a barren woman’s son, the absence of its potential means that it certainly can’t arise. This also applies when explaining boiled rice and so forth.
And although it is indeed the case that consciousness and potential are mutually reliant, a thing that is dependent does not in fact have existence. Thus,
And mutual dependence used to prove something,
The wise will say this fails to prove establishment. (6.58)
To say, ‘When consciousness exists, its potential is a fact; and consciousness arises from that,’ describes a case of mutual dependence. If they say, ‘That is exactly the way of things,’ they are effectively saying that consciousness does not inherently exist. For example, only when there is long can there be short, and when there is short can there be long; only when there is there can here exist, and when there is here can there exist. These are all nominal imputations lacking any intrinsic establishment. So if that is the case, they are in fact agreeing with us. As explained:
A cause in the absence of an effect
Has no existence as a cause.
Hence, it necessarily follows
That every effect is also a cause.136
And from the Treatise:
If a thing is dependently established,
And that upon which it depends
Is established only in dependence on it,
What is then established in dependence on what?137
Meaning that, if a thing such as consciousness were established in dependence on a particular potential, and that particular potential the consciousness relies on to establish its nature in turn depends on it; in establishing these two it must then be asked which is established in dependence on which? It continues:
How can a dependently established entity
Depend when it is not established?
And if you say the established depends,
Its dependence makes no sense.138
Meaning that, if consciousness is established in dependence on a potential, is it established or not as it depends on that potential? If it is not established it can’t rely on that potential, because it is as unestablished as the horns of a donkey. On the other hand, if it is established while depending, its establishment would mean that it cannot be dependent.
The wise have thus stated that, ‘Things that are established in mutual dependence are not established.’ A future phenomenon cannot therefore have potential.
To explain that past potential likewise cannot be, it was said:
If it comes from a ceased potential’s ripening,
A separate potential then brings forth something.
If it is so that, as a result of a produced consciousness having ceased a particular potential is left in the substrate consciousness, and through the ripening of this ceased consciousness’s potential a consciousness arises, this would be an instance of something other arising from an extraneous potential. How so? Because:
As parts of a continuum must be distinct …,
‘Tan- means to extend’.139 Accordingly, a continuum (saṃtāna) implies a succession, like the continuum of a river, and means that there is a continuous flow, a continuous transmission, with a connection between cause and result. In its usage in the case of the succession of birth and death, there is a sense of a sustaining of the conditioned moments of the three times in a continuous and unbroken sequential state, and as the parts of this continuum exist in substantial instances, the branches of the continuum being instances of substance are what is spoken of as the continuity. These are mutually other and separate things, and our opponents accept their otherness. Hence, when caused by these imprints a latter resultant moment occurs, it is different from the causal moment during which the imprints were set in place, and as such this will be a case of something distinct coming from a separate potential. If they think, ‘This is what we assert, and it is unmistaken,’ that is not so. What one is in fact saying by this assertion is that anything can be produced from anything, as explained in the line:
One could have everything come from just anything. (6.59)
The refutation of other-production has already been covered, and will not be reiterated here.140
To this they reply:
‘The parts of a continuum are separate,
But their continuum is an unbroken whole,
Hence there’s no fault.’ …
‘The substantial moments of the sequence are indeed mutually distinct but the continuum is a singular thing, so it does not follow that everything can be produced from everything.’
If there was such a thing there would be no fault. But being unsubstantiated,
… Well that will be a feat to prove:
Inseparable continua make little sense. (6.60)
Possible means that something is feasible. It is not credible that mutually distinct existent identities constitute an inseparable continuum, because they are different, just like things that are separate. To show this, it was said:
What makes for Upagupta’s and Maitreya’s traits
Are different, and not part of one continuum.
And when distinct things keep their separate character,
It’s nonsense to believe they’re one continuum. (6.61)
The idea is similar here: that a singular continuum does not hold up to reason.
It was suggested that, ‘It is the fact of a potential ripening or not that determines whether there will be a consciousness of something or not, and not whether a knowable object is present or not.’141 This has hereby been refuted by explaining how potential is an impossibility; and we are therefore left with the position that, ‘Without a knowable object there can be no consciousness.’
Having given this explanation, the proponents of consciousness will still insist that their own presentation is sound, and say:
‘Promoted by its own potential there appears
A ceaseless rising of the visual consciousness,
And this potential which supports its consciousness
Is taken as the physical eye faculty.’ (6.62)
‘An imprint of eye-consciousness is deposited in the substrate consciousness by another moment of consciousness, and as this later ripens, a consciousness with corresponding features is created. The uninterrupted instants of potential that have the uninterrupted potential to produce this consciousness, acting as its support, are what through ignorance is taken by the world to be the physical eye faculty; but there is in fact no eye faculty present apart from consciousness. The same applies to the other faculties.’
Thus, having explained how there is no eye-faculty apart from consciousness, they proceed to assert that material form is not something apart from consciousness either, saying:
‘But people cannot see that without outer forms
These sense-produced cognitions clearly manifest
As blue and such, originating from their seeds,
Instead they take the mind to be external things.’ (6.63)
‘When the bandhujivaka142 and kiṅśuka flowers appear with a reddish hue, like gems they do not need to adopt their colour from something external. Nevertheless, the continua of sprouts and so forth are perceived as arising with their particular aspects in connection with the propelling potential of their own seeds. Similarly, colours such as blue appear as experiences of consciousnesses of blue and so forth without any external physical forms, and in relation to their appearance as blue and such, worldly people become convinced that they are external things. For example, say that on the branches of the trees surrounding a lake of clear water one were to hang red rubies (padmarāga) that would then be reflected in the water. Although there are external appearances of gems perceived in the water, it is not as if they are actually in there. This example may then be applied to consciousness. As such, there are no objects external to consciousness.’
‘Or, said differently:
‘The images in dreams are not external things
But mind that is assuming shapes resulting from
Potentials present. When awake it is the same:
There’s nothing on the outside, just the thinking mind.’ (6.64)
That is not how it is. How so?
If in the dream such blueness may present itself
To mind even without the function of the eyes,
Then why do these things not appear now to the blind
From seeds that ripen though they cannot use their eyes? (6.65)
Now, while we are awake, a clear visual consciousness comes about through the visual perception of forms. If this is exactly the same as what happens in a dream – and without the eyes being active the mental consciousness itself appears from the ripening of its imprint and takes on concordant features as an eye-consciousness – then why cannot a blind person see the same features when awake as someone who is not blind, when these are supposed to appear as such when their imprints ripen? In as much as the eyes are not operating, these two cases are exactly the same.
They might then think: ‘That the eye is inoperative is not the reason the mental consciousness appears in that manner; rather it is the ripening of a potential that mental consciousness has for those features. Hence, when that potential is ready to ripen, the mental consciousness appears with those features, but this only happens in dreams on the condition of sleep, and not while one is awake.’
This does not make sense. How so?
And if you say it is when sleeping that the sixth’s
Potential ripens, and not while one is awake,
Then why not say that just as now it isn’t ripe,
The sixth’s potential neither ripens in the dream? (6.66)
Sixth refers to the mental consciousness. If words are all it takes to claim that the mental consciousness potential ripens in that manner in dreams but not in the waking state, then we might as well verbally claim that, just as in the waking state the consciousness potential does not ripen in that manner, it will likewise not ripen in dreams.
This enables us to say:
For just as lack of eyesight cannot be its cause,
When dreaming it is not the sleep that is the cause.
Dream perceptions are, like the waking state of a blind person, a instance where an operative consciousness-supporting faculty is lacking, and therefore it is not so that a mental eye faculty named potential is there to act as a support for the features the mental faculty takes on as its mental faculty potential ripens. Thus, just as lacking eyes is not its cause for a waking blind man, neither should sleep be the cause for the ripening of imprints of consciousness in dreams.
Therefore, since that is the case,
We therefore grant that there are things as well as eyes
That cause our false perceptions seen when in a dream. (6.67)
Therefore one must accept that in dreams as well there are such objects that are known in such a such a way and there is such a support for the eye-consciousness.
As this is so,
It seems that every counterargument they have
Is nothing more than repetition of their claim.
Their case is thus rejected – …
It is shown that, this triad taking place in the waking state is empty of inherent existence, because it too is a perception, as in a dream. Our opponents then claim that, ‘Waking consciousness is empty of sense objects, because they are consciousness, like the experience of dream appearances;’ ‘The object apprehended while awake is by nature false, because it is an object, like dream objects;’ and also, ‘Without a dependent nature the thoroughly afflicted and fully purified states could not exist, because they would be as unfounded tortoise fur.’ They also use the example of cataracts to this effect. In these and other ways, the proponents of consciousness give various replies which the competent middle way proponent sees through as mere claims, the arguments of the proponents of consciousness are discredited.
Being at odds with scripture and so forth, it is similarly inadmissible; since,
… nowhere will one find
The Buddha stating that there are existent things. (6.68)
The threefold world is mere imputation,
Not something essentially existent.
Theoreticians, however, believe that
This imputation is the essence of things.143
There is no nature, no cognition,
There is no substrate, no entities;
But the base and immature theoreticians,
Like corpses, imagine these to be.144
To take entitylessness as the emptiness of one thing in another is senseless, as the scriptures also state:
Mahāmati. The emptiness of one thing in another is the crudest form of emptiness.145
To this one may say, ‘That a cow does not exist because it is not a horse makes no sense, because they have their own identity,’ and so forth.
O Illustrious One. They access the dharmadhātu by using their faculties. The twenty-two faculties are: the eye faculty, ear faculty, nose faculty, tongue faculty, body faculty, mind faculty, female faculty, male faculty, life force faculty, the faculty of happiness, faculty of suffering, faculty of pleasure, faculty of displeasure, faculty of neutrality, faculty of faith, faculty of diligence, faculty of attention, faculty of concentration, faculty of intelligence, the faculty of making the unknown known, the faculty of full knowing, and the faculty of possessing full knowledge.
Regarding these, the eye faculty can’t ever be determined throughout the three times. Not being determinable throughout the three times, there is no such eye faculty. The eye faculty being non-existent, how can there be a conventionally designated eye faculty? It is similar to a hollow fist; a falsehood, inauthentic, there is nothing there.146 It may be nominally indicated, but ultimately neither hollow nor fist can be ascertained. The eye faculty is just like a hollow fist; a falsehood, nothing there, something inauthentic. A feigned, deceptive phenomenon that can fool a child. There is nothing there, it is inauthentic. It may, in the same way, be nominally indicated, but ultimately neither an eye nor a faculty can be observed.
The Illustrious One gained the wisdom of omniscience and used the designation eye faculty in order to communicate with the many beings who remain perverted, but ultimately there is no such thing. The faculty is without inherent existence; it is devoid of facultyness. The eye does not exist as eyeness; the faculty does not exist as facultyness. How so? The eye does not have an eye nature; and a phenomenon that has no nature is not an existent thing. Not being an existent thing it is not established. It is unproduced and unceasing. It cannot be designated as something past or future.
Illustrious One, it is just like someone having a dream where he is laughing, joyous and playing, who remembers this when waking up. Even though he is able to bring it to mind, it is not something that can be ascertained. How is that so? These things can’t even be found in the dream, not to mention when waking up – they are nowhere. The faculties are just like this dream; one cannot determine an essence to any phenomenon whatsoever. Hence they are said to be inexpressible.147
The aggregates, elements, sense fields, interdependence and so forth are all explained to be like the faculties. How could these ever then have any inherent nature? The proponents of consciousness who haven’t properly explored the intent of the Teacher’s words are therefore unable to apply their intelligence to good ends, and will surely be defeated.
‘But,’ they may say, ‘if in the absence of objects there is no consciousness, how can one then explain that yogis following their guru’s instructions perceive the ground completely covered in skeletons?’
When yogis train according to their guru’s words
And see that skeletons are covering the earth,
The three are still considered unproduced, because …
… that is to say, the object, faculty and consciousness. Why? It is a meditative concentration:
It’s guidance utilising false mind images. (6.69)
The reason is that it is described as a mental exercise involving non-reality.
One must necessarily accept that this is the case. Otherwise,
And if you think that these repulsive images
Are just like any object that the mind conceives,
When other people turn their minds towards such things
They should discern them, and these wouldn’t then be false. (6.70)
When you witness such things as a theatrical performance, among those who are watching, the image present to the eye consciousness of one will similarly be so also for others. If the present case was similar, then non-yogis should be able to perceive exactly the same images as the yogi when directing their gaze towards objects such as these skeletons, their being the same as consciousness of blue and so forth. This meditative concentration would then no longer be a mental application involving non-reality.
Similarly, one should understand that
It’s similar to cataract-inflicted eyes
When spirits see a river’s water being pus.
It was previously explained that, ‘The mind sees hairs through the influence of this disease …,’148 and any other similar cases may be considered along the same lines; but we shall desist from elaborating more for now.
In short, please understand that, just as what you know
Has no existence, neither does the mind itself. (6.71)
One should come to recognise that just as knowable objects have no inherent existence, the mind too that entertains images of knowable objects is in and of itself un-produced. As stated:
Without a knowing there’s no known;
And lacking that, no consciousness.
Hence you declared that knowing and
The known lack inherent existence.149
Consciousness is like an illusion –
Thus spoke The Sun’s Kinsman.
And what it perceives is likewise
Certainly like illusory things.150
Those who are seized by this consciousness-claiming madness151 and deny external objects, are sure to plunge into the ravine of self-hood, and must therefore be treated by noble compassionate practitioners with an excellent and harsh mantric cure of scripture and reasoning.
Thus, having shown how there cannot be consciousness without external objects, in order to reject the position that it simply must exist, it is said:
And if detached from subject-object there could be
Dependent nature, empty of duality,
Then who would know of its existence? Just to say,
‘It’s there but not perceived,’ is quite unreasonable. (6.72)
If a dependent nature empty of so-called apprehended and apprehender exists, through what cognition do you apprehend its existence? It is untenable that it apprehends itself, since it is contradictory for something to direct its act upon itself: the blade of a sword cannot cut itself; the tip of a finger cannot touch itself; even the strongest and most dextrous athlete isn’t able to climb onto his own shoulders; fire cannot burn itself; and an eye cannot look at itself. Another cognition cannot be apprehending it since that would conflict with your own tenets; if cognition was the object of another cognition, one could then say that this undermines the sense of cognition only. Hence there is no way whatsoever that there can be an apprehender of it; and that which cannot be apprehended cannot exist.
Now they reply, ‘It isn’t actually a case of another apprehending something else, but it has reflexive awareness. And since reflexive awareness apprehends itself, that shows it to be existent.’ To show how this can’t be, we explain:
It isn’t proven to experience itself.
It is unproven that it can so-called ‘apprehend itself.’
There are those who cite the Sautrāntika position in order to prove reflexive awareness: ‘When a fire is kindled it will simultaneously illumine itself together with vases and other things without distinction. And words signify both themselves and a referent. Similarly, when consciousness occurs it can fully discern itself and objects without distinction. Hence, reflexive awareness most certainly exists.
‘Though unwilling, one must by necessity accept reflexive awareness. Otherwise, when remembering the experience, “I saw …,” one wouldn’t then remember both the object as well as the experience, “I saw it.” Why? The memory would be of the experienced object, while the knowing of it would not have been experienced and could not then be remembered.
‘As long as awareness is not reflexive it cannot be experienced. And that there is another cognition experiencing it is unreasonable. Why? If the cognition experiencing it is other, the consequence will be that of infinite regress. If you accept that immediately following one cognition distinguishing the colour blue, there is a consciousness distinguishing that, one would need yet another experiencer of the cognition of the cognition of blue; and then yet another again; leading to the fault of infinite regress.
‘And it can’t be that cognition discerns something separate from it, since then all strings of awareness would be objects of distinct consciousnesses, and sentient beings only have a single stream of consciousness. It is like a stack of a hundred blue lotus-petals being pierced; consciousness engages with things in succession, but so rapidly that it appears to be happening simultaneously.152 Hence, to avoid the fault of infinite regress one must necessarily accept reflexive awareness.
‘With that, both objects involved when subsequently remembering the thought “I saw …” will be accounted for. But if the nature of cognition isn’t known by reflexive awareness, it’s illogical that its object can be remembered. And so, as the subsequent memory “I saw…” appears to one’s cognition, it may be inferred that the trigger for the cognitive experience of a subsequent memory containing both these objects must have been an experience of its own nature and the nature of the object. The subsequent memory proves the experience of oneself; and when experience of oneself exists, the dependent nature exists. You asked, “What would then know of its existence?”153 This is the answer.’
To show that this is illogical, it was said:
It isn’t proven to experience itself.
And if you say a later memory is proof,
You’re giving something that is unproven as proof;
And what’s not proven cannot function as a proof. (6.73)
If this is the proof they now present to substantiate it, since memory is impossible in that it’s produced neither from self nor from other, how could the unproven memory prove the unproven reflexive awareness? Even in terms of worldly conventions it would be impossible for memory to be the result of reflexive awareness. How so? If, as in the case of fire, cognition is used to prove reflexive awareness – and because of its presence, like fire is deduced from smoke, one is to be convinced of its existence via the subsequent occurrence of memory – since this reflexive awareness remains something unproven, how could memory, the result of reflexive awareness and something that doesn’t occur if reflexive awareness doesn’t exist, exist? One can’t be certain of the presence of a water-crystal gem just from seeing water, or a fire-crystal gem just from seeing fire, because even without these water may be the result of such phenomena as rain, and fire may be produced for instance by rubbing sticks together. In the same way, this shows that memory may arise in the absence of reflexive awareness. And therefore, since memory as a result of reflexive awareness is non-existent without it, you’re giving something unproven as proof. In proving reflexive awareness, this unproven term ‘memory’ has no relevance as evidence – just like thinking of sound’s impermanence as something perceived by the eyes.
But say we dispense with such analysis:
But let’s assume that self-awareness is affirmed.
That memory remembers it is still unsound,
Because it’s other, like an unknown in one’s mind.
This argument will conquer any counterclaim. (6.74)
If we do say that cognition is aware of itself and the object, it is still illogical for a remembering cognition to remember them, because the remembering cognition is accepted as other in relation to the cognition that experienced the object. The reflexive awareness and experience of the object that happened in Maitreya’s mind will not be remembered by Upagupta, because he didn’t experience them. Similarly, seeing as they are other, it would be just like an unknown mind appearing to oneself, and a subsequent consciousness taking place within a stream of mind cannot therefore have that memory, because it didn’t experience that cognition and object.
Now, one may think that such a memory can exist, since this is a case of a single continuum where things have a causal relationship. But this too is not the case because we have an argument which defeats any objection. The argument of stating, ‘Since they are other …,’ will utterly defeat any counterclaims such as, ‘They are part of the same continuum,’ or, ‘They are in a causal relationship,’ and so on. Since a moment of recollecting cognition would come about subsequent to the experience, it is something other; and being in that way just the same as having a cognition of another stream of mind, we may say that it isn’t of a single continuum as the cognition that experienced, or in a causal relationship, and so forth. So this argument of stating that they are other is a sweeping refutation.
They might then ask, ‘How do you explain it?’ To clarify:
For us, the one who has the memory is not
Distinct from he who had experience of something.
To think, ‘I saw,’ is therefore memory to us,
As is the way conventional worldly people think. (6.75)
I have already explained in relation to the experience of an object, how between the cognition that experienced the object and the cognition that remembers there cannot be otherness. And since, when there has been an experience, the rememberer is not another, it isn’t the case that the cognition which remembers that experience is not the experiencer, and the memory can therefore appear with the object. Since it isn’t the case that the discernment of the experiencing cognition isn’t the discernment of the rememberer, one can have the thought, ‘I saw….’ This is also the worldly viewpoint, which shouldn’t be subjected to rigorous analysis, since the conventions of the world operate on false premises.
This being the case:
And so, as self-awareness cannot be the case,
What is perceiving your dependent nature then?
The actor, act and object cannot be the same,
And thus to apprehend itself makes little sense. (6.76)
An awareness thinking, ‘I cognise myself,’ implies that it itself is the thing acted upon, while the cognition, the actor, is also itself. And as its act is also not then separate, it follows that the actor, the acted upon and the act would be the same. These are however not seen to be the same, just like the wood-cutter, the wood and the act of cutting are not the same. Since reflexive awareness cannot therefore exist, it doesn’t apprehend itself. As stated in the Descent Onto Langka:
Just as a sword does not cut
Its own blade; and a fingertip
Cannot touch itself; the same applies
To the mind perceiving itself.154
Therefore, as reflexive awareness does not exist:
If, even though it is by nature unproduced
And isn’t known, dependent nature can exist,
How has the barren woman’s son offended them
That he should suffer this denial of being real? (6.77)
As was demonstrated above, a dependent nature can be neither self- nor other-produced, and is likewise shown to be something that can’t be known. And if you do accept the existence of a dependent nature that is by nature unproduced and unknowable, why should you then not also accept the existence of things that have the same status as this dependent nature? Has the barren woman’s son harmed you in any way? A barren woman’s son too may be described as utterly unfathomable, an ineffable object of the noble ones’ wisdom155 , so you have to accept his existence!