Interpretation of Non-Death and Non-Rebirth, the Wonderful Door of the Three Reflections and the Fundamental Cause of Practice.

After having listened to the Lord Buddha’s instruction, Ananda and all the Disciples, discarding all their doubts and illusions, realized the true reality of their minds, and, because of it, became calm and refreshed as never before. Ananda, as usual, being the natural spokesman, bowed down with great sadness at the feet of the Lord Buddha, and addressing him, said:

Glorious Lord of Great Compassion and Purity! You have skillfully unveiled my heart and encouraged me by many expedient means even as you have delivered all who were drowning in the depths of the great Ocean of Suffering. Blessed Lord! Listening to your sacred teaching we have come to understand that the Mysterious, Intuitive, Enlightening Mind of the Lord Tathagata’s Womb is Universal and embraces all the Buddha-lands in its pure, tranquil, glorious, profound Enlightenment. But I have failed to enter into this Enlightenment and the Lord Tathagata has blamed me for it, saying that it was because of my very learning that I have been prevented from entering. I am like a man who has inherited a magnificent palace through the munificence of some heavenly king, but who is unable to take possession of it without first passing through the door of Enlightenment. We beseech you, Lord Buddha, because of your Great Compassion to show us the way to enter into this inheritance of Enlightenment. Teach us, unenlightened as we are, how to give up the ideas we have accumulated by our learning and how to attain the goal of the Lord Tathagata’s perfect Enlightenment. Show us the right starting point for our devotion and our disciplinary practice, show us how to get rid of all entangling conditions and thus to encourage all of us who are still practicing Arhats to concentrate our minds on the right path so that we may surely attain the intelligence and insight of our Lord Buddha. Then Ananda, having finished his plea, first bowed to the ground, and then together with all the great assembly, waited for the lord Buddha to continue his sacred instruction.

Thereupon the Blessed Lord, taking pity upon his Disciples who were yet in the Pratyaka and practicing stage of Arhatship and for the sake of all later disciples in the decadent periods that were to follow his Nirvana, that they too might attain Supreme Enlightenment, gave the following instruction.

Ananda! When you have fully made up your minds to attain this true Mind of Enlightenment and have determined never to tire seeking for the Lord Tathagata’s profound Samadhi, there are two definite principles for beginning practice that must from the first be fully understood and appreciated.

The first definite principle for beginning practice is this: if you are successfully to give up your old idea of Arhatship, that is, of gaining Enlightenment and Nirvana for yourself, and to begin the practice for attaining the ideal of Bodhisattvaship, that is, enlightenment for the sake of all sentient life, and to enter with perfect realization into the Buddha’s perfect Intelligence and Insight, you must, first of all, (A) observe and see clearly that your starting point of motive and purpose is in full accord with the eventual fruit of Enlightenment. If, at the beginning, you take the varying and momentary thoughts of your mind as your starting point for seeking Buddha’s perfect and unvarying Mind of Enlightenment, there is no such agreement.

From the beginning you must recollect that all conditional phenomenon are transitory and passing. Have you any doubt of this? Can you think of any exception? Take for example, pure space. Have any of you ever heard of space coming to corruption and destruction? No, because pure space is free from conditions, and, therefore, is indestructible.

Compare this with your body, Ananda. Within your body there is an element of hardness, of Earth; there is an element of fluidity, of Water; there is an element of warmth, of Fire; and an element of breathing and motion, the element of Wind. The body is in bondage to these Four Great Elements, and these for bonds divide your tranquil, mysterious, intuitive, enlightening Mind into such divisions as the sensations and perceptions of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching, and of the following conceptions and discriminations of thought, that cause your enlightening Mind to fall into the corresponding five defilements of this evil world from its beginning and will continue to do so to its end.

What are these five defilements, Ananda? What is their nature? Consider the difference between fresh, pure spring-water, and such substances as dust, ashes, and sand. If these are mixed, the water becomes dirty and opaque. It is just the same with the five defilements in the mind.

Ananda, when you look into the vast space that stretches beyond the universe, the nature of space and the nature of the perception of sight do not interfere with each other, but mingling together there is no boundary line to limit their individuality. But if there is only empty space, with no suns nor planets in it, then space loses its substantiality. And the conception of sight looking into space with nothing to see, loses its sensibility. But as there are these two arbitrary conceptions of false phenomenon — suns and planets moving in space, and the false perception of sight, all interwoven together — so there are all the uncounted false manifestations of differences in the universes. This is the first defilement of individuation which is the basis of ignorance.

Next, the substantiality of the body is made up of the Four Great Elements, and the processes of the mind — seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, perceiving, discriminating — mingling with the processes of the body and they become interwoven together into the false imaginations that are the second defilement, called the defilement of erroneous views concerning form.

Again, within your mind there are the processes of consciousness, such as memory, moods, emotions, incidental to the recitation of the daily ritual, desires, etc., and there is the pure intuition of the Intuitional Mind. They, also, mingle together and give rise to false imaginations which form the third defilement, the conditioning defilement of the two kinds of evil desires (klesas).

Again, your mind is continually in a process of change from morning to night and every time your thoughts change, you seek to manifest and perpetuate them by some sort of creative activity in this terrestrial world. And every time your actions, conditioned by your karma, take form, they transform sentient lives also. Thus these interwoven false imaginations and these objective illusions manifested by them make up the fourth defilement which is called the evil defilement of sentient beings grasping the things they desire.

Again, since your perceptions of seeing, hearing, touching, thinking, having no differences in their nature, but because of their attributes of form and appearance and individuation are placed in opposition and relation to one another revealing abnormal differences and distinctions which, in the pure Essence of Mind, are mutually accommodating, but which when manifested in form and appearance are found to be mutually incompatible. Thus there arise internal and external conflicts which, although imaginary, form the fifth defilement, the defilement of weariness, suffering, growing old, and decrepitude.

Ananda! If you wish your sense perceptions and conscious understanding to be in harmony with the permanent joy of the Tathagata’s natural purity, you must first pull up these roots of death and rebirth which have been surreptitiously planted by these five kinds of defilements, namely, the defilements of discriminating ignorance, of form, of desire, of grasping, of decrepitude, and then begin the practice of concentration of your attention on the pure and Essential Mind of non-death and non-rebirth. It is by means of your tranquillity of mind that you are able to transmute this false mind of death and rebirth into the true and clear Intuitive Mind and, by so doing, to realize the primal, enlightening and intuitive Essence of Mind. You should make this your starting point for practice. Having thus harmonized your starting point with your goal, you will be able by right practice to attain the true goal of perfect Enlightenment.

If you wish to make your mind tranquil and restore its original purity, you must proceed as if you were purifying a jar of muddy water. You first let it stand until the sediment settles to the bottom when the water will become pure, which corresponds with the state of mind before the defilements of the evil passions had troubled it. Then you carefully strain off the pure water which is the state of the mind after the five defilements of ignorance, form, desire, grasping, and decrepitude, have been wholly removed. When the mind becomes tranquil and concentrated into perfect unity, then all things will be seen, not in their separateness, but in the unity wherein there is no place for the evil passions to enter, and which is in full conformity with the mysterious and indescribable purity of Nirvana.

(B) The second definite principle for beginning practice is this: If you are to successfully give up your old ideal of Arhatship and to begin the practice for attaining odhisattvaship, that is, attaining Enlightenment for the sake of all sentient life, you must face with great courage the requirement for becoming a Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, namely, to abandon all dependence upon conditional phenomena which includes all conceptions relating to your own ego-selfness, and to examine carefully and with determination into the roots of all passionate desires (klesas); that is, as to who it is, or what it is, that develops these passionate desires, and who it is and what it is that suffers these karmas and rebirths through the beginningless kalpas.

Ananda! Unless from the very beginning of your practice for the attainment of Enlightenment, you do not look into the roots of these klesas, you will never be able to understand the deceptiveness of the sense organs and sense minds and the discriminating thoughts relating to them and to the objects of sense, and to the general topsy-turviness of mind. If you fail to discover and to understand this point, how will you otherwise be able to subdue your vagrant thoughts and vexations of mind, and be able to successfully ascend to the throne of Tathagata?

Ananda! If you watch a man untangle knots in a rope, you will notice that he first studies the interweaving of the rope to find out which strand to unloosen first. But space is different. Space has no body nor form, so there can be no knots in space to untangle. But in your organism there are six thieves — eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and discriminating mind — to steal away precious values of truth and leave you in bondage to false imagination. Consequently from beginningless time all sentient beings in this phenomenal world have developed knots and bonds and entanglements which render it impossible for them to transcend this world, until these knots be first disentangled.

Ananda! What do you understand when I speak of the world of sentient beings? Do I mean just thinking people? No, I mean the whole complicated process of change that has been going on endlessly and it’s ever-shifting manifestations and positions. For instance, the positions of the phenomenon being momentarily manifested, we speak of as being east, or west, north, south, southeast, northeast, southwest, and northwest, and also above and below. Moreover, this endless process of change has been going on in the past, is going on at present, and will be going on into the endless future. Because of the vast, incalculable number and permutations of these changes, everywhere and forever, the false and arbitrary conceptions of all sentient minds have been ever-flowing and interweaving together in a most bewildering process of manifestation and evolution and involution, and this ever-shifting and bewildering process of change makes up the world of sentient beings.

Though the nature of this world may be divided into the ten directions and their positions may be made definitely clear, but as people are ignorant and thoughtless and careless, they only think of these locations in a very general way and fail to realize that there is another direction then east and west and north and south which is of more importance because it takes in all the rest. This is the direction toward the center. Then they fail to remember that each of these directions is mutually related to a fourth direction of time that in its turn is in three directions, past, present, and future. And each of these is related to the ten realms of existence and each of these has its ten points of direction, which makes in all twelve hundred, and each of our six senses has its own twelve hundred. Then you must remember that none of these senses see everything and always, so that their single and combined report to the perceiving and discriminating mind is never perfect nor complete. Each conception has its measure of merit and no more.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

(Then follows several pages elaborating this thought of the incompleteness and imperfection of all sense originating conceptions, which are here omitted.)

Ananda! If you wish to discriminate rightly between the desire-current of your mind as it sets outwardly towards different forms and their inevitable suffering and death and rebirth, and the returning current of compassion that sets inward toward the source of non-death and non-rebirth at the center, you will have to test each one of them with the pure Mind Essence to find out which one is opposed to it and which one is in harmony with it. I have tried to bring this out clearly so that you may be able to distinguish them and be able to abandon the one that is deceiving and false and that has been accumulating karma since beginningless time, and to follow after and to develop your perfect and accommodating nature so that every day under every circumstance, you may part company from the deceiving and enslaving defilements. I have brought out this distinction very clearly in order to help your advancement by a more perfect daily practice.

As for the Tathagatas of the ten quarters of all the universes, they can practice in any one of the eighteen spheres of mentation and in any one of them find Supreme and Perfect Enlightenment, for to them there are no distinctions of attainment. But because of your ignorance and deterioration you become confused amid these eighteen spheres of mentation and are unable to regain your native intelligence. Therefore, I have made this clear statement so that you may all enter by this one door to Enlightenment, and may be able to attain to one unity of Mind free from all deceiving thoughts, and having gained this unity, all these perceptions of the senses will be- come purified simultaneously.

Then Ananda addressed the Lord Buddha, saying: Noble Lord! How is it that in making progress against the forth-going desire current of death and rebirth, that by entering the one door of deep concentration of mind, we purify all six of the perceiving sense-minds simultaneously?

The Lord Buddha replied: Ananda! Having attained the degree of Crotapana, you are supposed to have gotten rid of all the delusions belonging to the sight perception of sentient beings and to have reached the enlightenment-stage of your sight faculty. However, you have not yet gotten rid of the fantastic habit of dividing things that by their nature are indivisible, which had developed in the sense organs since beginningless time. Such fantastic habits will be overcome as you reach the enlightenment stage of your practice, by the realization of the perfect unity of Mind Essence that transcends all divisions.

There still remains within your sense-mind individualized delusions arising from ignorance regarding the process of growing, continuing, changing, and disappearing, of the mind’s perceptions. I now want to ask you, Ananda, whether these sense-minds are to be considered as six little minds, or as one unified Mind? If they are to be considered as only one unified Mind, how is it that the ear cannot see, or the eye hear, or the head walk, or the feet talk? Or if the sense-minds are definitely six in number, which one of your six senses is it that receives my teaching as I explain to you the mystery of this profound door of Dharma, and which one of them is it that accepts it?

Ananda replied: My Lord! I received your teaching through my ears.

The Lord Buddha said: Ananda, as my teaching is particularly heard by your hearing sense, what relation has it to your body and to your thinking mind? Having received my teaching with your ears, how was it that your mouth asked the question and your body rose up to show me reverence? You should think about this very carefully. There can be no doubt about the fact that the teaching was received at first by one of the senses, but there is a question as to whether the mind that perceived the teaching and accepted it was one or six. Ananda, you should clearly understand that your sense-minds, in truth, are neither one nor six. The confusing differentiation is explained by the fact that since from beginningless time the mind has fallen into the habit of seeing divisions where there are no divisions until it is in a chronic state of topsy-turviness, and among its illusions this arbitrary conception of one and six has arisen to cloud over your originally perfect and tranquil Mind-Essence. You have succeeded in discarding all attachments and contaminations belonging to the six sense-perceptions, but you have not yet regained a clear realization of the original and intrinsic unity of your true Mind.

The same is true as to space. When you leave objects out of account and think only of clear space, you have no difficulty in recognizing that space is a perfect unity. But when you think of it in relation to objects, you note differences and also divide up space. But space can not be divided simply for your convenience; it is absurd to even question whether it is unity or not-unity. It is the same with your six sense-minds whether they are one or six — they are pure Essence of Mind which in its nature is as undifferentiated and universal as space.

By means of the opposing phenomena of brightness and darkness, the natural unity and tranquillity of your mind is disturbed and deceived, and perception of sight is registered within the wonderful, perfect and Essential Mind. The essential nature of this inner perception of sight is a reflection of outer sights and by weaving different sights together there is manifested an undifferentiated, transcendental organ of sight that is to be regarded as the real substantiality of the eye-sense. Moreover, there is a subsidiary of this transcendental eye-sense, namely, consciousness dependent upon it, which consciousness is not to be differentiated from the consciousness of the other senses — of hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching — and the unity of which in the Mind’s pure Essence, gives rise, within the mortal mind, to wandering thoughts about every phenomena. Thus there is going on between the specialized sense- organ and the unified transcendental sense-mind a constant succession of receiving and projecting, causing and being effected.

In like manner by means of the mutual conflict of the two phenomena of motion and stillness, your natural tranquillity of mind is contaminated and perception of hearing is manifested within your wonderful perfect and Essential Mind. The essential nature of this inner perception of hearing reflects the outer sounds and, by merging them together, manifests a transcendental organ of hearing, which is to be regarded as the real substantiality of the ears. Moreover, there is a subsidiary of this transcendental ear-organ, namely, the consciousness dependent upon it and the other four objects of seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching, which raises wandering thoughts after every phenomena of sounds.

And again, by means of the mutual conflict of the two phenomena of passibility and impassibility, your natural tranquillity of mind is contaminated and perception of smelling is manifested within your wonderful, perfect and Essential Mind. The essential nature of this inner perception of smelling reflects outer odours and, by merging them together, manifests a transcendental organ of smelling. The originality of this transcendental smelling-organ is to be thought of as the real substantiality of the nose. Moreover, there is a subsidiary of this transcendental smelling-organ, namely, the consciousness dependent upon it and the other four objects of seeing, hearing, tasting, and touching, which raises wandering thoughts after every phenomena of smelling.

And again, by the interweaving of the two phenomena of variability and invariability, your natural tranquillity of mind is contaminated and perception of tasting is manifested within your wonderful, perfect and Essential Mind. The essential nature of this inner perception of tasting reflects the outer tastes and, by merging them together, manifests a transcendental organ of tasting. The originality of this transcendental organ of tasting is to be thought of as the real substantiality of the tongue. Moreover, there is a subsidiary of this transcendental tongue-organ, namely, consciousness dependent upon it and the other four objects of seeing, hearing, smelling, and touching, which raises wandering thoughts after every phenomena of taste.

And again, by means of the irritation of the two phenomena of separation and touching, your natural tranquillity of mind is contaminated and perception of touching is manifested within your wonderful, perfect and Essential Mind. The essential nature of this inner perception of touching reflects the outer contacts and, by merging them together, manifests a transcendental feeling-organ. The originality of this transcendental feeling-organ is to be thought of as the real substantiality of the sense of touch. Moreover, there is a subsidiary of this transcendental feeling-organ, namely, consciousness dependent upon it and the other four objects of seeing, hearing, smelling, and tasting, which raises wandering thoughts after every phenomena of feeling.

And again, by means of the reciprocal continuity of appearing and disappearing (birth and death), your natural tranquillity of mind is contaminated and manifests discriminating thoughts within your wonderful, perfect and Essential Mind. The essential nature of these discriminating thoughts reflects the conception of individualized phenomena and, by grouping the different phenomena together, there is formed a transcendental thinking-organ which is to be thought of as the real substantiality of the discriminating mind. Moreover, there is a subsidiary of the discriminating mind, namely, consciousness dependent upon it and upon the other five objects of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling which raises wandering thoughts about any and all the phenomena of discriminating cognition.

These transcendental sense-organs, corresponding to the six physical sense-organs, are not six but one, and that One is the wonderful, mysterious, Essence-Mind of Intuition. In this unified transcendental Mind all sense-perceptions are perfectly accommodated in its perfect unity. When any one of the sense- conceptions is seen to be unreal and fantastic, then the transcendental sense-mind being perfectly accommodating and unified, realizes that all sense-perceptions are unreal and fantastic, and the transcendental mind-organ being the real substantiality of the physical mind-organ and the consciousness dependent upon it, projects its unified consciousness so that all the sense minds are purified at one and the same time.

Ananda! Such are the six kinds of transcendental sense-minds that are manifested by means of the intuitive, enlightening nature of your true Mind when it is possessed and deceived by the false perceptions of the different sense functions. As soon as you lose the true nature of the actual perceptions, you cling to false imaginations and the manifest false conceptions. Thus, when you ignore both brightness and darkness, there will be no substance to the perception of sight; when you ignore both motion and motionlessness, there will be no substance to the conception of hearing; when the discriminated notions of passibility and impassibility are ignored, the perception of smelling will have no substance; when there is no clinging to the notion of variability, the perception of taste will remain undeveloped; when there is no clinging to the notion of separation and contact, naturally there will be no perception of feeling; and when there is no clinging to the conception of an ego-self and of death and rebirth, there will be no further specialization and development of any of the six different sense perceptions, nor of their disappearance either, then where can a discriminating mind take up its abode?

If you simply do not follow after these twelve notions of conditioning phenomena, namely, motion and stillness, separation and contact, variability and constancy, appearing and dis- appearing, passing or impenetrability, brightness and darkness, or should ignore any pair of them, you will be free from bondage to all mental contaminations. You will become concentrated in mind, you will return to your natural Essence of Mind, you will manifest your original and innate enlightening brightness. As soon as you unveil your enlightening nature, by ceasing to cling to any pair of these conditioning phenomena, the other five contaminating attachments of sense perception will all lose their force and your mind will become perfectly free.

Ananda! When the intuitive and Essential Mind becomes free from contamination, it derives its discriminations and ideas, not by means of contact with objects in its presence, nor in the order and limited manner of the senses, but while it continues the use of the sense-organs for its purposes, henceforth the senses’ conceptions become universalized and mutually available.

Ananda, have you noticed in this assembly that Anaruddha sees things that his eyes can not see? This transcendental perception is temporarily reflected to him from the brightness of the Tathagata. The physical sense perception by its very nature is limited and does not possess any substantiality. For instance: The Arhats who have attained tranquillity and the Samapatti of perfect emancipation from desires and suffering, such as the great Katyayana who is present with us today, have long ago discarded the use of their thinking minds, which if clung to only serve to develop the arbitrary conception of an ego-self. They are perfectly intelligent but they apprehend knowledge, not by means of their thinking minds, but directly by intuition.

Ananda! When you have cut off all dependence upon the sense organs, your inner awareness will become as clear as crystal, manifesting its authentic brightness. Then all vagrant thoughts and transitory objects and the ever varying phenomena of this terrestrial world will melt away like ice when boiling water is poured upon it. In a moment, by a single act of true mindfulness, your inward awareness will become transcendental intelligence.

Ananda! It is as though a worldly man should focus all his senses in his eyes and after that see things only with his eyes. Then if he closes his eyes suddenly, there will be only a perception of darkness and all the other senses would become darkened, also. Such a man would become unconscious of any difference between his head and his feet. Now, if the man moves his hand over his body, although he does not see anything with his eyes, as soon as he discriminates his head from his feet by the sense of touch, the perception of all the sense organs will become as usual.

As brightness is a necessary condition for seeing, darkness prevents seeing, but if you can manifest the seeing faculty independent of brightness, darkness can never cause gloominess. When objects of sense experience are all ignored, then the tran- scendental brightness of Intuition will shine forth mysteriously, and you will have found the true source of cognition and tranquillity.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

Ananda then said to the Lord Buddha: Noble Lord! It has been said by you, that if we wish to seek permanency of enlightenment, we must at the very beginning become acquainted with the different degrees of attainment, such as: Nirvana, Bodhi, Tathata, Mind Essence, Alaya Vijnana, the Emptiness of the Womb of Tathagata, the highest perfect Wisdom of the All-embracing Mirror. Though these are different in name, yet in nature, they are all pure, perfect and free, and their substantiality is as pure and as hard and as condensed as the diamond, which is pure and hard and permanent by nature. If the perception of seeing and hearing should omit all the conditions of brightness and darkness, motion and motionlessness, they would have none of their characteristic substantiality. The same would be true of the thinking mind. If it ignored all the perceptions of objects in its presence, there would be nothing left of it; it would be non-existent. Then how can we take the Samapatti of extermination of thoughts and desires as the starting point for our practices when we seek to acquire the Tathagata’s seven fruits of permanency?

My Lord! If the phenomena of brightness and darkness are excluded, the perception of sight would disappear. If there are no conceptions of objects in its presence, the thinking mind would revert to nothingness, also. If its causes and results are considered carefully in this light, are you not forced to see that originally there is neither a thinking mind nor any attribute of it. If that is true then who is it that seeks to attain Supreme Enlightenment? At one time, my Lord Tathagata said that the mind was tranquil, perfect, permanent and Essential, in its nature, but later my Lord said that speaking truly all expressions referring to Mind were nothing but figures of speech. How, then, can it be said that even the Lord Tathagata is an authentic Teacher? If there is no Mind, how are we to use it to get rid of false conceptions and attain the true? Pray, my Lord, in great kindness enlighten our ignorance and stupidity.

The Lord Buddha replied: Ananda, though you have learned many things by your wonderful brain, you have not yet fully attained to perfect mind-control. Your mind understands the causes and relations of your topsy-turvy thoughts, but when this true “topsy-turvy” thought is presented to you, you fail to understand it. I am afraid that your faith in my teaching is not well grounded. To help you clear away these uncertainties, I will ask you a few simple questions.

Then the Lord Buddha struck his gong and asked Ananda if he had heard the sound of it.

Ananda replied that he had. After the vibration of the sound had died away, the Lord Buddha inquired: Do you still hear? Ananda replied that he no longer heard it.

The Lord Buddha struck the gong again and asked: Did you hear the striking of the gong? Ananda replied: Yes, Blessed Lord.

Then the Lord Buddha said to Ananda: Why do you reply at one time that you hear and at another time that you do not hear?

Ananda replied at once: Blessed Lord, when the gong was struck I heard the sound, but when the vibrations died away the sound ceased. That is what I meant when I said at one time that I heard, and at another that I did not hear.

Again, the Lord Buddha struck the gong and inquired of Ananda if he could still hear. Ananda replied that he could.

After a while when the sound had ceased, the Lord Buddha inquired again: Do you still hear?

Ananda replied, a little impatiently: No, Blessed Lord, the sound has ceased, how can I hear?

Then the Lord Buddha said: Ananda, what is the meaning of it all? At one time you say you hear and at another time you say you do not hear?

Ananda replied: Blessed Lord when the gong is struck, there is sound. After a time the sound ceases, then there is no sound. The Lord Buddha interrupted, saying: Ananda, why do you make such confused statements?

Ananda retorted: Blessed One, why do you charge me with making confused statements, when I speak only of facts? The Lord Buddha replied: Ananda, why, indeed! When I asked whether you had heard the sound of the gong, you replied that you had heard it, but when I asked you if you could still hear, you replied at one time that you could, and at another time that you could not. You do not seem to realize that the sound of the gong, the hearing of the sound, and the perception of the hearing are three different things, for you replied without any recognition of the difference. That is why I said that you were making confused statements.

There is a difference between “sound” and “no-sound,” and “hearing” and “no-hearing.” Sound and no sound are momentary, while hearing and no-hearing are permanent. Sound and no-sound are imaginary, hearing belongs to the pure Essence of Mind. Ananda, you speak in error when you say there is no more hearing just because the sound ceases. If it is true that hearing ends with the cessation of noise, it would mean that the ear-organ had been destroyed. When the gong was struck again it would no longer have been heard, but you heard it so it means that you could hear all along. So you should recognize that your hearing of the sound and your not hearing of it are related to the existence or non-existence of the sound, and not to the perception of the ear. If you remember this, your hearing nature will not seem to you to become at one time existent and at another time non-existent.

Should the hearing nature really vanish, then by whom will the vanishing be realized? Therefore, Ananda, the sound-object within the scope of the hearing nature has its own death and rebirth. It is not when you note the existence of the sound or the non-existence of the sound, that you should think that your hearing nature is in existence or not in existence.

As your mind is still in a topsy-turvy condition, when it mistakes the sound to be the same as your hearing nature, it is no wonder that your mind is bewildered in the entanglements caused by mistaking the nature of permanency as being the same as destructibility. Therefore, it is not right for you to say that as soon as hearing is separated from such conditions as motion and motionlessness, impassability and passability, that the perception of hearing has no essential nature of its own. The hearing faculty can be likened to a sleepy fellow of this world, sleeping soundly on his bed. During his sleep, some of his family are batting their clothes as they wash them, and some were hulling rice by pounding it and the sound of the batting and the pounding mingle with his dreams and are but the rat-a-pan and the dum-dum of a drum. In his dream he wondered why the ding-dong should sometimes sound like coming from wood and sometimes like coming from stone. When he awoke, he immediately realized that the sound came from batting clothes on wood and pounding rice on stone. He told his family about his dream and how bewildered he was by such sounds coming from a drum.

Ananda! In his dream the man did not think of conceptions of motion and motionlessness in relation to the sounds, or of passability and impassability in relation to the organ of hearing, but. though his body was asleep, yet the essential part of hearing was as clear as ever. By means of this illustration, you must see that in spite of the destruction of your body and the gradual exhaustion of the vitality of your life, that the essential nature of the hearing-conception is not destroyed nor caused to vanish.

Therefore, as all sentient beings from beginningless time have always hankered after beautiful sights and musical sounds, filling their thinking minds with thought after thought and causing it to be always active, and never realizing that by nature it was pure, mysterious, permanent and Essential, thus causing them, instead of following the path of permanency, to follow the current of transitory deaths and rebirths. Consequently there has been life after life ever recurring and ever filled with contaminations, impermanency and suffering. Ananda, if you could only learn to get free from this bondage to deaths and rebirths and from this fear of impermanency, and learn to concentrate your mind on its true and permanent nature of Permanency, then the eternal Brightness would illumine you and all the individualized and discriminated perceptions of objective phenomena, sense-organs, false imaginations, self and not-self, would vanish, for the phenomena of the thinking mind are only empty and transitory things, the differentiated emotions of your mortal consciousness are only passing phenomena. If you can learn to ignore these two fundamental illusions — deaths and rebirths and the fear of impermanency — and hold fast to the Permanency that the Eye of Dharma perceives, then you need have no fear of failure in the attainment of Supreme Enlightenment.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

Ananda addressed the Lord Buddha, saying: Noble Lord! Though my Lord has shown us the negative teaching of our bondage to deaths and rebirths and their inevitable suffering, yet when we notice human beings struggling to untangle the knots that bind them to deaths and rebirths, we know that they will never be able to unsnarl the knots until they are given some clear and positive teaching that will lead them to Emancipation from the bondage and fear and suffering and to the attainment of Buddhahood. This need is also true of myself and of other practicing Arhats. Though we have acquired a measure of enlightenment and are honored as hermit sages yet, nevertheless, we are like men sick with remittent fever, we seem to gain only to fall back again into the old weakness and bondage and suffering. Pray, my Lord, have great mercy on our stupidity and be kind enough to show us in great detail and clearness how to untangle the knots that bind us. Your further teaching will not only help us, but will, through us, help all sentient beings of the future, so that we may all become free together and never again fall into the Three Great Realms of Passion, Anger and Infatuation.

As soon as Ananda had made this entreaty, the whole as- sembly with one accord paid to the Lord Buddha highest obeisance and waited in great expectation for further perfect teaching. Thereupon, the Blessed Lord having great pity, not only for Ananda and those present, but for the sake of all future disciples, sowed the good seed of Emancipation that would eventuate in the development of the Eye of Enlightenment. The Blessed Lord tenderly laid his golden hand of sandal wood fragrance upon the head of Ananda. Immediately all the innumerable Buddha-lands of all the ten quarters of the universe became rhythmic with the six kinds of mysterious vibrations, and all the Tathagatas existent in all these Buddha-lands emitted from the crowns of their heads rays of glorious splendor, and the rays of this glorious brightness simultaneously reached to the Jeta Grove where they were assembled and rested like a crown on the head of the Lord Tathagata. The whole assembly were overwhelmed with amazement and adoration and awe.

At the same time, mystic voices were heard coming from the innumerable Tathagatas in all the innumerable Buddha-lands and blending their varied tones into one melodious voice, seeming to say: Well, indeed! Ananda! If you wish to understand your deep ignorance which is the secret of the knots that hold you fast bound in the cycle of deaths and rebirths, you must first understand your six sense-organs — eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and discriminating mind, for if you wish to realize Supreme Enlightenment and its Samapatti graces of tranquillity, peace, joy, calmness, freedom, transcendency and permanency, they must be sought nowhere else but in these six sense-organs of your own body.

Although Ananda had heard this sacred teaching many times before, its full significance was not yet fully clear to him, so he knelt before the Lord Buddha and humbly entreated him, saying: What does this mystic message that has come from all the Buddha-lands mean, when it says that both the secret of bondage to the cycle of deaths and rebirths, and the secret of the attainment of perfect peace, joy, transcendency, and eternality, lie within my own sense-organs and nowhere else? What is its deep meaning?

The Lord Buddha interrupted, saying: Ananda! The sense-organs and their objects, and bondage and emancipation all belong to one single thing, which is your human conceptions which are false and deceptive and transitory, just like the fantastic blossoms seen in the air by clouded eyes. The perceptions of the senses arise from objects, and their phenomena are manifested under the conditions of the sense organs. All sense perceptions, all discriminated ideas relating to them, all manifestations are mind-made and have no essential nature of their own — they are as empty as the center of reeds — consequently, as soon as you perceive anything, your seeing it, your discrimination of it, your desire for it, your grasping it, become the knots that bind you to ignorance and the cycle of deaths and rebirths. On the contrary when your eyes perceive anything, if you let the sensation of seeing pass unheeded, not letting any discriminating thoughts of judgment arise in your mind, this unties all knots and is the genuine freedom that is non-intoxicating and is Nirvana. This being true, how can any trace of conception remain in your Mind? Indeed, it must not be allowed to remain to defile its pure Essence.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

Then the Blessed One in order to emphasize his teaching summed it up as follows:

In comparison with Mind-Essence, all conditioned things are as empty as space. Existing as they do under conditions, they are false and fantastic; unconditioned things, having neither appearance nor disappearance, are as imaginary as blossoms seen in the air. As we are obliged to use false expressions to interpret the essence of things, so both the false expressions and the essence of things as thus interpreted by the false expressions become a pair of falsities. It is clear to see that the intrinsic Essence is neither the essence as interpreted, nor the non-essence of the interpretation. How can it be asserted that there is trueness in either the thing as perceived, or in the phenomena of perceiving?

Therefore, as there is no reality at the heart either of the sense-organs and of the objects seen, or of the perceiving consciousness, they must all be as empty as the heart of reeds. As all the knots of the mind and all unloosening of knots has the same basis of unreality, it matters not whether we think of them as sacred or vulgar, there is but one path to emancipation and that is to escape from their bondage altogether.

If you are considering the nature of the center of reeds, it matters not whether you interpret the center as emptiness or as non-emptiness — either would be a misinterpretation. If anyone is puzzled by the saying that both are false, it is because of his ignorance. If one is not puzzled, it is because he has attained emancipation. The unloosening of knots is a gradual process, one must begin with the knots of the five sense-organs, after which the knots of the sixth sense — the perceiving and discriminating mind — will loosen of themselves. Therefore, it is wise to begin with the sense organ that is most yielding and accomodating and by means of it, it will be easier to enter the true Stream of Life that flows into highest perfect Wisdom (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi).

Although the Alaya-vijnana (the universal or “storage” Mind) is immaculate in its self-nature, as it receives the seed of the false thinking, it becomes contaminated and becomes as wild and unmanageable as the current of a torrent. Because one easily falls into attachment to arbitrary conceptions, such as reality interpreted by false expressions and illusions of non-reality, I have not always interpreted things in this way. Since all conceptions of phenomena are nothing but activities of the mind, so, speaking truly, the mind is not a fantastic thing but it becomes a fantastic thing. If you are not in bondage to these contaminations of your own mind, there will be neither arbitrary conceptions of fantastic things, or of things that are not fantastic.

As there is no rising in your Essential Mind of such arbitrary conceptions as non-fantastic things, why should they be raised at all? This teaching is the wonderful “Lotus Flower.” It is as gloriously enlightening as the diamond (Vajra-raja), as mysteriously potent as highest Samadhi. This is the Incomparable Teaching! Anyone practicing it with sincerity and earnestness will outdo the graduate disciples in a single moment, as suddenly as a rap on the door. Such a one will become Honored of all the Worlds! Indeed! This Teaching is the only path to Nirvana.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

When the Lord Tathagata had finished this supreme instruction, whose profound and comprehensive thoughts had been expressed in well chosen words and beautiful style, Ananda and the whole assembly were enlightened and they praised the Lord Buddha for his sacred teaching.

But Ananda was not yet satisfied. In reverential manner and spirit, he addressed the Lord Buddha, saying: Noble Lord! Though I have listened carefully to my Lord’s noble and compassionate teaching about the exclusive unity and oneness of the pure, mysterious and eternal Essence, I do not yet fully realize its meaning. It seems to teach that as soon as the six sense-organs have become emancipated from their contaminations and attachments that the remaining arbitrary conceptions of the thinking mind will fall way of themselves leaving only the one intrinsic Essence, and that this process of emancipation will proceed in an orderly and spontaneous fashion. Pray, my Lord, have great forbearance with us less advanced disciples and, for the sake of all future disciples, repeat this instruction in more detail, so that it may purify our minds and the minds of all future disciples.

The Lord Tathagata arranged his garments and taking a silk handkerchief proceeded to tie a knot in it and showed it to the assembly, saying. What is this?

With one accord, they replied: It is a silk handkerchief in which you have tied a knot.

The Lord Tathagata tied another knot in the handkerchief and said: What is this?

They replied: It is another knot. Blessed Lord.

Again the Lord tied other knots until there were six. Then showing the handkerchief to the assembly, and indicating the knots one by one, he asked what is this? And what is this? And to each question Ananda and the others answered as before: It is a knot.

Then the Lord Buddha said: Ananda! When I showed you the first knot, you called it a knot, and when I showed you the second and the third and so on, you still insisted they were all knots.

Ananda replied: Noble Lord! The handkerchief is made of silk threads of different colors and is woven into a single piece, but when it is tied into a knot, it is right to call it a knot, also, and if the Lord were to tie it into a hundred knots, each one would be a knot. However, my Lord, has only tied it six times — not seven or five — so there are only six knots. Why does my Lord seem to recognize only the first tying as a knot?

The Lord Buddha replied: Ananda, you are right in saying that this beautiful handkerchief is one piece and that when I tied it six times there were six knots. Now look at it closely. The silk handkerchief is the same piece of woven silk, the tying has not changed it in the slightest, except in appearance it is still a handkerchief. Now think, Ananda. When the handkerchief was tied the first time, the first knot appeared; and then later and successively, the second knot and the third to the sixth. If I now take this sixth knot and begin to count them backward, the sixth knot becomes the first, does it not?

Ananda replied: No, my Lord, when the handkerchief was tied six times, the last tying was the sixth knot; it can by no means be called the first knot. No matter what you say, there is no possibility of confusing the order of the knots — it is and always will be the sixth knot.

The Lord Buddha agreed to this, saying: So it is, Ananda. The six knots may not all be exactly alike, but when you seek the root of their different forms, they are all arrangements of the single handkerchief. You can not confuse the single handkerchief, you may confuse the knots, their differences and order, but you can not confuse the handkerchief because it is a single whole. The same is true of your six sense-organs — they are knots tied in the essential unity of your mind and out of its unity there appears the variety.

The Lord Buddha continued: Ananda, if you do not like to have knots tied in the handkerchief but prefer its original state, what would you do?

Ananda replied: Noble Lord! As long as the knots exist in the handkerchief there will be the possibility of a discussion about them — which is first and which second — but when the knots are all untied, there can be no further discussion about them because they will all have disappeared and only the beautiful handkerchief will remain in its original state of oneness.

The Lord Buddha was pleased with this reply and said: That is true, Ananda. The same is true about the relation of the six organs of sense to the Essential Mind. As the six sense- organs become freed from their contaminations, the remaining arbitrary conceptions of the discriminating mind will disappear also. It is because your mind, having become diseased and bewildered because of the false sense-conceptions accumulated since beginningless time, has developed many desires, attachments and habits. From these there have arisen, incident to the ever changing processes of life, arbitrary conceptions concerning self and not-self and as to what is true and what is not true. These arbitrary conceptions have not developed in a normal way from your pure Mind Essence, but in an abnormal way because of the prior false conceptions that had their origin in the sense-organs, like the sight of blossoms in the air that come to diseased minds. They falsely appear to have had their origin in the enlightening and Essential Mind but, in truth, they have arisen because of diseased conditions.

The same is true, also, of all conceptions, objective and component — universes, mountains, rivers, trees, sentient beings, and deaths and rebirths. Even discriminating thoughts of Mind-Essence and Nirvana, everything, all of which are nothing but phenomena analogous to blossoms seen in the air by diseased eyes and all of which have been manifested by the enslaved, bewildered and ever active, topsy-turvy mind.

Ananda then said to the Lord Buddha: Noble Lord! If these ever-rising, changing, arbitrary conceptions of phenomena are like knots tied in a handkerchief, how can the knots be unloosed?

The Lord Tathagata took the handkerchief with the knots still tied in it and tugged at it in a blind, foolish way that only served to tighten the knots and asked Ananda if the knots could be unloosened in that way.

Ananda replied: No, my Lord.

Then the Lord tugged at the knots in another wrong way and again asked if the knots could be unloosed in that way.

Ananda replied: No, my Lord.

The Lord Buddha said: I have tried now that way and now this way, but with no success in unloosening the knots. How would you untie them, Ananda?

Ananda replied: My Lord, I would first study the knot and find out how it was tied, then it could easily be untied.

The Lord Buddha was pleased with this reply and said: Right you are, Ananda! If you wish to untie a knot, you must first understand how it was tied. The lesson which I have been teaching you — that all things are manifested by causes and conditions — does not refer to these crude terrestrial phenomena of conformity and combination alone, but is the principle that the Tathagata has discovered from the Dharma of Emancipation which applies to both the terrestrial and transcendental worlds. For he knows the originality of all phenomena and accordingly he can make any manifestation he pleases to meet any situation or condition. He even knows each single drop of rain that falls on the sands of the River Ganges. For instance, in our presence there are all sorts of conditions — the straightness of pine trees, the crookedness of shrubs, the whiteness of storks, the blackness of magpies, etc. — the Tathagata knows the cause of each.

Therefore, Ananda, you may select any one of your six sense organs that you please, and if the bondage to that sense organ is destroyed, the arbitrary conceptions of all objects in the discriminating mind will be destroyed at the same time. Once being convinced that any single sense conception, or a thought based upon one, is unreal and fantastic, one’s dependence upon sense conceptions in general is destroyed. After all the delusions of sense conceptions have been thus destroyed, there will remain only the true Essence of Mind.

Ananda! Let me ask you another question. This handkerchief has six knots tied in it. If I untie them can they all be untied at once?

No, my Lord. The knots were originally tied one by one in a certain order, so when we come to untie them we must follow the reverse order. For although the knots were made in one handkerchief, they were not made at one time and can not be untied at one time.

Again the Lord Buddha was pleased at the reply and said: It is the same with the disentanglements of the conceptions of the six senses. The first knot of false conceptions that must be untied, is the one relating to the false conception of an ego-personality, one must first of all attain a realization of its utter non-reality. When this realization of the unreality of one’s own ego-personality is perfectly attained it becomes enlightening, then the next knot to be untied is the one relating to personal attainments of any kind. This arbitrary conception must be untangled and its unreality fully realized. These two entanglements — belief in an ego-personality and the conception of personal attainment — must be utterly destroyed and never again permitted to rise to defile the true Essential Mind. This accomplishment may be called the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva’s attainment of the Perseverance in the Dharma of non-rebirth through the Practice of their Samadhi.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།
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