The Surangama Sutra: Chapter One – Section 6


Visual Awareness Does Not Move

Ānanda and the others in the great assembly were all silent, since they had not understood what they had heard. However, they earnestly hoped to learn more. Putting their palms together, they waited with ardent expectation for the Buddha to speak again.

So the Buddha stretched forth one arm and opened his cotton-soft hand, revealing the wheel-shaped fine lines on his fingers, and addressed the great assembly, “After my awakening, I went to the Deer Park, where, for Ājñātakauṇḍinya’s sake and for the other four sages, and also for all of you in the assemblies, I said that beings in their multitudes have neither become Arhats nor become fully awake because they are confused by afflictions. Those afflictions are like visitors and like dust. What in particular, at that time, that had caused the five of you to awaken and become sages?”

Then Ājñātakauṇḍinya stood up and said respectfully to the Buddha, “Of all the elders here in this great assembly, I was the one who was given the name ‘Ajñāta,’ meaning ‘one who understands,’ because I had come to realize what ‘visitor’ and ‘dust’ signify. It was in this way that I became a sage.”

“Suppose a visitor stops at an inn for a night,” he continued, “once his stay is ended, he packs his bags and goes on his way. He’s not at leisure to remain. But if he were the innkeeper, he would not leave. By considering the difference between the visitor, who comes and goes, and the innkeeper, who remains, I understood that visitor signifies transience.”

“And let’s imagine a ray of morning sunlight shines through a crack in a door, revealing some motes of dust in the air. In this case, the dust moves, while the air is still. By considering the difference between the dust, which obscures the air as it moves, and the air, which remains still — I understood that the dust signifies motion.”

The Buddha said, “So it is.” Meanwhile he made a fist with his wheel-lined fingers before he opened his hand and closed it again and said to Ānanda, “What did you see just now?”

Ānanda said, “I saw the Buddha open and close his hand over his resplendent wheel-lined palm.”

The Buddha asked Ānanda, “Was it my hand that opened and closed, or was it your visual awareness that opened and closed?”

Ānanda said, “It was the Buddha’s resplendent hand that opened and closed. Although I saw his hand open and close, my visual awareness neither opened nor closed.”

“What moved and what was still?” The Buddha asked.

Ānanda replied, “The Buddha’s hand moved, while my awareness was still – how could it have moved?”

The Buddha said, “So it is.”

Then from his wheel-lined palm the Buddha sent forth a ray of resplendent light that flew past Ānanda to his right. Ānanda immediately turned his head and glanced to the right. Then the Buddha sent a ray of light to Ānanda’s left. Ānanda turned his head again and glanced to the left. The Buddha asked Ānanda, “Why did you turn your head just now?”

Ānanda said, “I saw the Buddha send forth a wondrous ray of light which flew past me on my right; then another ray flew past me on my left. My head moved as I looked to the right and to the left.”

“Ānanda, when you glanced at the Buddha’s light and moved your head to the right and left, was it in fact your head that moved, or was it your visual awareness that moved?”

“It was my head that moved.” Ānanda replied. “The nature of my visual awareness is still; how could it have moved?”

The Buddha said, “So it is.”

Then the Buddha told everyone in the assembly, “All beings need to understand that whatever moves is like the dust, and whatever doesn’t stay is like a visitor. Just now you saw that it was Ānanda’s head that moved, while his visual awareness did not move. It was my hand that opened and closed, while his awareness did not open or close. If you take what moves to be your self and its environment and follow it come and go in every thought, you bound to lose track of your true nature and act out of delusion. And because you lose touch with your mind’s true nature by identifying yourself with the objects you perceive, you keep on being bound to the cycle of death and rebirth.”

阿難,雖復得聞是言,與諸大眾,口已默然,心未開悟。猶冀如來慈音宣示,合掌清心,佇佛悲誨。

爾時世尊。舒兜羅綿網相光手,開五輪指,誨敕阿難,及諸大眾。我初成道,於鹿園中,為阿若多五比丘等,及汝四眾言。一切眾生,不成菩提,及阿羅漢,皆由客塵煩惱所誤。汝等當時,因何開悟,今成聖果。

時憍陳那,起立白佛。我今長老,於大眾中,獨得解名。因悟客塵二字成果。世尊,譬如行客,投寄旅亭,或宿或食,食宿事畢,俶裝前途,不遑安住。若實主人,自無攸往。如是思惟,不住名客,住名主人,以不住者,名為客義。又如新霽。清暘升天,光入隙中,發明空中諸有塵相。塵質搖動,虛空寂然。如是思惟,澄寂名空。搖動名塵。以搖動者,名為塵義。

佛言如是。即時如來,於大眾中,屈五輪指,屈已復開,開已又屈。謂阿難言:汝今何見。阿難言:我見如來百寶輪掌,眾中開合」佛告阿難。汝見我手,眾中開合。為是我手,有開有合。為復汝見,有開有合。阿難言:世尊寶手,眾中開合。我見如來手自開合。非我見性有開有合。佛言:誰動誰靜。阿難言:佛手不住。而我見性,尚無有靜,誰為無住。佛言如是。

如來於是從輪掌中,飛一寶光,在阿難右。即時阿難,迴首右盼。又放一光,在阿難左,阿難又則迴首左盼。佛告阿難。汝頭今日何因搖動。阿難言:我見如來出妙寶光,來我左右,故左右觀,頭自搖動。阿難,汝盼佛光,左右動頭,為汝頭動,為復見動。世尊,我頭自動,而我見性尚無有止,誰為搖動。佛言如是。於是如來,普告大眾,若復眾生,以搖動者名之為塵。以不住者,名之為客。汝觀阿難頭自動搖,見無所動。又汝觀我手自開合見無舒卷。云何汝今以動為身,以動為境。從始泊終,念念生滅,遺失真性,顛倒行事。性心失真,認物為己。輪迴是中,自取流轉。