The Surangama Sutra: Chapter Three – Section 3


The Eighteen Realms of Perception

“Ananda, why do I say that the eighteen realms of the senses are the nature of suchness, the Treasury of the Tathagata? As you already know, the eyes and form are the conditions that produce sight-perception. Is this sight-perception created by the eyes or by form? If it was created by the eyes, in the absence of form and emptiness it would not be able to make distinctions, then what would be the use of this perception even if you had a consciousness? If it was created by form, in emptiness your perception would cease to exist. When form changes, you are conscious of the change, but your sight-perception does not change, where is the boundary established then? If the sight-perception were to change when form changes, then there would be no boundary. If it were not to change, it would be permanent, then it should have no consciousness of the voidness, given that it was created by form. If it was created by both the eyes and form, (which are separate when you think they are united, and uniting when you think they are separate), then the substance and nature would be all chaotic, how could a boundary be set up? Therefore, you should know that as the eyes and form being the conditions that produce the realm of sight-consciousness, none of them exists. Thus, the three aspects of the eyes, form, and the realm of form are neither causal nor conditional nor self-existent.”

“Now, Ananda, as you already know, the ears and sound create the conditions that produce sound-perception. Is this sound-perception created by the ears or by sound? If it was created by the ears, in the absence of both disturbance and stillness the ears would not discern anything, then how could it create perception? If it was created by sound, if the sound-perception existed solely because of sound, then it would have no relation to hearing. Without hearing, the sound would have no location. Suppose it was really created by sound and that sound existed because of hearing, then the hearing of sound should be perceived by the ears. If the hearing consciousness is not heard, there would be no realm of ear-perception; if the consciousness is heard, who is it that perceives and hears the consciousness? If there was no such perceiver, you would be like grass and plants. There cannot be a realm created by a mixing of sound and hearing either. Therefore, you should know that as the ears and sound creating the conditions which produce the realm of sound-perception, none of them actually exists. Thus, the three aspects of the ears, sound, and sound-consciousness are neither causal, nor conditional, nor self-existent.”

“And, Ananda, as you already know, the nose and smell are the conditions that produce the smell-perception. Is this perception created by the nose or by smell? Suppose it was created by the nose, what do you take to be this nose then? Is it the fleshy part of your face with which you sniff? Since it belongs to the body and the body’s perception is called touch, this organ of smelling would be named ‘body’ instead of ‘nose’ and the objects of smelling would be objects of touch. If the nose could not even be named, how could a realm for it be established? If it was the emptiness that perceived the smell, then emptiness would be the perceiver, and the flesh would have no awareness. If so, the emptiness should be the body and the body would have no perception. Then there would be no Ananda. If it was the smell that perceived, perception itself would lie with the smell and would have nothing to do with you. If fragrance and stench were produced from your nose, then they would not come from the sandalwood or fetid herbs. Smell your own nose, what kind of smell does it have? Given that fragrance does not stink, and stink does not give off fragrance, since you can smell both, you should have two noses, and I would be addressing questions to two Anandas now. If there is only one nose, then fragrance and stench would not be two – stench could be fragrance and fragrance would become stench, where could the realm of smell-perception be established? If the smell-perception existed because of smells, it would not be aware of smells, just as your eyes can see things but not themselves. If it’s aware of smells, then it could not be created by smells. If it’s not aware of smells, then the realm of smelling would not come into being. Since there is no intermediate perception between nose and smell, there would be neither inner organ nor outer object. Therefore, the nature of smelling is empty and false. And so you should know that as the nose and smells being the conditions which produce the realm of smell-consciousness, none of them exists. Thus, the three aspects of the nose, smells, and the realm of smell-perception are neither causal, nor conditional, nor self-existent.”

“Now, Ananda, as you already know it, the tongue and flavors create the conditions that produce the taste-perception. Is this perception created by the tongue or by taste? If it was created by the tongue, then sugar cane, sour plums, bitter wort, wild spikenard, ginger and salt would be entirely tasteless. Just taste your own tongue and see if it is sweet or bitter. If it’s bitter or sweet, since the tongue cannot taste itself, who would be the taster that had the sense of taste? If no flavor engendered, then how could a realm of tasting be established? If perception was created because of flavor, the consciousness itself would be a flavor. Just like the tongue cannot taste itself, how could the consciousness know whether it had flavor or not? Moreover, since there are many flavors, there should be as many corresponding perceptions. If there is only one perception and it’s created by different flavors, then all flavors (be it salt, insipid, sweet or bitter) would become a single flavor without distinctions. If there were no distinctions, there would be no perception by the tongue, then how could the tongue, taste and perception be conditioned? The voidness cannot make your mind perceive either. Neither can an intermediate perception be created, since the tongue and flavors could not unite without each losing its basic nature. Therefore, you should know that, as the tongue and flavors being the conditions that produce the realm of taste-perception, none of them exists. Thus, the tongue, flavors, and the taste-perception are neither causal, nor conditional, nor self-existent.”

“Ananda, now as you understand it, the body and touch create the conditions that produce the touch-perception. Is it created by the body or by touch? If it was created by the body, what would the body perceive when there is neither contact nor separation? If by touch, you would not need the body then. But without a body, who would feel contact and separation? Objects do not perceive touch. It is the body that perceives objects of touch. The body’s perception is revealed by touch and touch through the body. The body and touch are inseparable yet not the same, and originally they have no home. When touch contacts the body, it becomes the body and when it ceases, it becomes the empty space. Since there are no such things as inner body and outer touch, there can be no intermediate perception between them either. From what then, would the realm of touch-perception be born? Therefore, you should know that, as the body and objects of touch being the conditions that produce the realm of touch-consciousness, none of them actually exists. Thus, the three aspects of the body, objects of touch, and the touch-perception are neither causal nor conditional nor self-existent.”

“Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it, the intellect and ideas create the conditions that produce the sixth consciousness. Is this consciousness created by the intellect or by ideas? If it was produced by the intellect, the intellect as organ should contain the idea as object to express its own existence. In the absence of idea your intellect would not exist, then what use would the consciousness be? Moreover, since both the intellect and the sixth consciousness discern things, are they the same or are they different from each other? If they’re the same, with consciousness being just intellect, then how could it be created by intellect? If they’re different, consciousness would be ‘unconscious’, then how could it arise from intellect? If they’re neither the same nor different, then how could a realm of sixth consciousness be established?”

“All things in the world are inseparable from the five sense-data of form, sound, smell, taste and touch, which clearly correspond with the sense organs and are not affected by the intellect. Underlying the characteristics of form and emptiness, movement and stillness, clearness and obstruction, union and separation, production and extinction, there is nothing at all. When there is production, then form, emptiness, and all dharmas are produced. When there is extinction, then form, emptiness, and all dharmas are extinguished. When there are no causes leading to their creation, what are the forms and shapes of dharma? When they do not exist, what then conditions dharma? Therefore, you should know that, as the intellect and dharmas being the conditions that produce the realm of sixth consciousness, none of them exists. Thus, the three aspects of the intellect, dharmas, and the realm of sixth consciousness are neither causal nor conditional nor self-existent.”

復次阿難。云何十八界,本如來藏妙真如性。

阿難。如汝所明,眼色為緣,生於眼識。此識為復因眼所生,以眼為界。因色所生,以色為界。阿難。若因眼生,既無色空,無可分別,縱有汝識,欲將何用。汝見又非青黃赤白,無所表示,從何立界。若因色生,空無色時,汝識應滅,云何識知是虛空性。若色變時,汝亦識其色相遷變,汝識不遷,界從何立。從變則變,界相自無。不變則恒。既從色生,應不識知虛空所在。若兼二種,眼色共生,合則中離,離則兩合,體性雜亂,云何成界。是故當知眼色為緣,生眼識界,三處都無。則眼與色,及色界三,本非因緣,非自然性。

阿難。又汝所明,耳聲為緣,生於耳識。此識為復因耳所生,以耳為界。因聲所生,以聲為界。阿難。若因耳生,動靜二相,既不現前,根不成知。必無所知,知尚無成,識何形貌。若取耳聞,無動靜故,聞無所成。云何耳形,雜色觸塵,名為識界。則耳識界,復從誰立。若生於聲,識因聲有,則不關聞,無聞則亡聲相所在。識從聲生,許聲因聞而有聲相,聞應聞識,不聞非界。聞則同聲。識已被聞,誰知聞識。若無知者,終如草木。不應聲聞雜成中界。界無中位,則內外相,復從何成。是故當知,耳聲為緣,生耳識界,三處都無。則耳與聲,及聲界三,本非因緣,非自然性。

阿難。又汝所明,鼻香為緣,生於鼻識。此識為復因鼻所生,以鼻為界。因香所生,以香為界。阿難。若因鼻生,則汝心中,以何為鼻。為取肉形雙爪之相。為取嗅知動搖之性。若取肉形,肉質乃身,身知即觸,名身非鼻,名觸即塵。鼻尚無名,云何立界。若取嗅知,又汝心中以何為知。以肉為知,則肉之知,元觸非鼻。以空為知,空則自知,肉應非覺。如是則應虛空是汝,汝身非知。今日阿難,應無所在。以香為知,知自屬香,何預於汝。若香臭氣,必生汝鼻,則彼香臭二種流氣,不生伊蘭。及栴檀木。二物不來,汝自嗅鼻,為香為臭。臭則非香,香則非臭。若香臭二俱能聞者,則汝一人,應有兩鼻。對我問道,有二阿難,誰為汝體。若鼻是一,香臭無二,臭既為香,香復成臭。二性不有,界從誰立。若因香生,識因香有。如眼有見,不能觀眼。因香有故,應不知香。知即非生。不知非識。香非知有,香界不成。識不知香,因界則非從香建立。既無中間,不成內外。彼諸聞性,畢竟虛空。是故當知,鼻香為緣,生鼻識界,三處都無。則鼻與香,及香界三,本非因緣,非自然性。

阿難。又汝所明,舌味為緣,生於舌識。此識為復因舌所生,以舌為界。因味所生,以味為界。阿難。若因舌生,則諸世間甘蔗、烏梅、黃連、石鹽、細辛、薑、桂、都無有味。汝自嘗舌,為甜為苦。若舌性苦,誰來嘗舌。舌不自嘗,孰為知覺。舌性非苦,味自不生,云何立界。若因味生,識自為味,同於舌根,應不自嘗,云何識知是味非味。又一切味,非一物生。味既多生,識應多體。識體若一,體必味生。鹹淡甘辛,和合俱生,諸變異相,同為一味,應無分別。分別既無,則不名識,云何復名舌味識界。不應虛空,生汝心識。舌味和合,即於是中元無自性,云何界生。是故當知,舌味為緣,生舌識界,三處都無。則舌與味,及舌界三,本非因緣,非自然性。

阿難。又汝所明,身觸為緣,生於身識。此識為復因身所生,以身為界。因觸所生,以觸為界。阿難。若因身生,必無合離二覺觀緣,身何所識。若因觸生,必無汝身,誰有非身知合離者。阿難。物不觸知,身知有觸。知身即觸,知觸即身。即觸非身,即身非觸。身觸二相,元無處所。合身即為身自體性。離身即是虛空等相。內外不成,中云何立。中不復立,內外性空則汝識生,從誰立界。是故當知,身觸為緣,生身識界,三處都無。則身與觸,及身界三,本非因緣,非自然性。

阿難。又汝所明,意法為緣,生於意識。此識為復因意所生,以意為界,因法所生,以法為界。阿難。若因意生,於汝意中,必有所思,發明汝意。若無前法,意無所生。離緣無形,識將何用,又汝識心,與諸思量,兼了別性,為同為異。同意即意,云何所生。異意不同,應無所識。若無所識,云何意生。若有所識,云何識意。唯同與異,二性無成,界云何立。若因法生世間諸法,不離五塵。汝觀色法,及諸聲法,香法味法,及與觸法,相狀分明,以對五根,非意所攝,汝識決定依於法生。今汝諦觀,法法何狀若離色空,動靜通塞,合離生滅,越此諸相,終無所得。生則色空諸法等生。滅則色空諸法等滅。所因既無,因生有識,作何形相。相狀不有,界云何生。是故當知,意法為緣,生意識界,三處都無。則意與法,及意界三,本非因緣,非自然性。