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.”