The Surangama Sutra: Chapter Two – Section 2


All Phenomena Returnable to Causes Are Unreal

Ananda then arose from his seat, put his palms together, knelt on both knees, and said to the Buddha, “Your Holiness, if seeing and hearing are indeed neither produced nor extinguished, then why did the Buddha say we are people who have lost our true nature and who go about things in an upside-down manner?”

The Buddha let his golden arm fall so that his wheeled fingers pointed downward, and asked Ananda, “You see my mudra-hand: is it right-side up or upside down?”

Ananda said, “I know living beings in the world take it to be upside down. But I do not know what is right-side up and what is upside down.”

The Buddha said, “If people of the world take this as upside down, what do they take to be right-side up?”

Ananda said, “They call it right-side up when the Buddha raises his hand with his fingers pointing upward in the air.”

The Buddha then held up his hand and said: “Worldly people are doubly deluded when they discriminate between an upright hand and an inverted hand. In exactly the same way they make distinctions between your body and the Buddha’s pure Dharma body, saying that the Buddha’s body is correct universal view, while yours is inverted view. Now examine your body closely and answer this: what exactly does the term ‘upside down’ refer to?”

Ananda and the entire great assembly were dazed, and they stared unblinking at the Buddha. They did not know in what way their bodies and minds were upside down.

Seeing it, the Buddha’s compassion arose, and he spoke to the great assembly in a voice that swept over them like the ocean-tide: “All of you good people, I have often said that form and mind and all conditions, as well as dharmas pertaining to the mind – all the conditioned dharmas – are merely manifestations of the mind. Your bodies and your minds all appear within the wonder of the bright, essential, true mind.

“Why do I say that you have lost track of what is fundamentally wonderful in you, the perfect, enlightened, true nature, and that you have mistaken the false for the real because of ignorance and delusion?” The Buddha went on:

“Because mental dimness and confusion turn into dull emptiness. The emptiness then unites with the confusion to become form. Stimulated by false thinking, the form takes the shape of a body. As causal conditions come together there are perpetual internal disturbances which tend to appear as outward manifestations. Such inner disturbances are often mistaken for the nature of mind.”

The primary misconception about the mind and body is the false view that the mind dwells in the physical body.” The Buddha concluded and then elaborated:

You do not know that the physical body, as well as the mountains and rivers, the empty space and the great earth are all within the wonderful, bright, true mind.

It is like ignoring hundreds of thousands of clear pure seas and taking notice of only a single bubble, seeing it as the entire ocean, as the whole expanse of great and small seas.

“You people are doubly deluded among the deluded. Such delusion does not differ from the inversion of my lowered hand. You truly are the most pitiable.”

Having received the Buddha’s compassionate teaching, Ananda sobbed and said to the Buddha, “Upon hearing this profound instruction, I have now realized that the wonderful bright mind is fundamentally perfect; it is the eternally dwelling mind-ground. But it is my conditioned mind that I am using to contemplate this teaching reverently, which I dare not to recognize as the fundamental mind-ground. I pray that the Buddha will take pity on me and impart furthermore to eradicate my doubts by the roots and enable me to realize the unsurpassed Way!”

The Buddha told Ananda, “Now you still listen to the Dharma with the conditioned mind, and so the Dharma becomes conditioned as well, that’s why you do not realize the Dharma-nature. It is as if someone points his finger at the moon to show it to someone else. Guided by the finger, that person should see the moon. But if he looks at the finger instead and mistakes it for the moon, he neither sees the moon nor the finger. Why? Because he mistakes the pointing finger for the bright moon.”

“Not only does he miss out the finger,” the Buddha continued, “but also he fails to recognize light and dark. Why? He mistakes the substance of the finger for the nature of the bright moon, so he does not realize the natures of light and dark. The same is true of you. You take the sound of my speaking Dharma to be your mind. It is like mistaking the guest of an inn as the innkeeper: the guest who lodges overnight at an inn stops only temporarily before getting back on the road – he does not dwell in the inn permanently, whereas the innkeeper goes nowhere: he is the host of the inn.”

“Likewise, if the mind you use listening to the sound really were your true mind, it would not go anywhere either. For, how could you explain that in the absence of sound, you would find this conditioned mind has no independent nature of its own? This applies not only to sound, but also to appearances of all sorts. Once being apart from forms, the conditioned mind has no independent attributes of its own.”

“Even when the making of distinctions is totally absent, when there is neither form nor emptiness – the obscurity which Goshali and the others take to be the ‘profound truth’ – in the complete absence of causal conditions, the distinction-making nature of the mind ceases to exist. Since everything perceived by the mind returns to everything other than the mind, how could we say then, that the nature of this conditioned mind is not a guest, but the inn host?”

Ananda said, “If every state of our mind returns to something else as its source, then why does the wonderful, bright, original true mind mentioned by the Buddha return nowhere? Please kindly enlighten us on this point.”

The Buddha said, “As you look at me now, the essence of your seeing is fundamentally bright. To make an analogy, if we take the profound bright original true mind as the moon, the essence of your seeing is the second moon rather than its reflection. Now you listen carefully, for I am going to show you the place of no returning.”

Then the Buddha expounded: “Ananda, this great lecture hall is open to the east. It is flooded with light when the sun rises in the sky. It is dark at midnight during the waning of moon or when obscured by clouds or fog. Looking out through open doors and windows your vision is unimpeded; facing walls or houses your vision is blocked – your vision becomes conditioned in such places where there are forms of distinctive features. While in dull void, you can see only emptiness. And your vision will be distorted when the objects are shrouded in dust and vapor, otherwise you will perceive clearly if the air is clear.”

“Ananda, bear all these transitory manifestations in mind as I now return each to its place of origin. The ‘light’ must return to the sun. For without the sun, there is no light; therefore, the light’s place of origin is the sun. ‘Darkness’ returns to the waning moon. ‘Penetration’ returns to the doors and windows. ‘Obstruction’ returns to the walls and buildings. ‘Conditions’ return to distinctions. ‘Emptiness’ returns to emptiness. ‘Dimness’ and ‘distortion’ return to the mist and haze. Bright ‘purity’ returns to clarity. And nothing that exists in this world goes beyond these kinds.”

“Now, Ananda, to which of the eight states of perception does the essence of your seeing return? The answer lies in the fact that if it’s returned to brightness, you would not see darkness when there is no light. In fact, no matter what state of perception it is, what you see would remain unchanged.”

“If the essence of your seeing can be returned to a source other than you, it is clearly not you; if it can be returned nowhere, then it is nothing but you.”

“This is why I know that your true mind is fundamentally perfect, bright, and pure. You yourself are confused and deluded. You miss what is fundamental, and you are caught in the turning wheel of the six paths, tossing and floating on the stormy sea of birth and death all the time. No wonder the Buddha says that you are the most pitiable of creatures.”

Ananda said, “Now I realize that the seeing-nature does not return to anything, but how can I be sure that it is my own?”

The Buddha replied, “I can see that at this point you have not yet attained the purity of no outflows, although you’re blessed by the Buddha’s spiritual strength and able to realize the first dhyana heavens with such unobstructed clarity, just like Aniruddha being able to look at Jambudvipa as clearly as he might look at an amala fruit in his own palm.”

“Bodhisattvas can see hundreds of thousands of realms.” The Buddha went on, “And the Buddhas of ten directions can see everything throughout the pure lands as infinite as dust motes. Living beings’ sight, however, does not extend beyond a fraction of an inch.”

“Ananda, as you and I now look at the palace where the four heavenly kings reside, and inspect everything that moves in the water, on the land, or in the air – some are dark, some are bright, in various shapes and appearances, yet all are nothing but dust before us – all are nothing but dualistic distinctions and obstructions.”

“Among them you should distinguish which is the self and which is not. I ask you now to discern carefully, from what you see, which is the substance of the self and which is the appearance of things.”

“If you take a good look at everything within the range of your vision, Ananda, extending from the palaces of the sun and moon to the seven gold mountains, all that you see is not you, but are things of different features in different lights. You see clouds floating, birds flying, wind blowing, dust rising, trees, plants, rivers, mountains, grasses, animals, people, all of which are things other than you.”

“Ananda, all things, near or far, have the nature of things. Although each is distinctly different, they are seen by you with the same pure essence of seeing. Therefore, all things have their individual distinctions, but the seeing-nature has no differences. This essential, wonderful brightness is most definitely your seeing-nature. Otherwise, if seeing were a thing, then you should be able to see my seeing too. When we both look at the same thing, you may say you can see my seeing, but when I am not seeing, how come you can’t see what I am not seeing?”

“If you do see my not-seeing, it is clearly not the thing that I am not seeing. If you do not see my not-seeing, then it is clearly not a thing, therefore how could you say it is not you?”

“Furthermore, if the seeing were a thing, things would also see you when you see things. If we confuse substance and nature, everyone in the world will never be at peace.”

“Ananda, when you see, it is you who see and not I, and your seeing-nature pervades everywhere you see – if it is not yours then to whom it belongs? Why do you doubt the true nature of your own seeing?”

Ananda said to the Buddha, “Your Holiness, given that this seeing-nature is truly mine and does not belong to anything else, I am wondering why that when we stayed at the palace of the Four Heavenly Kings, admiring its supreme collection of jewels, this seeing-nature could extend to all lands of the Saha world. But now upon returning to this smaller abode, I only see the monastic grounds and the eaves and corridors in the central hall. It happens all the time – outside the room the seeing may pervade everywhere throughout the whole realm, but once inside it fills one room only, as if the seeing itself shrinks from great to small, although I know it’s been cut off by the walls and buildings … What I meant to ask is how I should interpret this?”

The Buddha replied, “All the aspects of everything in the world, be it big or small, inside or outside, are considered dust before you. The seeing never stretches or shrinks. Let’s take the example of a square container, in which a square of emptiness is seen. Is the squared emptiness in the container a fixed square shape, or is it not fixed? If it is a fixed square shape, when it’s put in a round container the emptiness would not be round. If it is not a fixed square shape, then in the square container it is not really a square of emptiness.”

“The meaning we can take from it is thus: how do we define the location of our seeing? Ananda, if we want to make the shape of emptiness inside the container neither square nor round, all we need to do is getting rid of the container. Since emptiness has no shape, we never would have to do anything about the emptiness itself.”

“If, as you said, your seeing seems shrink and become small when you enter a room, then when you look up and see the sun, is your seeing pulled out and reaching the surface of the sun? If your seeing is cut off by walls when you enter a room, then why we don’t see a joining when we drill a small hole in the wall?”

“Ever since the beginningless time, all living beings have been mistaking themselves for things and, having lost track of their original mind, their seeing is distorted by things. That is why they contemplate big and small in the midst of all this.”

“If you can turn things around like the Buddhas do, with the body being tranquil and the mind reuniting with the primordial light, you can then stay unmoving in the non-dualistic way. Even presiding only at the tip of a single hair, you may completely oversee the lands of ten directions.”

Ananda said, “If this seeing-essence is indeed my true nature, and it is now being right here in front of me, then what is my body? Up to this point, my body seems to be the one who really makes distinctions. But if actually it is my mind which causes me to see, then the seeing-essence must be the true me, while the body is not me. Now again, we return to the previous question that if seeing is a thing, then the things I see would also be able to see me.

The Buddha replied, “What you have just said – that the seeing is in front of you – is not a correct way to put it. If it’s in front of you, it would be something you could actually see, that it would have a location. Now sitting in the Jeta Grove, we can see the grove, the ponds, the halls, as far as the sun and moon, with the Ganges River before us. You may identify the dark one as the grove, the bright one as the sun, the obstructing as the walls, the transparent as emptiness, and so on to the grasses, the trees, even the finest of hair. Everything big or small all has appearance, yet you can’t exactly locate anything, since all phenomena are empty. If like you said, your seeing-essence is in front of you, then you should be able to point it out with a finger. Ananda, you must know that if the emptiness in front of you is your seeing, then how could it be empty? Or if a thing in front of you is your seeing, but since your seeing-essence is your inherent nature, how could it be an external object?”

“In this way, you can peel away the myriad appearances of all things, until you uncover the innermost essence of seeing, thus achieving perfect clarity beyond any doubt.”

Ananda said, “From where I am now in this many-storied lecture hall, to the Ganges River in the distance, and the sun and moon overhead, everything my hand can point to, everywhere my eyes can see, all are objects and not the seeing-essence. It is indeed as the Buddha has said – not to mention someone like me who is merely a shravaka of the first stage, who still has outflows, even Bodhisattvas may not be able to peel away the myriad appearances before them and realize the essence of seeing.”

The Buddha said, “Exactly, exactly. It is as you said, there is no seeing-essence to be found within things. Whatever things you point to are merely objects, none is the seeing-essence. Now you and the Buddha sit in the Jeta Grove looking at the groves, gardens, the sun and moon, as well as all other great variety of different appearances, and it is certain that the seeing-essence is not in anything you turn to. Now you may also have discovered what is not your seeing.”

Ananda said, “I can see clearly all over the Jeta Grove, yet I do not know among all these things what is not my seeing, and I don’t know why. If trees are not my seeing, why do I see trees? If trees are my seeing, then what becomes of trees? The same is true of everything else, including emptiness – if emptiness is not my seeing, why do I see emptiness? If emptiness is my seeing, then what becomes of emptiness? Then I consider it again and realize that among the ten thousand things, down to the finest aspects of the myriad appearances, nothing is not my seeing.”

The Buddha said, “Exactly, exactly.”

By now in the great assembly, upon hearing these teachings of the Buddha, those who had not reached the stage beyond learning were all stunned and could not perceive where the meaning began or ended. They were agitated and taken aback at the same time, having lost what they had adhered to.

The Buddha, knowing people were anxious and uneasy in spirit, began to console Ananda and everyone in the great assembly: “Good people, what the supreme Dharma King says is true and real. He speaks things as they are. He does not deceive. He does not lie. He is not Maskari Goshaliputra with his four kinds of non-dying theories that are deceptive and confusing. You should consider this attentively. It is no disgrace to feel anxious and to implore.”

阿難即從座起。禮佛合掌,長跪白佛。世尊,若此見聞,必不生滅,云何世尊,名我等輩,遺失真性,顛倒行事。願興慈悲,洗我塵垢。

即時如來垂金色臂,輪手下指,示阿難言。汝今見我母陀羅手,為正為倒。阿難言:世間眾生,以此為倒,而我不知誰正誰倒。佛告阿難。若世間人,以此為倒,即世間人,將何為正,阿難言:如來豎臂,兜羅綿手,上指於空,則名為正。佛即豎臂,告阿難言:若此顛倒,首尾相換。諸世間人,一倍瞻視。則知汝身,與諸如來清淨法身,比類發明,如來之身,名正遍知。汝等之身,號性顛倒。隨汝諦觀。汝身佛身,稱顛倒者,名字何處,號為顛倒。

於時阿難與諸大眾,瞪瞢瞻佛,目睛不瞬,不知身心,顛倒所在。佛興慈悲,哀愍阿難及諸大眾。發海潮音,遍告同會。諸善男子,我常說言,色心諸緣,及心所使諸所緣法,唯心所現。汝身汝心,皆是妙明真精妙心中所現物。云何汝等,遺失本妙,圓妙明心,寶明妙性。認悟中迷。晦昧為空,空晦暗中,結暗為色。色雜妄想,想相為身。聚緣內搖,趣外奔逸。昏擾擾相,以為心性。一迷為心,決定惑為色身之內。不知色身,外洎山河虛空大地,咸是妙明真心中物。譬如澄清百千大海棄之。唯認一浮漚體,目為全潮,窮盡瀛渤。汝等即是迷中倍人。如我垂手。等無差別。

如來說為可憐愍者。阿難承佛悲救深誨。垂泣叉手,而白佛言:我雖承佛如是妙音,悟妙明心,元所圓滿,常住心地。而我悟佛現說法音,現以緣心,允所瞻仰,徒獲此心,未敢認為本元心地。願佛哀愍,宣示圓音。拔我疑根,歸無上道。

佛告阿難。汝等尚以緣心聽法,此法亦緣,非得法性。如人以手,指月示人。彼人因指,當應看月。若復觀指以為月體,此人豈唯亡失月輪,亦亡其指。何以故。以所標指為明月故。豈唯亡指。亦復不識明之與暗。何以故。即以指體,為月明性。明暗二性,無所了故。汝亦如是,若以分別我說法音,為汝心者。此心自應離分別音有分別性。譬如有客,寄宿旅亭,暫止便去,終不常住。而掌亭人,都無所去,名為亭主。此亦如是。若真汝心,則無所去。云何離聲,無分別性。斯則豈唯聲分別心。分別我容,離諸色相,無分別性。如是乃至分別都無,非色非空,拘舍離等,昧為冥諦。離諸法緣,無分別性。則汝心性,各有所還,云何為主。

阿難言:若我心性,各有所還。則如來說,妙明元心,云何無還。惟垂哀愍,為我宣說。

佛告阿難。且汝見我,見精明元。此見雖非妙精明心。如第二月,非是月影。汝應諦聽。今當示汝無所還地。阿難:此大講堂,洞開東方,日輪升天,則有明耀。中夜黑月,雲霧晦暝,則復昏暗。戶牖之隙,則復見通。牆宇之間,則復觀壅。分別之處,則復見緣。頑虛之中,遍是空性。鬱孛之象,則紆昏塵。澄霽斂氛。又觀清淨。阿難:汝咸看此諸變化相。吾今各還本所因處。云何本因。阿難:此諸變化:明還日輪。何以故。無日不明,明因屬日,是故還日。暗還黑月。通還戶牖。壅還牆宇。緣還分別,頑虛還空。鬱孛還塵。清明還霽。則諸世間一切所有,不出斯類。汝見八種見精明性,當欲誰還。何以故。若還於明,則不明時,無復見暗。雖明暗等,種種差別,見無差別。諸可還者,自然非汝。不汝還者,非汝而誰。則知汝心,本妙明淨,汝自迷悶。喪本受輪,於生死中,常被漂溺。是故如來,名可憐愍。

阿難言:我雖識此見性無還。云何得知是我真性。

佛告阿難。吾今問汝。今汝未得無漏清淨。承佛神力,見於初禪,得無障礙。而阿那律。見閻浮提,如觀掌中菴摩羅果。諸菩薩等,見百千界,十方如來,窮盡微塵,清淨國土,無所不矚。眾生洞視,不過分寸。阿難:且吾與汝,觀四天王所住宮殿。中間遍覽水陸空行。雖有昏明,種種形像。無非前塵,分別留礙。汝應於此,分別自他。今吾將汝,擇於見中,誰是我體,誰為物象。阿難:極汝見源,從日月宮,是物非汝。至七金山,周遍諦觀,雖種種光,亦物非汝。漸漸更觀,雲騰鳥飛,風動塵起,樹木山川,草芥人畜,咸物非汝。阿難:是諸近遠諸有物性,雖復差殊,同汝見精,清淨所矚。則諸物類,自有差別,見性無殊。此精妙明,誠汝見性。若見是物,則汝亦可見吾之見。若同見者,名為見吾。吾不見時,何不見吾不見之處。若見不見,自然非彼不見之相。若不見吾不見之地,自然非物,云何非汝。又則汝今見物之時。汝既見物,物亦見汝。體性紛雜,則汝與我,并諸世間,不成安立。阿難:若汝見時,是汝非我,見性周遍,非汝而誰。云何自疑汝之真性,性汝不真,取我求實。

阿難白佛言:世尊。若此見性,必我非餘。我與如來,觀四天王勝藏寶殿,居日月宮,此見周圓,遍娑婆國。退歸精舍,祇見伽藍。清心戶堂,但瞻簷廡。世尊。此見如是,其體本來周遍一界。今在室中,唯滿一室,為復此見縮大為小。為當牆宇夾令斷絕。我今不知斯義所在。願垂弘慈為我敷演。

佛告阿難:一切世間大小內外,諸所事業,各屬前塵,不應說言見有舒縮。譬如方器,中見方空。吾復問汝。此方器中所見方空,為復定方,為不定方。若定方者,別安圓器,空應不圓。若不定者,在方器中,應無方空。汝言不知斯義所在。義性如是。云何為在。阿難:若復欲令入無方圓。但除器方,空體無方。不應說言,更除虛空方相所在。若如汝問,入室之時,縮見令小。仰觀日時,汝豈挽見齊於日面。若築牆宇,能夾見斷。穿為小竇,寧無續跡。是義不然。一切眾生,從無始來,迷己為物,失於本心,為物所轉。故於是中,觀大觀小。若能轉物,則同如來,身心圓明,不動道場。於一毛端,遍能含受十方國土。

阿難白佛言:世尊,若此見精,必我妙性。今此妙性,現在我前,見必我真。我今身心,復是何物。而今身心分別有實。彼見無別分辨我身。若實我心,令我今見。見性實我,而身非我。何殊如來先所難言,物能見我。惟垂大慈,開發未悟。

佛告阿難:今汝所言,見在汝前,是義非實。若實汝前,汝實見者,則此見精,既有方所,非無指示。且今與汝坐祇陀林,遍觀林渠,及與殿堂,上至日月,前對恒河。汝今於我師子座前,舉手指陳,是種種相。陰者是林。明者是日。礙者是壁。通者是空。如是乃至草樹纖毫,大小雖殊。但可有形,無不指著。若必其見,現在汝前。汝應以手確實指陳,何者是見。阿難當知。若空是見,既已成見,何者是空。若物是見,既已是見,何者為物。汝可微細披剝萬象,析出精明淨妙見元,指陳示我,同彼諸物,分明無惑。

阿難言:我今於此重閣講堂,遠洎恒河,上觀日月,舉手所指,縱目所觀,指皆是物,無是見者。世尊。如佛所說,況我有漏初學聲聞,乃至菩薩,亦不能於萬物象前,剖出精見,離一切物,別有自性。

佛言:如是如是。佛復告阿難。如汝所言。無有見精,離一切物,別有自性。則汝所指是物之中,無是見者。今復告汝。汝與如來,坐祇陀林,更觀林苑,乃至日月,種種象殊,必無見精,受汝所指。汝又發明此諸物中,何者非見。阿難言:我實遍見此祇陀林。不知是中何者非見。何以故。若樹非見,云何見樹。若樹即見,復云何樹。如是乃至若空非見,云何見空。若空即見。復云何空。我又思惟,是萬象中,微細發明,無非見者。

佛言:如是如是。於是大眾,非無學者,聞佛此言,茫然不知是義終始,一時惶悚,失其所守。如來知其魂慮變慴。心生憐愍。安慰阿難,及諸大眾。諸善男子。無上法王。是真實語,如所如說,不誑不妄。非末伽黎,四種不死矯亂論議。汝諦思惟,無忝哀慕。