The Surangama Sutra: Chapter Two – Section 7

Visual Awareness Arises Neither on Its Own Nor From Causes

Ananda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, it is truly as the Dharma King has said: the nature of Enlightenment (Bodhi) pervades the ten directions: clear, everlasting, and by nature neither produced nor extinguished. How does it differ, then, from the concept of primordial profundity in the doctrine of Kapila, or from the teaching of the ascetics who throw ashes on themselves, or from the other externalist sects that say there is a ‘real self’ which pervades the ten directions?

“Also, in the past, the World Honored One gave a lecture on Mount Lanka explaining the principle thoroughly for the sake of Great Wisdom Bodhisattva and others: ‘Externalist sects always speak of natural existence, but I speak of causes and conditions, which is entirely different.’ Now as I look into this nature of Enlightenment, as self-existent, as beyond birth and death, and as apart from all falsehood and inversion, it seems to have nothing to do with either causes and conditions or the spontaneity advocated by others. Would you please enlighten us on this point, so that we could realize the true Mind, the bright nature of Enlightenment?”


The Buddha said, “Now I have revealed the truth to you with such expedients, yet you do not awaken to it but mistake it for spontaneity. Ananda, if it were spontaneous existence, you would be able to distinguish the substance of such spontaneity. Now look into the wondrous seeing and see what is its self: Is it the bright light, the darkness, the emptiness, or the obstruction being itself?

“Ananda, if light is its self, you should not see darkness; if emptiness is its self, you should not see obstruction. Likewise, if darkness is its self, the nature of your seeing should cease to function when there is light, but why do you still see light?”


Ananda said, “Now I am certain that the nature of seeing is not spontaneous. I guess it is brought about by causes and conditions. But I am still not clear about it. I now ask the Tathagata to tell me how it accords with the nature of causes and conditions.”


The Buddha said, “You say it is causes and conditions. Let me ask you this: When you see things, the nature of seeing manifests – is it because of light that the seeing exists? Or is it because of darkness, emptiness, or obstruction that the seeing exists? If it is light that brings it into existence, you should not see darkness; if it is darkness, you should not see light. It is the same with emptiness and obstruction.

“Moreover, Ananda, does the seeing derive from the condition of light, or darkness, or emptiness, or obstruction?

“If it exists because of the condition of emptiness, you should not see obstruction; if it exists because of the condition of obstruction, you should not see emptiness. And it is the same with light and darkness. Therefore, you should know that the essential Bodhi is due to neither causes nor conditions, neither being nor nonbeing, neither reality nor unreality. It is identical with all things yet beyond all forms.

“How can you now think of it, use your mind to make distinctions, and express it with frivolous terminologies that are based on worldly sophistries? That is like grasping at empty space with your hand: you will only succeed in tiring yourself out. How could empty space possibly be grasped?”