The Surangama Sutra: Chapter Two – Section 8

The True Visual Awareness

Ananda asked, “If the nature of Enlightenment has neither causes nor conditions, why does the Buddha always tell the bhikshus that the nature of seeing exists because of the four conditions of emptiness, light, mind, and eye? What does that mean?”

The Buddha said, “Ananda, what I have said about all the worldly causes and conditions has nothing to do with the Supreme Truth. Ananda, I now ask you: When a person says that he can see, what does he mean by ‘seeing’ and ‘not seeing’?”


Ananda replied, “By seeing, he means that due to the light of the sun, moon, or lamps, he can see all kinds of appearances. While in the absence of such light, he cannot see.”


“Ananda, if it is called ‘not seeing’ when there is no light, he should not see darkness either. If he sees darkness when there is no light, how can you call it ‘not seeing’? If you call it ‘not seeing’ when there is no light, you should also call it ‘not seeing’ when there is light and you do not see darkness. Thus, there would be ‘no seeing’ in both cases. But as we know, your seeing-nature never ceases for an instant, be it in light or darkness. Since there is seeing in both cases, how can you call it ‘not seeing’?

“Therefore, Ananda, you should know that when you see light, the seeing is not bright. When you see darkness, the seeing is not dark. When you see emptiness, the seeing is not empty. When you see obstruction, the seeing is not obstructed.

“Once you have realized these four aspects, you should also know that when your absolute seeing perceives the Essence of Seeing, the former is beyond the latter, and the latter cannot reach it. That being the case, how can you say that your absolute intuitive perception has something to do with either causes and conditions or spontaneity, or that it has something to do with both?

“You narrow-minded Hearers are so ignorant that you are unable to realize the purity and clarity of Reality. Now I will show you the Truth and you should consider it carefully, never allowing indolence and remissness to obstruct your Path to the profound Bodhi.”