As the World Honored One has said, “All dharmas have no self.”


Now we begin the discussion of the Shastra proper. The word “as” indicates that what is about to be said is a quote from the World Honored One himself. And who is the World Honored One? “World Honored One” is one of the ten titles of a Buddha. It represents how the Buddha is “honored in the world and beyond the world.” It is used here instead of the word “Buddha” to enhance the literary quality of the Chinese text, which in general employs four-character phrases.

The Buddha has said, “All dharmas have no self.” All dharmas must be without a self.

“But why?” you wonder. “The self is truly and actually present, so why is it said there should be no self?”

You say that the self, your own self, is truly and actually present? Let us suppose that is so. But then when you die, the corpse is still your same old body. Where did the self of you go off to? If when you die the self disappears, then how can there actually be a self when you are still alive? There is a problem inherent in your supposition.

The Buddha talked about all dharmas, but qualified it by saying that all dharmas have to be without a self. There should not be a self. You should not be like people who do not understand the Dharma and yet brag, “I spoke such-and-such Dharma, I lectured such-and-such a Sutra,” thrusting the self out in front. Recently when we set thirty-six

pigeons free, two of them stayed. Why are they pigeons now? It is just because of clinging to a self. Before, when they were people, they did not listen to the Dharma spoken by the Buddha and were unable to be without a self, so they wound up being birds, in the animal realm.

The Shastra begins by quoting the Buddha, saying, “All dharmas have no self.” The self referred to here is a view of self. It does not refer one’s own body. There should not be any view of self. In the Vajra Sutra the Buddha spoke about a view of self, a view of others, a view of living beings and a view of life spans. One should not have any of those views.

Not only should one not have a self, there should not even be any dharmas. All dharmas, as well, do not exist. And if no dharmas exist, even less does a self exist. Because of that, people who cultivate the Way should get to the point of having no self, and then each and every dharma is perfected. If one can truly be without self, then all dharmas interpenetrate without obstruction. Whatever dharma one takes up does not fail to be of the Dharma Realm; each has the nature of the Dharma Realm. And all dharmas then appear before one. Although all dharmas manifest, one should be so there also are no dharmas. The Wonderful is just at that point, and the difficulty is also right at that point. For all dharmas whatsoever to manifest before one, and yet for one to have no attachments to any dharmas, means that one has emptied dharmas of all marks. There are no marks of dharmas at all. When one gets to that point, then one really experiences true interpenetration without obstruction, and one obtains incredible freedom and ease. If one can be without self, then one will have freedom; but if one cannot manage to get rid of the self, one will be incapable of being free. Therefore, what is important is not to have a self.

And yet, how can one not have a self? It is not easy. One may think, “Here I am listening to the Shastra being lectured, and how can you tell me that I don’t have a self, that I’m not here?”

I repeat, if you can be here listening to the Shastra and yet not know that you are here listening to the Shastra—forgetting about people and having no ego, emptying your self, so there are no people, there is no self and there are no dharmas, so that people and dharmas are both empty—then you will be truly free and at ease. But your attachments keep you from being free of self. What are you attached to? You are attached to the five skandhas: form, feeling, thinking, activities, and consciousness. Among the five skandhas you reckon the form body, this false self, to be your self. But actually, did I not just point out that when you die it is still your body, but it does not have any awareness, and so where did the self go? Your self is huge-like Mount Sumeru. When you die, where does it go? You do not know. Wouldn’t you say that is tragic?

Those of externalist ways are attached to a “great self,” a “small self,” and a “spiritual self.” They have a whole collection of selves. They say the “great self ” is such that there is nothing greater, and the “small self ” is such that there is nothing smaller. This aspect of their theories has no use. The only useful part is the “spiritual self ” in between. That is the “spiritual self ” to which those of externalist ways become attached, their attachment being to the “spiritual self.”

Those of the Small Vehicle, the Two Vehicles, also have their attachments. They have an attachment to a lopsided view of Nirvana, called a biased view of the self. Bodhisattvas, too, have attachments. What are their attachments? They are attached to the existence of living beings that can be liberated, to a Buddha Way that can be sought, and to a True Thusness to which they certify. Their certification has not reached the point of being without knowing and without attaining. They still have something to which they certify, something that they attain. They certify to and attain True Thusness. Since Bodhisattvas have these attachments, they also have not forgotten the self. They still have a self. And as long as one has a self, one still has falseness. In the Buddhadharma, one wants to be without a self in one’s cultivation of all dharmas. Then one can obtain the state of the Great Vehicle.

The Shastra begins with this quotation of what was spoken by the Buddha, that “All dharmas have no self.” The subsequent text was written by Heavenly Relative Bodhisattva.


What are “all dharmas,” and what is meant by “having no self”? All dharmas may be generally grouped into five categories.


What are all dharmas, and what is meant by “having no self”? Now Heavenly Relative Bodhisattva will analyze the Buddha’s words. All dharmas may be generally grouped into five categories. This is looking at them from a broad and comprehensive viewpoint. What are the five categories?

The Five Categories

I. The Eight Mind Dharmas.

II. The Fifty-one Dharmas Belonging to the Mind.

III. The Eleven Form Dharmas.

IV. The Twenty-four Activities Dharmas Non-interactive with the Mind.

V. The Six Unconditioned Dharmas.


I. Mind Dharmas


The first one, Mind Dharmas, refers to dharmas of the Mind King. The mind is called King, because each and every dharma is established based upon the mind. If there were no Mind Dharmas, then no dharmas would exist at all. It is said:

The Buddha spoke all dharmas for the sake of the minds of all living beings.
If it were not for all those minds, of what use would all dharmas be?

There are eight Mind King dharmas, but we will not talk about them yet, as they will be discussed later.


II. Dharmas Belonging to the Mind.


There are two ways to interpret the second category, Dharmas Belonging to the Mind. On the one hand they are Dharmas Belonging to the Mind, and on the other, they are servants of the mind. They work for the mind. The mind is King, and the Dharmas Belonging to the Mind are his servants. But they are also like great ministers. The King is unable to carry out actions himself, so he uses those belonging to the mind to do things. That is the meaning of belonging to the mind. They are also known as enumerations of the mind, because they have a fixed number; there are fifty-one of them. Since these dharmas arise from the mind, they are of the same family as the mind. Hence they are called Dharmas Belonging to the Mind, the second category.


III. Form Dharmas.


Form Dharmas is the third category. Anything that has form and shape, that has a substantial aspect to it, is known as a form dharma. This does not just refer to their color but also to their tangible form, their substantive aspect. There are eleven Form Dharmas. They, too, will be discussed later on.


IV. Activities Dharmas Non-interactive With the Mind.


Category four, Activities Dharmas Non-interactive with the Mind, refers to dharmas that do not interact, do not work together with the dharmas of any of the other categories. These kinds of dharmas are produced on their own from the mind without interacting. They are related to and have aspects of activities. There are twenty-four such dharmas.


V. Unconditioned Dharmas.  


The previous four categories were all conditioned dharmas. This final category, number five, is that of Unconditioned Dharmas. These are dharmas used in cultivation of the world-transcending Great Vehicle. The states they represent can be certified to if one cultivates transcendental dharmas.

We have not said anything in detail about the five categories of dharmas yet, because they will all be discussed in detail later when we come to them in the text.

To review, the first four categories are conditioned dharmas and the fifth is Unconditioned Dharmas. If one only knows about the first four kinds, then one is an ordinary person or an externalist. If one only knows the dharmas of the last category, the

Unconditioned Dharmas, then one resides in the one-sided emptiness of the Small Vehicle, which has not reached the state of the Great Vehicle. What is the state of the Great Vehicle?

Right in the midst of the conditioned is the unconditioned.

It is right within conditioned dharmas that one sees Unconditioned Dharmas. It is not that one leaves conditioned dharmas behind and finds other dharmas that are unconditioned. Rather, its being conditioned or unconditioned just differs by a single

thought. Understanding the unconditioned while in the midst of the conditioned is what is meant by “being in the world while transcending the world.” Being that way while in the world, one does not fight, is not greedy, has no impeding obstructions, and is free and at ease. One exists in a state of interpenetration, and it is extremely blissful. To be in the world while transcending the world is the state of a Great Vehicle Bodhisattva. If at that point one can progress further and use the principle of selflessness to cultivate courageously and vigorously, then one can obtain the fruition of Wonderful Enlightenment.

This has been an overall view of the Five Categories of Dharmas.  


They are in this sequence because the first are supreme, the second interact with the first, the third are the shadows manifest by the previous two, the fourth are separate from the positions of the previous three, and the fifth are revealed by the previous four.


They are in this sequence because of the following reasons. The first refers to the Mind Dharmas. They are supreme over all else, since the mind is king and all dharmas arise from it. The second interact with the first. The second category is Dharmas Belonging to the Mind. They obey the orders of the Mind King. The third are the shadows manifest by the previous two. Form Dharmas are the third category. Form Dharmas come into being from the shadows cast by the Mind Dharmas and the Dharmas Belonging to the Mind. Therefore, Form Dharmas belong to the marks division of the eighth consciousness.

Two Divisions of the Eighth Consciousness

1. Seeing division.

2. Marks division.

The marks division basically has no nature of its own. We see all sorts of things as having shape, form, marks, or characteristics, but basically they do not exist at all. It is simply that the eighth consciousness makes them appear.

The fourth are separate from the positions of the previous three. The fourth category is activities dharmas not interactive with the mind. They are separate from Mind Dharmas, Dharmas Belonging to the Mind, and Form Dharmas. And the fifth are revealed by the previous four. Those in the fifth category, Unconditioned Dharmas, are extremely profound. There is no way one could understand them. But in order to attempt to understand them, one must make use of the conditioned dharmas. The Unconditioned Dharmas are revealed by the conditioned dharmas.

The categories of the Hundred Dharmas are in this sequence. They go from Mind Dharmas, to Dharmas Belonging to the Mind, to Form Dharmas, to Activities Dharmas Non-interactive with the Mind, to Unconditioned Dharmas. They appear in that order for the reasons just given.  


The first, Mind Dharmas, include in general eight:

  1. the eye consciousness;
  2. the ear consciousness;
  3. the nose consciousness;
  4. the tongue consciousness;
  5. the body consciousness;
  6. the mind consciousness;
  7. the manas consciousness; and
  8. the alaya consciousness.


Now, at last, we are going to discuss some dharmas. The first, Mind Dharmas, include in general eight. One, the eye consciousness. We say that eyes can see, but it is not actually the eyes themselves that see. It is the eye consciousness that sees. Two, the ear consciousness. We say the ears can hear, but if your ears were sliced off and laid aside, would they be able to hear by themselves? No. If your eyes were gouged and set aside would they be able to see? Could you say, “I’m not going to the movies, but I’ll send my eyes along, and they can take in the show.” Obviously not. The eyes cannot see by themselves. It is the eye consciousness that does the seeing. And from where does the eye consciousness come? It comes from the mind, the Mind King. The same is true for all the other consciousnesses as well: three, the nose consciousness; four, the tongue consciousness; five, the body consciousness; and six, the mind consciousness. The six sense faculties of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind combine with the six defiling sense objects of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch and dharmas. When that occurs, a consciousness arises between each pair. On the inside there are six faculties, on the outside there are six sense objects, and in the middle, in between the faculties and their objects, the six consciousnesses arise. Taken together, these three sets of six make up the Eighteen Realms. I discussed these in detail when I lectured the Heart Sutra, so if you want to further explore them, you can look into that text.

The mind consciousness, the sixth or “intellectual” consciousness, is not actually the substance of the mind. The sixth consciousness is the function of the mind, whose substance is seven, the manas consciousness, also called the “transmitting” consciousness, or the “defiling” consciousness. The seventh consciousness is the substance of the mind. It continually takes the functions of the sixth consciousness and transmits them to the eighth, the alaya consciousness. The eighth consciousness is called the alaya, which means “store,” because it stores all information transmitted to it by the seventh. If it is turned around, it becomes the Nature of the Treasury of the Thus Come One.

When the eight consciousnesses are turned around, they become four kinds of wisdom.

Four Kinds of Wisdom

1. The great perfect mirror wisdom.

2. The wisdom of equality.

3. The wisdom of wonderful contemplation.

4. The wisdom that accomplishes what is done.

How does one turn them around? One must work hard at cultivation, and then one will know how to do it. I cannot tell you now, because even if I were to tell you, in the future you still would not know.

Upon awakening, one naturally obtains them.

If you yourself cultivate, then you yourself will know. Before you know, it does not do any good to be told. But once you know, you very naturally will have the use of them.

Alaya is a Sanskrit word that means “storehouse.” The alaya is the store consciousness, because it is like the ground in which we plant seeds, storing them away until they sprout. That is why there are often analogies made likening the mind to the ground or to a field. For instance it is said,

Plant the ground of the mind;
Nurture the field of the nature.

All the different external and internal states we experience, whether good or bad, defiled or pure, are planted as seeds in the eighth consciousness. The seeds of every event, circumstance, and experience are stored away in that store consciousness. If you cultivate and turn that store consciousness around, then it becomes the Nature of the Treasury of the Thus Come One. It is just a matter of being able to use it. If you can use it, then the great perfect mirror wisdom will appear. If you cannot use it, then you just keep on having false thinking. And all the false thoughts you have, whether they come about or not, still get stored in the eighth consciousness. Even the most subtle kinds of mental activities, impulses of which you are completely unaware, get stored there as seeds.

In a single unenlightened thought,
The three subtle marks appear.

[Note: The Three Subtle Marks are the mark of karma, the mark of turning, and the mark of manifesting.] When they appear, the Thus Come One’s Treasury turns into the eighth consciousness. However, if you are able to turn that eighth consciousness back around to become the Nature of the Treasury of the Thus Come One, then you are one who has returned to the origin and gone back to the source.

This has been a general explanation of the Eight Mind Dharmas. When discussed in detail, the subject is quite complex.

Among the Eight Mind Dharmas, the sixth is called the mind consciousness. And why is the seventh also called the manas, “mind” or “intellectual” consciousness? It is because the sixth exists in reliance on the seventh consciousness. The seventh is the basis, the fundamental mind consciousness. It is the root of the mind consciousness, whereas the sixth is the function of the mind consciousness. The seventh consciousness is called the “defiled consciousness.” It is also known as “that on which defiled and pure rely.” The sixth consciousness is defiled, and the eighth consciousness is pure. The purity of the eighth consciousness relies upon the seventh consciousness, hence its name: “that on which defiled and pure rely.”

The eighth consciousness is the alaya consciousness. Alaya means “non-vanishing,” and it also means “store.” “Non-vanishing” refers to how True Thusness accords with birth and death and yet remains and does not vanish. True Thusness is never lost; it does not disappear. “Store” consciousness has three meanings.

The Three Meanings of Store Consciousness

1. That which stores.

2. That which is stored.

3. Attaching and storing.

The first meaning is “that which stores,” because it stores all good and evil seeds within it. The second meaning is “that which is stored,” referring to the seeds stored in the eighth consciousness. All good and evil karma is stored here. The third meaning is “attaching and storing,” for attachment and storing take place within the eighth consciousness.

Absolutely everything we do, every thought we have, be it good or bad, is stored in the eighth consciousness. All dharmas whatsoever are manifestations from the eighth consciousness. The things that we see comprise the marks division of the eighth consciousness. Our ability to see them makes up the seeing division of the eighth consciousness. That is why it is said that the myriad dharmas are consciousness only; they arise from consciousness alone. Consciousness is just True Thusness when it is bound. Consciousness is also what we refer to as the Buddha-nature. It is also the source of all good and evil. And it is the original home, the ancestral village, of all ordinary people and sages.

previous * next

return to top