Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharmas

The Shastra




The second, Dharmas Belonging to the Mind, include, in general, fifty-one. They are grouped into six categories:

  1. Five universally interactive;
  2. Five particular states;
  3. Eleven wholesome;
  4. Six fundamental afflictions;
  5. Twenty derivative afflictions; and,
  6. Four unfixed.

One, the five universally interactive are:

1. attention;

2. contact;

3. feeling;

4. thinking; and,

5. deliberation.


Now we will discuss the second, Dharmas Belonging to the Mind. Dharmas Belonging to the Mind also belong to Mind Dharmas, but they are subjects of the mind, not the Mind King. The Mind King is the eighth consciousness. The Mind King, at the time of direct perception—that is, perception through the nature—pervades the entire Dharma Realm and has no wearisome defilements. It can stop all karmic retribution. But, these Dharmas Belonging to the Mind help the mind enact deeds of good and evil, creating good or evil karma.

The Mind King is like an emperor. Just as an emperor orders his ministers to carry out his commands, so, too, the Mind King relies on the Dharmas Belonging to the Mind in order to get things done. In this case, they include, in general, fifty-one. They are also known as servants of the mind. Another name for them is enumerations of the mind. The mind has so many of these kinds of deliberations that they could never be counted, but there are fifty-one enumerations of the mind that are most important. They—these Fifty-one Dharmas Belonging to the Mind—are further grouped into six categories.

These six categories are like departments. The first one is the five universally interactive dharmas, which are called that because they pervade all places. They operate universally, and there are five specific dharmas listed in this division. Two is the five particular states dharmas; they are independent. Whereas the universally interactive dharmas pervade all places, these particular states do not pervade at all. They are isolated. They are very special, solitary, and exclusive states. There are also five of these listed. Three is the eleven wholesome dharmas. Eleven specific ones are listed.

Four, the six fundamental afflictions, is the next division. We talk about having afflictions, but now we will learn more specifically just what types of afflictions there are, along with where they come from. The six fundamental afflictions are just six kinds of poison. Division five is the twenty derivative afflictions. The six kinds of afflictions just discussed are the basic ones, but there are also subsidiary afflictions, twenty in number. These twenty afflictions are further subdivided into minor, moderate, and strong afflictions. And six, the last division is the four unfixed Dharmas Belonging to the Mind.

Now we will begin discussing the first one, the five universally interactive. What are they? The text goes on to explain: One, attention. Attention is as when paying attention, putting one’s mind’s attention on something, or literally “making a mind”. Attention is an attempt to grasp onto a state.

Basically, the Mind King does not enter into this act of attention by itself. But because of good and evil karma planted as seeds in the eighth consciousness from long-distant past kalpas to the present, the eighth consciousness becomes permeated by these habitual tendencies, just as smoke permeates food being cured, or incense permeates the atmosphere of the Buddhahall. When the permeation reaches a saturation point, movement arises within the eighth consciousness. That movement takes the form of attention. Therefore, attention marks the beginning of the mind giving rise to a state.

The situation of a Bodhisattva is such that he is omniscient without having to perform the act of attention. He can know good and evil, causes and effects without making an effort to do so. Arhats, however, do have to perform the act of attention. They must pay attention to see what is going on. Once they have gone through the process of attention, then they can know what something is all about. They can know the causes and results of any given situation that occurs.

For example, why did the thirty-four pigeons fly away? Basically, it is because when they were people they created certain kinds of karma. They did not work hard at their cultivation. They thought they would leave home, but they never did. They thought they would get around to cultivating, but they never did. They thought they would become vegetarians, but they never did. They thought they would recite the Buddha’s name, but they never did. They never got around to doing what they were supposed to be doing.

This does not apply just to pigeons. Some people who come to the Buddhist Lecture Hall never leave. Others come but do not stay. Still others intend to come but never make it in the door. You should not look upon these conditions as ordinary, nothing special, and take them for granted. They are, in fact, quite extraordinary. People without good roots simply cannot get themselves inside the door of the Buddhist Lecture Hall. If the people here did not have good roots, they would not be able to listen to sutra lectures. All those who are able to listen to sutra lectures have good roots.

However, even then, there are great good roots and small good roots; there are those with many good roots and those with few good roots. If you want to bring forth the resolve for Bodhi, you must listen to more and more Dharma lectures. When you come to understand a lot of Buddhadharma, then very naturally, you will resolve your mind on Bodhi. That is what is meant by attention.

Attention is universally interactive, and the second universally interactive dharma, is contact, which is also what the remaining three universally interactive dharmas—feeling, thinking, and deliberation—rely upon. Once contact is established, feeling arises. Once feeling arises, there is thinking, and then there is deliberation.

Therefore, contact provides the locus for feeling, thinking, and deliberation to base themselves upon. Contact is not something you should want. As soon as you have reached the state of contact, there will be feeling belonging to the mind, thinking belonging to the mind, and deliberation belonging to the mind. With attention, as mentioned above, comes the start of a state arising from the mind. However, with contact comes the start of a mind arising from the state, a kind of mental false thought.

As a false thought of the mind arises, then a mental attitude of feeling is produced toward the state. There is a drive to experience the feeling, which is thinking; thinking about the state and then pursuing it. Therefore, the false thinking is produced from the state. Once there is thinking, then there will be deliberation. What is deliberation? Deliberation captures the mind, causing the mind to take stock, to calculate and reckon: “How can I get that state? What can I do?” The five just discussed are called the five universally interactive. They are universally interactive because they pervade the three natures and extend throughout the three periods of time.

The Three Moral Aspects

1. The good nature.

2. The evil nature.

3. The indeterminate nature.

“Indeterminate” means it is not known whether it is good or evil.

The Three Periods of Time

1. Past.

2. Present.

3. Future.

These are also referred to as past time, present time, and future time, covering all times. What is meant by “past”? What is meant by “present”? What is meant by “future”? I will tell you. Today is the present, yesterday was the past, and tomorrow is the future. The future does not exist, because it has not come. The present keeps changing and does not stay still, so it does not exist either. The past is already gone, and so it does not exist. Therefore, although the five universally interactive dharmas pervade the three periods of time, ultimately they cannot be got at.

If one could put a stop to the five kinds of universally interactive dharmas—which one could do whenever one wanted—then one would not create evil karma. But if you do not stop them, they continue to exist. Actually, with the coming into being of

the five universally interactive dharmas, one still has not created any good or evil karma. It is when the five particular states arise that there is no stopping the creation of good and evil karma.


Two, the five particular states are:

1. desire;

2. resolution;

3. recollection;

4. concentration; and,

5. judgment.


“Particular” can have several meanings, such as “special,” “distinct,” and “individual”. The word “particular” is used to describe these dharmas as different from the five universally interactive. Each one of the five universally interactive dharmas includes the meanings of all five. But the five particular states are not the same as each other and are, in fact, quite distinct and individual, not pervasive, making them just the opposite of the previous group of five universally interactive. Each one of these is individually produced from “climbing upon” a certain state, separate from the other four, hence the name “particular state”. These five come into being when the “climbing mind” climbs upon an associated state.

As has already been discussed, at the level of the five universally pervasive dharmas, thoughts of good and evil have not yet formed. At that point, one could suppress the mind processes and thereby keep such thoughts from being produced. If one works hard at cultivating, one can keep from producing thoughts of good and evil. If one can manage not to produce thoughts of good and evil, then there will not be any creation

of good or evil karma. However, if one gives rise to these dharmas of five particular states, among the Dharmas Belonging to the Mind, then one can no longer stop thoughts of good and evil from arising. Therefore, the actual “doing” of good and evil begins with these five particular states.

Of the five particular states, the first one is desire. What is meant by desire? It is the wanting of something. Once one wants something, the next thing that happens is that one tries to get it—to grasp at it. That is the result of desire. What does one want to get most? Pleasurable states. One wants to have pleasurable experiences.

Two, resolution, is rendered in Chinese by a pair of characters that mean literally “supreme understanding.” This mental dharma functions when a state arises that one

wants to investigate, to figure out. One becomes involved in the situation, and is determined to figure it out, to understand what it is all about. One becomes quite intent upon this, thinking things like, “What shall I do about it? I’ve got to come to terms with this and resolve it.” One feels one must make up one’s mind about it and know exactly what’s going on with it. When one is intent upon this process of resolution, if other causes and conditions arise during that time, they will not be able to shake one’s mind or prevent it from making this resolution. That is why the Chinese uses “supreme understanding,” to try and indicate the intensity behind this dharma of resolution.

Three, recollection means “remembering clearly.” What does one remember clearly? One remembers the states one has already experienced. For example, an adult may be able to recollect what he studied in grammar school. That is an example of this dharma—clearly remembering and not forgetting—which is the third particular state.

Although the Sanskrit for four, concentration, is samadhi, what is being described is not samadhi as defined in the list of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom: the three non-outflow studies. Here we render the word in English as concentration, because it means exclusively paying attention to something. It means to be without distractions in one’s mind. It means continually thinking about something or focusing one’s attention on it.

When this dharma is functioning, your mind will be concentrated on one particular experience to the exclusion of all others. This kind of single-minded concentration is something an ordinary person is capable of. One uses it when performing some activity which one wants to bring to successful accomplishment.

And sometimes, with that much concentration, five, an accuracy of judgment will arise, which is the fifth particular state. Although the Sanskrit for this fifth dharma is prajna, it is not referring to genuine wisdom, but to an ability which the average person possesses. It is not the prajna wisdom which people who cultivate the Way are working to bring forth.

Here, we call it judgment, for it refers to being worldly wise, which involves the ability to make judgments and decisions, to have a “sense of judgment.” It functions when one tries to figure out if something one did was done well or not, done correctly or incorrectly. That is judgment, worldly wisdom.

When it is a question of wisdom of world-transcending dharmas, samadhi and prajna help each other out. Samadhi assists prajna wisdom, and prajna wisdom enhances samadhi. That is how samadhi and wisdom work on the world-transcending level. But when we speak of the concentration and judgment which are worldly dharmas, they remain isolated from each other. They do not mutually function. It is not the case that if one has concentration then one will have judgment, or that if one has judgment one will have concentration.

These worldly dharmas of concentration and judgment cannot happen at the same time. When one is in the midst of concentration, one will not be using the dharma of judgment; and when one is in the process of using judgment, one will not be simultaneously using concentration. Hence, at the mundane level, these two dharmas of concentration and judgment are separate.

All of these five particular states are the same way, isolated from each other. Each one deals with its own particular state. It is not that each one pervades all five, so that one state includes all five states. The previous five universally interactive dharmas were such that one kind of state was replete with five types of minds. These five particular states are isolated from each other, so their states are altogether different.

Since they are not the same, let us look at how each arises. Desire arises for pleasurable states. In states requiring decisiveness, resolution is produced. Toward states one has already experienced, one gives rise to recollection. Concentration is initiated toward states that one contemplates, and then judgment arises. Thus we distinguish them from the previous five universally interactive, and call them the five particular states.


Three, the eleven wholesome dharmas are:

1. faith;

2. vigor;

3. remorse;

4. shame;

5. absence of greed;

6. absence of anger;

7. absence of foolishness;

8. light ease;

9. non-laxness;

10. renunciation; and,

11. non-harming.


This is the third of six divisions of the Fifty-one Dharmas Belonging to the Mind. These eleven wholesome dharmas are good dharmas, and so are called wholesome. They help you to cultivate and accomplish your work.

Of the eleven wholesome dharmas, the first is faith. Faith is necessary in whatever one does. One needs to have a sense of confidence, an attitude of belief. First one needs to have faith in oneself. What kind of faith? One needs to have faith that one certainly can become a Buddha. One has to believe that there is no difference between the Buddha and oneself. But that non-differentiation is in the Buddha-nature. In order to actually become a Buddha, cultivation is still required. If one cultivates, one will become a Buddha. In order to do so, one must have an initial belief in that principle.

Second, not only does one want to believe that one can become a Buddha oneself, but also to believe that all people can become Buddhas. However, not only can all people become Buddhas, one should believe that all living beings have the Buddha-nature and are capable of becoming Buddhas. If one has that kind of faith, then one should begin by following the rules oneself.

To follow the rules means to hold the precepts. First, one holds the precepts, and then one can become a Buddha. One does that oneself, and also encourages others, all living beings, to do so as well. Faith must be solid, like a rock, firm and sturdy. Faith should not be like a pile of ashes that seems to have some substance to it, but crumbles at the slightest disturbance. Do not be too soft. One’s faith must be strong and solid.

Once one has solid faith, then one should put it into action with the second wholesome dharma, vigor. What should one be vigorous doing? One should be vigorous in cultivating. Be mindful of the Buddha, mindful of the Dharma, and mindful of the Sangha. Use vigor in doing that. Do not always be retreating. One should always keep advancing, being more and more vigorous.

Three is remorse, which also carries the meaning of repentance. This dharma is enacted with regard to one’s self. One should bring forth an attitude of remorse and repentance, thinking, “The things I have done are really not right. I ought to change and become a new person.”

Number four is shame. This dharma of shame is enacted with regard to others. One should harbor a sense of shame akin to embarrassment, thinking, “I’m not up to that person. I should not feel that I am better than other people. That person is actually much better than I am. See how that person is always in such good spirits and free from worry? Why is it that I have so many worries?” That is the kind of attitude one should have.

Five is absence ofgreed. Do not be greedy. The way greed works is that if there is something one has not gotten, then one wants to get it. But after getting it, one fears losing it. Both the desire to obtain and the fear of losing are aspects of greed. Therefore, do not be greedy for wealth, do not be greedy for beautiful forms, do not be greedy for fame, and do not be greedy for profit.

I teach you not to be greedy, but I, myself, must be greedy. However, I am being greedy on your behalf. I am greedy for everyone else’s sake, not for my own sake. The greed that I have exists on behalf of all cultivators in America. What is it I am greedy for? I am greedy for a Way-place for you Americans to cultivate in. If you all have a Way-place together, you can cultivate the Way. If you do not even have a Way-place, how can you cultivate the Way? To have the Way, you must have a place. And so, I have become greedy for a Way-place, and now it is about to appear as a response to my greed.

To begin with, I was not going to become greedy; but I see that if I am not, your opportunities for becoming Buddhas will evolve a lot more slowly. That is the motivation behind my greed, that all of you can become Buddhas a little sooner. All of you should help me out with this greed of mine. I just told you not to be greedy, and now I am telling you to be greedy! But this kind of greed is for the sake of others, not for oneself, so do not hesitate to have more of this kind of greed.

Greed, anger, and foolishness are known as the three poisons, and absence of greed, absence of anger, and absence of foolishness are called the three kinds of good roots.

The Three Poisons

1. Greed.

2. Anger.

3. Foolishness.

The Three Kinds of Good Roots

1. Absence of greed.

2. Absence of anger.

3. Absence of foolishness.

We are told not to be greedy. If one is greedy for oneself, one is indeed greedy; but if one is greedy for the sake of living beings, one is not actually being greedy. However, a certain fault can develop out of this. It is very easy for people to become hypocritical, rationalizing that what they want is for the sake of all beings, when in fact they want it for their own sakes. People who have this fault can be very clever at instigating what they want in a way that others fail to recognize their real motives. But, as long as one has a personal stake in it, there is still greed.

What, then, is meant by not having a personal stake in it? If one is not seeking fame for oneself; if one is not seeking profit for oneself; if one is not seeking any kind of self-benefit at all, then one does not have a personal stake in it.

Why is greed considered unwholesome? Because it is a defiled kind of dharma. It is unclean. Anyone who is greedy, therefore, is also unclean. One has defilement and filth, and one has attachments. That is why greed is not good. Retributions involving suffering come as a result of having been greedy in the past. Any suffering due you in the future, would be the result of present greed.

Six is absence of anger. Do not be angry, either. Anger is a kind of hostility harbored within.

Seven is absence of foolishness and is characterized by murkiness. It is ignorance, a lack of clarity.

Absence of greed, absence of anger, and absence of foolishness become the Three Kinds of Good Roots.

Eight, light ease, is an initial expedient in the cultivation of Chan samadhi. In the process of cultivation, before samadhi is actually achieved, one experiences a kind of light ease. Where does this state come from? It comes from being vigorous in cultivating wholesome dharmas and in stopping evil dharmas. Along with being vigorous in wholesome dharmas, one must vigorously abstain from greed, abstain from anger, and abstain from foolishness, practicing the three kinds of good roots discussed above.

The resultant merit and virtue will manifest as a state of light ease, an incredibly comfortable feeling of both body and mind. Then, whenever one sits in meditation investigating Chan, one experiences an unsurpassed happiness, an extremely blissful state. That is what is meant here by light ease.

Nine is non-laxness. Not being lax means adhering the rules. When one is not lax, one adheres to the rules and relies on the Dharma to cultivate. To never be casual or aloof at any time is what is meant by not being lax.

And what is an example of being lax? During the first summer session (1968), when listening to lectures, one of my disciples used to take his legs out of full lotus, stretch them out full length and prop them on a cushion in front of him. That is an example of being lax. However, he does not do that anymore, which is an example of non-laxness.

Ten, renunciation, specifically refers to renouncing everything within the activities skandha. One renounces whatever is not in accord with the rules. The renunciation one does with regard to the activities skandha is different from the renunciation that takes place with regard to the feeling skandha. Renunciations within the feeling skandha are made as soon as one has an awakening to them.

But renunciation within the activities skandha is not so obvious. We know that the activities skandha involves a ceaseless flow of thoughts. Within this, one must renounce everything that arises which is not in accord with the rules. For every little bit that is renounced, one comes that much closer to a response with the Way. If in every thought one is capable of this kind of renunciation, then in every thought one enters the Way.

Eleven is non-harming. This means not harming any living being. Absence of anger is different from non-harming. Absence of anger involves not reciprocating when someone else directs anger at one, or shows hostility towards one, or does not do what one wants him or her to do. It is a passive stance. But non-harming is a restraint on one’s own aggressive tendencies. It refers to how one treats others, specifically by not harming them. Absence of anger means not retaliating when confronted with opposition, whereas non-harming means not initiating any kind of harm toward others.

“Climbing upon” is alambana in Sanskrit and means “support,” in this case, for a thought or mental process. The Chinese use of the characters that mean “climb upon” to describe the action of the mind on a dharma comes from this meaning. The mind “climbs upon” dharmas in the same way that other senses respond to their corresponding sense objects. “Climbing upon” refers to the various ways in which the mind sets up factors that make states arise or act as a support for those states.

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