Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharmas

The Shastra




The third is the Form Dharmas. In general, there are eleven kinds:

1. eyes;

2. ears;

3. nose;

4. tongue;

5. body;

6. forms;

7. sounds;

8. smells;

9. flavors;

10. objects of touch; and,

11. dharmas pertaining to form.


To review, so far we have discussed the first overall category of Eight Mind Dharmas, and the second overall category of Fifty-one Dharmas Belonging to the Mind. Now we come to the third major group, which is the Form Dharmas. Form Dharmas are those which have shape and substantial physical form, a kind of obstructive quality. They have substantial shape that can be seen, and obstructiveness that can be interacted with. They stand in contrast to the Mind Dharmas and Dharmas Belonging to the Mind.

Number one is eyes. The eyes are classified as a form dharma, because not only can they see all kinds of forms, they are themselves physical forms. They have a substantial shape and can be seen. When the eyes see things that are enjoyable to look at, they never get tired of looking at them. But if they look at things which are unpleasant to see, they object to the sight and resist looking.

Two is ears. The ears hear all kinds of sounds. If the ears hear sounds that are pleasurable, they can listen day after day without any sense of fatigue. But as soon as they hear something that is not pleasant, they do not like it and quickly grow tired of it. Three is nose. The nose smells scents, and if they are pleasant and fragrant, then the more it smells the better it likes it. It never grows tired of smelling. But if it has to smell some stench, it will object from the moment it gets a whiff of it and grow tired of it immediately.

Four is tongue. The tongue tastes flavors. If they are pleasant flavors, the tongue is delighted to taste them. If the flavors are unpleasant, it does not like to taste them. It says, “Ugh, that’s too bitter! I don’t want to eat it!”

Five is body. If the body likes something, it wants to get near it and come into contact with it. If it does not like something, it wants to stay far away from it. Those five Form Dharmas just discussed are the five internal sense organs. The sixth in the list, the faculty of the mind, is not a form dharma, because the intellect belongs to the sixth consciousness, making it a mind dharma.

Six, forms; seven, sounds; eight, smells; nine, flavors; and ten, objects of touch are all included under the category of Form Dharmas. They are the five external sense objects, or dusts.

Number eleven of the Form Dharmas is dharmas pertaining to form. This is classed as a type of form dharma, because these dharmas are the shadows cast within the intellect by the five external dusts. Thus, even though they happen in the mind, they belong to form. What is the origin of these Eleven Form Dharmas? It is the Nature of the Treasury of the Thus Come One. All these dharmas are composed of the four elements.

The Four Elements

1. Earth.

2. Water.

3. Fire.

4. Air.

Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, forms, sounds, smells, flavors, objects of touch, and dharmas pertaining to form are composed of the four elements. These sense organs and the sense objects are formed by the coming together of the four elements.

Besides that, earth, air, fire, and water fill the entire Dharma Realm. In the Shurangama Sutra, the principle of the four elements is discussed in detail, and it is shown how they are all the nature of the Treasury of the Thus Come One. We ordinary we people consider fire and water to be incompatible. However, water pervades the entire Dharma Realm, as does fire. Air and earth also entirely pervade the Dharma Realm. Within the Dharma Realm they assist one another and do not interfere with one another.

Water is not incompatible with fire and fire does not hinder water. They all get along just fine! How can this be? It is because in nature they are all the Treasury of the Thus Come One. Our bodies start out as being the four elements, and from these arise all the various dharmas. People who have never listened to the sutras before may find it hard to fathom how our bodies are composed of the four elements, but if you look into it in detail, it will become clear to you, and you will know that it is true.

Take for example the moist parts of your body, the perspiration, urine, and all the other liquids. These belong to the element water. Your temperature belongs to the element fire. Your breath belongs to the element air. And your skin, flesh, muscles, and bones belong to the element earth. When the four elements come together in this way, then the Eleven Form Dharmas result. This has been just a brief explanation of how these Form Dharmas come about. If you really want to know about them, you will have to become enlightened, and then you will be able to completely fathom them.

There are only two major categories of dharmas left, and so my explanation of them will soon be completed. Then, the question of whether or not you enter this “door to understanding” lies with you. Whether I have explained them clearly is my concern. Whether you have listened to them clearly is your concern. If you are clear, then you will understand these hundred dharmas. If you are not clear, then you will not have understood them. If you understand these hundred dharmas, then you will be able to understand all the essential principles of Buddhism. If you have understood them, then it can be said you have opened an enlightenment. If you have not understood them, you can keep studying them gradually.


The fourth is Activities Dharmas Non-interactive with the Mind. In general, there are twenty-four:

  • attainment;
  • life-faculty;
  • generic similarity;
  • dissimilarity;
  • the No-thought Samadhi;
  • the Samadhi of Extinction;
  • the Reward of No-Thought;
  • bodies of nouns;
  • bodies of sentences;
  • bodies of phonemes;
  • birth;
  • dwelling;
  • aging;
  • impermanence;
  • revolving;
  • distinction;
  • interaction;
  • speed;
  • sequence;
  • time;
  • direction;
  • numeration;
  • combination; and,
  • discontinuity.


The fourth is the Activities Dharmas Non-interactive with the Mind. Non-interactive explained in contemporary terms means not cooperating. You do not cooperate with me, and I do not cooperate with you. For example, if I say, “Let’s go east,” and you insist on going west, then that is not cooperating, and we are non-interactive. If we are interactive, then we cooperate. In that case, when I say “to the east,” you also go east, and when I suggest heading west, you go west, too. Another example of interaction is when we take some grain in our hands and the pigeons come and eat out of our hands. We have the grain and they want to eat it, so we interact. But if they did not eat it, then there would not be any interaction.

What is it that these twenty-four Non-interactive Dharmas do not interact with? They do not interact with the Mind Dharmas. They do not interact with the Dharmas Belonging to the Mind. They do not interact with the Form Dharmas, and even less would they interact with the Unconditioned Dharmas. That is because they are very special.

How is it that they do not interact with the Mind Dharmas or Dharmas Belonging to the Mind? Mind Dharmas and Dharmas Belonging to the Mind are able to “climb on” external states. They have that ability. But these twenty-four non-interactive dharmas do not have the same ability as Mind Dharmas and Dharmas Belonging to the Mind. They are not able to “climb upon” states. Therefore, they are not interactive with Mind Dharmas or Dharmas Belonging to the Mind.

You might say that if they do not interact with Mind Dharmas and Dharmas Belonging to the Mind, at least they should be interactive with Form Dharmas. But they are not interactive with those either. Why not? These dharmas cannot be called Form Dharmas, because they do not have any substance, and they do not have any marks. They have no physical characteristics.

All twenty-four of these dharmas are false. They are absolutely and totally false, so do not mistake them for something real. The reason they do not interact with the other dharmas is that they are false and therefore cannot combine with anything else at all. Nonetheless they do exist. But although they exist, they have no substance of their own, no characteristics of their own. Therefore, they do not interact.

They do not have any real shape or characteristics, and so they are false.

You are listening to the Dharma, and there are both true dharmas and false dharmas. Now I am speaking false dharmas for you, but that is because it is necessary for you to know the false dharmas in order for your true nature can appear. If you do not know the false dharmas, how can you attain your true nature? If you mistake the false for the true, then that becomes the false within the false, unreality within unreality.

It is false to start with, and you add some further unreality. That is to be like the Venerable Ananda. We cannot simply call him “Ananda,” but should add the title “Venerable.” He wanted to attain the true, but was afraid of losing the false. He could not give up the false. If you cannot let go of what is false, the true will not manifest. Hence there is the saying:

If you cannot give up the false,
You will not accomplish the true.
If you cannot give up death,
You cannot exchange it for life.

Now I am telling you about these twenty-four kinds of false dharmas. Although they have no shape or characteristics, they are still subject to production and extinction. Since they are subject to production and extinction, they also are not interactive with the Unconditioned Dharmas. The unconditioned is not subject to production or extinction, but these twenty-four false dharmas all have a nature subject to production and extinction. They are basically shadows cast by the interaction of Form Dharmas, Mind Dharmas, and Dharmas Belonging to the Mind. Consequently, they are false; there is actually nothing true about them.

Someone is thinking, “Today I really wanted to hear some true Dharma, but all this Dharma Master has talked about is false dharmas. If I had known his whole lecture was going to be about false dharmas, I wouldn’t have come to listen.” Well, if you refuse to hear about false dharmas, then there is no true Dharma. First you have to learn about false dharmas, and then you will be able to recognize true Dharma. Therefore, this is still a case of speaking the false for the sake of the true, and then the false is dispersed so the true appears.

As to these Activities Dharmas Non-interactive with the Mind, in general there are twenty-four. The first one is attainment. Attainment means starting out not having something and then getting it. And where does attainment generated from? It arises from greed. Within a state of not wanting anything, you suddenly want to gain something.

For example, you might say, “I’ve attained a piece of gold. Tell me, is this gold or not?” However, the gold itself is not the attainment. Attainment is a pseudonym, an unreal designation, hence it is a false dharma.

The life-faculty, or root of life, comes from seeds residing in the eighth consciousness. When these seeds are vivified, there is life. As soon as the eighth consciousness resides in your body, your body is alive. When the eighth consciousness is in your body, the life faculty is there. When the eighth consciousness leaves your body, life goes with it.

Therefore, the root of life, the life faculty, is false as well. Do not think, “This life of mine is true. No matter what, I’m going to take care of this precious body of mine. Nobody can get away with bumping into me. I will not allow anyone to say anything the least bit impolite to me.” It is just because you are unable to give up your root of life that you are unable to become enlightened and cannot achieve Buddhahood.

The life faculty is actually harmful to you, it is a detriment, but you do not realize it. You think it is a precious treasure. You consider your life to be valuable and important. But that is just an attachment. You are mistaking the false for the true. Your self-nature is true but your life is not true. The life faculty is false.

Three, generic similarity, refers to a group having similar shares. For example, you have a body, which is your share and I have a body which is my share. The fact that every person has a body is thus known as a generic similarity. Ordinary people have a generic similarity with other ordinary people; those of the Two Vehicles have a generic similarity with others of the Two Vehicles. There is a generic similarity among Bodhisattvas. However, within these similarities there are also some dissimilarities, the next dharma.

Dissimilarity. Let us take an example of two people. Because they are both people, they have a generic similarity. But one of these people is impetuous. He just barges right in and starts doing things, with a positive attitude. The other person is cautious and somewhat negative. He hesitates to do anything. Now the impetuous person says of the cautious person, “See that guy? He doesn’t do anything at all. Just eats and sleeps. What use is he anyway? I think we should just get rid of people like that.”

The cautious person says of the impetuous person, “See that guy? He would do anything, anything at all! It’s guys like him who are ruining the world! I think we should simply do away with all such people!” Basically these are two human beings but they want to eliminate each other. They end up being jealous and obstructive of each other, and denouncing each other.

There is another good example of dissimilarities within similarities. Take the armor maker and the sword smith. They share a similar occupation, production of armaments. But they are on opposite ends of the spectrum, because the armor maker is intent upon making a product that will be invincible against swords, lances, spears, arrows, and similar kinds of weapons. His aim is to protect the warrior. The sword smith, on the other hand, tries to devise weapons that will pierce the armor. He aims to make his products so sharp that with a single blow they will rend the strongest armor. Although both products are armaments, one product is for defense and the other is for offense. That is a dissimilarity within similarity.

Another example is found within Buddhism itself. Basically all five divisions of Buddhism are similar in that they are aspects of Buddhism. But when contention arises between members of various schools, then dissimilarity occurs within that similarity. That is why when someone came the other night and asked me what sect I adhered to, I replied, “I don’t adhere to any one sect.” If you do not align yourself with a particular sect, then there is no way anyone can attack you. But, once people align themselves within particular sects, then those of the Chan division say that the teaching school is no good; and those of the teaching division say that the Chan division is wrong. They all slander each other. That is another example of dissimilarity within a generic similarity.

Another example occurs among “worthies”. From time immemorial, the worthies have been getting down on one another. One will say, “Oh, Confucius, he’s someone who didn’t have any sense at all.” Or, another will say, “Mencius? He understood even less. I have a lot more wisdom than either one of them.” You see? To begin with, they all had a generic similarity, but when they started slandering one another it ended up creating a dissimilarity, due to their varying propensities and habits. This is just a simple explanation. There would be no way to finish if we discussed this in detail.

Five, the No-Thought Samadhi, is cultivated by those of externalist ways. They distance themselves from production and extinction. They forcefully prevent the mind and the Dharmas Belonging to the Mind from working. They bring the operation of the mind and the Dharmas Belonging to the Mind to a stop, so that there is no actual thinking. But this is really a forced situation. It is similar to putting a heavy rock on a clump of crab grass to prevent the grass from growing up. But the roots remain. Those immersed in the No-thought Samadhi are still not free of the seventh consciousness’s innate attachment to self.

The Two Innate Attachments of the Seventh Consciousness

1. The innate attachment to self.

2. The innate attachment to dharmas.

Six is the Samadhi of Extinction. This is also a samadhi cultivated by those of externalist ways. Again, it is a case of using a kind of force as a means to arrive at extinction. Here, the sixth consciousness and the Dharmas Belonging to the Mind cease to function, just as in the No-Thought Samadhi described above. That means that one in this samadhi does not strike up false thoughts, yet again it is very forced. Since false thinking is forcibly extinguished, this is called the Samadhi of Extinction.

However, the seventh consciousness’s innate attachment to dharmas has not ceased to function. In the one above it was the innate attachment to self, which is the coarser of the two. Here, the attachment is a bit subtler and is the innate attachment to dharmas. The seventh consciousness and the eighth consciousness still mingle together and one is not yet free of them. So, although this is called a samadhi, the Samadhi of Extinction is not a true samadhi.

Seven, the Reward of No-Thought is different from the No-Thought Samadhi, in that the former is a cause, whereas the latter is a result. The No-Thought Samadhi is a kind of state in which one has not yet relinquished one’s body. The Reward of No-Thought is when one has already relinquished one’s body and receives this Reward of No-Thought. At that time, one is reborn in the Heaven of No-Thought, in the fourth dhyana.

Although there is no longer any thought, there remains a very subtle attachment to form, which still exists in the eighth consciousness and which one assumes to be one’s life. This refers to an extremely subtle aspect of the marks division of the eighth consciousness. It causes a person to still feel that he has a life. But this life still has an end to it, and when that occurs, the person can still fall.

You may remember the practitioner who cultivated to attain the Heaven of No-Thought? When he sat in meditation, he was continually disturbed by a fish jumping in the water, until one day he got angry. He said, “I’m going to turn into a kingfisher and get you, fish. I’m going to eat you up.” When he relinquished his body, he was born in the Heaven of Neither Thought nor No-Thought, obtaining his reward of no-thought. But after his heavenly blessings were used up, he fell and was reborn as a kingfisher. When I tell you that these two pigeons here used to monastics who did not keep the precepts, and that is how they have ended up, you should understand it is the same principle.

Eight is bodies of nouns. Nouns are the names of people, places, and things. Every human being is called a person, which is a noun. They also each have their own individual names, which are proper nouns. There is also the distinction of general and specific nouns that applies to material objects. For example, we can call this a burner, or more specifically, an incense burner. We can call that a vase, or more specifically a flower vase. Here we refer to a general noun simply as a noun and a noun compound as a body of nouns.

Nine is bodies of sentences. Just as bodies of nouns are used to delineate dharmas, so too, are bodies of sentences used to clarify them. “All activities are impermanent, characterized by production and extinction” is a sentence. When groups of sentences are used to reveal dharmas, they are called bodies of sentences.

Ten is bodies of phonemes. Phonemes are sounds that carry meaning in a given language. In Chinese, each character is monosyllabic. When characters are compounded in a meaningful way, they form a body of phonemes. The Sutras are all bodies of phonemes. All kinds of books, articles, treatises, and so forth, are bodies of phonemes.

Eleven is birth, and twelve is dwelling. Everything subject to birth will also dwell. People, creatures, and things are all subject to thirteen, which is aging, and fourteen, which is impermanence. With birth, something comes into being that previously did not exist. Aging refers to the decline and decay of something that still exists. Therefore, aging is also known as “changing.” During the stage of dwelling one remains stable, but when aging sets in, things become different. These four refer to the cycle of coming into being, dwelling, decaying, and disappearing.

Fifteen, revolving; sixteen, distinction; and seventeen, interaction also relate to each other. Revolving literally means “turning and flowing,” and refers to how we people have from beginningless time until the present been turning on the wheel of rebirth in the six paths. We have been flowing and turning in birth and death for myriads of kalpas without rest. This process never stops and so it is called revolving.

Distinction means “determining of differences,” and refers, for example, to the distinctions that occur in the process of cause and effect. Whatever kind of cause one plants will reap a corresponding result. But sometimes the same kinds of causes can lead to different effects, and that is known as distinction.

Interaction is the next, dharma number seventeen. Someone is wondering how since these twenty-four are called non-interactive there can be one among them called interaction. That is a good question. It appears to be a contradiction, but actually it is not.

Basically, these twenty-four dharmas are non-interactive with the dharmas of the other four general categories. They do not interact with Mind Dharmas; they do not interact with Dharmas Belonging to the Mind; they do not interact with Form Dharmas; and, they do not interact with Unconditioned Dharmas. But this dharma of interaction does interact with the dharmas within its own category, the rest of the Twenty-four Activities Dharmas Non-interactive with the Mind.

The interaction is that involved with the cycle of cause and effect. The cause is the beginning of the cycle and the effect is the end outcome. Between the cause and the effect there is the mark of karma, which interacts with both the cause and the effect. So this cycle involves the revolution, the distinction, and the interaction. The interaction which occurs is decisive, just like a shadow that follows a shape. It is never inexact by the least bit.

Eighteen, speed, refers to an extremely powerful forward momentum. It is found in the flash of lightning; the velocity of wind; the swiftness of a bird flying through the air; the quickness of a rabbit on the run. These are all outward manifestations of speed. Nineteen, the dharma of sequence, refers to things being in regular succession, whether it is from above to below, from front to back, or to layers, series or gradations. It is the presence of ordering and the absence of chaos or confusion.

Twenty is time, is a dharma that is revealed in the marking of intervals, such as years, months, days, hours. The shortest interval of time is a kshana. The longest interval of time is limitlessly many kalpas. Time, too, is a dharma.

Twenty-one, direction, refers to location or placement. We distinguish direction by referring to things as being “in front” or “behind,” to the “left” or to the “right,” “above” or “below,” and so forth in relation to other things.

Twenty-two, numeration, refers to numbering systems. This, too, is a dharma.

Twenty-three, combination, can be blending and uniting, as when milk is homogenized. Or it may be a fitting together, such as of a jar with its lid.

Twenty-four, discontinuity, is the opposite of combination, in that it refers to spontaneity as opposed to causation. Externalists attach to the extreme view of spontaneity, whereas those of the Two Vehicles attach to causation, the coming together of causes and conditions. But the Nature of the Treasury of the Thus Come One is neither causation nor spontaneity, neither combination nor discontinuity.

Those are the twenty-four non-interactive dharmas. They do not belong to Form Dharmas, Mind Dharmas, Dharmas Belonging to the Mind, or Unconditioned Dharmas, and so are termed the twenty-four not interactive.

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