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The Eight Indeterminate Dharmas

      • Regret
      • Sleep
      • Examination
      • Investigation
      • Greed
      • Anger
      • Pride
      • Doubt

There are also the Eight kinds of Indeterminate Dharmas fo the Small Vehicle (the Great Vehicle has four). They are indeterminate as to whether they are good or bad, defiled or pure. They aren’t necessarily pervasive of all minds or pervasive of all places either.

The first indeterminate dharma is Regret (kaukrtya), also known as Self-Reproach. It’s regretting something on e did and thinking, “Why did I do that? Nothing was gained by it at all.” It’s also regretting something one didn’t do and thinking, “Why didn’t I do it that way. That’s what I should have done. Oh, why didn’t I do it?” in general, it means having qualms about everything and feeling nothing turned out the way you wanted it to.

The second indeterminate dharma is Sleep (middha), which is just being in a stupor and unaware of anything. During sleep one is cut off from external conditions and screened off from internal contemplation, from one’s own contemplative wisdom.

So sleeping a lot is not a good idea. Look at how pigs sleep all the time, and so have no wisdom. They wake up long enough to eat, then go right back to sleep, and upon reawakening, they eat again. They have lots of flesh on their bodies and think to themselves, “I don’t have to do any work and I’ve grown so much flesh.” But when the time comes, people kill them and eat it.

Living beings return to eat the flesh of living beings. So sleeping is not such a good deal. Don’t study it.

The third indeterminate dharma is Examination (vitarka), and the fourth is Investigation (vicara). Examination is looking for something to do when there’s nothing to do and stirring up trouble when there is none. It’s coarse and external, by comparison with Investigation which is internal, more subtle, and is a kind of waiting that goes in inside.

Neither one is the basic substance of wisdom, a type of small intelligence dependent upon reasoning, which is not proper and authentic wisdom. Investigation is like a cat waiting for a mouse to pop out of its hole. It has a lot of patience as it keeps watching to see if the mouse is coming out or not. Examination is looking outside, by contrast with the internal waiting of Investigation.

The fifth indeterminate dharma is Greed (raga), insatiable greed, about which a lot has been said.

All evil karma that I have created
Due to beginningless greed, anger and stupidity
And enacted through body, speech and mind
I now completely repent of and reform

The sixth is Anger (pratigha), the seventh Pride (mana), and the eighth Doubt (vicikitsa), always being doubtful about anything that is said. Tell them the truth and they doubt it, as they do when you say something false. That way they can’t tell what’s true and what’s false, so it’s an indeterminate dharma. Greed, anger, and pride can also be unfixed.

Some are greedy for fame, and others for profit. Some are greedy for the good, and so fear there won’t be much good, while those who are greedy for evil are concerned that there won’t be lots of evil. That makes it indeterminate. Anger and pride can be that way, too. Some feel conceited when they see poor people, but others feel proud when they see the rich and think, “You can have all the money you want, but I’m not going to be polite to you.” All eight are unfixed.

  • The Fourteen Activity Dharmas Non-Interactive with the Mind
    • Attainment
    • Non-Attainment
    • Generic Similarity
    • Reward of No-Thought
    • No-Thought Samadhi
    • Samadhi of Extinction
    • Life Faculty
    • Birth
    • Dwelling
    • Changing
    • Impermanence
    • Bodies of Nouns
    • Bodies of Sentences
    • Bodies of Phonemes

The fourth general category is Activity Dharmas Non-Interactive with the Mind. There are twenty-four in the Great Vehicle, but the Small Vehicle just has fourteen. Whether the others were forgotten or lost is not known. These are dharmas which do not interact with form dharmas, with mind dharmas, or with dharmas interactive with the mind – and yet they still are not divorced form what is brought about by the operation of those three other categories of dharmas.

The first non-interactive dharma is Attainment (prapti), acquisition, getting something. Before one gets, one wants to get. Then after getting, one fears losing, which would be not-getting, and so the second non-interactive dharma is Non-Attainment (aprapti), fear of loss. One thinks, “I don’t really have it; I might lose it and not have it.” It’s attaining but not considering it attaining. As the saying goes:

Troubled to get and troubled about loss.

It is also said:

Before one has it, one is troubled to get it;
And once one gets it, one is troubled one will lose it.

Before acquisition there was no trouble, but acquisition brings trouble in its wake. One is unable to sleep nights for thinking about acquiring, and food loses its taste since one is forever preoccupied with the problem of getting and non-getting: loss.

The third non-interactive dharma is Generic Similarity (sabhagata). Bodhisattvas share generic similarity with Bodhisattvas, and Arhats share it with Arhats. The same holds true of ordinary people among themselves, and those of outside ways with each other. Each member of the category shares that similarity with the general class or “genre,” hence the name “generic similarity.”

The fourth non-interactive dharma in the Great Vehicle list of twenty-four is Dissimilarity (visabhaga). Although each has a share in the same general category, there are individual differences in behavior and outlook.

For example, you may enjoy being lazy and I may enjoy being vigorous – or else you might be the one who likes vigor and I might like to take it easy. The nature of each turns out different. However, in the Small Vehicle list of fourteen the fourth non-interactive dharma is The Reward of No-Thought (asamjnika), which leads directly into the fifth non-interactive dharma which is the name of a samadhi: The No-Thought Samadhi (asamjnisamapatti) in which one is no longer troubled by thoughts of gain and loss, because all thinking has stopped and there is no more similarity or difference either.

The sixth non-interactive dharma is The Samadhi of Extinction (nirodhasamapatti). In the No-Thought Samadhi thought was not yet gone, but in this one it is brought to an end while one is in samadhi. However, it has not yet ended when one is out of Samadhi.

The seventh non-interactive dharma is the Life Faculty (jivitendriya), or root of life, the underlying basis of life. The Life Faculty is the eighth consciousness, for without that consciousness there would be no root of life. The eighth consciousness:

…departs last and arrives first.

When we’re going to be born it’s the first thing that arrives, and when we die it’s the last thing to leave, in human existence being the owner of the false combination of the four elements we take for the body. If you cultivate, the eighth consciousness becomes the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, a Bodhisattva. But if you don’t, it turns into the body intermediate between skandhas – which most people call a ghost, and which is just stupidity.

If you can turn the eighth consciousness around to become Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, then you will have wisdom. So if you don’t mind being stupid, then don’t cultivate; but if you want wisdom, you have to cultivate – that’s the way to open wisdom.

Otherwise all you’ll get is stupidity. There’s nothing fixed about the Life Faculty. If you do up it will ascend, and it will descend if you let yourself go down. I regularly tell people who don’t believe in ghosts, “Then you shouldn’t believe there are Buddhas, because Buddhas are made from ghosts. If there weren’t any ghosts there wouldn’t be any Buddhas. To believe in Buddhas but not in ghosts is like only knowing how to eat and not knowing how to go to the toilet. It’s the same principle.”

After the Life faculty comes the eighth non-interactive dharma which is Birth (jati), the ninth which is Dwelling (sthiti), the tenth which is Changing (jara) or “Aging,” and the eleventh non-interactive dharma is Impermanence (anityata). Of the remaining three non-interactive dharmas, the twelfth is bodies of Nouns (namakaya), the thirteenth is Bodies of Sentences (padakaya), and the fourteenth is Bodies of Phonemes (vyanjanakaya). Bodies of Nouns refers to names and terms. Bodies of Sentences refers to phrases or successive lines, as in

All activities are impermanent, characterized by production and extinction.
When production and extinction are extinguished, that still extinction is bliss.

Bodies of Phonemes refers to texts made up of phonetic elements, meaningful arrangements of phonemes, for individual characters, words or syllables cannot be considered texts. Those are the fourteen non-interactive activity dharmas of the Small Vehicle.

Adding the fifth major category, that of the Unconditioned Dharmas, we can review the total distribution of the Seventy-five Dharmas into the five major categories:

  • The Eleven Form Dharmas (rupa)
  • The One Mind Dharma (citta)
  • The Forty-six Dharmas Interactive with the Mind (caitta)
  • The Fourteen Non-Interactive Dharmas (cittaviprayuktasamskara)
  • The Three Unconditioned Dharmas (asamskrta)

All seventy-two dharmas in categories I-IV are conditioned dharmas (samskrta). The Great Vehicle has six unconditioned dharmas, but the Small Vehicle just has three.

    • Unconditioned Selected Extinction (pratisamkhya-nirodha)
    • Unconditioned Unselected Extinction (apratisamkhya-nirodha)
    • Unconditioned Empty Space (akasa).

One might ask how Selected Extinction could be conditioned, since selection should make it conditioned. However, that selecting process takes place before entry to extinction. There’s selection of dharmas for entering extinction, that is, extinction is attained by selection.

Although it starts out looking like it’s going to be conditioned, it develops into the unconditioned. Unselected Extinction, on the other hand, doesn’t require the skill of selectivity to bring about arrival at the state of still extinction. Unconditioned Empty Space is that cultivators constantly practice making the contemplation that everything is empty, and eventually attain to the principle. They certify to the self-nature being like empty space:

So big there is nothing outside it,
So small there is nothing inside it.

What could you say is beyond empty space? Nothing. And what is within it? Nothing. For it there were something inside of space, there would be blockage. That’s a brief explanation of the Seventy-five Dharmas investigated by the Small Vehicle. They just have seventy-five, not yet being perfectly interpenetrating without obstruction.


It only speaks of the emptiness of people. Although it briefly states the emptiness of Dharmas, even so that is not made clear.


The essential point about the Small Vehicle is that it only speaks of the emptiness of people, and doesn’t say that dharmas are empty. That means its teaching doctrines are limited and narrow in scope – hence its name. it just talks about how people have no self, but doesn’t say that about dharmas.

“People” is the pudgala of the Great Vehicle Shastra to the Door to understanding the Hundred Dharmas, explained as empty and analyzed into dharmas which are not said to be empty until the discussion of Unconditioned Dharmas. We who cultivate the Way may manage to rid ourselves of attachment to self, that is, to people, by knowing that people are empty, you still have an attachment to dharmas. The dharmas pertaining to people are called the Obstacle of Afflictions, whereas the dharmas pertaining to dharmas are known as the Obstacle of the Known.

Anyone who has a mark of self has afflictions of some sort or other. If not afflicted over fame, one gets afflicted over profit. If the afflictions are not over country, they are over family; and if over neither of those, one gets afflicted concerning the body. An instance of the latter is a child who likes candy and cries when it has none to eat. Wouldn’t you call that affliction? The reason it wants to eat candy is that it knows it has a body and wants to treat its body well by letting it have a taste of something sweet.

The afflictions involve plans, strategies, and calculations for the sake of one’s body. For example, perhaps my clothes are old and I’d like to have some new ones made, but that takes money. How to get it? The proper way is to go out and work for it, but there’s an improper procedure entailing think, “Those of you with money have clothes to wear and food to eat. That’s too unfair.” Then one contrives a plan to steal, embezzle, plunder, and the like. All those troubles and afflictions are for the body’s sake, and constitute the Obstacle of Afflictions.

The obstacle of the Known is when for you, people are empty and you take no thought for the body, having been able to see through it all and put it all down; but dharmas are not yet empty. That’s the kind of obstruction to which a Dharma Master who can lecture Sutras in prone: “See me? I can lecture Sutras no one else can lecture. I can elucidate any Sutra and understand any Dharma.” That very “understanding” is the Obstacle of the Known.

To be empty of people means to have understood the realm of people and been able to empty it. However, for dharmas to be empty, you can’t not understand. You have to understand, but it shouldn’t obstruct you. It can’t be that because you yourself understand the Dharma you look down on those who don’t. if you do, it’s “slighting those who have not yet studied,” and you have the Obstacle of the Known.

Studying the Buddhadharma is not all that simple, and understanding it is not just a matter of being able to discuss, lecture and maybe do some of it after studying. You need truly to understand its principles and see through the Obstacle of Afflictions and the Known.

Although in the Small Vehicle it briefly states the emptiness of Dharmas here and there, even so that is not made particularly clear in its discussion. As a result, the people of the Two Vehicles are not able to empty dharmas, and so have the Obstacle of the Known – attachment to dharmas.


It only uses the six consciousnesses and the three poisons to establish the basis of defilement and purity. Therefore the Agama say: “greed, anger, and stupidity are the basis of the mundane,” and so forth.


It, the Small Vehicle, only uses as its foundation the six consciousnesses to speak its Dharma.

The Six Consciousnesses

  • Eye Consciousness
  • Ear Consciousness
  • Nose Consciousness
  • Tongue Consciousness
  • Body Consciousness
  • Mind Consciousness

And it uses the afflictions deriving from the three poisons of greed, anger, and stupidity to establish the basis of defilement and purity – the defiled dharmas and pure. Greed, anger, and stupidity are the Fundamental Afflictions, and are also called the Three Poisons. Most people, not recognizing the Three Poisons, are always associated with them, and consequently create lots of bad karma.

Therefore the Agama Sutra it say: “greed, anger, and stupidity are the basis of the mundane, the fundament afflictions of the world. All living beings form limitless kalpas up to now have had bodies brought about due to “perfuming” of those seeds, and so greed, anger, stupidity, arrogance, doubt, and so forth – the many other afflictions that exist – form the basis of the mundane world. Greed, anger, and stupidity are just the heaviest among them.

Anyone without those three poisons is the greatest one here – not only greater than the teacher, but even greater than patriarchs and Bodhisattvas, on an equal level with the Buddhas. But if you still have them, you’re a living beings, and shouldn’t be arrogant and smug and think you’re greater than everyone else. You have to be enlightened to make it to that grade.

Otherwise, imitate Ever-Not-Slighting Bodhisattva who didn’t even want the Lesser Afflictions of Rage, Hate, Fury, Concealment, Deceit, Flattery, Arrogance, Harm, Jealousy, or Stinginess, not to mention the Intermediate Afflictions of Lack of Shame and Absence of Remorse.


It has not yet exhausted the Dharma source, and so has much arguing and debating from holding to different works.


Because the principles are not spoken out completely in the Small Teaching’s discussion of the Six Consciousnesses and Three Poisons, It has not yet exhausted the Dharma source. It has not plumbed the fountainhead and basis of Dharma to its depths as yet, and does not fully understand it. What it says is neither fundamental nor ultimate and so is inadequate in many respects, which is why it has much arguing and debating.

Its adherents end up with different viewpoints, the veracity of which each feels compelled to prove over and against the other. They argue among themselves, each maintaining the other is wrong, from holding to different works. Some are attached to the Shrimaladevi Sutra, others to the Deep Secret Sutra, and others hold to still other Sutras. The principles in those works do not coincide with one another and so this, the First, is called the Small Teaching.


Two is the Initial Teaching in which there is extensive talk of Dharmas’ marks and scant discussion of Dharmas’ nature, the discussion of Dharmas’ nature just amounting to enumerating Dharmas’ marks.


In the Hsien Shou School, the First Teaching is the Small Teaching for the Small Vehicle, and the Teaching number two is called the Initial Teaching in which the Great Vehicle starts to be discussed. In that opening presentation of the Mahayana there is extensive talk of Dharmas’ marks. For the most part, what it says names and characterizes dharmas, and it has scant discussion of Dharmas’ nature just amounting to enumerating Dharmas’ marks.

Twenty-five dharmas are added to the seventy-five listed previously, making one hundred dharmas. In that list there are conditioned and unconditioned dharmas. Dharma marks are the conditioned dharmas, and discussion fo the nature of dharmas if of unconditioned dharmas – but that discussion occurs in the course of enumerating dharmas’ marks. To talk about the nature of dharmas means discussing the principle of True Suchness, whereas discussion of the characteristic of dharmas is saying how many kinds of dharmas there are, and how many dharmas there are of each kind.


It says there are one hundred dharmas, precisely selecting and clearly defining, and so debates are few.


It, The Initial Teaching, says there are one hundred dharmas, which makes it of the Great Vehicle. It consists of precisely selecting and clearly defining which dharmas to cultivate, and so debates are few. The selecting it does is very definite, so there isn’t much to argue about in the Mahayana. It all boils down to each selecting the dharma that suits him, and having one hundred dharmas eliminates dispute.

If you’re really great, you should be able to remember at least the Seventy-five Dharmas from before. A huge factory, for example, needs to be producing goods to be said to operate. If you claim to be a huge plant but turn out to be empty when someone wants to buy your products, how can that be called a big factory? If you feel you’re so great, you ought to have a little of the small inside, or how can you run a factory? If you’ve mastered all dharmas, yet don’t understand even one dharma, that can be balled great.

However, you can’t be said not to understand, for you understand a little bit – yet as for understanding, you can’t remember clearly. You’ve forgotten and can’t bring forth a single dharma. That is truly to have “swept away all dharmas and dispensed with all marks” – except, then, why do you think of so much garbage every day and feel like going nuts?

There are some who say those enlightened are crazy, but if it were the case that going crazy leads to enlightenment, we could simply go nuts here all day long. It’s only people who don’t understand the Dharma who mouth demonic talk like that. They turn others who lack proper knowledge and proper views upside-down form following dharma demons speak.

How can you cultivate if you can’t change that way of looking and knowing? You shouldn’t try to found an enterprise with intellectual Zen banter as your starting capital. If you clean out all the garbage and then apply perfume, there’s still some chance of making it stick. But if the refuse still remains, the perfume turns to garbage, too. This is very important. You have to get rid of your attachments, not turn the Dharma into something weird and incomprehensible.

In studying the Buddhadharma, the first thing needed is to get rid of your “self.” As long as a self remains you’ll never get advantages. You should be without a self – the wonderful points of that are inconceivable. “No self” means no mark of self or attachment to self. It means you don’t even know it if someone scolds you. That counts as really great. But if you know it when you are scolded or hit, and have great ignorance and great afflictions whenever anyone says anything bad about you, and if your ignorance and afflictions grow bigger every day, it’s no use.

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