THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 2

P2 He defines each.
Q1 The false view of individual karma.
R1 He describes what is seen.

Sutra:

"What is meant by false views based on individual karma? Ananda, it is like a person in the world who has red cataracts on his eyes so that at night he alone sees around the lamp a circular reflection composed of layers of five colors.

Commentary:

Above I gave a very general explanation of the false views of individual karma and of the collective share. Now the Buddha is going to give a detailed explanation of the false views of individual karma. What is meant by false views based on individual karma? Ananda, it is like a person in the world, like any person in the world, who has red cataracts on his eyes. A red film has grown over his eyes and covers them, so that at night he alone sees around the lamp a circular reflection composed of layers of five colors. Individual karma is special and makes people different from other people. Because the person in the Buddha’s example wanted to display his differences and exhibit his peculiarities, he has obtained a karmic retribution which is not the same as others’. There is a saying, “All you do is spend your strength at the threshold of a ‘reflection of light’.” This person’s eyes are diseased, and so when he looks at the lamp, it changes; it produces a circular reflection. Around the lamp is a circle of iridescent light - yellow, red, white, black - it is complete with every color. “Layers” means there were not just five colors; there were ten thousand purples and a thousand reds, every color there is, even ones you have never seen before. Would you say these colors and the circular reflection are true or false?

For instance, there basically isn’t any problem with people’s eyes, and people proceed to create a problem. What problem? They don’t see things clearly. They give rise to an illusory seeing. They look at the wall and it transforms into colors - the five hues and the six colors - opalescent. How do I know this? I met a man once who may have been taking LSD or some other hallucinogen, I don’t know, but there he was looking at a wall and laughing, “Haw, haw!” - a big guffaw that didn’t stop.

"Why are you laughing like that?” I asked him.

"Look!” he said, “Different colors! Oh! Different colors!” Now wouldn’t you say he was like the man with the red cataracts? Basically there was nothing wrong with his eyes, so he took some drug or other and turned himself upside-down so that when he looked at the wall it writhed with color. Basically it was just a wall. But he saw different colors. Would you say that was true or false? He thought it was true. Anyone who hadn’t taken such a drug would think he was dreaming and talking in his sleep. There was nothing wrong with his eyes and he created this problem.

Now the Buddha explains this question in further detail.

R2 He looks into the question of it being individual.

Sutra:

"What do you think? Is the circle of light that appears around the lamp at night the lamp’s colors, or is it the seeing’s colors?

Commentary:

What do you think?
What is your opinion about this, Ananda? Is the circle of light that appears around the lamp at night the lamp’s colors, or is it the seeing’s colors? What about the appearance of that light, in layers of five colors: are the colors emitted from the lamp, or do they come forth from the seeing? Speak up, Ananda.

Sutra:

"Ananda, if it is the lamp’s colors, why is it that someone without the disease does not see the same thing, and only the one who is diseased sees the circular reflection? If it is the seeing’s colors, then the seeing has already become colored; what, then, is the circular reflection the diseased person sees to be called?

Commentary:

Here the World Honored One asks Ananda another question: Ananda, if it is the lamp’s colors - if you say that the circular reflection which displays layers of the five colors is emitted by the lamp - why is it that someone without the disease does not see the same thing? “Someone without the disease” refers to the Buddha and all the great Bodhisattvas. Those who are diseased are living beings. The lamp represents true principle. When the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas look, they see true principle. When living beings look, they see a circular reflection. They can see the lamp, but around it there is still a circular reflection, composed of multiple layers of the five colors. This is what ordinary people and all living beings see.

The five colors represent the five skandhas: form, feeling, thought, activity, and consciousness.

Sutra:

"Moreover, Ananda, if the circular reflection is in itself a thing apart from the lamp, then it would be seen around the folding screen, the curtain, the table, and the mats. If it has nothing to do with the seeing, it should not be seen by the eyes. Why is it that the person with cataracts sees the circular reflections with his eyes?

Commentary:

Moreover, Ananda, if the circular reflection is in itself a thing apart from the lamp.
If the circular reflection of five colors is an entity separate from the lamp, then when the man glances around at other things in the room like the folding screen, the curtain, the table, and the mats then the reflection would be seen around them. But in fact he doesn’t see anything around them. So is the reflection really separate from the lamp? If it has nothing to do with the seeing, it should not be seen by the eyes. If you want to force the issue and say it is definitely a separate entity, it shouldn’t have any connection with the eyes. Why is it that the man with cataracts sees the circular reflections with his eyes? His eyes, even though faulty and diseased, are the vehicle for his seeing the circular reflection. Since it is his diseased eyes which see it, how can you say the circular reflection is separate from seeing?

R3 He promises to explain the false cause.

Sutra:

"Therefore, you should know that in fact the colors come from the lamp, and the diseased seeing brings about the reflection. Both the circular reflection and the faulty seeing are the result of the cataract. But that which sees the diseased film is not sick. Thus you should not say that it is the lamp or the seeing or that it is neither the lamp nor the seeing.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know -
Ananda, you should look into this - in fact the colors come from the lamp. When a person with pure eyes looks at the lamp, he sees only the lamplight, he doesn’t see the reflection. The diseased seeing brings about the reflection. So the reflection is because of the cataract on the man’s eyes. The man’s seeing is faulty and so it creates a false reflection around the lamp when he looks at it. Since “the colors come from the lamp,” you can’t say that the reflection is separate from the lamp or that it is merely from the eye. Since “the diseased seeing brings about the reflection,” you can’t say that the reflection is separate from the seeing or that it is merely from the lamp.

Both the circular reflection and the faulty seeing are the result of the cataract. The “seeing” referred to here is the faulty seeing. The lamp’s reflection and the faulty seeing are both due to the diseased eye - the red cataract. But that which sees the diseased film is not sick. “That which sees” in this case refers to the pure seeing, the true sight - not the false, faulty seeing. This pure seeing which can see the cataract is like the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who can see living beings.

Thus you should not say that it is the lamp or the seeing or that it is neither the lamp nor the seeing. You should not become attached here and try to fix things by insisting that it is the lamp or it is the seeing. Since the colors come from the lamp and the diseased eye creates the reflection, you can’t pinpoint one or the other of these as the sole cause. Once again, the colors come from the lamp so it is not that the lamp is not the cause. The reflection comes from the cataract on the seeing-eye, so it can’t be that the seeing is not involved.

The Buddha continues to be quite explicit in his compassionate explanation for Ananda.

R4 An analogy makes clear the reason.

Sutra:

"It is like a second moon often seen when one presses on one’s eye while looking up into the sky. It is neither substantial nor a reflection because it is an illusory vision caused by the pressure exerted on one’s eye. Hence, a wise person should not say that the second moon is a form or not a form. Nor is it correct to say that the illusory second moon is apart from the seeing or not apart from the seeing.

Commentary:

It is like a second moon often seen when one presses on one’s eye while looking up into the sky. It is neither substantial nor a reflection because it is an illusory vision caused by the pressure exerted on one’s eye.
The “second moon” is analogous to the circular reflection seen by the person with cataracts. The second moon is not “substantial,” in the same way that the circular reflection is not created from the seeing alone. Nor is the second moon “a reflection” in the same way that the circular reflection is not just based on the lamp’s colors. “Pressure exerted on one’s eye” is analogous to the cataract on the person’s eye. You can try this out yourself if you are not clear about what the analogy means. Take your finger and press it in the corner of your eye. The pressure will give you “double vision” and so you will see a “second moon.”

Hence, a wise person - if you use your wisdom to regard this, you should not say that the second moon is a form or not a form. Nor is it correct to say that the illusory second moon is apart from the seeing or not apart from the seeing. Basically what results from the pressure against the eye is false to begin with. To use it as basis for arguing further about what it is and what it is not is just adding falseness to falseness. Would a wise person do that?

R5 He shows how the analogy ties with the dharma.

Sutra:

"It is the same with the illusion created by the diseased eyes. You cannot say it is from the lamp or from the seeing: even less can it be said not to be from the lamp or the seeing.

Commentary:

It is the same with the illusion created by the diseased eyes.
The second moon is not real. It only exists because of the pressure on the eye. The circular reflection is not real. It only exists because of the cataract. They are both empty and false. You cannot say it is from the lamp or from the seeing: even less can it be said not to be from the lamp or the seeing. It originated from the cataract on the man’s eye, so you can’t say it comes from the lamp or from the seeing. But the circular reflection only appears around the lamp and is only seen when the man uses his eyes to look at it, so you can’t say it is not from the lamp and not from the seeing. The circular reflection is totally illusory to begin with; why squabble about what it is and is not?

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