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Seeing Does not Become Extinct
VOLUME 2, Chapter 1
N3 He shows that the seeing does not become extinct.
O1 The assembly considers this and asks for further instruction.
When Ananda and the great assembly heard the Buddha’s instructions, they became peaceful and composed both in body and mind. They recollected that since time without beginning, they had strayed from their fundamental true mind by mistaking the shadows of their causally conditioned differentiating minds as something real and substantial.
Now on this day they had awakened to such illusions and misconceptions. Like a lost infant who rejoins its beloved mother after a long separation, they put their palms together to make obeisance to the Buddha.
When Ananda and the great assembly heard the Buddha’s instructions. When Ananda and the great Bodhisattvas, the great Arhats, and the great bhikshus, and the others heard this teaching, they became peaceful and composed both in body and mind. Their bodies and minds felt extremely comfortable, so that they didn’t feel the least bit of pain. They had never felt better. They had never known anything so fine. But at the same time, they recollected that since time without beginning, they had strayed from their fundamental true mind by mistaking the shadows of their causally conditioned differentiating minds as something real and substantial.
From time without beginning they had renounced their basic mind and had used only their false mind, their conscious mind, their mind which makes distinctions in order to do things. They hadn’t understood external states; they’d taken their false-thinking mind to be true and actual. They had engaged in false activities at the gates of the six organs and hadn’t the least bit of skill when it came to the self-nature. In order to function, they dealt exclusively with the false-thinking mind, the attached mind, the arrogant mind, the mind which seizes upon conditions, the mind which is false in various kinds of ways.
Now on this day they had awakened to such illusions and misconceptions. Like a lost infant who rejoins its beloved mother after a long separation, they put their palms together to make obeisance to the Buddha. They had been like a hungry child who had no milk to drink; it had been very painful. All of a sudden the child’s compassionate mother had returned, and the child had milk to drink: that is what it was like for the assembly when they awakened upon hearing the Buddha’s instruction. They placed their palms together and bowed to the Buddha to thank him for his kindness in bestowing the dharma upon them.
They wished to hear such words from the Thus Come One as to enlighten them to the dual nature of body and mind - what is false and what is real, what is empty and what is substantial, what is subject to production and extinction and what transcends production and extinction.
Why did the assembly bow to the Buddha? Because they wished to hear such words from the Thus Come One as to enlighten them to the dual nature of body and mind. They wanted him to uncover it and portray it clearly, to reveal what is false and what is real, what is empty and what is substantial. There is the true and the false, the empty and the actual, and they wanted the Buddha to teach them to recognize each of them. They wanted him to reveal what is subject to production and extinction and what transcends production and extinction - to reveal the mind’s dual nature, the mind with superficial production and extinction and the mind that is not subject to production and extinction.
What is the mind of production and extinction? It is the conscious mind, our mind which seizes upon conditions by turning to the outside and seeking there, instead of developing skill at the self-nature. What is the mind not subject to production and extinction? You must apply your skill to the self-nature and understand that the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, the vegetation, and all the myriad appearances are all the dharma body of all Buddhas. The dharma body of all Buddhas is neither produced nor extinguished. And the pure nature and bright substance of everyone’s permanently dwelling true mind is also not produced and not extinguished.
Why do we have production and extinction, birth and death?
It is because we do not recognize the pure nature and bright substance of the permanently dwelling true mind. It is also because your mad mind has not ceased. So it is said, “when the mad mind ceases, that ceasing is Bodhi.” The mad mind’s stopping itself is the manifestation of your Bodhi mind. Because the mad mind exists and has not ceased, the Bodhi mind cannot come forth. The mad mind covers it over. What is being explained now, and in every other passage of sutra text without exception, has the aim of revealing everyone’s true mind.
O2 King Prasenajit tells his situation and makes a special request.
Then King Prasenajit rose and said to the Buddha, “In the past, when I had not yet received the teachings of the Buddha, I met Katyayana and Vairatiputra, both of whom said that this body is annihilated after death, and that this is nirvana. Now, although I have met the Buddha, I still have doubts about their words. How much I wish to be enlightened to the ways and means to perceive and realize the true mind, thereby proving that it transcends production and extinction! All those who have outflows also wish to be instructed on this subject.”
Then - before the Buddha spoke - King Prasenajit rose in the great assembly. King Prasenajit’s name means “moonlight” in Sanskrit, as mentioned before. The king was born at the same time that the Buddha entered the world. Upon entering the world the Buddha emitted light, but King Prasenajit’s father thought that it was his son who was emitting the light as he came into the world, so he named him “Moonlight.”
King Prasenajit said to the Buddha, “In the past, when I had not yet received the teachings of the Buddha, I met Katyayana and Vairatiputra. Before I received the benefit of the Buddha’s teaching and transforming, I believed in external paths.” He believed in the annihilationism of Katyayana. “Katyayana” is a Sanskrit name which is interpreted to mean “cut hair,” because formerly those who followed this external path did not cut their hair or their fingernails, and so were called the “long-nailed external path.” “Vairatiputra” means “son of Vairati”; Vairati was his mother’s name; the name is interpreted to mean “does not do.” What he didn’t do were good deeds, but he had no hesitation about doing bad deeds.
Both of whom said that this body is annihilated after death, and that this is nirvana. They say that after this body dies there isn’t anything. There is no cause and there is no effect, no future lives and no former lives. Basically a person’s death is like putting out a lamp. It’s gone. There isn’t anything at all. Everything is annihilated. Annihilation means there is no soul, no awareness, no nature, nothing at all, and that’s what they call nirvana. That’s what annihilationists mean by not produced and not extinguished; since there’s nothing, there isn’t any production or extinction. That’s how the external paths talk. But I will tell you all that that is a grave mistake. When people die they are not annihilated.
So, it is just at this point where the distinction between Buddhism and external paths lies. Some external paths talk about annihilation, and some talk about permanence. One advocates annihilation, the other advocates externalism, and both kinds confuse people most seriously.
" Now, although I have met the Buddha, I still have doubts about their words. The Buddha has come into the world and has come to teach and transform me, but I still have ‘fox-like’ doubts and do not believe the doctrine spoken by the Buddha.” He still feels that people are annihilated when they die and that their ceasing to exist is nirvana.
Doubts are said to be “fox-like” because the fox-spirit is doubtful by nature. No matter what you say, he doesn’t believe it. For example, when a fox walks across the ice in winter, he takes one step, stops, cocks his ear, and listens, then takes another step and cocks his ear to listen. If he hears the ice cracking, he immediately retreats. He knows that if the ice cracks it is not thick enough and could send him plunging into the river. He is extremely intelligent. So it is said of an intelligent person, “He’s as smart as a fox-spirit.” He has a lot of doubt in his mind and is apt to argue. He opposes everyone, no matter who, and is always on the defensive, like a fox.
How much I wish to be enlightened to the ways and means to perceive and realize the true mind, thereby proving that it transcends production and extinction! All those who have outflows also wish to be instructed on this subject. How can I come to know the genuine doctrine of no production and no extinction and realize my mind which is not produced and not extinguished? Everyone in the assembly who has not obtained the spiritual penetration of the extinction of outflows wishes to understand this doctrine.
To have outflows is to flow into the three realms - into the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm. When people flow there, they undergo birth and death. Those who have not ended birth and death are called people with outflows. So everyone in the assembly who had not certified to the fruit and still had outflows wanted to understand the doctrine of no production and no extinction so that they could all perceive their true minds, be enlightened, and end their outflows.
O3 The Thus Come One thoroughly shows that seeing is not extinguished.
P1 He shows that the body changes.
Q1 Discussion of the overall changes and eventual extinction.
The Buddha said to the great king, “Now I ask you, as it is now is your physical body like vajra, indestructible and living forever? Or does it change and go bad?”
"World Honored One, this body of mine will keep changing until it eventually becomes extinct.”
In this section of text the Buddha asks the king whether the king’s body will decay, and the king answers that it will decay completely. The Buddha said to the great king, “Now I ask you, as it is now is your physical body like vajra, indestructible and living forever? If we just consider your flesh-body, is it as durable as vajra? Is it eternally indestructible like a vajra jewel or a diamond? Or does it change and go bad? In the last analysis, what is it like? Is it possible to destroy it? Tell me.”
World Honored One, this body of mine will keep changing until it eventually becomes extinct. Upon hearing the Buddha’s question, King Prasenajit replied without hesitation, “World Honored One, this body of mine will eventually go completely bad. Eventually it will be finished, that is for certain.”
The Buddha said, “Great king, you have not yet become extinct. How do you know you will become extinct?”
In answer, the Buddha said, “Great king, you have not yet become extinct. You aren’t dead yet; how do you know that in the future you will die? You haven’t become extinct yet, so what enables you to know that you will keep changing until you become extinct? Tell me. How does it happen that you know so much doctrine?”
"World Honored One, although my impermanent, changing, and decaying body has not yet become extinct, I observe it now, and every passing thought fades away. Each new one fails to remain, but gradually perishes like fire turning to ashes. This perishing without cease convinces me that this body will eventually become completely extinct.”
King Prasenajit replied: World Honored One, although my impermanent, changing, and decaying body has not yet become extinct, I observe it now - although it is not dead yet, this body of mine is not eternal, but at best will last only eighty or ninety years. At the very most it won’t last more than a hundred years.”
"Observe” means that he contemplated it in general and in detail, inside and outside, from front to back, and close up and from a distance. “I look at others and look at myself. Other people die and I am the same as they are.”
Every passing thought fades away. Now he regards his mind within, and sees that each thought perishes as the next thought arises. The one replaces the other and is replaced by the next in turn. They are just like waves. Although I cannot see them, they seem like waves which arise ceaselessly, one wave upon the next. They are continually changing and dying out.
Each new one fails to remain, but gradually perishes. A thought does not remain forever. As a new thought comes up, the one preceding it disperses, and none can last eternally. It is the same as when incense is lit. Like fire turning to ashes. The ashes fall and the fire reappears, but then, after a short while, the ashes once again cover the fire. The ashes represent the old; the fire is the new. But the new is continually, unendingly turning to ashes. The ashes fall bit by bit and turn into dust and disappear. This perishing without cease convinces me that this body will eventually become completely extinct. So I am absolutely certain without any question that in the future my body will return to extinction.
The Buddha said, “So it is.
Shakyamuni Buddha tells the king that he has explained it correctly. Every passing thought fades away and will eventually become completely extinct.