THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 3

P3 The place of the nose and smells.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss the organ and object.


Sutra:

“Moreover, Ananda, you smell the chandana in this censer. When one particle of this incense is lit, it can be smelled simultaneously through forty li around the city of Shravasti.

Commentary:

Now the two places of fragrance and the nose with its awareness of smells will be discussed. Moreover, Ananda, you smell the chandana in this censer. You sniff the burning incense burning. When one particle of this incense is lit. In Chinese the measure, one particle (zhu ) is one twenty fourth of a liang, and sixteen liang make one jin, about one and a third pounds. So, one particle would be a very small piece of the incense. Chandana incense, also called “ox head chandana,” is said to come from Uttarakuru the northern continent. When you light a very small piece of this incense its fragrance almost immediately pervades a radius of forty li - about thirteen miles. We are not speaking here of the smoke, which rises to the heavens, but of the fragrance which accompanies it. What is more, any pestilence or contagious disease is wiped out when this incense perfumes the atmosphere. The germs all disappear.

When one particle of this incense is lit, it can be smelled simultaneously through forty li around the city of Shravasti.

Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

Sutra:

“What do you think? Is this fragrance produced from the chandana wood? Is it produced in your nose, or does it arise within emptiness?

Commentary:

What do you think?
Ananda, what is the case here, in your opinion? Is this fragrance produced from the chandana wood? Does the chandana fragrance arise from the chandana wood? Is it produced in your nose? Or does it come from the organ of your nose? Or does it arise within emptiness? Or is it produced in emptiness?

Q3 Discusses each and refutes all possibilities.
R1 Refutes the possibility that it comes from the nose.


Sutra:

“Again, Ananda, suppose this fragrance is produced from your nose. What is said to be produced from the nose should come forth from the nose. Your nose is not chandana, so how can the nose have the fragrance of chandana? When you say you smell fragrance, it should enter your nose. For the nose to emit fragrance is not the meaning of smelling.

Commentary:

Again, Ananda, suppose this fragrance is produced from your nose.
You say it is produced from the organ of your nose. What is said to be produced from the nose should come forth from the nose. If it is the case that it is produced from the organ of the nose, the fragrance should come out of your nose. Your nose is not chandana. But the organ of your nose is certainly not chandana wood. So how can the nose have the fragrance of chandana? There’s no such principle. When you say you smell fragrance, it should enter your nose. If you say you smell fragrance, it is smelled by your smelling nature, and it should enter your nostrils. For the nose to emit fragrance is not the meaning of smelling. If you say the fragrance comes out of your nostrils, then it is not right to say you can still smell the fragrance, because your nostrils can only smell what enters them. It cannot be that the fragrance is emitted by your nostrils.

Now, basically, everyone knows that the fragrance arises from the chandana wood. When the incense is lit, smoke rises into the air. However, the fragrance is certainly not the incense smoke, for as soon as the incense is lit, the fragrance can be smelled within a radius of forty li of where the incense was lit. The incense smoke, on the other hand, simply rises up into emptiness.

Why does the Buddha question Ananda in this way, asking him whether the fragrance of chandana comes from the nostrils or from the chandana incense? Everyone realizes without its being explained that if the chandana incense is not lit, there isn’t any fragrance, which proves that the fragrance comes from the incense. The Buddha is deliberately questioning Ananda in this way to see how he will answer. However, although the fragrance comes from the chandana, the nature of smelling comes from the Thus Come One’s treasury. So the meaning does not lie in the fragrance, but in the nature of smelling. The nature of smelling is all pervading and is neither produced nor extinguished. That is the important point.

R2 Refutes the possibility that it comes from emptiness.

Sutra:

“Suppose it is produced from within emptiness. The nature of emptiness is everlasting and unchanging, and so the fragrance should be eternally present. What need should there be to rely on burning the dry wood in the censer?

Commentary:

Suppose it is produced from within emptiness. The nature of emptiness is everlasting and unchanging.
If you say the fragrance comes forth from emptiness, the fragrance should be eternally present. The fragrance should always be there. It couldn’t disappear. It would not be necessary to wait until the chandana incense wood is burned in order for there to be the fragrance of chandana. It should also be there at ordinary times. What need should there be to rely on burning the dry wood in the censer? “Rely on” means that one must burn the incense in order for the fragrance to come into being. This passage proves that the fragrance is not produced from emptiness.

R3 Refutes the possibility that it comes from the smell.

Sutra:

“Suppose it is produced from the wood. Now, the nature of this incense is such that it gives off smoke when it is burned. If the nose smells it, it should be filled with smoke. The smoke rises into the air, and before it has reached the distance, how is it that the fragrance is already being smelled at a distance of forty li?

Commentary:

Suppose it is produced from the wood. Now, the nature of this incense is such that it gives off smoke when it is burned.
When it is lit, it turns into smoke. If the nose smells it, it should be filled with smoke. When the organ of the nose smells it, there should be some smoke there. But, this fragrance is not due to the smoke. The smoke rises into the air, but the fragrance pervades all places. There is fragrance even where there is no smoke. And before it has reached the distance, how is it that the fragrance is already being smelled at a distance of forty li? The smoke has not yet traveled the forty li, but the fragrance has already reached that distance, and everywhere within that area the fragrance can be smelled. “Where would you say it comes from?” the Buddha asks Ananda.

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that neither the fragrance, nor the nose’s smelling has a location, and so the two places of smelling and fragrance are empty and false. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know that neither the fragrance, nor the nose’s smelling has a location.
Because of what has been explained, you should know that both the fragrance and the awareness of smelling have no location. They haven’t any fixed place. And so the two places of smelling and fragrance - the awareness of smelling in the nose and the fragrance - are empty and false. Their origin is not in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. They are all representations which flow forth from the wonderful nature of true suchness within the nature of the Thus Come One’s treasury.

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