THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 3

CHAPTER 5

The Eighteen Realms

N4 The eighteen realms are the treasury of the Thus Come One.
O1 General statement.

Sutra:

“Moreover, Ananda, why do I say that the eighteen realms are basically the wonderful nature of true suchness, the treasury of the Thus Come One?

Commentary:

Shakyamuni Buddha said to Ananda, “How is it that the eighteen realms are basically the wonderful nature of true suchness, the treasury of the Thus Come One?”

What are the eighteen realms? They are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind - that makes six - together with forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas, the six defiling objects, which are six more realms. To them are added the six consciousnesses: the eye consciousness, the ear consciousness, the nose consciousness, the tongue consciousness, the body consciousness, and the mind consciousness. These three groups of six are the eighteen realms. The six sense organs are matched to the six defiling objects, and between them are produced the six consciousnesses. The consciousnesses are defined as that which makes distinctions. The sense organs are defined as that which grows, in that they are grown on our bodies. The defiling objects are defined by their quality of defilement. They are unclean, and they defile the nature of the six organs. When the six organs are matched with the six defiling objects, consciousnesses arise. The eyes see forms and make distinctions among them as being attractive or unattractive. They like the forms or they do not, and thus give rise to discriminations. With the ears it is the same: they hear sounds as pleasing or displeasing. Either they like a sound or they do not like it. The production of such distinctions is called the ear consciousness. The nose smells fragrance and stench. The two defiling objects of fragrance and stench are distinguished as such. You may like some odors and dislike others, and in this way you give rise to a nose consciousness. The tongue distinguishes flavors. Because the organ of the tongue is matched to the defiling objects of flavors, there is the discrimination of flavor. Flavors are either pleasant or disgusting - you either like them or you don’t. The body organ is matched with defiling objects of touch - smooth or abrasive, coarse or fine, various kinds of sensations, either pleasant or unpleasant. The body organ matched with the defiling objects of touch produces a consciousness which discriminates these sensations.

The organ of the mind is matched with the defiling objects of dharmas. The five defiling objects just discussed - forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and objects of touch - all have form and appearance. Only the defiling objects of dharmas are without form or appearance. There is no representation of them. Nonetheless, when the organ of the mind is matched with the defiling objects of dharmas, discrimination is produced in the mind, and so the mind also has a consciousness. In this way the six organs matched with the six defiling objects produce the six consciousnesses, and together they make up the eighteen realms. Although they are divided into eighteen realms, they are entirely contained within the wonderful nature of true suchness of the treasury of the Thus Come One.

O2 Specific explanation.
P1 The realm of eye, form, and consciousness.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss organ, object, and consciousness.


Sutra:

“Ananda, as you understand it, the eyes and form create the conditions that produce the eye consciousness.

Commentary:

Ananda, as you understand it -
Ananda, it is like the principle which you have already understood - the eyes and form create the conditions that produce the eye consciousness. The organ of the eye matched with the defiling object of form are the conditions.

Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.

Sutra:

“Is the consciousness produced because of the eyes, such that the eyes are its realm? Or is it produced because of form, such that form is its realm?

Commentary:

As to this consciousness which is produced when the six organs match up with the six defiling objects: is the consciousness produced because of the eyes, such that the eyes are its realm? Is it because of the eyes that the consciousness is produced, and does it take the eyes as its boundaries? Or is it produced because of form, such that form is its realm? Is it because of the defiling objects of form that the eye consciousness is produced, and does it take the defiling objects of form as its boundary?

Q3 Discusses them separately and together and refutes all possibilities.
R1 Refutes that it comes from the eyes.


Sutra:

“Ananda, if it were produced because of the eyes, then in the absence of emptiness and form it would not be able to make distinctions; and, so even if you had a consciousness, what use would it be?

Commentary:

Ananda, if it were produced because of the eyes -
Ananda, if it were because of the eyes that the eye-consciousness was produced, then it would have no connection with form and emptiness. Thus, the causes and conditions of form and emptiness would be non existent with regard to the eye-consciousness. In the absence of emptiness and form it would not be able to make distinctions. If there were no form and no emptiness, there would not be anything which was distinguished, either. This is because you have to be facing form for a distinction to be made. Or, if you are facing emptiness, a distinction can also be made. But, what you propose here is that there isn’t any form or any emptiness. Then, what distinctions can be made? There isn’t anything you can discriminate. So even if you had a consciousness, what use would it be? Just suppose you did have a consciousness; how could you use it? It would be useless.

Sutra:

“Moreover, your seeing is neither green, yellow, red, nor white. There is virtually nothing in which it is represented, therefore, what is the realm established from?

Commentary:

Your seeing
means your vision. Your eyes see forms and are able to produce a consciousness. Your seeing, which is capable of vision is neither green, yellow, red, nor white. It is not of those colors. There is virtually nothing in which it is represented, therefore, what is the realm established from? Where do you set up the realm?

R2 Refutes that it is produced from form.

Sutra:

“Suppose it were produced because of form. In emptiness, when there was no form, your consciousness would be extinguished. Then, why is it that the consciousness knows the nature of emptiness?

Commentary:

Suppose it were produced because of form.
If you want to say, “Ah, the eye consciousness is produced because of the defiling objects of form.” In emptiness, when there was no form, your consciousness would be extinguished. When there were no forms in emptiness and there was nothing for you to discriminate, your consciousness would be extinguished. If the eye consciousness is based on form, then when there are no forms to see, your eye consciousness should disappear. Why is it that the consciousness knows the nature of emptiness? How, then, do you know that it is emptiness? Since you are able to know that it is the nature of emptiness, your consciousness has clearly not disappeared. You still have it. Therefore, it is not based on form. So, where does your consciousness come from?

Sutra:

“Suppose a form changes. You are also conscious of the changing appearance; but your eye consciousness does not change. Where is the boundary established?

Commentary:

You say that it is because of form that the eye-consciousness is produced. Suppose a form changes. You are also conscious of the changing appearance. You know that the appearance of the form is changing. But your eye consciousness does not change. But, your eye consciousness hasn’t changed. Where is the boundary established? If it were produced from the form, your consciousness would change when the form changes. But it does not. So, where is the realm of the consciousness established? If consciousness were produced from form, the realm would be established at the place of the form. But, when the form changes, your consciousness does not chase off after the form and change along with it. Ultimately, where is the realm of your consciousness?

Sutra:

“If the eye consciousness were to change when form changed, then there would be no appearance of a realm. If it were not to change, it would be constant, and given that it was produced from form, it should have no conscious knowledge of where there was emptiness.

Commentary:

If the eye consciousness were to change when form changed.
The way it was stated above was that the eye-consciousness does not change. If you say that it does change when it encounters changes in form, then there would be no appearance of a realm. Then there would be no realm. It would be constantly changing. If it were not to change, it would be constant. If it does not go along with the changes, it is there eternally. And given that it was produced from form - since it has been said that the consciousness is produced from form - it should have no conscious knowledge of where there was emptiness. If the consciousness were produced from something with characteristics and an appearance, it would not know where emptiness is, because its realm would lie within form. Belonging with things that have a material nature, it would be a kind of consciousness which would not know of emptiness.

R3 Refutes that it arises from a combination of the two.

Sutra:

“Suppose the eye consciousness arose both from the eyes and from form. If they were united, there would still be a point of separation. If they were separate, there would still be a point of contact. Hence, the substance and nature would be chaotic and disorderly; how could a realm be set up?

Commentary:

Suppose the eye consciousness arose both from the eyes and from form.
Suppose the organ of the eye, matched with the defiling objects of form, and they produced it together. If they were united, there would still be a point of separation. If the two together produced the consciousness, then when the two were joined, there would certainly be a boundary between them, because they would not be a single entity. You propose that the eye produces the eye consciousness and the defiling objects of form also produce it. The defiling objects of form have no knowledge, while the eye organ has a knowing awareness. What the form produces will be without awareness; what the eye organ produces will have a knowing awareness. When something that has knowing awareness unites with something that lacks it, their dissimilarity means that there certainly will be a boundary between them. There will still be a point of separation.

If they were separate, there would still be a point of contact. If they are separate, half is the sense organ and half is the defiling object. One half has knowing awareness, and the other half lacks it. It is a combination of two things. Hence, the substance and nature would be chaotic and disorderly; how could a realm be set up? If it is explained this way, the substance and nature are scattered, and there can be no organization. Therefore, if in its basic substance it cannot be distinguished clearly, how can this realm of consciousness exist? The realm cannot be established.

Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that as to the eyes and form being the conditions that produce the realm of eye-consciousness, none of the three places exists. Thus, the three aspects of the eyes, form, and the form realm do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.

Commentary:

Therefore, you should know
- because of this, Ananda - that as to the eyes and form being the conditions - the joining together of the eye organ and the defiling objects of form - that produce the realm of eye-consciousness, none of the three places exists. If you pursue this doctrine in detail, you will see that none of the three places has a location. Thus, the three aspects of the eyes, form, and the form realm - the organ of the eye, the form dust, and the eye consciousness - do not have their origin in causes and conditions. At their basis, they are not produced from causes and conditions. Nor do their natures arise spontaneously. They are a representation of the nature of true suchness of the treasury of the Thus Come One.

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