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The Eighteen Realms
VOLUME 3, Chapter 5
P3 The realm of nose, smell, and consciousness.
Q1 Sets the scene to discuss the organ, object, and consciousness.
"Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it, the nose and smells create the conditions that produce the nose-consciousness.
Moreover, Ananda, as you understand it. You have heard this teaching of the provisional vehicle before. The provisional vehicle discusses the five skandhas, the six entrances, the twelve places, and the eighteen realms. You understand all these doctrines. But, the eighteen realms were then described as expedient dharma doors for those of the two vehicles and those of externalist sects, in order to take them across. Now I am going to discuss this doctrine with you in more detail. Don’t become attached to these defiling objects of dharma.
The nose and smells create the conditions that produce the nose-consciousness. The nose and smells together give rise to causes and conditions, which are that the nose smells a smell, and the smell comes to the organ of the nose. They together produce the conditions that give rise to the nose consciousness. When it does arise, where would you say it comes from in the last analysis? Ultimately, is there such an entity as a nose consciousness?
Q2 Asks which gives rise to which.
“Is this consciousness produced because of the nose, such that the nose is its realm? Or, is it produced because of smells, such that smells are its realm?
Is this consciousness produced because of the nose? Would you say the nose consciousness was produced because of the nose organ, such that the nose is its realm? Or, is it produced because of smells, such that smells are its realm? What is the location of the realm of the nose consciousness?
Q3 Discusses them separately and together and refutes them all.
R1 Refutes that it is produced from the nose.
“Suppose, Ananda, that the nose consciousness were produced because of the nose, then in your mind, what do you take to be the nose? Do you hold that it takes the form of two fleshy claws, or do you hold it is an inherent ability of the nature which perceives smells as a result of movement?
Suppose, Ananda, that the nose consciousness were produced because of the nose. Suppose it were the nose organ that produced the consciousness which lies between the nose organ and the defiling objects of smells. Then in your mind, what do you take to be the nose? In that case, what do you consider to be your nose, when you think about it?
Basically a nose is a nose, and yet the Buddha still asks him what he takes to be his nose. Probably the Buddha was trying to get Ananda to say he took his eyes for his nose or his ears for his nose, but Ananda still did not understand this doctrine.
Do you hold that it takes the form of two fleshy claws? Do you hold that the nose is that piece of flesh which looks like two claws? Or do you hold it is an inherent ability of the nature which perceives smells as a result of movement? Or do you hold it is the awareness of smell, the ability to smell? When there is awareness of smells there is movement sniffing. Do you take this nature to be the nose?
“Suppose you hold that it is fleshy claws which form an integral part of your body. Since the body’s perception is touch, the sense organ of smelling would be named ‘body’ instead of ‘nose,’ and the objects of smelling would be objects of touch. Since it would not even have the name ‘nose,’ how could a realm be established for it?
The Buddha said further to Ananda: Suppose you hold that it is fleshy claws. Suppose you consider the nose consciousness to have the nature of flesh - which form an integral part of your body. Things which are flesh are part of the human body. Since the body’s perception is touch - what the body is aware of is called touch; it is not called the nose consciousness - the sense organ of smelling would be named “body” instead of “nose,” and the objects of smelling would be objects of touch. What has the nature of flesh is the body and what the body is aware of is the defiling object of touch. Since it would not even have the name “nose,” how could a realm be established for it? In this case, there wouldn’t be anything with the name “nose consciousness.” Without even the name “nose,” how could you establish a realm for it?
The Buddha isn’t being logical. We all know that we have noses. Now he’s caused Ananda’s nose to disappear. Ultimately, do people’s nostrils point up or down? The Buddha didn’t ask Ananda that, but now I am asking you who are studying the Shurangama Sutra: Do you all know whether your nostrils point up or down? If you can answer that question, you will pass your monthly examination.
“Suppose you held that the nose was the perceiver of smells. Then, in your mind, what is it that perceives? Suppose it were the flesh that perceived. Basically, what the flesh perceives is objects of touch, which have nothing to do with the nose.
Suppose you held that the nose was the perceiver of smells. Suppose you consider the perception of smells, that kind of knowing awareness, to be your nose consciousness. Then, in your mind, what is it that perceives? What do you take to be the perceiver? Suppose it were the flesh that perceived. Do you say that you perceive smells with your flesh? Basically, what the flesh perceives is objects of touch, which have nothing to do with the nose. What the flesh is aware of is called objects of touch. So, it can’t be called the nose.
“Suppose it were emptiness that perceived. Then emptiness would itself be the perceiver, and the flesh would have no awareness. Thus, empty space would be you, and since your body would be without perception, Ananda would not exist.
Ananda, suppose it were emptiness that perceived. The emptiness that the Buddha is referring to is the emptiness close to the nostrils. He proposes that the nose-consciousness exists at the place where the nostrils and the emptiness come together. Then emptiness would itself be the perceiver, and the flesh would have no awareness. If you took the emptiness to be the nose consciousness, which does the perceiving, then emptiness would know itself, while your flesh would have no awareness.
Thus, empty space would be you. If you say that the consciousness is produced from emptiness, then emptiness would be your body, Ananda. Why? Because your consciousness would be in the emptiness in front of your nostrils. This emptiness would have self-awareness. If you don’t share this awareness, then it doesn’t have anything to do with you. But, if you do share it, if you know that it is a consciousness that makes distinctions, then your body would be emptiness along with it.
Since your body would be without perception, Ananda would not exist. In that case, you, Ananda, would not even have a place to stand. There wouldn’t be any place for you, because, after all, you are emptiness.
“If it is the smell that perceives, perception itself would lie with the smell. What would that have to do with you?
If it is the smell that perceives - if you say that your nose consciousness comes from the defiling object of smells, perception itself would lie with the smell. If it were the smell that produced the perception, then the consciousness would belong to the smell and not to you. So, what would that have to do with you? It wouldn’t have anything to do with you.
“If it is certain that vapors of fragrance and stench are produced from your nose, then the two flowing vapors of fragrance and stench would not arise from the wood of airavana or chandana. Given that the smell does not come from these two things, when you smell your own nose, is it fragrant, or does it stink? What stinks does not give off fragrance; what is fragrant does not stink.
The word for “stench” in Chinese is pronounced xiu or chou. Basically, it should be pronounced chou here, but when people hear that word they immediately get a bad impression, so here we will pronounce it xiu. If it is certain that vapors of fragrance and stench are produced from your nose - you say that pleasant and unpleasant smells are produced from your nose - then the two flowing vapors of fragrance and stench - that is, the fragrant scent and the unpleasant smell - would not arise from the wood of airavana or chandana. In this case, the stench would not be produced from the airavana, which is a kind of tree with an extremely bad smell.
How bad does it smell?
The wood puts forth a stench like that of a three-to-five-week-old corpse which is decaying under the blazing sun and can be smelled for a long way off. The red flowers of the airavana are very beautiful but very poisonous, and if someone were to eat one of them, that person would immediately die. Chandana has been discussed before. It is also called oxhead chandana, and it comes from Uttarakuru, the northern continent. As soon as the fragrant chandana wood is lit, it can be smelled for thirteen miles. Sometimes the airavana grows near the chandana, and when this happens the airavana doesn’t stink.
This is an example of the ultimate stench becoming fragrance, and the ultimate fragrance becoming stench. The same is true of people. Places where there are only bad people have a kind of stench - everyone smells bad. But, perhaps there is a good person among them who exerts his influence and changes them all into good people; his presence is like the fragrance of chandana wood. When a thing reaches the furthest point there will certainly be change.
When stagnation reaches its furthest point,
peace comes along.
When something is as bad as it can get, it gets better. And, when things are as good as they can get, they go bad. For example, in this world, scientific progress has now led to a lot of discoveries, but when the discoveries reach their furthest point, the world will be destroyed. And, afterward, people will be totally ignorant. Then, after a time of ignorance, they will begin to discover things again, and when they discover a lot of things again, the world will be destroyed again. That’s how this world is. It goes in cycles.
Given that the smell does not come from these two things - if airavana and chandana do not give off vapors - when you smell your own nose, is it fragrant, or does it stink? What stinks does not give off fragrance; what is fragrant does not stink. If the smell is not good, then it is not fragrant. If it is a good smell, then it does not stink.
“Suppose you say you can smell both the fragrance and the stench; then you, one person, would have two noses, and I would now be addressing questions to two Anandas. Which one is you?
Suppose you say you can smell both the fragrance and the stench - if you say that you yourself can smell and that what you smell is both fragrant and stinking, then you, one person, would have two noses. Why? Didn’t the Buddha just say that what is fragrant does not stink, and what stinks is not fragrant? If you say you smell both smells, and if you say that smells are produced from the nose, then you should have two noses. How could your one nose smell two scents? And I would now be addressing questions to two Anandas. After all, there are two noses, so there should be two Anandas whom I am questioning about the Buddhadharma. Which one is you? Which is your body?
“Suppose there is one nose; then fragrance and stench would not be two. Since stench would be fragrance and fragrance would become stench, there would not be two natures, thus what would make up the realm?
Suppose there is one nose. Perhaps you insist that there is just one nose, not two, saying that you haven’t two bodies, so you must have only one nose. Then fragrance and stench would not be two. Fragrance would simply be stench, and stench would be nothing but fragrance; there wouldn’t be any distinction between them. Since stench would be fragrance and fragrance would become stench, there would not be two natures. If the two scents of fragrance and stench mix together, neither nature remains. The fragrance isn’t fragrant and the stench doesn’t stink. Without these two natures, where would your realm of nose consciousness come from? Where could you establish its bounds?
R2 Refutes that it is produced from smells.
“If the nose consciousness were produced because of smells, it follows that it is in existence just because of smells. Just as the eyes can see but are unable to see themselves, so, too, if it exists because of smells, it would not be aware of smells.
If the nose consciousness were produced because of smells - if you say that the nose consciousness is produced because of smells - it follows that it is in existence just because of smells. Suppose that the nose consciousness exists because of the smell of vapors. Just as the eyes can see but are unable to see themselves - the eyes’ vision cannot return the light and illumine within to see themselves - so, too, if it exists because of smells, it would not be aware of smells. If it is because of smells that the nose-consciousness exists, then basically you should not be aware of smells in your nose consciousness. How could you still be aware of them? However, in fact, you are aware of smells, so it is not from smells that the nose consciousness is produced.
“If it is aware of smells, then it is not produced from smells. If it had no awareness, the realm of smelling would not come into being. If the consciousness were not aware of smells, then the realm would not be established from smells.
If it is aware of smells, then it is not produced from smells. If there is an awareness of smells, then how could awareness arise from the smells? A nose consciousness both produced from smells and aware of smells would be like eyes which could see themselves. If you say it is aware of smells, then it is not produced from smells. On the other hand, if you say it has no awareness, it cannot be the nose-consciousness. Something that lacks awareness is not consciousness. The meaning of consciousness is that it makes distinctions; it must have awareness.
If it had no awareness - for the defiling objects of smell are devoid of knowing awareness - the realm of smelling would not come into being. It cannot be that smells, which lack awareness, are what establish the realm of nose consciousness. If the consciousness were not aware of smells, then the realm would not be established from smells. Furthermore, it’s been proved that if the nose consciousness comes from smells, it cannot also be aware of them. If it is aware of smells, then it cannot come about because of them.
R3 Refutes that it arises from a combination of the two.
“Since there is no intermediate realm of consciousness, there is no basis for establishing anything internal or external, either. Therefore, the nature of smelling is ultimately empty and false.
It has no location. Where would you say it arose from? Since it is not produced from smells, nor from the nose, nor from emptiness, it is ultimately empty and false.
Q4 Concludes by returning the false to the true.
“Therefore, you should know that, as to the nose and smells being the conditions which produce the realm of the nose consciousness, none of the three places exists. Thus, the three aspects of the nose, smells, and the realm of smelling do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously.
Therefore, you should know - because of what has been said, you should know, Ananda - that, as to the nose and smells being the conditions - the mutual causes and conditions - which produce the realm of the nose consciousness, none of the three places exists. There is no realm of the nose organ, nor is there a realm of the defiling object of smells, nor is there a realm of a smelling consciousness; none of these three realms exists.
Thus, the three aspects of the nose, smells - the nose organ and the defiling object of smells - and the realm of smelling - the consciousness which enables you to be aware of the defiling objects of smell - these three realms - do not have their origin in causes and conditions, nor do their natures arise spontaneously. They, too, are a manifestation of the wonderful nature of true suchness from within the treasury of the Thus Come One. They definitely do not have a fixed location.
Don’t be attached to the provisional dharma doors which I spoke previously: the eighteen realms and the twelve places. All of them are empty, false, not actual. But, in order to draw in those of the small vehicle, it was necessary to explain all those dharma doors, all those places.
Basically, they do not exist. Now, in explaining this, I am explaining the dharma door of the characteristic of reality - the primary truth, the great Shurangama Samadhi - and, so you cannot bring up all those theories I explained before and compare them to the dharma door of the primary truth which I am now explaining. Thus, none of those realms discussed before holds up; they are not fully correct. They don’t count as the Buddha’s dharma.
When there is a day without a lecture on the sutra, don’t just treat it as a vacation. If you do, your minds can become scattered. When you have a day off, you should keep your body and mind under control. Don’t be too scattered. You should study with great intensity and not just do a passable job of things.
Further, there is the matter of taking precepts. At our Shurangama Sutra Cultivation and Lecture Session, there are people who wish to take the five lay precepts, the eight lay precepts, and the Bodhisattva precepts. Those who take the five precepts and the eight precepts are called upasakas and upasikas - precepted laymen and laywomen. Someone who takes the Bodhisattva precepts is called a Bodhisattva. People who have taken the Bodhisattva precepts are Bodhisattvas.
Originally it was only left home people who received the Bodhisattva precepts, but since the definition of a Bodhisattva is one who benefits himself and benefits others, laypeople can also take the Bodhisattva precepts. Receiving precepts is extremely important in Buddhism. All of you who want to take precepts should not miss an opportunity to do so. You can take one precept, two precepts, three precepts, four precepts, five precepts, eight precepts, and the ten major and forty eight minor precepts. Laypeople cannot take the ten precepts, because the ten precepts are for sramanera (novice monks and nuns). Receiving one precept is called taking the small half. Receiving two precepts is called taking half the precepts; taking three precepts is called taking more than half, and taking five precepts is called taking the entire five.
The first precept prohibits killing; but, if you cannot stop killing, you can take the second precept, which prohibits stealing. If you like to drink, like a drinking disciple I have, and you don’t want to take the fifth precept, which prohibits taking intoxicants, you can take the precept against killing, the precept against stealing, and the third and fourth precepts, which prohibit sexual misconduct and lying. If you say, “I like to lie, I can’t take the precept that prohibits lying,” you can take the precepts against killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, and intoxicants. Perhaps you say you can’t stop killing - sometimes you unintentionally kill ants, or mosquitoes - and to take the precept and break it afterward would involve an even greater offense. Then you can decide against taking the precept that prohibits taking life. It is up to you. So, don’t miss the opportunity.
I don’t mind telling you that in China, if you want to receive precepts, you can’t do it without paying two hundred dollars. Why? It is like a business. You certainly have to pay. The money I am speaking of is not the money used to buy the robe and sash which are worn by precepted disciples. That is something for you, and how much money you spend on that is your business. The two hundred dollars is charged as a payment to the master and the temple.
However, I don’t charge. Whether or not you have money doesn’t matter. In fact, I am giving a pair of arhat shoes to all of you who have participated in the Shurangama session. But, these arhat shoes are not meant to encourage you to practice the Way of an arhat - to benefit just yourself and not to benefit others. They are meant to teach you to remember that arhats are of the small vehicle, and that you should go down the path of the great vehicle. You should put on your arhat shoes and practice the Bodhisattva Way.