THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 4

CHAPTER 5

Hearing is Not Sound

I2 Investigation and understanding of the explanation of the two doubts.
J1 Investigation of the explanation of the doubt that the basic nature is severed and extinguished.
K1 Ananda's mistaken understanding of the Buddha's words causes him to ask a misguided question.
L1 He sees cause and fruition as opposites.


Sutra:

Ananda said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, as the Buddha has said, 'The resolve for enlightenment on the cause ground which seeks the eternal must be in mutual accord with the ground of fruition.' "

Commentary:

Ananda has once again given rise to doubts, and so he comes up with another question. Ananda said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, as the Buddha has said, according to the doctrines you discussed in the past, 'The resolve for enlightenment on the cause-ground which seeks the eternal,' on the cause-ground you bring forth the true resolve for enlightenment, which you hope will remain forever and never be destroyed. It must be in mutual accord with the ground of fruition. It must not be in opposition with the principles of fruition."

Sutra:

World Honored One, the ground of fruition is Bodhi; nirvana; true suchness; the Buddha-nature; the amala consciousness; the empty treasury of the Thus Come One; the great, perfect mirror-wisdom. But although it is called by these seven names, it is pure and perfect, its substance is durable, like royal vajra, everlasting and indestructible.

Commentary:


World Honored One, the ground of fruition is Bodhi; nirvana; true suchness; the Buddha-nature; the amalaconsciousness; the empty treasury of the Thus Come One; the great, perfect mirror-wisdom. 'Bodhi" is "the way of enlightenment" (jiao dao). "Nirvana" is said to be "neither produced nor destroyed" (bu sheng bu mie). "True suchness" is actual and not false; a single, non-dual suchness. Suchness is not a 'thing" at all. It is like emptiness. True suchness is just true emptiness. In one truth is all truth. But, if there is the slightest lack of truth, it cannot be called true suchness. The Buddha-nature is inherent in all beings. The amala consciousness is the "consciousness devoid of filth" (wu gou shi). Prior to enlightenment, this consciousness is called the eighth consciousness, the alaya-consciousness. Alaya means "storehouse" (cang shi); the name indicates that it contains everything within it. The amala is the transformation of the eighth consciousness into a pure consciousness.

The "empty treasury of the Thus Come One" is another name, and the "great, perfect mirror-wisdom" is also a name. But although it is called by these seven names, although the ground of fruition has different titles, it is pure and perfect. In its principle, in its noumenal aspect, it is pure and perfect. Its substance is durable: its essence is durable, like royal vajra, everlasting and indestructible. It will never be destroyed.

Sutra:

If the seeing and hearing are apart from light and darkness, movement and stillness, and penetration and obstruction and are ultimately devoid of substance, they are then like thoughts apart from sense-objects: they do not exist at all.

Commentary:

If the seeing and hearing are apart from light and darkness, movement and stillness, and penetration and obstruction and are ultimately devoid of substance, then their essence ceases to be. They are then like thoughts apart from sense-objects: they do not exist at all. The thoughts of the mind don't have substance, either. When separated from the defiling objects which correspond to them, they are entirely non-existent.

Sutra:

How can what is ultimately destroyed be a cause by which one cultivates in the hope of obtaining the fruition of the Thus Come One's sevenfold eternal abode?

Commentary:

The mind-organ is "devoid of a substance when separated from its defiling objects." How can what is ultimately destroyed be a cause by which one cultivates in the hope of obtaining the fruition of the Thus Come One's sevenfold eternal abode? How can it be used in cultivation to obtain the Thus Come One's sevenfold, everlasting fruition of Bodhi, nirvana, true suchness, the Buddha-nature, the amala-consciousness, the empty treasury of the Thus Come One and the great, perfect mirror-wisdom?

L2 Earlier and later explanations differ.

Sutra:

World Honored One, when it is apart from light and darkness, the seeing is ultimately empty, just as when there is no sense-object, the essence of thought is extinguished.

Commentary:


World Honored One, when it is apart from light and darkness, if it were to be separated from light and dark, the seeing is ultimately empty, just as when there is no sense-object, the essence of thought is extinguished. Thoughts cannot arise.

Sutra:

I go back and forth in circles, minutely searching, and basically there is no such thing as my mind or its objects. Just what should be used to seek the Unsurpassed Enlightenment?

Commentary:


I go back and forth, researching and investigating, in circles. I go through the process again and again, minutely searching, and basically there is no such thing as my mind or its objects. My mind doesn't exist. None of it exists. Just what should be used to seek the Unsurpassed Enlightenment, to accomplish the enlightenment on the ground of fruition? I search everywhere, and there isn't any mind. I can't use the mind subject to production and extinction. And I can't find the true mind. So, how do I set up a mind on the cause-ground to seek the enlightenment on the ground of fruition?

Sutra:

The Thus Come One previously said it was a tranquil essence, perfect and eternal. His present contradiction defies belief and is a resort to idle theorizing. How can the Thus Come One's words be true and actual?

Commentary:

The Thus Come One previously said it was a tranquil essence, perfect and eternal. He discussed the tranquil, perfect, eternal essence of seeing. His present contradiction defies belief and is a resort to idle theorizing. But the dharma the Buddha speaks is not idle theory. Yet, how can the Thus Come One's words be true and actual? The doctrine the Buddha has explained contradicts itself. First the Buddha said, "Don't use the mind subject to production and extinction," and later he said it is just that mind which you use in cultivation. I, Ananda, cannot find the mind in question, and the more I hear, the less I understand. How can the Buddha still be speaking the truth? The Buddha should be speaking the truth: true words, actual words, not false words. Why is it that what the Buddha says contradicts itself?

L3 He again seeks instruction.

Sutra:

I only hope the Buddha will let fall his great compassion and will instruct us who do not understand and who are holding on tightly.

Commentary:

Now I only hope the World Honored One, the Buddha will let fall his great compassion and will instruct us who do not understand and who are holding on tightly. We are grasping tightly to the dharmas of the small vehicle and are afraid to let go.

K2 The Tathagata uses an immediate incident to investigate permanence.
L1 He promises to resolve his doubts.


Sutra:

The Buddha told Ananda, "You study and learn much, but you have not yet extinguished outflows. In your mind you know only the causes of being upside down. But when the true inversion manifests, you really cannot recognize it yet."

Commentary:


After hearing what Ananda has just said, the Buddha doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. The Buddha told Ananda, "You study and learn much, you are erudite and have a strong memory, but you have not yet extinguished outflows. You still haven't obtained the extinction of outflows. In your mind you know only the causes of being upside down. But when the true inversion manifests, you really cannot recognize it yet. Just as it was said above, you know only how to write prescriptions. If the medicine were before you, you would not recognize it. So I say now that you are well versed in the reasons for being upside down, but when you confront a genuinely upside-down situation, you don't recognize it. You don't know what is upside down."

Sutra:

In order to strengthen your sincerity and faith, I will try to make use of an ordinary happening to dispel your doubts.

Commentary:


In order to strengthen your sincerity and faith. I'm afraid you are not sincere enough, and so if I told you outright, you wouldn't believe me. You don't have enough faith. You're not sufficiently humble. I will try to make use of an ordinary happening to dispel your doubts. I'll try using a common situation to explain this principle for you. I'll get rid of your doubts this way.

L2 He strikes a bell to investigate permanence.
M1 Two questions and answers.


Sutra:

Then the Thus Come One instructed Rahula to strike a bell once, and he asked Ananda, "Did you hear that?" Ananda and the members of the great assembly all said, "We heard it."

Commentary:

It has already been said that the nature of hearing is neither produced nor extinguished, but Ananda has misunderstood the principle the Buddha has been explaining and given rise to more doubts. So now the Buddha investigates the nature of hearing with the sound of the bell that has been struck. Then the Thus Come One instructed Rahula to strike a bell once. Rahula is the Buddha's only son. His name means "obstacle" (fu zhang), because he remained in his mother's womb for six years before he was born. This is not terribly unusual. In China there are many such cases. One famous case was that of Lao Lai Zi, who had white hair and eye brows and could talk from the moment of birth. He was born old, but he, nevertheless, still acted like a child and was rambunctious. There was also Lao Zi, of course, who is said to have stayed in his mother's womb for eighty-one years. His surname was Li and he was nicknamed Lao Zi or Lao Dan. Compared to these two strange incidents, Rahula's dwelling in his mother's womb for six years is not so spectacular. Since he was the Buddha's son, Rahula was very obedient, so the Buddha said, "Go ring the bell." Then he asked Ananda, "Did you hear that?" Ananda and the members of the great assembly all said, "We heard it."

Sutra:

The bell ceased to sound, and the Buddha again asked, "Do you hear it now?"

Ananda and the members of the great assembly all said, "We do not hear it."

Commentary:

The bell ceased to sound. The sound of the bell faded away.There was no sound. The Buddha again asked, "Do you hear it now?" The Buddha asked Ananda, "Well, do you hear it not, or don't you?"

Ananda and the members of the great assembly all said, "We do not hear it. We don?t hear it at all now."

Sutra:

Then Rahula struck the bell once again. The Buddha again asked, "Do you hear it now?"

Ananda and the great assembly again said, "We hear it.'

Commentary:

Once the sound of the bell had ceased and the Buddha had asked his question, Rahula figured out what to do next; he was very intelligent. Rahula was foremost in secret practices. People never realized that he was cultivating. No one knew that every day he was developing his skill. What did he do? He could enter samadhi at any time, in any place. When he went to the bathroom, he could enter samadhi. When it was time to eat, he would eat, but he was also in samadhi. His mind was not on the food. But no one ever caught on, and so he was said to be foremost in secret practices. Let's take reciting the Shurangama Mantra as an example. No one saw him recite the Mantra, and yet he could do it by heart. No one ever noticed him studying it or practicing it, but he could recite from memory. Since Rahula was foremost in secret practices, he was very intelligent and perceptive of the Buddha's intent, and so after the sound of the bell had ceased for a time, Rahula struck the bell once again. The Buddha again asked Ananda, "Do you hear it now? Well, do you hear it now?" the Buddha pressed Ananda. Ananda and the great assembly again said, "We hear it, We hear it," they exclaimed. The bell just rang.

This situation, the bell being rung and their then being asked if they had heard it, is the ordinary happening the Buddha mentioned. Wouldn't you say that anyone could understand this process of striking the bell and then asking if it was heard? Since Ananda had failed to understand the doctrines explained earlier, the Buddha now uses this very simple example to illustrate them.

Sutra:

The Buddha asked Ananda, "What do you hear and what do you not hear?"

Ananda and the members of the great assembly all said to the Buddha, "When the bell is rung, we hear it. Once the sound of the bell ceases, so that even its echo fades away, we do not hear it."

Commentary:

The Buddha asked Ananda, "What do you hear and what do you not hear? I want to hear what you have to say."

Ananda and the members of the great assembly all said to the Buddha, "When the bell is rung, we hear it. When the bell is struck, we all hear the bell's sound. Once the sound of the bell ceases, a while after the bell is struck its sound disappears so that even its echo fades away. Both the sound and the echo are gone. Then, we do not hear it." That's what we mean by "not hearing." So the problem that Ananda and the great assembly are having is to be found in their "not hearing." They think that when there is no sound there is no hearing. Actually, though, when there is no sound, what perceives that there is no hearing? That which knows there is no hearing is hearing itself. If you were really without hearing, then you basically would not know whether you were hearing or not. That's the important point.

Sutra:

The Thus Come One again instructed Rahula to strike the bell, and he asked Ananda, "Is there sound now?"

Ananda and the members of the great assembly all said, "There is a sound."

Commentary:

The Buddha, the Thus Come One again instructed Rahula to strike the bell, and he asked Ananda, "Is there sound now?" Ananda and the members of the great assembly all said, "There is a sound."

Sutra:

After a short time the sound ceased, and the Buddha again asked, "Is there a sound now?"

Ananda and the great assembly answered, "There is no sound."

Commentary:

After a short time, after just a bit, the sound ceased, the bell stopped ringing, and the Buddha again asked Ananda, "Is there a sound now? Do you still hear a sound, or don?t you?" Ananda and the great assembly answered, "There is no sound."

Sutra:

After a moment, Rahula again struck the bell, and the Buddha again asked, "Is there sound now?"

Ananda and the great assembly said together, "There is sound."

Commentary:

After a moment, that is, in a little while, Rahula again struck the bell, and the Buddha again asked, "Is there sound now? What about it, is there any sound, or isn't there?" Ananda and the great assembly said together, "There is sound."

Sutra:

The Buddha asked Ananda, "What is meant by 'sound,' and what is meant by 'no sound?' "

Ananda and the great assembly told the Buddha, "When the bell is struck there is sound. Once the sound ceases and even the echo fades away, there is said to be no sound."

Commentary:

The Buddha asked Ananda, "What is meant by 'sound?' Explain to me the difference between there being a sound and there not being any sound." Ananda and the great assembly told the Buddha, "When the bell is struck there is sound. That's what we mean by sound. Once the sound ceases and even the echo fades away, after the bell has been struck then the sound dies away, there is said to be no sound."

M2 He scolds them for their confusion.

Sutra:

The Buddha said to Ananda and the great assembly, "Why are you inconsistent in what you say?"

The great assembly and Ananda then asked the Buddha, "In what way have we been inconsistent?"

The Buddha said, "When I asked if you were hearing, you said that you were hearing. Then, when I asked you if there was sound, you said there was sound. I cannot ascertain from your answers if it is hearing or if it is sound. How can you not say this
is inconsistent?"

Commentary:

The Buddha said to Ananda and the great assembly, "Why are you inconsistent in what you say? Why do you contradict yourselves? What you say isn't even reasonable." The great assembly and Ananda then asked the Buddha, "In what way have we been inconsistent? How are we being unreasonable in what we say?"

The Buddha said, "When I asked if you were hearing, you said that you were hearing. Then, when I asked you if there was sound, you said there was sound. I said, 'Do you hear, or not?' and you said, 'I hear.' Then I asked, 'Is there sound, or not?' and you said, 'There is sound.' I cannot ascertain from your answers if it is hearing or if it is sound. You say it is both hearing and sound, which one is it ultimately? Your answers don't specify. How can you not say this is inconsistent?"

M3 His refutation reveals the proper meaning.

Sutra:

Ananda, when the sound is gone without an echo, you say there is no hearing. If there were really no hearing, the hearing nature would be extinguished. It would be just like dead wood. If then the bell were sounded again, how would you know?

Commentary:


"Ananda," the Buddha says, "You are not distinguishing clearly between sound and hearing, and this is the point which you do not understand; this is the place where you are really upside down. Why can't you even tell the difference between hearing and sound? Ananda, when the sound is gone without an echo, you say there is no hearing. If there were really no hearing, the hearingnature would be extinguished. It would be the end of the hearingnature. There should be no longer any capacity for hearing. And yet when there is another sound, the hearing is still there; it isn't gone after all. If there really were no hearing-nature, it would be just like dead wood. If then the bell were sounded again, how would you know?"

This is the important point. Although the sound ceases, the hearing-nature has not been cut off. It is still in operation, because the hearing-nature is not subject to production or extinction. The sound is subject to production and extinction, but the nature of hearing is not. There is hearing whether or not there is sound. So when the sound ceased and he answered that there was no hearing, it was a mistake. That's the place where he misunderstood. That's where he is upside down.

Sutra:

What you know to be there or not there is the defiling object of sound. But could the hearing nature be there or not be there depending on your perception of its being there or not? If the hearing could really not be there, what would perceive that it was not?

Commentary:

What you know to be there or not there is the defiling object of sound. Of course, what you notice being there or not being there belongs to sound. But could the hearing nature be there or not be there? Is that the way the hearing-nature is? Is it that it exists when there is sound and doesn't exist when there is no sound? When there is sound, there is hearing; when there is no sound, there is still hearing. The nature of hearing is neither produced nor extinguished.

Sound is subject to production and extinction; when there is a certain vibration, there is sound, and when that vibration ceases, there is no sound. But the hearing-nature does not appear and disappear depending on your perception of its being there or not. The hearing nature doesn't take its cues from you. If the hearing could really not be there, if you say that the hearingnature really can cease to exist in the absence of sound, what would perceive that it was not? What would know of its absence? What would perceive that there was no hearing? That which knows the absence of hearing is your hearing-nature. You say that you know that you are not hearing, but if you really didn't have a hearing-nature at that point, you wouldn't even realize that you were not hearing.

Sutra:

And so, Ananda, the sounds that you hear are what are subject to production and extinction, not your hearing. The arising and cessation of sounds cause your hearing-nature to be as if there or not there.

Commentary:


And so, because of this, Ananda, the sounds that you hear are what are subject to production and extinction. The sounds you hear arise and cease. The arising and cessation of sounds cause your hearing-nature to be as if there or not there. When the sounds come forth and die away, it is not your hearing that is there or not there. That's not what happens. Whether there is sound or not, the hearing nature remains throughout.

M4 He upbraids him for his confusion and tells him to stop making the same mistake.


Sutra:

You are so upside-down that you mistake sound for hearing. No wonder you are so confused that you take what is everlasting for what is annihilated. Ultimately, you cannot say that there is no hearing nature apart from movement and stillness and from obstruction and penetration.

Commentary:


You are so upside-down that you mistake sound for hearing. Ananda, you don't even recognize where you yourself are upside down. That's why I say that you don't even recognize the difference between right side up and upside down. You think that sound is hearing and that hearing is sound. How can this be? Sound and hearing are different. No wonder you are so confused that you take what is everlasting for what is annihilated. It's not surprising that you're so mixed up. No wonder you don't understand. You think that the true, permanent, undying nature is subject to annihilation. When did I ever tell you that the tranquil, true mind will cease to be? It is fundamentally an eternally abiding principle, and you say that it will come to an end, that it will disappear. You're really awfully confused. How do I know that? You can't even tell the difference between sound and hearing. It's such a simple matter, but you say that it is both sound and hearing that arises and ceases to be. In the end, which is it? Why are you so muddled? Ultimately, you cannot say that there is no hearing nature apart from movement and stillness and from obstruction and penetration. You should never say that apart from these conditions the nature of hearing does not exist. How could it not exist? The hearing-nature abides forever.

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