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Exposing Faulty Differentiation of the Elements ~ Surangama Sutra

Exposing Faulty Differentiation

 

Ānanda, as you have said, when the four elements mix and fuse they cause all kinds of transformation in the world. But they cannot mix and unite if it is against their nature, just as the void cannot with form. On the other hand, if they so mix and fuse they are transformations and owe their existence wholly to their mutual dependence; they are thus subject to creation and destruction in endless succession, like the ring of fire caused when a torch is waved in a circle.

 

Pointing to the One Source‘

 

Ānanda, this is like water which, after becoming ice, can change back into water.

 

The Element of Earth

earth1

‘Look at the element of earth which ranges in size from the great earth to a tiny speck of dust. Split this speck which is near to nothing and reduce it to the finest mote on the extreme border of form. Then split it again and it becomes the void. ‘Ānanda, if this mote can be reduced to nothing, you should know that form comes from the void.‘You now ask about material changes which you attribute to the mixing and uniting (of the four elements). Take, for instance, this mote which is nearest to the void; how much voidness should be mixed and united to produce it? But it is absurd to suppose that this can be done by uniting motes. Since a mote can be split and reduced to voidness, how many (particles of) form should be fused together to create the void? The union of form (with form) produces form but not voidness, and the union of the void (with the void) produces voidness but not form. Form can be split up but how can the void unite (with form)?‘You do not know that in the Tath‘āgata store both form and (its opposite) the void arise from self-nature and are identical with each other, and that the element of earth is fundamentally pure and clean, embraces all in the Dharma-Realm and manifests because the minds of living beings know and distinguish (between things) in accordance with the laws of karma. Ignorant wordlings wrongly attribute this to cause, condition and the state of the self as such, because their consciousnesses differentiate and discriminate without their knowing that the language they use has no real meaning.

The Element of Fire

‘‘firecircleĀnanda, fire has no ego but exists because of (external) causes. When people in a town are about to prepare their meals, they use mirrors of polished metal to obtain fire from the sun.

‘‘Ānanda, about (your idea of) mixture and union, take this community of myself and twelve hundred and fifty bhikṣus; though the group is one, each member has his own body, clan and name, like Ś‘‘āriputra who is a Brahman, Uruvilv‘‘ā, a K‘‘aśyapa tribesman, and you, Ānanda, who are of the Gautama clan.

‘‘Ānanda, if fire comes from the mixture and fusion (of the elements), when a man holds a mirror to obtain fire in the sun, does this fire come from the mirror, the moxa or the sun? ‘Ānanda, if it comes from the sun, it can burn the moxa in your hand; if so, all the trees will be scorched. If it comes from the mirror and then lights the moxa, why does it not melt the mirror and burn your hand? But if you do not even feel the heat, how can the mirror melt? If it comes from the moxa, why does the latter require the sun and the mirror to make it burn? Look at the mirror held by the hand, the sun up in the sky and the moxa which originally came from the ground; how can fire travel elsewhere before coming here? (Moreover) the sun and the mirror are a very long way apart and cannot mix and unite with each other. Finally fire cannot exist by itself.

‘You do not realize that in the Tathāgata store both fire and (its opposite) the void arise from the self-nature and are identical with each other, and that the element of fire is fundamentally pure and clean, embraces all in the Dharma-Realm and manifests because the minds of living beings know and distinguish (between things). Ānanda, you should know that fire is produced wherever a man holds a mirror (in the sun), and that if mirrors are held up throughout the Dharma-Realm, fire will spring up everywhere in accordance with the laws of karma and not in a given place and direction. Ignorant worldlings wrongly attribute this to cause, condition and the state of the self as such without realizing that it is because their consciousnesses differentiate and discriminate and that the language they use has no real meaning.

The Element of Water

‘waterspriteĀnanda, water is unstable by nature for it either flows or is still. Great magicians in Śrāvastī, such as Kapila, Cakra, Padma and Hasta (?) obtain water to mix with their medicines by exposing a crystal ball to the full moon. Does this water come from the ball, the void or the moon? ânanda, if it comes from the moon which is a very long way off it should pass through the trees in the forest before reaching the crystal ball to flow into the bowl. If it does not flow through the trees, this shows that it does not drop from the moon. If it comes from the crystal ball, it should flow regularly not only when the moon is full. If it comes from the void of space which is boundless, it should flow everywhere, submerging everything between earth and heaven; if so, how can there be living beings to walk on the earth, fly in the air and swim in the water? Think of all this again; the moon is in the sky, the crystal ball is in the man’s hand and the bowl is in front of him; so where does this water come from to flow (into the bowl)? The moon and the ball are a very long way apart and cannot mix and unite with each other. It is absurd to say that this water does not come from any source.

‘You do not know that in the Tathāgata store both water and (its opposite) the void arise from self-nature and are identical with each other, and that the element of water is fundamentally pure and clean, embraces all in the Dharma-Realm, and manifests because the minds of living beings know and distinguish (between things). Thus water flows wherever crystal balls are used to collect it and if they are held up throughout the Dharma-Realm, it will flow everywhere in accordance with the laws of karma and not in a given place or direction. Ignorant worldlings wrongly at tribute, this to cause, condition and the state of the self as such without knowing that it is because their consciousnesses differentiate and discriminate and that the language they use has no real meaning.

The Element of Wind

3628866_orig‘Ānanda, the element of wind has no substance and either moves or is still. When you join a gathering and adjust your robe the hem (occasionally) brushes the person next you, disturbing the air which fans his face. Does this wind come from the hem of your robe, from the void or from that man’s face?

‘Ānanda, if it comes from the hem of your robe, the latter should leave your body (to brush the man’s face). As I preach the Dharma here, my robe does not move; where can you find any wind in it? It has no hidden place where wind can be stored.

‘If the wind comes from the void, why does it not fan (the man) when your robe is still? (Moreover) the void is permanent and so should be the wind; then without the wind there would be no void. You can feel when the wind stops fanning, but what indication can there be when the void ceases to exist? If the void can be created and destroyed, it cannot (really) be void, and if it is, how can it create the wind?

‘If the wind comes from your neighbour’’s face, it should also fan you; then why does not your robe when brushing against him fan you back?

‘Look into all this carefully. The robe which you adjust is yours, the face fanned is that of another bhikṣu and the void is still and does not move; then where does the wind come from? The wind and the void differ and can neither mix nor unite, while the wind cannot exist of itself without a cause. You do not realize that in the Tathāgata store wind and (its opposite) the void arise from self-nature and are identical with each other, that the element of wind is fundamentally pure and clean and embraces all in the Dharma-Realm and manifests because the minds of living beings know and distinguish (between things). If, ‘Ānanda, you move your robe, a light wind stirs. And if there is similar movement throughout the Dharma-Realm, there will be wind all over the world in accordance with the laws of karma and not in a given place or direction. Ignorant worldlings attribute the element of wind to cause, condition and the state of the self as such because their consciousnesses differentiate and discriminate without realizing that the language they use has no real meaning.

The Element of Space

tumblr_nhem70bbyt1r2geqjo1_500‘‘Ānanda, space is far from the river, people of different castes, such as Kṣatriya, Brahman, Vaiśya, Śūdra, Bhāradvāja and Caṇḍāla, who come to live there, dig wells to find water. Each foot of earth is replaced by a foot of space and ten feet of earth by ten feet of space, so that the shallowness or depth of each well corresponds with the amount of earth removed. Does this space come from the earth, from the digging or from itself as such?

‘Ānanda, if space exists of itself, why before the digging was it not unobstructed by the earth? Why was there only earth without any space being seen there?

‘If space comes from the earth, it should be seen to enter the well when the earth is being dug out. If only the earth is removed without space entering the well, how can space come from the earth? If (earth) is not excavated and (space) does not fill in the hole, both space and earth should be the same; then why is not space dug out with the earth?

‘If space comes from the digging, when the former is produced by the latter, no earth should be removed. If space does not come from the digging, why when earth is being dug out, is space seen in the well?

‘Think about all this and see where space comes from when a man uses his hands to dig earth to make a well. For digging and space are not in the same category and can be neither mixed nor united. And it is absurd to suppose that space exists of itself without coming from any cause. If space is perfectly all-embracing and essentially unmoving, you should know that it and the elements of earth, water, fire and wind — which together are called the five elements, intermingle naturally and are merely the untreated and unending Tathāgata store.

‘Ānanda, since your mind is deluded and you remain unaware of the real (identity of) the four elements in the Tathāgata store, you should look into space and see whether or not it comes or goes, or neither comes nor goes. You do not know that in the Tathāgata store Bodhi and (its opposite) the void arise from the self-nature and are identical with each other, because the element of space is fundamentally pure and clean, embraces all and manifests because the minds of living beings know and distinguish (between things). The ten quarters, ‘Ānanda, are like an empty pit filled with space which in accordance with the laws of karma has no given place nor direction. Ignorant worldlings attribute this to cause, condition and the state of the self as such because their consciousnesses differentiate and discriminate without knowing that the language they use has no real meaning.

The Element of Perception

optical-illusions-gifs12‘Perception knows nothing by itself and only manifests through form and voidness. As you are now in Jetavana park, you see light by day and darkness in the evening. At night there is light when the moon shines and darkness when there is no moon. This light and darkness are discerned by the seeing, (but) is this seeing of the same nature as light, darkness and the void or not; Is it the same or different from them?

‘Ānanda, if the seeing is of the same nature as light, darkness or the void; (we come to this:) as light and darkness alternate, and when there is one the other disappears, then if the seeing is one with darkness, it should vanish when there is light and vice versa. As the seeing disappears in both cases, why are light and darkness still seen? As they differ, it follows that the seeing is beyond creation and annihilation: if so, how can the seeing be the same as light and darkness?

‘If the seeing is not of the same nature as light and darkness, try to find out what this seeing looks like apart from light, darkness and the void, without which there can be no seeing like the hair of a tortoise and the horns of a hare. ‘As light, darkness and the void differ, where can the seeing be? As light and darkness are in opposition, how can the seeing equate with them? If there is no seeing without light, darkness and the void, how can it differ from them?

‘If you try to separate the void from the seeing, you will not find their boundaries; if so, why are they not the same
thing?

When you see light and darkness, your seeing does not change; so why does it not differ from them?

‘If you look closely and minutely into all this and examine it again and again, you will find that light comes from the sun, darkness from the moonless night, clearance from space and obstruction from the earth; so where is the begetter of this essence of seeing? Since the seeing can discern whereas the void cannot, they can neither mix nor unite. And we cannot say that this essence of seeing comes from nowhere.

‘You should know that perception by seeing and hearing which pervades all and essentially does not change, and boundless unmoving space, as well as its moving (counterparts as such) the elements of earth, water, fire and wind all of which are called the six elements, intermingle by nature and are the fundamental untreated and unending Tathāgata store.

‘You are infatuated by nature and do not understand that seeing, hearing, feeling and knowing fundamentally come from the Tathàgata store. You should inquire into them and see if they pertain to birth and death, if they are one or many, if they pertain neither to birth nor death and if they are neither one nor many.

‘You do not know that in the Tathāgata store self-natured seeing is basically the enlightened perception which is pure and clean, embraces all in the Dharma-Realm and manifests because the minds of living beings know and distinguish (between things). Like seeing which pervades the whole Dharma-Realm, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching as well as the activities of body and mind have wonderful virtues which are bright and universal and so are not in a given place or direction. They manifest according to the laws of karma but ignorant worldlings think wrongly that they are causal, conditional and due to the self as such. Because of their consciousnesses they differentiate and discriminate and do not know that their language has no real meaning.

The Element of Consciousness

Merkabbalah‘Ānanda, consciousness has no origin and is (an illusion) arising from the six organs and sense data. Look at, this holy assembly and turn round to see those present; your eyes are like a mirror which cannot discern while your consciousness notices in turn the presence of Mañjuśrī, Pūrṇamaitrāyaṇīputra, Maudgalyāyana, Subhūti, Śāriputra (etc.). Does this consciousness come from perception, form or the void, or does it (emerge) suddenly without any cause?

‘Ānanda, if your consciousness comes from your seeing (perception), then in the absence of light, darkness, form and the void, there will be no seeing, and when there is no perception, how can it create consciousness?

‘If your consciousness comes from form — that is not from perception, then, when light and darkness are not seen, there are neither form nor the void; then how can non-existing form create consciousness?

‘If your consciousness comes from the void — that is neither from form nor perception, the absence of perception means also that of discernment which implies the non-perception of light, darkness, form and the void; and the absence of form is the end of all external causes; how, then, can your seeing, hearing, feeling and knowing occur? Thus without form and perception, consciousness which comes from the void simply does not exist. (On the other hand), if it exists in the absence of objects, what can it discern?

‘If your consciousness suddenly emerges without any cause, why cannot it discern the moon in the daytime?

‘Now look closely and minutely into all this; your seeing (perception) depends on the pupils of your eyes meeting an external object which “isŸ when there is form and “is notŸ when there is no form. These are the four causes (i.e. the seeing, eyes, form and voidness) from which consciousness arises, but which one of them creates consciousness? Since consciousness is always moving (to differentiate) whereas perception is still (for it does not discriminate), they cannot mix and fuse together. Your hearing, feeling and knowing are in the same category (as your seeing) but your consciousness should still have a source.

‘If this consciousness comes from nothing, you should know that perception (by means of) seeing, hearing, feeling and knowing pervades everywhere and comes not from any source. Moreover with space, earth, water, fire and wind they are called the seven elements, the natures of which are real and intermingle (freely), being but the untreated and unending Tathāgata store.

‘Ānanda, because your mind is unsettled, you do not realize that the seeing and hearing that arouse consciousness, come fundamentally from the Tathāgata store. You should look into the consciousnesses inside the Six Entrances and see if they are the same or different, exist or not, are neither the same nor different, and neither exist nor not. For you do not realize that in the Tathāgata store self-natured consciousness is the enlightened basic Bodhi which embraces and pervades the whole Dharma-Realm, is not (to be found) in a given, place or direction and manifests according to the laws of karma. Ignorant worldlings think wrongly that it is causal, conditional and due to the self as such, according to the way their consciousnesses differentiate and discriminate while they do not know that the language they use has no real meaning.

~ The World-Honoured One, Surangama Sutra, pp. 109-121

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