with the Standless Gathas and Explanation of
Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua

Translated by Upasaka I Kuo Jung
Sponsored by The Buddhist Text Translation Society






                      ARE LIKE EMPTINESS AND FORM.

The text above spoke about the three kinds of form. These three are:

a. complementary visible form.
      b. complementary non-visible form.
            c. non-complementary non-visible form.

Within these three broad classifications, eleven kinds of form dharmas are distinguished. They are the 

Five Roots, and in addition, the Six Dusts

1. eye                           6. forms
2. ear                           7. sounds
3. nose                          8. smells
4. tongue                        9. tastes
5. body                         10. touchables
                                                              11. dharmas.

The five roots pair themselves with the six dusts. Taken together, these are the eleven kinds of form dharmas, which are divided into the three kinds of form. All the dust phenomena in front of your eyes, all that which has visible appearance, is complementary visible form.

The four kinds of form dharmas, which are complementary and non-visible, are sounds, smells, tastes, and touchables. Sounds can be heard but not seen. Smells are like this, and so too are tastes and touchables. There can only be a certain awareness. Since they cannot be seen, they are called complementary non-visible forms.

Mind dust (i.e., dharmas) is also subsumed within form dharma and is called non-complementary, non-visible form. When you look at this kind of form, you see nothing and have no awareness (of its presence), yet in your thoughts you know. In what sense can mind dust be called a form dharma? The five dusts in front of you leave behind shadows in your mind. The shadows, or min dust, are also form, a kind of form which is inside the mind-consciousness.


Perception, thinking, process and consciousness are also empty. They are the same as the form-dust. From where does the form-dust come? The pairing of the six form-dusts with the six roots produces the six consciousness in which there arises discrimination of a kind of form dust. The (specific) nature of each of these six roots seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and knowing-is empty. Since the nature is empty, and form is manifest from the nature, then form is also empty. That is to say in form there is emptiness.  You do not have to leave form to find emptiness. 

Now I shall speak about the form and the vision nature. Would you say that form or the vision nature exists first? If form exists first, then how can it manifest when there is no vision? If you say that vision exists first, then where does the vision nature go when there is no form? So, if there is no form, the vision nature is of no use. Therefore, both the vision nature and form are originally empty. You should not produce a one-sided attached nature (concerning this) and be attached to: existence is existence and emptiness is emptiness. The original non-duality of emptiness and existence is just true emptiness and wonderful existence producing wonderful function.  There are those who do not understand the Buddhadharma who see emptiness and think it is certainly empty, who see existence and think it is certainly existent. Not understanding the principle of the non-duality of emptiness and existence, they seek outside, piling head on top of head, running after false thinking. When the Buddha spoke the Heart Sutra, he proclaimed wonderful Dharma, the principle of the non-duality of emptiness and existence.

Perception, thinking, process, and consciousness
                        are like emptiness and form.
            Again he calls, "Sari(putra),
                        pay attention, listen!"
            All dharmas are empty,
                        appearances having no nature.

      The five skandhas, form, perception, thinking, process, and consciousness, are a general categorization of all dharmas (The One Hundred Dharmas).

      The two skandhas, perception and thinking are comprised of 51 dharmas belonging to the heart. It is said:

             8 heart dharmas
            51 dharmas belonging to the heart
            24 not mutually responding dharmas
             6 “non-activity” dharmas
make 100 dharmas.

The eleven form dharmas are the form dusts, which were spoken about first. These eleven refer to the pairing of the five roots with the six dusts. The five roots are five kinds of form dharma; the six dusts are six kinds of form dharma, making eleven kinds of form dharma.

      The eight heart dharmas are:

                        1. eye consciousness
                        2. ear consciousness
                        3. nose consciousness
                        4. tongue consciousness
                        5  body consciousness
                        6. mind-consciousness (mano-yijnana)
                        7. seventh consciousness (manas)
                        8. eighth consciousness (alaya)

There are 51 dharmas belonging to the heart. "Process" consists of the 24 not mutually responding dharmas. In addition there are the six "non-activity" dharmas. Together they make 100 dharmas.

Maitreya Bodhisattva had transformed all the teachings, which Sakyamuni Buddha spoke during his lifetime into 660 categories of dharma. Since 660 categories were still too many, later on, the Bodhisattvas Vasubandhu and Asanga again condensed them into these 100 dharmas.

      The gatha says,

            All dharmas are empty,
                  appearances having no nature.

In other words, the five skandha dharmas, form, perception, thinking, process, and consciousness, are all empty. They have no self-nature; their substance is empty.

            Neither produced nor destroyed,
                  they are silently pervading.

Nagarjuna Bodhisattva spoke a gatha of several lines, which speaks in detail about the dharmas of production and destruction. How did he put it?

Already born, there is no birth.
            Not yet born, there is also no birth.
            Apart from the already born and the not yet born,
            When there is birth, that is just no birth.

"Already born, there is no birth." Already born how can there still be birth?  Take for example a tree. Once a tree has grown forth, you cannot say it will grow forth again.

"Not yet born, there is also no birth." If there is no birth for the already born, the not yet born still has not been born, has it? How can it have a birth if it still has not been born?

"Apart from the already born, and the not yet born when there is birth, that is just no birth." When there is birth, that is just no birth is the same principle as "The past heart cannot be attained the present heart cannot be attained, the future heart cannot be attained. "Thus Nagarjuna Bodhisattva made clear the doctrine of no production and no extinction. This expression of the theory is quite fundamental.

The Dharma which the Buddha spoke has eight characteristics:

No production and no extinction.
      No permanence and no annihilation,
      No unity and no differentiation,
      No coming and no going.

Nagarjuna Bodhisattva used this four line gatha to describe birth (ie., no production). Birth is thus: Extinction also can be expressed thus. How? One says:

Already extinguished, there is no extinction.
      Not yet extinguished, there is also no extinction.
Separate from previous extinction, and the not yet
When there is extinction, that is just no extinction.

      When this kind of theory is proclaimed, most people will not be very clear about it. This is the reason I never talk about this kind of theory.  Nevertheless, now I will talk about no production and no extinction.

            Neither produced nor destroyed, they are silently prevading.
            Neither defiled nor pure, apart from corrupting filth.

      Our original self-nature is without defilement or purity. But as soon as we are born and become people, there is defilement and purity. Yet this defilement and purity is neither defiled nor pure. Nonetheless, we people have the kind of nature which is attached to accounting in a prejudiced (one-sided) manner, and so we say, "This is defiled; this is pure." This attachment nature causes the change to defilement and purity.

      How can we say it is away in which our heart becomes attached? Take, for example, our hands. Sometimes, in some special circumstances, hands can smear themselves on various kinds of shit, for instance people's shit or pig's shit. While they are smeared, you think they are very filthy. But once you have washed them off with water, you consider them clean. However, if, you use a washcloth containing shit or some other impure substance, even after you have finished washing it with soap, you still feel it is unclean.  You feel that if this washcloth has touched shit or contained shit, then it cannot be clean, so you throw it out. Even though the washcloth has been washed, in your heart you always feel that it is not clean. But after people wash their hands with water, their hearts are not attached in this way. They do not talk about taking a knife and cutting off a hand to get rid of it, not wanting it because it is not clean. Can you take care of it like this or not?  Why is the hand considered clean? Because it is something one cannot get rid of, so your mind considers it clean. If is were not clean, you still could not give it up and throw it out. Even when the washcloth is washed clean, you do not wish to have it. Nor do you wish to rub your face with it. As soon as you rubbed it on your face, you would feel that the stench had been rubbed unto your face. Originally there was excrement wrapped in this washcloth, so in your heart you do not want it. It is too unclean. It is all in your heart. If there is not this kind of attachment in the heart, then there is no defilement and no purity. When this attachment is made to disappear is what is meant by neither defiled nor pure, apart from corrupting filth.

If you are capable of attaining the Way-principle of neither defilement nor purity so that your heart is not turned by defilement and purity, you then unite with your self-nature, your virtue equals that of heaven and earth, and your light, that of the sun and moon. How can the Buddha be like infinite suns? Because the Buddha is able to attain to this Way-principle of neither defilement nor purity. If you are able to attain to this kind of natural Way-principle which is neither defiled nor pure, you and the four seasons, spring, summer, fall and winter, have all united together and changed into one. You can unite with the good luck and misfortune of gods and ghosts. Why are you unable to do this? Because you have the kind of nature which is attached to accounting in a prejudiced (one-sided) manner. If you did not have it, then you could turn back to the original source and, thereby, leave defilement.

      If your heart does not have this kind of attachment, there is no problem. For even when there is filth, filth is just the same as purity. The original substance of the self-nature is neither defiled nor pure. Therefore, all is without appearance and originally has no defilement and purity.

Neither increasing nor decreasing,
     enlightening dark mystery's

When you have attained enlightenment, then in your self-nature there is no increasing nor decreasing. You have enlightened to the Middle Way's most subtle and wonderful "principle-substance". "Before, I spoke about Nagarjuna Bodhisattva and the doctrine of non-production which he proclaimed. I also mentioned the Dharma of the eight kinds of appearances, which the Buddha spoke during the Vaipulya period:

No production and no extinction.
      No permanence and no annihilation.
      No unity and not differentiation.
      No coming and no going.

Most people, if not attached to annihilation, are attached to permanence. Annihilation and permanence are the views of those of outside ways. There is the view of annihilation and the view of permanence, but the Dharma which the Buddha spoke is neither annihilation nor eternalism. The Dharma which the Buddha spoke is neither unity nor differentiation.

To speak about us, would you say that people are annihilated? When people die, do they then not exist? Would you say that people are eternal?  Why then do we not now see any of the ancients? We do not see them because people are not eternal. Would you then say that people are not eternal? The rice which we now eat is still the rice which the ancients ate. Since we now eat this rice, it has not been annihilated. If you say it has not been annihilated, you must say it is eternal. Why do we not see the ancients now?  Since we do no see any ancients, they are not eternal. But we now still eat the things which the ancients ate, so we eat this thing and how is it still eternal" It, is still eternal because we often (lit. eternally) eat this thing. Therefore, the Dharma which the Buddha spoke is neither annihilation nor eternalism. So you should not be attached either to a view of annihilation or to a view of eternalism, but you should unite with the Middle Way. And so (the gatha says) enlightening dark mystery's center.

"No coming and no going". The Buddha, the Thus Come One, does not come from anywhere nor does he go anywhere. We should not only say the Thus Come One, since we people also neither come nor go. You say there is "coming"; where do people come from? You do not know. You say there is "going"; when we die, where do we go? You do not know that either. No coming and no doing, "not come from anywhere and not going anywhere." That is to say there is neither unity nor differentiation. There is neither anything in common, nor any differentiated appearance.

Would you say there is something in common? Let us talk about the body.  This body is not just one kind of thing that is organized together to become a body. There are many different divisions, which organize and become body.  This is called "non-unity". "Non-differentiation": to sum it all up, this body is just a body. There is not any other distinction. This is what is meant by "non-differentiation. To expound this kind of doctrine is very complicated. One time say a little; the next time say a little. When it has been spoken about several more times, you will be able to understand.

      Neither increasing nor decreasing.

      The self-nature neither increases nor decreases.

      Pure and deep ultimate silence, transcends all creation.

      The kind of ability which is very clear and pure, extremely pure, transcends all the creation and transformation of heaven and earth.

      Sudden awakening to self and dharmas’ original perfect fusion!

If you are able to understand at one time all kinds of doctrines which are spoken, then suddenly you will awaken to the fact that self and dharmas are originally perfectly fused, unobstructed, non-dual and undifferentiated.  Self and dharmas are one.

There is a Chinese saying which is very helpful for understanding neither increasing nor decreasing?

Years and months unfeeling
            In increase is decrease.22

One cannot say that the years and months have any human feeling at all. All that is said is their increasing is just decreasing. How then if it is said that there is neither increasing nor decreasing is there, nonetheless, increasing and decreasing? That which is increasing and decreasing is also neither increasing nor decreasing.

"Years and months unfeeling". You say "I don't want to go." Today you stand there and stop the flow. Time is not allowed to accompany you any further. Today you wish to tell it not to leave, but unless you make the sun stand still, no matter what you do, you will not stop it from flowing. Now, although science has progressed, it still has no method capable of making the sun stand still. Therefore, time is unfeeling.

"In increase is decrease." This year we are 60 years old and next year, 61 years old. Although it seems like our life span has increased one year, if you calculate toward the year of death. For instance if I were to die at the age of a 100 and had now lived to be 61, there would still remain 39 years. My life would have already decreased to 39 years. Therefore, when one side increases, the other side decreases. “In increase is decrease.” So also is decrease in increase. If you truly understand this doctrine, originally there is neither increase nor decrease. When I was teaching you Chinese, I said, “If you do not have an old heart, you have eternal youth.” Therefore, “in increase is decrease.”

What to do?

Tasty Buddhadharma
            After the bitter, the sweet.23



The Buddhadharma is really interesting23A. When you study the Buddhadharma, you study a little bit, then you understand a little bit.  Yesterday I said, "In opening enlightenment there are small enlightenments, there are middle enlightenments, and there are great enlightenments." When you have a small enlightenment, how big is it? Perhaps it is as small as "a speck of dust bordering on emptiness," In your eighth consciousness field, you have already opened a small enlightenment and you still do not know.

Middle enlightenment. Having a middle enlightenment, you feel, "Ah, I understand a little more doctrine. Oh, originally neither increasing nor decreasing is like this! Originally neither produced nor destroyed, neither defiled nor pure has so many meanings!" Then you understand these doctrines. This is middle enlightenment.

Great enlightenment. Great enlightenment ends birth and death. You know how you come and how you go. You know what is meant by increasing and what is meant by decreasing. The doctrine of neither produced nor destroyed is completely understood. Great enlightenment, so:

      Tasty Buddhadharma
                  After the bitter, the sweet.

First, you certainly must endure (be patient with) a little bit of suffering. This does not mean studying three and a half days, not even five days, and saying, "I have studied enough Buddhadharma." No, you certainly should let go of and get rid of this kind of "patient" heart, (and say), "No matter what the difficulty, I want to study." Yesterday, I told you why I always want to teach you Chinese in the time for teaching you Chinese, and will lecture on Sutras in the time for lecturing on Sutras. Unless there are special conditions. I am absolutely incapable of being lazy. Why? It is also just that you must reliably, truly cultivate, then you can get to the flavor: “After the bitter, the sweet.” You must first take the bitter (suffering), then afterwards you can get the sweet. So in studying the Buddhadharma, no one should be afraid of suffering. Do not be afraid. The more suffering the better. You should make your energy arise, firm your stance and direct your will, and go forward with valor and vigor. You should not be afraid of suffering; you should not be afraid of difficulty! Then you can study Buddhadharma.


  1. See VBS, #15, P.11
  2. (a.) The18 Realms(dhatu)(b.) The 12 Entrances(c.) The 11 Form Dharmas




  3. For explanation of 'dust' see VBS #15, pp12-13,p.18, note 3.

3A. chiao

  1. hsing, skt. svabhava
  2. chien hsing
  3. tsung
  4. For a complete list of the hundred dharmas, see the pai fa ming men lun, T. 1614, (Mahayana) Satadharma-prakasamukha-sastra
  5. The convenient Chinese mnemonic verse is as follows:

8A. wu wei is the Chinese translation for assmakrta, often translated

  1. These are also known as the eight consciousnesses. The sixth, seventh, and eighth are often designated by their number only, e.g., the alaya or store consciousness can be referred to as the eighth consciousness.
  2. See yu ch'ieh shih ti lun (Yogacaryabhumi-sastra T.1579).
  3. Vasubandhu, Ch. t'ien ch'in "heavenly relation", from (vedic) Skt. vasu'excellent', 'good', 'beneficent; i.e., the qualities of the class of gods of the same name; bandhu-'relation', 'kinsman'.
  4. Asanga, Ch, wu chiao "no attachment" from Skt. a-(meg. prefix) and the verbal root sanj - to attach.
  5. See note #7 above.
  6. (Chinese)
  7. This passage is taken from The Diamond Sutra( Vajracchedika Sutra T.235). For an English translation from the Sanskrit see Edw. Conze Buddhist Wisdom Books, 1958, p.60
  8. (Chinese)
  9. (Chinese)

17A. (Chinese)

  1. Vaipulya, Ch fang teng. For further explanation see VBS #3.,PP 10-12; VBS #8, p.14, note 29.
  2. ch'ang. This character, which in everyday speech means "often usual" is the same character which is translated above as "eternal" according to its meaning in the classical language.
  3. Therefore, the reader should not at this point become attached to a view about the validity or non-validity of the argument. Its only purpose is to destroy attachment. Attrachment gone, there is no affliction.
  4. ju lai is the Chinese translation of Tathagata (Tatha-(a)-gata) which because of the ambiguity of the Sanskrit sandhi can mean either "thus come" or "thus gone."
  5. (Chinese)
  6. This line forms a rhymed couplet with that in #22.

23A. yu wei, literally "having flavor," also means "interesting."

  1. lin hsu ch'en is a technical term denoting the smallest possible unit of matter.
  2. liao chieh, also literally "end release".
  3. k'u means both "suffering" and "bitter".