With the Standless Gathas and Explanation of
Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua

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


In the last Heart Sutra I talked about the twenty kinds of affliction called the subsidiary afflictions literally, 'following afflictions'1. Whom do they follow? They follow you and they follow me. If you have afflictions then they go along with you. If I have afflictions, they come along with me. If he has afflictions, then they go along with him. So they are called the 'following afflictions.

Today there are six more afflictions, called basic afflictions, about which speak in a little while. First, however I will continue talking about the subsidiary afflictions. Of the twenty, I have already explained the ten small ones and will now talk about the two 'middle' subsidiary' and the eight 'large subsidiary’2, which are left.

      The two middle subsidiary afflictions are (11) 'lack of shame' and (12) 'lack of humility', that is, shamelessness3. The Chinese character for shame, tsan, is composed of an element meaning 'heart' and the character chan, which means 'to behead' or, more generally, 'to cut off' or 'kill', as in the expression "cutting off affliction". When this kind off affliction is in your heart, you do something wrong, yet do not admit that it is wrong and do not know how to change and repent.

Lack of shame also refers to not cutting off the affliction in your heart, which should be cut off. Having a murderous intent in your heart, which is left unrectified, is also called 'shamelessness'. Lacking shame, you know no embarrassment. Your actions are so lacking in light and uprightness that you should be unable to look at people; nevertheless, you do not even admit to being wrong. You still say, "What difference does it make? That person too does wrong in just the same way." You try to convince yourself that you are being reasonable, so you act as your own defense lawyer and say, "Because of thus and so, I had a reason and thus and so I am right. Yes, because my reasoning is especially precise, I am confident that I am in the right."

What does 'lack of humility' signify? The Chinese character k'uei, which is translated as 'humility' or 'remorse', is written with the element meaning 'heart' on the left and the character for 'ghost', kuei, on the right. In other words, although there is no light in your heart, you still consider it right to have no light. This is lacking humility. Although you have a bad conscience and feel that you should apologize to others you nonetheless do not say, "I am sorry," but think to yourself, "I am not going to apologize to those people!" This is lacking humility.

This has been a brief explanation of the two middle subsidiary afflictions' 'lack of shame' and 'lack of humility'.

Next are the eight "great subsidiary" afflictions. The first is (13) 'disbelief. You would have never thought lack of belief to be an affliction, would you? No matter what you say, a person with this affliction does not believe. What you say is right and he does not believe; what you explain is not right and he believes even less. In other words, no matter what it is that you say this person does not believe. If you speak, so the "heavenly flowers fall in disarray and golden lotuses well forth from the earth, "4he still acts as if he did not hear. If you explain something that has Way-Principle, he does not believe it. If you explain something that is unprincipled, he believes that even less. You explain a little more and he does not believe; you explain a little less and he also does not believe. If you talk about existence, he does not believe. If you talk about nothingness, he does not believe. If you talk about emptiness, he does not believe. To sum it up, the essential tenet of his principles is ‘disbelief,’ which is the first of the great subsidiary afflictions.

      The second of the great subsidiary afflictions is (14) sloth. None of you thought that sloth was a ‘great subsidiary’ affliction. What is meant by sloth? It means not diligently studying the Dharma-doors. No matter what a person so afflicted does he is always lazy. He eats lazily, waiting five minutes between mouthfuls. When he sleeps, he is in a stupor. The only time he is energetic is when he plays Chinese ‘ma chiang5.’ Sloth is the second “great subsidiary” affliction. He is lazy about the Dharma and lazy in cultivation.

He not only is lazy himself, but also wishes to influence other people to be lazy. Not only that, he basically does not want anybody else to do anything at all. This laziness has the nature of an affliction. What affliction?" However you people cultivate, I will not cultivate. I will influence you not to cultivate either. I am so lazy that if you are near me for two days, before three days are up, you will be lazy too." He wishes to use his laziness to influence other people to follow him in laziness. This is called a 'following affliction."6 Following others, the "following affliction" (i.e. 'subsidiary') of sloth is produced.

      The third kind of great subsidiary affliction is (15) 'laxity',8 which is not wanting to follow and uphold the rules. Not only do people with this affliction not follow the rules themselves, but they also hope that no one else will follow the rules either. For example, when one person likes to drink wine, he wishes to cast everybody into a sea of wine, to pickle them in wine. He casts everyone else into whatever he likes himself. He wishes to go dancing, so he drags everybody off to the dance hall. When he wants to go to the movies, then he takes everybody he knows to the movies. He likes going down to the hells, so he drags everybody down to the hells. He wants to be a hungry ghost, so he says "There is nobody better than a hungry ghost. Come on, Come on, Quickly!" And he takes all his friends and relatives off to the path of hungry ghosts. Or he wishes to be an animal and says, "Ohhh, I have had enough of being a person. It is best to be a dog. Look at the dog. He does not have to work and on top of that people give him food to eat and take care of him. This is so good,....ah!....Let's be dogs." Not only does he wish to be a dog, but he drags his relatives and friends off on the path to canine kingdom where they all become dogs together. This is what ‘laxity’ is about.

      The fourth is (16) drowsiness’. This one can get into everyone’s body. What is called drowsiness? For example, you see someone listening to the Sutra (the Master demonstrates) or sitting in meditation (more demonstration). He supposes that he has entered samadhi, but has merely dozed off. “I heard very, very clearly,” he insists. “My head just fell over, it wished to draw near to my feet and make friends.” This is drowsiness. Drowsiness implies that no matter what it is that you are doing, you do not have any energy, and just want to go to sleep. You go to sleep, yet still feel that you did not go to sleep. Even if you do not actually go to sleep, you are still none to clear. You listen to people saying, “Thus have I heard,” (the Master uses extremely loud voice) yet do not hear. This is the fourth, called drowsiness.

The fifth is called (17) 'restless inattention', (lit. 'getting rid of and picking up'). What is the meaning of this? You are sitting upright, listening to a Sutra and then all by itself your head starts to jerk. This is not say that it is like Ananda's head moving to the left and right in order to look at the light emitted from the Buddha's hands.9 In this case, since there is no light, you do not know who told your head to move. You yourself originally do not wish to move it. The head moving by itself is called 'restless inattention'.

Another aspect of 'restless inattention' is the constant affliction in your heart, which you are never quite able to get rid of completely. Since this affliction is constantly being produced, your heart is not at peace. "I do not know what is best. Since listening to this Sutra is not all interesting, maybe I will just sit and meditate." This is restless inattention -- the heart is not tranquil. You always feel like you are sitting on pins and needles, yet it is even more painful than that! Unless I told you, you would not know that this restless inattention is one of the eight afflictions. If afflicted with it often, your heart will find no peace.

What do you think should be done about this 'restless inattention' (lit. 'getting rid of and picking up'). Do you get rid of it or not? Then do you pick it up again or not? You want to get rid of it. If you do not get rid it, then you pick it up. If you do not pick it up, then you get rid of it. Restless inattention is one of the afflictions.

      The sixth is called (18) ‘loss of mindfulness’ (lit. ‘losing thought’)10. You are talking about losing thought. Since it is best not to have false thinking, how can this be called an affliction? This refers to losing proper thought. For example, you wish to recite ‘Buddha’, so you recite three sentences: “Na Mo O Mi T’o Fo. Na Mo O Mi T’o Fo. Na Mo O Mi T’o Fo.” and then you forget. You do not remember to recite it11 (or ‘to think it.’)12. you wish to recite the Surangama Mantra, Miao chan tsung chih pu tung tsun, hsiu leng yen wang shih hsi you, hsiao wo i chieh tien tao hsiang....13 Huh, What comes next?" It is like when you are all reciting a Sutra or mantra and everyone stops in the middle, not knowing the point to which you have recited. This is 'loss of mindfulness'; your thought for reciting the mantra has been lost. It is certainly not the case that none of you are reciting or making any noise because you have all entered samadhi, entered the no sound samadhi. Mo. It is just that you have lost your mindfulness. Now do you understand? In reciting mantras, you lose track of the place and no one has any idea where you are. This has occurred many times.

The seventh is (19) 'improper knowledge', in other words, deviant knowledge and deviant views. It is not right knowledge and right views. A person with improper knowledge says right is wrong and wrong is right; white is black and black is white; good is bad, and bad is good. For instance I heard some people saying, "Eating a lot is an ascetic practice." This is called deviant knowledge and deviant views. Because they say eating a lot is called a most difficult ascetic practice, they all eat as if their lives were at stake.14 To say that this is ascetic practice is called improper knowledge. I let this be known long ago, so now I do not pay attention at all. Practice the bitter (i.e., ascetic)15 then bitter practice; practice the sweet, then sweet practice. Practice whatever practice you want and I will not pay any attention. Today I am telling you what is called improper knowledge. 'Improper knowledge' means deviant knowledge and deviant views. It is the seventh.

The eighth is (20) 'distraction', which indicates lack of samadhi power. This is the mirror illuminating outwardly.16 For instance, a camera takes one photo after another, yet they are all photos of people outside, it cannot photograph (illumine) the inside. Because of this lack of samadhi, there is distraction. The eighth great affliction, distraction, is cured by the practice of dhyana samadhi.

What have been explained above are the twenty 'subsidiary afflictions,' eight great, two middle, and ten small.

There are still six basic afflictions17 with which I believe you all are very familiar. You could say that they are old friends.

      (1) The first is greed. Your greed, my greed and his greed—our greeds are all alike—three in one and one in three. People are not the same, but their greed is all-alike. Although the greed is alike, one can also say that the greed is not the same. In what way? Your greed is a little more and my greed is a little less. Or your greed is a little less and my greed is a little more. Every person has his own greed.

Greed harms us, but you still do not know it. Up till now, why have you not realized Buddhahood? Why are you so stupid and lacking in wisdom? Do you understand now? It is just because of greed. This greed is insatiable: it does not fear a lot of anything, whether money, or things, or garbage. Greed is also not afraid of a lot of afflictions, or a lot of anything. The more, the better; the more, the better. And so it is said of Han Hsin18 the great general of the Han Dynasty, "When Han Hsin used troops, it was 'the more the better'." 'The more the better'19 is the manifestation of greed, the first basic affliction.

(2) The second is 'anger'. Usually, when I explain Sutra, I just mention it, but now I will explain this word 'anger' in detail. What is anger? Anger is just your ignorance, it is just your firecracker-like temper. I say it is like a fire-cracker, but because atom and hydrogen bombs have now been developed, the ignorance and anger in the hearts of people today are as tremendous and fierce as the awesome power of atomic and hydrogen bombs. This anger, which is the greatest fiery energy of your temper, is the second.

(3) The third basic affliction is 'stupidity'. Why do we always do things wrong? It is because this stupidity causes us to do things, which we ought not to do. That which we should not learn, we want to learn. For instance, now many young people take confusing drugs, which basically should not be taken, yet they take this pill and want to take that pill; they take that pill and still want to take one pill more. They consider, yet ultimately do not know why they want to take more. Why? It is because of stupidity. They are stupid; they suppose there will be another world inside the cave.20 They suppose that in taking a certain pill, there will be a new discovery, even one as momentous as that of Columbus discovering a new continent. They want to discover a new continent by taking drugs. Would you say that this is stupid or not? It is just because in stupidity's sway they are topsy-turvy and upside down.

(4) The fourth is 'pride'. Pride, or arrogance, is also a kind of affliction.

(5) The fifth is 'doubt'. Doubt means lack of faith or non-belief. Doubt inborn and he doubts all. He doubts the gods, doubts ghosts, doubts right and doubts wrong; he doubts himself and doubts others. He doubts right doctrine and doubts unprincipled also. ‘Doubt’ is the fifth.

      (6) The sixth is ‘deviant views’. These sorts of knowledge and views of his are the most improper.

      These are the six basic afflictions.21 Today I have finished explaining the afflictions21, so I hope that everyone’s afflictions have also ended. You should not suppose that these afflictions are your relatives and friends. You should abandon them and no longer help these afflictions create offense karma. If you help these afflictions, then afflictions will help you to create karmic offenses, which will then fall back on you. Afflictions are the mahasattvas who pay no attention to others.22 They will not pay any attention to whether you are punished or not; to whether your retribution is summoning you or not. When you undergo punishment, then the afflictions flee far away and disappear. When you go to the hells, why are there no longer afflictions, which follow along with you to produce more affliction? That is the time the afflictions leave.

All of the six kinds of basic affliction and twenty kinds of subsidiary affliction are included in the second of the Four Truths, Accumulation. Because the Truth of Accumulation beckons so many afflictions, it is said, "This is accumulation; its nature is beckoning feeling." What do the feelings beckon? They beckon these afflictions. Since it is just your afflictions, which keep you from attaining genuine wisdom, should you wish to attain genuine wisdom, then you must first defeat them. In order to defeat these afflictions, you must first recognize that they are afflictions, then you can defeat them. If you do not recognize that they are afflictions, then what will you defeat? If you have no idea at all of what afflictions are, how will you be victorious? It is as if you wanted co kill thieves, they too are people. As it says in the Surangama sutra23, You must then know where the thieves are. You must recognize what the thieves look like. If you do not then when face to face with them, you will take them to be good friends. Why? It is because you do not recognize them because you don't recognize that these people are just thieves, the very people who originally steal your things, who rob you of all your treasures. Our afflictions are also like this. If you recognize these afflictions, then you will no longer be turned by the states of the afflictions and can then defeat them. be continued in future issues of VBS...

      Vajra Bodhi Sea, in order to make the good Dharma widely known, will publish the biographies of eminent Sangha members and lay Buddhists around the world. The editors welcome contributions, which are not restricted to biographies alone. Any articles, translations, poems, and stories of interest to Buddhist readers will be gladly received and considered for publication.



  1. sui, lit. "following."
  2. see VBS #19, for the Sanskrit and Chinese of the remaining ten subsidiary afflictions.
  3. (Chinese)
  4. A reference to Master Hui K'o's lecturing of Sutras before opening enlightenment and becoming the second Patriarch. See VBS #1, pp. 7-8
  5. ma chiang, perhaps better known in the United States by its Cantonese transliteration, "Mah Jhong."
  6. see note #1 above
  7. fang i. is equivalent to
  8. (Skt. preta) one of the six destinies or paths on the wheel of rebirth
  9. See Surangama Sutra
  10. shih nien is literally loss of thought as in     , but the idea here is closer to mindful as in    . The same character nien also means "to recite".
  11. cheng nien
  12. See note #10
  13. i.e., the excerpt from Ananda's gatha usually recited before the mantra proper:
  14. lit.
  15. K'u means suffering or bitter tasting. In compound, k'u heng it means ascetic practice.
  16. ching wang wai chao. The final character chao means to illumine or reflect, and is also used in expressions such as chao hsiang, meaning "to photograph".
  17. (lit. root-origin afflictions).
    Chinese Skt.
    1. t'an
    2. ch'en
    3. ch'ih
    4. man
    5. i
    6. hsieh chien


  18. (Chinese)
  19. (Chinese)
  20. Lit. A reference to Chinese beliefs concerning the existence of other Worlds which are entered through certain caves in the sacred mountains. This motif is famous poem, "The Peach-blossom spring."
  21. Numbers four, five, and six of the basic afflictions differ from thei. similarly named counterparts in the "subsidiary" afflictions in their degree of their intensity. Being "basic" they are closer to the "roots" and, therefore "lighter." Out of each grows the full and "heavy" fruits which are the "subsidiary" afflictions.
  22. ma ho sa pu kuan t'a, a well known sarcastic saying. Mahasattva is literally "great being."
  23. shou leng yen ching, roll 2 T. 945
    ("Just as when a king, his country invaded by bandits, dispatches troops to chase them off, the troops must know where the bandits are.")