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A Sure Sign of the Proper Dharma

The Shurangama Sutra

■   By Xiu Chi     修持     文









現在,佛陀為我們解釋此種情形當初是如何發生的。佛陀曰:「晦昧為空。」晦昧指無明。無明到底是如何產生的?首先讓我們引用宣公上人的燈喻來解釋:本來室內的燈是開著的,室內的人不覺得亮,便把開關彈過去,於是燈熄了 -- 使自己陷入黑暗之中。亮著的燈比喻作我們的真心。積聚的業力推動識心,把開關彈過去。當八識田中庫存的業習種子變得又多、又煩重的時候,促使識心動念。本來自性的光明是與生俱來的,就好像亮著的燈。一旦識心動了,無明便生出來了。將燈關掉了。於是我們也就陷入無明的黑暗之中。



From last issue: The Buddha answers Ananda's question by giving a demonstration to clarify what is meant by upright and what is meant by upside-down.

The Buddha immediately raised his arm and said to Ananda, “As to the meaning of upside-down, it is simply a switching of the former with the latter—just an additional perspective devised by people of the world.” He means that it’s just one side of another duality, like the movement and stillness that Ajnatakaundinya talked about: The guest travels but the host of the inn stays put; the dust dances, but the space around it appears stable. Now the Buddha is showing Ananda: it’s the same arm—just different positions, that’s all. You create the duality of upright and upside-down.

To bring home his point, he asked Ananda, “Compared to the Buddha’s body, your bodies are said to be upside-down. But what exactly is it about them that is upside-down?” Ananda could only stare. He had no answer. The Buddha then used the sound of his voice—like the waves of the sea—to comfort Ananda, but with his words scolds him for losing the true and recognizing the false.

Mistaking a Bubble for the Ocean

First the Buddha reminds Ananda that all conditioned dharmas appear only because of the mind. He specifies, “Your body and your mind are things that appear from within the wonderful clarity and essence of your wonderful mind.” Then the Buddha challenges Ananda again, “Why do you lose what is fundamental and wonderful—the perfect, wonderful clarity of the mind, the precious clarity of the wonderful nature—and give recognition to confusion within enlightenment?” Stated differently, he is saying, “Granted that all conditioned dharmas come about only because of the mind, that means they are encompassed within the true mind. So why do you limit yourself to the confines of those conditioned dharmas and fail to recognize the vastness of your true mind? That’s exactly what makes you upside-down!”

What Happened in the Past

Question: How is it that conditioned dharmas appear within the true mind?

Answer:The Buddha is going to explain that right now. The previous section refuting annihilationism discusses the future: that the true mind will never cease to exist. This section discusses the past: that from beinningless time to the present we have been endowed with the true mind and have never lost it. Although it is not lost, it appears to us to be lost because we have forsaken it and recognized something false instead.

Now the Buddha will explain how this first happened. He says, “Darkness and obscurity became emptiness.” “Darkness and obscurity” refer to ignorance. How does ignorance arise? First, let’s use the Venerable Master’s analogy of a lamp to explain this. Basically the lamp is lit but the person in the room feels there is a lack of light and so he flips the switch, thereby turning the lamp off and plunging himself into darkness. The lighted lamp is our true mind. The impulse to flip the switch is the initial movement of the mind-consciousness, induced by accumulated karma. When the seeds of karma stored in the eighth consciousness become too profuse and weighty, their excess induces the mind-consciousness to move. Basically the true mind was inherently bright, like the lighted lamp, but once the mind-consciousness moves, ignorance results. The lights are flipped off and we are plunged into the darkness of ignorance.

The Buddha has just said, “Darkness and obscurity became emptiness.” The emptiness he is referring to is an inanimate emptiness and represents the arising of the first of the Three Subtle Marks: the mark of karma. Here, the word “karma” refers to the result of the subtle movement of the mind-consciousness. It is not yet the coarse karma created by our bodies, mouths, and minds. The Master comments on this sentence: “Originally the wonderful bright mind is devoid of awakening or confusion, so why do we suddenly ‘lose’ the essence of our nature? It is due to the initial thought of ignorance, here referred to as the ‘darkness and obscurity’ which covers over True Emptiness and changes it into an inanimate emptiness. That inanimate emptiness is like the emptiness that appears in a dream-world.”

→To be continued


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