Question: In the Buddhadharma it is said that the twelve causes and conditions are extremely profound. For instance, the Buddha told Ananda, “This dharma of causes and conditions is extremely profound, difficult to perceive, difficult to understand, difficult to awaken to, and difficult to contemplate. [Only] a person [equipped with the faculties] of subtle thought and ingenious sagacity would be able to understand.” Deluded individuals find it difficult to understand even shallow and proximate dharmas, how much the more so is this the case with the extremely profound [dharma of] causes and conditions. In this present discourse why do you say that deluded individuals should contemplate the dharma of causes and conditions?
Reply: “Deluded person” is not a reference to delusion on a par with that of oxen or sheep. Such a person desires to seek out the actual Way. [But] because of contemplation undertaken with a mind affected by false premises, he generates all manner of false views. Deluded people like these ought to engage in the contem- plation of causes and conditions. This is a good counteractive dharma.
Because one who acts out of hatefulness or one who acts out of sensual desire wishes to seek [in the one case] after pleasure or wishes [in the other case] to torment others, [causes-and-conditions contemplation] is not good for these people and it is a non-counteractive dharma. For these two types of people, deliberation upon impurity [for the one] and upon kindheartedness [for the other] constitute good and counteractive dharmas. Why? Because these two contemplations are able to pull out the poisonous thorns of hatefulness and desire.
Moreover, those beings who possess the cognitive inversion of being attached to [the illusion of] permanence are not aware that dharmas [only] appear to be continuous. For individuals such as these, the contemplation of impermanence is the [appropriate] counteractive siddhanta dharma. It is not, however, the siddhanta of the supreme meaning. Why [not]? Because all dharmas are devoid of a self-existent nature. This is as stated in a verse:
To see permanence amidst what is impermanent,
This is what is known as cognitive inversion.
Since there is no impermanence in emptiness,
Where could one perceive permanence?
Question: All conditioned dharmas are characterized by impermanence. It should be the case that this is the supreme meaning. Why? All conditioned dharmas are characterized by production, dwelling and extinction. [This is the case] because initially they are produced, then they dwell, and later they become extinct. Why then do you say that impermanence is not actual?
Reply: It should not be the case that conditioned dharmas possess the three characteristics. Why [not]? Because the three characteristics are not real. For instance, all instances of production, dwelling and extinction of dharmas are characteristics of that which is conditioned. Now, production [itself] should also be possessed of the three characteristics because production is [also] a conditioned dharma. In like fashion, at all points [during production] there should exist [all] three characteristics. If this were the case, then this would be endless [and hence absurd]. This would also be the case with regard to dwelling and extinction.
If it were the case that all instances of production, dwelling, and extinction did not each possess production, dwelling and extinction, then they should not be referred to as conditioned dharmas. Why [not]? Because they would not possess the characteristics of conditioned dharmas. On account of this, the [teaching that] “all dharmas are impermanent” does not represent the supreme-meaning siddhanta.
Furthermore, if all things [on the level of their] actual nature were impermanent, then there would be no carrying forth of karmic retribution. Why [not]? Because impermanence refers to disappearance due to [the process of] production and extinction. This is analogous to a rotten seed which does not [have the ability to] produce a fruit. If this were the case, then there would be no carrying forth of karma. If there were no carrying forth of karma, how could there be resultant retribution?
Now, in the Dharma of all of the worthies and sages there is [the teaching of] resultant retribution. This is something which can be believed in and accepted by those possessed of wholesome wisdom. One should not say that it is nonexistent. For this reason, dharmas are of a non-impermanent nature. On account of innumerable reasons such as these [I] say that one cannot maintain that all dharmas are of an impermanent nature. [The teachings] that all conditioned dharmas are impermanent, that they are suffering, and that they are not-self are all similar in this regard. [The teachings which set forth] characteristics such as these fall within the scope of the counteractive siddhanta.
As for the “supreme-meaning siddhanta”, the nature of all dharmas, all dialectical discourse, all categorizations of “correct Dharma” and “non-Dharma”, all of them can be refuted and disintegrated through discrimination. The true and actual Dharma practiced by the Buddhas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Arhats cannot be refuted and cannot be disintegrated. Whatever is not reconciled within the three siddhantas treated above is all reconciled herein.
Question: How then are they reconciled?
Reply: That which reconciles transcends all defects, cannot be changed and cannot be vanquished. How is this so? Because aside from the supreme-meaning siddhanta all other dialectical positions and all other siddhantas can be refuted. This is as referred to in verses spoken in the Multitude of Meanings Sutra:
Everyone relies on his own view.
Futile discoursing generates disputes.
If one is able to be aware of another's errors,
This constitutes awareness of the correct view.
If one cannot bear to accept another's dharma,
Such a one is a foolish person.
Whosoever engages in these debates
Is truly a foolish person.
If one relies on one's own view of what is right
And thus begets futile discoursing,
If this constitutes pure wisdom,
Then there is no one of impure wisdom.
In these three verses the Buddha describes the characteristics of the supreme-meaning siddhanta. The so-called “beings of the world” each rely on their own views, each rely on their own dharma and each rely on their own dialectical positions, thus generating disputation. Futile discoursing constitutes the basis of disputation. The arisal of futile discoursing is based upon all manner of views. This is as noted in a spoken verse:
It is on account of accepting dharmas that there is debate.
If there were no[such] acceptance, what would be debated?
Accepting, not accepting and other such views,
This man has gotten rid of them all.
The practitioner who, according with reality, is able to be aware of this, does not tender acceptance nor become attached to any dharma or to any futile discoursing. Neither does he hold the view, “This is real,” or involve himself in disputes with others. He is able to know the sweet dew flavor of the Buddha Dharma. If one is not this way, he slanders the Dharma thereby.
If one refuses to accept any other dharma, does not have knowledge of it, and does not take it up, he is a person devoid of wisdom. If all dialecticians behaved like this then it would follow that they are all devoid of wisdom. How is this so? Because none of them accept anyone else's dharma. This is the so-called case of every person maintaining that his own dharma is the foremost in purity while holding that the dharmas of others are but false discourse and impure.
Take for instance the worldly methods of correction. The ancient methods of correction involve corporeal punishments, execution and all manner of impurity. The people of the world have faith in them, accept them, carry them out, and are of the opinion that they are truly pure [practices]. But from the standpoint of others, wholesome and sagely people among the renunciates, these [practices] are the most impure.
To be continued