As for [the simile] "like a shadow," a shadow is something
which can only be seen but cannot be grasped. All dharmas
are also just like this. The eye and the other faculties are
able to see, hear, be aware of and cognize them, but they
still cannot actually be attained. This is as explained in a
This wisdom which is actual,
Cannot be grasped from four sides.
It's like an enormous conflagration
Which itself cannot be touched.
The dharmas cannot be accepted
And neither should they be accepted.
Moreover, just as with a shadow which manifests when one
shines a light, but is nonexistent when one does not shine
it, when the fetters and afflictions block the light of
correct views, there manifests the shadow of the mark of a
self and of the mark of dharmas. Additionally, just as with
a shadow which, when a person goes, [the shadow] goes, when
a person moves, the [shadow] moves, and when a person stops,
the [shadow] stops, so too it is with the shadows of
wholesome and unwholesome karmic actions: when one moves on
to a future life, [the karmic shadows] also move along too,
and when one abides in the present life, [the karmic
shadows] abide as well. Because the retribution is not cut
off, when offenses or merit ripen, then the karmic shadows
come forth. This is as explained in a verse:
Even in space it will chase along after.
And deep into mountains midst boulders pursues.
To the depths of the earth it will follow behind us.
And will plunge into ocean's [deep] waters as well.
It everywhere constantly follows, pursuing.
The shadow of actions will not go away.
It is on account of this that it says that all dharmas
are like a shadow. Furthermore, just as a shadow is empty
and nonexistent, such that if one seeks for something actual
in it one cannot succeed, so too it is with all dharmas, for
they are empty and devoid of anything which is actual.
Question: This matter of a shadow being empty and devoid
of anything which exists is not the case. How so? In the
Abhidharma, it says, "What is meant by the sense field of
form? [It refers to] blue, yellow, red, white, black, azure,
purple, light, shadows, and so forth, as well as the three
kinds of created form associated with physical actions."
This is what is meant by the sense field of visible form.
How then can you say that [shadows] are nonexistent?
Moreover, it is the case that shadows actually exist because
they are possessed of causes and conditions. [For example],
the cause may be a tree and the condition may be brightness.
When these two factors come together, there is the creation
of a shadow. How can you say that they are nonexistent? If
there are no shadows, then it ought to be the case that all
other dharmas possessed of [corresponding] causes and
conditions are nonexistent as well.
Additionally, the form of these shadows can be seen.
[This is true of] their length, their size, their relative
coarseness, and their contours. When the shape itself moves,
the shadow also moves. These matters can all be seen. For
these reasons, they should be [admitted as being] existent.
Reply: Shadows are truly empty and nonexistent. As for
your citation of explanations from the Abhidharma, these
exegeses of the meaning of the Abhidharma are explanations
created by people. There are particular dharmic access
methods whose intent people misapprehend, thus becoming
attached to these as being actual. Take for instance the
explanation of the Vibhasa which holds that infinitesimally
minute fine particles cannot be broken up nor burned up. If
this were the case, then they would be eternally existent.
Additionally, with regard to dharmas of the three periods
of time, [it claims that] they reside in the future and come
forth into the present and that they move on from the
present and go on into the past and that so doing, nothing
whatsoever is lost. If this were the case, then that would
be a case of eternalism.
Moreover, it says that all conditioned dharmas undergo a
[constant] process of [instantaneous] re-production and
re-extinction and do not abide at all. If this were the case
then it would be a sign of annihilationism. How so? Because
they previously existed and now do not exist. All manner of
unorthodox explanations such as these contradict the
Buddha's words. One may not employ these as corroboration
for [the view that] shadows [actually exist].
Now these [shadows] are different from form dharmas. When
form dharmas are produced, they must possess fragrance or
flavor or tangibility or some other [such characteristic].
Shadows then are not like this and on this account are
nonexistent. For instance, a vase is cognizable through two
of the faculties, namely the eye's [visual] faculty and the
body's [tactile] faculty. If a shadow is existent then it
too should be cognized by two faculties. But there is no
such case. For these reasons, it is not the case that there
exists any actual phenomenon in shadows. They are only a
dharma which deceives the eye. They are unreal in just the
same way as the "wheel" which one produces by picking up a
firebrand and whirling it rapidly around in a circle.
Shadows are nonexistent entities. If shadows were existent
entities, it ought to be that they could be broken or
destroyed. [However], as long as the form [which casts the
shadow] remains undestroyed, the shadow is never damaged.
For this reason, [shadows] are empty.
Additionally, because shadows are directly associated with
their forms they are not inherently existent. They are
therefore empty. Although they are empty, the mind
nonetheless generates an [associated] visual perception. For
these reasons, it says that all dharmas are like shadows.