As for [the simile] "like images in a mirror," [all dharmas]
are like images in a mirror [in the sense that] the images
in a mirror are not created by the mirror, are not created
by the visage [which gazes into it], are not created by the
person who holds the mirror, are not spontaneously produced,
and are not [created] in the absence of [corresponding]
causes and conditions.
How is it that they are not created by the mirror? As
long as the visage has not yet presented itself before the
mirror, there is no [such] image. For this reason, it is not
the case that the image is created by the mirror.
How is it that they are not created by the countenance?
In the absence of a mirror there are no images.
How is it that it is not the case that the holder of the
mirror creates them? In the absence of a mirror and in the
absence of a countenance, there are no images.
How is it that it is not the case that [the image] is
spontaneously created? If there does not yet exist a mirror
and if there does not yet exist a countenance, then there is
no image. The image must await the mirror and must await the
countenance, and only afterward may it then come into
How is it that it is not the case that [the image is
created] in the absence of causes and conditions? If there
were no [corresponding] causes and conditions, then it
should be that [the image] exists eternally. If it existed
eternally, then even were one to dispense with the mirror
and dispense with the countenance, it should still be the
case that it would come forth of its own accord. For this
reason, it is not the case that [the image is created] in
the absence of causes and conditions.
All dharmas are also just this way. It is not the case
that they are self-created, that they are created by
another, that they are created by both, or that they are
created in the absence of causes and conditions.
How is it that it is not the case that they are
self-created? It is because a self cannot be gotten at,
because all causally produced dharmas are not inherently
existent, and because all dharmas are associated with causes
and conditions. Therefore it is not the case that they are
As for it not being the case that [dharmas] are created
by an "other," because they themselves are nonexistent,
"others" are nonexistent as well. If they were created by
something" other," then the power of offenses and merit
would be lost.
Creation by an "other" would be one of two cases: good or
bad. If it were a case of good [creation by an "other"],
then it ought to be the case that it bestowed complete
blissfulness. If it were a case of bad [creation by an
"other"], then it ought to be the case that it bestowed
total suffering. If [on the other hand, the resultant
situation] were a mixture of suffering and bliss, then what
would be the causes and conditions behind bestowing bliss?
And what would be the causes and conditions behind bestowing
suffering? If [one posits creation] by "both" [a self and an
other], then [that thesis is possessed of] two faults,
namely [the just-discussed] fault of [positing] self-
[creation] as well as. the fault of [positing creation by]
If it were the case that there were no causes and
conditions behind the arisal of suffering and bliss, then
people ought to be able to be eternally blissful and
entirely free of suffering. If there were no [associated]
causes or conditions, then people ought not to [bother with]
engaging in causes conducing to bliss and avoiding causes
conducing to suffering. [However], it most certainly is the
case that each and every dharma has [associated] causes and
conditions. It is on account of stupidity that people are
unaware of this. [The situation] is analogous to looking to
wood when seeking to have a fire, looking to the ground when
seeking a source of water, and looking to a fan when
desirous of a breeze. There are all manner of [examples]
such as these and they each have [their associated] causes
As for these combined causes and conditions of suffering and
bliss, one has generated karmic causes from previous
incarnations. In the present life, in accordance with the
conditions presented by one's acting either wholesomely or
improperly, one reaps from this [a corresponding] suffering
or bliss. As regards these multifarious causes and
conditions of suffering and bliss, if in looking into the
matter one does so in accordance with reality, [one finds
that] there is no person who creates them and no person who
undergoes them. The five empty aggregates create them and
the five empty aggregates undergo them.
When a person who is devoid of wisdom experiences pleasure,
under the influence of lustful thought, he becomes attached.
When such a person experiences suffering, then he becomes
angry. When the bliss dies away, he once more seeks after
and craves to experience it yet again. [Such people] are
like a little toddler gazing at particular reflections in a
mirror who is pleased thereby and becomes affectionately
attached to them, such that when they disappear, he breaks
the mirror in seeking to find them [again]. A knowledgeable
adult laughs at this. When a person loses bliss and then
proceeds to seek after it again, he is just the same as
this, and just so, his actions are amusing to a sage who has
gained the Way. It is for this reason that it says that
dharmas are like images in a mirror.
Moreover, just as the images in a mirror are actually empty,
are not produced and not destroyed, and are [a mere]
deception and delusion of the visual faculties of the common
person, so too it is with all dharmas. They are empty,
devoid of actuality, neither produced nor destroyed, and
they deceive and delude the visual faculties of the common
Question: The images in a mirror arise from causes and
conditions. There is a countenance. There is a mirror. There
is a person who holds the mirror. There is brightness.
Because these factors come together an image is produced.
Because this image may give rise to either worry or delight,
it is at the same time both a cause and an effect. How can
one say that it is actually empty and neither produced nor
Reply: That which is produced from causes and conditions is
not itself inherently existent and is therefore empty. If a
given dharma were actually [inherently] existent, it should
not be [that it is] a product of causes and conditions. How
is this so? If within those [antecedent] causes and
conditions there already existed [predisposing] causes and
conditions, then [those antecedent causes and conditions]
would be useless. If within those [antecedent] causes and
conditions there did not already exist [predisposing] causes
and conditions, then in that case too they would be useless.
By way of analogy, if within milk there already existed
yoghurt, then this milk does not constitute a cause for [the
production of] yoghurt. This is because the yoghurt already
exists. If it previously contained no yoghurt, then that
would be the same case as with water which contains no
yoghurt. The milk does not constitute a cause in this case
either. If it is the case that there is no cause [therein]
and yet yoghurt exists, why is yoghurt not produced from
within water? [Even] if it were [actually] the case that
milk constituted the cause and condition for [the production
of] yoghurt, milk itself is not inherently existent [for]
milk itself arises from causes and conditions. Milk comes
from a cow. A cow is produced from water and grass. In this
manner, one may [trace back] endlessly and [find that] in
every case there are causes and conditions. For this reason,
within the causes and conditions, one cannot say that the
result exists. One cannot say that they do not exist. One
cannot say that they both exist and do not exist. And one
cannot say that they neither exist nor do not exist. All
dharmas arise from causes and conditions and are devoid of
an inherent nature, just like the images in a mirror. This
is as explained in a verse:
If a dharma from cause and condition arises,
This dharma in nature is actually empty.
[For] if it's the case that this dharma's not empty,
It does not exist based on causes and conditions.
It's just like the images found in a mirror,
Not [made by] the mirror, not [made by] the visage,
Nor [made by] the person who holds up the mirror.
It's not self- [created] nor barren of cause.
It is not existent, nor is it not existent,
Nor is it both existent and devoid of existence.
Not even these words here are granted acceptance.
When according with this, then it's the Middle Way.
It is for these reasons that it says that all dharmas are
like images in a mirror.
~ To be continued