Mahāyāna Sūtra of Consciousness Revealed
Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Tang Dynasty
The Tripiṭaka Master Divākara from India
Fascicle 1 (of 2)
Thus I have heard:
At one time the Bhagavān was in the Karaṇḍa Bamboo Garden of the city of Rājagṛha, together with 1,250 great bhikṣus. All of them were Arhats, who had ended their afflictions and the discharges thereof, and achieved freedom. With their minds completely liberated and their wisdom fully unfolded, like the great dragon, they saw the past, future, and present, hindrance free. Taught by the Buddha, they had completed their undertaking [for Arhatship] and shed the enormous heavy burden. They had acquired benefits for themselves, having ended their suffering in transmigrating through their cycle of birth and death. With the power of true knowledge, they were adept in identifying the proclivities of sentient beings. At the head of the multitude of such great voice-hearers was the Elder Śāriputra. Also in this assembly was an innumerable multitude of Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas.
In the presence of the World-Honored One, the bhikṣus were tired and drowsy, losing their color and too exhausted to hold up. Then the face of the World-Honored One lit up like a blooming lotus flower. Forthwith the bhikṣus all became alert, each straightening up and thinking: “The Buddha-Bhagavān now looks resplendent, his face glowing with light. What dharma-eye will He open to give us great benefits?”
The youth [Bhadrapāla] Worthy Protector Superior, complete with fine qualities, such as robust good looks, gentleness, and radiance, surrounded by 60,000 merchant lords, together with attendants, with rumbling sounds like an earthquake, came to the Buddha. Seeing the Buddha-Bhagavān silent and peaceful as the store of virtues, and majestic and radiant like a towering golden tree, he pondered as he joined his palms with profound faith and reverence. He thought: “As praised by all, the Buddha, who is all-knowing and all-seeing, is truly the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha. It is not false.”
He bowed his head down at the feet of the Buddha then gazed at Him. The Buddha saw Worthy Protector and radiated light from His entire body to shine on him. Worthy Protector then acquired fearlessness. He circled the Buddha three times, and again bowed his head down at the Buddha’s feet. He said to the Buddha, “I pray only that the World-Honored One will teach me with compassion. It is only today that I have acquired pure faith here, where the Buddha is. My mind longing for the true Dharma, I would like to ask questions. However, I have long been in my cycle of birth and death, drowning in afflictions and chaotic thoughts. I have no hidden provisions, such as observance of precepts or other good karmas. Anxious as I am, I do not know how to transcend birth and death and be delivered from the web of ignorance, affliction, and doubt. The World-Honored One is all-knowing and all-seeing. The appearance of a Buddha in the world is rare and hard to encounter. As a wish-fulfilling jewel can give happiness to sentient beings, the Buddha is the greatest wish-fulfilling jewel. All sentient beings depend upon the Buddha to acquire great peace and bliss. He is the great parent and sentient beings’ root of goodness. Because of the Buddha-parent, one will be able see the right path. I pray only that, out of sympathy, He will remove my doubts and darkness.”
The Buddha told Worthy Protector, “You may ask anything about your doubts. I will resolve them separately for you.”
Worthy Protector, having received the Buddha’s permission, stood on one side to concentrate on his questions. Meanwhile, the Elder Ānanda, seeing the radiance and good features of the youth Worthy Protector, said to the Buddha, “A sight never encountered before! This youth Worthy Protector has great merit, whose radiance and glow outshine the awesome appearances of kings.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “This youth Worthy Protector Superior, because of his meritorious karma, enjoys splendid celestial-life requital while living in the human world. He can frolic and enjoy peace and pleasure totally at will, like the god-king Śakra. No one in Jambudvīpa can compare with him, except for the youth Moon Reality.”
Ānanda asked the Buddha, “I pray only that we be told about the youth Worthy Protector, concerning his current resources as karmic requital and the roots of goodness he has planted in the past.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “You should hear the pleasure-requital in the form of enormous resources that Worthy Protector now enjoys and learn the contributing causes from his past. Ānanda, this youth Worthy Protector is attended by 60,000 merchant lords who have an abundance of assets and an accumulation of gold and jewels. They respectfully accept his instructions and follow him at his service. [In his residence there are] 60,000 beds with well-arranged bedding, blankets, fine linens, and pillows, in various colors, beautiful and magnificent. All around are columns, jeweled carvings, colorful silk curtains, and other decorations, as gorgeous as those in a painting. There are 60,000 artistic ladies, dressed in silk in a variety of colors, adorned with golden jewelry and necklaces in dazzling colors, so fine and delicate to the touch that they are like celestial crystal. Their weight can be light or heavy, suiting the wearer’s mood. Playing, laughing, talking, singing, these ladies entertain and serve their master with gentleness, prudence, and respect. They withdraw their love and desire for others, lowering their heads with humility or covering their heads for modesty. Their skin is fine, soft, and smooth. The bony joints of their hands, feet, and ankles do not show. Their teeth are white and straight, without gaps, and their black hair curls to the right, like wax shavings portrayed in a painting. They come from families and clans with names known far and wide. Such women are his attendants. Moreover, there are 60,000 women who serve him food, such as rice, bread, and so forth, in various colors. The aromas and flavors are as wonderful as those of celestial food. As requital for his merit, such food cooked without labor arrives at his wish. The water there has the eight virtues, pleasing to one’s mind and soothing to one’s body, and it cleanses filth and removes diseases.
“His mansions and towers are adorned with 60,000 beautifully arranged jewels, such as precious gems and aquamarine. Bells suspended from ribbons jingle harmoniously in the winds. The ground is like aquamarine, showing myriad reflections, with various flowers scattered around. [The place] is cool and pleasant, inviting leisurely strolls to relax one’s mind. There are musical instruments, such as paṇava drums, sitars, pipes, and brass cymbals, playing 60,000 kinds of melodies. The beautiful sounds are harmonious and loud, resonating far and wide. Joy and happiness brought by meritorious karma flow non-stop. Doves and other birds are flying around, their various calls enjoyable to one’s mind and pleasant to one’s ear. Flowering vines climb up on the towers, adorning them with bright flowers and lush leaves. The tones of bells and musical instruments sound like those in a celestial palace. The halls are spacious like a cavern of Mount Sumeru, where divine medicine flows.
“There are 60,000 cities graced with towers and surrounded by high walls. The streets are well designed with crossroads to reach all directions. Adding to the magnificence are people who come from everywhere, wearing various kinds of clothing, speaking various kinds of languages. They have different facial features and follow diverse customs. Hundreds of thousands of merchants display their extraordinary goods. The raucous sounds of trade shake the entire city.
“In the lush gardens and forests, there are large and small trees, vines, medicinal herbs, and flowers in full bloom. [In their midst are pools] the clear waters of which reflect shimmering light, like a sheet of colorful brocade. Hundreds and thousands of elephants, horses, and carriages move endlessly throughout the city. Ānanda, in these 60,000 cities, the noble and the famous, as well as the wealthy and the merchant lords, praise the youth Worthy Protector every day, broadcasting his merit. They respectfully join their palms and make obeisance to him in reverence.
“Prasenajit, the king of Kauśala, is wealthy because of the power of his merit, but he is poor in comparison with Worthy Protector. The youth Moon Reality is surrounded by 100,000 artistic attendants, serving him respectfully and entertaining him with music and frolics. Even the god-king śakra is a billion times less fortunate than Moon Reality. Likewise the youth Worthy Protector, with his robust, high-colored good looks, wealth, ease, peace, and pleasures, is also a billion times less fortunate than Moon Reality. Their fortunes, in each case, are not acquired by force, but are a response to their past merits.
“Ānanda, the youth Worthy Protector has a wish-fulfilling carriage inlaid with celestial jewels, radiating bright light like celestial gold or vajra. It is decorated with various kinds of treasures, mixed as beautifully as stars. It moves swiftly, like the wind, like the flight of the golden-winged bird. Riding this jeweled carriage, he arrives at any treasure island on a thought. Then he comes home from his pleasure tour, not tired.”
Ānanda bowed down at the feet of the Buddha. He asked the Buddha, “What roots of goodness did the youth Worthy Protector plant and what meritorious karma did he do, now to own enormous assets and to enjoy this great pleasure-requital, living in such magnificent mansions decorated with extraordinary treasures?”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “The youth Worthy Protector, because he planted in the past meritorious karma in the Buddha Dharma, has now received this enormous pleasure-requital. In the past, there was a Buddha called Blissful Light, the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha, Knowledge and Conduct Perfected, Sugata, Understanding the World, Unsurpassed One, Tamer of Men, Teacher to Gods and Humans, Buddha the World-Honored One. Worthy Protector renounced family life and became a bhikṣu, called Dharma Topknot, in the Dharma of that Buddha. He was inadequate in observing the precepts for conduct. However, he clearly understood the profound teachings in the Tripiṭaka—the Sūtras, the Vinaya, and the Abhidharma—and he excelled in expounding them. He always pronounced the teachings to sentient beings in solemn, beautiful tones, endlessly giving the Dharma as alms. He was forthright and brilliant in his eloquent exposition, and the hearers delighted in the Dharma they heard. They pondered the teachings and trained themselves accordingly, and those who saved themselves from taking the evil life-journeys were innumerable. Ānanda, the bhikṣu Dharma Topknot, because of his merit of giving the Dharma, enjoyed the celestial-life requital for ninety kalpas. In addition, when Dharma Topknot saw thin and frail bhikṣus who observed their precepts purely, he always gave them food, drink, shoes, and so forth. Because he gave alms courteously and sincerely with a pure mind, he now has received this pleasure-requital in the form of great wealth, magnificent mansions, and extraordinary jeweled carriages. Moreover, Dharma Topknot later encountered Kāśyapa Tathāgata, who gave him teachings and guidance, and told him, ‘You will receive a prophecy from the future Buddha Śākyamuni.’ Hence he is seeing me now, and I will pronounce the Dharma to him to bring him to maturity.”
Ānanda said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, the youth Worthy Protector Superior has command of such an abundance of riches, gold, and treasures. It is extraordinary that he is gentle and modest, without any pride or arrogance.”
The Buddha said, “Ānanda, one with great wisdom does not become arrogant because of wealth, treasures, and sensory pleasures. Worthy Protector has long trained in good works. Supported by good dharmas, he always has fortune fruits to eat.”
Worthy Protector, having been praised by the Buddha and Ānanda, joined his palms reverently and bowed down at the feet of the Buddha. He implored the Buddha, “Please pity, accept, and protect all sentient beings. I request permission to ask a few questions.”
The Buddha told Worthy Protector, “You have my permission. You may ask me about your doubts. I will explicate them to you.”
Worthy Protector said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, although sentient beings know that there is consciousness, it is like a jewel kept in a box, unrevealed and unknowable. World-Honored One, I do not know the form of this consciousness, nor the reason that it is called consciousness. When a person dies, his hands and feet may convulse, and the look of his eyes changes uncontrollably. As one’s faculties perish, the four domains—earth, water, fire, and wind—disperse. Where does one’s consciousness go after it has left the current body? What is its essence? What is its form? How does it assume the next body after leaving this body? After this body is abandoned, how does consciousness carry one’s faculties in order to accept the next requital, which can be a body of any kind? World-Honored One, how does a sentient being grow new faculties after the expiration of this body? Why does one accumulate meritorious karma in this life, only to receive its requital in the next life: The current body does meritorious karma, and the next body will eat [the karmic fruit]? How does one’s consciousness nourish one’s body and keep it alive? How do consciousness and faculties develop according to one’s body?”
The Buddha said, “Very good! Very good! Worthy Protector, these are good questions. Hearken! Hearken! Ponder this well. I will explain to you.”
Worthy Protector said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, affirmatively I accept Your teachings.”
The Buddha told Worthy Protector, “The process and transference of [ālaya] consciousness are like the wind, which is formless, shapeless, and unidentifiable. However, the wind can activate myriad things and display myriad conditions, whether making loud sounds as it shakes the forest or breaks off branches, or causing pleasure or pain as it touches with cold or hot the bodies of sentient beings. The wind does not have hands, feet, face, or shape. Nor does it have various colors, such as black, white, red, or yellow. Worthy Protector, the same is true for the domain of consciousness. It is formless, shapeless, not revealed by light. However, through causes and conditions, it can manifest various kinds of functions. Know that the dharma realms of sensory reception and perception are also formless and shapeless. Through causes and conditions, various functions manifest.
“Worthy Protector, after the death of a sentient being, the dharma realms of sensory reception and perception and the domain of [ālaya] consciousness abandon the body. The way [ālaya] consciousness carries the dharma realms of sensory reception and perception to accept another body is like a gust of wind sweeping across wonderful flowers. The flowers stay put, but their fragrance will flow far. The wind in essence does not grasp the fragrance of the flowers. Fragrance and the wind in essence are both formless and shapeless. However, without the power of the wind, fragrance will not travel far. Worthy Protector, after a person’s death, his [ālaya] consciousness carries the dharma realms of sensory reception and perception to the next rebirth, which is conditioned upon his parents entrusted by his [ālaya] consciousness. In this way the dharma realms of sensory reception and perception accompany [ālaya] consciousness. Because of the quality of the flowers, one’s nose can detect their scent. Because of one’s olfactory power, one smells fragrance, a sense object. The wind touches the flowers because of its power. Because of the power of the wind, fragrance can flow far. Likewise, from consciousness, sensory reception arises; from sensory reception, perception arises; and by perception, mental objects are differentiated. Then one knows good and evil.
“Worthy Protector, by analogy, a painter applies pigments to the wall, and he can paint pictures as neatly and properly as he wishes. The consciousness and intellect of the painter are both formless and shapeless, but they can create various kinds of extraordinary images and shapes. Thus one’s consciousness and intellect project the six percepts. The eye sees sights, and the eye consciousness is formless and shapeless; the ear hears sounds, which are formless and shapeless; the nose detects odors, which are formless and shapeless; the tongue tastes flavors, which are formless and shapeless; and the body knows tactile sensations, which are formless and shapeless. As one’s faculties and perceptions are formless and shapeless, so too one’s consciousness is formless and shapeless.
“Worthy Protector, when [ālaya] consciousness abandons one’s current body to accept another life, it is still bound by karma hindrances at the moment of one’s death. When one’s current requital ends with death, [one’s consciousness] is as if in the Samādhi of Total Halt. When an Arhat enters the Samādhi of Total Halt, his sensory reception and perception are suspended. Thus, when [ālaya] consciousness of the dying one abandons the body and its [four] domains, it does so with the power of memory. Upon dying, one’s consciousness replays clearly from memory all the karmas one has done in one’s entire life. Both body and mind are under stress.
“Worthy Protector, what is the meaning of consciousness? [Ālaya] consciousness means seed, which can sprout a karmic body of any kind. Perception, thinking, and memory are also sprouted from [ālaya] consciousness. It is called consciousness because it knows pleasure, pain, good, and evil, as well as good and evil objects. You ask me how one’s [ālaya] consciousness leaves this body to accept the next requital. Worthy Protector, each body sprouted from one’s [ālaya] consciousness is like the reflection of a face in a mirror, like the markings in the mud, imprinted by a stamp.
“As an analogy, the light of sunrise removes darkness, which returns after sunset. Darkness has no mass, no shape, neither permanent nor impermanent, but it is always there. The same is true for consciousness. Having no mass and no shape, it is revealed through sensory reception and perception. Consciousness in one’s body is like the essence of darkness, which cannot be seen or touched. It is like the fetus inside the mother, who does not know whether it is male or female. Nor does she know whether it looks black, white, or yellow, whether it has complete faculties, whether it has normal hands, feet, ears, and eyes. However, stimulated by hot food and drink [eaten by the mother], the fetus will move, because it feels pain. The presence of consciousness is evident as sentient beings come or go, bend or extend, stare or blink, speak or laugh, carry heavy loads, or do things. However, they do not know the whereabouts of consciousness in their bodies, nor its form. Worthy Protector, the consciousness in essence permeates the sensory fields, but it is not tainted by them. Consciousness permeates the six faculties, the six sense objects, and the the five aggregates, but it is not tainted by them. Through them, the functions of consciousness are evident. Worthy Protector, it is like a mechanism which enables a wooden machine to perform various kinds of tasks, whether talking, leaping, jumping, or dancing. What is your opinion? By whose power is this wooden machine enabled to work?”
Worthy Protector replied to the Buddha, “My wisdom and knowledge are too shallow to determine this.”
The Buddha told Worthy Protector, “We should know that it is by one’s power to do karmas. The power for doing karmas is formless but directed by one’s intellect. Thus, a body-machine can do things with the power of consciousness. Whether ṛṣis, gandharvas, dragons, humans, asuras, or sentient beings on other life-journeys, all depend on it to do karmas. [Ālaya] consciousness can form the body as a work machine.
“Consciousness, without any form or mass, can uphold the dharma realm. With complete mental power, it knows even things in one’s past lives. By analogy, the pervasive sunlight shines equally on sentient beings with evil karma, corpses, impure things, and stinking things, but it is not tainted by evils. Neither is [ālaya] consciousness. Even when it is in the body of a dog or a pig, which eats impure things, or in the body of anyone taking an evil life-journey, it is never tainted.
“Worthy Protector, [ālaya] consciousness abandons this body and moves away to accept the next requital according to good or evil karma. By analogy, when the wind exits a remote mountain or a steep gorge and sweeps across a forest of fragrant campaka trees, it carries fragrance. When the wind sweeps across a place of feces, corpses, rot, or filth, it carries stench. When it passes through both places, it carries both fragrance and stench. The stronger scent will be manifested first. The wind has no mass, and the scent has no shape. Yet the wind can carry both fragrance and stench far. Likewise, [ālaya] consciousness abandons this body, carrying good and evil karmas, to accept the next requital. It is just like the wind carrying fragrance and stench to another place. It is also like a dreamer who sees myriads of images and does various kinds of karmas in a dream, unaware that he is lying asleep. When a virtuous person dies, the transference of his [ālaya] consciousness is peaceful and unconscious, in the same way as his going somewhere in a dream without any fear. The exit of [ālaya] consciousness is not through one’s throat, mouth, or other orifices. Its exit and route are unknown.”
The youth Worthy Protector Superior bowed down at the feet of the Buddha. He asked the Buddha, “Where does [ālaya] consciousness enter into the embryo inside the egg of a chicken or goose, the shell of which is impenetrable? If the embryo dies within the egg and if the eggshell has no crack or hole, where does [ālaya] consciousness exit?”
The Buddha replied to Worthy Protector, “By analogy, if black sesame seeds are processed with campaka flowers, the oil will become aromatic and be called campaka oil. It is far superior to ordinary sesame oil. The oil initially does not contain any aroma but becomes aromatic after the seeds have been processed with the flowers. The fragrance does not crack the sesame seeds in order to enter or to exit, nor does it leave any substance in the oil. However, because of the force of causes and conditions, the fragrance is blended into the oil and the oil becomes aromatic. The way [ālaya] consciousness moves into or out of the embryo of a chicken or a goose despite the eggshell is like the infusion of the campaka fragrance into the oil. The transference of [ālaya] consciousness is like the way the sun shines, a jewel sparkles, or wood blazes.
“[Ālaya] consciousness is also like a seed. When a seed is planted and transformed in the ground, its sprouts, stem, branches, and leaves will successively emerge above the ground. Then flowers in a variety of colors, such as white, off-white, and red, will appear; fruits in a variety of flavors will ripen. The same great earth, providing the four domains—earth, water, fire, and wind—grows different things according to their seeds. Similarly, the dharma realm of [ālaya] the one consciousness manifests a sentient being successively reborn with black, white, yellow, or red skin, with different characters, gentle or violent, to undergo birth and death. Worthy Protector, consciousness has neither hands nor feet, neither joints nor speech. In its dharma realm, the power of memory is strong. Upon the death of a sentient being, [ālaya] consciousness abandons the current body and, with the power of memory, it becomes the seed for the next life. Apart from consciousness, there is no dharma realm; apart from dharma realm, there is no consciousness. [Ālaya] consciousness moves away along the [karmic] wind, together with the dharma realm, including the realms of memory and sensory reception.”
Worthy Protector further asked the Buddha, “If so, why does World-Honored One say that consciousness is formless?”
The Buddha replied, “Worthy Protector, there are two kinds of form, the internal and the external. Eye consciousness is internal, and eye is external. Similarly, ear consciousness is internal, and ear is external; nose consciousness is internal, and nose is external; tongue consciousness is internal, and tongue is external; body consciousness is internal, and body is external. Worthy Protector, suppose a person born blind dreams of a beautiful woman, and he clearly sees her hands, feet, and beautiful features. He loves the sights as he dreams. When the night’s sleep is over and daylight arrives, the blind man describes to a crowd the pleasing things in his dream, saying, ‘I saw a beautiful woman whose features were uniquely exquisite, a garden with lush flowers, and hundreds and thousands of well-adorned people, who frolicked merrily. Their skin was lustrous, their shoulders were plump, and their arms were long and rounded like an elephant trunk. I gained great happiness from my dream, and my heart was gladdened.’ Worthy Protector, this man was born blind, who has never seen anything with his eyes. Why can he perceive sights in his dream?”
Worthy Protector replied, “I pray that You will indicate the reason.”
The Buddha told Worthy Protector, “What one sees in a dream are internal eye objects, differentiated by one’s intellect, not through the physical eye. These internal eye objects manifest temporarily in the blind man’s dream because of the power of memory. He also recalls the dream with the power of memory. With the right memory at death, one sees internal forms projected by consciousness.
“Furthermore, Worthy Protector, the transference of consciousness upon one’s death is like a seed discarded on the ground. With the support of the four domains, it gradually transforms into sprout, seedling, stem, branches, and leaves. Likewise, one’s consciousness is supported by these four dharmas: memory, receptiveness, good, and evil. By analogy, a crystal jewel placed alongside something black or white will appear black or white. Likewise, [ālaya] consciousness supported by good or evil karmas will transfer somewhere to receive corresponding requitals, good or evil.”
Worthy Protector next asked the Buddha, “Where does one’s body hold consciousness?”
The Buddha replied, “Worthy Protector, consciousness neither accumulates nor gathers, nor does it grow. [The development of consciousness in an embryo] is like the birth of a sprout. The sprout is born neither before the seed is transformed nor after the seed is destroyed. However, when the sprout appears, the seed is spent. Worthy Protector, what is your opinion? Where does the seed stay? In the sprout, the stem, the branches, the leaves, or the top of the tree?”
Worthy Protector replied to the Buddha, “No, World-Honored One, the seed stays nowhere.”
[The Buddha continued] “Indeed, Worthy Protector, [ālaya] consciousness does not stay in a particular place in the body, not in the eye, ear, nose, or the tongue. A seed giving birth to a sprout is likened to consciousness becoming dimly aware [in an embryo]. The formation of flower buds is likened to consciousness becoming receptive. The stage from blooming of flowers to bearing of fruits is likened to [ālaya] consciousness forming a body. The way [ālaya] consciousness forms a body is throughout all parts of the body. However, one cannot find where it stays. Without [ālaya] consciousness, the body cannot be formed.
“For example, only a ripe fruit from a tree, not an unripe fruit, is capable of releasing the seed for a new tree to come. Similarly, when one’s [current] requital has matured, one dies and the consciousness-seed appears. Because of consciousness, there is sensory reception; because of sensory reception, there is love. Bondage of love produces memory. [Ālaya] consciousness carries memory and moves away like the wind according to good and evil karmas. It also thinks of its parents-to-be and entrusts those who match the causes and conditions. For example, the reflection of one’s face does not appear in a mirror if the mirror is not clear. If the mirror is clear, the reflection appears. The image in the mirror has no sensation or thinking, but it follows the person to stretch or bend, to face upward or downward, to open the mouth to speak or joke, to walk or stand, performing various kinds of motion. Worthy Protector, by what force does the reflection appear in a mirror?”
Worthy Protector replied to the Buddha, “It is by the decision of the person. Because of his face, there is its reflection. The form of the reflection is like that of the person’s face. Its sense organs, whether complete or incomplete, are like those on his face.”
The Buddha said, “The person’s face is the cause of the reflection, and the mirror is the condition of the reflection. The reflection appears because of the convergence of causes and conditions. Likewise, [ālaya] consciousness is the cause of one’s sensory reception, perception, mental processing, and mental functions, and the parents are the conditions. As the causes and conditions converge, a body appears [like a reflection in the mirror]. As for the person and the mirror, when the person moves away, his mirror reflection is also gone. The person may cast his reflection elsewhere, perhaps in the water. Similarly, carrying good and evil karmas, [ālaya] consciousness abandons this body and moves away to accept the next requital.
“As another analogy, the seed of a banyan tree or a ficus tree is small, but it can grow a huge tree. The tree again bears seeds. The new seed then abandons the old tree to grow a new tree. As the old tree grows weak over time, with its sap exhausted, it will dry out and decay. After [ālaya] consciousness abandons the body of a sentient being, [like a small seed] it will accept a huge body of some kind according to karma. It is also like many kinds of seeds, such as barley, wheat, sesame, mung bean, and legume. Because a seed is planted, sprout, stem, flowers, and fruits will grow and ripen. Similarly, because [ālaya] consciousness has moved into a sentient being of some kind, this being has awareness and sensory reception.
“The way [ālaya] consciousness, holding good and evil karmas, successively accepts a variety of bodies is also like a bee that stops over flowers. With love, pleasure, and attachment, it sucks the flavor of a flower for nourishment. The bee then abandons this flower to seek other flowers at other places. Whether it abandons fragrance for stench or it abandons stench for fragrance, it cannot help loving and coveting the object it stops over. Likewise, [ālaya] consciousness may acquire a celestial body to enjoy the fortune fruit of meritorious karma. It may then abandon the celestial body to enter into hell to accept the misfortune fruit of evil karma. As saṁsāraturns, various kinds of bodies are [successively] formed.
“[Ālaya] consciousness is like the white seed of a red or blue tulip or a puṇḍarīka flower. If one cracks open the seed, one will find no sprout, no flower, and no color. Only if the seed is planted in the ground and watered, will a sprout grow. In time flowers and fruits will thrive and flourish, with the flowers blooming in red or white, or various colors. The sprout and the colorful flowers are not inside the seed, but, without the seed, they cannot come into being. [Ālaya] consciousness abandons a dead body, including its fleshy frame, facial features, faculties, and sensory fields, because it no longer sees the convergence of their causes and conditions. With its special vision, hearing, smelling, tasting, and tactility, as well as its memory, [ālaya] consciousness knows the good and evil karmas one has done, according to which it will accept a requital body.
“As a silkworm constructs a cocoon, binding itself by its own doing, so too does [ālaya] consciousness construct a body to bind itself. It will then abandon that body and transfer into a new body as the next requital. Because of a flower seed, there will be a new plant with colorful and fragrant flowers. Likewise, after [ālaya] consciousness has abandoned a body, wherever it goes, along with it goes the dharma realm, including faculties and sensory reception. Wherever a wish-fulfilling jewel is, it is accompanied by pleasing objects. Wherever the sun is, it is accompanied by bright light. Likewise, wherever consciousness transfers to, it is accompanied by the dharma realm, including sensory reception and perception. After abandoning a body, [ālaya] consciousness, without a body of flesh and bones, takes the cause of form as its body. It has faculties, sensory reception, and subtle thinking, and can grasp good or evil.
“Various kinds of fruits, such as dates, pomegranates, mangoes, and the like, may taste pungent, bitter, sour, sweet, salty, or tart. With a distinct flavor, each fruit serves a different purpose. After the fruit decays, its flavor will be reborn through the transformation of the seed. Thus, as the [ālaya] consciousness-seed transfers, it is accompanied by sensory reception, memory, and good and evil karmas. It is called consciousness because it knows that it has abandoned this body in order to accept the next requital body. It is called consciousness because it knows that it is accompanied by good and evil karmas and that, carrying these karmas, it transfers to accept [the next] requital. It is called consciousness because it knows all about what the body does. By analogy, the wind has no form to grasp and no mass to get hold of but, through causes and conditions, it can do karmas: The wind can carry cold or hot, carry fragrance or stench, shake the woods, or violently devastate anything in its path. Likewise, consciousness has no form or mass, and cannot be detected by sight or hearing. However, through causes and condition, the appearance of consciousness is revealed. Because one’s consciousness maintains one’s body, the body knows pain or pleasure. Looking radiant and energetic, one’s body can walk or stand, speak or laugh, and feel happy or sad. Seeing clearly the karmas done, we should know that there is consciousness.”
Fascicle 2 (of 2)
At that time in the assembly, the youth Moon Reality Superior rose from his seat and joined his palms. He asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, how does one see the cause of form? How does one see the cause of desire? How does one see the cause of perception? How does one see the cause of grasping certain precepts?”
The Buddha told Moon Reality, “The wise see objects wisely; the foolish see objects foolishly. When the wise see an attractive body, they understand that it is filth, only an assemblage of flesh bundles, tendons, bones, membranes, pus, secretion, and blood, with large veins, small veins, and hollow and solid organs, such as large intestine, small intestine, bladder, stomach, spleen, gall bladder, liver, brain, heart, kidneys, and lungs, as well as hair and nails. Also wrapped in a thin skin are abominable, disgusting impure discharges, such as bile, phlegm, mucus, saliva, feces, and urine.
“A form is composed of the four domains, and they are the cause of form. Moon Reality, taking the body born from parents as an example, its solidity is in the earth domain; its moisture in the water domain; its warmth in the fire domain; and its motion in the wind domain. Its perception and memory, as well as its sensory fields, such as sounds, scents, flavors, and tactile sensations, are all in the consciousness domain.”
The youth Moon Reality next asked the Buddha, “Why does one’s consciousness abandon the current body upon its death? How does it transfer into the next body? How does it know when to abandon this body?”
The Buddha told Moon Reality, “A sentient being receives requital according to karma, and the stream of consciousness continuously maintains each requital body. A life ends upon the exhaustion of requital, then [ālaya] consciousness abandons the body. It then moves on to accept [the next body] according to karma. Using watery milk as an example, when it is heated with fire, milk, water, and fat will separate. Thus, Moon Reality, when a sentient being’s life ends, because of dissolution of the karmic force, the physical form, consciousness, faculties, and their spheres all separate from one another. As the only reliance, [ālaya] consciousness then carries the dharma realm, including memory and one’s good and evil karmas, and goes on to accept the next requital.
“Moon Reality, taking the highly auspicious butter as an example, when [ordinary] butter is cooked with various good medicines, it turns into the highly auspicious butter with medicinal flavors and healing power. Shedding its ordinary quality, the butter now holds the strength of good medicine with six flavors: pungent, bitter, sour, salty, tart, and sweet. With its substance, aromas, and flavors, it can benefit one’s body. Similarly, after abandoning the body, [ālaya] consciousness, carrying its dharma realm and good and evil karmas, moves away to accept the next requital. Moon Reality, the substance of the butter is like one’s body. Blending medicines with the butter, turning it into the highly auspicious butter is like joining sense objects and faculties to do karma. The medicinal flavors mixed into the butter are like good karma that supports consciousness. If one eats the highly auspicious butter, one will look robust, energetic, radiant, fine, and peaceful, without any trouble. It is like enjoying a pleasure-requital because good karma is stored in one’s consciousness. If one eats butter made with the wrong medicine, one’s features will turn grim, without healthy colors, chalky like the dead. It is like receiving a pain-requital because evil karma is stored in one’s consciousness.
“Moon Reality, the auspicious precious butter does not have hands, feet, or eyes, but it can retain the strength of the substance, aromas, and flavors of good medicines. In the same way, [ālaya] consciousness can retain one’s good karma and dharma realm. After abandoning the current body, it will manifest wonderful celestial vision through an interim body. It can see the six desire heavens and the sixteen hells. It can see its [interim] body with shapely hands and feet and fine sense organs. It also can see the abandoned corpse and recognize it as the body of its former life. It also can see tall magnificent celestial palaces with various kinds of adornments, surrounded by flowers, fruits, and trees, and covered with vines so radiant and gorgeous that they are like new gold chains set with jewels. Having seen these things, it will be very joyous. Because of great joy and love, [ālaya] consciousness will entrust itself to this [environment].
“When a person with good karma abandons his body to assume another body, it is peaceful and painless. It is like a horseman abandoning one horse to ride another. It is like a warrior armed with military strategy. When the enemy troops approach, he puts on his sturdy armor and fearlessly rides off on his steed. Likewise, [ālaya] consciousness, supported with one’s roots of goodness, abandons the inhalation and exhalation of this body as well as its spheres, and moves away to experience fabulous pleasures by rebirth in heaven, whether a Brahma heaven or even the top heaven heaven in the form realm.”
At that time in the assembly, Prince Great Medicine rose from his seat and joined his palms. He asked the Buddha, “What form and image does consciousness assume after it has abandoned the body?”
The Buddha replied, “Very good! Very good! Great Medicine, what you now ask is in the great profound realm of a Buddha. Except for the Tathāgata, no one can understand.”
Then the youth Worthy Protector Superior said to the Buddha, “Prince Great Medicine’s question is very profound. His wisdom is wonderful, keen, and brilliant.”
The Buddha told Worthy Protector, “This prince Great Medicine has planted his roots of goodness under Vipaśyin Buddha. For five hundred lives, he was reborn in non-Buddhist families. When he was a nonbeliever, he often pondered the meaning of consciousness: what consciousness is and why it is consciousness. For five hundred lives, he was unable to solve his problem, unable to find clues as to the coming and going of consciousness. I will today shatter his web of doubts and make him understand.”
Then the youth Worthy Protector Superior said to Prince Great Medicine, “Very good! Very good! Your question is wonderful and profound. The meaning of Moon Reality’s questions is shallow and narrow, like a child whose mind wanders in the midst of external objects, not knowing his internal realm. It is rare to hear the true Dharma and it is hard to encounter a Buddha, whose vast knowledge and profound wisdom are unfathomable. We should especially request the Buddha to give the utmost wonderful teachings.”
Seeing the Buddha’s radiant and pleasant features like an autumn lotus flower opening, Prince Great Medicine was exuberant and joyful. He joined his palms single-mindedly and said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, I love the profound Dharma and I thirst for the profound Dharma. I always have the fear of the Tathāgata entering parinirvāṇa and of my not hearing the true Dharma. Then I would have to be among the sentient beings in the world of the five turbidities, too ignorant to know good versus evil, too ignorant to be aware of the good versus the evil and of maturity versus immaturity [of karma]. I would have to transmigrate in confusion through the painful journeys of birth and death.”
The Buddha told Prince Great Medicine, “The true Dharma of the Tathāgata is hard to encounter and hard to acquire. In a past life, for the sake of half a stanza [of teachings], I climbed up a mountain and plunged down, abandoning my life. For the sake of the true Dharma, I underwent immeasurable millions of koṭis of various kinds of suffering and tribulations. Great Medicine, you may ask all the questions you wish. I will explicate them to you.”
Prince Great Medicine said to the Buddha, “Affirmatively I accept Your teachings. World-Honored One, what is the appearance of consciousness? I pray that You will grant me an explanation.”
The Buddha told Great Medicine, “Its appearance is like a person’s reflection in the water. Indistinguishable as existent or nonexistent, it cannot be grasped. It is like the shape of a cloud, like an image of [tṛṣṇā] thirsty love.”
Prince Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “What is thirsty love?”
The Buddha replied, “When one’s eyes follow a pleasing sight, it is called thirsty love. When one holds a mirror, one sees the reflection of one’s face. When the face in front of the mirror is gone, so is its reflection. The transference of [ālaya] consciousness is similar, and consciousness and good and evil karmas have no form or shape to see. As a person who is born blind does not know sunrise, sunset, night, day, light, or dark, likewise one cannot see one’s consciousness. Nor can one see in one’s body thirsty love, sensory reception, perception, or memory. The [four] domains, the [six] faculties, and the [five] aggregates, constituting a sentient being, are all consciousness. The physical eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body, together with sights, sounds, scents, flavors, and tactile sensations, as well as the nonphysical experience of pain or pleasure, are all consciousness. Great Medicine, for example, one tastes food with one’s tongue to detect all six flavors: sweet, bitter, pungent, sour, salty, and tart. The tongue and the food have shapes and forms, but flavors are formless. One detects sensations because of one’s body, with its bones, marrows, flesh, and blood. The body has a form, but sensations are without form or shape. Through one’s body one can know consciousness as well as the fortune fruit or misfortune fruit it holds.”
At that time the youth Worthy Protector Superior bowed down at the feet of the Buddha and asked, “World-Honored One, can one see one’s consciousness and know one’s fortune or misfortune in store?”
The Buddha replied, “Hearken well! No one can see consciousness without first seeing the truth. Unlike a mango in one’s palm, consciousness cannot be seen. Consciousness is not inside one’s sense organs, such as the eye. If consciousness were inside any sense organ, such as the eye, one would be able to see it by dissecting the eye. Worthy Protector, as Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges all see that consciousness is formless, so too I see that consciousness is formless. Consciousness cannot be seen by the ordinary and the foolish. It can be revealed [to them] only by analogy.
“Worthy Protector, to know one’s sin or merit stored in consciousness, you now should hearken. Suppose a person is possessed, whether by a deity, such as a gandharva, or by a spirit, such as a skandha. Worthy Protector, what is your opinion? Can one see the possessor, whether a deity or a spirit?”
Worthy Protector replied to the Buddha, “No, World-Honored One, the possessor, a deity or a spirit, has no form or shape. One cannot see it inside or outside that person’s body.”
[The Buddha continued] “Worthy Protector, if a person is possessed by a great deity with superb merit, he will receive fragrant flowers and choice incense, and will have aromatic fine food and drink, served properly with handsome clean offering paraphernalia. Likewise, because [ālaya] consciousness has a store of merits, one will receive [fortune] fruit in the form of dignity, peace, and happiness, whether as a king among men, a state minister, a dignitary with reputation, a person in command of wealth, an elder, a merchant lord, or a god who enjoys splendid celestial life. One’s body receiving pleasure-requital because one’s consciousness has a store of merits is like a person possessed by a benign deity. When the deity receives an offering of wonderful flowers, choice incense, and aromatic, fine food and drink, he will be delighted and the possessed patient will be soothed. Therefore, if a person acquires command of rank and wealth in life, we should know that his body enjoys fortune fruit because his consciousness has stored merit.
“Worthy Protector, if a person is possessed by a sordid evil spirit, such as a pūtana, which loves feces, spit, rot, filth, and other impure things, offering these to the spirit’s pleasure will suit that person. Because of the power of the spirit, the possessed patient follows its desires and loves impurity, stench, rot, and feces. Likewise, if [ālaya] consciousness is laden with sin, one will be reborn [as a human] in poverty or will take an evil life-journey of some kind, as a hungry ghost or an animal that eats filthy things.
“Worthy Protector, one who is possessed by a superior deity, a formless and shapeless entity, receives various kinds of fragrant and pure offerings. Similarly, one receives pleasure-requital because one’s [ālaya] consciousness is stored with meritorious karma. By contrast, one who is possessed by an evil spirit, such as a pūtana, receives impure, filthy, gross food and drink. Similarly, one receives pain-requital because one’s [ālaya] consciousness is laden with sinful karma. Worthy Protector, we should know that a body possessed by a deity or a spirit receives fine or gross food and drink is like one who receives pleasure-requital or pain-requital for one’s merit or sin stored [in consciousness].”
Prince Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, how does one see the cause of desire?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, desire is born from complementary causes, like two pieces of wood rubbed against each other by human effort to produce fire. Thus desire is born from consciousness, together with male and female sights, sounds, scents, flavors, and tactile sensations. As an analogy, fruit is born from flower. However, there is no fruit in a flower. When the fruit is born, the flower has perished. Although consciousness is evident because of the body, it cannot be seen by searching throughout the body. When the [seed for the next] karmic fruit is born in consciousness, the body perishes. Bones, marrow, and impure things will all decompose along with the body.
“For example, carrying the form, aroma, flavor, and feel of the future fruit, a seed leaves the tree to grow. Likewise, [ālaya] consciousness abandons the current body, carrying good and evil karmas, sensory reception, perception, and thinking, to accept the next life as requital. The process is also like a man and a woman who go separate ways after their pleasure meeting of love and desire. Consciousness, joined with karma, engages in love, attachment, play, craving, greed, and stinginess. When the current karmic requital is exhausted, consciousness will accept the next requital according to karma. With the conditions of the parents matched during the intermediate state [after one’s death], karmic force will enable [ālaya] consciousness to acquire a body fruit [the karmic fruit]. Love and karma are both without mass or shape. Consciousness and form are the complementary causes for desire to arise. These are the cause of desire.
“Great Medicine, what is the cause for one to grasp the precepts? These precepts—no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying, and no drinking alcohol—are stipulated by a teacher. Grasping these precepts is caused by a [grasping] view that, because of observing these precepts, one will achieve holy fruits, becoming a Srotāpanna, a Sakṛdāgāmin, or an Anāgāmin. However, because of grasping, one will instead gain a good rebirth, assuming human form or celestial form. [Grasping these precepts] is goodness with discharges [of afflictions], not goodness without discharges, because goodness without discharges will not yield such a fruit, a body composed of the five aggregates. Therefore, grasping the precepts means planting an impure seed. Consciousness that holds both good and evil karmas is impure, and it suffers from feverish distress because of afflictions. This is the cause of grasping the precepts.”
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “How does consciousness assume the form of a god or a hell-dweller?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, [ālaya] consciousness in the intermediate state has extraordinary vision, which does not depend on the physical eye for sight. This special vision, joined with a fortunate condition, sees merrymaking with desire and pleasure in a celestial palace. Consciousness will delight in and be attached to what it sees, and will think: ‘I should go there.’ Impure love and attachment are the cause of being. When consciousness sees its dead body lying in the place for corpses, it will then think: ‘This corpse is my beneficent learned friend. Because it has accumulated good karmas, I now will receive the celestial-life requital.’”
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, this consciousness deeply loves the corpse. Why does it not use it?”
The Buddha asked Great Medicine, “Taking the cut hair and beard as an analogy, although they are still black and lustrous, can you plant them on the body to make them grow again?”
Great Medicine replied to the Buddha, “No, World-Honored One, the abandoned hair and beard cannot be planted on the body to make them grow again.”
The Buddha said, “Likewise, Great Medicine, the corpse that [ālaya] consciousness has abandoned cannot be reused as the next requital.”
Great Medicine further asked the Buddha, “This consciousness is invisible and profound, without any mass or shape to find. How does it maintain the large body of a sentient being, such as an elephant, which is hard, like vajra? How does it enter into and maintain the body of a strong man who can fight off nine elephants?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, the wind, without mass or shape, stays in a hidden valley or crevice. It can break out with violent force, breaking Mount Sumeru into dust. Great Medicine, what are the form and appearance of the wind that can destroy Mount Sumeru?”
Great Medicine replied to the Buddha, “The wind is intangible, without mass or shape.”
The Buddha said, “Great Medicine, as the wind is intangible, without mass or shape, so too is [ālaya] consciousness without mass or shape. However, it can maintain a body, whether large or small, whether of an elephant or of a mosquito. As a bright lamp dispels darkness in a large or small room, likewise consciousness maintains a large or small body according to karma.”
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what is the appearance of karma? Through what causes and conditions does it manifest?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, one’s rebirth in a celestial palace to eat wonderful celestial food in peace and happiness is the appearance of a karmic fruit. As an analogy, two thirsty people wander in wilderness. One of them finds cool, good water; the other finds nothing and has to endure thirst and suffering. One of them acquires cool water, not given by anyone; the other in thirst is not obstructed by anyone from finding water. Each person receives pleasure-requital or pain-requital for karmic reasons. Great Medicine, this is the way to see one’s good or evil karma, which is white or black, like the two distinct phases of the moon in the sky. It is also like the color of a fruit, which changes as the fruit ripens with the power in its fire domain. Thus, because of abundance of merit, one is reborn into a noble family, with an outstanding physical appearance, plentiful assets, and an overflow of gold and treasures. Or one may be reborn in a celestial palace to enjoy happiness and ease. These fortunate conditions are manifestations of one’s good karma.
“As an analogy, a seed is planted in the ground, but fruits appear at the top of the tree. The seed does not go from branch to branch to reach the tree top, nor does anyone place the seed on a branch. One cannot find the seed by cutting open the tree trunk. Even if the tree is chopped down, one still cannot find the seed. The seed cannot be found as the tree is formed and its roots firm. Thus good and evil karmas depend on the body, but cannot be found in the body. As an analogy, the seed is the cause of the flower, but inside the seed there is no flower. The flower is the cause of the fruit, but inside the flower there is no fruit. As the flower and the fruit grow, neither growth shows its cause. Likewise, because of the body there is karma, and because of karma there is the body. When the flower falls at maturity, the fruit with its seed will appear; when the body expires at maturity, the karmic seed will leave it. As the seed is the cause of flowers and fruits, likewise is the body the cause of good and evil karmas. Karma has no shape, no appearance of maturity, like the shadow of one’s body, with neither mass nor obstruction. The shadow is not held by or fastened to a person, but it moves along with the person. Never has anyone seen the shadow coming out of his body. Likewise, there are body and karma, but karma cannot be seen as something attached to the body. Yet, without the body, there cannot be karma.
“As an analogy, medicine, which tastes pungent, bitter, or tart, can purge all diseases and make one’s body glow with healthy color and radiance, and people will know on sight that [the patient] has taken good medicine. The flavor of medicine can be experienced, but its curative merit is formless, cannot be seen, and cannot be captured. However, it can improve a person’s skin tone and glow. Likewise, good karma, which has no mass or shape, can enrich one’s body. One who is fortified with good karma is endowed with food, drink, and plentiful internal and external assets. One has facial features and shapely, normal hands and feet, lives in a luxurious house piled up with treasures, such as jewels, gold, and silver, and enjoys peace, happiness, and merriment at will. We should know that this is the appearance of good karma.
“By contrast, if one is reborn with repulsive features, stays in a squalid place in a fringe country, in poverty and lowliness, subsists on gross food and drink or has nothing to eat, lacks resources, envying others’ enjoyment, we should know that this is the appearance of evil karma. As a clear mirror displays the fineness or grossness of one’s face, the reflection in the mirror has no mass and cannot be captured. As [ālaya] consciousness has a store of good and evil karmas, accordingly one is reborn as a god or a human, or is reborn as an animal or a hell-dweller. Great Medicine, this is the way to see karma and [ālaya] consciousness transfer together.”
Great Medicine asked, “World-Honored One, how does amazing consciousness acquire a large body and maintain its sense organs?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, as an analogy, a hunter goes into a mountain forest and shoots an elephant with a poisonous arrow. The poison on the arrow enters into the blood stream of the elephant, disables the body, and destroys its faculties. The poison is lethal and the body turns blue-red like clotted blood. Having killed the elephant, the poison is spent. What is your opinion? How does the quantity of poison compare with the size of the elephant’s body? Can they compare?”
Great Medicine replied to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, the poison and the elephant have too wide a disproportion to compare quantity or size. It is like comparing a mustard seed with Mount Sumeru.”
“Great Medicine, likewise, [ālaya] consciousness abandons the current body and its spheres and moves on to develop the faculties [of a new body] according to karma.”
Great Medicine further asked the Buddha, “Why is the subtle consciousness not fatigued by maintaining a large body?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, Sumeru, the king of mountains, stands at 84,000 yojanas. The two dragon-kings Nanda and Upananda each circle it three times. They then shake Mount Sumeru with a huge breath, turning the waters of its surrounding sea into poison. These two dragon-kings are gigantic and strong, and the two dragon-kings Vāsuki and Takṣaka are their equals. What is your opinion? Is there any difference in quantity between the consciousness of any of the four dragon-kings and that of a mosquito?”
Great Medicine replied, “World-Honored One, there is no difference between the consciousness of any of the four dragon-kings and that of a mosquito.”
“Great Medicine, if a small drop of deadly poison enters the mouth of each of the four dragons, they all will die. What is your opinion? Between a small drop of deadly poison and the venom in the mouth of a dragon, which is stronger?”
Great Medicine replied to the Buddha, “The venom in the dragon’s mouth is stronger, and the strength of a small drop of poison is weaker.”
“Great Medicine, even for a strong sentient being that can fight off nine elephants, amazing consciousness, with neither form nor shape, not measurable by quantity, maintains its body according to karma. Although the seed of a banyan tree is tiny, after being planted, it can grow into a magnificent huge tree with hundreds and thousands of branches. What is your opinion? Are the seed and the tree of the same size?”
Great Medicine replied, “World-Honored One, the seed and the tree have a vast difference in size, like that between a hole in the lotus root and the domain of space.”
“Thus, Great Medicine, the seed cannot be found in the tree. Yet, without the seed, the tree cannot be born. As a tiny banyan seed can grow a huge tree, so too amazing consciousness can grow a huge body. One cannot find consciousness in the body. Yet, without consciousness, the body cannot be.”
Great Medicine further asked the Buddha, “Why does consciousness, which is indestructible like an adamantine vajra, stay in a fragile quick-to-decay body?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, as an analogy, a poor man acquires a wish-fulfilling jewel. By the power of the jewel, spontaneously appear resources and pleasure objects, such as ornately sculpted towers, splendid palatial mansions, lush gardens full of flowers and fruits, elephants and horses, and female attendants. Later, he loses the wish-fulfilling jewel, and all the resources and pleasure objects vanish. Although the wish-fulfilling jewel is so strong and durable that it cannot be destroyed by a thousand vajras, the resources it produces are false and impermanent, which quickly disperse and perish. Likewise, [ālaya] consciousness is strong and indestructible, but the body it produces quickly decays and perishes.”
Great Medicine asked, “World-Honored One, how does gentle consciousness penetrate a dense hard form?”
The Buddha said to Great Medicine, “Water is a gentle substance, but its flow can penetrate mountain rocks. What is your opinion? How do you compare the quality of softness and hardness in water and rock?”
Great Medicine replied, “World-Honored One, the quality of a rock is hard, like vajra. The quality of water is soft, pleasant to the touch.”
“Great Medicine, Consciousness is like water, most wondrous and most soft, but it can penetrate a strong large body, accepting it as requital.”
Great Medicine next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, after sentient beings have abandoned their bodies, how are they reborn in heaven, and how are they reborn in hell?”
The Buddha replied to Great Medicine, “Upon the death of a person, if he has stored meritorious karma, he will abandon his original eyesight and acquire the wonderful celestial vision. With the wonderful celestial vision, he will see the six desire heavens, the six life-journeys, and the movement of his body. He will see celestial palaces with all amenities, and joyous gardens where flowers are always in bloom. He will also see beautiful goddess-attendants make merry in the lotus hall, wearing flowers and silk garments, adorned with bangles, bracelets, and other ornaments. Once he sees the goddess-daughters in a heaven, his mind will be filled with happiness and gratification as well as attachment. His features will become relaxed and joyful like a lotus flower. His gaze will not be disoriented, his nose not collapsed, and his breath not foul. His eyes will look bright and clear like green lotus leaves. The joints of his body will not be in pain. His eyes, ears, nose, and mouth will not ooze blood, nor will he lose control of feces or urine. His pores will not enlarge, nor will his hair stand on end. His palms will not be dead yellow, and his nails not blue black. His hands and feet will neither convulse nor contract. As a good sign, he will see a huge hall in the sky, lined with hundreds and thousands of colorful columns with beautiful carvings. The magnificent jeweled hall will be decorated with various kinds of fragrant flowers, and draped with nets, from which hang bells playing beautiful refreshing tones to gentle winds. Frolicking in the hall will be celestial youths adorned with jewels.
“Having seen these things, he will smile contentedly, showing his teeth like flowers in a painting. His eyes will be neither wide open nor closed. His voice will be soft, and his body neither too cold nor too hot. He will not be sad to see family members surrounding him. At sunrise, he will abandon his life. Then he will see light, not dark, with extraordinary fragrances coming from the four directions. He might even see, with delight and reverence, the honored visage of a Buddha. He will joyfully bid farewell as if to take a short trip. Then he will return to comfort his family and friends, helping them not to mourn the way existence flows, telling them not to have sorrow caused by differentiation, because where there is birth, there must be death. Great Medicine, a person with good karma, before his death, will delight in giving alms, in reciting various stanzas and praises, and in understanding various explanations and teachings of the true Dharma. He will abandon his life peacefully, not in sleep but as if in sleep.
“As the person is about to abandon his life, his celestial parents-to-be will be seated together on one seat. Flowers will naturally appear in the hands of his goddess mother-to-be. Seeing these flowers, she will say to his father-to-be, ‘What an auspicious, extraordinary victory fruit! You should know that a time is approaching for joyful celebration for a son.’ His goddess mother-to-be will then shake the flowers with her hands. As she plays with the flowers, the person’s life will end. His [ālaya] consciousness, formless and invisible, will abandon all faculties and their objects, carrying his karma and other spheres, and it will move away to accept a new requital. It is like a horseman abandoning one horse to ride another. It is like the sun directing its light. It is like wood producing fire. It is like the moon casting its reflection in clear water. His [ālaya] consciousness with a store of good karmas will accept a celestial life a requital. It will be swiftly delivered by [karmic] wind into a flower, and his celestial parents-to-be, seated together on one seat, will both look at the flower. After the wind of desire blows sweet dew on the flower for seven days, a bright clean god-child, adorned with jewels, will appear lively and radiant in the hands of his goddess-mother.”
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, how does formless consciousness bring a form into being through the power of causes and conditions? Can a form be found inside its causes and conditions?”
The Buddha replied to Great Medicine, “Fire is produced by rubbing two pieces of wood, but fire cannot be found in the wood. Without wood, fire cannot be produced. Fire is born from the convergence of causes and conditions. Without causes and conditions, fire cannot be produced. Examining the wood, one cannot find the appearance of fire. Yet one can see fire rising from the wood. Indeed, Great Medicine, [ālaya] consciousness brings a physical form into being through one’s parents as the conditions. Searching through one’s body, one cannot find consciousness. Yet, apart from one’s body, there is no consciousness. Great Medicine, before the kindling of fire, the appearance of fire is not there. Nor are there such qualities as heat that can be felt. Thus, without a body, Great Medicine, there cannot be consciousness, sensory reception, perception, or mental processing. Great Medicine, when ordinary beings see the bright light of the sun, they do not see the substance of the sun, whether it is black, white, yellow white, or yellow red. They know only that the sun, alternately rising and setting, radiates light and heat. They know the sun through its functions. Consciousness too is known by its functions.”
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “What are the functions of consciousness?”
The Buddha replied to Great Medicine, “Sensory reception, perception, mental processing, thinking, and feeling anxiety, agony, or distress are functions of consciousness. Furthermore, habitual good and evil karmas become seeds stored in consciousness, which manifest as functions.”
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “How does [ālaya] consciousness leave one body and quickly accept another body? If it has abandoned one body but has not yet accepted a new body, what appearance does consciousness assume during this interval?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, as an analogy, a warrior with long arms, clad in sturdy armor, rides a horse, swift as the wind, into a battle formation and fights bravely with his weapon. Although he falls off his horse in a moment of inattention, he immediately jumps back on because of his good training in martial arts. Likewise, [ālaya] consciousness abandons one body and immediately accepts another body. It is also like a coward who, upon seeing the enemy, out of fear, immediately rides his horse to escape. Likewise, when [ālaya] consciousness with a store of good karmas sees its celestial parents-to-be seated together on the same seat, it quickly entrusts its rebirth to them.
“Great Medicine, you ask what appearance consciousness assumes during the interval after it has abandoned its old body but has not yet accepted a new body. Great Medicine, by analogy, a person’s reflection in the water has no mass to grasp. Yet its hands, feet, facial features, and other shapes are no different from the person’s. The reflection has no mass, nor does it do karmas. It has neither sense of hot or cold nor sense of touch. Nor does it fatigue or have flesh made with the four domains. Nor does it make sounds of speech, sounds of body, or sounds of pain or pleasure. The same is true for the appearance of [ālaya] consciousness after it has abandoned the old body but has not accepted a new body. Great Medicine, this explains how [ālaya] consciousness with a store of good karmas is reborn in heaven.”
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “How is [ālaya] consciousness reborn in hell?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, in regard to how those who have done evil karmas enter into hell, you should hearken. Great Medicine, sentient beings that have accumulated roots of evil will have this thought upon dying: ‘I now die here with immense anxiety and suffering, abandoning my beloved parents, relatives, and friends.’ They will see hells and see themselves doomed to fall into them headfirst. They will see a place covered with blood and will relish its flavor on sight. Conditioned upon their appetite for blood, they will be reborn in hell. The way [ālaya] consciousness deposits itself in the midst of such conditions as putrid evil water and stinking filth is analogous to the birth of maggots through the power of such conditions as feces, filth, spoiled cream, and putrid liquor, in a stinking place. Likewise those who enter into hell are reborn there through foul things.”
The youth Worthy Protector Superior joined his palms and asked the Buddha, “What forms and appearances do hell-dwellers assume? What do their bodies look like?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, those who are reborn in hell because of their love of blood-covered ground will have bodies the color of blood, all radiating bloody light. Those who are reborn in a moat will have bodies like black clouds. Those who are reborn in a milk river will have bodies dotted in various colors, and their bodies will be very delicate, like an infant of nobility. Their bodies will measure more than eight elbows in height, with long head hair and body hair trailing behind. Their hands, feet, and facial features will be crooked and incomplete. People in Jambudvīpa will die if they see them in the distance.”
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “What food do hell-dwellers eat?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, sentient beings in hell receive no pleasure from eating food. Running about with fear, they will see in the distance red molten copper. Mistaking it for blood, they will rush for it. They will also hear a call saying that the hungry can come quickly to eat. They will then go there and hold their hands as cups before their mouths. The hell warden will pour hot molten copper into their cupped hands and force them to drink it down into their abdomens. Their bones and joints will burst and crack open, their bodies entirely in flames. Great Medicine, the food eaten by sentient beings in hell only augments their suffering, without affording even a little comfort or happiness. Such are the agonies of sentient beings in hell! However, one’s [ālaya] consciousness never gives up, nor is it damaged. Even when the body is like a pile of bones, [ālaya] consciousness remains there, not leaving. Until the karmic requital is exhausted, the tormented body will not be abandoned.
“Pressed by the agony of hunger and thirst, they will see a lush green garden with an abundance of thriving trees, flowers, and fruits. Seeing this, they will laugh and say to one another, ‘This lush garden is green and the wind is cool.’ The multitude will hasten into the garden, seeking a moment of pleasure. However, the tree leaves, flowers, and fruits will all change into knives and swords to hack and slash these sinners. While some of them will be hit and their bodies cut in two, others will scream as they run in the four directions. Wardens will mobilize, holding vajra clubs, iron clubs, iron axes, or iron rods. They will bite their lips in wrath, their bodies bursting flames. Forbidding the sinners to leave the garden, they will slash and batter these sinners, who experience these things because of their own karmas. Chasing after the sinners, the wardens will say to them, ‘Where are you going? You can stay here. How can you escape to the east or the west? This garden is adorned with your karmas. Is it possible to leave?’
“Indeed, Great Medicine, sentient beings in hell undergo various kinds of suffering. They die every seven days and are reborn again in hell. Because of the power of karma, they are like worker bees that return to their original place after collecting honey from flowers. Sentient beings with sinful karma are doomed to enter into hell. As they begin to die, they will see death agents arrive, who will lasso their necks and pull them. As if being captured by bandits, they will experience immense suffering in body and mind as they enter vast darkness, wailing these words: ‘Oh, oh! Disaster! Agony! I now abandon relatives, friends, and various kinds of loves in Jambudvīpa, to enter into hell. I now do not see the road to heaven but see wretched things. Like a silkworm that produces silk to bind itself to death, I am bound by my own sinful karma. With a noose fastened around my neck, I am dragged and driven into hell.’ Worthy Protector, such are the miserable appearances of sentient beings with sinful karma, being reborn in hell!”
Worthy Protector and Prince Great Medicine, having heard these words, were astounded, their hair standing on end. They rose together, joined their palms, and said, “We today take refuge in the Buddha and entreat for His rescue and protection. We pray that, because of the merit of hearing this Dharma, before we are liberated from the stream of existence under the wheel of birth and death, we will not go down the three evil life-paths, never into hell.”
Worthy Protector further implored the Buddha, “I pray only that You will grant our wish.”
The Buddha said, “You may ask anything you wish.”
Worthy Protector asked the Buddha, “What is accumulation? What is gathering? What are the aggregates? What is the meaning of no transference into a body?”
The Buddha replied, “Worthy Protector, the body is composed of four realms: intellect, perception, mental faculty, and ignorance. Including these four realms in one’s consciousness is called accumulation. Gathering refers to the six domains, and the six facultieswith their six corresponding objects. There are three causes of existence in the Three Realms, and there are two causes for understanding.
“Gathering also means the assemblage of hair, beard, nails, skin, flesh, pus, blood, mucus, saliva, bile, phlegm, secretion, fat, marrow, and fluids, as well as hands, feet, face, and large and small joints. It is called gathering because it is like grain, legume, sesame, and wheat, collected and amassed into large piles. The six domains are earth, water, fire, wind, space, and consciousness. The six faculties are eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mental faculty; their corresponding objects are sights, sounds, scents, flavors, tactile sensations, and mental objects.
“The three causes of one’s existence in the Three Realms are greed, anger, and delusion, while the three causes [of diseases] are wind, bile, and phlegm. The two causes for understanding are precepts and faith; another two are equability and almsgiving; another two are energetic progress and samādhi; and another two are good and evil.
“Sensory reception, perception, mental processing, and consciousness are called the four formless aggregates. Sensory reception leads to experiencing pain, pleasure, or neither of the two. Perception refers to cognition of pain or pleasure. Mental processing refers to thinking, attention, and sensory contact. Consciousness is the lord of the body, pervading the entire body and directing all of its activities.
“No transference [of one’s ālaya consciousness] pertains to one’s attainment of the bodhi fruit because one’s body, voice, and mind are purified. After death, one’s [ālaya] consciousness abandons the aggregates of existence and moves away joyfully. It no longer undergoes [karmic] existence, transmigrating through life-journeys. No more transference [into a karmic body] is called no transference.”
Then Worthy Protector and Prince Great Medicine bowed down at the feet of the Buddha and said, “World-Honored One, this Dharma nugget pronounced by the Buddha, the Omniscient One, will bring great benefits, peace, and joy to sentient beings in the future.”
The Buddha said, “The Dharma store of the Tathāgata abides for eternity, never ceasing. The omniscient one knows everything because I have developed wisdom light through immeasurable assiduity and suffering. I now pronounce this sūtra on this true-Dharma day to shine brilliant light on sentient beings and to let virtue and renown flow everywhere from the ocean of omniscience. I pronounce it for the sake of those who are able to control their mind streams. Wherever this sūtra is, wherever it is being recited or explained, gods, spirits, asuras, and mahoragas will all come to make obeisance and to give support. Water, fire, law, and bandits will not be able to do any harm. Bhikṣus, from this day forward, do not pronounce this sūtra to nonbelievers. Nor should you show it to those who intend to find fault with this sūtra. Nor should you pronounce it to non-Buddhists, such as Nirgranthaputra and the Nirgrantha group. Nor should you pronounce it to those who request it with disrespect. Those who disobey my instructions damage Dharma work and in effect damage the Tathāgata. Bhikṣus, if there are those who make obeisance and offerings to this sūtra, you should respect them and honor them with gifts because they uphold the Tathāgata store.”
Then the World-Honored One spoke in verse:
Be brave to transcend the burden of afflictions.
Train assiduously in the true teachings of the Buddha.
Annihilate the legions of death,
Like the elephant trampling on reeds.
Uphold the Dharma, observe its precepts,
And progress single-mindedly, without negligence or indolence,
In order to cease the flow of rebirth,
Reaching the edge of agonizing existence.
After the Buddha pronounced this sūtra, the youth Worthy Protector Superior, Prince Great Medicine, bhikṣus, and Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, as well as gods, humans, asuras, gandharvas, and others in the huge assembly, having heard the Buddha’s words, rejoiced and reverently carried out the teachings.
—Mahāyāna Sūtra of Consciousness Revealed
Translated from the digital Chinese Canon (T12n0347)