Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “emptiness of all dharmas” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Emptiness 14: Emptiness of all dharmas

Emptiness of all dharmas (sarvadharmaśūnyatā). – By ‘all dharmas’ we mean the five aggregates (skandha), the twelve bases of consciousness (āyatana) and the eighteen elements (dhātu).

I. Unitary categories in every dharma

Throughout, these dharmas belong to many categories (mukha),[1] in the sense that all dharmas have: 1) a characteristic of existence (bhāvalakṣaṇa); 2) a characteristic of knowledge (jñānalakṣaṇa); 3) a characteristic of consciousness (vijñānalakṣaṇa); 4) a characteristic of object (ālambanalakṣaṇa); 5) a characteristic of dominance (adhipatilakṣaṇa); 6) a characteristic of cause (hetulakṣaṇa) and a characteristic of effect (phalalakṣaṇa); 7) a shared characteristic (sāmānyalakṣaṇa) and a specific characteristic (svalakṣaṇa); 8) a characteristic of support (āśrayalkṣaṇa).

1) How do all dharmas have a characteristic of existence (bhāvalakṣaṇa)? Among all these dharmas, there are some beautiful (suvarṇa) and some ugly (durvarṇa), there are some internal (ādhyātmika) and some external (bāhya). All dharmas, being [a place] of arising for the mind, are said to be existent.[2]

Question. – How could a characteristic of existence be attributed to an adharma?

Answer. – The adharma is not a ‘dharma’: only because it is counter to existence (bhāva) is it called adharma. If it were really an adharma, it would be ‘existent’. This is why it is said that all dharmas have a characteristic of existence.

2) They have a characteristic of knowledge (jñānalakṣaṇa).

a. The knowledge of suffering (duḥkhe dharmajñāna) and the subsequent knowledge of suffering (duḥkhe ’navayajñāna) cognize the truth of suffering (duḥkhsatya).

b. The knowledge of the origin (samudaye dharmajñāna) and the subsequent knowledge of the origin (samudaye ’nvayajñāna) cognize the truth of the origin (samudayasatya).

c. The knowledge of the destruction (nirodhe dharmajñāna) and the subsequent knowledge of the destruction (nirodhe ’nvayajñāna) cognize the truth of the destruction (nirodhasatya).

d. The knowledge of the Path (mārge dharmajñāna) and the subsequent knowledge of the Path (mārge ’nvayadharmajñāna) cognize the truth of the Path (mārgasatya).[3] [294a]

e. The good conventional knowledge (saṃvṛtijñāna) cognizes suffering (duḥkha), the origin (samudaya), the destruction (nirodha), the Path (mārga), and also cognizes space (ākāśa) and cessation not due to wisdom (apratisaṃkhyānirodha).

Therefore it is said that all dharmas have a characteristic of knowledge and, by means of this characteristic of knowledge, embrace (saṃgṛhṇanti) all dharmas.

3) They have a characteristic of consciousness (vijñānalakṣaṇa):

a. The eye consciousness (cakṣurvijñāna) perceives color (rūpa).

b. The ear consciousness (śrotravijñāna) perceives sound (śabda).

c. The nose consciousness (ghrāṇavijñāna) perceives odor (gandha).

d. The tongue consciousness (jihvāvijñāna) perceives taste (rasa).

e. the body consciousness (kāyavijñāna) perceives the tangible (spraṣṭavya).

f. The mental consciousness (manovijñāna) perceives dharmas and [consequently] the eye, color and the eye consciousness; the ear, sound and the ear consciousness; the nose, smell and the nose consciousness; the tongue, taste and the tongue consciousness; the body, touch and the body consciousness; the mind (manas), dharmas and the mental consciousness.[4]

Therefore it is said that all dharmas have a characteristic of consciousness.

4) They have a characteristic of object (ālambanalakṣaṇa).

a. The eye consciousness (cakṣurvijñāna) and the dharmas associated with the eye consciousness (cakṣurvijñānasaṃprayuktadharma) seize (ālambante) color (rūpa).

b. The ear consciousness (śrotravijñāna) and the dharmas associated with the ear consciousness seize sound (śabda).

c. The nose consciousness (ghrāṇavijñāna) and the dharmas associated with the nose consciousness seize smell (gandha).

d. The tongue consciousness (jihvāvijñāna) and the dharmas associated with the tongue consciousness seize taste (rasa).

e. The body consciousness (kāyavijñāna) and the dharmas associated with the body consciousness seize the tangible (spraṣṭavya).

f. The mental consciousness (manovijñāna) and the dharmas associated with the mental consciousness seize dharmas, and [consequently] the eye, color and the eye consciousness; the ear, sound and the ear consciousness; the nose, smell and the nose consciousness; the tongue, taste and the tongue consciousness; the body, touch and the body consciousness; the mind (manas), dharmas and the mental consciousness.

Therefore it is said that all dharmas have a characteristic of object.

5) They have a characteristic of dominance (adhipatilakṣaṇa).

a. All conditioned dharmas (saṃskṛta) are, each separately, dominant.[5]

b. Unconditioned dharmas (asaṃskṛta) also are dominant in respect to conditioned dharmas.

Therefore it is said that all dharmas have a characteristic of dominance.

6) They have characteristics of cause and effect (hetuphalalakṣaṇa): all dharmas are each both cause and effect.

Therefore it is said that all dharmas have the characteristics of cause and effect.

7) They have a shared characteristic (sāmānyalakṣaṇa) and a specific characteristic (svalakṣaṇa).

In every dharma, there is a shared and a specific characteristic for each. For example, the horse is a shared characteristic, but its whiteness is a specific characteristic. The man is a shared characteristic, but the fact that he has lost an ear is a specific characteristic. Thus for each series (paraṃparā) there is a generic and a specific characteristic.

Therefore it is said that all dharmas have a shared and a specific characteristic.

8) They have a characteristic of support (āśrayalakṣaṇa).

Taken separately and together, dharmas rely upon one another (anyo ’nyāśrita). For example, the plants, the trees, the mountains and the rivers rest on the earth (pṛthivī) and the earth rests on the water (ap). Thus, as all things rest one upon the other, it is said that all dharmas have a characteristic of support, and that this characteristic of support embraces (saṃgṛhṇati) all dharmas.

These unitary categories of dharma are applicable to every dharma.

II. Groups of several dharmas


Moreover, groups of two dharmas include all dharmas: material (rūpin) dharmas and immaterial (arūpin) dharmas; visible (sanidarśana) and invisible (anidarśana), resistant (sapratigha) and non-resistant (apratigha), impure [294b] (sāsrava) and pure (anasrava), conditioned (saṃskṛta) and unconditioned (asaṃskṛta), inner (adhyātma) and outer (bahirdhā), vision-dharma and object-object, existence-dharma and nonexistence-dharma, and many other binary groups of this kind.

Groups of three, four, five, six and even an infinity of dharmas include all dharmas.

These dharmas are all empty (śūnya) as I have said above (p. 2086F): this is what is called the ‘emptiness of all dharmas’ (sarvadharmaśūnyatā).

III. What is the use of making lists of empty dharmas?


Question. – If dharmas are all empty, why give them different names (nānāvidhanāman)?

Answer. – Out of ignorance (avidyā) or error (viparyāsa), worldly people seize characteristics (nimittāny udgṛhṇanti) in empty dharmas and thus give rise to the conflicting emotions, such as desire (tṛṣṇādikleśa). As a result of these passions, they carry out all kinds of actions (karman). Carrying out all kinds of actions, they enter into all sorts of destinies (gati). Entering into all sorts of destinies, they take up all kinds of existences (gati). Taking up all kinds of existences, they suffer all kinds of suffering (duḥkha) and happiness (sukha). They are like the silk-worm (kośakāra) that, emitting silk (kauśeya) without any reason, becomes rolled up (pariveṣṭayati) within this silk that came out of itself and undergoes the torments of cooking (pacana) or boiling water.[8]

By the power of his pure wisdom (viśuddhaprajñā), the saint analyzed all these dharmas which, from beginning to end, are empty, Wanting to save beings, he speaks to them of these places of attachment (abhiniviśasthāna) that are the five skandhas, the twelve bases of consciousness (āyatana) and the eighteen elements (dhātu) and says to them: “You others, it is only out of ignorance (avidyā) that you give rise to the five aggregates, etc.; and you become attached to what you yourselves have made.”

If the saint spoke only about emptiness, beings would not find bodhi, for this emptiness, being caused by nothing, would not call forth disgust (nirveda).

IV. New controversy in regard to emptiness

1. The specific characteristics of conditioned dharmas are empty and indeterminate

Question. – You say that all dharmas are empty, but that is not correct. Why? Because all dharmas are integrated (saṃgṛhita) each within their own specific characteristic (svālakṣaṇa). Earth (pṛthivī) has as characteristic solidity (khakkhaṭatva), water (ap) has as characteristic moistness (dravatva), fire (tejas) has as characteristic heat (uṣṇatva); wind has as characteristic motion (īraṇa), the mind (citta) has as characteristic discernment (prativijñapti), wisdom (prajñā) has as characteristic knowledge (jñāna). All these dharmas reside each in its own characteristic. Why do you say they are empty?

Answer. – I have already refuted that in connection with the emptiness of essences (prakṛtiśūnyatā, no. 12) and the emptiness of specific characteristics (svālakṣaṇaśūnyatā, no. 13), but I must repeat myself here.

1) Since the characteristics (lakṣaṇa) are not determinate (aniyata), they are not real characteristics. Thus, cheese (sarpis), honey (madhu), glue (gavyadṛḍha), wax (lākṣā), etc., have the characteristic of earth (pṛthivīlakṣaṇa), [namely, solidity]; but if they are brought near fire (agni), they lose their own characteristic and take on the characteristic of moistness (dravatva) [which is that of water]. If gold (suvarṇa), silver (rajata), copper (tāmra) and iron (ayas) are brought to the fire, they also lose their own characteristic and take on that of water [namely, moistness]. Water (ap) in cold weather, becomes ice (hima) and takes on the characteristic of earth, [namely solidity]. A man who is drunk (unmada), or asleep (supta) or a man who is in the absorption without mind (asaṃjñisamāpatti), a frozen fish (matsya), have neither mind (citta) nor consciousness (vijñāna); they lose their characteristic of thinking and no longer have any discernment (prativijñapti). Wisdom (prajñā), which has knowledge (jñāna) as characteristic, as soon as it penetrates the empty nature (bhūtalkakṣaṇa) of dharmas, no longer has discernment and loses its characteristic of knowledge.[9] This is why the dharmas have no determined characteristic.

2) Moreover, it is not correct that dharmas have a determined characteristic (niyatalakṣaṇa). Why? The characteristic of future (anāgata) dharma cannot come into the present (pratyutpanna) for, if it did come into the present, it would lose its character of future. If it came into the present without losing its characteristic of future, the future would be the present, and there would no longer be any fruit of retribution (vipakaphala) in the future. – If the present (pratyutpanna) entered [294c] into the past (atīta), it would lose its character of present. If it entered into the past without losing its characteristic of present, the past would be the present.[10] From all these faults (dośa), we know that dharmas have no fixed characteristic.

2. Unconditioned dharmas are without characteristics

Moreover, if as you assert, unconditioned (asaṃskṛta) dharmas exist in a definite way, they would each separately have a specific characteristic (svālakaṣaṇa), in the same way that fire (tejas) has the characteristic of heat (uṣṇatvalakṣaṇa). But [by definition], it is the fact of not depending on a foreign cause (aparahetukatva) that constitutes their nature. This is why we know that unconditioned dharmas, having no characteristic, are really non-existent.

If you say that the cessation not due to knowledge (apratisaṃkhyanirodha ) takes place in the future existence (anāgatajanmani), it would be a conditioned dharma (saṃskṛta) whereas, [by definition], there is no conditioned dharma there.

If you say that the cessation not due to knowledge (apratisaṃkhyanirodha) has ‘cessation’ (nirodha) as characteristic, that also is not correct. Why? Because here it is a matter of the characteristic of cessation due to impermanence (anityatā) and not the characteristic of the cessation not due to knowledge (apratisaṃkhyā).[11]

For these many reasons, there is no determinate characteristic. If dharmas had a determinate characteristic, they would be real (aśūnya). Outside of determinate characteristic, there can be no real dharma.

3. Even the dharmas known by the saints are empty

Question. – There really must be some non-empty (aśūnya) dharmas. Why? Because there are differences between the things known by worldly people (pṛthagjana) and the things known by the saints (āryapudgala): the things known by worldly people are false, those known by the saints are true. One depends on the true knowledge of the saints to reject false dharmas; one cannot rely on lies to destroy lies.

Answer. – Destroying the things known by worldly people, that is the knowledge of the saints. But in the absence of worldly people, there are no dharmas of the saints, just as in the absence of illness (vyādhi), there is no medicine (bhaṣajya). This is why a sūtra says: “Without the dharmas of worldly people, there are no dharmas of the saints. The true nature of the dharmas of worldly people, that is the dharmas of the saints.”[12]

Moreover, saints do not seize any characteristic (nimitta) in dharmas and do not become attached to them (nābhiniviśante); that is why the dharmas of the saints are really true. By contrast, wordly people seize characteristics in dharmas and are attached to them: that is why the dharmas of worldly people are false.

Although the saints use [empty dharmas], they do not seize any characteristics in them and, if they do not sieze any characteristics, it is because these dharmas are without determinate characteristics (niyatalakṣaṇa). Thus there is no objection to be removed.

In the stages of the worldly people (pṛthagjanabhūmi), one is attached to the dharmas and makes distinctions between what is worldly dharma and what is saintly dharma. In the stages of the saints (āryabhūmi), one does not make any distinctions (vibhaṅga) and it is only in order to destroy the sicknesses of beings that one says that such and such a thing is false and such and such another thing is true. Thus it is said: “The word of the Buddha (buddhavacana) is neither false nor true, neither bondage (bandhana) nor deliverance (mokṣa), neither sameness (ekatva) nor difference (anyatva); this is why it is free of imagination (nirvikalpa) and pure like space (ākāśasama).”

Finally, if dharmas were not entirely empty, it could not be said: “Absence of idle chatter (niḥprapañca) is appropriate for the saints.” Neither could one say: “Indifference (anadhyavasāna), detachment (asaṅga) and groundlessness (apratiṣṭhāna), emptiness (śūnyatā), signlessness (ānimitta) and wishlessness (apraṇihita) are the true teaching.”

4. Emptiness itself is empty

Question. – If the emptiness of all dharmas (sarvadharmaśūnyatā) is true, why do you say that it is not?

Answer. – Supposing there were dharmas into which it could penetrate, this emptiness of all dharmas would destroy them, but since there is no dharma, the problem does not exist.

5. In the Tripiṭika, the Buddha taught the emptiness of beings and the emptiness of dharmas

Question. – If the emptiness of all dharmas (sarvadharmaśūnyatā) is really [295a] true, why did the Buddha, in the Tripiṭaka, speak especially of impermanent (anitya), painful (duḥkha), empty (śūnya) dharmas without self (anātman)?[13]

[Paramārthaśūnyatāsūtra.] – See the sūtra where the Buddha says to the bhikṣus: “I will explain to you the discourse of the Dharma (dharmaprayāya) called Ti-yi-yi-k’ong (Paramārthaśūnyatā). What is this paramārthaśūnyatā, ‘absolute emptiness’? The eye (cakṣus), when it is born, does not come from anywhere; when it perishes, it does not go anywhere. There is only action (karman) and retribution of action (karmavipāka); the agent (kāraka) does not exist. It is the same for the ear (śrotra), the nose (ghrāṇa), the tongue (jihvā), the body (kāya) and the mind (manas).”[14]

Here, to affirm that by arising [the dharmas] come from nowhere and by perishing they go nowhere is to say that there are no eternal dharmas and that they are impermanent (anitya); there is only action and the retribution of action, but the agent does not exist. In the śrāvaka system, that is absolute emptiness (paramārthaśūnyatā). Why are you telling us about an ‘emptiness of all dharmas’ (sarvadharmaśūnyatā)?

Answer. – 1) The self (ātman) is the root (mūla) of all the passions (kleśa). First, one is attached to the five aggrergates (skandha) as if they were the self (ātman); then, one is attached to outer things (bāhyavastu) as if they were ‘mine’ (ātmīya). Tied (baddha) by the ‘mine’, one produces love (rāga) and hatred (dveṣa) and as a result of this love and hatred, one carries out actions (karman). When the Buddha says [in the Paramārthaśūnyatāsūtra cited above] that “the agent does not exist” (kārakas tu nopalabhyate), he destroys the ātman in every dharma. When he says: “The eye, at the moment when it arises, does not come from anywhere and, at the moment when it perishes, it goes nowhere” he is affirming the impermanence of the eye, etc. But “that which is impermanent is suffering (yad anityaṃ tad duḥkham) and that which is suffering is without ‘me’ (ātman) and ‘mine’ (ātmīya).”[15] The ‘me’ and the ‘mine’ not existing, the mind is not attached to any dharma, and the mind, not being attached to any dharma, no longer gives rise to any fetter (saṃyojana). Since it does not give rise to any fetters, what is the good of preaching emptiness? This is why, in the Tripiṭaka, the Buddha above all speaks of impermanence (anitya), suffering (duḥkha), emptiness (śūnya) and non-self (anātman), but speaks much less of the ‘emptiness of all dharmas’.

2) However, some beings, even though they hear the Buddha talking about impermanence, suffering, emptiness and non-self, continue to chatter uselessly about dharmas. To these people, the Buddha preaches the emptiness of things (dharmaśūnyatā). If there is no self, neither is there any ‘mine’ and this absence of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ leads into the doctrine of emptiness.

6. The non-self leads logically to emptiness of dharmas

Question. – Then why does the Buddha say [in the Paramārthaśūnyatāsūtra cited above]: “There is action and there is retribution of action (asti karma, asti karmavipākaḥ)”? This action and this retribution of action are not empty (śūnya).

Answer. – 1) The Buddha’s sermon (dharmadeśanā) is twofold: i) he is preaching the non-self (anātman); ii) he is preaching the non-dharma (adharma).

To those who believe in an eternal ātman, he says that “the agent does not exist (kārakas tu nopalabhyate); to those who are attached to the view of nihilism (ucchedadṛṣṭyabhiniviṣṭa) he says that”there is action and the retribution of action (asti karmāsti karmavipākaḥ)”.

If a person hears it said that the agent does not exist, he ends up by falling into the view of nihilism (ucchedadṛṣṭi) and it is for him that the Buddha says that “there is action and retribution of action”. Actually, the five aggregates [of the present existence (aihikaskandha)] carry out actions (karman) but do not go into the future lifetime (aparajanman): as a result of the five skandhas [of the present lifetime], there arises a new series (saṃtāna, prabandha) of five skandhas which itself undergoes the retribution of actions (karmavipāka). This is why the Buddha says that one suffers the retribution of actions.

Thus, the mother and the baby, although their bodies are different, constitute a causal series; also, when the mother takes a medicine, her sick baby is cured. In the same way, although the five skandhas of the present lifetime and the five skandhas of the future lifetime are different, between them there is a continuity having as [295b] cause and condition the sinful or meritorious actions [of the present lifetime], although as a result of the five aggregates of the present lifetime, one takes on the five aggregates of the next lifetime as retribution.

2) Moreover, there are people who, looking for the nature of things (dharmatā), are attached to one single thing: existence (astitā), non-existence (nāstitā), the eternal (śāśvata), impermanence (anitya), etc. Attached to this one thing, they have love (tṛṣṇā) for their own system and hatred (dveṣa) for others’ systems; then they commit evil actions. It is for these people that the Buddha preaches the ‘emptiness of all dharmas’ (sarvadharmaśūnyatā), for no system is possible when all dharmas are empty. Any system that one loves produces fetters (saṃyojana) and, producing fetters, it is cause and condition for ignorance (avidyā). If it produces ignorance, how could it be true? That is the emptiness of dharmas

7. The Buddha adapts his teaching to the preferences and capacities of beings

Moreover, there are two kinds of beings: i) those who are attached to the world (lokāsakta); ii) those who seek the supramundane (lokottaraparyeṣin). Among those who seek the supramundane, there are the superior (agra), the middling (madhya) and the inferior (avara).

The superior beings are the beings with sharp faculties (tīkṣnendriya), who are of great mind and who seek the bodhi of the Buddhas. The middling beings are beings of medium faculties (madhyendriya) who seek the bodhi of the pratyekabuddhas. The inferior beings are beings of weak faculties (mṛdvindriya) who seek the bodhi of the śrāvakas.[16]

To those who seek the bodhi of the Buddhas, the Buddha preaches the six perfections (pāramitā) and the emptiness of things (dharmaśūnyatā).

To those who seek the bodhi of the pratyekabuddhas, he preaches the twelve causes (dvādaśanidāna) [of dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda)] and the conduct of the hermit (ekacārin).[17]

To those who seek the bodhi of the śrāvakas, he preached the emptiness of beings (sattvaśūnyatā) and the four noble truths (āryasatya).

[Prosopopeia of the deer, the rhinoceros and the elephant.] – 1) The śrāvakas fear saṃsāra and, hearing about the emptiness of beings, the four noble truths, impermanence, suffering, emptiness and non-self, they abstain from proliferation (prapañca) about dharmas. Example: in a park, the deer (mṛga), struck by a poisoned arrow (viṣeṣu), seeks only its own safety without thinking about others.

2) Completely disgusted as they are by old age (jarā), sickness (vyādhi) and death (maraṇa), the pratyekabuddhas consider somewhat the profound dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda) and save a few beings. Example: the rhinoceros (khaḍgaviṣāṇa) in a park which, although struck by a poisoned arrow, still busies itself with its children.

3) Completely disgusted as they are with old age, sickness nd death, the bodhisattvas completely sink into the twelve-membered dependent origination, penetrate the emptiness of things (dharmaśūnyatā) and enter into the immense fundamental element (dharmadhātu). Example: The king of the white elephants in rut (śvetagandhahastin) in a hunting park: although struck by a poisoned arrow, he cares about the hunter (vyādha), has no fear (bhaya) and, at the head of his troupe, walks away with slow steps.

This is why not much is said in the Tripiṭaka about the emptiness of things (dharmaśūnyatā).

8. Canonical sūtras teaching the emptiness of dharmas


However, sometimes thre are brahmacārins with keen faculties (tīkṣnendriya) who, while seeking the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of dharmas, are not disgusted with old age (jarā), sickness (vyādhi) and death (maraṇa) and are attached to all kinds of dharmatā. It is for them that [in a few sūtras of the Tripiṭaka] the emptiness of dharmas (dharmaśūnyatā) is preached:

[1. Śreṇikaparivrājakasūtra].

[2. Dīrghanakhasūtra.][19] – To a powerful brahmacārin scholar, the Buddha answered: “In my system, I accept neither existence (astitā) nor non-existence (nāstitā). Why do you take part in this idle chatter (prapañca)? Existence and non-existence are mere idle gossip and birth-places (upapattisthāna) for the fetters (saṃyojana).”

[3. Mahāśūnyatāsūtra.][20] – In the Tsa-a-han (Saṃyuktāgama), the Ta-k’ong king (Mahāśūnyatāsūtra) speaks of two kinds of emptiness: the emptiness of beings (sattvaśūnyatā) and the emptiness of things (dharmaśūnyatā).

[4. Sattvasūtra.][21] – In the Lo-t’o king (Kolopamasūtras], it is said: “The aggregate of form (rūpaskandha), O Radha, destroy it, break it reduce it to nothing.”

[5. Kolopamasūtra.][22] – In the Fa-yu king (Kolopamasūtra), it is said: “Good [295c] dharmas should be abandoned and a fortiori bad dharmas (adharma).”

[6. Pārāyaṇasūtra and Arthavargīyāṇi sūtrāṇī.] – In the Po-lo-yen king (Pārāyaṇasūtra)[23] and the Li-tching king (Arthavargīyāṇi sūtrāṇi), it is said:

The sage does not accept or retain any dharma.
Accepting and retaining dharmas is to produce idle chatter.
If there is nothing on which to lean,
There is no idle chatter.

The saints who have attained bodhi
Neither take nor reject dharmas.
Free of taking or rejecting,
They eliminate all wrong views.[24]

Thus, in many places in the Tripiṭaka, the emptiness of things (dharmaśūnyatā) is spoken of.

That is the ‘emptiness of all dharmas’ (sarvadharmaśūnyatā).

Footnotes and references:


Conditioned dharmas (saṃkṛta) constituting the ‘All’ are capable of diverse classifications that have been detailed several times already: see above, p. 642–646F, 1095–1104F, 1748–1751F.


For the Sarvāstivādins, only existing dharmas can be objects of consciousness; on the other hand, the Sautrāntikas think that the existing and the non-existing (bhāva, abhāva) can both be object of the consciousness: see Kośa, V, p. 60–62.


In all, eight knowledges (jñāna), preceded by kṣānti, and acquired during the Darśanamārga.


Whereas the first five consciousnesses are strictly limited to their own object, the mental consciousness applies, in addition, to the objects of the other five consciousnesses: see above, p. 643F and note.


All dharmas are dominant (adhipati) as raison d’être (kāraṇahetu) in regard to all, themselves excepted (svato ’nye kāraṇahetuḥ): cf. Kośa, II, p. 246.


For a more detailed explanation, see above, p. 644–645F, 1101–1104F and 1750–1752F.


Objection already made above, p. 1104–1105F.


Cf. H. Lamasse, Sin kouo wen or New manual of the written Chinese language,

2nd ed., Hong Kong, 1922, p. 212–213: The eggs of the silk-worm (ts’an) begin to hatch between spring and summer; they crawl about like black ants; after having grown somewhat, they moult their skin, four times in all; after 30 to 40 days, they spin a cocoon (kien) by emitting silk (sseu) from their mouths. When their thread is ended, they change into a chryslis (yong), nestled in the center of the cocoon, without eating and motionless; ten days later, having transformed into a butterfly (ngo), they break their cocoon and escape…Once the silk-worm has finished its cocoon, the silk (sao sseu) may be unwound. Here is the method: the cocoons are boiled in a pot in order to dissolve the viscous substance with which they are covered; then someone searches for the end (siu) to unwind it (tch’eou) and it is unrolled onto the skein winder (sseu kiu). If the cocoons are too numerous, they cannot be unwound, so first of all they are dried near a fire (hong) in order to kill the chrysalis so that it will no longer change into a butterfly; in these conditions, it is possible to keep them for a long time without spoiling.

– In the words of the Vinayas, the bhikṣus cannot ask the silk manufacturer to cook or to boil the cocoons so as to make mats mixed with silk (kosiyamissaka santhata), for such a measure involves the destruction of numberless small creatures (khuddaka pāṇa). Violating this precept constitutes a naiḥsargikapātayantika, a fault involving confiscation: cf. Pāli Vinaya, III, p. 224; Mahīśasaka Vin., T 1421, k. 5, p. 35a; Mahāsāṃghika Vin., T 1425, k. 9, p. 307c (cf. Prātimokṣasūtra of the Mahāsāṃghika, ed. W. Pachow, 1956, p. 17, 25–26); Dharmaguptaka Vin., T 1428, k. 7, p. 613c; Sarvāstivādin Vin., T 1435, k. 7, p. 47c (cf. V Rosen, Der Vinayavibhaṅga der Sarvāstivādin, p. 90); Mūlasarvāstivādin Vin, T 1442, k. 20. p. 735c.

In the Buddhist texts, the foolish worldly folk who get entangled in their imaginations and their wrong views are often compared to the silkworms that surround themselves with their own thread (Laṅkāvatāra, p. 162, 2–4: kauśeyakrimaya iva sūtreṇātmānaṃ parāṃś ca pariveṣṭayanti). See also Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 48, p. 247c13–14; Abhidharmāvatāra, T 1554, k. 2, p. 985a6–7; Nairātmyaparipṛcchā, T 1643, p. 172b29 (but the original Sanskrit says only veṣṭita); Catuḥsatyaśāstra, T 1647, k. 1, p. 376b5; Ratnakūṭa, T 310, k. 83, p. 482c11; k. 109, p. 612a27–28; k. 110, p. 617a8, 622b17; k. 120, p. 680c11; Northern Mahāparinirvāṇa, T 374, k. 2, p. 373b10; k. 9, p. 419b6; Traité, k. 90, p. 697a16–17.a


The author touches the very depths of the autocritique. His perfection of wisdom is the absence of any knowledge.


From the non-existence of the three times follows not only the subjective nature of dharmas but also their non-production: cf. above, p. 76–79F, 377F, 1690–1696F, 1086F.


Apart from the ākāśa, the Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāṣikas, along with some other schools, assert two unconditioned or asaṃskṛtas: 1) The cessation of desire is acquired by a pure knowledge, the comprehension of the truths, to which the name of pratisaṃkhyā ‘discriminative consciousness’ is given: it is therefore called pratisaṃkhyānirodha (= pratisaṃkyāya nirodha): cessation obtained by knowledge; 2) At the death of the saint, the future lifetime or rebirth is destroyed. This cessation which presupposes knowledge is not its result: it consists of the absolute prevention of arising (utpādātyantavighna: Kośa, I, p. 20): it is therefore called apratisaṃkhyānirodha, cessation not due to knowledge.

In the words of the Traité, the Sarvāstivādins are wrong to place the efficacy of what they consider to be a cessation ‘in itself’ in the future. An entity undergoing the process of time and impermanence (aniyatā) presents characteristics directly opposite to those of an asaṃskṛta which, by definition, is without production, without cessation and without duration-change. Thus the asaṃskṛtas as well have no fixed characteristic.


On the identity of worldly people and saints, see Vimalakīrti., transl., p. 143–144 and note, 156–57, 235; Hōbōgirin, p. 135, s.v. Bonshō.


Anityaṃ duḥkhaṃ śūnyam anātman is the formula most frequent in the Sanskrit Āgamas: cf. Saṃyukta, T 99, k. 1, p. 1a11; k. 5, p. 35a6; K. 10, p. 65b28, 68c16;k. 12, p. 82c13; k. 21, p. 153a8. – In the corresponding passages of the Pāli Nikāyas, śūnyam does not appear:

Aniccaṃ…duḥkhaṃ… yaṃ panāniccaṃ dukkhaṃ vipariṇāmadhammaṃ kallaṃ nu taṃ samanupassituṃ: etaṃ mama eso ham asmi eso me attā ti: Vinaya, I, p. 14; Majjhima, III, p. 19–20, 271–273; Saṃyutta, II, p. 124–125, 244–245; III, p. 88–89, 94.

Aniccaṃ… yad aniccaṃ taṃ dukkhaṃ yaṃ dukkhaṃ tad anattā yad anattā taṃ netaṃ mama neso ham asmi na meso attā ti: Saṃyutta, III, p. 22, 23.

When suññaṃ is mentioned in the Pāli suttas, it is most often given by two complements suññaṃ attena vā attaniyena vā expressing that it is an emptiness of being and not of thing: Majjhima, I, p. 297; II, p. 263;Saṃyutta, IV, p. 54, 296–297.


See paragraphs 4, 5, and 7 of the preceding note.


Saṃyutta, III, p. 22, 23: Yad aniccaṃ taṃ dukkhaṃ yaṃ dukkhaṃ tad anattā yad anattā taṃ netaṃ mama.


The bodhi or prajñā of the śrāvakas, the pratyekabuddhas and the bodhisattva-buddhas has been fully studied above, p. 1066–1079F.


On the two kinds of pratyekabuddhas, living in groups (vargacārin) or living alone (ekacārin) like the rhinoceros (khaḍgaviṣāṇakalpa), see above, p. 1069F, n. 1.


See above, p. 1079–1081F and n.


Dīrghanakhasūtra according to the version established above (p. 1688F) by the Traité. Cf. the Dīghanakhasutta of Majjhima, I, p. 497–501 (Tsa-a-han, T 99, no. 969, k. 34, p. 249a–250a: Pie-yi-tsa-a-han, T 100, no. 203, k. 11, p. 449a–b) partly having its Sanskrit correspondent in the Avadānaśataka, II, p. 187 foll.

The brahmacārin Dīrghanakha, uncle of Śāriputra, is often mentioned in the Traité, (cf. P. 45–51F, 184F, 633F, 639F, 1576F, 1688F).


Mahāśūnyatāsūtra of the Nidānasaṃyukta, p. 152–157, already cited above in full (p. 1079F, 2067F.


Sattasūtra of the Saṃyutta, III, p. 190: Evam eva kho Rādha tumhe rūpaṃ vikiratha vidhamata viddhaṃsetha vikīḷanikaṃ karotha taṇhakkhayāya paṭipajjatha.


Short extract from Majjhima, I, p. 135: Kullāpamaṃ vo bhikkhave ājānantehi dhammā pi vo pahātabbā pag eva adhammā. Text already cited above, p. 64F, 2094F and later k. 85, p. 657a2. Here dhamma and adhamma are taken in the sense of good and bad teachings.


Pārāyaṇasūtra is just a simple title here not accompanied by any citation. But above (p. 237F), the Traité has referred to the Upasīvaparipṛcchā of Pārāyaṇa and gave two stanzas corresponding to verses 1075 and 1076 of the Suttanipāta:

Transl: “When the saint has disappeared, must it be said that he is no longer, must it be said that he is forever free of pain? Explain that to me, O Sage, for you know this. – About the one who has disappeared, there is no measure; there is nothing of him that allows speaking about it; all the things that constituted him are abolished; do you so abolish all ways of speech.”

– The ‘abolition of all ways of speech’ is very close to ‘elimination of all speech and all practice’ (sarvavādacaryoccheda), the last word of the Mādhyamika philosophy: see p. 45F.


The two stanzas of the Arthavargīyāṇi sūtrāṇi cited here correspond in some places to a stanza of the Duṭṭhaṭṭhakasutta of the Pāli Aṭṭhakavagga: Suttanipāta, verse 787.

Transl. – “The committed person undergoes various criticisms, but what to say about an emancipated person? In him nothing is accepted or rejected. He has shaken off all philosophical views here below.”

– For the Prajñās, this ideal of emancipation is fulfilled by the parivrājaka Śreṇika who took dharmatā as his sole criterion by basing himself on the non-existence of all dharmas (sarvadharmānupalabdhitām upādāya), the non-taking and the non-rejection of all the teachings (sarvadharmāṇam aparigrahānutsargam upādāya): cf. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 134–125.