[Like an Echo]

As for [the simile] "like an echo," it is just as when one is in
a narrow valley in the deep mountains, or as when one is in a deep and
precipitous ravine, or as when one is in a large, empty building.
Whether it be one's voice or the sound of striking something, there is
[another] sound which arises from the given sound which we then refer to
as an "echo." A person who is unknowledgeable about this will be of the
opinion that [the echo] is [some other] person's voice. However, one
who is wise will think, "This sound was not created by anyone. It was
merely on account of the sounds contacting [a barrier] that there then
arose another sound which we refer to as an 'echo.'" The phenomenon of
echoes is "empty" but is able to deceive the faculty of hearing. This
is analogous to the [process which occurs] when a person is about to
speak. The air in the oral cavity which we refer to as udna goes back
[down the windpipe] and when it reaches the diaphragm, having contacted
the diaphragm, an echoing sound then comes forth. When the echoing
sound comes forth, it may encounter and return from seven different
locations. It is this which is referred to as the voice. This is as
stated in a verse:

Udaana is the name of breath.
It strikes the diaphragm, then ascends.
This breath contacts in seven places:
The neck, the gums, the teeth and lips,
The tongue, the throat, the chest as well.
Herein it is that voice is born.

The fool he fails to understand this,
Deludedly attached, he's angry and stupid.
The Middle person, having wisdom,
Isn't angry or attached,
And doesn't take up stupid actions,
But just accords with dharmas' marks.

In bending, straightening, flexing, extending,
In going, coming, issuing speech.
In all of this, there's no one acting.
Is it magical conjuration?
Or mechanical wooden people?
Or the stuff that's born of dreams?

Is "self" but warmth of energy pent up?
Does it exist or does it not*?
Just who is it that comprehends this?
This bony frame that's bound with tendons
Is able to utter sounds of speech
Like molten iron thrown in water.

It is for these reasons [discussed above] that it is said that
the bodhisattvas are aware of all dharmas as being like an echo.


[Like the City of the Gandharvas]

As for [the simile] "like the city of the Gandharvas," when the
sun first rises, one sees the city gates, the buildings, the
watchtowers, the palaces, and travellers leaving and entering. As the
sun rises higher, [the city] gradually disappears. One is only able to
perceive this city with the eyes and thus it is devoid of any reality.
This is what is meant by the city of the Gandharvas.
There once was a man who was at first unable to see the city of
the Gandharvas, but who, at dawn, looked towards the east and saw it.
He thought that there would actually be music there and thus set out
swiftly in search of it. As he grew progressively closer, it gradually
faded until, when the sun was high in the sky, it vanished altogether.
As he became hungry, thirsty and extremely discouraged, he gazed into
the distance and, seeing the heat waves as a mirage, thought that they
were a body of water, and then ran quickly to reach it. But as he grew
closer, it gradually disappeared. Exhausted and distressed, he reached
a narrow valley deep in the mountains and, yelling out and wailing, he
heard an echo and thought that there were people who lived there, sought
to find them and, utterly exhausted, still did not see anyone at all.
Then he thought it over and understood, whereupon his thoughts of
craving and yearning ceased.
People who are lacking in wisdom are just like this. Amidst the
empty aggregates, sense realms, and sense fields, they perceive the
existence of a self and the existence of dharmas. Through thoughts of
sensual desire and aversion they become attached and crazily run off in
the four directions, pursuing pleasure and becoming self- obsessed.
Through inverted views, they are deceived and deluded and bring
themselves to the most extreme degree of anguish. But if one employs
wisdom and thereby becomes aware of the nonexistence of a self and of
the nonexistence of actual dharmas, then at this time the yearning
arising from cognitive inversion ceases.
Moreover, the city of the Gandharvas is a non- city, but in
their thoughts, people imagine it to be a city. The common person is
also just like this. In that which is not a body, he imagines the
existence of a body. In that which is not a mind, he imagines the
existence of a mind.
Question: A single example would be sufficient for one to
understand [the concept]. Why employ more comparisons?
Reply: I have responded to this question earlier [in the text].
This Mahyana is like the waters of a great ocean. All dharmas are
entirely contained within it. Because of the many causes and conditions
associated with the Mahaayana, there is no fault in employing many
comparisons. Additionally, because the bodhisattvas are possessed of
extremely profound and keen wisdom, all manner of dharmic methods, all
manner of causes and conditions, and all manner of comparisons are
employed to demolish all dharmas. It is for the sake of facilitating a
person's understanding that it is appropriate to draw extensively upon
Additionally, nowhere in the Dharma of the Hearers is there
found this "city of the Gandharvas" comparison. They do possess all
manner of other comparisons illustrative of impermanence: Form is like
a mass of foam; feelings are like bubbles; perceptions are like a
mirage; karmic formations are like the banana [tree trunk];
consciousness is like a magical conjuration or like a magically-
conjured "net." In [this] sutra, comparisons are employed [to
demonstrate] emptiness. This "city of the Gandharvas" comparison is
used herein because it is different.
Question: In the Dharma of the Hearers, a city is employed as a
simile for the body. Why then is this "city of the Gandharvas" simile
used here?
Reply: In the Dharma of the Hearers, that simile of the city
[leaves intact] the multitude of conditions as actually existent. [In
that simile], only the "city" itself is [intended to be shown as] a
false appellation. [However, in this simile here of] the city of the
Gandharvas, the multitude of conditions themselves are also [intended to
be shown as] nonexistent. They are like a "wheel" created by a whirling
firebrand which only [seems to exist by] deceiving a man's eyes. In the
Dharma of the Hearers, the city is employed as a simile for the sake of
demolishing [the concept of] a "self." Herein, it is because the sharp
faculties of the bodhisattvas have [allowed them] to enter deeply into
the emptiness of all dharmas that the city of the Gandharvas is employed
as a simile.
For these reasons, it states that [all dharmas are] like the
city of the Gandharvas.


[Like a Dream]

As for [the simile] "like a dream," it is just as in a dream
wherein there is nothing whatsoever which is real and yet we believe
that there is something which is real. Upon awakening we realize that
there was nothing at all and then, ironically, laugh at ourselves. So
too it is with people. In the slumber of the fetters, although reality
is nonexistent, still, they become attached. When they gain the Way
they then become aware that there is nothing which is real and then
laugh at themselves. It is because of this that it says "like a dream."
Then again, as for dreams, it is on account of the power of
sleep that even though there are no dharmas, one nonetheless perceives
them. People are just like this. It is on account of the power of the
sleep of ignorance that, [in the midst of] all manner of [phenomena
which] do not exist, we nonetheless perceive them to exist: the so-
called "self", "that which belongs to the self," "manhood," "womanhood,"
and so forth.
Moreover, just as in a dream, wherein although there is nothing
to be joyful about and yet one is joyful, there is nothing to be hateful
about and yet one is hateful, and there is nothing to be frightened
about and yet one is frightened, so too it is with the beings who
inhabit the three realms. On account of the slumber of ignorance, even
though they ought not to be hateful, still they are hateful, even though
they ought not to be joyful, still they are joyful, and even though they
ought not to be frightened, still they are frightened.
Additionally, there are five kinds of dreams: Where one's
physical health is out of balance, if heat energy is excessive then one
tends more often to dream of seeing fire or seeing yellow or seeing red.
If cold energy is excessive then one tends more often to see water or to
see whiteness. If wind energy is excessive then one tends more often to
see flying [phenomena] or to see blackness. Also, on account of more
often thinking about and remembering that which one has heard or seen,
one then sees [those very same matters] in dreams. Or perhaps a deva
bestows a dream wishing to cause one to become aware of a forthcoming
event. In all of these five kinds of dreams, there is nothing which is
real and yet we erroneously view [such phenomena].
People are just the same as this. On account of the causes and
conditions deriving from the power of "the [false] view of
individuality", the beings of the five paths of rebirth may perceive the
existence of four types of "self": "The form aggregate is my self";
"form is the location of my self"; "form is contained within my self";
or "my self is contained within form." Just as this is the case with
form, so too it may be with feelings, perceptions, karmic formations, or
consciousness, so that [when these] four [subsidiary views are
correlated with each of these] five [aggregates], twenty [possible
subsidiary views may result]. But when one gains the Way and
experiences the awakening of actual wisdom, one becomes aware that there
is nothing [in that dream] which is actual.
Question: One should not say that dreams are devoid of reality.
Why [not]? When the thought [arising from] consciousness encounters
[the appropriate] causes and conditions it then gives rise to
consciousness in the midst of a dream. There are all manner of
conditions. In the absence of these conditions, how would consciousness
be produced?
Reply: As for that which is nonexistent, although one should not
see it, one nonetheless sees it. In a dream one may see a person who
has horns on his head. Or perhaps, in a dream, one may see the body
flying through space. But in actuality, people have no horns, nor does
the body fly. Therefore [these dream experiences] are devoid of
Question: It is a fact that there are such things as human heads
and it is also a matter of fact that elsewhere there are horns. It is
on account of a mental deception that one sees a person with horns on
his head. It is a fact that space exists and it is also a fact that
there is such a thing as flying. It is on account of a mental deception
that one sees the body flying. It is not [therefore] the case that
[these dream experiences] are devoid of reality.
Reply: Although there actually do exist human heads and although
there actually do exist horns, nonetheless, [seeing] men's heads which
have grown horns is a case of erroneous perception.
Question: The world is immense and the causes and conditions
[originating in] previous lifetimes are of all manner of different
types. It may be that there are other countries wherein there are
people whose heads have grown horns. Perhaps there are those who have
but one hand and one foot, or those who are only one foot tall, or those
who have nine heads. Why then should we consider it so strange for a
person to have horns?
Reply: Although it could be that there are people in another
country who have horns, still, when a person native to this country whom
one personally recognizes appears in a dream with horns on his head,
that [appearance] cannot be [explained through resort to such a
hypothesis]. Furthermore, when one sees in a dream a boundary to space,
an end to one of the directions, or a final point in time, how could
such a circumstance be possessed of any reality? Wherein is there a
place devoid of space, devoid of direction or devoid of time? It is on
account of these [points that we explain that phenomena seen] in dreams
are nonexistent and yet we still perceive them as existent.
You previously asked how it could be that, in the absence of
[actual] conditions, consciousness nonetheless arises. Although there
are no conditions corresponding to the five sense objects, still,
because of a process of transformation wrought by the power of one's own
contemplation and remembrance, the condition of a dharma [as an object
of mind] may nonetheless arise. [For instance]: if a person [merely]
speaks of the existence of [someone with] two heads, one may, with that
statement as a cause, generate a [corresponding] thought. The fact
that, even though things in dreams are nonexistent, we nonetheless see
them as existent is just the same as this. So too it is with all
dharmas. Although all dharmas are nonexistent, still we are able to see
them, are able to hear them, and are able to be aware of them. This is
as described in a verse:

Like dreams, like magical conjurations,
Like [towns in which] gandharvas [dwell],
Just so with every single dharma:
They all are just the same as these.

It is for these reasons [discussed above] that it says that the
bodhisattvas are aware of all dharmas as being like a dream.


[Like a Shadow]

As for [the simile] "like a shadow", a shadow is something which
can only be seen but which cannot be grasped. All dharmas are also just
like this. The eye and the other faculties are able to see, hear, be
aware of and cognize them, but they still cannot actually be gotten at.
This is as explained in a verse:

This wisdom which is actual,
It cannot from four sides be grasped.
It's like an enormous conflagration
Which itself cannot be touched.
The dharmas cannot be accepted
And neither should they be accepted.

Moreover, just as with a shadow where when one shines a light it
manifests, but when one does not shine it it is nonexistent, when the
fetters and afflictions block the light of correct views there manifests
the shadow of the mark of a self and of the mark of dharmas.
Additionally, just as with a shadow where when a person goes,
[the shadow] goes, when a person moves, the [shadow] moves, and when a
person stops, the [shadow] stops, so to it is with the shadows of
wholesome and unwholesome karmic actions: when one moves on to a future
life, [the karmic shadows] also move along and when one abides in the
present life, [the karmic shadows] abide as well. Because the
retribution is not cut off, when offenses or merit ripen, then they come
forth. This is as explained in a verse:

Even in space it will chase along after.
And deep into mountains 'midst boulders pursues.
To the depths of the earth it will follow behind us.
And will plunge into ocean's [deep] waters as well.
It everywhere constantly follows, pursuing.
The shadow of actions will not go away.

It is on account of this that it says that all dharmas are like
a shadow. Furthermore, just as a shadow is empty and nonexistent such
that if one seeks for something actual in it one cannot succeed, so too
it is with all dharmas for they are empty and devoid of anything which
is actual.
Question: This matter of a shadow being empty and devoid of
anything which exists is not the case. How so? In the Abhidharma, it
says, "What is meant by the sense field of form? [It refers to] blue,
yellow, red, white, black, azure, purple, light, shadows, and so forth,
as well as the three kinds of created form associated with physical actions."
This is what is meant by the sense field of visible form.
How then can you say that [shadows] are nonexistent?
Moreover, it is the case that shadows actually exist because
they are possessed of causes and conditions. [For example], the cause
may be a tree and the condition may be brightness. When these two
factors come together there is the creation of a shadow. How can you
say that they are nonexistent? If there are no shadows then it ought to
be the case that all other dharmas possessed of [corresponding] causes
and conditions are nonexistent as well.
Additionally, the form of these shadows can be seen. [This is
true of] their length, their size, their relative coarseness, and their
contours. When the shape itself moves, the shadow also moves. These
matters can all be seen. For these reasons, it should be that they are
[admitted as being] existent.
Reply: Shadows are truly empty and nonexistent. As for your
citation of explanations from the Abhidharma, these exegeses of the
meaning of the Abhidharma are explanations created by people. There are
particular dharmic access methods the intent of which people misapprend
and thus become attached to as being actual.
Take for instance the explanation of the Vibhaa.saa which holds
that infinitesimally minute fine particles cannot be broken up and
cannot be burned up. If this were the case then they would be eternally
existent. Additionally, with regard to dharmas of the three periods of
time, [it claims that] they reside in the future and come forth into the
present and that they move on from the present and go on into the past
and that in doing so nothing whatsoever is lost. If this were the case
then that would be a case of eternalism. Moreover, it says that all
conditioned dharmas undergo a [constant] process of [instantaneous] re-
production and re- extinction and do not abide at all. If this were the
case then it would be a sign of annihilationism. How so? Because they
previously existed and now do not exist. All manner of unorthodox
explanations such as these contradict the Buddha's words. One may not
employ this as corroboration for [the view that] shadows [actually
Now these [shadows] are different from form dharmas. When form
dharmas are produced they must possess fragrance or flavor or
tangibility or some other [such characteristic]. Shadows then are not
like this and on this account are nonexistent. For instance, a vase is
cognizable through two of the faculties, namely the eye's [visual]
faculty and the body's [tactile] faculty. If a shadow is existent then
it too should be cognized by two faculties. But there is no such case.
For these reasons, it is not the case that there exists any actual
phenomenon in shadows. They are only a dharma which deceives the eye.
They are unreal in just the same way as the "wheel" which one produces
by picking up a firebrand and whirling it rapidly around in a circle.
Shadows are nonexistent entities. If shadows were existent entities, it
ought to be that they could be broken or destroyed. [However], as long
as the form [which casts the shadow] remains undestroyed, the shadow is
never damaged. For this reason, [shadows] are empty. Additionally,
because shadows are directly associated with their forms they are not
inherently existent. They are therefore empty. Although they are
empty, the mind nonetheless generates an [associated] visual perception.
For these reasons, it says that all dharmas are like shadows.