From Nagarjuna's Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom
What's more, in the dana paramita, it explains that the three factors of valuables, giver and recipient cannot be gotten at.
Question: It is the conjunction of the three factors which constitutes dana. Now, it is said that the three factors cannot be gotten at. How then can one refer to fulfillment of dana paramita? We do now have something which is valuable, the act of giving and someone who receives. How is it that the three factors cannot be gotten at? For example, the cloth which is given actually exists. How is this so? If the cloth has a name then there is the dharma of cloth. If there were no dharma of cloth then there would not be the name "cloth," either. Because there is the name then it ought to be the case that cloth actually does exist.
Furthermore, pieces of cloth may be long, short, coarse, fine, white, black, yellow or red. There are causes, there are conditions, there is a creation, there is a destruction, and there is a result in the realm of effects whereby a thought is produced which corresponds to the given dharma. A piece which is ten feet in length is long and one which is five feet in length is short. When the thread is large, it is coarse. When the thread is small it is fine. In accordance with the dye it has a color.
The existence of thread constitutes the cause. The loom constitutes the condition. Because of the conjunction of this cause and condition it becomes cloth. A person's effort brings about its creation. A person's damaging of it brings about its destruction. Its management of cold and heat and its covering up of the body is the reward in the realm of [causal] effects. When a person gains it there is great delight and when he loses it there is great distress. Because one uses it as a gift one gains blessings which assist the way. If one steals it from someone or takes it by force he undergoes public punishment and then, on dying, enters the hells. On account of all sorts of reasons such as these one knows that this cloth does exist. This is what is meant by the dharma of cloth. How can one claim that the thing which is given cannot be gotten at?
Response: You say that because there is a name this entity exists. This is not the case. How does one know this? Names are of two kinds: those which are real and those which are not real. As for those names which are not real, they are like a type of grass known as caurii. (In the language of Ch'in, this means "thief.") For its part the grass does not steal. It does not take things by force. In truth, it is not the case that it is a thief and yet it is referred to as "thief." This is just like the case of the hare which has horns and the turtle which has fur. In those cases as well they possess only a name with no corresponding reality. Although cloth is not nonexistent in the same fashion as the horns of the hare or the fur of the turtle, still, it is on account of the coming together of causes and conditions that it exists and on account of the scattering of causes and conditions that it becomes nonexistent. It is like a forest and like an army. These each possess a name but are devoid of any reality.
This is like a wooden man. Although it possesses the name "man," one ought not to seek there for its dharma of humanity. Although cloth possesses a name, still, one ought not to seek for a cloth's true actuality.
Cloth is able to bring about causes and conditions associated with people's thoughts. When they obtain it they are delighted. When they lose it they become distressed. These constitute causes and conditions associated with thought. When thoughts arise there are two types of causes and conditions. It may be that they arise from that which is real. It may be that they arise from what is not real.
This is just like that which is seen in a dream, like the moon reflected in water, and like seeing a bare tree trunk at night and being of the opinion that it is a person. Names such as these are cases of the mind being caused to arise on account of what is not real. These conditions are not fixed. One should not say that because thought arises it therefore exists. If it were the case that something exists because of the arisal of thought, then one should not seek for any valid existence beyond that. Take for instance when the eye sees the moon reflected in the water and a thought arises which takes it to be the moon. If it were the case that the cause of the mind's arisal was the moon, then there would be no actual moon aside from that.
Moreover, existence is of three types. The first is interdependent existence. The second is existence based on false names. The third is existence based on dharmas.
As for that which is interdependent, it refers to long and short, that and this and so forth. In reality there is no long or short nor is there that or this. It is on account of interdependency that there exists a designation. Long exists because of short and short exists because of long. That exists because of this and this exists because of that. If one is to the east of something then one takes it to be westerly. If one is to the west of it then one takes it to be easterly. It is a single entity which has not changed and yet it possesses distinctions of east and west. These are all cases of possessing a name but being devoid of reality. Cases such as these are referred to as being interdependently existent. There is no actual dharma herein. It is not as with forms, smells, tastes, touchables and so forth.
As for existence based on false names, it refers for example to such things as yoghurt which does possess the four factors of forms, smells, tastes and touchables. It is on account of the coming together of causes and conditions that it is given the false name of yoghurt. Although it does exists, its existence is one which consists in different causal and conditional dharmas. Although it is nonexistent, still it is not nonexistent in the same way that the horns of the hare and the fur of the turtle are nonexistent. It is only on account of the coming together of causes and conditions that there is this existence which relies on false names. Yoghurt and cloth are both the same in this respect.
Moreover, it is on account of the most minute elements of forms, smells, tastes and touchables that there exist the components of a hair. It is on account of the causes and conditions inherent in the components of a hair that a hair exists. It is on account of the causes and conditions of hairs that there exists a mass of hairs. It is on account of the causes and conditions of a mass of hairs that there exists thread. It is on account of the causes and conditions of threads that there exists cloth. It is on account of the causes and conditions of cloth that there exists a robe.
If it is the case that the causes and conditions of the extremely subtle elements of forms, smells, tastes and touchables do not exist, then the components of a hair do not exist either. Because the components of a hair do not exist, then a hair does not exist either. Because a hair does not exist then a mass of hairs does not exist either. Because a mass of hairs does not exist then thread does not exist either. Because thread does not exist, then cloth does not exist either. Because cloth does not exist, then a robe does not exist either.
Question: Still, it's not necessarily the case that everything exists on account of the coming together of causes and conditions. For instance, because tiny motes of dust are the most extremely minute, they have no constituent components. Because they have no components they have no combining [from which they are produced]. It is because cloth is coarse that it can be broken down [into constituent components]. But there are no components within tiny motes of dust. How then can they be broken down [into constituent components]?
Response: "The most extremely minute" entity has no reality to it. It is a designation which is forced. Why? Because coarse and subtle are interdependent. It is on account of coarseness that there is subtlety. This entity which is subtle should additionally have that which is comparatively more subtle.
Moreover, if this most extremely minute form exists, then it has spatial divisions corresponding to the ten directions. If it has divisions corresponding to the ten directions then this can not be referred to as "the most extremely minute" entity. If it does not have divisions corresponding to the ten directions then it cannot be referred to as "form."
Moreover, if this most extremely minute entity exists, then it ought to have boundaries which divide it off from empty space. If it has that by which it can be divided then it cannot be referred to as "the most extremely minute" entity.
Moreover, if this most extremely minute entity exists, there exist within it the constituent parts of forms, smells, tastes or touchables. If it possesses constituent parts consisting in forms, smells, tastes or touchables, then it cannot be referred to as "the most extremely minute" entity. If one pursues analysis in this manner as one seeks to find a most extremely minute particle, then one is unable to find it.
This corresponds to a statement in a sutra, "Forms, whether coarse or whether subtle, whether subject-related or whether object-related (lit. "internal," "external.") are all inclusively contemplated as impermanent and devoid of self." It does not state therein that there exists a most extremely minute entity. [The above reductionist method of analysis] constitutes what is known as "emptiness reached by breaking into parts."
In addition to this there is also "emptiness reached through contemplation." This cloth comes into existence in accordance with the mind. In the case of the person who sits in dhyana [absorption], as he contemplates a piece of cloth he may make it into earth or make it into water or make it into fire or make it into wind. Or he may make it blue or yellow or white or red or entirely empty, entering contemplation thereby in accordance with the ten universals (k.rtsnaayatana).
This is exemplified by one time when the Buddha was at Mount G.rdhrakuu.ta. He went together with the bhikshu sangha into the city of Kings' Abode. They came upon a large pool of water in the road. The Buddha spread out his sitting cloth on the surface of the water and sat down. He told the bhikshus, "When a bhikshu's entry into dhyana reaches the point where his mind gains a state of sovereign independence, he is able to cause a great body of water to turn into earth so that it then immediately becomes solid ground. How is this so? Because within this water there exists a portion which is earth. It is the same for water, fire or wind. In this case the gold, silver and other precious things [within the water] all become solid. How is this so? It is because portions of all of them exist within the water."
This is also exemplified by a particular beautiful form. When a lustful person sees it, he is of the opinion that it is pure and marvelous and so his mind develops a defiled attachment. When a person who practices the contemplation of impurity sees it, he perceives all manner of disgusting discharges and finds that there is not a single part of it that is pure. When one who is the same by virtue of being a woman sees it, she may be jealous and hateful to the point where she is filled with disgust, cannot bear to look upon it, and is of the opinion that it is impure.
The lustful person contemplates this and takes it as pleasurable. The jealous person contemplates this and takes it as a cause of bitterness. The yogin contemplates this and gains the Way. A person with no particular interest contemplates this and finds nothing either attractive or repellant. For him it is the same as if he were looking at earth or trees. If this beautiful form was actually pure, when these four types of people contemplated it, they should all perceive purity. If it was actually impure, when the four kinds of people contemplated it they should all see it as impure. On account of this one knows "fine" and "ugly" abide in the mind. Objectively, there is nothing which is fixed. When one pursues the realization of emptiness through contemplation the situation is much the same.
Moreover, because the characteristics of the eighteen kinds of emptiness exist in this piece of cloth, when one contemplates it, one finds it to be empty. Because it is empty, it cannot be gotten at. On account of all sorts of causal bases such as these, material wealth is empty. It most definitely cannot be gotten at.
How is it that the person who gives cannot be gotten at? It is just as with the piece of cloth which exists on account of the coming together of causes and conditions, and which cannot be gotten at through analysis of constituent parts. It is just the same with one who gives. The four great elements surrounding empty space define the body. This body's consciousness, movements, comings and goings, sitting and rising are artificially designated as a person. When, part by part, one seeks to locate him, he too cannot be gotten at. Additionally, the self cannot be found among any of the aggregates, sense realms, or sense bases. Because the self cannot be gotten at, the person who gives cannot be gotten at. How is this so? The self has all manner of designations: human, god, male, female, person who gives, person who receives, person who experiences suffering, person who experiences bliss, animal, and so forth. These only possess a designation and thus an actual dharma cannot be found there.