REAL STATE OF THINGS
Since everything in this world is brought about by causes and conditions, there can be no fundamental distinctions among things. The apparent distinctions exist because of people's absurd and discriminating thoughts. In the sky there is distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true. Mathematical numbers from one to infinity are each complete numbers, and each in itself carries no distinction of quantity; but people make the discrimination for their own convenience, so as to be able to indicate varying amounts. Inherently there are no distinctions between the process of life and the process of destruction; people make a discrimination and call one birth and the other death. In action, there is no discrimination between right and wrong, but people make a distinction for their own convenience. Buddha keeps away from these discriminations and looks upon the world as upon a passing cloud. To Buddha, every definitive thing is illusion; He knows that whatever the mind grasps and throws away is insubstantial; thus He transcends the pitfalls of images and discriminative thought. People grasp at things for their own imagined convenience and comfort; they grasp at wealth and treasure and honors; they cling desperately to mortal life. They make arbitrary distinctions between existence and non-existence, good and bad, right and wrong. For people, life is a succession of graspings and attachments, and then, because of this, they must assume the illusions of pain and suffering. Once there was a man on a long journey, who came to a river. He said to himself: "This side of the river is very difficult and dangerous to walk on, and the other side seems easier and safer, but how shall I get across?" So he built a raft out of branches and reeds and safely crossed the river. Then he thought to himself: "This raft has been very useful to me in crossing the river; I will not abandon it to rot on the bank, but will carry it along with me." And thus he voluntarily assumed an unnecessary burden. Can this man be called a wise man? This parable teaches that even a good thing, when it becomes an unnecessary burden, should be thrown away; much more so if it is a bad thing. Buddha made it the rule of His life to avoid useless and unnecessary discussions. Things do not come and go; neither do they appear and disappear; therefore, one does not get things or lose things. Buddha teaches that things neither appear nor disappear since they transcend both the affirmation of existence and the denial of existence. That is, everything being a concordance and succession of causes and conditions, a thing in itself does not exist, so it can be said that it is non-existent. At the same time, because it has a relative connection with causes and conditions, it can be said that it is non-existent. To adhere to a thing because of its form is the source of delusion. If the form is not grasped and adhered to, this false imagination and absurd delusion will not occur. Enlightenment is seeing this truth and being free from such a foolish delusion. The world, indeed, is like a dream and the treasures of the world are an alluring mirage. Like the apparent distances in a picture, things have no reality in themselves but are like heat haze. To believe that things created by an incalculable series of causes can last forever is a serious mistake and is called the theory of permanency; but it is just as great a mistake to believe that things completely disappear; this is called the theory of non-existence. These categories of everlasting life and death, and existence and non-existence, do not apply to the essential nature of things, but only to their appearances as they are observed by defiled human eyes. Because of human desire, people become related and attached to these appearances; but in the essential nature of things, they are free from all such discriminations and attachments. Since everything is created by a series of causes and conditions, the appearances of things are constantly changing; that is, there is no consistency about it as there should be about authentic substances. It is because of this constant changing of appearances that we liken things to a mirage and a dream. But, in spite of this constant changing in appearances, things, in their essential spiritual nature, are constant and changeless. To a man, a river seems like a river, but to a hungry demon which sees fire in water, it may seem to be like fire. Therefore, to speak to a man about a river existing would have some sense, but to the demon it would have no meaning. In life manner, it can be said that things are like illusions; they can be said neither to be existent nor non-existent. Yet, it can not be said that, apart from this world of change and appearance, there is another world of permanence and truth. It is a mistake to regard this world as either a temporal world or as a real one. But ignorant people of this world assume that this is a real world and proceed to act upon that absurd assumption. But as this world is only an illusion, their acts, beings based upon error, only lead them into harm and suffering. A wise man, recognizing that the world is but an illusion, does not act as if it were real, so he escapes the suffering.