From Nagarjuna's Treatise
on the Great Perfection of Wisdom
Additionally, although in his practice of the praj the Bodhisattva Mahasattva knows the identical characteristics of all dharmas, he is also able to know all of the different characteristics of all dharmas. Although he knows all of the different characteristics of all dharmas, he is still able to know the identical characteristics of all dharmas as well. Such wisdom on the part of the Bodhisattva qualifies as prajnaa-paaramitaa.
Question: How is it that the Bodhisattva, Mahasattva knows all of the different characteristics of all dharmas? How is it that he knows the identical characteristics of all dharmas?
Response: The Bodhisattva may contemplate an identical characteristic of dharmas such as the so-called "existence" characteristic. Based on this "existence," in the midst of all dharmas, thoughts accepting of their existence arise. It is in a manner such as this that they may all be deemed to exist. . . . (short apparently corrupted passage omitted)
Moreover, the Bodhisattva contemplates all dharmas as singular. On account of this dharma of singularity, in the midst of dharmas thoughts corresponding to singularity arise. Each and every dharma possesses a singular mark. It is through the coming together of multiple "ones" that one refers to "two" or refers to "three." It is the "one" which is real. The "two" and the "three" are false.
Then again, the Bodhisattva contemplates dharmas as existing by virtue of having that by which they are caused and also contemplates them as being impermanent just as is the human body. Why is this? Because they are characterized by production and extinction. All dharmas are like this in that they exist through the agency of causality.
Then again, it can also be claimed that no dharmas possess any valid causality for their existence. For example, the human body's impermanence is on account of production and extinction. It is by the action of the causes of being produced and being destroyed that one knows that it is impermanent. However, these causes themselves should also have their own causes. If this were actually the case, then [this searching back for the ultimate cause] would be endless. If this [tracing back of cause] is truly endless, then this [amounts to] being devoid of any actual cause. If this cause itself has no additional [prior] cause, then this [supposed] "cause" of impermanence is actually devoid of any cause. [When one contemplates the issue] in this manner, [one realizes that] everything is devoid of [any actual] cause.
Yet again, the Bodhisattva contemplates all dharmas as possessing specific characteristics. There is no existent dharma which is devoid of characteristics. For instance earth is characterized by solidity and heaviness. Water is characterized by coolness and moistness. Fire is characterized by heat and illumination. Wind is characterized by lightness and movement. Empty space is characterized by the ability to envelop and take in other things. Discrimination, awareness, and knowing constitute the characteristic features of consciousness. Having a "here" and a "there" constitutes the characteristic of directionality. Having a "long ago" and a "recent" constitutes the characteristic of time. A turbid and evil mind engaged in the torment of beings constitutes the characteristic of offenses. Possessing a pure and good mind which pities beings constitutes the characteristic of merit. Being attached to dharmas constitutes the characteristic of bondage. Not being attached to any dharma whatsoever constitutes the characteristic of liberation. Having a manifest knowledge of all dharmas which is entirely unobstructed constitutes the characteristic of Buddhahood. In a manner such as this, they all each possess specific characteristics.
Then again, the Bodhisattva contemplates all dharmas as being in every case devoid of characteristics. All of these characteristics are produced from the coming together of causes and conditions. Because they are devoid of an inherently existent nature, they are therefore nonexistent. Take for instance the case of the earth [element] which is referred to as "earth" on account of the coming together of the four dharmas of forms, smells, tastes and touchables. It is not solely on the basis of form alone that it is termed "earth." Nor is it solely on the basis of smells, solely on the basis of tastes, or solely on the basis of touchables that it is therefore referred to as "earth." How is this the case? If it was solely forms which constituted earth, then [wherever] the other three [were present] it should not be that it is just earth. In a case such as this, there might be an example of earth which is devoid of smells, tastes and touchables. The [analytic rationale] is just the same [when considering] smells, tastes and touchables [as possible sole components of "earth].
But then again, how is it that these four dharmas could constitute a single dharma? How is it that a single dharma could constitute four dharmas? On account of this [contradiction], one cannot take four [dharmas] as constituting earth nor can one have any earth apart from these four [dharmas].
Question: I do not take the four [dharmas] as constituting earth. It is simply because of the four dharmas that the dharma of earth is produced. This "earth" dwells among these four dharmas.
Response: If it was the case that earth was produced from four dharmas, then earth would be different from the four dharmas in the same way that when a father and mother give birth to a son, the son is then different from the father and mother. If it was the case that earth was different from these four dharmas, then in the same manner as the eye perceives forms, the nose is aware of smells, the tongue is aware of tastes, and the body is aware of touchables, there should additionally exist yet another different sense faculty and a yet another different associated consciousness which perceive [the existence of earth]. If there is no additional different sense faculty and [associated] consciousness which perceive [the existence of earth], then there would be no earth [produced in the way you posit].
Question: If the statement set forth above about the characteristics of earth possesses faults [as you claim], then [the actual case] should [rather] accord with the Abhidharma's discussion of the characteristics of earth [wherein it states that] earth refers to a [type of] form created from the four great [elements, states that] it is solely the element of earth which is characterized by solidity, [and states that] earth is a visible form.
Response: As for the [claim that] earth is only form alone, we have already discussed that fallacy. Additionally, as for this [claim that] earth is characterized by solidity and that it is only the eye which perceives form, [in cases such as] the moon [reflected in] in water, an image in the mirror, and the shadows of shrubs and trees, there is no solidity. As for solidity, it is [not something visible through the eye, but rather is something] which one becomes aware of through the assistance of the physical sense [of touch].
Moreover, if it was the case that the form seen by the eye was earth's characteristic of solidity, this very earth element form seen by the eye might just as well be the moistness of water or the heat of fire. If that were the case for these elements of water and fire, then the wind element in the wind should also be distinguishable [by the eye], however, it cannot distinguish it, either. If it were as you state, then which is the wind element in wind and which is the wind in the wind element? If it is a single thing then it should not be the case that it comprises two things. If one were to respond those are not actually different, then it should not be the case that earth and the element of earth are any different, either.
Question: As for these four elements, none of them exist separately from the others. Within earth itself, there exist the other members of the four elements. Water, fire and wind each contain the other members of the four elements. It is just that, within earth, it is because the earth element is greater that it is referred to as earth. It is just the same with water, fire, and wind.
Response: That is not the case. Why? If it was the case that the four great elements all exist within fire it should be the case that they are all hot because there is no fire which is not hot. If there were the case that any of the other three elements existed within fire and they were not hot, then one could not refer to it as fire. If they were in fact hot, then they would relinquish their own particular natures and would then all be referred to as fire. If one were to claim that it is because they are so subtle that one is unable to perceive them, then that would be no different from being entirely nonexistent. If it were the case that there was actually something coarse which could be gotten at, then one might be able to deduce the existence of some corresponding subtlety as well. However, if there is not even anything which is relatively coarse, then there is no corresponding subtle degree of existence either.
On account of all sorts of causal rationales such as these, one realizes that the characteristics of earth cannot be gotten at. If it is the case that one cannot get at the typifying characteristics of earth, then the characteristic features of all other dharmas cannot be gotten at either. Therefore, in all cases, all dharmas possess the characteristic of oneness.
Question: One should not claim that they are devoid of distinguishing characteristics. Why? If all dharmas are devoid of characteristics, this itself constitutes a characteristic. If there were no "nonexistence of characteristics" then one could not refute the existence of the distinguishing characteristics of all dharmas. How is this so? Because there would be no such case as "nonexistence of characteristics." If this characteristic of "nonexistence" does exist, then one ought not to say that all dharmas are devoid of distinguishing characteristics.
Response: One employs the nonexistence of characteristics to refute the characteristics of dharmas. If one posits the existence of a "nonexistence of characteristics" characteristic, then one would fall into a position which affirms the existence of the distinguishing characterics of dharmas. If one had not already entered into a position which affirms the existence of the characteristics of dharmas, then it should not be the case that one questions the nonexistence of characteristics. As it is brought forth and employed as a universal refutation of the characteristics of dharmas, it accomplishes the demolition of its own characteristics as well. This is analogous to a burning log already present within a fire which, after igniting all fuel added to it, then burns up itself as well. Hence the practice of the Aarya is devoid of characteristics. This is because the samadhi of the nonexistence of characteristics demolishes even that very characteristic of nonexistence.
Also, the Bodhisattva contemplates all dharmas as neither conjoined nor dispersed, as being without form, without shape, non-dual, devoid of manifestations, ineffable and as possessing a singular characteristic, the so-called characteristic of nonexistence.
Such statements as these refer to the singular mark of dharmas. How is it that [the bodhisattva] contemplates multiple dharmas? All dharmas may be subsumed within two-fold dharma categories such as the so-called name and form, form and formless, perceptible and imperceptible, dual and non-dual, outflow and non-outflow, conditioned and unconditioned, and so forth. There are two hundred two-fold dharma categories as discussed in the "Thousand Difficult Questions" chapter.
Additionally, there are the two-fold dharmas of patience and pliant harmoniousness; the two-fold dharmas of personal reverence and the making of offerings; the two types of giving, the giving of wealth and the giving of Dharma; the two powers, the power of wise analysis and the power of cultivation of the Way; the two completions, completeness in precepts and completeness in correct views; the two characteristics, the characteristic of straightforwardness and the characteristic of pliancy; the two dharmas of meditative absorption and wisdom; the two dharmas of understanding and explanation; the two dharma categories of worldly dharmas and dharmas of the supreme meaning; the two dharmas of mindfulness and skillfully-applied wisdom; the two truths, worldly truth and the truth of the supreme meaning; the two liberations, the liberation which must await the right time and the indestructible mental liberation; the two kinds of nirvana, nirvana with residue and nirvana without residue; the two ultimates, ultimacy in endeavors and ultimacy in vows; the two types of vision, knowledge-based vision and extinction-based vision; two kinds of completion, completion in meaning and completion in discourse; the two dharmas of few desires and knowing when enough is enough; the two dharmas of ease in nourishing and ease of bringing to fulfilment; the two dharmas of dharmic conformity and dharmic practice; the two wisdoms, the wisdom of extinction and the wisdom of the unproduced. In a manner such as this, he makes distinctions with regard to an incalculable number of two-fold accesses to Dharma.
Moreover, he knows the three paths: the path of seeing, the path of cultivation and the path beyond study. He knows the three natures: the nature characterized by severance, the nature characterized by separation and the nature characterized by extinction. He knows the three types of cultivation: the cultivation of precepts, the cultivation of absorptions, and the cultivation of wisdom. He knows the three types of bodhi: the bodhi of the Buddha, the bodhi of the Pratyekabuddha, and the bodhi of the Hearer (Textual note: "This refers to having nothing further to study and being complete in wisdom."). He knows the three vehicles: the Buddha vehicle, the Pratyekabuddha vehicle, and the Hearer vehicle. He knows the three refuges: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. He knows the three types of abiding: the brahman abiding, the abiding of the gods and the abiding of the Aarya. He knows the three types of exaltation: exaltation of oneself, exaltation of others, and exaltation of Dharma. He knows the three types of unguardedness on the part of Buddhas: unguardedness with respect to karmic activity of the body, unguardedness with respect to the karmic activity of the mouth and unguardedness with respect to karmic activity of the mind. He knows the three stations of merit: giving, upholding of precepts, and the wholesome mind. He knows the three staves: the staff of listening, the staff of separating from desires, and the staff of wisdom. He knows the three "wheels": the wheel of supernatural transformations, the wheel of instructing others on the level of thought, and the wheel of teaching and transforming. He knows the three entryways to liberation: the emptiness entryway to liberation, the signlessness entryway to liberation, and the wishlessness entryway to liberation. There are an incalculable number of three-fold entryways to Dharma such as these.
Additionally, he knows the four-fold dharmas: the four stations of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four foundations of psychic power, the four Aaryan truths, the four lineages of Aaryas, the four fruits of the 'srama.na, the four knowledges, the four faiths, the four paths, the four means of attraction, the four reliances, the four penetrative roots of goodness, the four paths, the four "wheels" of gods and men, the four methods of solidification, the four fearlessnesses, and the four immeasurable minds. There are an incalculable number of four-fold entryways to Dharma such as these.
Furthermore, he knows the five groups beyond study, the five transcendant natures, the five stations of liberation, the five roots, the five powers, the five types of great giving, the five types of wisdom, the five types of anaagaamin, the five abodes of the pure dwelling gods, the five types of counteractive path, the five wisdom samaadhis, the five branch samaadhis of the Aarya, and the five methods of discourse according to Dharma. There are an incalculable number of five-fold entryways to Dharma such as these.
Also, he knows the six dharmas of relinquishment, the six dharmas of affectionate respect, the six superknowledges, the six kinds of Arhats, the six grounds on the path of seeing the truth, the six types of adaptive mindfulness, the six samaadhis, the six meditative absorptions, and the six paaramitaas. There are an incalculable number of six-fold entryways to Dharma such as these.
Additionally, he knows the seven components of enlightenment, the seven forms of wealth, the seven supports, the seven visualization absorptions, the seven fine dharmas, the seven knowledges, the seven destinies of good people, the seven forms of purity, the seven forms of wealthful merit, the seven forms of non-wealthful merit, and the seven absorption-assisting dharmas. There are an incalculable number of seven-fold entryways to Dharma such as these.
Furthermore, he knows the eight-fold path of the Aarya, the eight liberations, the eight bases of ascendancy, the eight points of mindfulness of great men, the eight forms of vigor, the eight types of great men, and the eight powers of the Arhat. There an incalculable number of eight-fold entryways to Dharma such as these.
Also, he knows the nine sequential meditative absorptions, the nine links in the chain of causality from name and form and so forth to death (Textual note: "From name and form to birth and death makes nine."), the nine forms of non-outflow wisdom (Textual note: "Because one gains the wisdom of extinction one eliminates the 'equal' wisdom [of the ten types of wisdom, hence there are nine.]"), the nine non-outflow grounds; and the six dhyaanas plus the three formless absorptions constituting the nine stations on the path of meditative thought. There are an incalculable number of nine-fold entryways to Dharma such as these.
Additionally, he knows the ten dharmas of those beyond study, then ten stages in the contemplation of a corpse, the ten all-encompassing bases, the great grounds of the ten goods, and the ten powers of a Buddha. There are an incalculable number of ten-fold entryways to Dharma such as these.
He also knows the eleven dharmas which assist the path of the Aarya. He also knows the dharma of the ten causes and conditions. He also knows the thirteen dharmas of going forth, the fourteen transformative minds, the fifteen levels of mind on the path of seeing the truth, the sixteen-fold practice of aanaapaana, the seventeen practices of the Aarya, the eighteen dharmas special to the Buddha, the nineteen grounds of separation, the one hundred and sixty-two paths within the path of meditative thought which are able to demolish the insurgents of the afflictions, the one hundred and seventy-eight fruits of the path of the 'srama.na comprised of the eighty-nine conditioned fruits and the eighty-nine unconditioned fruits. There are an incalculable number of dharmas such as these which possess differing characteristics. Whether they are produced or destroyed, increased or decreased, conducing to gain or loss, or are pure or impure, one is able to utterly know them all.