Main Doctrine - Sengzhao (The introductory chapter of the Essays)
Source of the text: Three Short Treatises By Vasubandhu, Sengzhao, And Zongmi
“Original nonbeing,” “reality-mark (Ground / Union of the Two Truths),” “Dharma-nature,” “emptiness by nature (2nd truth),” “dependent origination (1st truth)”: all these are one doctrine. (i.e. One Truth.)
[View: Union of the Two Truths about all dharmas:] All dharmas arise through dependent origination (1st truth): before they arise, they do not exist; when the conditions of their existence perish, they too cease to exist. Were they to exist substantially, then—once in existence— it would be impossible for them to perish. From this it follows that though they presently manifest as being, in nature they are always fundamentally empty. This is referred to as “emptiness by nature.” (2nd truth) This empty nature is called “Dharma-nature.” Dharma-nature being thus, it is called “reality mark.” Reality-mark is a nonbeing by itself—it is not made a nonbeing merely through analysis. Thus it is called “original nonbeing.” (i.e. The so-called Union of the Two Truths is the true nature & dynamic of Reality as it is here & now, the Ground, Buddha-nature, Genuine-emptiness, Dharmadhatu, Suchness, Freedom from all extremes & middle. )
[The Middle Way free from all extremes & middle:] Negations of being and nonbeing are not expressions of a belief in a substantial, eternal being (eternalism) and in an annihilationist (annihilationism), nihilistic nonbeing (nihilism).
(i.e. This is the Middle Way free of all extremes & middle. Extremes like: existence / naïve realism, non-existence / nihilism, both existence & non-existence together / dualism, neither existence not non-existence / holism / monism / radical oneness; eternalism, annihilationism; subjectivism, objectivism, relationism / processism; etc.)
To take being as being leads one to take nonbeing as nonbeing. But to perceive dharmas without attachment to nonbeing (i.e. to directly perceive any / all dharmas as the Ground, as the inconceivable Union of the Two Truths free from all extremes & middle) is to discern the reality-mark of dharmas (i.e. the Ground, the true nature & dynamic of Reality as it is here & now): in this manner, though one perceives being (1st truth), one does so without grasping to marks (2nd truth).
[Union being without being; acting without actions; characterising without characterising:] Since the dharma-marks thus perceived are markless marks (i.e. Union of being conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances / marks (1st truth) <==> and being empty of inherent existence (2nd truth)), the mind of the sage is established in that which has no location (i.e. Ground / Reality).
[Reality = the Ground = Buddha-nature = Genuine-emptiness = Union of the Two Truths free from all extremes & middle -- a markless mark / mere pointer to the moon, not the moon itself:] Beings in all three vehicles attain the Dao through insight into emptiness by nature (free from all extremes & middle = the Ground / Buddha-nature / Genuine-emptiness / Suchness / Dharmadhatu = Union of the Two Truths free from all extremes & middle). Emptiness by nature is called the reality-mark of dharmas.
To see the reality-mark of dharmas (i.e. Buddha-nature / Genuine-emptiness = Union of the Two Truths free from all extremes & middle) is called correct contemplation; to see differently is called wrong contemplation. Whoever should think that beings of the two vehicles have no insight into this principle would be gravely mistaken. The Dharma perceived by all three is the same, what differs are merely the mental capacities of beings.
[Path: Union method / upaya <==> wisdom / emptiness:] Upāya and prajñā are called “great wisdom.”
To see the reality-mark of dharmas (2nd truth) is called prajñā;
to then not claim final liberation is the work of upāya (skillful means) (1st truth).
To adapt to beings and transform them is called upāya (1st truth);
to not be tainted by karmic afflictions is the power of prajñā (2nd tuth).
Thus, the gate of prajñā is the contemplation of emptiness (2nd truth),
the gate of upāya is immersion in being (1st truth).
In the midst of being (1st truth) vacuity (2nd truth) is never lost, therefore one can dwell within being while not becoming polluted by it.
Contemplation of emptiness (2nd truth) does not reject being (1st truth);
thus while contemplating emptiness (2nd truth) one can refrain from claiming final realization.
In this way within one moment of thought both skillful means (upāya) (1st truth) and wisdom (prajñā) (2nd truth) are fully activated. Reflect on this well, and you will understand fully.
[Fruition: Union spontaneous enlightened activities / upaya <==> wisdom / emptiness:] The truth of nirvana, of cessation: once afflictions are eradicated, life and death are forever extinguished (i.e. Nirvana is purifying / transcending / transmuting all appearances, samsara, by directly realising their true nature & dynamic. Ex. transcending apparent opposites like: existence vs. non-existence, manyness vs. oneness; differentness vs. sameness; permanence vs. impermanence; eternity vs. annihilation; the three stages of becoming -- origination / birth, duration / life, cessation / death, the three spheres -- subject, relation / action, object --, etc.)—“cessation” is only this, not some other place to be reached. (i.e. This is the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle: nothing to accept / affirm / seek / do / add in absolute terms, nothing to reject / negate / abandon / not-do / subtract in absolute terms, just conventionally / relatively / inter-subjectively if it helps someone to get closer to the liberating Truths.)
[The Dazhi dulun] says that dissociation from all verbalism and quenching all workings of thought is termed the real-mark of all the dharmas. The real-mark of the dharmas is conventionally termed suchness, dharma-nature, and reality-limit. In this [suchness] even the not-existent-and-not-inexistent cannot be found, much less the existent and the inexistent. It is only because of fantasy-conceptions that each one has difficulties about existence and nonexistence. If you will conform to the cessation-mark of the Buddha’s Dharma, then you will have no discursive fictions [prapanca]. If you figment fictions about existence and inexistence, then you depart from the Buddha’s Dharma. (Robinson 1978:184-185)
- Sengzhao (c. 378—413 C.E.)
Via: Chinese & East Asian Philosophy Study Group