Refuting Distorted Views about Perception and Causality

Chapters 13 to 16

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Thirteen: The Meditations for Refuting (Truly Existent) Cognitive Sensors and Cognitive Objects

(1) You do not see absolutely everything about a vase (all its sensory qualities and parts) at the time when you see (its) form. Who would state “(because) the vase (is perceived by) bare (visual) cognition” as a reason (to prove) its (truly existent) reality?

(2) By this very (same) analysis, those with superior intelligence should refute fragrant odors, sweet (tastes), and smooth (tactile sensations as being truly existent and establishing the true existence of physical objects by the bare sensory cognition of them) – all (of them), each one.

(3) Suppose that all (qualities of an object) were to become seen by (the visual cognition that) sees its form. Then, by (the fact that such visual cognition) does not (actually) see (that object’s odor – even if you would accept that) it sees its form – how could it not become the case that it does not see (the form either? This would absurdly follow because just as if it sees one quality, it should see all of them; likewise if it does not see one, it should not see any).

(4) It cannot be the case that you have bare (sensory) cognition only simply with respect to forms (as truly existent whole “things”). Why? Because these (forms) have a far portion, a near portion, and a middle (one, and so are only imputations on their parts).

(5) And when you analyze whether the (constituent) particles (of a form) have parts or not, these indeed become included (in the category of that which has parts and therefore they too lack truly established existence). Because of that, it’s unreasonable for composite (forms made up) by composing (particles lacking true existence) to be established (as truly existent whole objects of bare sensory cognition).

(6) Everything indeed becomes a section (of something greater) and then again (itself) becomes something having sections. Because of that, even spoken syllables are (merely conventions) in this (world and) are not (truly) existent.

(7) If the (truly existent) shape (of a vase) were different from (its truly existent) color, then how could (the visual cognition of the color) cognitively take the shape (as its object)? On the other hand, if they were not different, (but the same on the basis of true existence), then why, with your body (in the dark, does your visual cognition of the shape) not also cognitively take the color (as its object too)?

(8) (Suppose you say that forms truly exist, because their four causal elements – earth, water, fire and air – truly exist.) Well then, except for a (resultant) form being visible, these causes of the form do not appear. If (a form and its causal elements) were (truly existent) like that (and truly different, a form could not arise dependently on its causal elements; they would be unrelated. And if, on the other hand, they were identical,) why don’t both in fact become cognitively taken by the visual cognition itself?

(9) Earth can be seen as firm and it can also be cognitively taken (as an object of tactile cognition) by the body. Therefore, (if the element of earth had truly established existence), you would need to say that earth could only be (an object of) touch (and not of sight and, moreover, could not be the cause of visible forms).

(10) If it arose (from its causes) as something that was perceptible, there’d be no (need) for a vase (to have) any qualities (such as having an inherent relation with some category, such as the universal “perceptibility,” in order for it to be seen, as you Vaisheshikas would claim. This is because it would already be perceptible). Therefore, if it were the case that it arose (as perceptible only from having such a truly existent relation with the universal) “perceptibility,” (then it itself would be non-perceptible and therefore) could not exist as an existent phenomenon (because it couldn’t be known).

(11) (The cognitive sensors of) the eye (do not truly exist and cognize form, because if they did, such cognition of a form) would arise (from something unrelated to it, and thus it could) likewise (arise from the cognitive sensors of) the ear. But what’s seen by the (cognitive sensors of) the eye is not (cognized) by any other (cognitive sensors. As this is difficult to comprehend), the ripening of karma (is even more difficult and) was therefore said by the Able Sage (Buddha) to be beyond imagination.

(12) Because the conditions are not complete, a (visual) cognition cannot exist before the (act of the eye sensors) looking (at a form). But, however, if (a visual cognition truly existed) after (the act of looking), the cognition would be pointless (because the looking would have already ceased). As for the third (alternative, namely the looking and the cognition occurring simultaneously, if this were so, then) the function (of the looking to cause the cognition) would become pointless.

(13) If those (truly existent) eye (sensors) were to possess the motion (of traveling to their object in order to perceive it, then) that which is distant would be seen after a longer time (and that which is close would be seen sooner, in which case the eye sensors see things differently and therefore cannot be truly existent. But, if the eye sensors did truly exist, then) why are forms that are extremely near and those at a great distance not (equally) clear (since both should be cognized the same)?

(14) If after (noticing) a form, the eye (sensors) travel (out to perceive it), there would be no advantage in their having traveled out, (since they would already have seen it). Or, (if they travel to see an object they haven’t yet seen and are unaware of, then) to say, “(I’m) definitely (going to look at this object that I) wish to perceive,” would be a lie (because your eye sensors would always travel blind and never could find the desired object).

(15) If the (truly existent) eye (sensors) cognitively took (truly existent) forms without (need to) travel (out to see them, then) they would have to see all such things. Any (eye sensors) that do not (need to travel to see) cannot have (any difference in their perception of objects whether) far (or near) or even (whether) obscured (or not).

(16) If the (truly existent) nature of all functional phenomena first appeared (established) in themselves, (for instance, in the cognitive sensors, then) for what reason would the eye (sensors) not take (as its object) the eye (sensors) themselves? (This would absurdly follow because, being truly existent as the perceiving agent, there should be nothing excluded from its range of vision, including itself.)

(17) The eye (sensors, being physical matter,) cannot have (visual) consciousness (of an object); while (visual) consciousness, in fact, cannot have (the function of) looking (at an object, which is the function of the eye sensors. Therefore,) as (neither of) the two (if truly existent) can have a form (as its focal condition, because it could not rely on anything in order to see, then) how can a form be seen by (the collection of) these (three conditions – truly existent eye sensors, visual consciousness and forms)?

(18) (Further,) if (the ear consciousness perceiving a voice) travels (out to hear) the sound (once it’s already been) spoken, then for what (reason) would (that consciousness) not have been the speaker (that uttered the sound, since it was already aware it was spoken)? On the other hand, if it in fact traveled (out to hear) the sound when it had not yet been spoken, for what (reason) would it have arisen as an (ear) consciousness (aimed at) this (sound as its object)?

(19) If, upon meeting (the ear sensors), a sound is cognitively taken, then by what is the first (moment) of the sound cognitively taken (as an object before it meets the ear)? And as sound does not come alone (to the ear sensors, but, as you Vaisheshikas assert, comes as a quality truly conjoined with the nine kinds of basic things), how could it be cognitively taken (selectively) by itself (without the ear sensors also cognizing the other sense qualities also conjoined, like the smell)?

(20) So long as a sound is not heard, it cannot be a sound for that interval. If what was indeed not a sound (when it was not heard) were to become a sound in the end (when it was heard), this would be unreasonable, (because then a smell as well, as not a sound, could also become a sound).

(21) Even if the mind devoid of any cognitive sensors were to travel (to objects), how could it function (to cognitively take them, since without eyes and so forth it would be like a blind man)? (Because of faults) like this, why wouldn’t (truly existent) minds and living (selves) be forever without cognition?

(22) The mental (factor) that cognitively takes (the uncommon characteristic mark of) any object seen already, such as (water even) in a mirage (of water) – that’s called, within the scheme of all phenomena, the aggregate factor of distinguishing.

(23) (Such a) mental (factor), having relied on eye (sensors) and a form, comes to arise (even) while being (part of) an illusion. But if something (such as this factor of distinguishing) existed with (true) existence, it’d be unreasonable (for it) to be called (part of) an illusion.

(24) When there’s nothing on earth that becomes no longer peculiar to learned ones (after they’ve analyzed it with logic), then how can there be anything amazing about something like (accurate, decisive) apprehension (of a non-truly existent sensory object by a non-truly existent) sensory (cognition)?

(25) A circle of fire from a whirling firebrand, an emanation, a dream, an illusion, a moon in the water, a haze, an echo within (a cave or ravine), a mirage, and a cloud are (thus all examples) similar to what (conventionally) exists.

Fourteen: Indicating the Meditations for Refuting Grasping at Extremes

(1) Any functional phenomenon (having true existence) could not have come about from having relied on something else. (Furthermore, upon ultimate analysis,) its (independently existing) nature should be established (by itself alone). But nothing at all exists like that.

(2) (If you) say (in terms of truly established existence), “A vase is a form in general,” they cannot be one; (otherwise, wherever there was a form, it would have to be a vase). Also they cannot exist in different (categories of things, with) a vase possessing a form (like a man possessing a cow; otherwise, a vase by itself would have to exist independently of being a form). Also a vase cannot exist (as the reliant basis of being) a form and a form cannot exist (as the reliant basis of being) a vase, (since they cannot exist in separate independent categories of things and yet rely on each other).

(3) (You Vaisheshikas) see the two (namely the universal “existence” and the item a “vase”) as being in dissimilar (truly existent categories) by definition. But then, if a vase were (truly) different from the phenomenon (“existence”), it would not be (reasonable for it itself to exist). Likewise, for what reason would the phenomenon (of “being existent”) not become (truly) different (and separate) from the vase, (thus also rendering a vase nonexistent)?

(4) (Moreover, you also say that basic things such as substances, like the four elements, and qualities, such as number or quantity, also exist in different truly existent categories and, although the basic things can exist on their own for a while to act as a basis for being qualified by a quality, yet qualities themselves can never exist on their own without qualifying some basic thing. But,) if you do not accept that (the number or amount) “one” can (come to qualify) a vase, then neither can a vase come to be (qualified by the amount) “one” as a qualifier. (This is because you do not allow for the existence of the amount “one” before it comes to qualify the vase. And if you say that the vase comes to possess the amount “one” as a quality, yet the quality “one” cannot come to possess the vase as what it qualifies, then since possession must be made between equals, namely between what can come to possess and what can come to be possessed, and) this possession is not between equals, then for this reason also, a vase cannot come to be (qualified by the amount) “one.”

(5) When the form (of a basic thing, as a quality of that substance, amounts to) just as much (in extent) as the substance (itself), then (in the same way as the substance itself can possess the quality of being large), why can’t the form (as another quality of the substance also possess the quality of) being large? If you opponents cannot (justify your thesis that qualities cannot act as the basis of other qualities on any grounds) other than (scriptural authority), your tradition could be said (to be logically deficient).

(6) Even if (you admit the refutation of truly existent) defining characteristics (or qualities), but (assert the true existence of) examples of what are characterized (by them, this too is unreasonable). Their (true) existence cannot be established in any way. In this (way), there is no phenomenon that (truly) exists separately from (any qualities), such as number and so forth.

(7) A vase cannot be (truly existent) as one (with its eight types of constituent sub-particles as you Sautrantikas assert. This is) because, being not separate (in nature from its eight types of sub-particles, which each have their own individual) defining characteristics, (it too, as a single unit, would have to exist as eight truly existent things). But, as each (of the eight sub-particles alone) is not the vase, it is not reasonable for (the vase to exist) in a multiple manner (as something truly existing separately from the eight).

(8) There can be no such thing as the simultaneous joining of (the four elemental sub-particles – earth, water, fire, and wind – which) possess (the ability to have) contact, and (the four subsidiary sub-particles – form, smell, taste, and touch – which) do not possess (the ability to have) contact, (in order to form a single vase; for how would they all meet)? Because of that, it is unreasonable in all respects for the joining of (the eight sub-particles of) form and so on (to establish an object that is a collection truly existing as a single unit).

(9) Form (for instance) is (just one of) the subsidiary (sub-particles) of a vase. Therefore, individually each (of the four subsidiary sub-particles) cannot be the vase. Because of this, (a vase) having these subsidiary (sub-particles) cannot have true existence (as a collection relying on them). And for that (same reason), the subsidiary (sub-particles) as well cannot have true existence, (since they too rely on directional parts).

(10) (Further,) as all forms are not dissimilar in their defining characteristics as form in general, then if one (form) were to (truly) exist as a vase, for what reason would all others not (also exist as a vase)?

(11) Suppose you assert that form is (truly) different from taste and so on (since each type of subsidiary sub-particle is cognitively taken by different senses) and yet a (form) is (truly) not different from a vase. Well, how could any vase that itself could not exist without including these (subsidiary sub-particles of taste and so on, which you say are different from form), not (likewise) be different from a form?

(12) A vase does not have (truly existent) causes and it itself does not become (a truly existent) result. Because of that, there is no vase that can (truly) exist as different from (its constituent causes) such as form and so on.

(13) As a vase becomes established from (its own) causes and (these) causes become established from other (causes, therefore) anything not established from its own (self-establishing nature) can accordingly produce other things (as its result).

(14) Even if (the subsidiary sub-particles of form, smell, and so forth) were to gather together and meet (each other to constitute a whole), it is unreasonable for form to become a smell, (which it would need to become if they formed a truly existent, homogeneous whole). Therefore, like a vase, it is illogical for (any) collections (to exist) as (truly existent) single units.

(15) Just as there can be no vase that can exist without depending on (its constituent subsidiary sub-particles) such as form and so on, likewise there can be no (subsidiary sub-particles of) form as well, without depending on (the elemental sub-particles of) earth, wind, and so forth (upon which they are imputed).

(16) (Furthermore, fuel, which is in the nature of the three elements of earth, water, and wind) can become hot in the nature of fire, but without (fuel, which can become) hot, how can (fire) burn? Therefore, there can be no such thing as what is called (truly existent) fuel (existing independently of the element fire and in the nature of the three other elements). Also there can be no (truly) existent fire without this (fuel).

(17) Even if (you say that fuel becomes) hot when (its own nature as earth, water, and wind is) overpowered (by the nature of fire), for what reason would (the fuel) not become fire (at that instance, because it was hot and burning? If you insist that hot burning fuel does not become of the nature of fire,) well then it is improper to say there is the existence of fire (in relation to) a different functional phenomenon that is not hot.

(18) If a sub-particle (of fire) has no fuel, then there would be an (independently existing) fire without fuel, (which amounts to asserting a fire that is causeless. Fearing this consequence,) if you say that even this (sub-particle of fire) has fuel, then it does not exist as a sub-particle with a nature of being a (truly existent, self-contained) unit.

(19) Any functional phenomenon, when fully examined, (is found) not to exist as a (truly existent unit or) oneness (since it is made of parts). And by this (same reason whereby) things do not (truly) exist as singular units, they do not (truly) exist as multiples either (since “many” is made up of several units, which themselves do not truly exist).

(20) (Now consider the position) in (non-Buddhist systems) which (accept sub-particles of earth and so on, but claim that) they are not functional phenomena (but static substances). If you (were also to) assert (that such sub-particles) are truly existent as (solitary units), well then whatever (reason you use to show that) everything truly exists in a triple (way, namely as substances, singular units, and truly existents, also proves that) they do not truly exist as solitary units.

(21) For (refuting the various philosophical) positions of (asserting) existence, nonexistence, both existence and nonexistence and neither existence nor nonexistence, the learned should always apply (such lines of reasoning as analyzing whether things are truly existently) one and so on.

(22) (There are many misconceptions that people can hold. For instance,) just as by regarding a continuity in a faulty manner, you can come to (the misconception) that (functional phenomena) exist as static; likewise, by regarding a collection in a faulty manner, you can come to (the misconception) that functional phenomena truly exist.

(23) But, whatever (conventionally) exists as having arisen by depending (on causes and so forth) cannot come to be (found as having true) independent (existence). As all these (things) are not independent, therefore there is no such thing as a (truly existent) “self,” (either of a person or of any phenomenon).

(24) (Consider the assertion of) functional phenomena as (having true existence on their own) without (or independent of) the result (they will produce and which) do not exist (in the sense of) always being gathered (dependently) on their result. Any such (truly existent independent phenomenon) being gathered for the sake of (producing) a result cannot be included in (the sight of the total absorption of) an arya, (since aryas are focused on the non-true existence of dependent arising).

(25) (In short,) the seed of compulsive samsaric existence is the consciousness (that grasps at true existence), while objects (such as forms and so on) are the objects it utilizes. But seeing that these objects have no (truly existent) “self” causes the seed of compulsive existence to come to an end.

Fifteen: Indicating the Meditations for Refuting Collected Phenomena as Ultimately (Truly Arising)

(1) If at the last (moment of the cause, the result is truly) nonexistent and then it comes to arise (as truly existent, this is unreasonable, because then even a rabbit’s horn could arise). Therefore, how can something truly nonexistent arise? And if you accept that (the result truly) exists (at the time of the cause) and then comes to arise, (this is also unreasonable, because it would already have arisen and thus have no need to arise again). Therefore, how can something truly existently arise?

(2) With the (generation of the) result, the cause disintegrates. Therefore, it is not that something (truly) nonexistent (at the time of the cause) comes to arise. And because there is no (necessity) for something (already) established (at the time of the cause) to be established (again, something truly) existent does not arise either.

(3) At that time (when the result already truly exists), it cannot have an arising (because it already exists). Moreover, at the other time (when it is truly nonexistent), it cannot have an arising (either, because then anything could arise). If it does not arise at either that time or the other time, when can it come to have an arising?

(4) Just as there is no arising in which something (truly existent produces) the phenomenon of itself (because there is no need), likewise there is no arising in which something (truly existent produces) another phenomenon, (because the two would be truly different and unrelated).

(5) (An arising) at the beginning, (an abiding) in the middle, and (a ceasing) at the end do not exist before something arises. And at (the time of each), the other two do not exist, (but yet they are not truly independent of each other). Just as each comes to begin (and thus there is no abiding or ceasing without an arising, likewise each comes to abide and to cease).

(6) Without other phenomena (as its causes, a result) is not produced as its own phenomenon (from itself, since functional phenomena rely on causes. Moreover, these causal functional phenomena that are other than the result they produce also lack true existence, since they too rely on their causes. Therefore,) because of that, there is no production from either of the two, (truly existent) self or others.

(7) You cannot say that that which is before (the result, namely a truly existing arising), and that which is after (the cause, namely a truly existing result), exist simultaneously (since then the result would already exist at the time of its arising and there would be no need for it to arise). Because of that, a vase and its arising do not occur simultaneously.

(8) As it is the case that (when something) first arises (it is not old) because (it is new), then (if it were truly existent as new), what first arises could not become old. Later, even after it has completely arisen, (it would not be old), and still afterwards what arose (as truly new) could never have become (old).

(9) (Further, because cause and effect happen at different times), a functional phenomenon of the presently happening (moment) is not produced out of its own (truly existent presently happening moment); it is not produced out of a (truly existent) not yet happening (time); nor is it (produced) out of a (truly existent) no longer happening (time).

(10) Something that has (truly existently) arisen can have no coming and likewise no going to a ceasing. As this is the case, for what reason is (conventional) existence not like an illusion?

(11) As a (truly existent) arising, abiding, and ceasing cannot occur simultaneously and cannot occur in stages, when can they come to occur?

(12) (If) arising and so on (had true existence), they would all have to occur each of them over again, (as they each would already be existing before they had actually occurred). Because of that, a ceasing would become like an arising (when it actually came to occur), and an abiding would appear like a ceasing (before it actually began to occur).

(13) If you said that the (three) modes (of arising, abiding, and ceasing) and the basis of the modes (for example, the functional phenomenon of a vase, were truly existent and) different (from each other), then the basis of the modes would be anything but nonstatic, (since being truly separate from an arising and so forth, it would have to be static). Or else, (if they were truly existently one with each other), there should not exist any clear (distinction) in the (truly) existent natures of all four (and that would destroy the relationship of a mode and the basis of a mode).

(14) A (truly existent) functional phenomenon cannot arise from a (truly existent) functional phenomenon (because it would already exist). Moreover, (such) a functional phenomenon cannot arise from a (truly existent) nonfunctional phenomenon (because like a burnt seed it would lack the power to produce a result). A nonfunctional phenomenon cannot arise from a nonfunctional phenomenon (because like a rabbit’s horn, such cannot arise from anything).

(15) A (truly existent) functional phenomenon cannot become a functional phenomenon (that arises, because it will already have arisen) and a (truly existent) nonfunctional phenomenon cannot become a functional phenomenon (that arises, otherwise the son of a barren woman could be born). A nonfunctional phenomenon cannot become a nonfunctional phenomenon (that has ceased, otherwise the son of a barren woman could die) and a functional phenomenon cannot become a nonfunctional phenomenon (that has ceased, because the two truly existent categories must be mutually exclusive).

(16) While (something) is arising, because it is half (already) arisen (and half not yet arisen) the process of arising cannot be a (truly existent) arising (apart from these portions). Or else there would be the absurd conclusion that all (three times, namely the portion of not yet having arisen, the portion of arising now and the portion of already having arisen) would be the (truly existently) arising.

(17) (In terms of true existence, if) what is in the process of arising were the thing itself that it was going to be, it would make it not what is in the process of arising (because being in the process of arising would imply that the thing itself had not yet been established). Even if what is in the process of arising were not the thing itself that it was going to be, it would still make it not be what is in the process of arising (because it would then be truly different from and thus totally unrelated to what it would be and would not be arising as anything).

(18) Any (tradition that asserts that) the two (namely the not-yet-happening time and the no-longer-happening time) cannot exist without something in between, (namely a presently-happening moment, must also assert that) the process of arising lacks true existence. Why, because it too (namely that presently happening moment) would have something in between (its first and last portions, and so on with infinite regress).

(19) (Suppose you say that) because the process of arising is (the time when the cause) has ceased and what is to have arisen (namely the result) is about to arise, therefore the process of arising is seen in the nature of being something (truly) existent that is in fact different (from a portion of being halfway already arisen and one of being halfway not yet arisen).

(20) (Well, if as you claim, the process of arising had true existence separately from and before what is to have arisen, then) when what is to have arisen (truly exists), at such a time there cannot exist the process of its arising (because the arising will have already ceased. Thus, you cannot establish that what has arisen was produced from this process of arising that you inferred to truly exist separately and before it. The two would be unrelated. And if you grant this, but say that on the basis of true existence what is to have arisen is in the process of arising, well then) when what is to have arisen is in the process of arising, at such a time what reason is there for it to have to be made to arise (again – it would already have arisen, being truly existent)?

(21) (Suppose you claim that) the process of arising is merely when what has not yet arisen (is progressing toward the state when it) will be proclaimed as what has arisen. (Well then,) because (this assertion made in terms of true existence amounts to) there being no difference (between what has not yet arisen and what has already arisen), why at the time when (there is something functioning as) a vase could it not be (also) conceived of as not (a vase or something functional, because likewise there should be no difference between a vase that has arisen and the nonfunctional state when it has not yet arisen)?

(22) (Suppose you retort that there is a difference between the process of arising and when something has not yet arisen, namely the former is connected with the action of arising while the latter is not necessarily so connected. Well then,) when something is in the process of arising, it is in fact not yet complete (and thus has a portion of being not yet arisen. Therefore, by being connected with the action of arising,) what has not yet arisen would pass beyond (the category of being something not yet happening, for it would be presently happening). And if that were indeed so, then by the very fact that the process of arising is beyond the limits of when something has already arisen (and thus has a portion of being not yet arisen), then because of that, what has not yet arisen would be arising.

(23) (And suppose you further assert that) the process of arising, even before it has occurred, can be proclaimed to be (truly) existent (as a functional phenomenon), because later (it will come to be connected with the action of arising. Well then,) by that, (you would) in fact (be forced to conclude that only) what has not yet arisen arises (and that is unreasonable on the basis of true existence. After all,) what has not yet arisen is said to have not occurred (and therefore has not acquired the status of being the functional phenomenon of itself. Thus, it could not enter into the action of arising and) could not arise.

(24) To say that (when the action of arising is) completed, (a functional phenomenon) exists and to say that (when the action of arising) has not been enacted, (a functional phenomenon) does not yet exist (is irrelevant). When there is no such thing as a (truly existent) process of arising, what can be said about one?

(25) (In short), when there can exist no result without a cause that can be understood, then a (truly existing result) entering into (a process of arising) and a (truly existing cause) reversing (and ceasing) are illogical.

Sixteen: Indicating the Meditations for How to Cause Teachers and Disciples to Gain Certainty (about Voidness)

(1) All these chapters have been to refute individually any reasons (that may be given why), although (everything is) void (of true existence, others grasp at them) to be as if not devoid.

(2) When you (object) that it is improper to say that the author, subject matter, and likewise (the words of these chapters) are void (because they exist; well then, since) whatever arises from depending on (something else) is (void of true existence, therefore) these three as well are not (truly) existent.

(3) If, by the faults (of everything being) void, it were to be established that (things) are not void, then by (these very same) faults (that would arise from everything) not being void, (namely that nothing could exist or function,) why wouldn’t voidness be established?

(4) To counter another’s position and establish your own position, (you need to rely on reasoning). If one faction (merely) took pleasure in criticizing (the other), why wouldn’t they (be happy) to establish (their own position based merely on opinion, but not on logic)?

(5) If a position becomes not (reasonable if), upon thorough analysis, (what it asserts is found) not to be (a validly knowable phenomenon), then all three (assertions of things being truly existently) one (or many or beyond speech) and so on become untenable positions.

(6) (If you say that) anything seen by bare (sensory) cognition, (such as) a vase, has (true existence, well) this (tradition that asserts the voidness of true existence) does not have (as part of its tenets such faulty) lines of reasoning coming from other (Mahayana Buddhist) traditions, (although) in other respects we have (assertions in common, such as the bodhichitta aim).

(7) As what is not voidness, (namely a basis of voidness), does not have (true existence), from what could its voidness arise (as being truly existent)? As one of them does not have (true existence, namely the basis of voidness, such as a vase), how could its opponent (namely its lack of true existence) come to arise (as truly existent)?

(8) If (the position of voidness) were a truly existent position, then what is not that position (namely true existence) would (also) become truly existent as a position. (But since voidness is not truly existent,) what is not the position (of voidness) is not truly existent (either. As truly existent phenomena do not exist at all,) what could come to constitute the counter-set (of things that are not void of true existence, which would be necessary for establishing as a truly existent set everything that is void)?

(9) If functional phenomena (in general) lack true existence, how could (a specific one, such as) the heat of a fire, become (truly existent)? A hot fire, as well, has no true existence as was (established by) previous countering (arguments).

(10) If it can be countered that by (merely) seeing functional phenomena (you can validly know that) functional phenomena lack true existence, then which of the four positions (asserting phenomena to be truly existently one, many, existent, or nonexistent) could be seen as having abandoned (all) faults, (because truly existent phenomena would have to exist in one or another of those ways? You need to refute true existence by relying on valid lines of reasoning).

(11) (If) particles (existed as) truly existent functional phenomena, (they should be the object of valid cognition). But as they are not (the object) of any (valid cognition), how could they be (truly existent)? As the Buddhas (testified that everything) is indeed non-truly existent, for that very reason you should adhere (to asserting non-true existence).

(12) If the absence of the dual (division of some things being truly existent and some being void applies) to everything, what else is there that can be a truly existent functional phenomenon? If you dispute these lines of reasoning (already proven), what can (your views, which are) different (from that of voidness,) do (for you? They cannot bring you liberation).

(13) As there are no (truly existent) phenomena among all phenomena, it is unreasonable to divide (phenomena into truly existent and non-truly existent ones. The voidness) that is seen of all things cannot become a division (opposed to true existence, because everything is void).

(14) If (we Prasangikas) were known as unanswerable to other positions because (we asserted the total) nonexistence (of everything), then why is it that your own position can be countered by the logic (of voidness) and not be established (by reason)?

(15) Even if you say (it is well known) in the world that lines of reasoning to undermine (voidness) are easy to find, why is it that you are unable to state (any) faults in our position of what is other (than true existence, namely voidness, which can withstand the test of logic)?

(16) If by merely (your words) that (everything has) true existence, (everything) were to exist as truly existent phenomena, then why wouldn’t (everything) become non-truly existent merely by (our words) that (they are) non-truly existent?

(17) And (if things) do not become (totally) nonexistent because of their being labeled with the names “(conventionally) existing” and “obtaining,” they do not (on the other hand) become (truly) existent because of their being given the name “(truly) existent,” (for this latter is a case of applying a misnomer).

(18) Suppose (you say that everything) in the world has true existence since everything can be spoken of (in words) by the world, (despite these words not having the same truly existent nature as their objects. Well then,) how could any functional phenomenon that had ultimate existence become (an object of speech) of the world, (because words and referents truly existently different by nature could not be related)?

(19) Suppose (you claimed that) all functional phenomena would become totally nonexistent because of their lack of (true) existence. (Well then,) if that were so, then all those (who hold the Prasangika) position (would be asserting that what previously had been truly existent had become totally) nonexistent phenomena. (But this) is unreasonable (since, throughout beginningless time, everything has been non-truly existent).

(20) Because phenomena lack true existence, the non-phenomenon (of their voidness) cannot come to have true existence. As phenomena have never had true existence, from what (basis) could the non-phenomenon (of the absence or voidness of their true existence) be established?

(21) Suppose (you said that) because voidness comes (to be established) from (truly existent) lines of reasoning, (voidness) cannot be void (of true existence. Well then,) if the asserted (thesis) and the line of reasoning were (truly existently) different, (they would be unrelated, and the former could not be proven by the latter). And if they were not (different, but truly existently one), then it would not be a (proper) line of reasoning, (since being identical with the thesis, the line of reasoning could not prove the thesis, as is the case in a tautology).

(22) And suppose (you said that) because there are truly existent examples (to prove) voidness, therefore (voidness) cannot be void of true existence. (Well then,) can you say that (from the example) “just like a crow” (you can substantiate that) the “self” is likewise black? (A truly existent example and thesis would be likewise irrelevant to each other.)

(23) If functional phenomena existed with truly established existence, what benefit would there be from seeing voidness, (because it would be incorrect)? But since you are bound (with suffering in samsaric existence from) seeing with misconceptions (everything as being truly existent), therefore (an implied object of this grasping for true existence) is to be refuted here.

(24) (Further), to say (like you Chittamatrins) that the one (namely consciousness) has true existence, while the (other) one (namely external objects) does not exist (at all) is not so in terms of the facts of reality, (since both lack true existence). Moreover, it is not so on the worldly level either, (since both are conventionally existent). Therefore, you cannot say that this (namely consciousness, ultimately) has true existence and this (namely external objects, conventionally) has no existence (at all).

(25) (In short,) any position that (asserts either) true existence, total nonexistence, both true existence and nonexistence, (or neither) does not exist (as a valid one with the support of logic). Even after a very long time, (proponents of) such (positions) will never have the ability to expound an answer (that could refute voidness, because voidness is irrefutable).

This concludes Four Hundred Verse Treatise on the Actions of a Bodhisattva’s Yoga, composed by the Learned Master Aryadeva, who was miraculously born from a lotus in Sri Lanka. Having crossed the ocean of his own and others’ tenets and divided the correct from the incorrect view, he completely clarified the Middle Path (view) of Madhyamaka and became the spiritual son of the Highly Realized Arya Nagarjuna.

This was translated, (from Sanskrit into Tibetan), and edited and finalized in the Precious Hidden Pleasure Garden in the center of the city of Pemey (dPe-med) in Kashmir by the Indian Master Sushmajnana and the Tibetan translator Patsab Lotsawa Nyima Drag (Pa-tshab Lo-tsa-ba Nyi-ma grags).

Read a summary by Dr. Berzin of this text.