To Know Illusion is to Depart from it


“What is ignorance? Virtuous man, since beginningless time, all sentient beings have had all sorts of delusions, like a disoriented man who has lost his sense of direction. They mistake the four great elements as attributes of their bodies; and the conditioned impressions of the six sense objects as the attributes of their minds. They are like a man with an illness of the eyes who sees an [illusory] flower in the sky, or a second moon.


“Virtuous man, there is in reality no flower in the sky, yet the sick man mistakenly clings to it. Because of his mistaken clinging, he is not only deluded about the intrinsic nature of the empty space, but also confused about the arising of the flower. Because of this false existence [to which he clings] he remains in the turning wheel of birth and death. Hence this is called ignorance.


“Virtuous man, this ignorance has no real substance. It is like a person in a dream. Though the person exists in the dream, when [the dreamer] awakens, there is nothing that can be grasped. Like an [illusory] flower in the sky that vanishes into empty space, one cannot say that there is a fixed place from which it vanishes. Why? Because there is no place from which it arises! Amidst the unarisen, all sentient beings deludedly perceive birth and extinction. Hence this is called the turning wheel of birth and death.


“Virtuous man, all illusory projections of sentient beings arise from the wondrous mind of the Tathagata’s Complete Enlightenment, just like flowers in the sky which come into existence from out of the sky. When the illusory flower vanishes, the nature of the sky is not marred. Likewise, the illusory mind of sentient beings relies on illusory [cultivation] for its extinction. When all illusions are extinguished, the enlightened mind remains unmoved. Speaking of enlightenment in contrast to illusion is itself an illusion. To say that enlightenment exists is to not have left illusion yet. [However], to say that enlightenment does not exist is also no different. Therefore, the extinction of illusion is called the unmoving [mind of enlightenment].


“Virtuous man, all bodhisattvas and sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age should separate [themselves] from all illusory projections and deluded realms. [However], when one clings firmly to the mind that separates [from all illusory projections and deluded realms] this mind [should also be taken as] an illusion, and one should separate oneself from it. Because this separation is an illusion, it should also be separated. One should then be free even from this ‘separating from the illusion of separation!’ When there remains nothing to be separated from, all illusions are eliminated. It is like rubbing two pieces of wood together to obtain fire. When the fire ignites and the wood completely burns, the ashes fly away and the smoke vanishes. Using illusion to remedy illusion is just like this. Yet even though illusions are exhausted, one does not enter annihilation.


“Virtuous man, to know illusion is to depart from it; there is no [need to] contrive expedient means! To depart from illusion is to be enlightened; there are no gradual steps! All bodhisattvas and sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age who practice accordingly will permanently leave illusions behind.”








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