Drifting Like Foam – Disintegrating and Reintegrating Aggregates in the Phena Sutta

Form is like a glob of foam;
feeling, a bubble;
perception, a mirage;
fabrications, a banana tree;
consciousness, a magic trick —
this has been taught
by the Kinsman of the Sun.
However you observe them,
appropriately examine them,
they’re empty, void
to whoever sees them

Impermanence and Insubstantiality

Poetically evocative in its weaving together of imagery to convey the impermanent, we find in the Pheṇapiṇḍūpama Sutta a sweeping landscape portrait depicting the frequently overlooked realities of lived experience. As the world erupts in chaos upon crisis upon catastrophe, some may seek ways to deny the reality of mortality, the reality of epidemiological, societal, and environmental illness, the reality of impermanence. In some ways, we are wired, numbed, conditioned to ignore these realities in a desperate struggle for self-preservation. The “Kinsman of the Sun,” however, suggests an alternative.

Perhaps counter to popular opinion, it’s in our best interest to fully realize the insubstantial nature of not only the external world but the very constituents of who we think we are in order to sustain some semblance of sanity.

Poignant and piercing in how succinctly he summarizes the reality of impermanence, here the Buddha compares the aggregates, the psycho-physical heaps of phenomena that comprise a person, to insubstantial aspects of the natural and mental spheres. Given its timely content, relevant as much to today’s challenges as those of yesteryear or yester-millenia in the case of its original context, we stew in the Pheṇa Sutta, letting its teachings on impermanence and insubstantiality percolate.


In each line of the verse section, we find reference to one of the aggregates, the clumps, piles, heaps so often mistaken for me and mine. Accompanying each of these aggregates is a carefully chosen simile.

Form is like foam erupting from pressure as a river’s current flows downstream.

Feeling is like a bubble at the water’s surface that pops shortly after floating up from the depths.

Perception is like a mirage whose shimmering distortions manifest out of sunlight.

Fabrication is like a banana tree whose core consists of insubstantial onion-like layers.

Consciousness is like a magic trick conjured at the hands of another.

A common theme pervades all of them. In every case, they are not what they appear to be. Some element of illusion or deception is present, even if unintended. The aggregates, these mental and material pieces of our lived experience that so often become objects of attachment for us, are unreliable.

Disintegrating and Reintegrating

Notice that in none of these similes are any of these phenomena said to be non-existent. Rather, they’re not as they appear to be. Foam disintegrates when the conditions for its arising are absent, but reintegrates when those conditions return. And yet one never steps in the same river twice.

Form, the body and its elements, disintegrates in every moment. While not apparent to us on such an immediate timescale, this becomes especially clear as we age, grow sick, and die. The form aggregate’s constituent parts decay, disintegrate, decompose. Those atoms inevitably find their way into the soil, water, or air consumed by other beings, whether plants or animals, and reintegrate in other shapes and configurations. The same applies to each of the other aggregates, although form is most visible in its transformations.

That all goes to say that the process of disintegrating and reintegrating is, for us, inevitable. We drift like foam through this world. Coming to terms with our own impermanent and insubstantial nature may provoke resistance and discomfort, but to see form as foam also offers us the opportunity to release it when the time comes for it to disintegrate. It never was “me” or “mine” to begin with and when it reintegrates elsewhere it will likewise be ownerless.

This in no way absolves me of responsibility in the present, but it dissolves the tendency to cling desperately to foam that cannot be grasped. In dissolving this clinging, we stand a successful chance at resolving existential dread of what lies ahead.

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Лабиринт на смъртта

Жълт заек ала Громит с недодялана структура на тялото от пластелин. Марионетка, легнала върху легло от пясък и кратери, се издърпва назад с краката си; глава с огромни уши, наблюдава, малко изненадано, обектите висящи на нишки, които се открояват пред фона на розово небе щамповано с планета (Земя?) и Сатурн с комплект от пръстени. От шнуровете висят пистолет играчка, няколко звезди и силует на полумесец. Озадачаващо изображение за един от най-неясните и най-мрачните романи в цялото творчество на Филип Дик. Толкова обезпокоително и ужасно, че веднага ни приковава като този животински симулакрум, гледащ с недоверие вселената, света, реалността, която все по-често ни изглежда фиктивна, абсурдно фалшива. Която ни се представя като игра, като нещо, което иска да ни примами, но впоследствие ни превръща в морски свинчета, трагично осъзнаващи безполезността на страданието, което в крайна сметка ни дава тази „игра”.

Виртуалната илюзия принуждава членовете на повреден космически кораб да повтарят отново и отново едно и също несъществуващо приключение на една и съща несъществуваща планета в Лабиринт на смъртта. В крайна сметка Дик залага на подозрението, че живеем в илюзия, която не оставя възможност за никаква реалност, колкото и малка и незначителна да е, наистина сигурна и дадена веднъж завинаги.

превод dhammapk

Mahayanavimsaka of Nagarjuna


Having indicated in the first karika in which he has paid his homage to the Buddha that the truth he is going to propound can hardly be expressed by words the author says that in the transcendental truth (paramarthika) there is neither utpada ‘appearance’ nor nirodha ‘disappearance’. The Buddha and the beings are of the same nature and they are just like the sky which has no real existence. There is no origination (jati) on either side of the world. A compound thing (samskrta) comes into existence through its cause and conditions, and therefore in its essence it is nothing but sunya. This is what comes into the range of an omniscient one. In regard to their own nature all things are just like a shadow. Worldlings imagine an atman when in fact there is no atman. They also imagine pain and pleasure, and such other things, but in reality they are non-existent. It is on account of this false imagination that people suffer from klesas ‘evil passions’ as a forest is burnt by fire. As a painter is frightened having seen a picture of a Yaksa drawn by himself, so it is owing to his false notions that a man is frightened in the samsara. As a stupid person moving himself is drowned in mud, so arc drowned the beings in the mire of false discrimination and cannot come out of it. Seeing that these men are helpless one should try to become a Buddha, so that one can help them. The world is sunya to him who realizes the transcendental truth having known pratityasamutpada. The samsara and nirvana are mere appearance; in fact, they have no existence; the truth is that the things are quiescent from the very beginning (adisanta), clean, changeless and pure. All this is nothing but mind (citta), and just like maya. When the wheel of this mind (citta-cakra) is destroyed all things disappear; therefore they are anatman (i.e., without any definite nature). The things have no nature whatsoever, yet, the people take them to be eternal, think them to be atman, and consider that happiness may be derived from them. And thus they are covered with the darkness of ignorance and attachment and fall into the ocean of samsara. And without the ‘great conveyance’ (Mahayana) no body can reach the other side of that ocean.



I make my obeisance to the Buddha who is wise, free from all attachment, and whose powers are beyond conception, and who has kindly taught the truth which cannot be expressed by words.


In the transcendental truth there is no origination (utpada), and in fact, there is no destruction (nirodha). The Buddha is like the sky (which has neither origination nor cessation), and the beings are like him, and therefore they are of the same nature.


There is no birth either on this or the other side (of the world). A compound thing (samskrta) originates from its conditions. Therefore it is sunya by its nature. This fact comes into the range of knowledge of an omniscient one.


All things by nature are regarded as reflections. They are pure and naturally quiescent, devoid of any duality, equal, and remain always and in all circumstances in the same way (tathata).


In fact, worldings attribute atman to what is not atman, and in the same way they imagine happiness, misery, indifference, passions and liberation.

6 – 7

Birth in the six realms of existence in the world, highest happiness in the heaven, great pain in the hell, these do not come within the perview of truth (i.e. cannot be accepted as true); nor do the notions that unmeritorious actions lead to the extreme misery, old age, disease, and death, and meritorious actions surely bring about good results.

It is owing to false notions that beings are consumed by fire of passions even as a forest is burnt by forest conflagration and fall into the hells, etc. As illusion prevails so do beings make their appearance. The world is illusory and it exists only on account of its cause and conditions.


As a painter is frightened by the terrible figure of a Yaksa which he himself has drawn, so is a fool frightened in the world (by his own false notions).


Even as a fool going himself to a quagmire is drowned therein, so are beings drowned in the quagmire of false notions and are unable to come out thereof.


The feeling of misery is experienced by imagining a thing where in fact it has no existence. Beings are tortured by the poison of false notions regarding the object and its knowledge.


Seeing these helpless beings with a compassionate heart one should perform the practices of the highest knowledge (bodhicarya) for the benefit of them.


Having acquired requisites thereby and getting unsurpassable bodhi one should become a Buddha, the friend of the world, being freed from the bondage of false notions.


He who realizes the transcendental truth knowing the pratityasamutpada (or the manifestation of entities depending on their causes and conditions), knows the world to be sunya and devoid of beginning, middle or end.


The samsara and nirvana are mere appearances; the truth is stainless, changeless, and quiescent from the beginning and illumined.


The object of knowledge in dream is not seen when one awakes. Similarly the world disappears to him who is awakened from the darkness of ignorance. The creation of illusion is nothing but illusion. When everything is compound there is nothing which can be regarded as a real thing. Such is the nature of all things.


One having origination (jati) does not originate himself. Origination is a false conception of the people. Such conceptions and (conceived) beings, these two are not reasonable.


All this is nothing but mind (citta) and exists just like an illusion. Hence originate good and evil actions and from them good and evil birth.


When the wheel of the mind is suppressed, all things are suppressed. Therefore all things are devoid of atman (independent nature), and consequently they are pure.


It is due to thinking the things which have no independent nature as eternal, atman, and pleasant that this ocean of existence (bhava) appears to one who is enveloped by the darkness of attachment and ignorance.


Who can reach the other side of the great ocean of samsara which is full of water of false notions without getting into the great vehicle (i.e., Mahayana)? How can these false notions arise in a man who thoroughly knows this world which has originated from ignorance?

Here ends the Mahayanavimsaka of Acarya Nagarjuna.

Edited by Vidhusekhara Bhattacharya ©1931 Visvabharati

Bookshop, Calcutta

Reaching for the Moon

Once upon a time there was a king in India. An astrologer told him: “Whoever shall drink the rain which falls seven days from now shall go mad.” So the king covered his well, that none of the water may enter it. All of his subjects, however, drank the water, and went mad, while the king alone remained sane. Now the king could no longer understand what his subjects thought and did, nor could his subjects understand what the king thought and did. All of them shouted “The king is mad, the king is mad.” Thus, having no choice, the king drank the water too.

Reaching for the Moon

Next to the entrance of most Tibetan temples one finds a mural showing the Wheel of Life, a diagrammatic representation of the different places one can be reborn in—as a god, a human, an animal, in hell, and so forth. The Wheel is held in the clutches of a fierce demonic figure; this is Yama, the lord of death. Yama’s holding the wheel indicates that beings everywhere, even those reborn in the realms of the gods, must die, to be reborn again and again, countless times. At the top of some pictures of the Wheel of Life we see the Buddha standing on a bank of clouds, pointing at the full moon.

Sometimes the moon is accompanied by a short inscription saying that the Buddha makes us move toward his teaching. The goal of these teachings, liberation from the circular succession of birth and death, is represented by the moon emerging from behind the clouds.

The full moon, a highly auspicious symbol in all Asian cultures, is intricately connected with the Buddha’s life: his birth, enlightenment, first teaching, and his death are all said to have occurred on full moon days and are celebrated accordingly following the lunar calendar used by most Buddhist countries. The moon pervades Tibetan culture in many respects: moon disks resting on lotus flowers provide the support of deities of the Tibetan pantheon, are held as attributes or adorn the top of reliquary monuments.

But as soon as we do not deal with the moon itself, but with its reflection in the water, its interpretation changes from a symbol of enlightenment and liberation to an example of illusion. This is nicely illustrated by the well-known Tibetan tale of the monkeys and the moon.

At one time a band of monkeys saw the reflection of the moon in a lake and thought there was a second moon swimming in the lake. Immediately they decided to get hold of the silvery shining disk. They all climbed on a tree with branches overhanging the lake. The head monkey decided that they should form a chain: he would go first, someone holding him by his tail, then another monkey would grab the second monkey’s tail, continuing in this way until he reached the surface of the lake. They set out to do this, but when the chain was halfway down to the water the branch broke and all the monkeys fell into the lake. Their big splash rippled the still surface of the lake and the reflected moon disappeared.

This cautionary tale warns us against mistaking the reflection of some object for the thing itself, thereby grasping at an object that is not there. A commentary on the Perfection of Wisdom sutras ascribed to the second century Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna called The Great Treatise on the Perfection of Wisdom informs us that when a small child sees the moon reflected in the water it happily wants to reach out for it, but adults which see this laugh at him. In the same way an ignorant one, considering his body, thinks that he has a self. . . . It is in the still water that one sees the reflection of the moon, but once one stirs up the water, the reflection disappears. Similarly in the still water of an ignorant mind one finds the conception “this is me”. But when the stick of wisdom has troubled the water of thought one sees the self no longer.

Here the illusory appearance of the moon in the water is used as an illustration of the Buddhist view that the self is an illusory appearance too. While we have the strong impression that there is something distinct from our bodies, sensations, thoughts, feelings, memories, and so forth that is “me,” the Buddhist wants to argue that there is no such thing. We superimpose the notion of a self on the rapidly changing complex of bodily and mental events, but this superimposition is nothing but a convenient mental construction, nothing that exists as a matter of fact.

It is easy to misunderstand this use of the example of the moon in the water. While the reflection of the moon is obviously not the moon, there is something causing that reflection: the real moon in the sky. We might think that similarly even though the self is not to be found in our body, thoughts, feelings, and so forth, the real “me” does exist, but not where we think it is. This, however, is very different from the Buddhist view and is more in accordance with the system of Advaita Vedānta as taught by the eight-century Indian philosopher Śankara. According to the Buddhist interpretation there is no real “me”, no absolute, inaccessible self hidden behind a mistaken superimposition.

It is by assuming that such a self is real that suffering is produced. Misperceiving reality, the monkey fixates on an illusion. The reflection in the water (like everything else) depends on a constellation of conditions. The instant the moon sets, or other conditions change, the reflection will disappear. It has no independent existence. Still, we cling to the things we have and strain for the things we want. Suffering ensues. The Buddhist concept of delusion encompasses mistaken views, ignorance, self-deception, and mental illness. By realizing the absence of the self, like seeing the moon empty of images, we obtain liberation and freedom from suffering.

It therefore seems very apt that Buddhist writers used the illusions of the moon as an illustration of the illusory projected self. For it seems to us plainly evident that we, as persons, have permanent or at least very stable selves distinct from our bodies and the things going on in our minds. That there is a self that is the owner of our bodies, the experiencer of our mental lives, and the agent of our actions appears as obvious as something we can clearly see in front of us. But, as we have just seen, what we can clearly see in front of us is sometimes just the product of the belief about what is there in front of us, and not a reflection of what is really there.

Grand illusion of consciousness

Discussing illusions plays such a big role in the Perfection of Wisdom literature because the Buddhist texts state that there is a close connection between the existence of illusion and the existence of suffering. According to the Buddhist worldview, the existence of suffering is neither a necessary feature of the world nor the consequence of a specific fact about the past (such as the fall of Adam), but is rather due to an intellectual error that is mistaken about the way things exist. Suffering is produced by a wrong view of the world, a view that is in fact so much part and parcel of our habitual way of thinking that we are not aware of its perspectival nature any more. More worryingly, the mere intellectual insight into its falsity does not mean that the illusion goes away, in the same way that the mere intellectual insight that the two lines in the diagram below are of the same length does not alter the fact that the lower line appears to be longer.

As this example shows, an illusion is not something that does not exist, but something that is not what it seems. A cloud that might appear as soft as a white down pillow, as thick as a dark wall, or as far-reaching as the golden sands of the desert when illuminated by the setting sun is really nothing of the sort; in fact it is little more than the thin air into which it will soon disappear.

The aim of the Buddhist enterprise is therefore not just to show that all things are like illusions because the way they appear is different from the way they are. Its aim is to bring about a complete change in how we perceive and conceptualize phenomena. In this way ignorance is cleared away and, one hopes, suffering will completely disappear. Before getting there, however, it is essential to understand what precisely makes an illusory phenomenon illusory.

In reply I would like to discuss something that is sometimes called the grand illusion of consciousness. Th is is our firm conviction that consciousness is continuous. What do we mean by this? In the fi rst place we think that our visual field is continuous. Visual perception is like seeing an internal movie: every part of our mental screen is filled in, there are no gaps or interruptions. But apart from this assumption of the spatial continuity of the visual field, we also feel that our consciousness is temporally continuous (apart from times when we are asleep or unconscious). One scene in our internal movie follows the next, and if we close our eyes, still images, sounds, feelings, smells, and thoughts follow one another in quick succession without any apparent gap.

Yet I want to argue that the spatial and temporal continuity of our consciousness is an illusion, a magic trick played by our own mind. Because it is so fundamental it makes sense to call it the grand illusion, but it is an illusion nevertheless.

There is an illusion at the very center of our life. Our consciousness, something that we all seem to know is a continous, smoothly flowing structure without holes or gaps, is in fact nothing like this. Our consciousness is discontinuous in the extreme, although it does not appear to us to be so. Taking this into account it seems perhaps a little less counterintuitive when the Buddha says that “consciousness is a magic show, a juggler’s trick entire.” This might be exactly what consciousness is.

Тheory of emptiness

According to the theory of emptiness, substance is not regarded as a theoretical posit, as something a philosopher might postulate when investigating the world or its representation in language. The underlying idea here is rather that seeing objects in terms of substance is a kind of cognitive default that is criticized by the Buddhist’s arguments. It is important to realize that the notion of substance is seen here as playing a fundamental cognitive role insofar as objects are usually conceptualized in terms of substance.

According to this cognitive understanding, substance is regarded as an illusory superimposition that the mind naturally projects onto objects when attempting to conceptualize the world. Independent of one’s particular theoretical position concerning the existence or nonexistence of substance, sub-stance is something that is superimposed on ordinary objects in the process of conceptualization. The different elements that make up a person, a body, beliefs, thoughts, desires, and so forth, for example, are seen as a single, permanent, independent self, due to the superimposition of substance on such a basis. The same happens when ordinary material things that have parts are apprehended as single, permanent, independent objects.

It is because this cognitive default of the superimposition of substance is seen as the primary cause of suffering that the Buddhist philosophers draw a distinction between the understanding of arguments establishing emptiness and its realization. Being convinced by some Buddhist argument that substances do not exist does not usually entail that the things will not still appear to us as being substances or at least as being based on substances. The elimination of this appearance is only achieved by the realization of emptiness. The ultimate aim of the Buddhist project is therefore not just the establishment of a particular philosophical theory, but the achievement of a cognitive change. The elimination of substance as a theoretical posit by means of arguments has to be followed by its elimination as an automatic cognitive superimposition by means of specific practices.

Viewing phenomena as existent will lead us to all sorts of false beliefs, since we could not possibly have any access to such mind-independent objects. At the same time we cannot act by just focusing on the absence of external objects. We do after all have to interact with the appearances in order to live in the world.

Optical Illusions

Optical Illusions can take a variety of forms. The one usually included among the twelve examples of illusion is the circle of fire. This can be observed when a burning object, such as a torch or an incense stick, is whirled around in the dark. The various distinct positions it occupies in quick succession seem to merge into one, and we observe a single, glowing ring.

In the Discourse of the Descent to Lankā, which the Buddha taught in Lankā (sometimes equated with what is now Sri Lanka) after visiting the palace of the king of the nagas or sea-serpents, he says to the bodhisattva Mahāmati:

Mahāmati, since the ignorant and the simple-minded, not knowing that the world that is seen is nothing other than our own mind, cling to the diversity of external objects, cling to the notions of being and non-being, oneness and otherness, bothness and not-bothness, existence and non-existence, eternity and non-eternity, as being characterized by self-nature which rises from discrimination based on habit-energy, they are addicted to false ideas. . . . Mahāmati, [the world] is like a wheel of fire which is no real wheel but which is imagined to be such by the ignorant, but not by the wise.

The wheel of fire is no real wheel because it is a combination of two distinct illusions.

It is interesting to note that the authors of the Abhidharma had quite precise ideas about the length of these fundamental moments. They specify the length of several phenomena in terms of moments: a finger snap is supposed to take sixty moments, a thought ninety moments, there are 4,500 moments in a minute, and 3,240,000 in a day. One moment therefore lasts about thirteen milliseconds. This appears to be quite a good estimate of the duration of the smallest units of subjective time, that is of the shortest duration two events have to be apart so that we can still experience them as two events. This duration depends on the sensory modality in which the event is presented to us—for example, human beings can distinguish auditory events most finely. To experience two sounds as distinct they have to be at least ten milliseconds apart, which roughly corresponds to one moment in the Abhidharma sense.

This view was severely criticized by a variety of later Buddhist authors who saw problems with treating the momentary particles as the foundational level of reality. A criticism formulated by the Madhyamaka school going back to the second-century Indian philosopher Nāgārjuna runs as follows: we think of the Abhidharma moments as produced—one moment brings about the next, which then causes the succeeding one and so forth. But causation between moments, the critics claimed, is something in the mind, not something out there in the world. For when we postulate that a present moment causes a future moment, the future moment is only something supplied by our minds or our expectations. When the present moment exists the future moment does not yet do so, so there cannot be a relation connecting the two, as this would require two existent objects that it could relate. But if the notion of a moment now turns out to involve the notion of causality at an essential point, and if the notion of causality is a conceptual construct, moments cannot escape the charge of being conceptual constructs either. And since whatever is a conceptual construct is mind-dependent to some extent, moments cannot be the rock-bottom of reality. They, like everything else, are an artifice of the mind.

Depending on whether we accept this argument, we therefore have two different ways of interpreting the statement that all phenomena are like the illusory wheel of fire. We can either see them as a fictitious superimposition on a real basis, or as an illusory phenomenon founded on something that, in turn, is just as illusory.

Jan Westerhof

Далай Лама на 85 години


Свършената поза за медитация е както следва: прав гръб, леко притворени очи, насочен надолу към основата на носа поглед, леко сведена брадичка, кръстосани крака с ходила върху срещуположното бедро, ръцете – нито прибрани към тялото, нито издадени навън, длани върху скута, обърнати нагоре, дясната върху лявата с допрени върхове на палците, затворена уста, езикът леко докосва небцето. Трудно е да останем за дълго в тази поза без продължителна практика, а ако е прекомерно мъчително, достатъчно е да седнем изправени на стол с прибрани в скута ръце. Въпреки това, положението на тялото недвусмислено отразява нагласата на ума ни, затова е важно да заемем поза, която позволява ефективно да контролираме мислите си, докато медитираме.

В началото на сесията оставяме настрани грижите, надеждите, страховете и спомените и довеждаме ума си до състояние на безпристрастност. Можем да го постигнем, като се съсредоточим върху дишането си и следваме с пълно, умиротворено състояние мисълта всяко следващо вдишване и издишване. Двайсет подобни вдишвания и издишвания би трябвало да ни позволят да установим спокойно и умиротворено състояние на ума. Ако си наложим да медитираме, преди в ума ни да се е установил покой, най-вероятно ще задълбочим обзелото ни безпокойство и напрежение.


Сега съсредоточаваме ума си върху пустотата. Нека първоначално превърнем идентичността си в обект на своята концентрация. Повтаряме си “аз съм” и анализираме аз в това изречение. Какво и къде е “аз”? Макар белегът пустота, приписван на аз, да е тъждествен с пустотата при другите феномени и макар да не е наложително първоначално да се съсредоточим върху алтруизма си като личности, казват, че е по-лесно и по-ефективно да тръгнем от себе си като обект на своята медитация върху пустотата.

И така, къде е азът? Възможно ли е това да е тялото? Умът? Прецизно анализираме начина, по който азът би могъл да е, ако реално съществуваше. След това полагаме усилие да установим, че подобен аз не може да бъде установен сред съставящите ни елементи, нито пък извън тях. Стигаме до извода, че следователно той не съществува. Осведомеността ни също прави очевидно за нас несъществуването на подобен аз. Погледнем ли се в огледалото, непосредствено ще почувстваме, че “Аз всъщност не съществувам!”.

Впоследствие пренасяме вниманието си върху нещата, на които основаваме своето предположение за аз. Опитваме се да припишем индентичност на всяко едно от тях. Вглеждаме се в тялото си сред съставящите го части – това главата ни ли е, гръдният кош, ръцете ни, краката? – и стигаме до извода, че както не можем да установим аз сред мисловните елементи, които изграждат “азовостта”, така не установяваме и тяло сред неговите физически части. Отражението на тялото ни спонтанно ще ни напомни за собствената ни същностна лишеност от субстанционалност. Аналогично, запитаме ли се за ума си, стигаме до заключението за отсъствието на действителен ум, установим сред съставящите го части. Така се убеждаваме, че азът съществува единствено като име, което налагаме върху съставящите го елементи.

Изводите от нашата аналитична медитация не са непосредствено очевидни. С практика и в течение на времето все пак, когато привикнем към това ново отношение към себе си, ще забележим промяна. Чрез задълбоченото разбиране на пустотата ще разпознаем възможността, или поне принципната възможност, да постигнем свобода от цялата верига причинно-следствени отношения, посети от изначалното невежество, вкопчено в нашата представа за азовостта.

“Проникновен ум” – Далай Лама

like an illusion, like a dream

Cognition Is Like an Illusion (Pheṇapiṇḍūpama)

Enter the Buddha: The first early Buddhist text that demands immediate examination is the Pheṇapiṇḍūpama Sutta, located in the Pāli canon within the series of texts on the five aggregates, at SN 22:95, and with a parallel in Chinese translation at SĀ 265. In this sutta, the meditator contemplates the five aggregates as follows: form as “a lump of foam” (pheṇapiṇḍa) (from which the text derives its name); sensation as “a water bubble” (bubbuḷa); perception as “a mirage” (marici); formations as “a plantain tree” (kadalikkhandha); and cognition as “a magical illusion” (māyā) respectively. The five passages for each of the aggregates are otherwise identical, and we may thus just here cite in full that for the aggregate of cognition which utilizes the “magical illusion” metaphor:

Suppose, monks, that a magician (māyākāro) or a magician’s apprentice (māyākārantevāsī) would display a magical illusion (māyaṃ) at a crossroads. A man with good sight would inspect it, ponder, and carefully investigate it, and it would appear to him to be void (rittaka), hollow (tucchaka), coreless (asāraka). For what core (sāro) could there be in a magical illusion (māyāya)? So too, monks, whatever kind of cognition there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near: a monk inspects it, ponders it, and carefully investigates it, and it would appear to him to be void (rittaka), hollow (tucchaka), coreless (asāraka). For what core (sāro) could there be in cognition?

Such contemplations lead the ardent meditating monk to develop revulsion toward the five aggregates, thus becoming freed from the passions, and finally liberated. The above—all in prose—is then rather unsystematically represented in verse, which includes the following stanza:

Etādisāyaṃ santāno,
māyāyaṃ bālalāpinī;
Vadhako esa akkhāto,
sāro ettha na vijjati.

Such is this continuum (santāno),
This illusion (māyāyaṃ), beguiler of fools.
It is taught to be a murderer;
Here no core (sāro) can be found.

The SĀ version of this text, sūtra 265, *Pheṇapiṇḍa (Jümo 聚沫), differs only slightly. Firstly, it provides specific examples of the illusions that are created, giving t he t raditional four t ypes of military forces, namely, elephants (xiangbing 象兵), cavalry (mabing 馬兵), chariots (chebing 車兵), and infantry (bubing 步兵). Though it uses the same five metaphors as SN 22:95, it uses not three but four adjectives to describe each of the aggregates, adding “nothingness” (wusuoyou 無所有; *akiṃcanya) before solid (wulao 無牢; riktaka), unreal (wushi 無實; tucchaka) and insubstantial (wuyou jiangu 無有堅固; asāraka). Also, in the final verse of the text, the SĀ adds “without self, or what pertains to self,” as a basic synonym to these terms. Other than this, the SĀ content matches that of SN.

Developments and Commentaries on Foam (Pheṇapiṇḍa)

Earlier, we discussed the notion that the aggregate of cognition is like an illusion in the early Pheṇapiṇḍūpama Sutta (SN 22:95 and SĀ 265). We shall here examine some later mainstream sūtras, which may have developed from this and related texts, and also commentaries on these.

A first partial parallel of this material is found in the later EĀ 35:9,
*Pheṇapiṇḍa (Jǜmò 聚沫). With similar prose and verse to SN 22:95 and SĀ 265, it adds: “Fully contemplate all conditionings as empty pacification (kōngjí 空寂; *śūnyaśānti).” The text’s final comments suggest that the Buddha’s own full awakening was accomplished through just such a contemplation.

Elsewhere in EĀ we see the use of “illusion” and other metaphors. For example, EĀ 26:7 gives several metaphors to describe the impermanence of the human body as like “a ball of snow” (himapiṇḍa), “a heap of dirt” (mṛttikarasi), “a mirage” (mṛgatṛṣṇa; literally “deer thirst”), “an illusion” (māyā), or “an empty fist used to fool a child” (riktamuṣṭi / *°hasta).

In Lalitavistara verse 13:98:

Complexes have no inner might, are empty in themselves;
Rather like the stem of the plantain tree, when one reflects on them,
Like an illusion (māyopama) which deludes the mind (citta),
Like an empty fist with which a child is teased.

Similarly in verse 13:107

He discerns the cessation and becoming of an act of cognition
(vijñāna), The cessation and origin of consciousness (vijñāna). The Yogin sees that it has come from nowhere, gone to nowhere, That it is empty, and like unto an illusion (māyopama).

In both these verses, the term is identical to that in the Pheṇapiṇḍa,
namely, māyopama. The underlying themes of this whole thread of verses, however, are really dependent origination and emptiness, and the relationship between the two. “Illusion” is just one of many metaphors and rhetorical devices to explain this profound teaching.

In the notes to his translation of the Pheṇapiṇḍūpama Sutta, Bodhi
provides some explanation, referring to this text as “one of the most radical discourses on the empty nature of conditioned phenomena.” While alluding to the general discourse on emptiness by stating that the imagery was later predominantly used by the Mādhyamika tradition, he warns against an “illusionist sense of the world,” interpreting the text’s intention to simply “show that our conceptions of the world, and of our existence, are largely distorted by the process of cognition.” Ontologically speaking, he argues that the illusion is still “based on real existents,” which is effectively in fact an interpretation of the Theravādin commentarial position, rather than a necessary reading of the sutta per se. This is more clearly laid out when Bodhi refers to the Pāli commentary on the SN, the Sāratthappakāsinī (Spk):

Cognition is like a magical illusion (māyā) in the sense that it is insubstantial and cannot be grasped. Cognition is even more transient and fleeting than a magical illusion. For it gives the impression that a person comes and goes, stands and sits, with the same mind, but the mind is different in each of these activities. Cognition deceives the multitude like a magical illusion (māyā).

Illusion and the illusory person

Fifth, the conditioned aggregates and also the various transmundane fruitions of the holy ones mentioned in the meditative cognition above are described metaphorically as “illusions” (māyā; huàn). Near the center of chapter 1 (§538b-c), we learn that to the bodhisattva, form and the other aggregates are illusions, and there is no difference between the bodhisattva who so contemplates and an illusory person. In the middle of chapter 2 (§540c), the range of this metaphor is extended to the realizations of the four stages of sanctity that culminate in the state of an arhat, also in that of a pratyekabuddha and a fully awakened Buddha. Nirvāṇa itself, we are here told, is also an illusion; and so too anything that may surpass even nirvāṇa. Just like the passage on the purity of mind, above, CONZE and others also considered this notion of illusion to be a core Mahāyāna teaching. He saw the idea of nirvāṇa as illusory was a “novelty”, “so startling” that it needed an apocryphal appeal to the Buddha’s authority, a “shocking departure from accepted ideas” (CONZE 1967:126-7). I have elsewhere demonstrated that the Prajñāpāramitā use of the illusion
metaphor was not at all a Mahāyāna creation, but had a long history in pre-Buddhist and early Buddhist thought (SHÌ 2016). Despite it not being entirely novale, it is still a powerful idea, and the illusion which is at once both perceived to be real yet remains elusively insubstantial has continued as a crucial metaphor for the otherwise ineffable Prajñāpāramitā.


Subhūti addressed the Buddha, saying: “O Blessed One! If I were asked: ‘If an illusory person were to train in sarvajñā, would they accomplish sarvajñā, or not?’ O Blessed One! How should I answer?”

[The Buddha replied to Subhūti:] “O Subhūti! I will ask you a counter question, answer as you see fit. What do you think: Is illusion other than form? Is form other than illusion?Is illusion other than sensation, perception, volitions, or cognition?”

Subhūti said: “Illusion is not other than form; form is not other than illusion. Illusion is that very form; form is that very illusion. Illusion is not other than sensation, perception, volitions, and cognition; cognition is not other than cognition. Illusion is that very cognition; cognition is that very illusion.”

[The Buddha replied to Subhūti:] “O Subhūti! What do you think: Are the five aggregates known as the ‘bodhisattva’, or not?”

[Subhūti said:] “So it is, O Blessed One!”

The Buddha replied to Subhūti: “[When the] bodhisattva trains in anuttarā samyak saṃbodhi, they should train just as an illusory person. For what reason? One should know that the five aggregates are the very illusory person. For what reason? It is said that ‘Form is like an illusion’; it is said that ‘Sensation, perception, volitions, and cognition are like an illusion’; cognition is the six sense faculties, which is the five aggregates.”

[Subhūti said:] “O Blessed One! If a bodhisattva of novice aspiration hears this teaching, will they not become startled, afraid, dismayed and turn away?”

The Buddha replied to Subhūti: “If a bodhisattva of novice aspiration follows a bad friend, then they will become startled, afraid, dismayed and turn away. If they have heard this teaching from following a good friend, then they will not become startled, afraid, dismayed and turn away.”

Thereupon, the gods conceived this thought: “What sort of person is able to hear in accordance with what Subhūti has taught?”

Subhūti knew the thoughts conceived in minds of the gods, and spoke to the gods, saying: “An illusory person is able to hear in accordance with what I have taught, yet they will neither hear nor realize [anything].”

The gods conceived this thought: “Is it only the hearer who is like an illusion? Or are living beings also like an illusion? Is the fruition of a srotāpanna, up to, the path of a pratyekabuddha, also like an illusion?”

Subhūti knew the thoughts conceived in the minds of the gods, and spoke to the gods saying: “I teach that living beings are like an illusion, like a dream; the fruition of a srotāpanna is also like an illusion, like a dream; the fruition of a sakṛdāgāmin, the fruition of an anāgāmin, the fruition of an arhat, and the path of a pratyekabuddha, also like an illusion, like a dream.”

The gods said: “O Subhūti! You even state that the Buddha dharmas are like an illusion, like a dream?!”

Subhūti said: “I teach that the Buddha dharmas are also like an illusion, like a dream. I teach that even nirvāṇa is also like an illusion, like a dream.”

The gods said: “O Virtuous Subhūti! You teach that even nirvāṇa is also like an illusion, like a dream?!”

Subhūti said: “O Gods! If there were any other dharma that surpassed nirvāṇa, I would that it, too, is also like an illusion, like a dream. O Gods! Illusions and dreams, and nirvāṇa, are not two, are not divided.”

Thereupon, Śāriputra, Pūrṇa the son of Maitrāyaṇī, Mahākauṣṭhila and Mahākātyāyana, asked Subhūti: “Teaching the meaning of Prajñāpāramitā in this way, who will be able to take it up?”

Then, Ānanda said: “Teaching the meaning of Prajñāpāramitā in this way, avinivartin bodhisattvas, those who possess right views, and arhats who have fulfilled their aim; [people] such as these will be able to take it up.”

Subhūti said: “Teaching the meaning of Prajñāpāramitā in this way, none will be able to take it up. For what reason? Within this dharma of Prajñāpāramitā, there is no dharma that is effable, no dharma that is showable, and by this principle, none will be able to take it up.”

Thereupon, Śakra, Lord of the Gods, the kings of the brahmās, the sovereign god kings, the lords of living beings, the gods and so forth, were all overjoyed, and exclaimed thrice in unison: “Excellent! Excellent! Due to the Buddha coming forth into the world, Subhūti is therefore able to demonstrate and teach this dharma.”

Thereupon, the assembly of gods all addressed the Buddha, saying: “O Blessed One! If bodhisattvas are able to practice without being separated from Prajñāpāramitā, one should see these people as like unto Buddhas.”

The Buddha replied to the gods: “So it is! So it is! In the distant past, [when] I was at the city of Dīpavatī, the abode of the Buddha Dīpaṃkara, I practiced without being separated from Prajñāpāramitā. At that time, the Buddha Dīpaṃkara predicted that I, in the future, after asaṃkhya kalpas, would become a Buddha, by name of ‘Śākyamuni’, a Tathāgata, Worthy of Offerings, Completely Realized One, Endowed with Wisdom and Deeds,
Well Gone, Comprehender of the World, Unexcelled Man, Skilful Charioteer, Teacher of Gods and Men, Buddha, Blessed One!”

The gods addressed the Buddha, saying: “It is amazing indeed, O Blessed One, that the Prajñāpāramitā of the bodhisattva mahāsattvas is able to include and take up sarvajñā.”

sarvajñā, sarva-jña (Sanskrit). Term literally meaning ‘awareness of all’ and denoting a form of omniscience or awareness. This awareness, whether possessed by an Arhat or a Buddha, knows all the general attributes of phenomena.

Щифт за барабан (АНИ СУТТА, СН 20.7)


САМЮТА НИКАЯ ЧАСТ II: Книга за причинността (Ниданавагга) Глава IX 20 Опаммасамютта 7

Ани сутта: Щифт за барабан

В Саватти. [Благословеният казал]: “Монаси, някога в далечното минало, Дасарахите са имали един барабан наречен Призовкар.* Когато Призовкарят се счупил, Дасарахите втикнали друг щифт. Накрая настъпило времето когато оригиналната кожа на барабана Призовкар изчезнала и останал само един набор от щифтове.

“По аналогичен начин, монаси, същото нещо ще се случи и в бъдеще. Когато тези беседи, изречени от Татаагата, които са дълбоки, дълбоки по значение, отвъдсветски, занимаващи се с празнотата – когато се рецитират, съществата няма да искат да ги слушат, няма да им надават ухо, нито ще напрегнат своят ум за да ги разберат; и те няма да считат че тези учения трябва да бъдат изучавани и овладявани. Но когато беседите които са просто поезия, сътворени от поети, красиви като думи и фрази, създадени от външни лица, говорени от [техни] последователи – когато се рецитират, съществата ще бъдат нетърпеливи да ги слушат, ще им надават ухо, и ще напрягат своят ум за да ги разберат; и те ще считат че тези учения трябва да бъдат изучавани и овладявани. По този начин, монаси, тези беседи които са изречени от Татаагата които са дълбоки, дълбоки по значение, отвъдсветски, занимаващи се с празнотата – ще изчезнат.

“Затова, монаси, вие трябва да тренирате себе си така: ‘Когато тези беседи, изречени от Татаагата, които са дълбоки, дълбоки по значение, отвъдсветски, занимаващи се с празнотата, се рецитират – ние ще бъдем нетърпеливи да ги чуем, ще надаваме ухо, и ще напрягаме своят ум за да ги разберем; и ние ще считаме че тези учения трябва да бъдат изучавани и овладявани.’ Така трябва да тренирате себе си.”

*Съгласно Коментарите, това е бил рода на Каттиите. Призовкар (анака) се е наричал техният барабан, направен от щипките на огромен рак. Неговият звук е можело да се чуе на дванадесет йоджини, и този барабан са използвали, за да събират хората от окръга за празненства.



В будизма има дума, която го обхваща изцяло. Тази дума е шунята, или празнота, празнота от същност, празнота от каквото и да било, за което бихме могли да се привържем с всички сили, мислейки го за „свое”. Проникновеното виждане (випассана), водещо до осъзнаването, че всички неща са лишени от всякаква същност, че не си заслужава да се привързваме към тях е ядрото на Дхарма. Шунята е ключът към Будистката практика. Когато стигнем до ясното осъзнаване на това, че всичко от какъвто и да е вид е лишено от същност, спокойно можем да кажем, че знаем Дхармата на Буда в цялата й пълнота. Една фраза „празен от същност”, обобщава думите „непостоянен (анича), неудовлетворителен (дукха) и лишен от същност (анатта)”.

Когато нещо непрестанно се променя, лишено е от каквито и да било постоянни или неизменни елементи, може да се каже че то е празно. Когато нещо е изпълнено със свойство съдържащо разочарование, то може да бъде охарактеризирано като празно от каквото и да било, за което да можем да се привържем трайно. Когато при анализиране ние откриваме, че то не притежава никаква стабилна съставка, включително и чувството за „аз”, тогава то се явява само като природа, променяща се и колебаеща се в зависимост от обстоятелствата, и ние нямаме право да го наричаме същност, следователно то може да бъде охарактеризирано като празно от същност.

Когато човек започне да усеща празнотата на нещата, в него възниква осъзнаване на това, че няма какво да притежава и няма какво да бъде. Това чувство на нежелание да притежаваш или да бъдеш, притежава силата да защитава човека от пропадане в робството на заблудите или каквато и да била емоционална въвлеченост. Когато човек достигне това състояние, той вече не е зависим от омрачаващите ума състояния. Той от нищо не се увлича и в нищо не участва. Него нищо не го привлича и съблазнява. Неговият ум е познал свободата, свободата от страданието.

Съсредоточаването върху ментални обекти, като пространството или празнотата например, дава много по-дълбок покой, отколкото съсредоточаването върху форма, в резултат на което човек се привързва към това състояние. Никой Архат обаче не може да се очарова от каквото и да било състояние, каквото и да било приятно чувство, независимо от това къде е възникнало то, защото Архатът автоматично осъзнава непостоянството, неудовлетворителността и безсъщността на всяко състояние или чувство. Много отшелници и мистици, практикуващи медитация в горите, не усещат скритите опасности от това блажено състояние, очароват се и се привързват към неговия аромат, така както незрелите хора се привързват към аромата на чувствените обекти. По тази причина Буда и в двата случая е използвал една и съща дума – „желание” (танха). Ако още веднъж помислите над това и действително го разберете, ще се изпълните с възхита и уважение към хората наричани Арии.

Бхикху Будадаса


Веднъж Блаженият [Буда] пребивавал в Саватхи, в горичката Джета, в обителта Ападхандика. В същото време, в областта подвластна на цар Пасенади, живеел разбойник на име Ангулимала – закоравял, безжалостен убиец. Ангулимала вярвал, че щом животът е белязан от непостоянство и неизбежно носи страдание, убивайки хората, той им прави услуга. Вярвал също, че ако отнеме живота на сто човека, ще постигне същността на Дхарма. Заради него околните села обезлюдели, а търговията и населените места в областта западнали. На врата си носил огърлица с деветдесет и девет пръста от убитите от него хора.

Една сутрин Блаженият облякъл връхната си дреха и с купа в ръка тръгнал из Саватхи за милостиня. Походил из Саватхи, събрал милостиня, похапнал и поел по път, който минавал през местата където Ангулимала извършвал своите набези. Видели го пастири на стада, орачи и друг пътници, че се е отправил по път който ще го отведе до разбойника. Те предупреждавали три пъти Блажения: „Не тръгвай, монахо, по този път. На него в засада дебне разбойник на име Ангулимала – закоравял, безжалостен убиец. Заради него околните села обезлюдяха, а търговията и населените места в областта западнаха. На врата си носи огърлица с пръсти от убитите от него хора. Ти си тръгнал сам, но по този път са минавали групи от по десет, двайсет, трийсет, четиресет човека и всички до един попадаха в ръцете на Ангулимала. Блаженият мълчал и вървял.

Отдалеч видял Ангулимала Блажения и си помислил: „Направо чудесно, наистина необичайно! По този път никой не минава сам, минавали са групи по десет, двайсет, трийсет, четиресет човека и всички до един попадаха в ръцете ми, а сега изглежда този монах се осмелява да премине без спътник. Защо да не убия този монах?“ Сложил си ризницата, взел меча, лъка, колчана със стрелите и се спуснал по петите на Блажения.

Блаженият по някакъв чудодеен начин направил така, че самия той не бързал, а разбойникът Ангулимала тичайки след него с всички сили не успявал да го настигне. Тогава Ангулимала си помислил: „Направо чудесно, наистина необичайно! Преди ми се е случвало бягащ слон, бягащ кон, бързо движеща се колесница да настигна, а сега този монах върви без да бърза, а аз тичам с всички сили и не мога да го настигна!“ Уморен Ангулимала спрял и се провикнал към Блажения: „Спри, монахо! Спри, монахо!“

– Аз съм спрял, Ангулимала, ти спри!

Ангулимала си помислил: „Тези монаси от клана Шакя, учат на правдивост и считат себе си за праведни. Как тогава този монах върви, а казва: „Аз съм спрял, Ангулимала, ти спри!“ Защо да не го попитам за това.“

– Връхната ти дреха е на клана Шакя, който се слави с праведност, тогава защо лъжеш? Виждам че вървиш, а ти казваш: „Спрял съм.“ А на мен ми казваш: „Спри ти!“, въпреки че аз съм спрял. Отговори ми, монахо, как да го разбирам това?

– Спрях, Ангулимала, веднъж и завинаги, когато престанах да вредя на всички същества. Ти обаче, в жизненото си дихание си необуздан. Ти продължаваш непрестанно, защото да спреш е трудно. Ето защо аз съм спрял, а ти още не си.

– Ще спра, когато убия още един човек.

– Затова реши да убиеш мен?

– Ти трябва да разбереш, че аз го правя, за да те освободя от страданието.

– Нима изглежда, че аз страдам? Ако сравним нас двамата, то кой страда – аз или ти?

– Но аз знам, че всички неща са непостоянни, че в същността си всичко е страдание. Нима не учиш на това? Значи и двамата страдаме!

– Смисълът на нашето учение е в това, че ние сами трябва да видим висшата истина, за да се откажем от привързаностите. Когато няма привързаности, животът е свободен от страдания.

– Не разбирам.

– Ангулимала, аз дойдох, за да ти помогна да постигнеш същността на Дхарма.

– Не ми е нужна твоята помощ! Трябва да убия само още един човек. Ако те убия, моят ум ще стане абсолютно чист. В това е същността на Дхарма! Виж сам!

Ангулимала започва да медитира.

– Ангулимала, моля, насочи вниманието си към своя ум.

– Добре. Медитирам над него още от дете. Лесно е.

– Но този път ще те помоля да го разгледаш в светлината на Дхарма. Първо, всички неща са непостоянни. Непостоянен е и твоят ум. Съзерцавай го и ще видиш, че той непрестанно се променя. Второ, в същността си всички неща са страдание. Не трябва да се привързваме към нищо. Помисли, може ли твоя ум да ти донесе истинно удовлетворение? Ангулимала, трето… всички неща нямат собствена същност. Това, което ти наблюдаваш, не е твое истинно „аз“. Ангулимала… привързването към „аз“ и „мое“ е причината за всички страдания.

Потресен от истината в думите на Буда, Ангулимала казал че отхвърля злото, свалил меча, лъка, колчана със стрелите и ги хвърлил в една пропаст. Поклонил се в краката на Блажения и го помолил да го постриже за монах. Буда със състрадание му казал: „Ела с мен, монахо.“ Така разбойникът Ангулимала станал монах.

След време, Ангулимала седнал под едно дърво да медитира и чул в ума си гласът на своя „аз“.

– Как можа да се откажеш от своята цел? Как можа да тръгнеш по друг път? Къде е обещаната ти Нирвана? Още не е твърде късно. Нужен е само още един живот. Тогава и двамата ще постигнем същността на Дхарма. Как мислиш, кой съм аз? Ти си всичко на всичко физическо тяло, а аз съм твоето истинно „аз“.

– Всички неща са такива, каквито са.

– Откакто се родих, всички се отказаха от мен. Аз преживявах всички големи страдания. Как можеш да казваш, че аз не съм твоята истинна същност?

– Всички неща са лишени от собствена същност. Невъзможно е да бъдеш отделен от мен. Погледни дъжда! Животът на човек прилича на отделен поток, вкопчен в мисълта за индивидуалност. Но всъщност всеки поток се състои от множество капки вода, произхождащи от едно и също небе. И накрая те текат в една посока. Целта на Учението на Буда е: да се осъзнае тази истина и да се въздържаме от привързване към „аз“ и „мое“. Достигайки просветление, може да се живее без страдание. Това е Нирвана. Точно сега е времето да осъзнаем, че това не е „аз“ и не е „мое“. Време е да спрем…

Magic Show

The penetration into the conditioned nature of consciousness is tantamount to a storming of the citadel of the illusory self.

The Tathāgata who had an insight into the interior mechanism of the six-fold sense-base, which is the factory for producing dogmatic views that are beaten up on the anvil of logic, takkapariyāhata, was confronted with the problem of mediation with the worldlings, who see only the exterior of the six-fold sense-base.

In order to facilitate the understanding of the gravity of this problem, we quoted the other day an extract from the Pheṇapiṇḍūpamasutta of the Khandhasaṃyutta where consciousness is compared to a magical illusion.

“Suppose, monks, a magician or a magician’s apprentice should hold a magic show at the four crossroads and a keen sighted man should see it, ponder over it and reflect on it radically. Even as he sees it, ponders over it and reflects on it radically, he would find it empty, he would find it hollow, he would find it void of essence. What essence, monks, could there be in a magic show?

Even so, monks, whatever consciousness, be it past, future or present, in oneself or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, a monk sees it, ponders over it and reflects on it radically. Even as he sees it, ponders over it and reflects on it radically, he would find it empty, he would find it hollow, he would find it void of essence. What essence, monks, could there be in consciousness?”

‘The Kinsman of the Sun’ (the Buddha) has compared corporeality to a mass of foam, feelings to a bubble, perceptions to a mirage, preparations to a plantain-tree, and consciousness to an illusion.”

Form (rūpa) is like a cluster of foam. Feelings (vedanā) are like bubbles. Perception saññā is similar to a mirage. Preparations are compared to the banana trunk. Consciousness is like an illusion. Why are these called saṁkata saṁkhāra? They are deceptive. These similes bring out their deceptive nature. At a distance a cluster of white foam appears like a stone. It reveals itself only if you look at it scrutinizingly at very close quarters. Rūpa is similar to foam but an ordinary man of the world will not be able to see through rūpa (form). Similarly, feeling is comparable to a bubble of water floating in mid-air. When it bursts (breaks) one realizes it is nothing more than a bubble. Feeling is only a mirage. You realize a mirage is an illusion only when you chase after it. You have to keep peeling to the centre of the banana trunk to realize it has no hard core. Such is the nature of saṁkhāras. Only with penetrative wisdom could one realize that viññāna is a magical illusion.

So for the Buddha, consciousness is comparable to a magic show. This is a most extraordinary exposition, not to be found in any other philosophical system, because the soul theory tries to sit pretty on consciousness when all other foundations are shattered. But then, even this citadel itself the Buddha has described in this discourse as essenceless and hollow, as a magical illusion. Let us now try to clarify for ourselves the full import of this simile of the magic show.

A certain magician is going to hold a magic show in some hall or theatre. Among those who have come to see the magic show, there is a witty person with the wisdom eye, who tells himself: ‘Today I must see the magic show inside out!’ With this determination he hides himself in a corner of the stage, unseen by others. When the magic show starts, this person begins to discover, before long, the secrets of the magician, his deceitful stock-in-trade – counterfeits, hidden strings and buttons, secret pockets and false bottoms in his magic boxes. He observes clearly all the secret gadgets that the audience is unaware of. With this vision, he comes to the conclusion that there is no magic in any of those gadgets.

Some sort of disenchantment sets in. Now he has no curiosity, amazement, fright or amusement that he used to get whenever he watched those magic shows. Instead he now settles into a mood of equanimity. Since there is nothing more for him to see in the magic show, he mildly turns his attention towards the audience. Then he sees the contrast. The entire hall is a sea of craned necks, gaping mouths and goggle-eyes with ‘Ahs’ and ‘Ohs’ and whistles of speechless amazement. At this sorry sight, he even feels remorseful that he himself was in this same plight before. So in this way he sees through the magic show – an ‘insight’ instead of a ‘sight’.

When the show ends, he steps out of the hall and tries to slink away unseen. But he runs into a friend of his, who also was one of the spectators. Now he has to listen to a vivid commentary on the magic show. His friend wants him to join in his appreciation, but he listens through with equanimity. Puzzled by this strange reserved attitude, the friend asks:

“Why, you were in the same hall all this time, weren’t you?”

“Yes, I was.”

“Then were you sleeping?”

“Oh, no.”

“You weren’t watching closely, I suppose.”

“No, no, I was watching it all right, maybe I was watching too closely.”

“You say you were watching, but you don’t seem to have seen the show.”

“No, I saw it. In fact I saw it so well that I missed the show.”

The above dialogue between the man who watched the show with discernment and the one who watched with naive credulity should give a clue to the riddle-like proclamations of the Buddha in the Kāḷakārāmasutta. The Buddha also was confronted with the same problematic situation after his enlightenment, which was an insight into the magic show of consciousness.

That man with discernment hid himself in a corner of the stage to get that insight. The Buddha also had to hide in some corner of the world stage for his enlightenment. The term paṭisallāna, “solitude”, has a nuance suggestive of a hide-away. It is in such a hide-away that the Buddha witnessed the interior of the six-fold sense-base. The reason for his equanimity towards conflicting views about truth and falsehood in the world, as evidenced by this discourse, is the very insight into the six sense-bases.

The magical illusion created by consciousness is so complete that it is capable of playing a dual role, as in double acting. Because it reflects, like a mirror, consciousness itself is grasped, just as one grasps the mirror. Not only the reflection of the mirror, but the mirror itself is grasped. The grasping group of consciousness represents such a predicament. One can form an idea about the relation between name-and-form and consciousness by going deeper into the implications of this discourse.

Various types of views and opinions current in the world regarding material forms and matter in general, are the outcome of the notion that they are absolutely real. There is a tendency in the worldling to presume that what he grasps with his hands and sees with his eyes exists absolutely. So a thing is said to exist for some length of time, before it gets destroyed. The logical conclusion, then, is that all things in the world exist absolutely and that at some point of time they get absolutely destroyed. This is how the two extreme views of absolute existence and absolute non-existence have arisen in this world. This is the outcome of a perception of form, which is tantamount to a pursuit of a mirage. It is an illusion.

The seen is dependently arisen. It comes about due to a collocation of conditions, apart from which it has no existence per se. Every instance of looking down at the water is a fresh experience and every time an image of the dog in the water and of another looking at it is created. The dog is seeing its own image. Everything is dependently arisen, phassapaccayà, says the Brahmajàla-sutta, “dependent on contact”.

Here there is something really deep. It is because of the personalityview, sakkàyadiññhi, that the world is carried away by this illusion. One goes on looking saying that one is doing so as there is something to be seen. But the seen is there because of the looking.

That is why we say ‘manomayā’. At whatever occasion one comes to understand it, the magic-show of consciousness gets exposed. It is this magician – this juggler – who creates this confusion. What we find in this magic-show is the mind and its object which is of its own making. Only when one accelerates radical attention to the utmost, one comes to understand it as it is.

Bhikkhu Kañukurunde Nanananda

Филип Ларкин

Песен призори

Работя цял ден, през нощта полупиян.
Събуждам се в четири в беззвучен мрак, взирам се.
С времето завесите ще просветлеят.
А дотогава виждам това което винаги е тук:
Неуморимата смърт, цял ден все по-близо,
Правеща всички мисли невъзможни но как
И къде и кога самият аз ще умра.
Безплодно питане: и все пак ужасът
На умирането, и да бъдеш мъртъв,
Проблясва отново обхваща и ужасява.

Умът заглъхва при отблясъците. Не от разкаяние –
За несвършеното добро, недадената любов, времето
Откъснато неизползвано – нито от отчаяние защото
Един живот продължава толкова дълго пълзиш
За да се освободиш от погрешните му начала, може би никога;
Но поради всеобхватната извечна празнота,
Сигурното изчезване към което пътуваме
И в което ще се загубим завинаги. Няма да сме тук,
Няма да сме никъде,
При това скоро; нищо по-ужасно, нищо по-достоверно.

Това е особен вид страх
Никой трик не го разсейва. Религията го използва,
Тази огромна проядена от молци театрална завеса
Създадена за да се преструваме че никога не умираме,
И привлекателната измама гласяща Нито едно разумно същество
Не се страхува от това което не чувства
, не вижда
Точно от това се страхуваме – да няма поглед, звук,
Докосване или вкус или мирис, нищо за мислене,
Нищо за обичане или за свързване,
Наркозата от която никой не излиза.

Винаги остава в крайчеца на кръгозора,
Малко нефокусирано петно, хладина
Това забавя всеки импулс до нерешителност.
Повечето неща може никога да не се случат: това непременно,
И осъзнаването му избухва
В пещ-страх когато сме хванати без
Хора или пиене. Куражът е безполезен:
Това означава да не плашим другите. И смелите
като всички – лежат в гроба.
Смъртта не различава хленчещите от устояващите.

Бавно светлината се засилва, и стаята придобива форма.
Тя стои обикновена като гардероб, като това което знаем,
Винаги сме знаели, знаем че не можем да избягаме,
Но и не можем да приемем. Едно от двете трябва да изчезне.
Междувременно телефоните присвити, се готвят да зазвънят
В затворените офиси, и целият равнодушен
Заплетен арендован свят започва да се пробужда.
Небето е бяло като глина, без слънце.
Работата трябва да се свърши.
Пощальоните като лекари ходят от къща на къща.


I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.


Затворени като изповедални, по пладне
Пронизват гръмко градовете, не връщат
Нито един от погледите които попиват.
Светло гланцово сиво, обятия на плака,
Ще дойдат да почиват при всеки бордюр:
Всички улици навреме биват посетени.

Тогава деца осеяли стъпала и пътя,
Или жени връщащи се от магазините
Покрай мириси на различни обеди, виждат
Празно бяло лице да лежи върху
Червена носилка-одеяло в моментите
В които се пренася и натоварва,

И усещат решаващата празнота
Която лежи под всичко което правим,
И за секунда я постигат изцяло,
Като трайна и безжизнена и истинска.
Залостените врати се отдалечават. Бедната душа,
Шептят те на собствената си злочестина;

Защото понесени в повехналия въздух
Може внезапно да изчезнат затворени
В орбитата на нещо което е почти в края,
И това което е свързано с него отвъд
Годините, уникалната случайна смесица
От семейства и маниери, там

Накрая започва облекчението. Далеч
От размяната на любов за измама
Недостижими в едно помещение
Трафикът се разделя за да пропусне
Приближаването на оставащото да се случи,
И отдалечаването от всичко което сме.


Closed like confessionals, they thread
Loud noons of cities, giving back
None of the glances they absorb.
Light glossy grey, arms on a plaque,
They come to rest at any kerb:
All streets in time are visited.

Then children strewn on steps or road,
Or women coming from the shops
Past smells of different dinners, see
A wild white face that overtops
Red stretcher-blankets momently
As it is carried in and stowed,

And sense the solving emptiness
That lies just under all we do,
And for a second get it whole,
So permanent and blank and true.
The fastened doors recede. Poor soul,
They whisper at their own distress;

For borne away in deadened air
May go the sudden shut of loss
Round something nearly at an end,
And what cohered in it across
The years, the unique random blend
Of families and fashions, there

At last begin to loosen. Far
From the exchange of love to lie
Unreachable inside a room
The trafic parts to let go by
Brings closer what is left to come,
And dulls to distance all we are.

превод dhammapk