Thirty-one: Nothing is Real, Nothing to get hung about
“O Subhuti, if anyone were to say that belief in an ego-self, belief in a being, belief in life, belief in personality had been taught by the Tathagata, would they be speaking truly?”
Subhuti said: “No indeed, Blessed One. Indeed not, O Sugata! They would not be speaking truly. And why? Because, Blessed One, what was taught by the Tathagata as a belief in an ego-self, that was taught by the Tathagata as no−belief; therefore it is called belief in an ego-self.”
The Buddha answered: ‘Thus then, O Subhuti, are all things to be perceived, to be looked upon, and to be believed by one who has entered on the path of the Bodhisattvas. And in this wise are they to be perceived, to be looked upon, and to be believed, that anyone should believe neither in the idea of a thing nor in the idea of a no−thing. And why? Because, by saying: The idea of a thing, the idea of a thing indeed, it has been taught by the Tathagata as no−idea of a thing.”
Conventional reality is not real. The same goes for “ideas” and ideations that make-up this make-believe world. Thus, this section of the sutra returns to its basic prelude of the Sugata wandering with an empty-bowl with an empty hand in an empty world. Hui-neng writes:
“The Tathagata speaks this sutra so that all beings will themselves realize the wisdom of prajna and themselves cultivate the fruit of enlightenment. Foolish people don’t understand the Buddha’s meaning and think the Tathagata is talking about the view of a self or a soul unaware that the Tathagata is teaching the profound, formless, conditionless paramita of prajna. When the Tathagata talks about the view of a self, or a soul, it isn’t the same as the views that foolish people have of a self or a soul. The Tathagata says that all beings have the Buddha nature. This is the view of a true self. And he says that all beings possess the wisdom uncontaminated by passion and a nature that is already complete. This is the view of a soul. He says that all beings are themselves already free of affliction. This is the view of a being. And he says that the nature all beings possess is neither created nor destroyed. This is the view of a life.” (Red Pine, Diamond Sutra, pg. 421)
The Lankavatara Sutra teaches that the idea (perception) of ideations is the direct cause of ignorance; e.g., in order to win the prize of nirvana one needs to first shatter any conceptions about nirvana; hence the no-idea of nirvana is the best imageless ideation of all. Stripped-naked of all nominally diseased attributes the illness of avidya ceases. At the same time, what is left standing is nothing conceivable or perceivable.