[Section 2: Questions]
[2.27] Question: What passages in the sacred teachings [endorse the dust contemplation]?
[2.28] Answer: In the first fascicle of the Lankavatara Sutra it says: “What you analyze into motes of dust you will no longer falsely imagine as a truly existing material [3.1] form.” And the Diamond Sutra says: “Pulverize the entire universe into motes of dust.” And the sixth fascicle of the [3.2] Treatise on the Mahayana Compendium (*Abhidharma-samuccayavyakhya] says that contemplating atoms is the contemplation of non-self. “Atom” is another word for mote of dust. [3.3] Further, bodhisattva Asanga wrote a commentary to the Diamond Sutra [which in explaining the Diamond Sutra passage cited above speaks of] two expedient teachings with respect to material forms. [3.4] First, “[reducing the world to] particles.” “Particle” is another word for mote of dust. Second, “non-seeing”.
Dust itself is an aspect of phenomenal existence, reduced to its lowest quotient. Hence all of these scriptural passages relay discriminatory aspects that lead successively one to another.
[3.5] Question: According to our newly translated Buddhist teachings [by Xuanzang], prior to reaching the first bodhisattva stage one tames the two kinds of grasping, to self and to dharmas; but they are cut off definitively [3.6] only upon reaching the first bodhisattva stage. On what textual basis do you claim that one can [by means of the contemplation of dust] eliminate the view of self even before this?
[3.7] Answer: [As I have already said], none other than the sixth fascicle of your Treatise on the [Mahayana] Compendium says that the contemplation of atoms is the contemplation of [3.8] non-self. Further, the passages on “taming” from the Vimalakirti Sutra say that one dispels [the idea of] self by contemplating the four material elements. Thus that scripture says: [3.9] “The four elements have no owner, and the body too is without a self.” And further the Diamond [3.10] Sutra says: “There is neither self nor person,” and so forth. And, further, the Summary [of the Mahayana] says that prior to the first bodhisattva stage one realizes [3.11] the non-self of persons.
Translator note: This may refer to She da sheng lun shi, T no. 1595, 31:215c 19-22, where the commentary states that prior to the first bodhisattva stage, one gradually eliminates the “obstructions that are the defilements” (huozhang Skt. klesavarana), which is explained to mean that one realizes non-self internally, while after the first stage, one gradually eliminates the “obstructions to cognition” (zhizhang ; Skt.jneyavarana), meaning that one realizes the non-self of dharmas externally.
Question: What benefit is there in seeing all objects as dust, [3.14] in thinking “This is dust” at all times, when walking, standing, sitting, or lying down?
[3.15] Answer: Fascicle fifty-four of the Yogacarabhumi says: “There are five outstanding benefits to contemplating the atoms [of which all things are composed].”[3.16] And the Lankavatara Sutra says: “What you analyze into motes of dust, you will no longer falsely imagine as a truly existing material form.” When your mind is no longer beset by material forms falsely conceptualized as really existing, [3.17] your future karmic retribution in the three bad realms of rebirth will be destroyed.
Reducing all formal dharmatas to their lowest substrata (e.g., motes of dust) quietens the carnal mind and its dependence upon the material world and its inevitable outcomes. All concrescence is in reality phantasmagorical impressions compounded together to form karmic residues in the alaya-receptacle. Once this mess is untangled via the route to Self-Realization, any future [as well as past] seed formations are forever disbanded.
Question: In what text is this stated?
[3.18] Answer: The Summary [of the Mahayana] says: “If one understands the truth and knows that all dust is suffering, then even when the pure, world-transcending mind [3.19] has not yet arisen, the defilements that overcome the mind will be countered and eliminated. [3.20] bodhisattva stages. [In other words,] because of seeing [things as] dust one will no longer grasp material forms as truly existing. The Summary [of the Mahayana} refers to this by saying that the “karmic impressions based on hearing [the Buddhist teachings]” [3.21] become [the means for] the four kinds of countering and removing [of defilements], by which are extinguished one’s future karmic retribution in the three bad realms of rebirth.
A reinforcement of the prior verse.
Those with many doubts about [3.22] this dust contemplation sometimes ask beginners about it and, unable to get their doubts resolved, become even more arrogant and [3.23] lacking in faith. [I have for this reason recorded the above questions and answers.] But I cannot record here [answers to] all the possible objections.