Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “How does the consciousness take on the form of a god or a hell-dweller?”
The Buddha replied to Great Medicine, “The consciousness has subtle vision regarding the element of dharmas. This subtle vision does not depend on the physical eye in order to see. When this subtle vision encounters a blissful realm and sees pleasures and merry-making in celestial palaces, the consciousness becomes delighted and attached to them, thinking, ‘I shall go there. ‘This thought of defiled attachment is the cause of existence [in samsara]. Seeing the dead body forsaken in a cemetery, the consciousness thinks, ‘This corpse is my good friend. Because it has hoarded good karmas, I am now rewarded with rebirth in heaven.’ “
The consciousness has subtle vision: this has to do with the Levels of Mind in Buddhism—not to be confused with levels of consciousness (mind, sense, store and manas). At the root there are basically three levels. [Of course, within Unborn Mind Zen one soon discerns numerous levels —such as the bodhimind]
Gross: sense [body-oriented functions) awarenesses such as eye awareness and ear awareness, and all strong delusions such as anger, jealousy, attachment, and strong self-grasping ignorance.
Subtle: only partially tied to sensate functionality. It essentially serves as a conduit of information from the five senses leading to more transcendent states of consciousness. When we sleep the subtle-mind takes precedence. Still maintaining some sense of you “I” and “you”.
Very Subtle: The very subtle mind is the “clear light of mind.” It has nothing to do with body functions or the body consciousness—it has no “I” or “duality”. However, it remains inactive during our lives, its latent potential becomes activated at death. When the functions of the gross mind stop because the body’s functions have stopped, at the last stage of physical death, the clear light of mind then activates. The very subtle mind cannot be affected by external factors. It carries information from the past to the present and from the present to the future. The karmic information is hence carried by the very subtle mind to the next incarnation.
The above is an example of the Subtle mind. Although a profound inner-vision, it still maintains a linkage with gross elements and is thus inadequate for final transformation and thus separation from samsaric elements. It is still in some sense connected with the corpse through gratitude.
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, since the consciousness still has an attraction to the corpse, why does it not return to the corpse?”
The Buddha asked in turn, “Great Medicine, can hair and beard, though black, lustrous, and fragrant, be inserted into the body to grow there again after being cut and discarded?”
Great Medicine answered the Buddha, “No, World-Honored One. The hair and beard which have been cut and discarded cannot be inserted into the body to grow there again. “
The Buddha said, “Similarly, Great Medicine, the consciousness cannot return to the castoff corpse to undergo karmic results.”
New karmic alliances are forged in transmigrations that are no longer bound to the former cast-off corpse.
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, consciousness is indeed subtle and abstruse. It has no substance to be grasped and no form to be recognized. How can it maintain the body of a big sentient being like an elephant?
How can it get into a strong body as hard as a diamond; how can it maintain the body of a strong man who even can tame nine elephants?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, take the wind for instance. It is devoid of form or substance, . . . yet it may become fierce enough to blow Mount Sumeru to dust-motes. Great Medicine, what is the form and shape of the wind, which can even destroy Mount Sumeru?”
Great Medicine said to the Buddha, “The wind is subtle and without form or substance.”
The Buddha said, “Great Medicine, the wind is [indeed] subtle and without form or substance. The consciousness is also subtle and without form or substance, yet it can maintain any body, whether big or small. It can take on the body of a mosquito, and it can also take on the body of an elephant. As an illustration, consider a lamp with a subtle flame. When put in a room, the lamp can dispel all the darkness of the room, whether the room is large or small. Similarly, the consciousness can maintain a big or a small body according to its karmas. “
The very subtle mind is not bound to material measurements. It can implant new karmic formations in whatever subsequent form the seeds alight-upon. Thus, consciousness is unhindered by size—it fits all without exception; it links together a myriad of dimensions.
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what are the characteristics of karmas? What causes and conditions enable them to manifest themselves?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, it is because of his [good] karmas that [a sentient being] is reborn in heaven, enjoying delicious food, peace, and happiness. Suppose two thirsty persons walk in the wilderness; one finds cool, sweet water, but the other finds nothing and has to suffer from thirst and fatigue. No one gives the former cool water or hinders the latter from obtaining it. They acquire their fruits, blissful or painful, according to their karmas . . . .
“As an illustration, consider a seed which is sown in the soil; afterwards, fruits appear at the top of the tree. However, the seed does not go from branch to
branch and finally reach the top of the tree. The seed is not found even if the trunk is dissected. No one puts it into any branch. When the tree grows up and the roots become firm, the seed cannot be found. Similarly, all good and evil karmas rely on the body, but no karma is found when the body is examined. Because of the seed, there are flowers, but within the seed no flower is found; because of flowers, there are fruits, but within the flowers no fruit is found . . . . Similarly, because of the body, there are karmas, and because of karmas, there is the body, but no karmas are found within the body and no body is found within the karmas.
“Fruits do not appear until flowers fall down at maturity. Similarly, the fruit of karma does not ripen until the body dies at life’s end. Just as the seed is the cause of the flower and fruit, so the body is the cause of karmas, good and evil.
“Karmas have no form and give no sign of ripening. As an illustration, consider a person’s shadow, which is insubstantial, unimpeded, ungraspable, and unattached to the person. It advances, stops, goes, and comes as the person does, yet it is not seen to come out of the body. In the same way, where there is the body, there are karmas, yet karmas are not found within the body or apart from it.
Karmas are fluid, not static. Although conditioned in the body during a particular earthly and samsaric sojourn, when the new transmigration occurs it flows ever onward to the awaiting new soil that will be shaped according to new conditions, but never forever bound by them.
“A dose of good medicine, whether it tastes acrid, astringent, or bitter, can cure a sick person’s disease and give him comfort and a good complexion. When people see that person, they immediately know that he has taken fine medicine. The flavor of the medicine can be tasted, but its therapeutic function cannot be seen. Though invisible and ungraspable, [the medicine’s potency] can bring a good complexion to the person who takes it. Similarly, though without form or substance, karmas can influence a person. Under the influence of good karmas, a person has abundant, splendid food and drink, clothing, and other internal and external necessities. He has shapely limbs and handsome features. He has sumptuous houses and a hoard of wish-fulfilling pearls, gold, silver, and other treasures.
He is peaceful, happy, well-amused, and satisfied. It should be known that all these are the manifestations of good karmas. To be reborn in a lowly, distant, poor region, to lack the necessities of life, to envy others’ happiness, to have coarse food or no food, to be shabby and ugly in appearance, to stay in inferior places all these, you should know, are the manifestations of evil karmas.
“A clear mirror reflects the beauty or ugliness of a face, but the image of the face in the mirror is insubstantial and ungraspable. Similarly, under the influence of good or evil karmas, the consciousness is born in a plane of humans, gods, hell-dwellers, animals, or others. Great Medicine, you should know that karmas stay with the consciousness when it leaves one body for another.” . . .
Good and evil karmas are the determinates for what will transpire in one of the awaiting six realms of impermanence.
Great Medicine asked. “World-Honored One, how can this soft, subtle consciousness penetrate a hard form?”
The Buddha answered, “Great Medicine, water is extremely soft, yet torrents and cataracts can pierce mountain rocks. What do you think? How soft is water and how hard is a rock?”
Great Medicine said, “World-Honored One, a rock may be as hard as a diamond, while water is soft and pleasant to the touch.”
[The Buddha said,] “Great Medicine, the same is true with the consciousness. It is extremely soft and subtle, but it can penetrate into a hard, big body in which to undergo karmic results. ” . . .
Once again, consciousness is supple, forever being shaped and re-shaped on the field of awaiting conditions.
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, how can the formless consciousness give birth to a form by virtue of causes and conditions? . . . “
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, two pieces of wood rubbed together can produce fire by friction. The fire cannot be found within the wood. However,
without the wood, there would be no fire. The fire arises from the combination of causes and conditions; without sufficient causes and conditions, no fire is produced. No one can find the form of the fire within the wood, but the fire which comes from the wood is visible to all.
“In the same way, Great Medicine, the consciousness gives birth to the corporeal body through the union of the parents. However, the consciousness cannot be found either within the corporeal body or apart from it.
“Great Medicine, before the fire is built, no attributes of fire appear, such as warmth and so on. Similarly, Great Medicine, without the body, there would be no appearance of the consciousnesses, feelings , conceptions, or impulses.
“Great Medicine, the sun shines brightly, but ordinary people are unable to know whether the substance of the sun is black, white, yellow, or red, because they have not seen it. However, from the functions of the sun, such as it’s giving forth light and warmth and it’s rising and setting, they know that the sun exists. Similarly, from the functions of the consciousness, it is known that there is a consciousness. “
Great Medicine asked the Buddha, “What are the functions of the consciousness?”
The Buddha replied, “Great Medicine, feeling, awareness, conception, impulse, thought, grief, sorrow, and distress-all these are functions of the consciousness. The good and evil karmas, which have become seeds sown in the consciousness by pervading it repeatedly, also reveal the consciousness by their functions. ” …
When the Buddhas had explained this sutra, all those in the assembly, including Elder Wise Protector, Prince Great Medicine, the monks, Bodhisattva Mahasattvas, gods, asuras, gandharvas, and so forth, were jubilant over the Buddha’s teaching and began to practice it with veneration.
The sutra ends as it began, that in itself consciousness has no form, but through its functions it manifests all manner of diverse dharmatas.