At that time again Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva made a request of the Blessed One. Tell me, Blessed One, how all things are empty, unborn, non-dual, and have no self-nature, so that I and other Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas might be awakened in the teaching of emptiness, no-birth, non-duality, and the absence of self-nature, and, quitting the discrimination of being and non-being, quickly realise the highest enlightenment.
Then the Blessed One said this to Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva: Now, Mahamati, listen well and reflect well upon what I tell you.
Replied Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, I will indeed, Blessed One. (74) The Blessed One said: Emptiness, emptiness, indeed! Mahamati, it is a term whose self-nature is false imagination. Because of one's attachment to false imagination, Mahamati, we have to talk of emptiness, no-birth, non-duality, and absence of self-nature. In short, then, Mahamati, there are seven kinds of emptiness: (1) The emptiness of individual marks (lakshana), (2) the emptiness of self-nature (bhavasvabhava), (3) the emptiness of no-work (apracarita), (4) the emptiness of work (pracarita), (5) the emptiness of all things in the sense that they are unpredicable (nirabhilapya), (6) the emptiness in its highest sense of ultimate reality realisable only by noble wisdom, and (7) the emptiness of mutuality (itaretara) which is the seventh.
Mahamati, what then is the emptiness of individual marks? It is that all things have no [such distinguishing] marks of individuality and generality. In consideration of mutuality and accumulation, [things are thought to be realities], but when they are further investigated and analysed, Mahamati, they are non-existent, and not predicable with individuality and generality; and because thus no such ideas as self, other, or both, hold good, Mahamati, the individual marks no longer obtain. So it is said that all things are empty as to their self-marks.
Again, Mahamati, what is meant by the emptiness of self-nature? Mahamati, it is that all things in their self-nature are unborn, hence the emptiness of self-nature, and it is therefore said that things are empty in their self-nature.
Again, Mahamati, what is meant by the emptiness of no-work? It is that the Skandhas are Nirvana itself and there is no work doing in them from the beginning. Therefore, one speaks of the emptiness of no-work.
(75) Again, Mahamati, what is meant by the emptiness of work? It is that the Skandhas are devoid of an ego and its belongings, and go on functioning when there is a mutual conjunction of cause and action. Thus one speaks of the emptiness of work.
Again, Mahamati, what is meant by the emptiness of all things in the sense that they are unpredicable? It is that the nature of the false imagination is not expressible, hence the emptiness of all things in the sense of their unpredicability. Thus one speaks of the emptiness of unpredicability.
Again, Mahamati, what is meant by the emptiness in its highest sense of ultimate reality realisable by noble wisdom? It is that in the attainment of an inner realisation by means of noble wisdom there is no trace of habit-energy generated by all the erroneous conceptions [of beginningless past]. Thus one speaks of the highest emptiness of ultimate reality realisable by noble wisdom.
Again, Mahamati, what is meant by the emptiness of mutual [non-existence]? It is this: when a thing is missing here, one speaks of its being empty there. For instance, Mahamati, in the lecture-hall of the Mrigarama there are no elephants, no bulls, no sheep, but as to the Bhikshus I can say that the hall is not devoid of them; it is empty only as far as they [i. e. the animals] are concerned. Further, Mahamati, it is not that the lecture-hall is devoid of its own characteristics, nor that the Bhikshu is devoid of this Bhikshuhood, nor that in some other places, too, elephants, bulls, and sheep are not to be found. Mahamati, here one sees all things in their aspect of individuality and generality, but from the point of view of mutuality (itaretara) some things do not exist somewhere. Thus one speaks of the emptiness of mutual [non-existence].
These, Mahamati, are the seven kinds of emptiness of which mutuality ranks the lowest of all and is to be put away by you.
(76) Again, Mahamati, not that things are not born, but that they are not born of themselves, except when seen in the state of Samadhi—this is what is meant by "all things are unborn." To have no self-nature is, according to the deeper sense, to be unborn, Mahamati. That all things are devoid of self-nature means that there is a constant and uninterrupted becoming, a momentary change from one state of existence to another; seeing this, Mahamati, all things are destitute of self-nature. So one speaks of all things having no self-nature.
Again, Mahamati, what is meant by non-duality? It means that light and shade, long and short, black and white, are relative terms, Mahamati, and not independent of each other; as Nirvana and Samsara are, all things are not-two. There is no Nirvana except where is Samsara; there is no Samsara except where is Nirvana; for the condition of existence is not of mutually-exclusive character.1 Therefore, it is said that all things are non-dual as are Nirvana and Samsara. For this reason, Mahamati, you should discipline yourself in [the realisation of] emptiness, no-birth, non-duality, and no-self-nature.
1 Read after T'ang.
Then at that time the Blessed One recited this couplet of verses:
137. I always preach emptiness which is beyond eternalism and nihilism; Samsara is like a dream and a vision, and karma vanishes not.
138. Space, Nirvana, and the two forms of cessation— thus (77) the ignorant discriminate the things which are not effect-producing, but the wise stand above being and non-being.
At that time again, the Blessed One said this to Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva; This [teaching of] emptiness, no-birth, non-duality, and no-self-nature is found in all the sutras of all the Buddhas, and this doctrine is recognised in every one of them. However. Mahamati, the sutras are the teaching in conformity with the dispositions of all beings and deviate from the [real] sense, and not the truth-preserving statement. Mahamati, it is like unto the mirage which entices the deer with its treacherous springs, the springs are not there but the deer are attached, imagining them to be real. So with the teachings disclosed in all the sutras, they are for all beings for the gratification of their own discriminating minds. They are not the truth-preserving statements meant for noble wisdom to grasp. For this reason, Mahamati, be in conformity with the sense and be not engrossed in the word-teaching.