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Chapter 9: Emptiness

The Extensive Sūtra of Golden Light: The 29 Chapter Version


Then, too, after the Transcendent and Accomplished Conqueror had taught that Dhārani, for the benefit and happiness of those assembled retinues of bodhisattva mahāsattavas, gods, humans and so on, in order to demonstrate the characteristics of emptiness, the ultimate truth, at that time he spoke the following verses:

In inconceivably many other sūtras,
I have thoroughly and extensively explained empty phenomena,
And so, in this most excellent of sublime sūtras,
I will describe empty phenomena only in brief.

Sentient beings of small intellect, intensely ignorant,
Cannot understand all things,
And so, in this most excellent of sublime sūtras,
I will describe empty phenomena only in brief.

So that all sentient beings can know with certainty,
So that they may be released,
Through the power of compassion, methods, means, and other causes,
I have expounded this most excellent of sublime sūtras. 

This body is like an empty village or house,
And the sense faculties are like armies and thieves:
Although they all live in the same village,
They are totally unaware of each other.

The eye sense faculty chases after forms,
The ear sense faculty hankers after sounds,
The nose sense faculty is captivated by various smells,
The tongue sense faculty constantly runs after tastes,
The body sense faculty hunts tactile sensations,
And the mental sense faculty intensely analyzes phenomena: 
Each of these six faculties
Are fully absorbed in their respective objects.

As for the mind, it is as unsteady as a magical illusion,
Its six senses totally engrossed in their objects;
It is like a man running through an empty town
Dwelling there amongst soldiers and thieves.

Dwelling among the six sense objects like a bird,
Thoroughly familiar with the sense organs’ spheres of activity too,
Thus the mind dwells, involved in objects,
And intimately implicated in the experiential dimension of the senses, as well.

Forms, sounds, and likewise smells,
Tastes, tactile sensations and phenomena that are objects of experience,
The mind, with all six sense faculties,
Engages with the senses, flitting like a bird, 
And, in whichever sense it abides in,
Lends that sense its knowing nature.

The body is without motion and without action,
Has no core essence, and arises from conditions.
Unreal, it arises from concepts,
Abiding like a work machine for an empty city.

Earth, fire, water, and air,
Dwell in separate towns, in this direction and that direction.
Like poisonous snakes living together in the same abode, for example,
They are always out of harmony with each other.

Furthermore, two of these elemental snakes move upwards,
And two move down;
Moving by twos into the directions and sub-directions,
All these elemental snakes disappear.

The earth snake and the water snake:
Those two exhaust below.
The fire snake and wind snake:
Those two drift off into space above.

In just this way, due to actions performed in the past,
The ever-present mind and consciousness
Are born into existence among gods, humans, and in the three negative transmigrations
Due to similarly created karma.

When phlegm, wind and bile have been exhausted,
The body is filled with urine and foul vomit.
Utterly unpleasant, it becomes a heap of worms,
Discarded like wood at the burial grounds.

You, O Goddess, look upon these phenomena.
Given this, what are sentient beings, persons?
All these phenomena are empty,
And arise from the continuum of ignorance.

These great elements are not great elements.
Originating from the non-originated, they are not originated.
Why is this so? The originated is non-originated.
Therefore, I call them “the great elements”.

Not coming into being, and never existent,
They arise from the conditions of ignorance.
This ignorance itself does not come into being.
Therefore, I call it “this ignorance”.

Volitional factors, consciousness, and name together with form,
The six sense fields, contact and feelings,
Craving, grasping, and likewise existence,
Birth, aging, and death, sorrows and harm:
The suffering of samsara is inconceivable.

All you who dwell in this way on the wheel of samsara,
Fully analyze with your minds what has originated from the non-originated and what is not originated,
As well as all that is not correct,
Cut through the view of self,
Tear down the net of mental afflictions with the sword of genuine wisdom,
And see the abode of the aggregates as empty:
Realize the great ocean of enlightenment’s qualities.

I have opened wide the gate to the city of immortality elixir,
I have extensively revealed the vessel of deathless nectar’s essence, too;
I have entered into the abode of the city of immortality elixir,
I have been satisfied by deathless nectar's vital juice.

I have beaten the sublime great drum of Dharma,
I have blown the supreme Dharma conch,
I have lit the supreme lamp,
I have caused the sublime rain of Dharma to fall.

I have conquered the enemy host of afflictive mental states,
I have hoisted the sublime victory banner of the Dharma,
I have freed sentient beings from the ocean of conditioned existence,
I have blocked the roads to the three negative transmigrations.

When sentient beings are scorched by the fires of mental affliction,
Without help or supportive forces,
I sooth those living beings burnt by the fire of disturbing mental states,
And, cooling them with the nectar of deathlessness, I satisfy them.

Why? For many eons past,  
I made offerings to an inconceivable number of Guides.
As I fervently sought the Dharmakaya,
With firm resolve, for the sake of enlightenment I practiced,
Giving my hands, eyes, and legs,
The supreme appendage of the head, beloved sons and daughters,
Wealth, jewels, gems, pearls, ornaments and gold,
Lapis lazuli, and all kinds of precious stones.   

If you were to cut down all the woods in the three thousand-fold world-system,  
All the grasses and shrubs,
Forests and all that grows from the ground,
And grind all of them down to a powder,
Reducing them to extremely fine particles,
And pile up a mound of powder
Reaching up to the vault of the skies, 
It could be divided into three parts.

If everything that all sentient beings know about
The particles existing on earth  
And the inconceivable realms of particles  
In the three thousand-fold great world systems
Were to be put into one sentient being,
With that knowledge, he might count
The particles of that powder,
And be most superior over all sentient beings.

Although it is possible that someone strongly endowed with wisdom
Might be able to count everything,
They could not fathom the knowledge of the Victorious One.  

What is the exalted wisdom of the Great Sage?
Even in many billions of eons,
Just a single moment of its operation
Cannot be quantified.

FROM THE SOVEREIGN KING OF SŪTRAS, THE SUBLIME GOLDEN LIGHT, THIS WAS THE NINTH CHAPTER: EMPTINESS.

Translated by the Sugatagarbha Translation Group.