The Inquiry of Lokadhara
Chapter Ten: The Conditioned and the Unconditioned
Degé Kangyur, vol. 60 (mdo sde, ma), folios 7.b–78.b
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
First published 2020
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In The Inquiry of Lokadhara, the bodhisattva Lokadhara asks the Buddha to explain the proper way for bodhisattvas to discern the characteristics of phenomena and employ that knowledge to attain awakening. In reply, the Buddha teaches at length how to understand the lack of inherent existence of phenomena. As part of the teaching, the Buddha explains in detail the nonexistence of the aggregates, the elements, the sense sources, dependently originated phenomena, the four applications of mindfulness, the five powers, the eightfold path of the noble ones, and mundane and transcendent phenomena, as well as conditioned and unconditioned phenomena.
The sūtra was translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the guidance of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. The translation from the Tibetan was produced by Timothy Hinkle. Andreas Doctor checked the translation against the Tibetan, edited the text, and wrote the introduction. James Gentry subsequently compared the translation against Kumārajīva’s Chinese translation and made further edits.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
Chapter Ten: The Conditioned and the Unconditioned
“Lokadhara, how are bodhisattva great beings highly skilled regarding conditioned and unconditioned phenomena? What means do they obtain regarding conditioned and unconditioned phenomena? Lokadhara, bodhisattva great beings discern and contemplate conditioned and unconditioned phenomena. [F.69.a]
“How do they discern and contemplate conditioned phenomena? Conditioned phenomena are compounded and without experiencer. Conditioned phenomena are called conditioned phenomena because they are considered to be naturally arising and naturally categorized. Conditioned phenomena come about due to formations created by false causes and conditions. Why are conditioned phenomena naturally categorized?73 When formations are perceived through the condition of duality, they are labeled as conditioned phenomena. Conditioned phenomena are uncreated and free from a creator. Since they are naturally arising, they cannot be generated. Thus, they are called conditioned phenomena. Conditioned phenomena do not exist internally, externally, or somewhere in-between; they are not one or many. They arise from false imputation. They are nonexistent, since they have arisen through ignorance. Though they can be perceived due to formations, they are uncreated and nonarising. Therefore, they are called conditioned. Conditioned means being bound by marks, and the conditioned is taught for the sake of childish ordinary beings who are attached to mistaken perceptions. The wise, full of understanding and knowledge, do not observe them as conditioned phenomena or something understood to be conditioned phenomena. They are called conditioned phenomena because the wise do not categorize them. Why is this? How do the wise know and understand the features of the conditioned? The wise view all conditioned phenomena as being false, insubstantial, and without bondage. They see that they cannot be categorized. When they contemplate this, they are not attached to conditioned phenomena, and they do not appropriate conditioned phenomena. Why is this? Lokadhara, it is not the case that unconditioned phenomena exist separate from conditioned phenomena, or that conditioned phenomena exist separate from unconditioned phenomena, [F.69.b] for the characteristic of the thatness of the conditioned is the unconditioned. Why is this? There is nothing conditioned within the conditioned, and nothing unconditioned within the unconditioned. Still, so that mistaken beings can see and understand the characteristics of the conditioned, bodhisattvas teach and explain, saying, ‘This is conditioned,’ ‘This is unconditioned,’ ‘This is the characteristic of the conditioned,’ and ‘This is the characteristic of the unconditioned.’
“What are the characteristics of the conditioned? They are arising, ceasing, and remaining and transitioning. What are the characteristics of the unconditioned? They are not arising, not ceasing, and not remaining or transitioning. It is in order to guide childish ordinary beings that the characteristics of the conditioned and the characteristics of the unconditioned are taught.
“Lokadhara, conditioned phenomena have the characteristic of not arising, the characteristic of not ceasing, and the characteristic of not remaining or transitioning. Even though conditioned phenomena are said to remain and transition, they are unborn and free of marks. If there truly were unconditioned phenomena that had the three characteristics,74 the Blessed One would say, ‘These are the characteristics of arising, these are the characteristics of ceasing, and these are the characteristics of remaining and transitioning.’ However, when it was appropriate to speak definitively, Lokadhara, the Thus-Gone One has said, ‘All phenomena are free of marks.’ Lokadhara, if not arising had marks, if not ceasing had marks, and if not remaining or transitioning had marks, the Blessed One would say that the unconditioned truly has marks. However, Lokadhara, if the unconditioned had marks, it would not be unconditioned. It is when one teaches in terms of marks, or when one teaches childish ordinary beings for whom phenomena must be categorized, [F.70.a] that the conditioned is said to have three characteristics: arising, ceasing, and remaining and transitioning; and the unconditioned is said to have three characteristics: not arising, not ceasing, and not remaining or transitioning. Lokadhara, when someone knows and understands conditioned and unconditioned phenomena, for that person there is no arising, ceasing, or remaining and transitioning. Therefore, this is said to be the attainment of the unconditioned.
“Lokadhara, arising and ceasing are seen and understood to mean the occurring of origination. If phenomena have no origination, they do not occur. If origination does not arise, it does not reverse course, and there is also no remaining or transitioning. Lokadhara, this is accurately seeing and understanding the thatness of the conditioned. One who accurately sees and understands this will not fall into the categories of arising, ceasing, and remaining and transitioning. Regarding conditioned and unconditioned phenomena, bodhisattvas think, ‘I do not consider conditioned phenomena to be joined together with unconditioned phenomena, or unconditioned phenomena to be joined together with conditioned phenomena.’ They also think, ‘The true characteristic of conditioned phenomena is the unconditioned itself.’ In this way they go beyond thinking. Not conceptualizing in terms of conditioned and unconditioned phenomena is itself unconditioned phenomenon. If one conceptualizes the conditioned and unconditioned, one cannot understand and know the unconditioned. If one eliminates all conceptuality, one understands and knows the unconditioned to be thatness. They understand the characteristic of observation, they eliminate all forms of observation, and they do not conceptualize in terms of categories or absence of categories. Lokadhara, these are bodhisattva great beings’ means with regard to conditioned and unconditioned phenomena. [F.70.b] By not observing either conditioned or unconditioned phenomena, they are free from attachment and grasping.”
This was the tenth chapter: “The Conditioned and the Unconditioned.”
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