The "I", actions, objects, and all phenomena are what's merely labelled by the mind. The "I" totally does not exist from its own side. It is empty. Action also totally does not exist from its own side. And the rest of the phenomena as well also totally do not exist from their own side. Everything is empty, like space.
When we think of "I" - I'm doing this, I'm doing that, I'm meditating, saying prayers, listening to the Dharma - this "I" is not appearing to one's own mind as merely labelled by the mind. It appears as something real, a real "I" from there. But it is not there. It is totally non-existent there, on this base, the association of the body and mind, or the collection of the five aggregates: form, feeling, discrimination, compound aggregates, consciousness - all of which are totally non-existent. The "I" is totally non-existent there, totally empty. It's just your own concept - it is not there. It is just your own projection or imagination. It looks like it is there but it is not there. This you can say, one hundred percent, is only in your mind. It's not there.
It is exactly the same when we think of the aggregates. Even though what they are are merely what are labelled by the mind, the aggregates do not appear to us to be merely labelled by the mind. They appear as something not merely labelled by the mind, which means they appear as something existing from their own side. The aggregates look like they are there, but they are not there. This is totally a hallucination, totally non-existent. It is just your own superstition. It is not there. It is just in your mind. It looks like it is there, it appears like it is there, but it is not there. It is totally empty, and non-existent there.
It is exactly the same when we look at this building, the lights, the ceiling, the walls, all the statues, the offerings, the flowers, the people here, the books, this microphone here. All these things come from our mind, are merely labelled by our mind, but when it appears back to our mind, it doesn't appear as merely labelled. It doesn't even appear, to our hallucinatory mind, that it comes from the mind. It purely comes from the mind, but when it appears back to the mind, it doesn't even appear that way. Leave aside appearing merely labelled by the mind, it doesn't even appear to have come from the mind.
So you can see the big hallucination, huge gross hallucination, in our perception and view of things. Just by looking right here - the people, ceiling, walls, statues, offerings, lights, and so on. There are all these things there, like something not merely labelled by mind. Like something real appearing from there or something existing from its own side.
So when we do not analyze, when we do not meditate, when we are not aware of the nature of phenomena, all this, starting from the "I" and the aggregates, looks like they are there, but they are not there. All these which look like they are there are totally hallucination. All these objects are to be refuted. All these, in the way we have realized them, are false phenomena - false "I", false aggregates, false light, false wall, false ceiling, false statue ... Not even the slightest atom of these exists. The slightest atom does not exist there, it exists nowhere.
It is like the following situation. Because of disease or drugs that affect the mind, or even by having yellow glass in front of your eyes, you see the snow mountain, which is white, as being yellow. Something affects the mind and makes you see the white snow mountain as yellow. There is the appearance of yellow, but it is not there. It is just your hallucinatory mind. It looks it is there but it is not there. It is exactly like the example I gave yesterday: the snake and then the rope appearing not merely labelled by the mind.
All these things that we see right here now - the people, building, lights, offerings, statues - all these appearing not merely labelled by the mind. They are like the yellow colour appearance in the example. You believe it is there, but the yellow colour is caused by the yellow glass, the drugs, the bile disease, or the hallucinatory mind. It is like that. So all these that you see right here now is not there. They look like they are there but they are not there. So you can say that all these are in the mind. This you can definitely say is in your mind. Just in your mind. Just superstition, one hundred per cent superstition. Because they do not exist. All these do not exist.
We can use the term "superstition" to give an idea of ignorance. Even though the superstitious mind, which is ignorant, believe and apprehend phenomena in that way, it is something that is not true - which is normally what we mean by superstition. It is exactly the same here. Therefore, in reality, all these phenomena - statues, ceiling, walls, lights, offerings - all these things are empty. Everything is empty, including subject "you", subject "I" - all are empty. Empty like space.
But all this doesn't mean they don't exist. They exist in mere name. While being empty of existing from their own side, they exist in mere name. Even the mind exists in mere name. Mind which is labelled exists in mere name. The base also exists in mere name. So everything, the subject, the mind, the base which you label, exist in mere name. So the whole of phenomena, whatever exists, exists in mere name. Everything exists in mere name, being merely labelled by the mind. Because of that, everything is empty of existing from their own side.
As an example, what is labelled "A" cannot be found on the design of the letter "A". The label "A" cannot be found on the drawing of "A" - you cannot find "A" on this line, you cannot find "A" on that line. Even all together, on this, you cannot find the "A". You have merely labelled "A", you cannot find "A" there. "A" which is labelled by your mind cannot be found there.
As another example, this part of the table here is only part of the table - so it is not table. And this top part, this top is also part of the table, so it is not table. So any piece is only part of the table, and because it is only part of the table, it is not table. Even all the parts together, that's not table, because that is the base.
The mind first sees that base, all the parts of the table put together, and only then labels "table." This occurs in steps: first the mind sees all the parts of the table put together (which is like the cause, the reason), and then after that, that same mind makes up the label "table." So first comes the base, and then after that, secondly, the label "table." First you see the base, and only after that, you see the label "table". You do not see them together. There is no way of seeing them together. First the mind sees the base, which then becomes the reason for the same mind to choose the particular specific label "table". Only after the mind has imputed the label "table," then you see table. Believing the label "table," there is then the appearance of table, and one sees table. Only then, one sees that this is table.
So seeing table has to come after your mind has labelled "table." Therefore it is clear that the base is not table. The base is the object to be labelled table. The base and the label are different phenomena. The base, parts of the table put together, and the label "table" - these two are different phenomena. They are not separate but they are different phenomena. So even the merely labelled table, what exists, is what is merely labelled by the mind. But even this merely labelled table, even this, does not exist on the base - the parts of the table that is put together. Even the merely labelled table, you cannot find - it does not exist.
So even the table, what exists, is merely labelled by the mind. But even that, you cannot find on this base of the table, the parts of the table put together. So now, how can we find the inherently existent table? No way. The table appearing to us not merely labelled by the mind, or the table appearing as a real table from there, this table existing from its own side - there is no way we can find this on the base of the table, the pieces or parts of the table put together. There is no way of finding this. Already the table that exists cannot be found on this base. How then are we going to find the table which doesn't exist - the "inherently existent" table - on this base?
In our view, it may appear that there is table on this base, the parts of the table that are put together. If, in your perception, there is a table on this base to be labelled, if you see that there is table on that which is the parts of the table put together, that itself is the object to be refuted. That itself is the false table, the table which doesn't exist.
The inherently existing table, or table existing from its own side - this and your seeing table on the base of the table is the same, exactly the same. When we do not understand well, we may say that the inherently existent table is not there, but there is table on this base. We might think that - there should be table on this base. Also it is possible that you may make the mistake that the mind is labelling table on the base.
Rinpoche (asking student): So, anyway, is there table on the base, or not? Does the table exist on the base or not?
Student (Mr Sin): It exists as a dependent arising on the base.
Rinpoche: So there is a table on the base, right? So you can find table on the base.
Student: Table arises in dependence on the base and your own perception. That is what is seen.
Rinpoche: By which mind? By wisdom or by ignorance?
Student: By ignorance. By ignorance, it is seen as an independent arising.
Rinpoche: OK, that's good. So, in the reality, is there table on the base of the table or not?
Student: Ultimately, there is no table. The table itself is a phenomena that arises because of the base, so it doesn't exist independently.
Rinpoche: Yes, that is correct, it doesn't exist independently. So there is table on the base or there is no table on the base?
Student: To say yes is not quite true, but to say no is also not quite true.
Rinpoche: I've never heard that special answer. (general laughter) That's a very special answer.
Student: What I say has to be elaborated - why you say yes there is and why you say no there isn't. No there isn't if you think there is an independent existence, but yes there is if it is a dependent arising.
Rinpoche: So does the dependent table exist on the base of the table or not?
Student: By definition, it does.
Rinpoche: So the dependent table exists on the base of the table. So you can find the dependent table on the base of the table. There is a dependent table on the base of the table, yes?
Student: Yes ...
Rinpoche (laughing): So you show me now. You show me where it is. (general laughter) Show me the dependent table on this base. Where is it?
Student: Inside the table it cannot be found, but it is something which is perceived as being there.
Rinpoche: Really? So is that false or is that true?
Student: Maybe, let me ask you ... (general laughter)
Rinpoche: Does it exist or not? Make it simple. Does it exist or not?
Student: Let's say you ask someone: "Does a mirage exist or not?" From the senses it exist, but when you look at it carefully it does not exist. So the table is just like a mirage. You see it, it seems to exist, you can say that it exists, but it is just a phenomenon. But when you want to look at it directly, actually it doesn't exist. So similarly the dependent table that one sees is like a mirage.
Rinpoche: So you say, according to perception, it exists there. Is that what you are saying?
Student: It is basically identical to a mirage. If you say a mirage exists, it is because you see it. You see it as existing, but a mirage doesn't really exist.
Rinpoche: Mirage doesn't exist?
Student: It doesn't exist, yes, but you can still see it.
Rinpoche: Mirage doesn't exist? Dream doesn't exist? So hallucination doesn't exist.
Student: We're talking about two different things. One is talking about experience. I'm talking about whether ultimately it exists or not.
Rinpoche (laughing): No, first we finish this one. You say mirage doesn't exist. So does hallucination exist?
Student: Hallucination of something ... that something doesn't exist, but you still have an experience.
Rinpoche: So hallucination does exist.
Student: Only through experience, but the things that you hallucinate about don't exist.
Rinpoche: Yes, when you are having a hallucination, that object doesn't exist. That I fully agree with you. There's no question, no doubt. But does hallucination exist or not?
Student: That itself is also a dependent arising.
Rinpoche: So it exists ... because of dependent arising.
Student: Dependently on various causes and conditions.
Rinpoche: Yes, so it exists ...
Student: Only on that basis.
Rinpoche (laughing): So it exists or not? (general laughter)
Student: When you say it exists, you must also say why it exists When you say just a yes or no answer, it doesn't give a clear picture of why yes or no.
Rinpoche (laughing): No, first I want to know yes or no, then comes the why. (general laughter) Then you can explain. If I ask why, then you can explain. But this is not what I am expecting first. What I am expecting is yes or no.
Student: OK, then I say no.
Rinpoche: So nobody has hallucination? Hallucination doesn't exist. So no sentient being has hallucination.
Student: Because there are no sentient beings anyway.
Rinpoche (laughing): So there's no sentient beings, no suffering ... there's no Four Noble Truths. Then it comes to a point where nothing exists.
Student: That's not what I am trying to say. Sentient beings don't exist other than as a conventional point of view, not on an ultimate point of view.
Rinpoche: Ultimate point of view - that means emptiness. Is that what you are saying?
Rinpoche: That's not my question. (general laughter)
Student: Then I gave the wrong answer to the wrong question.
Rinpoche: When somebody ask you: "Do you have a nose?" Then you say: "Oh, ultimately no nose." (general laughter) Or somebody ask you: "Are you hungry?" "Oh, ultimately no." (more laughter)
Rinpoche (after a pause): Anyway, does your nose exist or not?
Student: Which answer would you like? (uproarious general laughter)
Rinpoche (laughing): I like simple answer: yes or no.
(to be continued)
(Teaching on emptiness by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, given on 24 March 1997, at Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Singapore)
To top of page Back To : [Main Menu] * [Dharma Online]
[Feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org]
Amitabha Buddhist Centre
Back To : [Main Menu] * [Dharma Online]