That which is not dependent upon anything whatsoever

In the Shurangama Sutra, the Buddha goes through 4 pairs of opposites of visual phenomena, the duality of phenomena:

  1. Day vs darkness at night outdoors
  2. Seeing through vs obstructed vision,
  3. Seeing objects vs seeing space
  4. Clouded vs clear vision

and shows how each of these 4 pairs of vision is dependent upon something.

THEN, the Buddha shows you the nature which is not dependent upon anything:

“Listen attentively. I will now show you what does not depend on anything.

“This great lecture hall, Ānanda, opens to the east.

  • Thus when the sun rises, the hall is flooded with light.
  • But the hall is in darkness in the middle of the night if the moon has not risen or if the sky is obscured by clouds or fog.


  • Further, one can see out through cracks in the doors and shutters,
  • but the walls and roof block the view.


  • Where the various objects are distinguished , we can perceive how they are related to one another,
  • but where there are no objects, space is all that one sees.


  • Where mists or clouds of dust are present, objects are obscured or distorted.
  • Once the mist has dispersed or once the dust has settled so that the air is pure again, one can again see everything clearly.

“Ānanda, you have all observed how aspects of these phenomena will change. Now I will show you how the presence of each of them depends on a condition necessary to it. What are the conditions necessary to these changing phenomena, Ānanda?

What are Light and Darkness Outside Dependent upon?

  1. Sunlight is dependent upon having the sun:  The sun is a necessary condition for sunlight, since there can be no sunlight without the sun. Therefore the sunlight is dependent upon the sun, which is a necessary condition for its presence.
  2. Darkness at night outside is dependent upon no moon:  The moon’s absence is a necessary condition for the darkness in the hall.

What are seeing through things and having your seeing blocked dependent upon?

  1. Seeing through things with your eyes is dependent upon lack of physical obstructions:  Cracks in the doors and shutters are necessary conditions for your being able to see out.
  2. Blockage of seeing is dependent upon physical obstruction:  The walls and roof are necessary conditions for the view being blocked.

What are seeing objects vs seeing space dependent upon?

  1. Distinguishing the various objects is a necessary condition for observing how they are related to one another.
  2. The absence of objects is a necessary condition for seeing only space.

What are cloudy vision vs clear vision dependent upon?

  1. Mists and clouds of dust are necessary conditions for obscuring or distorting our visual awareness of objects.
  2. Dispersal of the mist and the settling of the dust are necessary conditions for seeing clearly again.

And every act of seeing the changing phenomena of this world belongs to one of these types. “Consider these eight types. What would you say is the necessary condition for the presence of the understanding nature that is the ESSENCE of your visual awareness?

  • If the presence of light is a necessary condition for your visual awareness, then when light is absent so that it is completely dark, you would not be able to see the darkness which in fact you do see. 20

Your mind makes distinctions about light and darkness and the other phenomena, but the essence of your visual awareness does not make these distinctions.

Clearly then, the mind that experiences these conditioned phenomena is not what is fundamentally you. But what is not these conditioned phenomena must be what is fundamentally you. If it is not you, what else could it be?


A New Translation Buddhist Text Translation Society. The Śūraṅgama Sūtra With Excerpts from the Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsüan Hua (Kindle Locations 1562-1580).

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