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Sutra 1, Chapter 4 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Perfect Knowledge, or Knowledge of Reality


THEN MAHAMATI ASKED the Blessed one: Pray tell us, Blessed One, about the five Dharmas, so that we may

fully understand Perfect Knowledge?

The Blessed One replied: The five Dharmas are: appearance, name, discrimination, right-knowledge and

Reality. By appearance is meant that which reveals itself to the senses and to the discriminating-mind and is

perceived as form, sound, odour, taste, and touch. Out of these appearances ideas are formed, such as clay,

water, jar, etc., by which one says: this is such and such a thing and is no other,--this is name. When

appearances are contrasted and names compared, as when we say: this is an elephant, this is a horse, a cart,

a pedestrian, a man, a woman, or, this is mind and what belongs to it,--the things thus named are said to be

discriminated. As these discriminations come to be seen as mutually conditioning, as empty of self-substance,

as un-born, and thus come to be seen as they truly are, that is, as manifestations of the mind itself,--this

is right-knowledge. By it the wise cease to regard appearances and names as realities.

When appearances and names are put away and all discrimination ceases, that which remains is the true and

essential nature of things and, as nothing can be predicated as to the nature of essence, it is called the

"Suchness" of Reality. This universal, undifferentiated,


inscrutable, "Suchness" is the only Reality but it is variously characterised as Truth, Mind-essence,

Transcendental Intelligence, Noble Wisdom, etc. This Dharma of the imagelessness of the Essence-nature of

Ultimate Reality is the Dharma which has been proclaimed by all the Buddhas, and when all things are

understood in full agreement with it, one is in possession of Perfect Knowledge, and is on his way to the

attainment of the Transcendental Intelligence of the Tathagatas.

THEN MAHAMATI SAID to the Blessed One: Are the three self-natures, of things, ideas, and Reality, to be

considered as included in the Five Dharmas, or as having their own characteristics complete in


The Blessed One replied: The three self-natures, the eightfold mind-system, and the twofold egolessness

are all included in the Five Dharmas. The self-natures of things, of ideas, and of the sixfold mind-system,

correspond with the Dharmas of appearance, name and discrimination; the self-nature of Universal Mind and

Reality corresponds to the Dharmas of right-knowledge and "Suchness."

By becoming attached to what is seen of the mind itself, there is an activity awakened which is

perpetuated by habit-energy that becomes manifest in the mind-system. From the activities of the mind-system

there rises the notion of an ego-soul and its belongings; the discriminations, attachments, and notion of an



rising simultaneously like the sun and its rays of light.

By the egolessness of things is meant that the elements that make up the aggregates of personality and its

objective world being characterised by the nature of maya and destitute of anything that can be called

ego-substance, are therefore un-born and have no self-nature. How can things be said to have an ego-soul? By

the egolessness of persons is meant that in the aggregates that make up personality there is no

ego-substance, nor anything that is like ego-substance nor that belongs to it. The mind-system, which is the

most characteristic mark of personality, originated in ignorance, discrimination, desire and deed; and its

activities are perpetuated by perceiving, grasping and becoming attached to objects as if they were real. The

memory of these discriminations, desires, attachments and deeds is stored in Universal Mind since

beginningless time, and is still being accumulated where it conditions the appearance of personality and its

environment and brings about constant change and destruction from moment to moment. The manifestations are

like a river, a seed, a lamp, a cloud, the wind; Universal mind in its voraciousness to store up everything,

is like a monkey never at rest, like a fly ever in search of food and without partiality, like a fire that is

never satisfied, like a water-lifting machine that goes on rolling. Universal mind as defiled by habit-energy

is like a magician that causes phantom things and people to appear and move about. A thorough understanding

of these things is necessary to an understanding of the egolessness of persons.


There are four kinds of Knowledge: Appearance-knowledge, relative-knowledge, perfect-knowledge, and

Transcendental Intelligence. Appearance-knowledge belongs to the ignorant and simple-minded who are addicted

to the notion of being and non-being, and who are frightened at the thought of being unborn. It is produced

by the concordance of the triple combination and attaches itself to the multiplicities of objects; it is

characterised by attainability and accumulation; it is subject to birth and destruction. Appearance-knowledge

belongs to word-mongers who revel in discriminations, assertions and negations.

Relative-knowledge belongs to the mind-world of the philosophers. It rises from the mind's ability to

consider the relations which appearances bear to each other and to the mind considering them, it rises from

the mind's ability to arrange, combine and analyse these relations by its powers of discursive logic and

imagination, by reason of which it is able to peer into the meaning and significance of things.

Perfect-knowledge belongs to the world of the Bodhisattvas who recognise that all things are but

manifestations of mind; who clearly understand the emptiness, the un-bornness, the egolessness of all things;

and who have entered into an understanding of the Five Dharmas, the twofold egolessness, and into the truth

of imagelessness. Perfect-knowledge differentiates the Bodhisattva stages, and is

the pathway and the entrance into the exalted state of self-realisation of Noble Wisdom.

Perfect-knowledge (jnana) belongs to the Bodhisattvas who are entirely free from the dualisms of



and non-being, no-birth and no-annihilation, all assertions and negations, and who, by reason of

self-realisation, have gained an insight into the truths of egolessness and imagelessness. They no longer

discriminate the world as subject to causation: they regard the causation that rules the world as something

like the fabled city of the Gandharvas. To them the world is like a vision and a dream, it is like the birth

and death of a barren-woman's child; to them there is nothing evolving and nothing disappearing.

The wise who cherish Perfect-knowledge, may be divided into three classes: disciples, masters and Arhats.

Common disciples are separated from masters as common disciples continue to cherish the notion of

individuality and generality; masters rise from common disciples when, forsaking the error of individuality

and generality, they still cling to the notion of an ego-soul by reason of which they go off by themselves

into retirement and solitude. Arhats rise when the error of all discrimination is realised. Error being

discriminated by the wise turns into Truth by virtue of the "turning-about" that takes place within the

deepest consciousness. Mind, thus emancipated, enters into perfect self-realisation of Noble Wisdom.

But, Mahamati, if you assert that there is such a thing as Noble Wisdom, it no longer holds good,

because anything of which something is asserted thereby partakes of the nature of being and is thus

characterised with the quality of birth. The very assertion: "All things are un-born" destroys the

truthfulness of it. The same is true of the statements: "All things are empty," and "All things have no



are untenable when put in the form of assertions. But when it is pointed out that all things are like a

dream and a vision, it means that in one way things are perceived, and in another way they are not perceived;

that is, in ignorance they are perceived but in Perfect-knowledge they are not perceived. All assertions and

negations being thought-constructions are un-born. Even the assertion that Universal Mind and Noble Wisdom

are Ultimate Reality, is thought construction and, therefore, is un-born. As "things" there is no Universal

Mind, there is no Noble Wisdom, there is no Ultimate Reality. The insight of the wise who move about in the

realm of imagelessness and its solitude is pure. That is, for the wise all "things" are wiped away and even

the state of imagelessness ceases to exist.

Sutra1 Chapter1 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Discrimination
Sutra1 Chapter2 - The Lankavatara Sutra - False-Imagination and Knowledge of Appearances
Sutra1 Chapter3 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Right Knowledge or Knowledge of Relations
Sutra1 Chapter4 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Perfect Knowledge, or Knowledge of Reality
Sutra1 Chapter5 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Mind System
Sutra1 Chapter6 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Transcendental Intelligence
Sutra1 Chapter7 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Self-Realisation
Sutra1 Chapter8 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Attainment of Self- Realisation
Sutra1 Chapter9 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Fruit of Self- Realisation
Sutra1 Chapter10 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Discipleship: Lineage of the Arhats
Sutra1 Chapter11 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Bodhisattvahood and Its Stages
Sutra1 Chapter12 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Tathagatahood Which Is Noble Wisdom
Sutra1 Chapter13 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Nirvana
Sutra2 Chapter1 - The Diamond Sutra - The Diamond Scripture
Sutra3 Chapter1 - Sutra of Transcendental Wisdom - Sutra of Transcendental Wisdom
Sutra4 Chapter1 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Autobiography of Hui-Neng
Sutra4 Chapter2 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on Prajna
Sutra4 Chapter3 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on Dhyana and Samadhi
Sutra4 Chapter4 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on Repentance
Sutra4 Chapter5 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on the Three-Bodies of Buddha
Sutra4 Chapter6 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Dialogues Suggested by Various Temperaments and Circumstances
Sutra4 Chapter7 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Sudden Enlightenment and Gradual Attainment
Sutra4 Chapter8 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Royal Patronage
Sutra4 Chapter9 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Final Words and Death of the Patriarch

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