400 verses | Āryadeva | 13

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400 Verses on the Middle Path
by Āryadeva c. 3rd century

Part 13 | of 16

The Meditations for Refuting
(Truly Existent) Cognitive Sensors
and Cognitive Objects

(1) You do not see absolutely everything about a vase
(all its sensory qualities and parts) at the time when you see (its) form.

Who would state
(because) the vase (is perceived by) bare (visual) cognition
as a reason (to prove) its (truly existent) reality?

(2) By this very (same) analysis, those with superior intelligence

should refute fragrant odours, sweet (tastes), and smooth (tactile sensations as being truly existent and establishing the true existence of physical objects by the bare sensory cognition of them) – all (of them), each one.

(3) Suppose that all (qualities of an object) were to become seen by (the visual cognition that) sees its form:

Then, by (the fact that such visual cognition) does not (actually) see (that object’s odour – even if you would accept that) it sees its form – how could it not become the case that it does not see (the form either?

This would absurdly follow because just as if it sees one quality, it should see all of them; likewise if it does not see one, it should not see any).

(4) It cannot be the case that you have bare (sensory) cognition only simply with respect to forms (as truly existent whole “things”).

Why? Because these (forms) have a far portion, a near portion, and a middle (one, and so are only imputations on their parts).

(5) And when you analyse whether the (constituent) particles (of a form) have parts or not, these indeed become included (in the category of that which has parts and therefore they too lack truly established existence).

Because of that, it’s unreasonable for composite (forms made up) by composing (particles lacking true existence) to be established (as truly existent whole objects of bare sensory cognition).

(6) Everything indeed becomes a section (of something greater) and then again (itself) becomes something having sections. Because of that, even spoken syllables are (merely conventions) in this (world and) are not (truly) existent.

(7) If the (truly existent) shape (of a vase) were different from (its truly existent) colour, then how could (the visual cognition of the colour) cognitively take the shape (as its object)?

On the other hand, if they were not different, (but the same on the basis of true existence), then why, with your body (in the dark, does your visual cognition of the shape) not also cognitively take the colour (as its object too)?

(8) (Suppose you say that forms truly exist, because their 4 causal elements – earth, water, fire and air – truly exist.) Well then, except for a (resultant) form being visible, these causes of the form do not appear.

If (a form and its causal elements) were (truly existent) like that (and truly different, a form could not arise dependently on its causal elements; they would be unrelated.

And if, on the other hand, they were identical,) why don't both in fact become cognitively taken by the visual cognition itself?

(9) Earth can be seen as firm and it can also be cognitively taken (as an object of tactile cognition) by the body.

Therefore, (if the element of earth had truly established existence), you would need to say that earth could only be (an object of) touch (and not of sight and, moreover, could not be the cause of visible forms).

(10) If it arose (from its causes) as something that was perceptible, there’d be no (need) for a vase (to have) any qualities (such as having an inherent relation with some category, such as the universal “perceptibility,” in order for it to be seen, as you Vaiśeṣikas would claim. This is because it would already be perceptible).

Therefore, if it were the case that it arose (as perceptible only from having such a truly existent relation with the universal) “perceptibility,” (then it itself would be non-perceptible and therefore) could not exist as an existent phenomenon (because it couldn’t be known).

(11) (The cognitive sensors of) the eye (do not truly exist and cognize form, because if they did, such cognition of a form) would arise (from something unrelated to it, and thus it could) likewise (arise from the cognitive sensors of) the ear.

But what’s seen by the (cognitive sensors of) the eye is not (cognized) by any other (cognitive sensors.

As this is difficult to comprehend), the ripening of karma (is even more difficult and) was therefore said by the Able Sage (Buddha) to be beyond imagination.

(12) Because the conditions are not complete, a (visual) cognition cannot exist before the (act of the eye sensors) looking (at a form).

But, however, if (a visual cognition truly existed) after (the act of looking), the cognition would be pointless (because the looking would have already ceased).

As for the third (alternative, namely the looking and the cognition occurring simultaneously, if this were so, then) the function (of the looking to cause the cognition) would become pointless.

(13) If those (truly existent) eye (sensors) were to possess the motion (of traveling to their object in order to perceive it, then) that which is distant would be seen after a longer time

(and that which is close would be seen sooner, in which case the eye sensors see things differently and therefore cannot be truly existent.

But, if the eye sensors did truly exist, then) why are forms that are extremely near and those at a great distance not (equally) clear (since both should be cognized the same)?

(14) If after (noticing) a form, the eye (sensors) travel (out to perceive it), there would be no advantage in their having travelled out, (since they would already have seen it).

Or, (if they travel to see an object they haven’t yet seen and are unaware of, then) to say, “(I’m) definitely (going to look at this object that I) wish to perceive” would be a lie (because your eye sensors would always travel blind and never could find the desired object).

(15) If the (truly existent) eye (sensors) cognitively took (truly existent) forms without (need to) travel (out to see them, then) they would have to see all such things.

Any (eye sensors) that do not (need to travel to see) cannot have (any difference in their perception of objects whether) far (or near) or even (whether) obscured (or not).

(16) If the (truly existent) nature of all functional phenomena first appeared (established) in themselves, (for instance, in the cognitive sensors, then) for what reason would the eye (sensors) not take (as its object) the eye (sensors) themselves?

(This would absurdly follow because, being truly existent as the perceiving agent, there should be nothing excluded from its range of vision, including itself.)

(17) The eye (sensors, being physical matter), cannot have (visual) consciousness (of an object); while (visual) consciousness, in fact, cannot have (the function of) looking (at an object, which is the function of the eye sensors.

Therefore,) as (neither of) the 2 (if truly existent) can have a form (as its focal condition, because it could not rely on anything in order to see,

then) how can a form be seen by (the collection of) these (3 conditions – truly existent eye sensors, visual consciousness and forms)?

(18) (Further,) if (the ear consciousness perceiving a voice) travels (out to hear) the sound (once it’s already been) spoken, then for what (reason) would (that consciousness) not have been the speaker (that uttered the sound, since it was already aware it was spoken)?

On the other hand, if it in fact travelled (out to hear) the sound when it had not yet been spoken, for what (reason) would it have arisen as an (ear) consciousness (aimed at) this (sound as its object)?

(19) If, upon meeting (the ear sensors), a sound is cognitively taken, then by what is the first (moment) of the sound cognitively taken (as an object before it meets the ear)?

And as sound does not come alone (to the ear sensors, but, as you Vaiśeṣikas assert, comes as a quality truly conjoined with the 9 kinds of basic things),

how could it be cognitively taken (selectively) by itself (without the ear sensors also cognizing the other sense qualities also conjoined, like the smell)?

(20) So long as a sound is not heard, it cannot be a sound for that interval.

If what was indeed not a sound (when it was not heard) were to become a sound in the end (when it was heard), this would be unreasonable, (because then a smell as well, as not a sound, could also become a sound).

(21) Even if the mind devoid of any cognitive sensors were to travel (to objects), how could it function (to cognitively take them, since without eyes and so forth it would be like a blind man)?

(Because of faults) like this, why wouldn’t (truly existent) minds and living (selves) be forever without cognition?

(22) The mental (factor) that cognitively takes (the uncommon characteristic mark of) any object seen already, such as (water even) in a mirage (of water) – that’s called, within the scheme of all phenomena, the aggregate factor of distinguishing.

(23) (Such a) mental (factor), having relied on eye (sensors) and a form, comes to arise (even) while being (part of) an illusion.

But if something (such as this factor of distinguishing) existed with (true) existence, it’d be unreasonable (for it) to be called (part of) an illusion.

(24) When there’s nothing on earth that becomes no longer peculiar to learned ones (after they’ve analysed it with logic),

then how can there be anything amazing about something like (accurate, decisive) apprehension (of a non-truly existent sensory object by a non-truly existent) sensory (cognition)?

(25) A circle of fire from a whirling firebrand, an emanation, a dream, an illusion, a moon in the water, a haze, an echo within (a cave or ravine), a mirage, and a cloud are (thus all examples) similar to what (conventionally) exists.