The Heart of Prajna Paramita Sutra

Feeling, Cognition, Formation, and Conciousness


Feeling, cognition, formation, and consciousness are like emptiness and form.
Again he calls, “Shariputra, pay attention, listen!”
“All dharmas are empty of characteristics,” lacking a nature of their own.
“Not produced, not destroyed,”they silently pervade;
“Not defiled, not pure,” they are separate from corrupting filth;
“They neither increase nor diminish” – enlighten the dark and mysterious middle.
In the pure and deep ultimate silence, all creation is transcended:
A sudden awakening to the original perfect fusion of self and dharmas.


The three kinds of form – complementary, visible form; complementary, invisible form; and non-complementary, invisible form – were explained above. Encompassed by those three general classifications is the further distinction of eleven kinds of form dharma. They are the five perceptual faculties[3] – the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body – and in addition, the six objects of perception – sights, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas. The five perceptual faculties pair themselves with the six perceptual objects. Taken together they comprise the eleven kinds of form-dharma, which are found within the three more general classifications of form.

To review, all the defiling phenomena in front of your eyes, all that has visible appearance, is complementary, visible form. The four kinds of form-dharma which are complementary and invisible are sounds, smells, tastes, and objects of touch. The “perceptual objects of the mind” – that is, dharmas – are also part of the formdharma and are classified as non-complementary, invisible form.

When you try to look at this kind of form, you see nothing and have no awareness of its presence, yet you know about it in your thoughts. In what sense can a perceptual object of the mind be called a form-dharma? The five perceptual objects which appear before you leave behind shadows in your mind. The shadow, or perceptual objects of the mind – the mind-defilers – are also form, a kind of form which is inside mind-consciousness.

Form itself is emptiness, and feeling, thinking, action, and consciousness are also empty. They are the same as form, which is an object of perception. Where does the form which is an object of perception come from? The pairing of the six forms which are objects of perception with the six perceptual faculties produces the six consciousnesses, in which there arises discrimination of the form.

The specific nature of each of the six perceptual faculties (i.e. the consciousness associated with each) – seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and knowing – is empty. Since the nature is empty and the form is manifest from the nature, form is also empty. In other words, in form there is emptiness. You do not have to leave form to find emptiness.

Now I shall talk about form and the seeing-nature. Which of the two would you say exists first? If form exists first, then how can it manifest when there is no seeing? If you say that seeing exists first, then where does the seeing-nature go when there is no form? So, if there is no form, the seeing-nature has no function.

Therefore, both the seeing-nature and form are fundamentally empty. You should not give rise to a one-sided nature given to attachment and become attached to the idea that existence itself is existence and emptiness itself is emptiness. The original non-duality of emptiness and existence is true emptiness and wonderful existence giving birth to wonderful functioning.

Some people who do not understand the Buddhadharma see emptiness and think that it is certainly empty; they see existence and think that it is certainly existent. Not understanding the principle of the non-duality of emptiness and existence, they seek outside themselves, they look for another head to put on top of the head they already have, and they get caught up in false thinking. When the Buddha spoke the Heart Sutra, he proclaimed the wonderful Dharma, the principle of the non-duality of emptiness and existence.

Feeling, cognition, formation, and consciousness are like emptiness and form. / Again he calls, “Shariputra, pay attention, Explanation of the Meaning of 70 the Text listen!” / “All dharmas are empty of characteristics,” lacking a nature of their own. The five skandhas – form, feeling, cognition, formation, and consciousness – are a general categorization of all dharmas, which can be further divided into the 100 dharmas: eleven form-dharmas (rupa), eight mind-dharmas (citta), fifty-one dharmas belonging to the mind (caitasika), twenty-four noninteracting dharmas (citta viprayukta), and six unconditioned dharmas (asamskrta).

The eleven form-dharmas, which were discussed above, refer to the pairing of the five perceptual faculties with the six perceptual objects. The eight mind-dharmas are these:

1) the eye-consciousness;
2) the ear-consciousness;
3) the nose-consciousness;
4) the tongue-consciousness;
5) the body-consciousness;
6) the mind-consciousness;
7) the defiling mind-consciousness (manas);and
8) the storehouse-consciousness (alaya).

[3] Chinese gen, literarily “roots.

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