Quotes from the Diamond Sutra, Chapter 9
"should be non-abiding and bringing forth the mind"
Excerpts from The Self and Selflessness
Venerable Xiao Pingshi
In the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha taught, “All forms are illusory.” All illusory dharmas denote selflessness, which requires not having a true and imperishable nature. Thus, the five aggregates, twelve sense fields, and eighteen elements do not have a true and imperishable self. In fact, the existence of a mind with a thoughtless pristine awareness is contingent upon the aggregates, sense fields, and elements. Therefore, it naturally is also conditioned dharma with a characteristic. Thus, such a mind is, of course, illusory dharma.
Let us ask, “Does the mental consciousness, which perceives and knows, belong to the five aggregates and eighteen elements?” Yes, it does! Thus, it is certainly a conditioned dharma! The mind with a thoughtless pristine awareness is also a conditioned dharma because it has the functions of seeing, hearing, perceiving, and knowing. This mind is thus the mental consciousness. Because the mental consciousness’s functions (seeing, hearing, feeling, and knowing) have the six sense objects as their objects, the mental consciousness definitely is a dharma with a characteristic [appearance]: the perceptive characteristic. Thus, mental consciousness is a conditioned dharma with its own characteristic and, thus, is a condition-based dharma generated by the causes and conditions. It is not a true and solid dharma.
For these reasons, the Prajna Sutras ubiquitously state that the aggregates, sense fields, and elements are selfless. However, the sutras do not preach the notion of nihilistic “emptiness of all phenomena.” The Prajna Sutras, on the one hand, broadly state that the five aggregates, twelve sense fields, eighteen elements, and all conditioned dharmas with signs are illusory. They are dependent arising and lack intrinsic nature and a true or imperishable self. On the other hand, however, the sutras ubiquitously expound on the True Mind, employing the ultimate truth to explicitly teach the True Self: that which has a selfless nature.
Can our mental consciousness, the thoughtless pristine awareness, be brought forth as the non-abiding mind? It cannot! Why? This is because whenever the mind with thoughtless pristine awareness arises, it must abide somewhere unless the perceptive mind ceases to exist. As soon as the perceptive mind appears, it will definitely correspond to the six sense objects.
As illustrated earlier, the mind taught in the Diamond Sutra “should be non-abiding and bringing forth the mind.” That is, the mind inherently never abides anywhere, and it incessantly gives rise to the mind. Because of the realization of this mind, a bodhisattva can thus initiate wisdom pertaining to prajna. Notably, this non-abiding mind did not come into being after cultivation; it has always been intrinsically non-abiding. That is to say, one does not transform the abiding perceptive mind into a non-abiding mind after enlightenment. Rather, one realizes another self-existing, non-abiding mind.
Having realized this self-existing mind after enlightenment, we will see that it is still non-abiding and continues to coexist with our mind of thoughtless pristine awareness. Hence, the true Buddha dharma is the eighth consciousness mind—Tathagatagarbha, which is innately non-abiding and has always coexisted with us.
Self and Selflessness, pp. 46-49