Zen - Study

The Treatise on the Golden Lion – Fa Zhang

The Treatise on the Golden Lion

Fa-tsang’s Treatise on the Golden Lion is, evidently, one of my favourites. I read it first in Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience, by Donald W. Mitchell, pp 216-218. It discusses the idea of the co-arising of the world using the gold of a statue as a simile for emptiness (li) and the lion taken as a whole form to represent phenomena (shih).

The gold has no self-nature. The arising of the lion is due only to dependence, so it is called dependent arising. The lion is empty [not self-sustaining]; there is only the gold. Also, emptiness, having no self-nature, manifests itself through form. This means that since the gold takes in the totality of the lion, apart from the gold there is no lion to be found. This means that when we see the lion coming into existence, we are seeing only the gold coming in to existence as form. There is nothing apart from the gold.

Then Fa-tsang presents the “Ten Mysterious Gates” to explain this:
(1) Emptiness comes into being simultaneously with phenomena.
(2) This simultaneity doesn’t obstruct the existence of unique identities.
(3) Distinct forms interpenetrate and thus contain each other.
(4) Despite this, they remain unique.
(5) When one looks at phenomena, emptiness is hidden, and when one looks at emptiness, phenomena are hidden.
(6) Despite this, they are completely compatible.
(7) Each phenomena reflects an image of every other phenomena, infinitely.
(8) Speaking phenomenally is for revealing ignorance, speaking of emptiness is for revealing truth, they’re two sides of the same coin.
(9) All phenomena arise in moments dependent on all other moments.
(10) Both phenomena and emptiness depend on mental transformations.

(1) The gold and the lion arise simultaneously, perfectly complete. (2) The gold and the lion arise compatible with each other, the one and the many not obstructing each other. In this situation, emptiness [li] and forms [shih] are distinct. Whether one considers the one [emptiness] of the many [forms], each entity maintains its own position.

(3) If the eye of the lion takes in the whole of the lion, then the whole lion is purely the eye. (4) Since the various organs, and even each hair of the lion, takes in completely the whole lion in so far as they are all gold, then each element of the lion penetrates the whole of the lion. The eye of the lion is its ear, its ear is its nose, its nose is its tongue, and its tongue is its body. Yet, they all exist freely and easily, not hindering or obstructing each other.

(5) If one contemplates the lion, there is only the lion, and the gold is not seen. The gold is hidden and the lion is manifest. If one contemplates the gold, there is only the gold, and the lion is not seen. The lion is hidden and the gold is manifest. (6) The gold and the lion may be hidden or manifest. The principle [emptiness] and the jointly arisen [phenomena] mutually shine. Principle and phenomena appear together as completely compatible.

(7) In each eye, ear, limb, joint and hair of the lion is reflected a golden lion. All these golden lions in all the hairs simultaneously enter in to a single hair. Thus in each hair, there are an infinite number of lions. In addition, all single hairs, together with the infinite number of lions, enter in to a single hair. In a similar way, there is an endless progression of realms interpenetrating realms just like the jewels of Indra’s net.

(8) The lion is spoken of in order to demonstrate the result of ignorance, while its golden essence is spoken of in order to make clear its true nature. (9) This lion is a created dharma, arising and passing away in every moment. Yet, since the different periods of time are formed dependent on one another, they are merging harmoniously and mutually penetrating together without obstruction in each moment of time. (10) The gold and the lion may be hidden or manifest, but neither has any own-being. They are constantly being evolved through the transformations of the mind.

Wisdom means that when we see the lion, we realize right away that all dharmas are produced by causes, and are from the very beginning quiescent and empty. By being free from attachments to the world and from renunciation of the world, one flows along this way into the sea of perfect knowledge, and the afflictions that result from desires will no longer be produced. Whether one sees beauty or ugliness, the mind is calm like the sea. Wrong views cease, and there are no negative mental formations. One escapes bondage, is free from hindrances, and forever cuts the roots of duhkha. This is called the entry into Nirvana.

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