Dharma, Adharma and Nodharma

One day when Gotama lived in Sravasti, in Jeta’s Grove, in the garden of Anathapindika, with more than 1,250 monks and nuns, many Bodhisattvas, pious laity, and numerous great beings, he had returned from collecting alms in Sravasti and finished his meal. He put away his bowl and cloak, and washed his feet. Then he sat down on a seat prepared for him, and crossing his legs, holding his body upright and was mindfully attentive to the crowd who walked about him three times counterclockwise, saluting him, and sat down.

At that time, Subhuti came into that assembly and, sitting down, instantly rose from his seat. He put his robe over his shoulder, and knelt on his right knee, and bent his folded hands to Gotama, begging Gotama to explain proper view for the Bodhisattva?

Gotama answered, Subhuti, someone who has set out in the vehicle of a Bodhisattva should produce a thought in this manner: “as many beings as there are in this universe of beings, all these I must lead to freedom from suffering. And yet, though innumerable beings have thus been led to freedom, no being at all has been led to freedom.” Why? For should in the Bodhisattva a notion of “being” occur, that Bodhisattva could not be called a Bodhisattva – for the notion of self has taken place through the notion of other beings.”

Gotama continued, “moreover, Subhuti, a Bodhisattva who gives anything could not be a Bodhisattva: for when a gift is given that is identifiable, tangible, measurable, it is subject to suffering. Is it possible to measure the extent of the south, the west, the east, or north? Is it possible to measure the distance of downward, or upward? Even so, what a Bodhisattva gives is not easy to measure. What do you think, Subhuti, can a Tathagata be directly identified and observed?”

Subhuti replied that a Tathagata could not, that a Tathagata could only be indirectly identified and observed.

Gotama said, “indeed, wherever there is something to directly identify, or something which is unidentified, there would be a fraudulent Tathagata.”

Subhuti asked, “will there be any beings in that dark, last epoch of the Dharma who will understand this nature of truth?”

Gotama answered that there would be. “Even at that time there will be Bodhisattvas who are will understand the nature of truth – and there will be many who glimpse at truth. By gaining even a moment of serenity from their understanding, they will honor all the innumerable Buddhas: they will have no perception of self, they will have no perception of a being, no perception of a soul, nor any perception of a person and identity. They will perceive the Dharma by perceiving Nodharma - by Noperception they will perceive Nonperception. They will not seize and attach to a self, a being, a soul, a person or anything at all; they will not attach to Dharma – and will not attach to Nodharma. They will understand that which is hidden through inference and, like discarding the raft used to cross a stream, will not forsake the Dharma prematurely or too late, but will still more readily forsake Nodharma.”

Gotama asked, “what do you think, Subhuti, is there any Dharma which the Tathagata has fully known as ‘the utmost, right and perfect enlightenment,’ or is there any Dharma which the Tathagata has ever once demonstrated?”

Subhuti replied: “No, not that I know of.”

Gotama asked Subhuti, “and why is this? The Dharma which the Tathagata has fully known or demonstrated cannot be directly talked about, it cannot be directly demonstrated, it is neither a Dharma nor a Nodharma.”

Gotama said, “some people give gifts to exalt what they venerate as holy; they would fill a world with worlds and give those worlds in pious devotion. But if they would simply understand the Dharma as I have, they would truly honor all the innumerable Buddhas; if they would teach as I have, they would earn greater honor than a person who gave all the world.”

Gotama asked, “what do you think, Subhuti, does it occur to a Tathagata, ‘this Dharma is mine?’ Of course not, Dharma cannot be possessed or earned – no more than anything which is seen, heard, tasted, smelled, touched or known can become yours. Freedom from suffering cannot be yours, though you can be free from suffering. Such Nofreedom is called Arhat, it is the embodiment of Nodharma – a Tathagata is not an Arhat, for this would require that the Tathagata be identifiable, have identity, to be. There is Nodharma that I have learned. There is that which exists independent of what is directly perceived.”

Gotama said, “there is that which the Tathagata has taught as wisdom which has gone beyond, there is that which the Tathagata has taught as not gone beyond. Subhuti, do you think that the specks of dust that exist in trillion worlds are numerous?”

Subhuti said, yes.

Gotama asked Subhuti, “but did I teach you the number of specks of dust in a trillion worlds? Did anyone? I taught you nothing of specks of dust, nor did anyone. I did not even teach you what specks of dust were – or tell you about any of the trillion worlds – yet you understood that there would be many specks of dust in a trillion worlds.”

Gotama asked, “Subhuti, did you even consider how many specks of dust there were in this world – let alone the trillions of worlds there are until I asked the question? I taught you about specks of dust and worlds by Noteaching of Nospecks and Noworlds. So it is that I teach Nodharma. Subhuti, a person can renounce the world and all their belongings, all their attachments, all their bad habits as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges, but it would do less good than to understand - if only for a moment - the nature of truth, and to truly perceive reality.”

Gotama said, “in that distant time, the last epoch of the Dharma, there will be profound understanding.

Those who by my form did see me,
And those who followed me by voice
Wrong the efforts they engaged in,
Me those people will not see.
From the Dharma should one see the Buddhas,
From the Dharmabodies comes their guidance.
Yet Dharma's true nature cannot be discerned,
And no one can be conscious of it as an object.

Someone honorable does not acquire honor, does not gain honor. Honor cannot be given or received. Whoever says that the Tathagata goes or comes, stands, sits or lies down – they do not understand my teaching. The Tathagata is called one who has not gone anywhere, nor has come from anywhere, acquired nothing, given nothing.”

Gotama asked, “Subhuti, has the Tathagata ever taught a view of being, a view of a living soul, a view of identity? Only Noview has been taught by the Tathagata. No beliefs have been taught, only that there are beliefs – and such beliefs may be let go. A Bodhisattva should know all Dharma. And by this knowledge not perceive the Dharma. And if a Bodhisattva should teach the Dharma – it should be illuminated, but not revealed: as stars shine but do not guide, as by a fault of vision one sees, as a lamp illuminates but does not show, as a mock show demonstrates but does not teach; like a dew drop, or like a bubble, like a dream, like a lightning flash, or a cloud – such is right view.”