The Scripture of the Fo...


The Scripture of the Founding Master

Chapter Six: Doubts Clarified


A disciple asked, “I would like to know the meaning of the four conceptions mentioned in the Diamond Sūtra.” The Founding Master said, “Apparently there have been many interpretations of these four conceptions given by various scholars over time, but I will explain it simply by relating it to actual experience. The ‘conception of a self’ is a name for conceit, wherein one considers everything only from one’s own perspective and values only oneself and what belongs to oneself. The ‘conception of a person’ is a name for an anthropocentric attitude, wherein one thinks that, since humans are superior to the myriad living things, other creatures were created for the sake of humans and thus it is all right to treat them in any way one pleases. The ‘conception of a sentient being’ is a name for a lack of lacking advancement because one gives up on oneself, since one differentiates sentient beings from buddhas and doubts that a mere sentient being like oneself can accomplish anything. The ‘conception of long life’ [alt. conception of a living being] is a name for a conception that elders have, wherein one vaunts either seniority, accumulated assets, or superior position without distinguishing right from wrong. One who retains these conceptions will not be able to reach buddhahood.” The disciple asked again, “Through what method may we eradicate these four conceptions?” The Founding Master said, “To eradicate the conception of a self, we must understand the principle of impermanence by realizing that the physical body, possessions, position, or authority, which are our most beloved things, are of no use to us on the day we die, so that nothing is definitively our own. To eradicate the conception of a person, one must realize the principle of the eternal cycle between the six rebirth destinies and the four modes of birth, within which each of us is changing bodies. To eradicate the conception of a sentient being, one must realize that originally sentient beings and buddhas are nondual: if a buddha is deluded, he is a sentient being; if a sentient being awakens, he is a buddha. To eradicate the conception of long life, one must realize that physical bodies may be young or old, noble or common, but in the nature there is no young or old, noble or common. A practitioner who completely eradicates these four conceptions is in fact a buddha.”