The Truth of All Phenomena
According to the philosophy of the Mind Only School, everything is just a perception of the mind and there is no solid existence outside. However, in the ultimate sense, even the mind vanishes into emptiness if we observe it from the three times of the past, present and future. But it does not lead to nothingness—it is just within this emptiness, that everything can manifest unobstructedly. The ultimate state in Buddhism is free from any extreme and conceptual elaboration of existence, non-existence and so on, and whoever realizes it becomes enlightened.
As said in the Diamond Sutra, neither the past, the present nor the future mind can be found. Obviously, the past mind cannot be retained because it has already gone, and the future mind has not arisen yet. Some may ask why the present mind cannot be found? If we examine the entity of mind, we will find that the present mind is without true existence.
If neither external phenomena nor the inner mind exists, does it mean that there is nothing existent? Actually, this topic has been clearly explained in the Middle Way. According to the Middle Way, when we analyze carefully, all things are not inherently existent. Yet, within this very state—the state of emptiness, all phenomena appear incontrovertibly. This is exactly the meaning of “form does not differ from emptiness; and emptiness does not differ from form; form is emptiness; and emptiness is form.”
As stated in The Surangama Sutra, all phenomena can be analyzed down to partless particles, which are the smallest particles of matter. If we observe further, we will find these are empty by nature. Yet, within emptiness, all phenomena can manifest. This is what is described in The Surangama Sutra that all phenomena are empty by nature while within emptiness, all phenomena appear. All phenomena are empty by nature while within emptiness everything can appear, this is the teaching of the Middle Way.
In fact, when we carefully examine the external phenomena or our inner minds, they cannot withstand ultimate analysis, as all of them are emptiness by nature. Then, is this emptiness inherently existent? In fact, even emptiness is not truly existent. Is this state of non-existence the ultimate truth? It is not either. In Buddhism, the ultimate truth is free from four extremes and eight elaborations. This is the true nature of all phenomena. Whoever attains such a state of realization is called an “enlightened being” in Buddhism.