Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

"Nirvana Sutra" Continued (b2)

Then Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! What difference exists between supramundane Dharma and the mundane? You say that the Buddha is an existence eternal and unchanging. If so, in worldly life, too, we have Brahma who is eternal, and also Isvara who is eternal, and no changing is there. The eternal nature of Self too is eternal; even a mote is also said to be eternal. If the Tathagata is an eternal existence, why does the Tathagata not always show [himself] in this way? If it is that you do not exist thus, what difference could we see? Why? Because Brahma, the mote existence, and prakriti [primordial matter] also do not manifest thus."

The Buddha said to Kasyapa: "A rich man has many cows, whose colours vary; nonetheless, they are all of one group. They are entrusted to the hands of a cowherd, who takes them to watery or grassy land. Solely sarpirmanda is sought, not fresh milk or cream. The cattleman, having milked the cows, takes the milk himself. When the rich man dies, the cows are stolen by robbers. They get the cows, but having no women, they themselves milk the cows. The robbers say to one another: "The rich man fed these cows for sarpirmanda, not for fresh milk or cream. What should we do? Now, sarpirmanda is the best of all tastes in the world. We have no utensils and no place to keep it safe in." They also say to one another: "We have a bag made of hide. We shall keep it in that. Although we have a thing to keep the milk in, we do not know how to churn it. It is hard to obtain what we could drink. How could we gain fresh butter?" At that, the robbers, because sarpirmanda was what they were after, added water to the milk. But because they added too much water, the fresh milk, cream, and sarpirmanda were all lost. The same with common mortals. There are good teachings. But all are the residues of the Wonderful Dharma of the Tathagata. How? The Tathagata enters Nirvana. Later we steal what was left behind, i.e. the precepts, samadhi, and Wisdom. This is like the robbers stealing the cows. All common mortals obtain the precepts, samadhi, and Wisdom, but they have no means of working them out [perfecting them, implementing them]. Hence they never gain the eternal precepts, the eternal samadhi, the eternal Wisdom, and emancipation. This is like the robbers' not having the means to work out [bring forth what they want], thus losing the sarpirmanda; or it is like the robbers' adding water when they meant to gain sarpirmanda. The same with common mortals. Referring to emancipation, beings say that Self, being, life, man, Brahma, Isvara, prakriti, the precepts, samadhi, Wisdom, emancipation, or Thoughtless-non-thoughtlessness Heaven [naivasamjnana- samjnayatana] or Nirvana is Nirvana. This, however [i.e. just saying this] does not give one emancipation or Nirvana. This is like the robbers' failing to gain sarpirmanda. Common mortals do small-scale pure actions and make offerings to their parents. Then they gain rebirth in heaven and attain small-scale bliss. This is like the milk to which the robbers added water. And common mortals do not themselves know the fact that one gets born in heaven by small-scale pure actions and making offerings to one's parents. Also, they do not know the moral precepts, samadhi, Wisdom and taking refuge in the Three Treasures. Not knowing [all this], they talk about Eternity, Bliss, Self, and Purity. Though they talk, they do not know what these are. Hence, after taking birth in this life, the Tathagata talks about Eternity, Bliss, Self, and Purity. A chakravartin [world's greatest, just ruler] appears in the world. By the power of virtue, all the robbers pull back, and there is no loss of any cows. Then the chakravartin entrusts the cows to the hands of a cowherd who knows the way. This person works out the means well and obtains sarpirmanda. Due to the sarpirmanda, there is no illness or pain for any being. It is like this. When the chakravartin of the wheel of Dharma appears in the world, all beings abandon these, because they cannot talk about the precepts, samadhi, and Wisdom. This is like the pulling back of the robbers. Then the Tathagata indeed speaks of secular and supramundane things. For the benefit of beings, he lets the Bodhisattva talk as the occasion arises. The Bodhisattva-mahasattva, on gaining sarpirmanda, lets all the innumerable beings gain the unsurpassed manna of Dharma. The Eternity, Bliss, Self, and Purity of the Tathagata thus come about [appear, are realised]. The Tathagata is one who is eternal and unchanging. This is not in the manner in which common mortals and the ignorant of the world say that Brahma is eternal.  This eternality is always with the Tathagata and not with whatever else. O Kasyapa! All good men and good women should always carefully practise the Way of the two-lettered Buddha, who is eternal [i.e. in Chinese, “Nyo-rai” - consisting of two syllables or characters - means "Tathagata", "One come from Thusness"]. O Kasyapa! Any good man or good woman who practises the Way of the two-lettered, such a one accords with what I do and gets born where I go. If any person practises the two letters and sees it as extinction, know that the Tathagata enters Parinirvana to [in the eyes of] such a one. O good man! Nirvana is the “Dharmata” [True Essence] of all Buddhas."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "What might the “Dharmata” of the Tathagata mean? O World-Honoured One! I now desire to know about “Dharmata”. Have pity and expound this to me extensively. Now, “Dharmata” means "abandoning one's body". To abandon means "not to possess". If not possessed, how can the body exist? If the body exists, how can we say that there is “Dharmata” in the body? If the body possesses “Dharmata”, how can the body exist? How can I know of this?" The Buddha said to Kasyapa: "O good man! Do not speak thus - that extinction is “Dharmata”. Now, “Dharmata” knows no extinction. O good man! This is as with the no-thought heaven [the fourth dhyana heaven of the rupadhatu - Realm of Form], where there is no thought of matter, though matter is perfectly equipped [provided]. One might ask: "How, then, can devas live there, please and amuse themselves, and have peace, and how do they think, see, and ask?" O good man! The world of the Tathagata is not one which sravakas and pratyekabuddhas can know. Do not so explicate and say that the body of the Tathagata is extinction. O good man! The Tathagata and extinction are matters for the world of Buddhas. It is not within sravakas' and pratyekabuddhas' reach of knowing. O good man! Do not entertain such thoughts as where the Tathagata lives, where he works, where he is to be seen, where he enjoys himself. O good man! Such, too, are things which do not come within the compass of your knowing. Everything regarding the Dharma-Body of all Buddhas and everything regarding the various expedients are beyond the range of [worldly] knowing.

"Also, next, O good man! Practise the teaching of the Buddha, Dharma and the life of the Sangha, and abide in the thought of the Eternal. These three things do not contradict one another. There is no form of the non-eternal [there], no change. Any person practising these three as things which differ fails in the Three Refuges which are pure. This we should know. This is to say that such a person lacks a place to abide in. No precept is fully learned; no fruit can come about of sravakas or pratyekabuddhas. Anyone who abides in the thought of the Eternal in this All-Wonderfulness has a place to take refuge in. O good man! It is like the shadow accompanying a tree. The same is the case with the Tathagata. As there is the Eternal, there is a refuge that can be taken. It is not non-eternal. If it is said that the Tathagata is non-eternal, he cannot be a refuge for all the heavens and people of the world."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! It is, for example, like the case of a tree in the darkness, where there is no shadow."  "O Kasyapa! Do not say that there is a tree and that it has no shadow. It is merely that the fleshly eye cannot see it. The same with the Tathagata. His nature is eternal; it does not change. One cannot see [it] without the eye of Wisdom. This is as in the case where no tree-shadow appears in the darkness. Common mortals, after the death of the Buddha, may well say: "The Tathagata is non-eternal." This is the same. If one says that the Tathagata is other than Dharma and Sangha, there cannot be the Three Refuges. This is as in the case in which, as your parents are different from each other, there is the non-eternal." Bodhisattva Kasyapa said again to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! Henceforth, I, for the first time, shall, with the Eternalism of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, enlighten parents for ages, down to seven generations. It is wonderful indeed! O World-Honoured One! I shall now learn the All-Wonderfulness of the Tathagata, Dharma and Sangha. Having satisfied myself, I shall expound this widely to all others. If they do not have faith in the teaching, I will know that they have long practised the non-Eternal. To such as these I shall be like frost and hail."

Then the Buddha praised Bodhisattva Kasyapa and said: "Well said, well said! You now indeed protect and uphold Wonderful Dharma. Such protection of Dharma is no cheating of people. By the good act of not cheating [deceiving] others, one obtains a long life and becomes well able to read one's past lives."