Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

The "Nirvana Sutra" Continued (Z12)

[The Buddha said:] "As I have already said, this sutra embraces all dharmas. But I have stated that the pure actions about which I speak are none other than the 37 elements assisting towards Bodhi [Enlightenment]. O good man! Separated from the 37 elements of Enlightenment, one cannot attain the fruition of sravaka practice and unsurpassed Enlightenment, and one cannot see the Buddha-Nature, nor the fruition that arises from the Buddha-Nature. This being so, pure action is the 37 Bodhi elements [“bodhipakshikadharma” - the 37 prerequisites for attaining Enlightenment; they include mindfulness, and the Noble Eightfold Path]. How can we say this? Because the 37 elements assisting towards Enlightenment are those factors which, by nature, are not inverted and indeed crush out the inversions. They are, by nature, not evil views, and can truly crush out evil views. They are, by nature, not fears, and they well crush out fear. They are, by nature, pure actions, so that beings ultimately perform pure actions."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! Even the defiled can also become a cause of the non-defiled. Why is it that the Tathagata does not say that the defiled, too, is pure action?"

"O good man! All defiled things are nothing but inversions [of Truth]. That is why I cannot claim the defiled to be pure action."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "Is the first-of-the world root of good [“laukikagradharma” - intellectual penetration and insight] that which is defiled or non-defiled?"

The Buddha said: "It is that which is defiled."

"O World-Honoured One! Though defiled, its nature is not inverted. Why do you not call it pure action?"

"O good man! The first-of-the-world root of good is the cause of the defiled. So it well resembles it. As it faces the undefiled, we do not call it any inversion. O good man! Pure action takes its rise from the stage of taking one's aspiration [to Buddhahood]. It goes thus and attains the uttermost. The first-of-the-world root of good is none but one mind. That is why we cannot call it pure action."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! The five consciousnesses of the being are the defiled, and yet not inversions. Nor are they of one mind. Why do we not say pure actions?"

"O good man! The five consciousnesses of the being are not of one mind. They are the defiled and inversions. As defilements increase, we say "defiled". The body is not of true stuff. Due to clinging and the image, they are inversions. Why do we say that the body is not true? Because of clinging and image. Where there is no man or woman, they gain the image of man or woman. So does it go with house, vehicle, pot, clothing, etc. This is an inversion.

"O good man! With the 37 factors of Enlightenment, there is no inversion. So we can speak of "pure action". O good man! If any Bodhisattva comes to know of the root, cause, what takes in, what augments, the master, what leads, what is superior, what is true, and the ultimate, such a Bodhisattva is one of pure action."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! In what sense do we say that one knows the root up to the ultimate?"

The Buddha said: "O good man! Well said, well said! What you, Bodhisattva, speak about concerns two things. One is for your own good, and the other is for knowing by others. You now know, but since innumerable beings do not yet understand, you ask. So I now praise you once again. It is good, it is good. O good man! The root of the 37 elements assisting towards Enlightenment is desire. The cause is the touch of brightness; that which takes in is "feeling"; that which augments is "thinking"; the "master" is "remembrance"; that which leads is dhyana [meditation]; that which is superior is Wisdom; that which is true is Emancipation; and the ultimate is Great Nirvana.

"O good man! All the worries of the world take their rise from craving. All illnesses rest on the food cooked on the preceding day. All segregation arises out of quarrelling and disputation. All evils arise out of falsehood. The situation is thus."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said: "O World-Honoured One! The Tathagata has already in this sutra stated that all good things are grounded on non-indolence. You now say "desire". How am I to understand this?"

The Buddha said: "O good man! If the cause is sought relating to [a good thing's] coming about, it is good desire. If the revealing cause [Jap. “ryoin”: the cause that reveals what is hidden, like, for example, lamplight that shines and shows what lies hidden when it is dark - K. Yamamoto] is sought, this is non-indolence. We say in the world that the result depends on the seed; and we say that the seed is the cause of the coming about, and the soil is the revealing cause. The same is the case here too."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said: "O World-Honoured One! The Tathagata says in other sutras that the 37 Enlightenment factors constitute the base. What does this imply?"

"O good man! The Tathagata said before that beings first come to know of the 37 factors of Enlightenment. The Buddha is the root. To awaken depends on desire."