Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

The "Nirvana Sutra" Continued (Z15,16)

Chapter FortyFive 

 

Kaundinya

(a)

 

 

 

    Then the Blessed One spoke to Kaundinya: "Material form [rupa] is impermanent. By eliminating this material form, one attains the Eternal form of Liberation [??]. So does it obtain with feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness, too. By eliminating consciousness, one attains the Eternal material form of Liberation and Peace [??]. This also pertains to feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness.

      “O Kaundinya! Material form [rupa] is suffering; but through the elimination of this material form, one attains Liberation, the [material] form [rupa] of tranquil bliss. Feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness are also thus.

     “O Kaundinya! Material form [material form = rupa] is empty; but through the elimination of empty material form, one attains Liberation, non-empty [material] form. Feeling, ideation, intentionality, and consciousness are also thus. 

      "O Kaundinya! Material form [rupa] is non-Self; but through the elimination of this material form, one attains Liberation, the [material] form of the True Self. Feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness are also thus [i.e., for example, worldly consciousness is non-Self, but when one has once eliminated this worldly consciousness, one attains Liberation, the consciousness that pertains to the True Self. – T.P.]

      "O Kaundinya! Material form is impure. Through the elimination of this material form, one attains Liberation, the [material] form of pure form [??]. Feeling, ideation, intentionality, and consciousness are also thus.

      "O Kaundinya! Material form is what represents birth, old age, illness, and death. Through the elimination of such material form, one attains the material form of the non-birth, non-old-age, non-illness, and non-death material form of Liberation [??]. So does it also obtain with feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness.

     "O Kaundinya! Material form is the cause of ignorance. Through the elimination of this material form, one attains the material form of the non-cause of ignorance [characteristic] of Liberation [??]. So does it also obtain with feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness.

     "O Kaundinya! Or material form is the cause of birth even. Through the elimination of such material form, one attains the material form of the non-birth cause of Liberation [??]. So does it also obtain with feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness.

     "O Kaundinya! Material form is the cause of the four inversions. Through the elimination of inverted material form, one attains the material form of the four non-inverted causes of Liberation. So does it also obtain with feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness.

     "O Kaundinya! Material form is the cause of innumerable evil things. It is the carnal body of the male, etc. It is the love of the food of lust. It is greed, anger, and jealousy. It is an evil and a grudging mind. It is ordinary food [i.e. food that has flavour, taste, and touch, and which can be cut and eaten], consciousness food [i.e. consciousness serving as food. For example, the mental power that at times checks one's sense of hunger], thought food [i.e. the power of thinking, or the volitional power], and contact food [i.e. the emotional sense that at times serves to check one's sense of hunger]. There is egg-birth, embryo-birth, and transformed birth. There are the five desires and the five overshadowings/coverings. All of these are grounded on material material form.

     "Through the elimination of material form, one attains the material form of Liberation, which does not contain any such evil things. It is the same with feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness.

     "O Kaundinya! Material form is bondage. Through the elimination of the material form of bondage, one attains Liberation, the material form of no bondage. It is the same with feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness.

     "O Kaundinya! Material form is a stream [??]. Through the elimination of this material form which is a stream, one attains Liberation, the material form which is not a stream. So is it also with feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness.

     "O Kaundinya! Material form is non-taking-of-refuge. Through the elimination of this material form, one attains Liberation, which is material form of the taking of refuge. The same also applies to feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness.

     "O Kaundinya! Material form is the pox and warts [??]. Through the elimination of this material form, one attains Liberation, which is not the pox or warts. The same applies to feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness, too.

     "O Kaundinya! Material form is non-quietude [??]. Through the elimination of this material form, one attains the material form of quietude of Nirvana, which is quiet [??]. So does it also obtain with feeling, ideation, intentions, and consciousness.

     "O Kaundinya! If there is any person who can so know things, such a person is a sramana or a Brahmin, and such a one is perfect in the Dharma of the sramana or Brahmin. O Kaundinya! If one parts from Buddha-Dharma, then one is no sramana or Brahmin; nor is there any Dharma of the sramana or Brahmin. All tirthikas speak falsely and cheat. And there is no action that is true [with them]. Also, they pretend to say that there are such two. But this is not true. Why not? If there is no Dharma of the sramana or Brahmin, how can one say that here is a sramana or Brahmin? I always give a lion's roar amidst the congregation. You, too, should do the same amidst this congregation."

     At that time, many tirthikas were present, who, on hearing this, became angry and said: "Gautama now says that there are no sramanas and Brahmins among us, and that there exists no Dharma of the sramana or Brahmin. What means shall we extensively adopt and address Gautama, to tell him that we too have sramanas and the Dharma of sramanas, and Brahmins and the Dharma of Brahmins?"

 

Then, there was amongst the crowd a Brahmacarin who said: "O all of you! What Gautama says is a thing of madness. There is no difference. What worth is there in taking up this point and worrying about it? All mad people sing, dance, weep, laugh, reprove, and praise. They cannot distinguish between enemies and friends. It is the same with Gautama, who says that he was born in the house of Suddhodana, or that he was not; or that when born, he took seven steps, or not; or that from his childhood he learnt the things of the world, or that he is the All-Knower; or that, at one time, he lived a palatial life, tasted [all] the pleasures and had a son, or that, at another time, he despised and reproved and reviled [sensual pleasures]; or that he, at times, practised penance for six years, or that he condemned the penances of the tirthikas; or that he followed Udrakaramaputra and Aradakalama and was taught what he did not know before, or that there is nothing that he does not know; or that he attained unsurpassed Bodhi [Enlightenment] under the shade of the Bodhi Tree, or that he did not go to the tree, and that he did nothing; or that Nirvana comes when the fleshly body has gone. What Gautama says is what a mad man says, there is no difference. So why should we need to trouble ourselves over it?"

All the Brahmins answered and said: "O great one! How can we not but be troubled? Sramana Gautama renounced the world and said that what there was was nothing but the non-eternal, suffering, Void, non-Self, and the Impure, and our disciples heard his words and became frightened. How could we beings be non-eternal, suffering, Void, non-Self, and impure? We do not give ear to him. Now, Gautama is here again now, in this sal forest, and tells people that there is the Dharma of the Eternal, Bliss, the Self, and the Pure. All of my disciples hear his words, leave me and listen to Gautama's words. For this reason, I am greatly worried."

Then there was a Brahmin who said: "All of you! Listen carefully to me, listen carefully to me! Gautama professes to practise compassion. This is a lie. It is not true. If he has compassion, how can he teach my disciples and make them take to his teaching? The fruition of compassion is to follow the will of others. He is going against my wishes. How can we say that he has compassion? If Gautama says that he is not tainted by the eight things of the world, this again is nothing but falsehood. If it is said that Gautama desires little and that he is satisfied with what little he has, how, again, can he deprive us of what is ours? If he says that he is born of a high caste, this again is untrue. Why? Since of old, we have not seen or heard of a great lion-king who has ever caused harm to little rats. If Gautama is of high caste, how can he cause worry to us? If people say that Gautama possesses great power, this is a lie. Why? Since of old, we have never seen a garuda quarrelling with a cow. If he possesses great power, why would he quarrel with us? If it is said that Gautama possesses the power of reading people's minds, this again is a lie. Why so? If he is armed with this knowledge, how is it that he is dark in reading our minds? All of you! Once upon a time, I was with an aged and wise man who said that in 100 years' time, there would appear an apparition. This could well be Gautama. And such an apparition is now about to pass away in this forest of sal trees before long. Do not be worried!"

Then, there was a Nirgrantha, who said: "O you brothers! My mind is pained. This is not from the offerings of my disciples. The trouble is that the world is ignorant and eyeless and does not know what is a field of blessings and what is not. For they make offerings to one young, forsaking the aged and wise Brahmins. This is what worries me. Sramana Gautama knows much of sorcery. By this means, he presents one body in numerous forms and numerous forms in one, or he presents himself as a man, woman, cow, sheep, elephant, or horse. I will destroy such sorcery. When Sramana Gautama is gone, you will again enjoy many offerings and be blessed with peace."

Then there was a Brahmin who said: "Sramana Gautama is accomplished and perfect in innumerable virtues. So, you should not fight against him."

The great crowd said: "O you ignorant one! How dare you say that Sramana Gautama is accomplished in great virtue. Seven days after his birth, his mother died. Is that what you call a family of great blessings?"

The Brahmin said: "When reproached, one does not become angry, and when beaten, one does not strike back. Know that this can be none other than the form of great weal. His body is perfect in the 32 signs of perfection and the 80 minor marks of excellence and is armed with innumerable miraculous powers. So you must know that these are all of weal. His mind knows no arrogance. His mind first asks and reflects. What is said is gently spoken. There is no coarseness from the very start. His age and will are both rigorous, yet his mind is not rude. He does not covet any kingdom or wealth. He has abandoned all that, as one would tears and spit. That is why I say that Sramana Gautama is accomplished in innumerable virtues."

The great crowd said: "Well said! Sramana Gautama is, as you say, truly perfect in innumerable miraculous powers. How can I not fight with him against this? Sramana Gautama is gentle in feeling and nature. So he cannnot endure penance. Born in the depths of the palace, he is unable to master things. All he does is talk in a low voice. He knows no art, nothing of books and discussion. Let us talk about the essentials of Right Dharma. If he defeats me, I shall serve him; if I win, he serves me."

At that time, there were many tirthikas [present]. Gathering together, they went to Magadha, to Ajatasatru. The king saw them and asked: "You are all in the holy teaching. You are those who have renounced the world. You have abandoned wealth and things of the secular life. The people of my land make all offerings to you. They look up to you with respect and do not act against you. Why do you band together and come here in one body and wish to see me? O you! You all belong to different teachings and have different precepts and different circumstances in which you renounced your homes. You each practise the Way following precepts. Why is it that you are all of one mind, as though the wind had driven the fallen leaves all together into one place? What do you intend to speak about by coming here “en masse”? I always protect world-fleeing people [i.e. spiritual questers, renunciates] and am not lagging much behind others in using my body and life [to help them]."

Then all the tirthikas said with one voice: "O great King! Listen to us carefully. You are now the great bridge of Dharma, the great horn, the great scales of Dharma. You are the utensil of all laws. You are the true nature of all virtues. You are the highway of Right Dharma. You are the last field wherein to sow seed. You are the fountainhead of the state. You are the bright mirror of all lands. You are all the forms of all heavens. You are the parent to the people of all lands. O great King! You are the treasure-house of all the virtues of the world. This is the King's body. Why do we say that you are the storehouse of virtue? The King carries on the administration of the state with no thought of partiality or hostility. The King's mind is fair like the earth, water, fire, and wind. That is why we say that the King is the storehouse of virtue.

"O great King! The life span of beings in the present age is paltry. But the virtue of the King is like that of kings from days gone by, when man was blessed with long life and peace. The situation is like that of Head-Born, Sudarsana, Forbearance, Nahusa, Yajata, Sibi, and Iksvaku. All such kings were perfect in the Good Dharma. You too, King, are the same. O great King! Due to you, the land is at peace and the people are doing well. That is why all the world-fleeing love this state and uphold the precepts, make effort, and practise the right way. O great King! I state in my sutras that if the world-fleeing observe the precepts and make effort as set forth in the state, the King also shares in the good which is practised. O great King! You have already made away with all robbers, and there is nothing for the world-fleeing to be afraid of. Only, there lives just one evil person - Sramana Gautama. You, King, have not yet tested him. We are all afraid. This person sits on [prides himself on] his high birth and caste and on his bodily accomplishment, and by dint of the past danas he has performed, he is recompensed with many offerings. In all such circumstances, he is arrogant, and because of his sorcery, he is haughty. For this reason, we cannot carry out our penances. He receives soft clothes and bedding. Thus, he is the most evil in all the world. For profit, people go to him, and on becoming members of his hosuehold, they are unable to practise penance. Through sorcery, he vanquished Kasyapa, Sariputra, Maudgalyayana, and others. And now he has come to our place, to the forest of sal trees, and, declaring that this body is the Eternal, Bliss, Self, and the Pure, he lures away our disciples. O great King! Previously Gautama said: non-eternal, non-bliss, non-Self, and non-pure. I well forbore it. Now he says: Eternal, Bliss, Self, and Pure. I cannot stand it. Please, O great King! Allow me to argue the point with Gautama."