Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

The "Nirvana Sutra" Continued (Z20)

Among the tirthikas, there was a Brahmacarin [present] by the name of Kasyapa. He also said: "O Gautama! Is the body life? Or are body and life different things?"

The Tathagata said nothing. So he asked a second and a third time. The Brahmacarin again said: "O Gautama! A man dies and does not yet gain his next body. In this in-between state, do we not say that the body is different and the life is different? If they are different, why do you sit silently and not reply?"

"O good man! Body and life both arise from causal relations. I say that nothing comes about without causal relations. As with the body and life, so does it proceed with all things."

The Brahmacarin further said: "O Gautama! I see things in the world that do not proceed in accordance with causal relations."

The Buddha said: "O Brahmacarin! In what way do you see things that do not proceed in accordance with causal relations?"

The Brahmacarin said: "I see trees being burnt. The wind blows out the flakes [cinders, sparks] of fire, which fall in different places. Is this not what has nothing to do with causal relations?"

The Buddha said: "O good man! I say that this fire, too, comes about from causal relations. It is not the case that it does not accord with any cause."

The Brahmacarin said: "O Gautama! When the fire flakes go [i.e. move off], these do not depend upon fuel or charcoal. So how can we say that these are dependent on causal relations?"

The Buddha said: "O good man! Though there is no fuel or charcoal, the wind drives the fire flakes away. Through the causal factor of the wind, the fire does not die out."

"O Gautama! A man dies, but does not yet gain his next body. How can we call the life that exists in between one of causal relations?"

The Buddha said: "O Brahmacarin! Ignorance and craving are the causal relations. Through the causal relations of ignorance and craving, life is able to be sustained. O good man! Through causal relations, the body can be life, and life the body. Through causal relations, the body is different, and life different. A wise person should not say that the body and life are different all through."

The Brahmacarin said: "O World-Honoured One! Please condescend to analyse and explain to me clearly, so that I will truly be able to understand causal relations."

The Buddha said: "O Brahmacarin! The cause is the five skandhas and the result too is the five skandhas. The fire not started, there cannot be any smoke."

The Brahmacarin said: "O World-Honoured One! I now know and I now have understood."

"O good man! In what way have you come to know and in what way have you understood?"

"O World-Honoured One! Fire is the defilement, which truly burns in the realms of hell, hungry pretas, animals, humans and the gods. The smoke is the karmic results which a person harvests, which are non-eternal, non-pure and which emit a bad smell and are defiled and to be despised. Hence, "smoke". If beings do not perform any defilement, there cannot be any karmic result of defilement. That is why the Tathagata says that where there is no fire, there is no smoke. O World-Honoured One! I now see correctly. What I wish for is that you will now allow me to renounce the world?"

Then the World-Honoured One said to Kaundinya: "Admit this Brahmacarin and allow him to receive the precepts."

By order of the Buddha, he reported the matter to all the members of the Sangha and had him take the upasampada. After five days, the man attained arhatship.

Among the tirthikas, there was [present] a Brahmacarin by the name of Purana. He said: "O Gautama! Have you seen the fact that the world is eternal and do you say that it is eternal? Is what is said true or not true? Is it eternal, non-eternal, or eternal and non-eternal, or non-eternal and not non-eternal? Is it something that has a boundary line, is it without a boundary line, is it [both] with and without a boundary line, or is it something which does not have a boundary line or something that has no boundary line? Are the body and life one, or are body and life different? Or after the death of the Tathagata, are you one who has gone, or are you one who is gone and not gone, or one who is not one gone and not one who is not gone?"

The Buddha said: "O Purana! I never say that the world where we live is eternal, falsely made, or real; that it is non-eternal, eternal and non-eternal, or non-eternal and not non-eternal; that it has or has not a boundary line, that it is not one that has a boundary line and one that is not one that has not a boundary line; that this is the body, this is life, that the body and life are different, that after the Tathagata's death, he is one gone, one not gone, one gone and not gone, or that he is not one gone, nor one not gone."

Purana questioned further: "O Gautama! What wrong do you see in this, that you do not say?"

The Buddha said: "O Purana! If any person should say that the world is eternal, and this is real, and that all others are false, this is what is wrongly seen [“drsti”: i.e. a faulty view or vision of things]. What this wrong seeing sees is the action of wrong seeing, and this is the karma of wrong seeing, and this is the clinging of wrong seeing, and this is the bondage of wrong seeing, and this is the suffering of wrong seeing, and this is the cleaving of wrong seeing, and this is the fear of wrong seeing, and this is the heat of wrong seeing, and this is the bondage of wrong seeing. O Purana! Common mortals cling to what is wrongly seen, and cannot do away with birth, old age, illness, and death. Repeating lives in the six realms, they suffer from innumerable sorrows. And the same applies to what obtains regarding matters extending to not-gone or not not-gone, also. O Purana! I see in this wrong seeing such a lapse. So I do not cling, and so I do not speak about it to other persons."

"O Gautama! If you see such a lapse, do not cling to it and do not speak about it, O Gautama, what do you now see, cling to, and speak about?"

The Buddha said: "O good man! Now, the clinging of wrong seeing is the dharma of life and death. As the Tathagata has done away with life and death, he does not cling. O good man! The Tathagata is one who well sees and who well speaks. But he is not one who clings."

"O Gautama! In what way do you well see and well speak?"

"O good man! “I well see suffering, the cause of suffering, the extinction [of suffering], and the Way to the extinction of suffering, and discriminate and speak about four such Truths. I see thus. So, I segregate myself from all wrong seeings, all cravings, all streams and arrogances. That is why I am garbed in pure actions, unsurpassed quietude, and the Eternal Body. And this Body also has no east, no west, no south, and no north."  

“Purana said: "O Gautama! Why does the Eternal body have no east, no west, no south, and no north?"

The Buddha said: "O good man! I shall now put a question to you. Answer as you will. Why? It is like making a big fire before you. When it burns, do you know whether or not it is burning?"

"That is right. O Gautama!"  "When the fire dies, do you know it or not?"  "It is thus, it is thus, O Gautama!"

"O Purana! When people ask: "From where does the burning come and where does it go to?", how would you reply?"

"O Gautama! If there were anyone who were to ask this, I should reply: "This fire starts up from various causal relations. When the original causal relation ends and the new causal relation has not yet come about, the fire dies."

"If again there is a person who asks: "When extinguished, where does it go to?", how would you answer?"

"O Gautama! I should answer: "When the causal relations end, it dies. It does not have any direction to turn to."

"O good man! It is the same with the Tathagata, too. If there is any non-eternal form down to non-eternal consciousness, there is burning, because it is based on craving. "Burning" means receiving the 25 existences. Thus one can well say, when it burns, this fire has an easterly, westerly, southerly, or northerly direction. If craving now dies out, the fire of the karmic results of the 25 existences also ceases to burn. When it does not burn, we cannot say that there are the directions of east, west, south, or north. O good man! The Tathagata has already extinguished the cause of non-eternal form and non-eternal consciousness. Hence, his Body is Eternal. His Body being Eternal, we cannot speak of east, west, south, or north."

Purana said: "I wish to make an analogy. Please condescend to give ear to it."

The Buddha said: "Well said, well said! Speak as you will!"

"O World-Honoured One! For example, outside a big village, there is a sal forest. There is a tree in it. Before the forest came into being, it was born, and 100 years passed. The owner of the forest gave water to it and spent timely care upon it. The tree is old and rotten, and the bark, branches and leaves all drop off. What there is is quietude and truth. It is the same with the Tathagata. All that is old is gone; what there is is what is true. O World-Honoured One! I now very much desire to renounce the world and practise the Way."

The Buddha said: "Welcome, O bhiksu!" When the Buddha had said this, Purana at once entered the Path and, defilement gone, attained arhatship.