Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

"Nirvana Sutra" Continued (Z26)

 

"O good man! You ask: "Does the body exist first or defilement?" This cannot obtain. Why not? If I say that the body comes first, you too will reprove me and say that with you too, as with me, the body cannot precede. Why do you reprove thus?

"O good man! There can be no before and after in the body of beings. Things happen at the same time. Though of the same time-relations, the body comes about due to defilement; it is not that there is defilement because of the existence of the body. What you make it  is that a person gains two eyes at the same time and one is not the cause of the other, that the eye on the left-hand side does not stand on [depend on] the right-hand eye, and that of the right not on that of the left-hand side. Should you say that the situation is the same with defilement and the body, I would have to say that this is not so. Why not? What obtains in the world is that the eye sees that the wick and the light exist in the same time-relations. But the light always depends on the wick, but the wick does not depend on the light.

"O good man! You may say that the body does not exist before; that, therefore, there is no cause to speak of. But this is not so. Why not? If you mean that there is no cause to speak of because of the fact that the body came about first and that there are no causal relations, you cannot say that all things depend on causality. You may say that as you do not see, there is no cause to speak of. But now we see a pot that comes about from causal relations. Why cannot we say that the body comes about as in the case of the earthen pot?

"O good man! Whether we see or not, all things depend on causal relations and there cannot be any talk of something having its own nature.

"O good man! If you say that everything has its own nature and that there are no causal relations, how can you explain the five great elements? These five great elements are nothing but the result of causal relations.

"O good man! The five great causal relations are also thus. But one cannot say that all things are like the five great causal relations. We might say that all world-fleeing people make effort and uphold sila. But candalas also make effort and uphold sila.

"O good man! You say that the five great elements definitely have a concrete nature. But this nature changes. So I see that it is not static.

"O good man! Butter, wax, and glue must be soil according to your way of thinking. Soil is indefinite. It is like water, or is equal to soil. So, we cannot call them anything concrete.

"O good man! Solder, lead, zinc, copper, iron, gold, and silver would have to be fire, according to your way of thinking. Fire has four qualities. When it flows, it has the nature of water; when moving, the nature of wind; when hot, it has the nature of fire; and when hard, it has the nature of earth. How can one state it definitely possesses the nature of fire [alone]?

"O good man! The nature of water is that of flowing. Even when water gets frozen, we do not call it earth. If it is called water, why do we not call it the wind when it is moving? If it is still to be called water, why do we not call it wind when moving? If a thing, when moving, is not called wind, we may well call water not water when it is in a frozen state? If these two cases are grounded on causal relations, how can you say that all things are not based on causal relations?

"O good man! The five sense-organs by nature see, hear, sense, know, and touch. We may say that these all depend on their nature and not on causal relations. But this is not so. Why not? O good man! What something has by nature cannot be changed. If we say that the sense-organ of the eye can truly see, it must always be able to see. There cannot be any case where it sees and where it does not see. Hence, we can know that it truly sees through causal relations and that this is not through non-causal relations.

"O good man! You say that you gain greed from the five dusts [i.e. the five sense-fields] and that a person does not get emancipated. This is not so. Why not? O good man! A person gains desire and gets emancipated. Though this may not arise out of the causal relations of the five dusts, the person gains desire due to the evil sensing of the world, and he gains emancipation through the good sensing of the world. O good man! Through internal causal relations, the person gains desire and emancipation; through external causal relations comes about augmentation [growth]. So, it goes against reason to say that all things have natures of their own and that a person does not gain desire from the five dusts and that the person gains emancipation.

"O good man! You say that though perfect in all the sense-organs, a person has little wealth and is not free; and that lacking in all sense-organs, another person has abundant wealth and great freedom. This indicates that to say that a thing has its own nature and that there is no such thing as causal relations to speak of, is not right. Why not? O good man! A person reaps results through karma. There are three kinds of karma result, namely:  1) fruition that comes about in this life,  2) fruition which one reaps in the next life, and  3) fruition that one harvests in later lives. Poverty, great wealth, perfect sense-organs and imperfection of the sense-organs arise from different karmas. If there were any [single] nature of its own, those perfect in the sense-organs would have to be rich, and one who is rich would have to be perfect in all his sense-organs. But things do not obtain thus. So, one can definitely know that there can never be any fixed nature of its own and that all arises out of causal relations.

"O good man! You say that a child cannot discriminate the causal relations of the five dusts and yet it weeps and laughs, and that this indicates, you say, that everything has its own nature. But this is not so. Why not? If laughing goes by nature [i.e. if laughing exists based on a fixed nature], one would always have to be laughing; if weeping were based on a nature, one would always have to be weeping. There cannot be laughing at one time and weeping at another. If one laughs at one time and weeps at another, this tells us - we can know - that all is based on causal relations. Hence, you should not say that all things have their own nature and that causal relations have nothing to do with it."