Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

The "Nirvana Sutra" Continued (Z6)

"Also, a person thinks: "All things do not arise having the four great elements as their cause. Beings all equally possess the four great elements. Beings see that this person may gain and the other may not. If there is any Holy Way, things should go thus. But things do not go thus. So one can indeed know that there is no such thing as the Holy Way."

"Also, a person thinks: "If all holy persons have only one Nirvana, we can know that there cannot be any such thing as a holy person. Why not? Because one cannot gain it. The eternal Dharma cannot be gained, or one cannot gain or abandon it. If holy persons have many Nirvanas, this tells us that what there is there is non-eternal. Why? Because these are things that can be counted. If Nirvana is one, it will come to everybody when one person gains it. If Nirvana is many, it must possess boundary lines. How can we call it eternal? If it is said that Nirvana is one in body and that emancipation is many, this may be likened to the case where one has many teeth and a tongue. But this is not so. Why not? Because each gaining is not total gaining. As there is a boundary line, it must be non-eternal. If non-eternal, how can one speak of Nirvana? If there is no Nirvana, how can there be any holy person? Due to this, we can know that there is no one who can be called a holy person."

"Also, a person thinks: "The Way that must be gained by any holy person is not what can be gained through causal relations. If it cannot be gained through causal relations, why do we all become holy persons? If all people are not holy persons, we can know that there cannot be any holy person or Way."

"Also, a person thinks: "The holy person says that there are two causal relations regarding right view, namely:  1) following others and giving ear to Dharma, and  2) thinking for oneself. If these two come about by causal relations, what comes about must also arise out of causal relations. Thus, there must be going on an unending chain of wrongs. If these two do not come about by causal relations, why is it that all beings do not get it?" So thinking, the person truly severs the root of good.

"O good man! If a person should thus profoundly view all things as causeless and resultless, that person cuts himself off from the root of the five things, which begin with faith. O good man! The person who lacks the root of good is not necessarily one of the mean and dull; nor is he in heaven or in the three unfortunate realms. It is the same with the bhiksu who infringes the  law of the Sangha."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! When does such a person come back and gain the root of good?"

The Buddha said: "O good man! Such a person gains the root of good at two times. One is when he first enters hell, and the other is when he gets out of hell. O good man! There are three kinds of good act, which are those of 1) the past,  2) the present, and  3) the future. As regards the past, the nature dies out of itself. The cause may go off, but the result does not yet ripen. For this reason, we do not say that the person cuts off the karmic result of the past. What cuts off the causes of the Three Times is what we say that we cut off."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! If we say that we sever the root of good when we sever the cause of the Three Times, we may infer that the icchantika has the Buddha-Nature. Is such Buddha-Nature that of the past or is it that of the present or of the future? Or is it extended over all the Three Times? If it is of the past, how can we call it eternal? The Buddha-Nature is eternal. From this, we can know that it does not belong to the past. If it is of the future, how can we call it eternal? Why does the Buddha say that all beings will definitely gain it? If a person will unfailingly gain it, how can we say that he severs? If it is of the present, how can it be eternal? Why is it that the person will decidedly see it?

"The Tathagata says that in the Buddha-Nature there are six kinds [aspects], which are:  1) the Eternal,  2) the True,  3) the Real,  4) the Good,  5) the Pure,  6) the Visible. If the Buddha-Nature exists even after the severing of the root of good, we cannot say that we sever the root of good. If there is no Buddha-Nature, how can we say that all beings possess it? If the Buddha-Nature is both "is" and "is-not", why does the Tathagata say that it is eternal?"

The Buddha said: "O good man! The Tathagata-World-Honoured One has four answers to all beings, which are:  1) a definite answer,  2) a discriminative answer,  3) a non-accorded answer, and  4) a left-out answer.

"O good man! What is a definite answer? When asked if an evil action calls forth a good or evil result, we say definitely that what comes about is not good in nature. The same is the situation with what is good. If asked whether the Tathagata is all-knowing or not, we definitely say that he is an all-knowing person. When asked if the Buddhist teaching is pure or not, we definitely say that it is pure. When asked if the disciples of the Buddha live in accordance with the rules, the answer will definitely be that they live in accordance with the rules set for them to live by.

"What is a discriminative answer? It is as in the case of the Four Truths that I speak about. What are the Four? These are:  1) Suffering,  2) Cause of Suffering,  3) Extinction, and  4) the Way to the extinction of suffering. What is the Truth of Suffering? It is so called because there are eight sufferings. What is the Truth of the Cause of suffering? It is so called because of the cause of the five skandhas. What is the Truth of Extinction? It is so called because of greed, ill-will and ignorance, which go all through. What is the Truth of the Way? The 37 elements of Enlightenment are called the Truth of the Way. This is a discriminative answer.

"What is the answer to what is asked? This is as when I say that all things are non-eternal. And a person asks: "O Tathagata-World-Honoured One! Why do you say non-eternal?" If this is asked, we answer: "The Tathagata says non-eternal because of the fact that things are created." The same is the case with the non-Self, too. This is as when I say that all things get burnt.

"Another person asks further: "Why does the Tathagata-World-Honoured One say that all gets burnt?" The answer to this would be: "The Tathagata says that all burn due to greed, ill-will, and ignorance."

"O good man! “The Tathagata's ten powers, four fearlessnesses, Great Loving-Kindness and Great Compassion, three remembrances, all kinds of samadhi such as the Suramgama Samadhi, etc., that come to a total of some 8 million-billion, the 32 signs of perfection, the 80 minor marks of excellence, all the samadhis such as the five-knowledge mudra, etc., whose number extends up to 3 million 5 thousand, all the samadhis such as the vajra-samadhi, etc., whose number reaches 4,200, and the samadhis of the expedients, which are innumerable, are the Buddha-Nature of this Buddha. In this Buddha-Nature, there are seven things, namely:  1) the Eternal,  2) the Self,  3) Bliss,  4) the Pure,  5) the True,  6) the Real, and  7) the Good”. These are discriminative answers.

"O good man! In the Buddha-Nature of the transformed bodhisattva that represents another person [Jap. “goshin”], there are six things, which are:  1) the Eternal,  2) the Pure,  3) the True,  4) the Real,  5) the Good, and  6) Little Seeing. These are discriminative answers.

"You asked before: "Is there any Buddha-Nature in the person whose root of good has been severed?" Also, there is the Buddha-Nature of the Tathagata; also, there is the Buddha-Nature of the body represented as of a different person. As these two hinder one's future, we may well call these "nothing". As one decidedly gains it, we may well call this "is". This is a discriminative answer.

"The Buddha-Nature of the Tathagata is not of the past, present or future. The Buddha-Nature of the body gained to represent a different person has present and future. When we see to some extent, we call it the present. When one has not fully seen it, we construe it as belonging to the future.

"In the days when the Tathagata had not yet attained unsurpassed Enlightenment, what there was was the Buddha-Nature of past, present and future, due to the fact that the Buddha-Nature stood as cause. But the result is not thus. There is a situation where things concern the Three Times, or one where the Three Times are not involved.

"With the body of the Bodhisattva who gains it for a different person, the Buddha-Nature is in the state of cause. So it has past, present and future. It is the same with the result, too. This is a discriminative answer.

"There are six kinds [elements] in the Buddha-Nature of the Bodhisattva at the level of the ninth stage, which are:  1) the Eternal,  2) the Good,  3) the True,  4) the Real,  5) the Pure, and  6) the Visible. When the Buddha-Nature is the cause, it has the three phases of past, present and future. The same applies to the result, too. This is a discriminative answer.

"There are five things relative to the Buddha-Nature of Bodhisattvas at the levels from the eighth down to the sixth stage, namely:  1) the True,  2) the Real,  3) the Pure,  4) the Good, and  5) the Visible. When the Buddha-Nature is the cause, it has past, present and future. So does it obtain with the result, too. This is a discriminative answer.

"In the Buddha-Nature of Bodhisattvas at the levels from the fifth down to the first stage, there are five things, which are:  1) the True,  2) the Real,  3) the Pure,  4) the Visible, and  5) the Good and the non-Good.

"O good man! The Buddha-Nature of categories five, six and seven is what will assuredly be gained by those who have severed the root of good. Hence, "is". This is a discriminative answer.

"There may be those who will say: "Those who have severed the root of good decidedly have the Buddha-Nature and they decidedly have no Buddha-Nature." This is a left-out answer."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said: "O World-Honoured One! I have heard that an answer where no answer is given is called a left-out answer. O Tathagata! Why do you call such an answer a left-out one?"

"O good man! I do not say that leaving out and not answering is a left-out answer. O good man! Of this left-out answer, there are two kinds, namely: 1) one which hinders and checks, and  2) non-clinging. On this account, we say left-out answer."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! Why do you the Buddha say that the cause is past, present and future and the result past, present and future, and also that it is not past, present and future?"

The Buddha said: "O good man! Of the five skandhas, there are two kinds, namely:  1) cause and 2) result. The five skandhas of this cause have past, present and future, but it is also the fact that they are not past, present and future. O good man! All the bondages of ignorance and defilement are the Buddha-Nature. Why? Because they are the cause of the Buddha-Nature. From ignorance and action and from all the defilements arise the five skandhas of good. This is the Buddha-Nature. We gain the five skandhas of good up to unsurpassed Enlightenment. That is why I said before in the sutra: "The Buddha-Nature of the being is like milk which contains blood." Blood refers to all the defilements of ignorance and action, etc., and milk refers to the five skandhas of good. That is why I say: "From all the defilements and from all the five skandhas of good, one arrives at unsurpassed Enlightenment." Just as the body of beings is made up of pure blood, so does it obtain with the Buddha-Nature, too. The Buddha-Nature of the srotapanna and sakrdagamin class who have excised defilement to some extent is like milk [“ksira”]; the Buddha-Nature of the anagamin is like butter [“dadhi”]; that of the arhat is like fresh butter [“navanita”]; that of those at the levels of pratyekabuddha up to the Bodhsiattvas of the ten stages is like clarified butter [“ghrta”]; and the Buddha-Nature of the Buddha is like the skim of melted butter [“sarpirmanda”]. O good man! The defilement of the present hinders, so that beings cannot see. In Gandhamadana, we come across the "ninnikuso". It does not mean that all cows can feed on it. It is the same with the Buddha-Nature. This is a discriminative answer."