Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

The "Nirvana Sutra" Continued (Z7)

The Buddha said: "O good man! All people did things in the past, the karmic results of which they are now living through in this life. There can be the actions of the future. As these Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! If the Buddha-have not yet come about, there is no result to speak of. People have defilement now. If not, all beings would have to be able clearly to see the Buddha-Nature. On this account, one who has severed the root of good indeed cuts off, with the causal relation of defilement of the present world, the root of good and, through the causal relation of the power of the Buddha-Nature of the future, can gain the root of good."

Kasyapa said: "O World-Honoured One! How might one gain the root of good in the future?"

"O good man! This is analogous to the day-lamp which can indeed dispel the gloom, even though the sun has not yet risen. This is just as the future can truly call forth beings. It is the same with the Buddha-Nature of the future. This is what we call a discriminative answer."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! If the five skandhas are the Buddha-Nature, why do we say that the Buddha-Nature of beings exists neither within nor without?"

The Buddha said: "O good man! How could you lose the meaning? Did I not say before that the Buddha-Nature of the being is none other than the Middle Path?"

Kasyapa said: "O World-Honoured One! I did not lose the meaning. As beings do not grasp the meaning of this Middle Path, I speak thus."

"O good man! Beings do not understand the Middle Path. At times they understand it, and at other times they do not. O good man! In order that beings can know, I say that the Buddha-Nature is neither within nor without. Why? Common beings say that the Buddha-Nature is the five skandhas, as though it were a vessel. Or they say that it exists outside of the skandhas as in the Void. That is why the Tathagata say Middle Path. The Buddha-Nature which beings possess is neither the six sense-organs nor the six sense-fields. Within and without come together. So we say Middle Path. That is why the Tathagata says that the Buddha-Nature is not other than the Middle Path. As it is neither within nor without, it is the Middle Path. This is a discriminative answer.

"Also, next, O good man! Why do we say neither within nor without? O good man! Some say that the Buddha-Nature is none but the tirthika. Why? In the course of innumerable kalpas, the Bodhisattva-mahasattva, being amidst tirthikas, has cut away all defilements, trained his mind, taught people, and then gained unsurpassed Enlightenment. On this account, the Buddha-Nature is none but the tirthika.

"Or a person might say: "The Buddha-Nature is no other than the Way within." Why so? The Bodhisattva may have practised the way of the tirthikas over the course of countless kalpas. But other than by the Way within, he would not be able to attain unsurpassed Enlightenment. That is why the Buddha-Nature is what the Buddha taught. For this reason, the Tathagata checks off the two planes and says: "The Buddha-Nature is neither inside nor outside. It is an inside-and-outside. This is the Middle Path." This is a discriminative answer.

"Also, next, O good man! Some say: "The Buddha-Nature is none other than the Adamantine Body of the Tathagata and the 32 signs of perfection and the 80 minor marks of excellence. Why? It is nothing that is false."

"Or a person might say: "The Buddha-Nature is no other than the ten powers, the four fearlessnesses, Great Loving-Kindness and Great Compassion, the three remembrances, all kinds of samadhis, such as the Suramgama Samadhi, etc. Why? Because by means of samadhi, one gains the Adamantine Body, the 32 signs of perfection, and the 80 minor marks of excellence." Because of this, the Tathagata checks off the two planes and says that the Buddha-Nature is neither inside nor out; it is both in and out. This is the Middle Path.

"Also, next, O good man! Some say: "The Buddha-Nature is the good thinking of the Way within. Why? Apart from good thinking, one cannot attain unsurpassed Bodhi. Thus, the Buddha-Nature is the good thinking of the Way within."

"Or some say: "The Buddha-Nature hears Dharma, following others. Why? To hear Dharma gives one good thinking of the Way. If one does not give ear to Dharma, this is no thinking. Thus, the Buddha-Nature is to hear Dharma, following others." On this account, the Tathagata checks off the two planes and says that the Buddha-Nature is neither within nor without; and also it is both within and without. This is the Middle Path.

"Also, next, O good man! Some say: "The Buddha-Nature is what is without. It refers to danaparamita. Through danaparamita, one attains unsurpassed Bodhi. Because of this, we say that danaparamita is the Buddha-Nature." Or a person says: "The Buddha is the Way within. This refers to the five paramitas. Other than these five things, there cannot be - we should know - any cause or result of the Buddha-Nature." On this account, the Tathagata checks off the two planes and says: "The Buddha-Nature is neither within nor without. It is both within and without. This is the Middle Path."

"Also, next, O good man! A person says: "The Buddha-Nature is the Way within. For example, it is like the mani [jewel] on the forehead of the wrestler. Why? Because the Eternal, Bliss, the Self, and the Pure are like manis. Because of this, we say that the Buddha-Nature is within." Or some say: "The Buddha-Nature is without. It is like the treasure trove of the poor man. Why? Because one sees it through expedients. It is the same with the Buddha-Nature, too. It exists outside of beings. By effecting an expedient, one can see it." Because of this, the Tathagata checks off the two planes and says that the Buddha-Nature exists neither within nor without; it is also both within and without. This is the Middle Path.

"O good man! The Buddha-Nature of beings is not "is" and is not "not-is". Why so? The Buddha-Nature is "is", but it is not as in voidness. Because even when effecting innumerable expediencies, the voidness that we speak of in the world cannot be seen. But the Buddha-Nature can be seen. Because of this, though it is "is", it is not like voidness. The Buddha-Nature is "not-is", but it is not as with the horns of a hare [i.e. it is not that it does not exist]. Why? Even with innumerble expedients, the hair of a tortoise and the horns of a hare cannot come about. The Buddha-Nature can come about. So, though "not-is", it is not the same as the horns of a hare. So, the Buddha-Nature is neither "is" nor "not-is"; it is "is" and "not-is".

"Why do we say "is"? All is "is". Beings do not get cut off and do not die out. This is like the flame of a lamp, until one attains unsurpassed Bodhi. So, we say "is".

"Why do we say that it is "not-is"? All beings are, for the present, not the Eternal, Bliss, the Self, and the Pure, and do not possess the Buddhist teaching. Hence, "not-is". As "is" and "not-is" become one, we say Middle Path. That is why the Buddha says that the Buddha-Nature of the being is neither "is" nor "not-is".

"O good man! If a person should ask: "Is there a fruit in this seed or not?", answer definitely: "It is either "is" or "not-is". Why? Without the seed, we cannot gain the fruit. Hence, we say "is". The seed does not yet have any bud. Hence, "not-is". Because of this, we say either "is" or "is-not". Why? Although there exists the difference of time, the body is one. The same is the case with the Buddha-Nature of the being. “If one says that in the being there is a separate Buddha-Nature, this is not so. Why? Because the being is the Buddha-Nature, and the Buddha-Nature is the being. Through difference in time, we have the difference of the Pure and the non-Pure” [emph. added].

"O good man! If a person asks: "Can this seed definitely call forth fruit, or can this fruit truly call forth a seed?", answer definitely: "It either calls forth or it does not."

"O good man! Worldly people say that there is cream in milk. What might this imply? O good man! If a person says that there is cream in milk, this is nothing but clinging; if a person says: "there is no cream", this is what is false. One comes away from these two planes and says definitely: "It is either "is" or "not-is."

"Why "is"? Because we gain cream from milk. The cause is the milk and the result is the cream. Because of this, we say "is".

"Why do we say "not-is"? The thing and the taste differ and the use is not one [i.e. not the same]. For fever we use milk, and for loose bowels cream. Milk calls forth a cold, whereas cream fever.

"O good man! A person might say that there is in milk the nature of cream. If so, milk is cream and cream milk. The nature is one.

"Why is it that milk comes out first and not cream? If there is the causal relation to speak of, why is it that all beings do not so speak of it? If there is no causal relation, why is it that cream does not come out first? If cream does not come out first, who is it that has made the order of: milk, cream, fresh butter, clarified, butter, and the skim of melted butter? From this, we know that cream was not before, but is now. If it was not before, but is now, this is something non-eternal.

"O good man! A person might say that as there is the nature of cream in milk, cream does indeed come forth; as there is the nature of cream, cream does not come about from water. But the case is not so. Why not? For even watery grass, too, has the nature of milk and cream. How so? From watery grass we gain milk and cream. If a person says that in milk there is decidedly the nature of cream and that there is not in watery grass, this is something false. Why? Because the mind is unequal [because the person is being inconsistent]. Hence, false.

"O good man! If we say that there is decidedly cream in milk, there must surely be the nature of milk in cream. Why? From milk comes about cream, and cream does not call forth milk. If there is no causal relation, we should know that this cream is what originally was not, but now is. Because of this, the wise will say that it is not that there is the nature of cream in milk and it is not that there is not the nature of cream in milk.

"O good man! Because of this, the Tathagata says in this sutra: "If one says that all beings decidedly have the Buddha-Nature, this is clinging; if one says that they do not have it, this is what is false." The wise will say: "The Buddha-Nature of the being is either "is" or "not-is".

"O good man! When four things harmonise [i.e. conjoin together], visual consciousness comes about. What are the four? They are: the eye, the thing, brightness [light], and desire. The nature of this visual consciousness does not exist in the eye, nor in the thing, nor in brightness, nor in desire. Through conjoining, it comes about. Thus, visual consciousness is what originally was not but now is, and what once was and what again is not. Hence, we have to know that there is no fixed nature. It is the same with the nature of cream in milk, too.

"If a person should say: "Water does not call forth cream, as it does not possess the nature of cream. Thus, there is decidedly the nature of cream in milk" - this is not so. Why not? All things have different causes and different results. Also, it is not that a single cause calls forth all results; it is not that all results come from a single cause.

"O good man! Do not say that thus four things call forth visual consciousness and from these four things comes about auditory consciousness.

"O good man! Departing from the [necessary] expedient methods, one cannot gain cream from milk, or fresh butter from cream. What is definitely needed is the expedient means.

"O good man! The wise person sees that cream comes from milk, but will not say that fresh butter will also thus come forth, other than through expedient means. O good man! That is why I say in this sutra: "When the cause has come about, a thing comes about; when the cause is absent, there is no thing."

"O good man! The nature of salt is salty. It truly makes what is not salty [taste] salty. If there were already a salty nature in what is not salty, why would people continue to seek to possess salt? If there were no saltiness before, then that would be [a case of] what was not becoming so now. By the help of the [right] condition, we get saltiness. All things possess the nature of saltiness, but we do not feel this, on account of the smallness of the amount. This smallness in nature makes things salty. If there were not this salty nature, even salt could not bring forth [the quality of] saltiness.

"A seed, for example, has by itself the quality of the four great elements. From the four great elements other than those of itself, the bud, the stem, the branch and the leaf can grow. It is the same with the nature of saltiness. So do they say. But this is not so. Why not? If it is the case that what is not salty possesses a salty nature, this is tantamount to saying that salt, too, must have the nature of non-saltiness, even if to the smallest degree. If this salt thus has two natures, why is it that it cannot be separately used, other than what is not salty? Hence, we know that salt does not originally possess two natures. As with salt, so is it with all other things which are not salty. A person might say that the seeding power of the four great elements that exists outside truly enhances that of those inside. This is not so. Why not? As things are stated in an orderly way, this does not follow the expedient means. From milk, we get cream. But things do not proceed thus with fresh butter and all other things. There is no going through the expedient means. It is the same with the four great elements. One might say that the four great elements that are within get augmented by those from outside. But we do not see the four great elements of the outside world getting augmented by the four great elements of the inside world. The fruit, sirsa, has no definite form beforehand. When it sees the krttika, the fruit comes about, gaining a size of five inches. This fruit does not get its size from what obtains in the four great elements outside of the fruit itself.