Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

The "Nirvana Sutra" Continued (Z9)

"O good man! There are three evil things through which one suffers evil results, namely:  1) the evil of defilement,  2) the evil of karma,  3) the evil of karmic returns. O good man! As this person possesses the above-quoted six things, he cuts himself off from the root of good, commits the five deadly sins, performs the four grave offences, slanders the Three Treasures, uses the things which belong to the Sangha, and does all kinds of non-good. Because of these causal relations, he sinks into Avichi Hell and receives a body 84,000 yojanas wide and broad. The sin of his actions of body, mouth and mind being grave, the person cannot extricate himself from suffering. Why not? Because his mind cannot call forth anything good. Innumerable Buddhas may come into the world, but such a person will not give ear to them or see them. Hence, we say that he forever sinks. This is as with the big fish in the river Ganges.

"O good man! I say: "The icchantika is one who eternally sinks, but there are icchantikas who do not fall within the class of those who eternally sink." Who are such? This is as in the case where, for the sake of "is", the person practises giving, sila [morality], and good. This is one who is eternally sunk.

"O good man! There are instances where four good things call forth evil results. What are the four? They are:  1) reading and reciting the sutras so as to come above others,  2) upholding the prohibitions and precepts for the sake of profit,  3) giving because one belongs to others,  4) setting one's mind on, and meditating for the sake of gaining, the thoughtlessness-and-non-thoughtlessness state of mind. These four evoke evil results. That is why we say of one who practises and amasses such that he sinks and comes up again. Why do we say he sinks? Because he enjoys the three existences [i.e. the kamadhatu, rupadhatu, and arupadhatu - worlds of desire, form, and non-from]. Why do we say he comes up? Because he sees the light. The light corresponds to his hearing [Dharma], upholding the silas, giving, and sitting in meditation.

"Why do we say that the person sinks? Because he gains in evil views and acquires arrogance. Hence, I say in the sutra:

"If beings seek all existences

And do good and evil deeds for existence,

Such persons will lose the way to Nirvana.

This is why we say that

The person temporarily comes up but sinks again.

He sails on the dark ocean of birth and death,

He may gain Emancipation

And do away with defilement.

But the person again suffers from evil returns.

This is temporarily coming up

Only to sink again."

"O good man! This is as in the case of the big fish that comes out of the water for a time when it sees the light, but, as its body is heavy, sinks down again. That is how things also proceed with the two persons mentioned above.

"O good man! And there is a person who clings to, and takes pleasure in, the three existences. This is sinking. He hears the Great Nirvana Sutra and gains faith. This is coming up.

Why do we say coming up? When the person hears this sutra, he does away with evil and practises good. This is coming up. The person believes, but is not perfect. Why is he not perfect? The person believes in Mahaparinirvana and the Eternal, Bliss, the Self, and the Pure, but says that the Tathagata's body is non-Eternal, non-Bliss, non-Self, and non-Pure.

"The Tathagata has two Nirvanas. One is the created, and the other is the uncreated. With created Nirvana, there are no Eternal, Bliss, Self, and the Pure. A person may believe that beings possess the Buddha-Nature, but not that all beings have it. So we say "not perfect in faith".

"O good man! There are two kinds [aspects] of faith: one is believing, and the other seeking. Such a person possesses faith, but does not push on and seek. Hence, not perfect in faith.

"There are also two phases of faith. One [type of faith] arises from hearing, and the other from thinking. The faith of this person arises from hearing, not from thinking. Hence, not perfect in faith.

"Also, there are two kinds. One [kind] believes in the fact that there is Enlightenment, and the other [kind of faith believes that there are] people who have gained it. Hence, not perfect in faith.

"Again, there are two kinds. One is belief in what is right, and the other in what is evil. A person says that there are cause and result and the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This is believing in what is right. A person says that there cannot be any such things as cause and result and that the Three Treasures are different in nature. The person believes in evil words and the Puranas. This is believing in evil. The person believes in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, but does not believe that the Three Treasures are one in nature and characteristics. He believes in cause and result, but does not believe that there is anyone who has gained [Enlightenment]. Hence, not perfect in faith. This person is not perfect in faith and does not observe the prohibitions and the precepts. Why do we say not perfect? Being not perfect, the sila [the moral precepts] which one has received is not perfect. And why does one say not perfect?

"Of sila, there are two kinds, namely:  1) sila aimed at deportment and  2) sila for sila's sake [i.e. sila observed not as a matter of form]. The person upholds the sila for deportment, but not the sila for sila's sake. Hence, not perfect in sila.

"Also, there are two kinds, which are:  1) one that is purported  and  2) one that is not purported. The person may be in accord with sila but has no non-purported sila. Hence, not perfect in sila.

"Also, there are two kinds, which are:  1) the person carries on right living in body and mind and  2) the person does not carry on right living in body and mind. This person does not have right living in body and mind. Hence, not perfect in sila.

"Also, there are two kinds, namely:  1) seeking sila and  2) abandoned sila. This person upholds the sila that is aimed at "is", but cannot attain the abandoned sila. Hence, not perfect in sila.

"Also, there are two kinds, which are:  1) to accord with "is" and  2) to accord with Enlightenment. The person upholds the sila that accords with "is", but not that which accords with Enlightenment. Hence, not perfect in sila.

"Also, there are two kinds, namely:  1) good sila and  2) evil sila. When body, mouth, and mind are good, this is good sila. And such silas as of cows and dogs are evil silas. The person believes that these two silas call forth good results. Hence, not perfect in sila. As the person does not possess the two, faith and sila, he is not perfect in his learning.

"In what way do we speak of not being perfect in hearing? The person believes only in six of the 12 types of sutra which the Tathagata has delivered and does not believe in the other six. Hence, not perfect in hearing. Or he upholds the six sutras, but cannot recite and expound them to others and no benefit is given. Hence, not perfect in hearing [i.e. in listening to Dharma].

"And also, having received these six sutras, he recites them and speaks about them for discussion, for superceding others, for profit, for all existences. Hence, not perfect in hearing.

"O good man! I speak in my sutras about perfect hearing. How is a person perfect? There is a bhiksu who is good in body, mouth, and mind. First of all, he makes offerings to all teachers, personal [i.e. his own] or otherwise, and also to the virtuous. These gain a loving mind towards this bhiksu, and through this causal relationship, they teach him what is stated in the sutras. The man, with the sincerest mind, upholds what is taught him and recites [it]. Upholding and reciting [this], he gains Wisdom. Having gained Wisdom, he thinks well and lives in accordance with Dharma. Thinking well, he gains the right meaning. Gaining the right meaning, his body and mind gain quietude. Gaining quietude in body and mind, joy arises. From the gladdened mind comes dhyana [meditation]. From dhyana comes right knowledge. Because of right knowledge, he abhors existence. This abhorrence of existence calls forth Emancipation. This person has nothing of this kind. Hence, not perfect in hearing. As this person is not perfect in these three things, he does not give.

"Of giving, there are two kinds, namely:  1) giving of wealth, and  2) giving of Dharma. This person practises giving of wealth, but seeks "is". Though he practises giving of Dharma, this, too, is not perfect. Why not? He conceals things and does not explain all. Because he fears that others might come above him. Hence, not perfect in giving.

"Of the giving of wealth and Dharma, there are two kinds, namely:  1) holy and  2) non-holy. By holy is meant the giving that does not seek any return when [something is] given; by non-holy is meant the giving that cares for [i.e. seeks] a return when giving. What the holy person gives is augmentation of Dharma. What the non-holy gives is augmentation of material things. Such a person gives wealth to augment wealth and gives of Dharma to augment wealth. Hence, not perfect in giving.

"Also, next, this person receives the six types of sutra. He gives to people who receive Dharma, but not to those who do not receive it. Hence, not perfect in giving.

"As this person does not possess the four things stated above, whatever Wisdom he practises is not perfect. The nature of Wisdom discriminates the nature well. This person cannot see the Eternal and the non-Eternal of the Tathagata. As to the Tathagata, this Nirvana Sutra says: "The Tathagata is Emancipation, and Emancipation is the Tathagata. The Tathagata is Nirvana, and Nirvana is Emancipation." He cannot discriminate between what is said. Pure action is the Tathagata. The Tathagata is Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, and Equanimity. Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, and Equanimity are Emancipation. Emancipation is Nirvana, and Nirvana is Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, and Equanimity. He cannot gain any discrimination in what is said. Hence, not perfect in Wisdom.

"Also, next, he is not clear as to the fact that the Buddha-Nature is the Tathagata. The Tathagata is one that does not exist in all other things. What does not exist in all other things is Emancipation. Emancipation is Nirvana, and Nirvana is something that does not exist in all other things. He cannot gain any discrimination in what is said [i.e. cannot discriminate the meaning of what is said]. Hence, not perfect in Wisdom.

"Also, next, he cannot gain any discrimination between the Four Truths of Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, Extinction, and the Way to Extinction. As he does not know the Four Truths, he is unable to know holy action. As he does not know holy action, he cannot know the Tathagata. As he does not know the Tathagata, he cannot know Emancipation. As he does not know Emancipation, he cannot know Nirvana. Hence, not perfect in Wisdom.

"He is thus not perfect in five things. Of these, there are two kinds, which are:  1) what increases good and  2) what increases evil. How does he increase evil? This person does not see what is evil in his own self. He says that he is perfect and gains a clinging mind. To those fellow wayfarers of his, he says he is the winner. So, he associates with evil persons, who take his side. Befriending such persons, he further hears about what is imperfect. Having heard [such], he is glad at heart, gains clinging and arrogance, and is indolent. Being indolent, he associates with the laity.

"Also, he takes pleasure in hearing about the secular world and keeps at a distance the teaching of renunciation. As a result of this, evil increases. As he grows in evil, he gains evil actions in body, mouth, and mind. These three actions not being pure, the three realms of hell, hungry pretas, and animals increase. This is temporarily coming up and sinking again. Who of my following corresponds to this temporarily coming up and then sinking again? This is Devadatta, Bhiksu Kokalika, Bhiksu Carved-Arm, Bhiksu Sunaksatra, Bhiksu Tisya, Bhiksu Full-Abode, Bhiksuni Compassionate-Soil, Bhiksuni Wilderness, Bhiksuni Squareness, Bhiksuni Arrogance, rich man Pureness, Upasaka Is-Seeking, Sharokushakushu , rich man Elephant, Upasika Fame, Upasika Light, Upasika Nanda, Upasika Army, and Upasika Bell. These persons are those who temporarily come up and sink again. For example, this is as in the case of the big fish which, when it sees the light, comes up but, as its body is heavy, sinks down again.

"The second kind of person deeply realises that he is not perfect in action. Being not perfect, he associates with a good teacher of the Way. Associating with a good friend, he is pleased to seek to learn what he has not yet heard. Having heard [it], he is pleased to act in the way he is told. Having received [these instructions], he is pleased to meditate. Having well thought about [it], he lives in accordance with Dharma. As he abides in Dharma, the good increases. As it increases, he does not sink any more. This is "abiding".

"Who of the Sangha are those who would answer to this description? They are five such bhiksus as Sariputra, Mahamaudgalyayana, Ajnatakaundinya and the others, the five bhiksus of the group of Yasas, and such others as Aniruddha, Kumarakasyapa, Mahakasyapa, Dasabalakasyapa, Bhiksuni Kisagotami, Bhiksuni Utpala, Bhiksuni Superior, Bhiksuni True-Meaning, Bhiksuni Manas, Bhiksuni Bhadra , Bhiksuni Purity, Bhiksuni Non-Retrogression, King Bimbisara, rich man Ugra, rich man Sudatta, Mahanama, poor man Sudatta, son of rich man Upali, rich man Jo, Upasika Fearless, Upasika Supratistha, Upasika Dharma-Loving, Upasika Valorous, Upasika Heaven-Gained, Upasika Sujata, Upasika Perfect-Body, Upasika Cow-Gained, Upasika Wilderness, Upasika Mahasena. All such bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas and upasikas can well be called "abodes" [i.e. those who abide].

"Why do we say "abide"? Because such a person always truly sees the good light. Hence, whether the Buddha has appeared in the world or not, such a person never does evil. That is why we say "abide". This is as in the case in which the fish, “timi”, seeks the light and does not sink and hide away. With all such beings things proceed thus. That is why I say in the sutras:

"If a person truly discriminates the meanings,

And with an intensive mind seeks

The fruition of a sramana,

And if a person truly reproaches all existences,

Such a person is one who lives

In accordance with Dharma.

If a person makes offerings to innumerable Buddhas

And practises the Way for innumerable kalpas

And if blessed with worldly pleasures,

Such a person is one who abides in Dharma.

If a person makes friends with a good teacher of the Way

And hears Wonderful Dharma, and

If the person thinks well in his mind,

And lives in accordance with the Way

And seeks the light and practises the Way,

That person attains Emancipation

And lives in peace."