Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

"Buddha and God" (7)

     The relevant scripture is not officially a sutra (although it does on occasion refer to itself as such), but a Buddhist "tantra" (a more mystical, secret manual for Buddhist practice). It is entitled The All-Creating King. This is what it teaches: all things spring from the Awakened Mind (bodhicitta), which is called Samantabhadra Buddha. "Samantabhadra" means "All-Good" (we remember that one of the definitions of God earlier in this study stated  that God is "all good"). This Samantabhadra Buddha is the source of all Buddhas and all beings. Apart from Samantabhadra Buddha, nothing truly exists, since all depends on Buddha, but Buddha depends on nothing. This Primaeval Buddha is called "Adi-Buddha" (Primordial Buddha) elsewhere in Buddhism, and is sometimes named Vairochana or Vajrasattva. The important point, however, is that this Buddha represents the Ultimate Source of all things, whether of the past, present or future. Without Samantabhadra Buddha - the all-good, universal Mind of Awake-ness - nothing can exist. Here are some quotes from the All-Creating King Tantra, in which Samantabhadra speaks directly to the listener:

     "I, the supreme source ["All-Creating King"], am the sole maker, and no other agent exists in the world. The nature of phenomena is created through me ... The very manifestation of existence itself depends on me ... I am self-arising wisdom that has existed from the beginning. I am the supreme source of everything, pure and total consciousness ...'Consciousness' means that self-arising wisdom, the true essence, dominates and clearly perceives all the phenomena of the animate and inanimate universe. This self-arising fundamental substance, not produced by causes and condition, governs all things and gives life to all things ... As my nature is unhindered and all-pervading, it is the celestial abode of wisdom and luminous space: therein abides only self-arising wisdom. As I am the substance whence everything arises, the five great elements, the three worlds [i.e. the worlds of Desire, Form, and Formlessness] and the six classes of beings [hell-denizens, ghosts, animals, humans, Titans, and gods] are only my body, my voice, and my mind: I myself create my own nature ... The root of all phenomena is pure and total consciousness, the source. All that appears is my nature. All that manifests is my magical display. All sounds and words express only my meaning ...

"I am the core of all that exists. I am the seed of all that exists. I am the foundation of all that exists. I am the root of existence. I am 'the core', because I contain all phenomena. I am 'the seed', because I give birth to everything. I am 'the cause', because all comes forth from me. I am 'the trunk', because the ramificationsof every event sprout from me. I am 'the foundation', because all abides in me. I am called 'the root', because I am everything [emphasis added]" (Translation of "The All-Creating King", published as The Supreme Source, tr. by Adriano Clemente and Andrew Lukianowicz, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York 1999, pp. 137-141, 157).

This amazing "theos-en-pan" ("God-in-all"), divine declaration establishes a number of important points. Firstly, the Absolute Reality is Universal Mind or Consciousness. Secondly, that Consciousness generates all things, from ordinary creatures,  people and animals to the highest Buddhic beings. Thirdly, that Consciousness is able to communicate with its creation (that is precisely what it is doing here) - there is a potential relationship between Creator and Created. Fourthly, this Supreme Source is in some senses a personal being, however transcendent (it speaks of possessing universal body, speech and mind, and of "my nature", etc.). Fifthly, it was never created but has existed from the very beginning. Finally, everything enshrines this All-Making King's very own Nature within itself - nothing is cut off from "God", the essence of the intelligent Totality.

     Some readers might be surprised to see Buddha presented so unambiguously as a creative God (in effect), but this Buddhist scripture is not alone in so portraying the Original Buddha. The short Buddhist text called Advayasiddhi, by Laksminkara, refers to the "supreme Lord" who is "omniscient" and "the progenitor of the three worlds" [i.e. the entire threefold universe] and states that "all creatures are generated from Vairochana" (Advayasiddhi: The Tantric View of Laksminkara, tr. by Dr. Ramprasad Mishra, Kant Publications, Delhi, 1993, pp. 31, 34), the Primordial Buddha. Moreover, there is a whole separate religion which reveres Buddha as God incarnate - part of the Vedic religion of India, popularly known as "Hinduism". We might do well in this context to see what it teaches.

         (Continued in "Buddha and God 8")