Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

"Nirvana Sutra" Continued (Z25)


"Also, next, O Gautama! There are two kinds of thing in the world, which are:  1) the "is" and  2) the "is-not". The "is" is the Void and the "is-not" is the hairs of a tortoise. Of these, the one does not depend on the causal relations because of "is", and the other does not depend on causal relations because of "is-not". So, all things depend on their own nature and not on causal relations."      

The Buddha said: "O good man! You say that it is with all things as it is with the natures of the five great elements. But this is not so. Why not? O good man! You say that the five great elements are eternal. Why? All things are not eternal. If what exists in the world is non-eternal, how can these five great elements not be non-eternal? If the five great elements are eternal, all that exists in the world must also be eternal. Therefore, when you say that the five great elements have their own natures, that they do not depend on causal relations, and that the case of all things is like that of the five great elements, this has no basis [of truth] to stand upon. O good man! You say that as there are places where things can be of use, things must have natures of their own. But this is not so. Why not? Because they gain their denominations through causal relations. If a name comes about from a cause, the meaning must come about from a cause. Why do we say that the name comes about through a cause? What is worn on the brow is called a head ornament, what is on the neck a necklace, what is on the arm a bracelet, and what a cart has is wheels. If fire burns grass and plants, we speak of a grass and plant fire. O good man! A tree, when born, does not possess the nature of the arrow or halberd. Through causal relations, the artisan takes it and makes arrows; through causal relations he makes a halberd out of it. So, we cannot say that things possess natures of their own.

"O good man! You say that the tortoise is born on land and that by its own nature it goes into the water; that the calf, when born, drinks milk by its own nature, and that things proceed thus. But this is not so. Why not? If it is not through causal relations that it gets into the water, there is nothing in the world that is based on causal relations. So why is it that it does not go into fire? The calf drinks milk soon after birth. If this is not through causal relations, there cannot be any causal relations to talk about. Why does it not suck on the horn?

"O good man! You say that everything has its own-born nature, that there is no need for learning, and that there is no development. But this is not so. Why not? Now, there is teaching, and through this teaching there is growing up [development]. Hence, you must know that there is no nature of its own.

"O good man! If everything possessed its own original nature, no Brahmin would need to kill sheep to pray and arrive at a pure body. If a person prays for the sake of his own self, this tells us that he has no original nature of his own.

"O good man! There are three ways of speaking, which are:  1) the desire to do something,  2) the time of the doing, and  3) the completed doing. If it is the case that there is a nature of its own, how can there be in the world these three ways of speaking? The fact that there are these three ways of speaking tells us that there is no nature of its own in a thing.

"O good man! If you say that everything has its own nature, know that all things must have a fixed nature. If there is a fixed nature, how is it that the single thing, the sugar cane, can become juice, honey, rock candy, liquor, and vinegar? If there is a single nature, how could such things come about? If such things come about from a single thing, know that this indicates that everything cannot be fixedly one and of one nature.

"O good man! If everything has a fixed nature, why do the holy ones not take the juice of the sugar cane, the rock candy, and the molasses at the time of taking the liquor, and later take it when it has been made into vinegar? For this reason, we can know that there is no fixed nature. If there is no fixed nature, how could it be other than by causal relations?

"O good man! If everything has a fixed nature, how can there be any ground for analogies? If there are analogies, this tells us: know that there is no fixed nature in any thing. If there were a fixed nature, there could be - you should know - no analogies. All the wise persons of the world employ analogies. Know that there can be no nature of a thing and there is no single nature.