Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

Selected Extracts 1d


(Continued from Selected Extracts 1c)


The advanced practitioner of Buddha-Dharma, then, should exert considerable effort in the practice of cultivating meditative awareness of the Self, which is the constant presence of the Buddha-Essence within each being. This Self is embodied, as it were (according to the Dharmakshema sutra), in the "extremely profound sphere / domain / realm [gambhira vishaya ] of the Tathagata, the eternal, untransforming Dharmakaya", which is the "abode of the unsurpassed Dharma Lord, the Holy King [i.e. Buddha]". To deny that this Buddhic Self is a Reality, and to insist that impermanence alone reigns supreme even here,  is to distort Dharma and seriously to misunderstand its implicit and explicit doctrines. The Buddha says so in the following extracts from the sutra:


     "The constant presence / abiding of the Tathagata is called 'the Self' [atman]. The Dharmakaya [essential being of the Buddha] is unbounded, unimpeded, neither arising nor perishing, and endowed with the eight masteries / sovereignties [aishvarya - such as being able to project countless mind-endowed forms, to acquire all dharmas, and to pervade all places like space]. This is called 'the Self'. (Dharmakshema version).



    "The idea that treats the impermanent (anitya) as permanent/ eternal (nitya) is a cognitive distortion. The idea that treats the permanent/ eternal as impermanent is a cognitive distortion ...


     "The idea which treats that which lacks the Self as having the Self is a cognitive distortion. The idea which treats that which has the Self as that which lacks the Self is a cognitive distortion. 'Mundane people say that there is a Self, but there is no Self in the Buddha's teaching, contrary to the mundane view, and the Tathagata-garbha is not even mentioned' - this cultivation of non-Self is [a] cognitive distortion." (Tibetan version)


     "When I have taught non-Self, fools uphold the teaching that there is no Self. The wise know that such is conventional speech [vyavahara-vat] and they are free from doubts." (Tibetan version)


     "... on the morning of Buddhahood, he [i.e. the perfected Bodhisattva] acquires the sovereign Self [aishvarya-atman]".