Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 3: On Grief
Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra
Chapter 3: On Grief
Translated by Kosho Yamamoto from Dharmakshema's Chinese version,
edited and revised by Dr. Tony Page
Copyright for this edition is held by Dr. Tony Page, 2012.
Of shaking, there are two kinds: one is a shaking and the other a great shaking. The little shaking is a [mere] shaking and the one that shakes greatly is a great shaking. The one that generates a small sound is a shaking, and the one that generates a great sound is a great shaking. The shaking where only the earth shakes is a shaking, and that where the mountains, forests, rivers, seas and everything else shakes is a great shaking. That which shakes in one direction is a shaking, and that which shakes round and round is a great shaking. The type that moves is a shaking, and the type where beings' minds get shaken is a great shaking. The shaking which occurs when the Bodhisattva comes down from Tushita Heaven to Jambudvipa is a great shaking. The shakings when the Bodhisattva takes birth on this earth, when he leaves home, attains unsurpassed Enlightenment, turns the wheel of Dharma, and enters Parinirvana are great shakings. Today the Tathagata was about to enter Nirvana. That is why the earth shook.
Then, all the heavens, nagas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahoragas, humans, and non-humans heard this and their hair stood on end and, in one voice, they cried out and wailed. They said in a gatha:
"O Trainer of men! We now bow and beseech you!
We are parting from the Rishi of men.
We have no hope of being saved.
We now see you the Buddha enter Nirvana
And we are in the sea of suffering.
We are sad and worried, like a calf parting from its mother cow.
Poverty-stricken and with none to save us are we.
We are like one stricken with illness who, having no doctor,
Must attend to himself and partake of food not suitable for illness.
Beings are caught in Illusion.
They are always hindered by views of life.
They are parted from the healing Dharma-King
And they take drugs that are poisonous.
Because of this, the World-Honoured One
Abandons us. This is as when, without a king,
The people in the land get attacked by hunger.
The same is the case with us.
We have no shade of any tree, no taste of Dharma.
Now, hearing that the Buddha will enter Nirvana, our mind snaps,
Just as a great shaking destroys all places.
The great Rishi enters Nirvana and the sun
Of the Buddha sinks down to the ground.
The waters of Dharma are all dried up.
It is certain that we will die.
Beings are extremely worried as the Tathagata now enters Parinirvana.
This is like the son of a rich man who has just lost his parents.
The Tathagata enters Nirvana, and if he is nevermore to return,
We and all beings shall have no one to protect us.
As the Tathagata enters Nirvana, the animals and all others are sad and in fear;
Their minds burn in worry. How should we not be worried today?
The Tathagata abandons us just as we cast off tears and spittle.
For example, when the sun first shows itself, its light burns brightly.
It turns round and shines by itself, removing all darkness.
The divine light of the Tathagata well does away with our worries.
He is amidst us beings like a Mount Sumeru.
"O World-Honoured One! For example, a king brings up many sons. They look right and proper, and he always loves them in his heart. He first teaches them arts, which they all master. Then he gives them over to the hands of candalas. The same is the case here, O World-honoured One! Today we have become the sons of the Dharma-King. We are taught and we abide in right view. We beseech you not to abandon us. If discarded, we shall be like the sons of the king. Please stay long and do not enter Nirvana. O World-Honoured One! For example, the same is the case with one versed in all phases of learning. The same with the Tathagata. Learned in all phases of Dharma, fear yet arises in all phenomena. If the Tathagata lives long in the world, bestowing on us the manna of Dharma and satisfying us, all of us will have no fear of falling into hell.
"O World-Honoured One! There may be a man who first learns his work. He is taken by government officials and is imprisoned. People come and ask him: "How are you being treated?" "Now, I am in great sorrow and worried. If I were only out of prison, I should feel easy and be at peace." So it is. Is is thus with the World-Honoured One! For our sake, you underwent penance. And yet we are not out of birth and death and worry. How could the Tathagata attain peace?
"O World-Honoured One! It is like a great doctor who is versed in prescription and medicine. He teaches his son the secrets of medicinal preparation, but does not teach such to other students. It is thus with the Tathagata. You impart all these secrets to Manjushri alone and exclude us, without looking back. Please, O Tathagata! Do not be stingy; do not exclude us from the secrets of Dharma, as in the case of the great doctor who imparts [his knowledge) solely to his son and excludes other students. The reason why the doctor begrudges sharing his knowledge with the other students lies in the difference in his love. The heart of the Tathagata is always impartial. Why is it that you do not teach us? Please stay long and do not enter Parinirvana.
"O World-Honoured One! It is like one who is old or young, ill or in pain, and is not on a flat road, but is taking a steep path and may suffer hardship. A person sees this, has pity and points out the way that is flat and good. The same with us, O World-Honoured One! "Young" alludes to one not yet high in the stature of the Dharma-Body. "Old" alludes to one greatly burdened with illusion. "Illness and pain"refers to one who has not yet done away with birth and death. "Steep path" alludes to the 25 existences [the types of existence into which we can transmigrate]. O Tathagata! Show us the sweet right path. Please stay long and do not enter Nirvana."
Then, the World-Honoured One said to all the bhiksus: "O you bhiksus! Do not, like all common mortals and devas, be sad; do not wail! Make effort, be mindful, and abide in right thought." Then, all the devas and asuras, having heard what the Buddha said, stopped wailing, like one who has lost a son and, after the funeral service, suppresses his sorrow and wails no more.
"All of you! Open your mind, do not greatly distress yourselves.
The teachings of all Buddhas are thus.
So, keep silence. Try not to be indolent,
Guard your mind, abide in right thought,
Segregate your own selves from unlawful acts;
Console yourselves and be happy.
"Also, next, O bhiksus! If you have any doubts, ask now. If you have doubt as to Void versus non-Void, Eternal versus non-Eternal, Suffering versus non-Suffering, dependent versus non-dependent, gone versus not-gone, refuge versus non-refuge, always versus not-always, impermanence versus the Eternal, beings versus non-beings, "is" versus "not-is", the Real versus the not-Real, the True versus the not-True, extinction versus non-extinction, esoteric versus non-esoteric, and the dual versus the non-dual, I shall speak to you accordingly. For your sake, too, I shall first speak of the manna and then enter Nirvana.
"O bhiksus! It is hard to encounter the appearance of the Buddha in the world. It is hard to be born human. It is hard, too, to encounter the Buddha and gain faith. It is also hard to hear the unhearable. It is hard again to uphold and be perfect in the prohibitive injunctions and to attain arhatship. This is like trying to find gold in sand. It is as in the case of the udumbara. O Bhiksus! It is hard to be born a human, by segregating one's self from the eight inopportune situations [vices that bar the way to meeting the Buddha and hearing his teachings].
"O you! Having now met me, do not go away empty-handed. I underwent hardships in the past, and now I gain all such unsurpassed expedients. For your sake, innumerable kalpas ago, I cast away my body, hands, feet, head, eyes, marrow, and brain. In view of this, do not subject your selves to indolence. O Bhiksus! How do we adorn the treasure-castle of Wonderful Dharma? By adorning our own selves with various virtues and rare gems, and being protected by the bulwarks and moats of the precepts (shila), meditation (dhyana) and Wisdom (prajna). Now, you have met with this castle of Buddhist teaching. Do not take what is false. For example, a merchant may come across a castle of true treasures, yet gather up such rubbish as tiles and gravel, and return home. The same with you. You have come to a castle of treasures, and yet you take what is false. O all you Bhiksus! Do not be satisfied with a low mind. You are now ordained, but you do not love Mahayana that much. O you Bhiksus! You wear on your bodies the kasaya and dyed robes of a priest, but your mind is still not dyed in the pure Dharma of Mahayana. O you Bhiksus! You go to many places and beg alms, but you do not seek the dishes of the Dharma of Mahayana. O Bhiksus! You shave your hair, but you do not shave off the bond of illusion. O you Bhiksus! I now teach you truly. Now I see that all is in harmony and the Dharma nature of the Tathagata is true and unshakable. So, make effort, all of you! Pick yourselves up, be brave and make away with all the bonds of illusion! If the sun of Wisdom of the 10 powers [of Buddhahood) sinks, darkness will reign over you. O you Bhiksus! It is as when the great earth, mountains, and medicinal herbs all become of use to beings. The same is the case with the Dharma of which I speak. It calls forth wonderfully good and sweet dishes of Dharma and provides the best cure for beings' illnesses of illusion. I shall now make all beings my disciples and the four classes of the Buddhist Sangha abide in the undisclosed teaching of Dharma. I, too, abide in this and enter Nirvana. What is the undisclosed storehouse? It is like the three dots [in Sanskrit) of the letter "i". If they are in a crosswise line, they make no "i". Placed vertically, they again serve no purpose. But when set like the three dots on the brow of Mahesvara, this is "i". If the three dots are written separately, this again serves no purpose. So is it also with me. The Dharma of emancipation is also [by itself] not Nirvana. The Tathagata's body is also not Nirvana. Great Wisdom is also not Nirvana. The three things may exist separately, but this does not constitute Nirvana. I now peacefully abide in the three and say that, for the sake of all beings, I enter Nirvana. This is as in the case of the letter "i".
Then all the bhiksus, on hearing that the Buddha-World-Honoured One would definitely enter Nirvana, were sad. Their hair stood on end and their tears and noses ran. They fell to the ground, touched the Buddha's feet, walked around his person innumerable times, and said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! You explain very well to us the Eternal, Suffering, the All-Void, and non-Self. Just as all beings leave behind footprints and the best of all footprints are those of the elephant, so with this thought of the non-Eternal: it heads all thoughts. One who makes effort and practises well, does away with all love of greed, of the worlds of rupadhatu and arupadhatu, ignorance, arrogance, and the thought of the non-Eternal in this world of desire. O World-Honoured One! If the Tathagata is away from the thought of the non-Eternal, he should not enter Nirvana now. If not, how can you say: "If one practises the meditation upon the non-Eternal, one cuts off from oneself love (craving), ignorance, arrogance, and the non-Eternal of the three worlds?" O World-Honoured One! As a farmer, in autumn, deeply tills the land and thus removes all harmful weeds, so it is the same with this thought of the non-Eternal. It thoroughly rids one of the love of greed, the love of the things of the rupadhatu, arupadhatu, ignorance, arrogance, and the thought of the non-Eternal in the world of desire. O World-Honoured One! Of all tillings of the field, that done in autumn is the best. Of all footprints, that of the elephant is best. And of all thoughts, that of the non-eternal is the best. O World-Honoured One! Analogously, when an emperor is to pass away, amnesty is granted to all prisoners. Then he passes away. The same now with the Tathagata. Please cut off the illusions of the bond of ignorance and non-brightness of all beings, give them emancipation, and then enter Nirvana. We are not yet emancipated. Now, does the Tathagata desert us and enter Nirvana? O World-Honoured One! One may be caught by a demon. But as one comes across a good charmer, by dint of incantation, one can well gain one's release. The same is the case with the Tathagata. For the sake of all sravakas, he expels the devil of ignorance, and lets them abide peacefully, as in the case of the letter "i", in such Laws as the great Wisdom, emancipation, and others. O World-Honoured One! For example, people may bind up a gandhahastin, but even a good trainer cannot get him under control. All of a sudden, it snaps off the rope and chain and walks away as it wills. The same is the case here. We are not yet rid of the 57 illusions. Why does the World-Honoured One desire to abandon us and enter Nirvana? O World-Honoured One! A person suffering from ague obtains a cure for his ailments by encountering a good doctor. The same with us. There are all ailments and sorrows, ill ways of living, fevers, etc. [here]. We have met with the Tathagata, but the illnesses have not gone, and we have not obtained supernal peace and bliss. How can the Tathagata desire to abandon us and enter Nirvana? An intoxicated person does not himself know who is near or not, mother or sister, and is lost in rudeness and lust, and lacks the faculty of speech, and sleeps in defiled places. There happens to be a good doctor [nearby], who gives him medicine. After taking it, he vomits and regains his health; consciousness [[[Wikipedia:conscience|conscience]]] asserts itself and repentance catches him. He reproaches himself very much and regards drink as the root of all vile acts. If he could cut himself free from drinking, his ill acts would cease. The same here. O World-Honoured One! For long, we have been repeating birth and death. We were lost in sensual pleasures and greedily took up the five desires. One who is not mother is taken as mother, not sister as sister, not female as female, and not beings as beings. Because of this, transmigration proceeds and one suffers from birth and death. This is like one intoxicated lying in defilement. O Tathagata! Please give us the medicine of Dharma, and let us vomit up the vile drinks of illusion. We are not yet awakened. Why, O Tathagata, do you mean to abandon us and enter Nirvana?
"O World-Honoured One! There may be a man, for example, who may praise the plantain tree and say that it has hardstuff. But this is not so. The same with beings, O World-Honoured One! We may praise and say that people, beings, life, nursing-up, intellect, doer and recipient are all true. But this cannot be. Thus, we practise non-Self. O World-Honoured One! It is as in the case of water in which rice has been washed or the case of dregs, which are of no use any more. The same with the body too. It has no Self or master. For example, O World-Honoured One! [The plant] saptaparna [alstonia scholaris] has no fragrance. It is thus with this carnal body. It has no Self and no master. Thus we meditate on selflessness. You, the Buddha, say: "All things have no Self and nothing belonging to Self. O you Bhiksus! Learn and practise [this]!" Once this is practised, self-conceit goes away. Self-conceit gone, one enters Nirvana. O World-Honoured One! No tracks of birds exist in the sky. Such can never be. One practising selflessness meditation can have no various views of life. Nothing such as this is possible."
Then, the World-Honoured One praised all the bhiksus and said: "It is good, it is good, that you practise the selflessness meditation." Then all bhiksus said to the Buddhha: "We not only practise the selflessness meditation, but even other meditations, to wit, all those on Suffering, the non-Eternal, and Selflessness. O World-Honoured One! When intoxicated, the mind spins round, and all mountains, rivers, castles, palaces, the sun, moon and stars appear to spin round too. O World-Honoured One! Any person who does not practise the meditation of the non-Eternal and Selflessness cannot be called a sage. Due to indolence, one repeats birth and death. O World-Honoured One! Because of this, we all practise such meditations."
Then the Buddha said to all the bhiksus: "Hear me well, hear me well! Now, you mention the case of an intoxicated person. This refers to knowledge, but not the signification. What do I mean by signification? The intoxicated person sees the sun and moon, which do not move, but he thinks they do. The same is the case with beings. As all illusion and ignorance overhang [the mind), the mind turns upside down and takes Self for non-Self, Eternal for non-Eternal, Purity as non-Pure, and Bliss as sorrow. Overhung by illusion, this thought arises. Though this though arises, the meaning is not gained [realised]. This is as in the case of the intoxicated person who takes what does not move as moving. The Self' signifies the Buddha; 'the Eternal' signifies the Dharmakaya; 'Bliss' signifies Nirvana, and 'the Pure' signifies Dharma. Bhiksus, why is it said that one who has the idea of a Self is arrogant and haughty, traversing round Samsara? Bhiksus, although you might say, 'We also cultivate impermanence, suffering, and non-Self, these three kinds of cultivation have no real value/ meaning. I shall now explain the excellent three ways of cultivating Dharma. To think of suffering as Bliss and to think of Bliss as suffering, is perverse Dharma; to think of the impermanent as the Eternal and to think of the Eternal as impermanent is perverse Dharma; to think of the non-Self (anatman)as the Self (atman) and to think of the Self (atman) as non-Self (anatman) is perverse Dharma; to think of the impure as the Pure and to think of the Pure as impure is perverse Dharma. Whoever has these four kinds of perversion, that person does not know the correct cultivation of dharmas. Bhiksus, you give rise to the idea of Bliss with regard to phenomena associated with suffering; the idea of Eternity with regard to phenomena associated with impermanence; the idea of the Self with regard to phenomena without Self; and the idea of Purity with regard to phenomena that are impure. Both the mundane and also the supramundane have the Eternal, Bliss, the Self, and Purity. Mundane teachings (dharmas) have letters and are without meaning [referents]; the Supramundane [teachings] have letters and meaning. Why? Because mundane people have these four perversions, they are unacquainted with the [true] meaning/ referents. Why? Having these perverse ideas, their minds and vision are distorted. Through these three perversions, mundane people see suffering in Bliss, impermanence in the Eternal, non-Self in the Self, and impurity in the Pure. These are called perversions/ inversions. Because of these perversions/ inversions, mundane people know the letters but not the meaning [referents]. What is the meaning/referent? Non-Self is Samsara, the Self is the Tathagata; impermanence is the sravakas and pratyekabuddhas, the Eternal is the Tathagata's Dharmakaya; suffering is all tirthikas, Bliss is Nirvana; the impure is all compounded (samskrta) dharmas , the Pure is the true Dharma that the Buddha and Bodhisattvas have. This is called non-perversion/ non-inversion. By not being inverted [in one's views), one will know [both] the letter and the meaning. If one desires to be freed from the four perverse/ inverted (views - catur-viparita-drsti], one should know the Eternal, Blissful, the Self and the Pure in this manner."
Then, all the bhiksus said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! As you say, if we segregate ourselves from the four inversions, we shall know the Eternal, Bliss, Self, and the Pure. As you have eternally cut off the four inversions, you know well the Eternal, Bliss, Self, and the Pure. If you know well the Eternal, Bliss, Self, and the Pure, why not stay here a kalpa or half a kalpa, and teach us and turn us away from the inversions? And yet you abandon us and desire to enter Nirvana. If you look back at us and teach us, we shall surely listen and practise the Way with all attention. If the Tathagata must at all costs enter Nirvana, how would we be able to remain with this poisoned body and carry out the actions of the Way? We would also follow the Buddha-World-Honoured One and enter Nirvana."
Then the Buddha said to all the bhiksus: "Do not say this. I now leave all the unsurpassed Dharma in the hands of Mahakasyapa. This Kasyapa will henceforth be the one upon whom you may rely. This is as in the case where the Tathagata becomes the one to whom all beings can turn. The same is the case with Mahakasyapa. He will now become your refuge. This is as in the case of a king who has many territories and who goes on a tour of inspection, leaving all affairs of state in the hands of his minister. The same with the Tathagata. All right teachings are left in the hands of Mahakasyapa. Know that all that you have learned up to now about the non-eternal and suffering is not true. In spring, for example, people go bathing in a big pond. They are enjoying themselves, sailing in a boat, when they drop a gem of beryl into the depths of the water, after which it can no longer be seen. Then they all get into the water and search for this gem. They competitively scoop up all such rubbish as tiles, stones, bits of wood, and gravel, and say that they have the beryl. They are glad and take the things out, and see that what they hold in their hands is not true. The gem is still in the water. By the power of the gem itself, the water becomes clear and transparent. As a result, the people see that the gem is still in the water, as clearly as when they look up and see the form of the moon in the sky. At that time, there is a wise man there who, working out a power, slowly gets into the water and gains the gem. O you Bhiksus! Do not abide in the thought of the non-Eternal, Suffering, non-Self, and the not-Pure and be in the situation of those people who take stones, bits of wood, and gravel to be the true gem. You must study well the Way, how to act, wherever you go, and “meditate on the Self, the Eternal, Bliss, and the Pure”. Know that the outer forms of the four items which you have learnt up to now are inversions and that anyone who desires to practise the Way should act like the wise man who deftly gets hold of the gem. This refers to the so-called thought of Self, and that of the Eternal, Bliss, and Pure."
Then all the bhiksus said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! You, the Buddha, said before that all things have no Self, that we should practise this and that, when practised, the thought of Self goes away, and that once the thought of Self is done away with, one does away with arrogance and that, arrogance once done away with, one gains Nirvana. Thus did you say "How might we understand this?"
The Buddha said to all the bhiksus: "Well said, well said! You ask this question and intend to dispel your doubt. Imagine: there is a king, who is dull-witted. He has little wisdom. And there is a doctor, who is obstinate. But the King does not know this and pays him a salary. This doctor uses the products of milk to cure all illnesses. Also, he does not know where the illnesses come from. He may be versed in the medicine of milk, but for him there exists no difference between a cold and a fever. He prescribes milk for all illnesses. This King was unaware that this doctor was ignorant of the pleasing and non-pleasing, the good and bad aspects of milk. But there was a Doctor who knew eight different treatments for illnesses and who was able to cure all diseases. This Doctor was versed in prescription and medicines and had come from a far-off place. And the King's doctor did not know how to ask and learn. He was rash and haughty. So the learned Doctor cordially invited the King's doctor and looked up to him [as an expedient] as his master and asked of him the secret of treatment. He said to the King's doctor: "I now invite you and make you my teacher. Please be good enough to teach me." The King's doctor said: "If you serve me for 48 years, I will teach you the art of medicine. " Then, at these words, the learned Doctor said: "I shall do as you tell me. I shall do my best and run errands." Then the King's doctor, taking the learned Doctor along with him, went to see the King. At this, the visiting Doctor explained to the King the various ways of treatment and even other things. He said: "Please know, O great King! Know well! This Dharma is like this and you will well cure illnesses." On hearing this, the King recognised the ignorance and lack of knowledge of his own doctor. He at once drove him out of the country. And he respected the new Doctor all the more. Then the new Doctor said to himself: "It is now time to teach the King." He said to the King: "O great King! If you truly love me, please make me a promise!" The King replied: "I shall give you, should you desire it, even my right hand or any part of my body." The new Doctor said: "You may give me all statuses, but I myself do not wish to have much. What I desire you to do for me is to proclaim to the people of every corner of your land that henceforth they are not to use the milk medicine, which the former doctor told them to use. Why not? Because much harm and poisonous results arise [from it]. Any person who still takes this medicine should be beheaded. If the milk medicine is not used, there will be no untimely deaths; all will go in peace. That is why I ask this of you." Then the King said: "What you ask me to do is a trifle. I shall at once issue an order and see to it that anyone who is ill does no take milk as a medicine. Any person who does will be beheaded." At this, the learned Doctor made several kinds of medicine, which tasted pungent, butter, salty, sweet, and sour. With these, treatment was given, and there was no case in which illness could not be cured.
"After some time, the King himself became ill, and the Doctor was called in. The King said: "I am now ill. How am I to be cured?" The Doctor thought about the illness of the King and saw that the milk medicine was good [here]. So he said to the King: "What you are now suffering from can very well be cured by milk. What I said before about the milk medicine was not true. If you take it now, you will be cured. You are now suffering from a fever. It is right that you should take milk." Then the King said to the Doctor: "Are you mad? Is it a fever? And you say that if I take milk, it will cure me? Before, you said it was poison. Now you tell me to take it. How is this? Do you mean to cheat me? What the former doctor said was good, [yet] you despised it and said that it was poison, and you made me drive him away. Now you say that it well cures illness. From you you say, the former doctor ought to excel you."
"Then the learned Doctor said to the King: "O King! Do not say this, please. A worm eats on [a piece of] wood and [the shape of] a letter comes out. This worm does not know anything of letters. A wise person sees this. But he does not say that this worm understands letters. And he is not overcome by surprise. O great King! Please know: so was it also with the former doctor. To all illnesses he gave medicine made from milk. This is as in the case of the worm that eats on wood, as a result of which a form like a letter emerges. The former doctor did not know how to distinguish between the pleasing and non-pleasing aspects, the good and the bad." Then the King wanted to know: "What do you mean he did not know?" The guest Doctor answered the King: "This milk medicine is harmful, but it is also a manna." "How can you say that this milk is manna?" "If you milking cow has not taken the lees, the slippery grass and the wheat refuse, and if the calf fares well, and if the cow was not grazed too high up on the land or in a low and wet place, if the cow is given pure water and not made to run or made to live among the bulls, and if feeding is done regularly, and if the place it lives in is fit, the milk gained from such a cow well does away with all illnesses. This can well be called the manna of medicine. Any other milk is poison."
"On hearing this, the King praised the great Doctor: "Well said, well said, O great Doctor! Today, for the first time in my life, I know of the pleasing and non-pleasing, that which is good and not good in the milk medicine. Taking this, I am now well. I shall at once proclaim to the people that they may well take the milk medicine." On hearing this, the people of the country, angry and resentful, said: "The great King is now caught by a devil. Is he mad? He cheats us and makes us take milk." All the people, angry and resentful, came to the King. The King said to them: "Be not angry, and have no resentment. To take milk or not to take it all comes from the science of medicine. I am not to blame." At this, the great King and the people all jumped for joy. They all the more respected and honoured the Doctor, and made offerings to him. That is how all the people took the milk medicine and regained their health.
"Know, O you Bhiksus! The same is the case with the Tathagata, the Alms-deserving, the All-Enlightened-One, the Unsurpassed Best Trainer, the Teacher-of-Heaven-and-Earth, the Buddha-World-Honoured One. He comes as a great Doctor and subdues all tirthikas and bad doctors. In the presence of kings and all people, he says: "I shall become the King of doctors and subdue tirthikas." Thus we say: "There is no self, no man, no being, no life, no nurturing, no knowing, none that does, and none that receives." O Bhiksus! Know that what the tirthikas say is like the case of a worm that eats upon [a piece of] wood, from which, by chance, there appears what looks like a letter. Because of this, the Tathagata teaches and says no-self. This is to adjust beings and because he is aware of the occasion. Such non-self is, as occasion arises, spoken of, and it is [also] said that there is the Self. This is as in the case of the learned Doctor, who knows well the medicinal and non-medicinal qualities of milk. It is not as with common mortals, who might measure the size of their own self. Common mortals and the ignorant may measure the size of their own self and say, 'It is like the size of a thumb, like a mustard seed, or like the size of a mote.' When the Tathagata speaks of Self, in no case are things thus. That is why he says: 'All things have no Self.'
Even though he has said that all phenomena (dharmas) are devoid of the Self, it is not that they are completely/ truly devoid of the Self. What is this Self? Any phenomenon (dharma) that is true (satya), real (tattva), eternal (nitya), sovereign/ autonomous/ self-governing [aisvarya], and whose ground/ foundation is unchanging [asraya-aviparinama], is termed 'the Self' (atman). This is as in the case of the great Doctor who well understands the milk medicine. The same is the case with the Tathagata. For the sake of beings, he says "there is the Self in all things" O you the four classes! Learn Dharma thus!"
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 1: Introductory
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 2: On Cunda
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 3: On Grief
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 4: On Long Life
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 5: On the Adamantine Body
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 6: On the Virtue of the Name
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 7: On the Four Aspects
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 8: On the Four Dependables
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 9: On Wrong and Right
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 10: On the Four Truths
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 11: On the Four Inversions
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 12: On the Tathagata-DHATU
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 13: On Letters
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 14: On the Parable of the Birds
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 15: On the Parable of the Moon
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 16: On the Bodhisattva
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 17: On the Questions Raised by the Crowd
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 18: On Actual Illness
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 19: On Holy Actions
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 20: On Pure Actions
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 21: On the Action of the Child
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 22: Bodhisattva Highly-Virtuous King
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 23: On Bodhisattva Lion's Roar
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 24: On Bodhisattva Kasyapa
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 25: On Kaundinya