Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Twelve: On the Tathagata-DHATU
Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra
Translated by KOSHO YAMAMOTO
FROM Dharmakshema's Chinese version
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Chapter Twelve: On the Tathagata-DHATU
“Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! Is there Self in the 25 existences or not?" The Buddha said: "O good man! "Self" means "Tathagatagarbha" (Buddha-Womb, Buddha-Embryo, Buddha-Nature). Every being has Buddha-Nature. This is the Self. Such Self has, from the very beginning, been under cover of innumerable defilements. That is why man cannot see it. O good man! (Imagine that) there is a poor woman here. She has true gold concealed in her house. But none of the people of her house, whether big or small, know of it. But there is a stranger, who, through expediency, says to the poor woman: "I shall employ you. You must now go and weed the land!" The woman answers: "I cannot do this now. If you let my son see where the gold is hidden, I will soon work for you." The man says: "I know the way. I shall point it out to your son." The woman further says: "Nobody of my house, whether big or small, knows (of this). How can you?" The man says: "I shall now make it clear." The woman says further: "I desire to see. Pray let me." The man digs out the gold that had lain hidden. The woman sees it, is gladdened, and begins to respect that person. O good man! The case is the same with the Buddha-Nature which man has. Nobody can see it. This is analogous to the gold which the poor woman possessed and yet could not see. O good man! I now let persons see the Buddha-Nature that they possess, which is overspread by defilements. This is analogous to the poor woman who cannot see the gold, even though she possesses it. The Tathagata now reveals to all beings the storehouse of Enlightenment, which is the Buddha-Nature, as it is called. If all beings see this, they are gladdened and will take refuge in the Tathagata. The good expedient is the Tathagata, and the poor woman is all the innumerable beings, and the cask of true gold is the Buddha-Nature.
"Also, next, O good man! As an example: a woman has a child who, while yet very young, is seized by illness. Worried by this, the woman seeks out a good doctor. The good doctor comes and compounds three medicines, which are butter, milk, and rock candy. This he gives her, to have it taken by the child. Then he says to the woman: "When the child has taken the medicine, do not give any milk to the child for some time. When the medicine has worked its way out, you may then give milk." Then the woman applies a bitter substance to her nipple and says to the child: "Do not touch it (i.e. her nipple). My nipple is poisonous." The child is dying for the milk and wants to have it. (But) on hearing of the poison, it runs away. After the medicine has done its work, the mother washes her nipple, calls in her child and gives it (her nipple). Although hungry, the child, having heard about the poison, will not come to it. The mother then says: "I only put poison on my nipple so as to give you the medicine. As you have already taken the medicine, I have washed the poison off. Come! Take my nipple. It is not bitter any more." On hearing this, the child slowly comes back and takes it. O good man! The case is the same with the Tathagata. In order to save beings, he gives them the teaching of non-Self. Having practised the Way thus, beings do away with the (cast of) mind that clings to self and gain Nirvana. All of this is to do away with people's wrong concepts, to show them the Way and cause them to stand above, to show them that they adhere to self, that what obtains in the world is all false and not true, and to make them practise non-Self and purify themselves. This is similar to the woman's applying a bitter substance to her nipple out of love for her child. It is the same with the Tathagata. For practising the Void, I say that all do not have the Self. This is like the woman's cleaning her nipple and calling for her child to partake of her milk. The case is the same with me, too: I speak of the Tathagatagarbha. For this reason, the bhiksus do not entertain fear. It is analogous to the child who hears its mother, slowly comes back and takes the milk. The situation is the same with the bhiksus. They should know well that the Tathagata hides nothing."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! Really, there cannot be any case in which there is Self. Why not? When a child is born, it knows nothing. If there is a Self, the child would have to have knowledge when it is born into the world. Hence we can know that there is no Self. If a Self definitely existed, there could not be any loss of knowing. If it were true that all beings eternally possessed Buddha-Nature, there could be no breaking away. If there is no destruction, how can there be the differences of Kshatriya, Brahmin, Vaishya, Sudra, candala, and animals? Now, the effects of karma are various, and differences exist in life. If there definitely is a Self, there cannot be any victory or defeat with beings. From this, we can definitely know that the Buddha-Nature is eternal Dharma. If the Buddha-Nature is definitely eternal, why do we say speak of such things as killing, stealing, lust, forked tongue, ill-speaking, lying, flattering, greed, hatred, and wrong views? If there really is eternally the nature of Self, why is it that a person becomes intoxicated or mad? If the nature of Self is eternal, the blind should be able to see, the deaf hear, the dumb talk, and the lame walk. If the Self is eternal, fire, great floods of water, poison, swords, evil persons and animals cannot (need not) be avoided. If the Self is eternal, what has basically changed cannot be forgotten or lost. If forgotten, how can a person say: "I have seen this person somewhere (before)"? If the Self is eternal, there cannot be old age or youth, no ups or downs, no remembering of what has passed away. If the Self is eternal, where does it abide or live? Is it the case that tears, spittle, blue, yellow, red, and white are to remain in all things? If the Self is eternal, it will fill the body as in the case of sesame seed, in which there is no space left in between. When the body is cut up into small pieces, the Self, too, would have to be cut up"
The Buddha said to Kasyapa: "O good man! As an analogy: there is in the household of a king a great wrestler. He has an adamantine bead on his brow. This man wrestles with other wrestlers. When (once) the head of another person touches his brow, the bead goes into the wrestler's flesh, and there is no knowing where it is. A boil comes up there. A good doctor is called in to cure it. At that time, there is a good doctor with a bright mind. He knows well how to diagnose and prescribe medicine. Now, he sees that this boil has appeared due to the bead's having got into the wrestler's body. He realises that this bead has entered the flesh and remains there. Then, the good doctor asks the wrestler: "Where is that bead that was on your brow?" The wrestler is surprised and answers: "O great teacher and doctor! Has not the bead on my brow got lost? Where could the bead be now? Is this not a miracle (that you know about it)?" He is worried and weeps. Then, the doctor pacifies the wrestler: "Do not be over-concerned. When you fought, the gem entered your body. It is now under your skin and can be seen, looming up. As you fought, the poison of anger so burned that the gem got into your body and you did not feel it." But the wrestler does not believe the doctor's words. "If it is under my skin, how is it that it does not come out because of the impure pus and blood? If it is in my sinews, we cannot possibly see it. Why do you mean to cheat me?" Then, the doctor takes up a mirror and holds it in front of the wrestler's face. The gem appears clearly in the mirror. The wrestler sees it, is surprised and is all wonder. It is like that. O good man! The case is the same with all beings. They do not come near to a good teacher of the Way. So, they cannot see the Buddha-Nature which is within, even though they possess it. And they are reigned over by greed, lust, anger, and ignorance. So they fall into the realms of hell, animals, hungry ghosts, asuras, candalas, and get born in such various houses as Kshatriya, Brahmin, Vaishya and Sudra. The karma generated by the mind leads a person, though born a human, into such lives as a cripple, lame, deaf, blind or dumb person, and to the 25 existences, where such as greed, lust, anger and ignorance reign over the mind, and the person is unable to know of the presence of the Buddha-Nature. The wrestler says that the gem has gone away, even though it is (actually) in his body. The same with beings, too. Not having come into contact with a good teacher of the Way, they do not know the Tathagata's hidden treasure and do not study selflessness. For example, even when a person is told of the unholy self, he cannot know the true quality of the Self. The same is true of my disciples. As they do not befriend a good teacher of the Way, they practise non-Self and do not know where it (Self) is. They do not know the true nature of selflessness. How, then, could they know the true nature of the Self itself? Thus, O good man, the Tathagata says that all beings possess the Buddha-Nature. This is like the good doctor's making the wrestler see where the adamantine jewel rests. All these beings are reigned over by innumerable defilements and thus do not know the whereabouts of the Buddha-Nature. When illusion is dispelled, there arises knowledge and brightness. This is like the wrestler's seeing the gem in the mirror. O good man! It is thus the case that what rests undisclosed (latent) in the Tathagata is innumerable and is difficult for beings to think about.
"Also, O good man! As an example, there is a medicine in the Himalayas called "pleasing taste". It tastes very sweet. It grows hidden under a deep growth of plants, and we cannot easily see it. But from its scent, one can come to know the whereabouts of this medicine. In days gone by, there was a chakravartin who, placing wooden tubes here and there in the Himalayas, collected this medicine. When it had ripened, it flowed out and entered the tubes. It tasted truly right. When the king died, this medicine became sour, salty, sweet, bitter, or hot, or light. Thus, what is one, tastes differently according to the different places. The true taste of the medicine remains in the mountains; it is like the full moon. Any common mortal, sterile in virtue, may work hard, dig, and try, but cannot get it. Only a chakravartin, high in virtue, appearing in the world can arrive at the true value of this medicine because of happy circumstantial concatenations. The same is the case (here). O good man! The taste of the hidden store of the Tathagata is also like this. Overspread by all the growths of defilement, the beings clad in ignorance cannot hope to see it. We speak of the "one taste". This applies, for instance, to the Buddha-Nature. On account of the presence of defilement, several tastes appear, such as the realms of hell, animals, hungry pretas, devas, human beings, men, women, non-men, non-women, Kshatriya, Brahmin, Vaishya and Sudra.
"The Buddha-Nature is strong and vigorous. It is hard to destroy. Therefore, there is nothing that can kill it. If there were something that could indeed kill it, Buddha-Nature would die. (But) nothing can ever destroy such Buddha-Nature. Nothing of this nature can ever be cut. “The nature of Self is nothing other than the hidden storehouse of the Tathagata”. Such a storehouse can never be smashed, set on fire, or done away with. Although it is not possible to destroy or see it, one can know of it when one attains unsurpassed Enlightenment. Hence, there is indeed nothing that can kill it." Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "If nothing can kill it, no karmic consequences would ensue from evil actions." The Buddha said to Kasyapa: "There truly is (such a thing as) killing. How? O good man! "The Buddha-Nature of beings rests within the five skandhas." If the five skandhas are destroyed, this is killing (of those skandhas). If one harms a living thing, one gains the unfortunate realms. Through the working of karma, one transmigrates through such realms as Kshatriya, Brahmin, Vaishya, Sudra, candala, or man, woman, non-man, non-woman, and the 25 variegated existences. A person who has not reached the holy stage of a sage is waywardly bound up by attachment to self. All such phases (modes) of existence, whether big or small, are like barnyard grass, like rice or a bean, or like the thumb. Thus do they (i.e. ignorant beings) loosely imagine things. There can be no true shape in wild fancies. The shape of Self that seeks to flee from the world is Buddha-Nature. This is the best way of conceiving of the Self.
"And next, O good man! As an analogy: there is a man here who knows well what is hidden (under the ground). He takes a sharp hoe, digs into the ground and hits upon such things as stones and gravel. All goes through and nothing hinders (i.e. the hoe digs through everything, without being obstructed). Only when the diamond comes in its way, can the hoe not dig through. Now, no sword or hatchet can destroy a diamond. O good man! The Buddha-Nature of beings is like this. It is something that all those people who discuss things, Marapapiyas, all men and devas cannot destroy. What characterises the five skandhas is (the phenomenon of) what occurs and what is done. Whatever occurs and is done can certainly be destroyed, like stones and sand. “The True Self of the Buddha-Nature is like the diamond, which cannot be crushed”. Hence, we call the destroying of the five skandhas the killing of life. O good man! Know well most definitely that the Buddhist teaching is not within the boundaries of conceiving.
"O good man! The vaipulya sutras are like amrta (ambrosia, nectar) and poison." Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "Why, O Tathagata, do you say that the vaipulya sutras are (both) amrta and poison?" The Buddha said: "O good man! Do you desire to be informed about the hidden storehouse of the Tathagata?" Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "I now really do desire to learn the signification of the hidden store of the Tathagata."
Or another, who takes amrta and gains a long life,
The unhindered (unobstructed) Wisdom, which is amrta,
Is none other than the Mahayana sutras.
It is like butter, sarpirmanda or rock candy,
Which, when taken and digested, act as medicine
If not digested, then they are nothing but poison.
This is like milk, which is foremost in taste.
Those who work thus and make progress
This superb amrta is birthlessness and deathlessness. O Kasyapa!
You whould now analyse the Three Refuges:
So indeed is my intrinsic being (svabhava).
If a person is able truly to discern
Then you should know that such a person
As in the verse which I have uttered,
The meaning of its nature is thus."
"I do not know how to take refuge
In the Three Treasures, how
Condescend to tell me of this! How does one gain
Unmolestedness, and how non-unmolestedness?
How does one gain true sermons, how
Buddhahood in the days to come?
If one does not attain it in the days to come,
I have nothing to foresee; I shall work my way up step by step.
Without conceiving, can a person think of having a child?
If it is definitely in embryo, we can indeed say that we have a child.
If the child is in the womb, it will not be long before it emerges.
This is the meaning vis-ã¡-vis a child.
The same pertains to the karma of man.
Condescend to explain (matters) to me and cut away the web of doubt.
Have pity and explain! I pray, open the closed door
Of the treasure-house of the Tathagata."
"O Kasyapa! I will now for your sake
Open the closed door of the storehouse and uproot your doubt.
Have the same name.
From harming others. One who takes refuge
One attains fearlessness."
This is where man rightly steps forwards
And when one abides in peace.
This is true Enlightenment.
This is the best amrta.
Then, the Buddha said to Kasyapa: "O good man! Do not view the Three Treasures as all sravakas and common mortals do. In this Mahayana, there is no distinction between the Three Treasures. Why not? The Buddha-Nature contains within it the Dharma and Sangha. To teach sravakas and common mortals, discrimination is resorted to and the three different aspects are spoken of regarding the Three Treasures. Following the way of the world, distinction is talked about regarding the Three Treasures. O good man! The Bodhisattva will think: "This "I" now takes refuge in the Buddha. If this I attains Enlightenment and Buddhahood, I shall not pay respect, worship or make offerings to all the Buddhas. Why not? For all Buddhas are all-equal. They are all taken refuge in by all beings. If one desires to pay respect to the Dharma-Body and the sharira (relics), one should also pay respect to the stupas of all Buddhas. Why? To guide in all beings. It also makes beings conceive in me a thought of the stupa, to make them worship and make offerings. Such beings make my Dharma-Body the place wherein they take refuge. All beings are grounded upon what is not true and what is false. I shall now, step by step, reveal true Dharma. If there are people who take refuge in monks who are not of the right calibre, I shall become the true refuge for them. If there are those who see the three refuges as distinct, I shall become a single place wherein they can take refuge. So there cannot be any distinction between the three refuges. To one born blind, I shall be his eyes, and to sravakas and pratyekabuddhas I shall become the true refuge." O good man! Such Bodhisattvas enact the works of the Buddha for the sake of innumerable evil beings and all wise people. O good man! There is, as an example, a person here who goes to the battlefield and thinks: "I am the first of all the first of all of these. All soldiers depend on me." Also, it is like the prince who thinks: "I shall conquer all other princes, succeed to the works of a great emperor, gain unmolested (unrestricted) power, and make all other princes pay homage to me. So, let me not entertain a whit of thought of self-surrender." As with the prince of the king, so too with the minister. O good man! The case is the same with the Bodhisattva-mahasattva, and he thinks: "How do the three become one with me?" O good man! I make it (in my teaching) that the thre things are Nirvana. The Tathagata is the unsurpassed one. For example, the head is the highest part of a man's body, not the other limbs or the hands and legs. The same is the case with the Buddha. He is the most respected, not Dharma or the Sangha. In order to teach the world, he manifests himself diversely. It is like going up a ladder. This being the case, do not regard the three refuges as different, as do common mortals and the ignorant. Abide in the Mahayana as bravely and decisively as a sharp sword."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "I ask about what I know, not what I do not know. I ask about untainted pure actions for the sake of the greatly courageous Bodhisattvas, so that the Tathagata will, for the sake of the Bodhisattvas, proclaim what is wonderful and expound (it), and thus (the Bodhisattvas will) desire to praise the Mahayana vaipulya sutras. The Tathagata, the great Compassionate One, now speaks. I too shall peacefully abide in it. The pure actions of the Bodhisattva are well proclaimed in the Great Nirvana Sutra. O World-Honoured One! I shall now, for the sake of all beings, disseminate the undisclosed store of the Tathagata. Also, I shall now well attest to, and know, the three refuges. If any being believes strongly in the teaching of the Great Nirvana Sutra, such a being will all-naturally clearly attain the three refuges. Why? Because the close-guarded store of the Tathagata possesses the Buddha-Nature. Any person who disseminates this sutra says that one possesses the Buddha-Nature within one's body. Any such person does not, far out, take refuge in the three (treasures). Why not? Because one in the life to come perfects the Three Treasures. Because of this, sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and all others come, worship and pay homage to me. O good man! Because of this, learn Mahayana sutras."
Then the Buddha praised Bodhisattva Kasyapa: "Well said, well said, O good man! You have accomplished the deepest and sharpest of Wisdom. I shall now tell you how one enters the Tathagatagarbha. If Self lives, this is the teaching of "is". It does not part from suffering. If Self does not exist, there can be no benefit, even if one practises pure actions. If one says that all things do not possess Self, this is but the "not-is" theory (“ucchedika-drsti” - i.e. the world-view of the total negation of any existence, which is the theory of sheer emptiness). If one says that Self exists, this is the "ever is" theory (“sasvata-drsti” - an erroneous view of life which takes existence as concrete and changeless). If one says that all things are non-eternal, this is the "not-is" view. If one says that all things exist, this is the "ever is" view. If one says that all is suffering, this is the "not-is". If one says that all things are bliss, this is the "ever is". If a person practises the Way of the "ever is" of all things, such a person falls into the heresy of "not-is". A person who practises the Way according to which all things become extinct falls into "ever is". This is like the measuring worm, which carries its hind-legs forward by the action of its front-legs. It is the same with the person who practises the "ever is" and the "not-is". The "not-is" stands on (depends on, is based on) the "ever is". Because of this, those of other teachings who practise suffering are called "not-good". Those of other teachings who practise bliss are called "good". Those of other teachings who practise non-Self are those of illusion. Those of other teachings who practise the "ever is" say that the Tathagata secretly stores (truths away). So-called Nirvana does not have any grotto or house to live in. Those of other teachings who practise the "not-is" refers to property; those of other teachings who practise the "ever is" refers to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and right emancipation. Know that the Middle Path of the Buddha negates the two planes and tells of true Dharma. Even common mortals and the dull abide in it and have no doubt. It is as when the weak and the sick take butter, as a result of which they feel light in spirit.
"The nature of the two of "is" and "not-is" is not definite. For example, the natures of the four elements (earth, water, fire and wind) are not the same. Each differs from the other. A good doctor well sees that each stands against (in contradistinction to, in opposition to, in contrast with) the other. He sees it through even by the one-sided phase of what takes place. O good man! It is the same with the Tathagata. He acts like a good doctor towards all beings. He knows the difference between the internal and external nature of illusion and crushes it out, and reveals the fact that the undisclosed store of the Tathagata is pure and that the Buddha-Nature is eternal and does not change. If a person says "is", he must be on guard that his Wisdom does not get tainted; if a person says "not-is", this is nothing but falsehood. If one says "is", one cannot sit unsaid. Also, one could not play with words and dispute; only seek to know the true nature of all things. Common mortals play with words and dispute, betraying their own ignorance as to the Tathagata's undisclosed store. When it comes to the question of suffering, the ignorant say that the body is non-eternal and all is suffering. Also, they do not know that there is also the nature of Bliss in the body. If the Eternal is alluded to, common mortals say that all bodies are non-eternal, like unfired tiles. One with Wisdom discriminates things and does not say that all is non-eternal. Why not? Because man possesses the seed of the Buddha-Nature. When non-Self is talked about, common mortals say that there cannot be Self in the Buddhist teaching. One who is wise should know that non-Self is a temporary existence and is not true. Knowing thus, one should not have any doubt. When the hidden Tathagatagarbha is stated as being empty and quiet, common mortals will think of ceasing and extinction. “One who is wise knows that the Tathagata is Eternal and Unchanging.” “If Emancipation is stated to be something like a phantom, common mortals say that the person who attains Emancipation is one who wears away to nothingness; a person with Wisdom thinks that he is a man-lion and that, though he comes and goes, he is Eternal and does not change."
"If it is stated that ignorance resides in all things, common mortals hear this and think of two different existences, the "bright" and the "non-bright". The wise man sees that the nature is not-two and that the nature of the not-two is the real nature ("self-nature"). If it is stated that things sit on (depend on) consciousness, common mortals say "two", which are “samskara” (volition, mental impulse) and “vijnana” (consciousness). But the wise know that its nature is not-two and that the nature of the not-two is the "svabhavika" ("own-nature", "self-nature"). If we speak of the "ten good deeds"and "ten evil deeds", of what can be made and what cannot be made, of good realms and evil realms, white teaching (sukladharma=saddharma=Wonderful Dharma) and black teaching (krsnadharma =Pali kanhadhamma), common mortals conceive of two things. But the wise know that the nature is not-two and that the nature of the not-two is the real nature. When it is stated that all things end in suffering, common morals say that this is two. But the wise know that the nature is not-two and that the nature of the not-two is the real nature. If we state that all things made are non-eternal and that the undisclosed store of the Tathagata, too, is non-eternal, common mortals say two. But the wise know that the nature is not-two and that not-two is the real nature. If all things have no Self and the undisclosed store of the Tathagata has no Self, common mortals say that the nature is two. But the wise know that it is not-two and that not-two is the real nature. There cannot be the two things of Self and non-Self. This is what the undisclosed store of the Tathagata refers to. This is what is praised by uncountable, innumerable, boundless numbers of all Buddhas. I, now, in this all-perfect sutra, explain all. There is the not-two in the nature and characteristics of Self and non-Self. You should take things thus. O good man! You should strongly uphold and think about such sutras. I have already stated in the “Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra” that there are not the two phases (aspects, phenomena) of Self and non-Self. The case is thus. From fresh milk we get cream, from cream fresh butter, from fresh butter clarified butter, and from clarified butter sarpirmanda. Does the nature of the cream come from the milk itself, or from without? And the same is the case with sarpirmanda. If it comes from without, it is something made by another and not something come out of the milk itself. If it does not come out of the milk, the milk has nothing to do with its coming about. If it comes out of the milk itself, it cannot come out in a similar way and continuously. If it comes out continuously, it cannot come out together. If it does not come out together, the five tastes cannot be for once only. Though not for once only, it cannot definitely come about from other places. Know that in milk there is already the phase (element, aspect) of cream. As it possesses much sweetness, it cannot change. The same with sarpirmanda. When the cow feeds on the grass of watery places, its blood changes and we get milk. If the cow feeds on sweet grass, the milk becomes sweet, and if on bitter grass, the milk becomes bitter. In the Himalayas, there is a type of grass called pinodhni. If the cow feeds on this, it will produce pure sarpirmanda and there will be no such colour as blue, yellow, red, white or black. The grass and cereals work upon (affect) the colour and taste of the milk. Two aspects come out of all beings by the karmic relations of brightness and ignorance. When the gloom changes, brightness comes about. The case is the same with the good and not-good of all things. There can be no two aspects."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! You, the Buddha, say that there is cream in milk. What does this mean? O World-Honoured One! If there definitely is cream in milk and if it is true that it cannot be seen because of the minuteness of its size, how can we say that cream comes about through the causal relations of milk? When things orginally have no root element, we can say that a thing is born. If it exists already, how can we say that life comes about? It it is the case that there definitely is cream in milk, there must be milk in all grass. Likewise, there must be grass in milk, too. If the situation is that there definitely is no cream in milk, how can cream come out of the milk? If there is no root element but it later comes about, how could it be that grass cannot grow in milk?" "O good man! Do not say that there definitely is cream in milk or that there is not cream in milk. Also, do not say that it comes from outside. If there is definitely cream in milk, how can it be that thing and taste differ? That is why you should not say there definitely is cream in milk. If there definitely is no cream in milk, why is it that something different does not come about in the milk? If poison is put into milk, the cream will kill a person. That is why you should not say that there definitely is no cream in the milk. Further, if we say that cream comes from outside, why is it that cream does not come about in water? Because of this, do not say that cream comes from anywhere else. O good man! As the cow feeds on grass, its blood changes into white. Grass and blood die out and the power of virtue of beings changes and we gain milk. This milk comes out of grass and blood, but we cannot say that there are the two. All we can say is that conditions so bring it about. This we can say. From cream up to sarpirmanda, things go thus. The case (here) is the same. Because of this, we can rightly say that there is the taste of the cow. This milk dies away, and in consequence there comes about cream. What is the condition? It is sour or warm. Because of this, we can say that it comes from conditions. The situation is the same with the others, up to sarpirmanda. Because of this, we cannot say that there definitely is no cream in milk. If it comes from elsewhere, it must exist separately from the milk. This cannot be. O good man! The same is the case with brightness and ignorance. (Of that which is) bound up by all illusions, we say ignorant. If linked to all good things, there can be brightness. That is why we say that there can be no two things. So, I said: "There is a grass in the Himalayas called pinodhni, which, if eaten by the cow, produces sarpirmanda." The same is the case with the Buddha-Nature.
"O good man! Beings are sterile in fortune and do not come across this grass. The same applies to the Buddha-Nature. As defilement overspreds (them), beings cannot see. For example, the water of the great ocean tastes salty all the same, but it contains in it the best of water, as in the case of milk. Also, the Himalayas are perfect in various virtues and produce various medicines, but there are also poisonous herbs. It is the same with the bodies of all beings. There are the four poisonous serpents, but there is also present the great king of all-wonderful medicine. So-called Buddha-Nature is not something that has been made. Only, it is overspread by defilement. Only a person who thoroughly cuts it away, whether he be a Kshatriya, Brahmin, Vaishya or Sudra sees the Buddha-Nature and attains unsurpassed Enlightenment. For example, should the thunder roll in the sky, the clouds disperse and all the tusks of the elephant will be covered with flower-petals. If there is no thunder, the flowers do not come about. Also, this is as in the case where there is no denotative name. The same is also the case with the Buddha-Nature of (all) beings. It is always overspread by various defilements and is not seen. That is why I say that beings do not possess the Self. If one is blessed with hearing the all-wonderful “Mahaparinirvana Sutra”, one sees the Buddha-Nature. This is as in the case of the flowers on the tusks of the elephant. One may hear all about the samadhis of the sutras. But if one does not hear this sutra, one cannot get to the wonderful form of the Tathagata. If is as when there is no thunder, when one no longer sees flowers on the tusks of the elephant. On hearing this sutra, one comes to know of the undisclosed (latent) Buddha-Nature, about which the Tathagata speaks. This is like seeing the flowers on the tusks of the elephant. On hearing this sutra, all innumerable beings come to know that this is the Buddha-Nature. Because of this, I speak about Great Nirvana and say that I augment (expand) the Dharma-Body, the undisclosed store of the Tathagata. This is as with the thunder, when flowers fall upon the tusks of the elephant. As this long upholds and nurtures the great meaning, this is called "Mahaparinirvana". If any good man or woman learns this all-wonderful Sutra of Great Nirvana, they should know that they are doing a work of thanksgiving and are true disciples of the Buddha."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "It is exceptionally wonderful, O World-Honoured One! The so-called Buddha-Nature is profound to know; it is hard to see and attain. Sravakas and pratyekabuddhas cannot hope to partake of it." The Buddha siad: "O good man! It is thus, it is thus! It is just as you praise (it); it does not differ from what I say."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! To what extent is the Buddha-Nature profound and how difficult is it to perceive and get into?" "O good man! (As an analogy): 100 blind persons consult a good doctor for a cure. With that, the doctor opens up the membrane of the eye with a golden barb (blade) and then, holding up one finger, asks: "Can you see this?" The blind person says: "I cannot see it yet. " Then, the doctor holds up two fingers, and three fingers. Then, the person says that he can see to some extent. O good man! When this wonderful Sutra of Great Nirvana is one that has as yet not been delivered by the Tathagta, the same is the case. Although innumerable Bodhisattvas may well perfectly practise the paramitas (spiritual perfections), they might only reach the stage of the ten abodes (“bhumis”) and yet may not be able to see the Buddha-Nature. If the Tathagata speaks, they may see to some extent. When these Bodhisattvas have seen all, they will say: "Oh, wonderful, O World-Honoured One! We have been repeating birth and death and have been worried by selflessness. " O good man! Such Bodhisattvas may well reach the stage of the ten soils (“bhumis” - stages of Bodhisattva development), and yet they cannot clearly see the Buddha-Nature. How could sravakas and pratyekabuddhas well see (it)?
"Also, next, O good man! For example, one sees geese flying far off in the sky and wonders if they (really) are geese or the sky. One looks carefully and sees this indistinctly. The case of the Bodhisattvas may also be like this; they see but a small part of the nature of the Tathagata. How could sravakas and pratyekabuddhas well see (it)?
"O good man! The same is the case with an intoxicated man who has a long way to walk, but can only see the way indistinctly. This is the case with the Bodhisattvas at the stage of the ten abodes (“bhumis”) who can only see a small part of the nature of the Tathagata.
"O good man! There is a thirsty person who has to travel a long way through the wilderness. Thirst presses down upon him so much that he looks for water everywhere. Then, he sees the foliage of a tree with a white crane on it. Having lost his capacity to judge, the person cannot tell if this is a tree or water. He tries hard to see. Then he sees that it is a white crane and the foliage of a tree. It is similar to the Bodhisattvas of the stage of the ten abodes, who sees but a small part of the nature of the Tathagata.
"O good man! For example, there is here a man who is in the middle of a great ocean. Far out, an innumerable hundred thousand yojanas away, he sees a great galleon, the rudder tower and storied building (parts of the ship). He looks and thinks to himself: "Is this a rudder tower or is it the sky?" He looks for a long time and his mind becomes fixed, and he comes to know that it is a rudder tower. The same is the case with the Bodhisattva of the stage of the ten “bhumis”, who sees within himself the nature of the Tathagata.
"For example, there is here a prince who is weak in physique and who passes the night in playing, and it is now dawn. He tries but cannot see clearly. The case is like this. The Bodhisattva of the stage of the ten “bumis” thus sees the nature of the Tathagata within himself. And, likewise, what he sees is not clear.
"Also, next, O good man! For example, a government official, driven by routine work of this kind, comes home late in the evening. There is a flash of lightning for a moment, and he sees a group of cows. Then he thinks: "Is this a group of cows, or a cloud, or a house?" He looks for a good while and comes to the conclusion that they are cows. And yet, he cannot be too sure. The Bodhisattva of the stage of the ten “bhumis” sees the nature of the Tathagata within himself, and yet he cannot see it clearly. The situation is like this.
"Also, next, O good man! A bhiksu who upholds the precepts looks at some water in which there are no worms. And yet, he sees a worm, and thinks to himself: "Is the thing that moves in the water a worm or a bit of dust?" He stares at it for a good while. Even after he has realised that it is a piece of dust, he is not quite sure. It seems so. The same is the case with the Bodhisattva of the stage of the ten “bhumis”, who thus sees within himself the nature of the Tathagata. Nothing is very clear.
"Also, next, O good man! For example, a man sees a child in the darkness, far off. He thinks: "Is this a cow, a man, or a bird?" He keeps gazing at it for a goodly while. He now sees that it is a child, and yet he does not see it very clearly. It is thus. The same applies to the Bodhisattva who is at the stage of the ten “bhumis” and who sees within himself the nature of the Tathagata. Nothing is completely clear.
"Also, next, O good man! There is a person who, in the darkness of the night, sees the image of a Bodhisattva and thinks: "Can this be the image of a Bodhisattva, of Mahesvara, of Great Brahma, or of someone in monastic garb?" The person gazes at it a good while and comes to think that it is the form of a Bodhisattva; and yet, he does not see it very clearly. It is the same with the Bodhisattva of the ten “bhumis” who sees within himself the nature of the Tathagata. Nothing seems to be very clear.
"O good man! The Buddha-Nature that one has is the deepest and the most difficult (thing) to see. Only the Buddha can know it well. It is not within the reach of sravakas and pratyekabuddhas. O good man! The wise should see thus and know of the nature of the Tathagata."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! The Buddha-Nature is very delicate and difficult to know. How can one perceive it well with the fleshly eye?" The Buddha said to Kasyapa: "O good man! Even Thoughtlessness-non-thoughtlessness Heaven is also not within reach of the two vehicles. When one accords with the sutras, one can well see it by dint of the power of faith. O good man! The same is the case with sravakas and pratyekabuddhas who accord with the Nirvana Sutra and who see in themselves the nature of the Tathagata. O good man! Because of this, one should make effort and learn the Great Nirvana Sutra. O good man! The Buddha Nature as such can only be known by the Buddha alone and is not within the reach of sravakas and pratyekabuddhas."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! Unholy common mortals possess the nature of common mortals and (yet) say that they possess Self." The Buddha said: "As an example of this: two persons are friends. One is a prince, and the other a poor man. They associate with each other. Then the poor man, on seeing that the Prince possesses a very bright sword, covets it. The Prince later flees to other countries, taking the sword with him. The poor man later puts up at the house of another person and, in his sleep, cries out: "The sword! The sword!" A person nearby hears this and goes to the king. The king says: "You said "sword". Tell me where it is." The person tells of it in detail. "O King! You can cut up my body and cut off my feet, and yet you will not be able to get the sword. I was once on close terms with the Prince. Before, we were together, and I saw it. But I did not touch it. And how could I take it?" The King asks further: "What was the sword like which you say you saw?" The man answers: "O great King! It was like a ewe's horn." The King, on hearing this, smiles in amusement and says: "Don't worry. In all my storehouse, we do not have any such sword. How could you have seen it with the Prince?" Then the King asks all his ministers: "Have you ever seen a sword of this kind?" So speaking, he dies.
"Then another prince ascends the throne. He also asks the ministers: "Have you ever seen in the governmental storehouse any sword of this kind?" All the ministers say: "We once saw it." "What was the sword like?" They replied: "It was like a ewe's horn." "How could there be any such sword in my storehouse?" Four kings, one after the other, ask and check, but they cannot gain it.
"Some time later, the Prince who has fled the country returns and becomes King. On ascending the throne, he asks the ministers: 'Have you ever seen the sword?' They reply: 'O great King! Its colour was pure, and it was like an utpala-lotus.' They also answer: 'It was like the horn of a ram.' They further reply: 'It was red and like a fire ball.' They answer,too: 'It was like a black serpent.' Then the King laughs: 'All of you have not, in truth, seen my sword.'
"Noble Son! A Bodhisattva-mahasattva is also like that - he appears in the world and expounds the true nature of the Self. After he has expounded it, he departs, as for example like the prince who takes the wondrous sword and flees to another country. Foolish ordinary people say, 'Everybody has Self! Everybody has Self", like the poor man who, lodging at another's house, cries out, 'The sword! The sword!' Sravakas and pratyekabuddhas ask people, 'What attributes does the Self have?', to which they reply, 'I have seen the attributes of the Self - it is the size of a thumb' or they say, 'It is like (a grain of rice), or 'It is like (a grain of) millet', or there are some who say, 'It is the Self's attribute to abide within the heart, burning like the sun'. In this manner people do not know the nature of the Self, (just) as, for example, the various ministers do not know the nature of the sword. While a Bodhisattva discourses thus about the quality of the Self, ordinary people do not but impute various false concepts to the Self, just as when asked about the attributes of the sword the (ministers) reply that it is like the horn of a ram. These ordinary people generate false views in succession from one on to the other. In order to eliminate such false views, the Tathagata reveals and discourses on the non-existence of a self, just as when the prince tells his various ministers that there is no such sword in his treasury. Noble Son, the True Self that the Tathagata expounds today is called the Buddha-dhatu (Buddha-Nature). This manner of Buddha-dhatu is shown in the Buddha-Dharma with the example of the real sword. Noble Son, should there be any ordinary person who is able well to expound this, then he (speaks) in accordance with unsurpassed Buddha-Dharma. Should there be anyone who is well able to distinguish this in accordance with what has been expounded regarding it, then you should know that he has the nature of a Bodhisattva.
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter One Introductory
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Two: On Cunda
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Three: On Grief
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Four: On Long Life
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Five: On the Adamantine Body
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Six: On the Virtue of the Name
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Seven: On the Four Aspects
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Eight: On the Four Dependables
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Nine: On Wrong and Right
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Ten: On the Four Truths
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Eleven: On the Four Inversions
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Twelve: On the Tathagata-DHATU
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Thirteen: On Letters
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Fourteen: On the Parable of the Birds
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Fifteen: On the Parable of the Moon
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Sixteen: On the Bodhisattva
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Seventeen: On the Questions Raised by the Crowd
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Eighteen: On Actual Illness
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Nineteen: On Holy Actions-1
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Twenty: On Holy Actions-2
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Twenty-One: On Pure Actions-1
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Twenty-Two: On Pure Actions-2
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Twenty-Three: On Pure Actions-3
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Twenty-Four: On Pure Actions-4
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Twenty-Five: On Pure Actions-5
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Twenty-Six: On the Action of the Child
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Twenty-Seven: Bodhisattva Highly-Virtuous King-1
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Twenty-Eight: Bodhisattva Highly-Virtuous King-2
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Twenty-Nine: Bodhisattva Highly-Virtuous King (c)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Thirty: Bodhisattva Highly-Virtuous King (d)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Thirty-One: Bodhisattva Highly-Virtuous King (e)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Thirty-Two: Bodhisattva Highly-Virtuous King (f)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Thirty-Three: On Bodhisattva Lion's Roar (A)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Thirty-Four: On Bodhisattva Lion's Roar (b)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Thirty-Five: On Bodhisattva Lion's Roar (c)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Thirty-Six: On Bodhisattva Lion's Roar (d)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Thirty-Seven: On Bodhisattva Lion's Roar (e)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Thirty-Eight: On Bodhisattva Lion's Roar (f)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Thirty-Nine: On Bodhisattva Lion's Roar (g)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Forty: On Bodhisattva Kasyapa (a)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Forty-One: On Bodhisattva Kasyapa (b)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Forty-Two: On Bodhisattva Kasyapa (c)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Forty-Three: On Bodhisattva Kasyapa (d)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Forty-Four: On Bodhisattva Kasyapa (e)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Forty-Five: On Kaundinya (a)
- Nirvana Sutra: Chapter Forty-Six: On Kaundinya (b)