The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:37 pm

Greetings Thornbush,

Do you know of any articles that compare the Mahaparinirvana Sutra with the Pali Mahaparinibbana Sutta?

It would be interesting to read what the similarities/differences are, and the implications that arise from these differences.

Or maybe in the absence of such an article, you or someone else may have some thoughts to share on the subject.

Metta,
Retro. :)
Live in concord, with mutual appreciation, without disputing, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with kindly eyes

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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby thornbush » Mon Apr 13, 2009 4:40 am

Hi Retro,

This is what I can share with you on what I know in a sketchy manner (one of the Mahayana Sutras that is still on my 'to-do' list) on this great body of Scripture known as the Maha Parinirvana Sutra, ala Mahayana as compared to the Maha Parinibbana Sutta from the Pali Canon.

History
1. It is one of the major body works of the Mahayana Canon alongside the Lotus Sutra and the Flower Adornment Sutra
2. One of the Mahayana Sutras that share the same title as the Pali version (another example is the Brahma Net Sutra with its 'cousin', the Brahmajala Sutta). The full title of this Sutra is "Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Mahā-Sūtra" or just simply known as 'Nirvana Sutra'.
3. It mentions the similar historical events of the Buddha's final days as how its cousin version Sutta does but in other content and style, it differs where it also concentrates a lot on miraculous deeds of the Buddha and other 'mind bending' teachings that is 'shocking' to the uninitiated such as 'True Self', Buddha Nature, Tathagatagarbha/Womb of the Tathagata', 'Permanency' and so forth which sounds like an anti-thesis to what the Buddha taught in the Wisdom/Emptiness Sutras, Agamas and the Pali Canon. Some have opined that this is the last Sutra to read in order to appreciate all of what the Buddha has taught earlier to counter the 'eternalists' and now the final swipe at the 'nihilists'.
4. Scholastic considerations:
i. Most scholars have placed this Sutra to a date as early as the second century though some suspect it's earlier.
ii. some argued that this Sutra was probably not distinctively Mahāyāna, but quasi-Mahāsanghika in its originality and that an expanded version of the core text developed and would have comprised chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 of the Faxian and Tibetan versions, and posit that the present one has a degree of editorial addition in them from the later phases of development.
iii. 2 versions: The Mahayana Version and the Sarvastivada/Nikaya version (both in Sanskrit)
a. Mahayana Version:
1. The Mahaparinirvana Sutra as translated by Dharmaraksha during the Northern Liang Dynasty, China is the 'Northern Version' and had 40 Volumes and 13 Chapters. It contains teachings on the Dharmakaya, Nirvana with features of 'permanency', 'bliss' and 'true self' and also on the Buddha Nature (Buddha Dhatu) of all sentient beings and the Womb of the Tathagata (Tathagatagarbha).
2. Another is the translation of Faxian and Buddhabhadra of the Eastern Jin Dynasty and corresponds with Dharmaraksha's although only consisting in 6 Volumes. It is also know as the "The Six Volume Mahaparinirvana Sutra".
3. The Southern Edition of the Sutra was translated by Huiguan and Huiyuan of the Six Song Dynasty and is the revision of the Northern Edition as mentioned in (2).
4. The Mahaparinirvana Sutra's Epilogue in Volume 2, was translated by Jnanabhadra and Huining of the Tang Dynasty where it contains a tale of the Buddha explaining on practical instructions for His disciples after His Parinirvana and also tells of the cremation, division of His remains and so forth.

b. Sarvastivada/Nikaya Version
1. This Sarvastivada version is the closest resemblance to the Pali Canon's Mahaparinibbana Sutta, content wise.
2. 5 Chinese versions are found:
1. The Parinirvana of Buddha Sutra (2 volumes), translation of Po Fa-tsu from the Western Jin Dynasty
2. The Parinirvana Sutra (2 volumes), unknown translator
3. The Mahaparinirvana Sutra (3 volumes), translation of Faxian from the Eastern Jin Dynasty
4. The Legacy Teachings Sutra (1 volume), translation of Kumarajiva from towards the end of the Jin Dynasty
5. The Sutra of Preaching Travels in the Dirghagama Sutra, of the Chinese Agamas, translated by Buddhayashas and Chu Fo-nien from towards the end of the Jin Dynasty

So it seems that there are 2 variant versions of the Sutra. One is the Sarvastivada and another, the Mahayana version. The latter has teaching on the Tathagatabarbha whereas, the former and the Pali Canon version does not.
If it may be said, even if there may be some influence, the Mahayana version has derived it from the Sarvastivada version rather than the Pali Canon's.
An interesting deduction here:
Is the Sarvastivada version therefore derived from the Pali Canon's version?
Uncertain, but one opinion has it that it may not be so for the following reasons:
1. The Theravada School is no longer extant in India by then but has taken its place in Sri Lanka, whereas, the Sarvastivada is still predominantly active in Kashmir, Northern India.
2. Both of the Theravada and Sarvastivada are equal in age where both are derived from Sthaviravada although separated geographically and there is likelihood that the Sutra is derived from the Pali Canon's version.
3. The Mahayana version, originating from Northern India, a great distance from Sri Lanka, would have observers
connecting the Mahayana version with that of the Mahasanghika's.

iv. Also there is also a Tibetan translation, compiled by the Indian panditas, Jinamitra, Jnanagarbha and the Tibetan scholar-monastic Devacandra, comparable in length to Faxian's translation.

Transmission & Authenticity
Wikipedia
According to scholars specializing in the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra, the history of the text is extremely complex, but the consensus view is that the core portion of this sutra corresponding to the Tibetan translation, the six juan Chinese translation attributed to Faxian and the first ten juan of the Dharmakṣema Chinese translation was compiled in the Indian sub-continent, possibly in Andhra, Southern India.[12][13][14][15]

According to early Chinese sutra catalogs such as the Lidai Sangbao ji (歷代三寶紀), a part of the core portion of the sutra was translated previously into Chinese by Dharmarakṣa (fl. c260-280), though this version is now lost.[16]

According to Faxian's own account, the manuscript copy forming the basis of the six juan Chinese version was obtained by him in Pāṭaliputra from the house of a layman known as Kālasena, during his travels in India. Though the translation of this six juan version is conventionally ascribed to Faxian, this attribution is probably inaccurate. Written less than 100 years after the date of this translation, the earliest surviving Chinese sutra catalog, Sengyou's Chu Sanzang Jiji (出三藏記集), makes no mention of Faxian, but instead states that the translation was done by Buddhabhadra and his assistant Baoyun. Sengyou quotes still earlier catalogs to corroborate this attribution. The idea that Faxian was involved in the translation only emerges in later catalogs, compiled several hundred years after the event.[17]

Chinese canonical records also mention that a now lost translation was made by the Chinese monk Zhimeng who studied in India from 404-424 CE. According to Zhimeng's own account, he also obtained his manuscript from the same layman in Pataliputra as Faxian did some decades earlier.[18][19]

The surviving data for the translation done by Dharmakṣema from 421CE onwards in Guzang is somewhat confused and contradictory. However, based on the earliest biographical material, such as the account of his life given by Sengyou and Huijiao's "Record of Eminent Monks" (高僧傳 T2059), it seems that Dharmakṣema brought with him a birch-bark manuscript of the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra from North-Western India, which he used for the initial translation work of his version. This is stated to have formed the basis of the first ten juan of his translation, known to correspond overall in content to the six juan version and the Tibetan version.[20][21][22]

However, Dharmakṣema's translation of the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra extends for a further thirty juan beyond the accepted core text of this sutra. The provenance and authenticity of the Sanskrit text underlying this part of his translation has been debated amongst scholars for decades, with many doubting that it is a text of Indian origin. The chief reasons for this skepticism are these: no traces of a extended Sanskrit text has ever been found, while Sanskrit manuscript fragments of twenty four separate pages distributed right across the core portion of the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra have been found over the past hundred years in various parts of Asia; no quotations are known from this latter portion in any Indian commentaries or sutra anthologies; and no other translator in China or Tibet ever found Sanskrit copies of this portion.[23] The Chinese monk-translator Yijing travelled widely through India and parts South East Asia over a twenty-five year period. In his account of "Eminent Monks who Went West in Search of the Dharma" (大唐西域求法高僧傳 T2066), he mentions that he searched for a copy of the enlarged Mahaparinirvāṇa-sūtra through all that time, but only found manuscripts corresponding to the core portion of this work.[24] For these reasons, textual scholars generally regard the authenticity of the latter portion as dubious: they surmise it may have been a local Central Asian composition at best or else written by Dharmakṣema himself who had both the ability and the motive for doing so.[25][26] As a consequence, specialist scholars accept that this latter portion of the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra translated by Dharmakṣema has no value for the history of the tathāgata-garbha concept and related doctrines during their development in India[27][28]

Sources:
http://dhammacitta.org/forum/index.php?topic=4606.0
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana_Sutra
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby thornbush » Mon Apr 13, 2009 4:41 am

Overview of the Sutra
As I see some excerpts, it is indeed greatly different from the Pali Canon's version:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana_Sutra
Quotations from the Nirvana Sutra
The Buddha on his eternal and blissful ultimate nature as he stands on the brink of physical death: " ... if you perceive things truly, you will become free from attachment, separated from them, you will indeed be liberated. I have well crossed the watery waste of existence. I abide in bliss, having transcended suffering, therefore I am devoid of unending desire, I have eliminated attachment and gained Liberation [moksha]. There is no old age, sickness or death for me, my life is forever without end. I proceed burning bright like a flame. You must not think that I shall cease to exist. Consider the Tathagata [i.e. Buddha] to be like [Mount] Sumeru: though I shall pass into Nirvana here [i.e. physically die], that supreme bliss is my true nature [dharmata]." (Tibetan version, translated by Stephen Hodge, quoted in Buddha-Self, by Dr. Tony Page, Nirvana Publications, London, 2003, p. 27).

"The Buddha-Tathagatas are not eternally extinguished in Nirvana like the heat of an iron ball that is quickly extinguished when cast into water. Moreover, it is thus: just as the heat of an iron ball is extinguished when thrown into water, the Tathagata is likewise; when the immeasurable mental afflictions have been extinguished, it is similar to when an iron ball is cast into water - although the heat is extinguished, the substance / nature of the iron remains. In that way, when the Tathagata has completely extinguished the fire of the mental afflictions that have been accumulated over countless aeons, the nature of the diamond Tathagata permanently endures - not transforming and not diminishing." (Fa-xian version, tr. by Stephen Hodge, quoted in Buddha-Self, op.cit., p. 92).

On his teaching of "non-Self" (the "worldly self", which ultimately does not exist eternally, but obscures the True Self) and the tathagata-garbha: "When I have taught non-Self, fools uphold the teaching that there is no Self. The wise know that such is conventional speech, and they are free from doubts. "When I have taught that the tathagata-garbha is empty, fools meditatively cultivate [the notion] that it is extinction [uccheda], subject to destruction and imperfect. The wise know that it is [actually] unchanging, stable and eternal." " ... just as cow's milk is delicious, so too is the taste of this [Nirvana] Sutra similar to that. Those who abandon the teaching given in this sutra concerning the tathagata-garbha are just like cattle. For example, just as people who intend to commit suicide will cause themselves extreme misery, similarly you should know that those ungrateful people who reject the tathagata-garbha and teach non-Self cause themselves extreme misery." (Tibetan version, tr. by Stephen Hodge, quoted in Buddha-Self, op. cit., p. 108).

In contrast to the illusory, conditioned, worldly self, the Self of the Buddha is real and enduring: "The Tathagata's Body is not causally conditioned. Because it is not causally conditioned, it is said to have the Self; if it has the Self, then it is also Eternal, Blissful and Pure." (Mahaparinirvana Sutra, op.cit., Vol. 7, p.71).

"The Tathagata also teaches, for the sake of all beings, that, truly, there is the Self in all phenomena." (Mahaparinirvana Sutra, op. cit., Vol. 1, p.46).


Opinion 1
http://www.nirvanasutra.net/
The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra ("Mahayana Great Complete-Nirvana Scripture" - commonly known as the Nirvana Sutra, for short) is one of the most profound, inspiring and arguably most important of all the Buddha's Mahayana sutras (along with the great Lotus Sutra).
The Mahaparinirvana Sutra claims to preserve the final, ultimate and true Mahayana teachings delivered by the Buddha on his last day and night of life upon earth.

The sutra can be said to eclipse all others in its authority on the question of the Buddha-dhatu and Tathagatagarbha. It claims to be definitive: the quintessence of Mahayana Dharma.
And yet despite being greatly revered and strongly influential in the East, it is little known, and even less well studied, in the West.

The Mahaparinirvana Sutra is a key sutra for an understanding of the Buddha's teachings on the Buddha-dhatu ("Buddha Nature", "Buddha Element", "Buddha Principle") and the synonymous Tathagatagarbha (indwelling Buddha Essence of each being).
It is important to recognise that the Mahaparinirvana Sutra is, in its own words, an uttara-tantra (definitive explanation of the Buddha's teachings given by the Buddha himself) - indeed an uttarottara-tantra, according to the Buddha: the most supreme explanation of his doctrines that the Buddha ever enunciated (coupled with that found in the great Lotus Sutra).

Some Buddhists feel unsettled and even frightened by this sutra's cataphatic (positive) and affirmative teachings on the immortal reality of the Self or Soul (the atman) of the Buddha, present in all beings, and like to pretend that the scripture is of relatively low spiritual grade (in diametrical contradiction of the Buddha's own insistence that these teachings are definitive and final); but perhaps this unhappy resistance to the Sutra or the attendant wish (increasingly encountered amongst those with only a shallow knowledge, and even less practice of, Tathagatagarbha Buddhism) to pervert the Sutra's clear and cataphatic meaning stems from an unfortunate clinging and grasping at pre-conceived, narrow and rigid little notions of what Buddhism "must be" and from a needless, almost neurotic terror of certain word-labels ("Self" or "Essence" in this case), rather than issuing from any problematic nature of this great spiritual text itself. Whether one terms ultimate Truth the "Self", the "Tathagata", "Buddha-dhatu", "Tathagatagarbha", or Mahaparinirvana (and the Buddha uses all of these terms and more), the ineffable Reality towards which these words point remains itself unchanged and ever the same.

At all events, entry into the Buddha-dhatu (Buddha Principle), also called the Tathagatagarbha (Buddha Matrix), is not for those who are frightened by certain words and their transcendental referents, or by such a subtle and recondite Truth as the Buddha Nature (and who cling to the provisional, contingent, incomplete "non-Self" teaching) - it is for those Bodhisattvas who have conquered all fear. The Buddha states this explicitly, when he declares: "you should know that the Tathagata-dhatu is the refuge of Bodhisattvas who have attained fearlessness ...", ("Tathagatagarbha" chapter, Faxian's Nirvana Sutra).

Many Mahayana Buddhists who encounter this final scripture of the Buddha's display veritable symptoms of panic and terror in the face of a term they cannot brook, let alone embrace: the 'True Self'! Such people believe that only the prajna-paramita (Emptiness) teachings of the Buddha have final validity and refuse to recognise that the Buddha did in fact teach an ultimate doctrine - that of the Tathagatagarbha ('Buddha Nature') - beyond those earlier forms of Mahayana Dharma. That the Buddha-dhatu doctrine is ultimate and definitive is what the Buddha himself insists upon in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and other Tathagatagarbha sutras, and yet numerous disappointingly blinkered and pre-conditioned Mahayana Buddhists sadly and unjustly suppress or deny this truth; whether this is out of genuine ignorance of these scriptures or out of sheer dread at what does not fit into their pre-conceived, cosy (for them) yet constricted little world-view is not quite clear.

The plain fact, however, is that the Nirvana Sutra complements (and clarifies) the prajna-paramita doctrines. The teachings of the Nirvana Sutra represent the final elucidatory step within the sutras towards Nirvana and full Awakening: they (in alliance with the doctrines of the Lotus Sutra and the astonishingly cosmically dimensioned Avatamsaka Sutra) are definitive and full revelations by the Buddha of his ultimate Dharma.

Other (earlier) teachings, such as those on prajna-paramita and Emptiness, did not present the total picture.
They lacked the revelation of the Tathagatagarbha. Yet they helped lay the ground for the revelation of a selfless (i.e. ungraspable, untouchable, unselfish, all-compassionate, unconditioned, suffering-free, conceptually unfixable and non-dual) Self (the Eternal Buddha) that is far from being a mutating, time-bound ego or tangible entity - but is rather the ego-free, unconditioned, everlasting Buddha as the Dharmakaya (Body of Truth) - a mystery that only a Buddha (solely real being) can fully know and comprehend. Yet all beings can become Buddha - since they contain within their very body, here and now, the Buddha Principle which makes Awakening possible. Here, in this great Mahaparinirvana Sutra, we are given the final pieces of the spiritual jigsaw puzzle of the Dharma which reveals this truth. The picture thus becomes complete, and Dharma reaches its culmination and consummation.

It also becomes clear as one explores the Nirvana Sutra that the Buddha speaks here (as in other Tathagatagarbha scriptures) of two kinds of "self": one is the worldly, ephemeral, composite ego, which he terms a "lie" (as it is an ever-changing bundle of impermanence, with no enduring essence of its own) and which is to be recognised as the mutating fiction that it is; the other is the True Self, which is the Buddha - Eternal, Changeless, Blissful, and Pure.

Some Buddhists find this a stumbling block and are baffled by how the Buddha can on the one hand deny the self and on the other upold the reality of the Self. The answer is that the referent of the word "self" is not the same in all instances. On some occasions the illusory ego is being referred to, while on others it is the Buddha as Dharmakaya that is meant. The one is small and illusory, while the other is real and great ("the Great Self", as the Buddha labels it).

To deny the sovereign reality of that birthless and deathless Buddha-Self (which is the unbegotten and immortal Dharmakaya - the invisible and ultimate body-and-mind of the Buddha) is tantamount to turning oneself into a species of self-immolating "moth in the flame of a lamp", as it were - so the Buddha says in the Nirvana Sutra.

It is to deny Truth and therewith to commit spiritual suicide. This Buddha-Self or Dharmakaya is present everywhere and at all times, thus making the teaching of non-duality feasible: there is only one, non-dual Truth, and all else is illusion (as it possesses no true reality, so cannot actually stand in opposition to Truth). Within this all-embracing perspective, the prajna-paramita notions find their final integration into a truly balanced Dharma, as part - rather than the whole - of a majestic edifice of spritual revelation, whose capstone is precisely the Buddha-dhatu or Tathagatagarbha - the Essence of all beings and indeed all Buddhas

Opinion 2
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana_Sutra
The Mahaparinirvana Sutra is a long and highly composite Mahayana scripture.[29] One scholar claims it refers to the Buddha using the term "Self" in order to win over non-Buddhist ascetics.[30]

The scripture presents itself as providing the correct understanding of earlier Buddhist teachings, such as those on non-Self and Emptiness: "non-Self" in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra refers to the impermanent, mundane, skandha-constructed ego, whose seeming reality is called by the Buddha "a lie" (in contrast to the true supramundane Selfhood of the Buddha), while "Emptiness" (shunyata) is explicated as meaning empty of that which is compounded, painful, and impermanent (Mahaparinirvana Sutra, op.cit., Vol. 2, pp. 30–31; Buddha-Self by Dr. Tony Page, Nirvana Publications, London, 2003, Vol. 2, p. 70). The Buddha, in the Fa-xian version of the text, points out that worldly beings who misapprehend the authentic Buddhist Doctrine "... have the notion that there is no Self, and are unable to know the True Self." (Buddha-Self, op.cit. Vol. 1, p. 53).

This True Self, of course, is not the suffering-prone and hapless clinging ego - not the conditioned and transitory "self" which unawakened persons clutch at as their identity - but the Self-which-signifies-Buddha: all-knowing and all-pure Ultimate Reality, unconstrained by the limitations and illusions of samsara. This Self of the Buddha is the source of ever-enduring life.

The Buddha is likened to a great sea, whose expanse and longevity cannot be measured: "All the great rivers of life of all people, of the gods, the earth and the sky drain into the Tathagata's sea of life. Hence, the length of life of the Tathagata is uncountable." (Mahayanism: A Critical Exposition of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra by Kosho Yamamoto, The Karinbunko, Tokyo, 1975, p. 61).

The Nirvana Sutra is an enormously important scripture, not least because of its influence on Zen Buddhism and in view of its traditional status as the final Mahayana pronouncements of the Buddha on the eve of his physical death. It is striking for its teachings on the eternal, unchanging, blissful, pure, inviolate and deathless "Self" (ātman) of the Buddha in the interiority of Nirvana: "... if the non-eternal is made away with [in Nirvana], what there remains must be the Eternal; if there is no more any sorrow, what there remains must be Bliss; if there is no more any non-Self, what exists there must be the Self; if there is no longer anthing that is impure, what there is must be the Pure" (Kosho Yamamoto, Mahayanism: A Criticla Exposition of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, The Karinbunko, Tokyo, 1975, pp. 107–108).

Here the sutra controverts the familiar Buddhist dictum that "all dharmas [phenomena] are non-Self", and in the Dharmakshema version the Buddha even declares that "in truth there is Self (Atman) in all dharmas". That Self is "indestructible like a diamond" (Mahaparinirvana Sutra, op.cit., Vol. 3, p.6), and yet can assume all manner of forms, including those of the gods Shiva and Vishnu (Buddhist Thought, Professor Paul Williams, Routledge, London, 2000, p. 243). Any idea that the Buddha (who is the immortal Self – Mahayanism, op. cit., pp. 61–62) is impermanent is vigorously rejected by the Buddha in this sutra, and those who teach otherwise are severely criticised.

He insists: "Those who cannot accept that the Tathāgata is eternal [nitya] cause misery." (Mahaparinirvana Sutra, op. cit., Vol. 3, p. 16). In contrast, meditating upon the eternality of the Buddha is said to bring happiness and protection from rebirth in evil realms. The eternal being of the Buddha should be likened - the sutra says - to indelible letters carved upon stone. Furthermore, protecting and promoting this teaching of the Buddha's eternity is said to bring innumerable and inconceivable blessings to its votaries (Mahaparinirvana Sutra, op. cit., passim).

Much of the central focus of the Nirvana Sutra falls on the existence of the salvific Buddha-dhatu (Buddha-nature, Buddha element, or Buddha principle), also called the Tathagatagarbha ("Buddha-matrix" or "Buddha embryo"), in every sentient being (animals included - hence the Buddha's strong support for vegetarianism in this sutra), the full seeing of which ushers in Liberation from all suffering and effects final deliverance into the realm of Great Nirvana (maha-nirvana). This "True Self" or "Great Self" of the nirvanic realm is said to be sovereign, to be attained on the morning of Buddhahhood, and to pervade all places like space (Mahaparinirvana Sutra, op.cit. Vol. 5, p.60).

The Buddha-dhatu is always present, in all times and in all beings, but is obscured from worldly vision by the screening effect of tenacious negative mental afflictions (kleshas) within each being (the most notable of which are greed, hatred, delusion, and pride). Once these negative mental states have been eliminated, however, the Buddha-dhatu is said to shine forth unimpededly and the Buddha-sphere (Buddha-dhatu/ visaya) can then be consciously "entered into", and therewith deathless Nirvana attained (Mahayanism, op.cit., pp. 94–96).

The highest form of Nirvana — Mahaparinirvana — is also discussed in very positive, "cataphatic" terms in the Nirvana Sutra. Mahaparinirvana is characterized as being that which is "Eternal (nitya), Blissful (sukha), the Self (atman) and Pure (subha)" (Mahaparinirvana Sutra, op.cit., passim). This state or sphere (visaya) of ultimate awareness and Knowing (jnana), however, is said to be accessible only to those who have become fully awakened Buddhas. Even 10th-level Bodhisattvas (i.e. the very highest level of Bodhisattva) are not able clearly to perceive the Buddha-dhatu, and they further fail to see with clarity that the immutable, unfabricated Dhatu dwells indestructibly within all beings (Mahaparinirvana Sutra, op. cit., Vol. 8, p.67).

The longer versions of the Nirvana Sutra additionally give expression to the new claim (not found in the shorter Chinese and Tibetan versions) that, because of the Buddha-dhatu (Buddha-principle/ Buddha-nature), absolutely all beings without exception, even icchantikas (the most incorrigible and spiritually base of beings), will eventually attain Liberation and become Buddhas (Mahayanism, op.cit., pp. 153–154).

Nature of the Buddha and Nirvana
Translator of the entire Nirvana Sutra into English, Kosho Yamamoto, writes in his monograph on the sutra on the nature of the Buddha and of Nirvana as presented in this sutra. He comments:

‘What is the Tathagata [Buddha]? … He is one who is eternal and unchanging. He is beyond the human notion of “is” or “is-not”. He is Thusness [tathata], which is both phenomenon and noumenon, put together. Here, the carnal notion of man is sublimated and explained from the macrocosmic standpoint of existence of all and all. And this Dharmakaya is at once Wisdom and Emancipation [moksha]. In this ontological enlargement of the concept of existence of the Buddha Body [buddhakaya], this sutra and, consequently, Mahayana, differs from the Buddha of Primitive Buddhism … And what is the Dharmakaya? It is a body founded on Dharma. And what is Dharma? It is dharmata[Thusness – the true nature of all things], which is eternal and which changes not …Thus, there comes about the equation of: Buddha Body = Dharmakaya = eternal body = eternal Buddha = Eternity. … What is Nirvana? [Dwelling upon the nature of Nirvana], the Buddha explains its positive aspects and says that Nirvana has four attributes, which are the Eternal, Bliss, the Self, and the Pure’.[31]

The tathagatagarbha, according to the Nirvana Sutra as explained by Yamamoto, is nothing less than Thusness (tathata) itself. Yamamoto writes: ‘… the tathagatagarbha is none but Thusness or the Buddha Nature, and is the originally untainted pure mind which lies overspread by, and exists in, the mind of greed and anger of all beings. This bespeaks a Buddha Body that exists in a state of bondage. The attitude of approach here is ontological, religious, personal, and therefore, practical …’[32]

On the question of the Self, Yamamoto writes that earlier the Buddha taught non-Self to meet the needs of the occasion. Now he teaches the truth of the Self, which remains once the non-Self is done away with:

'What the Buddha says here is that he spoke thus to meet the occasion. But now the thought is established [of non-Self], he means to say what is true, which is about the inner content of nirvana itself ... If there is no more any non-Self, what there exists must be the Self.'[33]/

Opinion 3:
http://books.google.com.my/books?id=UKk ... 2#PPA98,M1 (pages 98-101)
1. The Universality of Enlightenment, The Tathagatagarbha and Buddha Nature in all sentient beings, are found even in those most wicked and considered hopelessly devoid in terms of spiritual development (icchantika) as opposed by the Cittamatra School, and where the famous Chinese Lotus Sutra commentator, Tao Sheng taught in China that all will eventually attain Buddhahood, was banned a heretic for saying such and later reinstated and admired for his wisdom when the Mahaparinirvana Sutra was translated and confirmed what he had taught.
2. It boldly asserts the Tathagatagarbha and Buddha Nature is the 'True Self', which is inherent in all sentient beings but because of defilements, they are not able to see it for what it truly is. But, a caveat here, the True Self is not that of like posited by non Buddhist thinkers as the Buddha taught anatta (anatman) to overcome the egoistical self, the bedrock of attachment and grasping, and uses this Teaching of 'true self' to win over the non Buddhists who thought Buddha was a nihilist and quotes the Buddha: "I always say that sentient beings have a Buddha-nature. Is not that very Buddha Nature a 'Self'? So I do not teach a nihilistic doctrine"
3. It is wrong to assume that this is comparable to the 'self-brahman' in Advaita Vedanta in any way.
4. So the 'self' in the Sutra speaks of nothing more than the possibility of all sentient being of becoming a Buddha, beyond the self grasping and egoistical tendencies.
http://nichirenscoffeehouse.net/books/N ... tra12.html
'Self' means none other than Tathagata-garbha (Womb of the Thus Come One). All sentient beings possess Buddha-nature and that is what 'Self' precisely means."
The Buddha said: "O good man! 'Self' means 'tathagatagarbha.' Every being has the Buddha Nature. This is self. Such a self is, since the very beginning, under cover of innumerable illusions. That is why man cannot see it.

Will be back for more... :tongue:

Namo Amitabha Buddha!
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby sraddha » Mon May 25, 2009 3:06 pm

The Tipitaka essentially begins with "sankhata" dharmas -- or conditioned existence.

Essentially the Tipitaka ends where the Mahayana begins -- at the asankhata Dharmas "or unconditioned" Dharmas.

The only asankhata Dharma the Tipitaka discusses is "Nibbana Dhatu" -- this is basically the unconditioned element which one should arrive at from practicing in accordance to the Tipitaka.

However, in the Mahayana we literally explore the realm of asankhata dhatu, or the unconditioned. What exactly is Buddha, Dharma and Sangha?

Why are Buddha, Dharma and Sangha asankhat or unconditioned? Here the meaning of Atma and Anatma are explored!
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby sraddha » Tue May 26, 2009 1:28 am

There we read in words attributed to the Buddha: "... it is not the case that they [i.e. all phenomena] are devoid of the Self.

What is this Self?
Any phenomenon ["dharma"] that is true ["satya"],
real ["tattva"],
eternal ["nitya"],
sovereign/autonomous ["aishvarya"]
and whose foundation is unchanging ["ashraya-aviparinama"] is termed 'the Self' [atman]." (translated from Dharmakṣema's version of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra).


Now, one will ask does the Tipitaka support permanent "dharmas"...I think so. I was surprised to read in the Samyutta Nikaya, that lineages are eternal! I will look for the passage!

So basically these tiny passages in the Nikayas which were pretty much ignored in the "Tipitaka Only" schools, are further explored only in the Mahayana.

ONLY conditioned substances are impermanent -- that doesn't mean there aren't unconditioned elements!

All impermanent Dharmas are "not Self" or have no self -- but what about permanent Dharmas???? :smile:

This also supercedes the Hindu notions, they never came about knowing about permanent dharmas!
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby sraddha » Wed May 27, 2009 1:18 am

AHA! I found it!

It's in the Samyutta Nikaya, Devata Samyutta (I.76), On Decay!

Buddha states:

Bodies decay,
but name and clan does not decay!


Nibbana is also without decay!

In several Mahayana suttas, you have a passages stating "sarva satva nama" or every "true name" as a protective measure.

So here Mahayana explores the UNCOMPOUNDED, UNDECAYING REALMS. It can no longer be called "Lok" or world because Lok is a part of dependant origination.

So now these uncompounded realms are called "Buddha fields" and Mahayana is the tradition that explores this uncompounded, undecaying Buddha fields.
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby Will » Tue Aug 09, 2011 10:06 pm

Here is a passage from chapter five of this powerful sutra:

Then the World-Honoured One said to Kasyapa: "O good man! The body of the Tathagata
is one that is eternal, one that is indestructible, and one that is adamantine, one that is not
sustained by various kinds of food. It is the Dharma-Body." Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O
World-Honoured One! We do not see such a body as you speak of. What we see is one which
is non-eternal, destructible, of dust, one sustained by various kinds of food. How? In that you,
the Tathagata, are now about to enter Nirvana." The Buddha said to Kasyapa: "Do not say
that the body of the Tathagata is not strong, can easily be broken, and is the same as that of
common mortals. O good man! Know that the body of the Tathagata is as indestructible as
that which stands for countless billions of kalpas. It is neither the body of man or heaven, not
one that fears, not one sustained by various kinds of food. The body of the Tathagata is one
that is not a body and yet is a body. It is one not born and one that does not die.
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby cdpatton » Wed Aug 10, 2011 2:00 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Thornbush,

Do you know of any articles that compare the Mahaparinirvana Sutra with the Pali Mahaparinibbana Sutta?

It would be interesting to read what the similarities/differences are, and the implications that arise from these differences.

Or maybe in the absence of such an article, you or someone else may have some thoughts to share on the subject.

Metta,
Retro. :)


The Mahayana Parinirvana Sutra doesn't have much to do with the Pali Parinibbana Suttanta (though there are a couple references, such as in the Cunda chapter). It is like the Avatamsaka Sutra, which used the time after his awakening as the setting for a Mahayana teaching, using the occasion prior to his parinirvana as a backdrop for a Mahayana Sutra. In addition, it is a rather sectarian text advocating a particular Mahayana point of view of a Tathagata-garbha teaching, unlike the Avatamsaka, which seems to me fairly non-sectarian. It, for example, is rather scathing in its criticism of the "sunyavada" (emptiness teaching).

There are, however, other versions of the Parinibbana Suttanta preserved in Chinese. One is in the Dirgha Agama translation by Buddhayasas et al and another is by Fa-xian. Both of them have similar material as the Pali Sutta but are very different in arrangement, etc.

Charlie.
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby Kyosan » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:24 pm

To add to the list in the original post, here's another publication

Dr. Kosho Yamamoto/Dr. Tony Page: Full translation html.

That takes you to the preface. When opening the sutra in your web browser, you can go directly to a specific chapter. You do that by appending "?chapter=N" (or "?c=N" for short) to the web address, where "N" is the chapter number. For example, to go directly to chapter 15 use:

http://www.nirvanasutra.net/convenient/complete-sutra.html?c=15
:namaste:
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby mzaur » Wed May 02, 2012 7:06 pm

Hello,

Could someone please clarify how the Self spoken of in this sutra is different than the Self of Upanisads/Advaita?
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby Jikan » Wed May 02, 2012 9:30 pm

mzaur wrote:Hello,

Could someone please clarify how the Self spoken of in this sutra is different than the Self of Upanisads/Advaita?


Here's one approach:

http://nichirenscoffeehouse.net/books/N ... tra12.html

short version:

"'Self' means none other than Tathagata-garbha (Womb of the Thus Come One). All sentient beings possess Buddha-nature and that is what 'Self' precisely means."
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby Leo Rivers » Wed May 02, 2012 9:55 pm

Will wrote:Here is a passage from chapter five of this powerful sutra:

What we see is one which is non-eternal, destructible, of dust, one sustained by various kinds of food. .....The body of the Tathagata is one
that is not a body and yet is a body. It is one not born and one that does not die.


Will, have you read Asanga's interesting chapter on food in Wayman's "Anylisis of the Sravakabhumi?" Also Alex Wayman, Untying the Knots in Buddhism (Selected Essays) - Untying the Knots in Buddhism (Selected Essays) essay No. 16 “Asañga on Food” from his own Analysis of the Sravakabhumi Manuscript (Berkeley, California, 1961).

I never realized how deeply the "food" metaphor ran in Buddhism - it apparantly is a central way of relating to anything that sustains a svabhava - or whatever it is one is discussing as a persistence. How might one feed what is unchanging and without substance?
My guess is feeding might be of realization which is the removal of obscuration. A starvation diet to build Dharmakaya (figuratively).

"Further- more, the varieties of natures (dharma) that accomplish the abode are established by five kinds.'

He goes on to state that the first four are the four kinds of foods, which will be discussed below, and that the fifth is the 'life organ' (jivitendriya: T. srog gi dbanpo).
His presentation brings out that both food in a concrete as well as a metaphorical sense, and the life organ are necessary to accomplish the abode of sentient beings (sattva). Vasubandhu clarifies the term 'life organ'.

Qu'est-ce que l'organe vital (jivitendriya)? 45 a. Leftvita, c'est Ia vie (ayus). En effet, I'Abhidharma dit: ((Qu 'est-ce que lejivitendriya ? - L'ayus des trois spheres d'existence.)) Quelle sorte de dhanna est I' ayus? 45 a-b. Le support de Ia chaleur et de Ia connaissance (adhara usmavijPianayor hi yaq/)

This last verse is consistent with the teaching of certain Buddhist Tantras that the PraQ.a wind located in the heart supports the personality aggregate (skandha) called 'perception' (vijiiima),4
as well as with the fact that vijiiana is one of the four foods.
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby Will » Wed May 02, 2012 10:27 pm

Leo,

No I have not gotten around to Wayman's paper.

How might one feed what is unchanging and without substance?
My guess is feeding might be of realization which is the removal of obscuration. A starvation diet to build Dharmakaya (figuratively).


You are missing a couple of 'nots' regarding food for Dharmakaya - read the quote I gave more slowly,
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby mzaur » Fri May 04, 2012 12:16 am

Jikan wrote:
mzaur wrote:Hello,

Could someone please clarify how the Self spoken of in this sutra is different than the Self of Upanisads/Advaita?


Here's one approach:

http://nichirenscoffeehouse.net/books/N ... tra12.html

short version:

"'Self' means none other than Tathagata-garbha (Womb of the Thus Come One). All sentient beings possess Buddha-nature and that is what 'Self' precisely means."


Thank you. That does not really explain passages like this: "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]."
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby Jikan » Fri May 04, 2012 2:50 pm

Hi mzaur,

I don't see a contradiction there. Would you please spell it out a bit?

thanks
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby mzaur » Sat May 05, 2012 8:36 am

Doesn't that passage suggest an eternalist view? How can any phenomenon be unchanging and eternal, etc
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby Jikan » Sun May 06, 2012 6:38 pm

I think it reflects an approach to the two truths that definitely flirts with eternalist language. Buddhahood is real & eternal, and it's identical to the Buddha-nature of any & all beings (all of whom are empty of self); all dharmas are also empty, but also reflective of the Dharmadhatu. This is a thread taken up in The Awakening of Faith, in TienTai thinking, and so on.
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby Son of Buddha » Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:03 am

mzaur wrote:Doesn't that passage suggest an eternalist view? How can any phenomenon be unchanging and eternal, etc


the eternalist view was meant for the tainted ego self(YOU AND I) this is the false self(no self)
the TRUE SELF is the Buddha,look at the 4 noble truths the 1st 3 are impermanent the 4th noble truth is PERMANENT,for the Buddha is forever without greed,anger,ignorance(defilments) if the Buddha was subject to change then again (IT) would be no different than us,constantly changeing,switching between taints and leverls of purity,that is why the Nirvana sutra states the Buddha is the true refuge for it never changes and is constant.and it says to not take refuge in the other gods for they are changeing and cannot even help themselves.
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Re: The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Postby Spirituality » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:20 pm

Son of Buddha wrote:
mzaur wrote:Doesn't that passage suggest an eternalist view? How can any phenomenon be unchanging and eternal, etc


the eternalist view was meant for the tainted ego self(YOU AND I) this is the false self(no self)
the TRUE SELF is the Buddha,look at the 4 noble truths the 1st 3 are impermanent the 4th noble truth is PERMANENT,for the Buddha is forever without greed,anger,ignorance(defilments) if the Buddha was subject to change then again (IT) would be no different than us,constantly changeing,switching between taints and leverls of purity,that is why the Nirvana sutra states the Buddha is the true refuge for it never changes and is constant.and it says to not take refuge in the other gods for they are changeing and cannot even help themselves.


Actually your explanation does sound etenalist to me. The gods are not suitable for refuge because they are still in samsara, not because they're unchanging.

The fact is that some types of Mahayana Buddhism do slip into eternalism in trying to talk about the Buddha, Buddha nature, dharmadhatu, mahamudra etc. I'm not sure that is a problem as 'son of Buddha' rightly notes: what we all agree on does change is everything we might try and hold on to IN samsara.
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