The Great Parinirvana Sutra
Redacted from the Chinese of Dharmakshema by Huiyan, Huiguan, and Xie Lingyun (T375)
Translated into English by Charles
Chapter 10: The Four Truths
[647a]The Buddha again addressed Kasyapa, "That which is called the sufferer is
not called the noble truth of suffering. And why? If it is said that suffering is the
noble truth of suffering, all the beastly and hell dwelling [647b] sentient beings would
consequently possess that noble truth. Good son, if again there is someone who is unaware
of the Tathagata's most profound viewpoint of the eternally abiding, unchanging, fine and
mysterious essential body (dharmakaya), that it is said that the body that eats is
not the essential body, and who is unaware of the Tathagata's path to the power of virtue
and majesty; then, this is called suffering. And why? Because of this unawareness, the
Dharma is seen to be non-Dharmic and the non-Dharmic is seen to be the Dharma. You should
know that this person necessarily shall fall into the evil destinies and his circulation
through birth and death (samsara) will increase greatly, the bonds becoming
numerous, and he will undergo afflictions. If there is someone who is able to know that
the Tathagata is eternally abiding without any change, or hears that he is eternally
abiding, or if [this] Sutra meets his ear, then he shall be born into the Heavens above.
And after his liberation, he will be able to realize and know that the Tathagata eternally
abides without any change. Once he has realized this, he then says, 'Formerly, I had heard
this truth, but now I have attained liberation through realizing and knowing it. Because I
have been entirely unaware of this since the beginning, I have cycled through birth and
death, going round and round endlessly. Now on this day I have for the first time arrived
at the true knowledge.' If one knows thusly the true, the cultivation of suffering
[becomes] a manifold blessing. If one is unaware, although again they may be moved to
cultivate it, there will be no blessing. This is called knowing the suffering known as the
noble truth of suffering. If a person is unable to thusly practice, this is called the
suffering that is not of the noble truth of suffering.
"[Now, regarding] the truth of sufferings' accumulation: Regarding the true
Dharma, the unarisen is the true knowledge. Undergoing impure things, then, is said to be
a punishment. It is possible by way of the non-Dharmic to say that the true Dharma ends in
extinction (nirvana), that the true Dharma does not lead one to remain long [in the
world]. Because of these causes and conditions, one is unaware of the Dharma's nature.
Because one is unaware of it, one circulates through birth and death, undergoing numerous
afflictions, not attaining birth in the Heavens or any true liberation. If there is
someone who deeply knows and does not destroy the true Dharma; then because of these
causes and conditions they would be born in the heavens and attain true liberation. If
someone is unaware of this place of the truth of suffering's accumulation and says that
the true Dharma is that there is nothing eternally abiding, that all [things] are extinct dharmas,
then because of these causes and conditions that person will for measureless kalpas
circulate through birth and death (samsara), undergoing afflictions. If one is able
to know that the Dharma eternally abides unvaryingly, this then is called knowing the
accumulation that is known as the noble truth of accumulation. If a person is unable to
thusly practice, this is called the accumulation that is not the noble truth of
"[Now regarding] the truth of suffering's extinction: If there are many who
cultivate the study of the emptiness of dharmas, this is not good. And why? Because
the extinction of all dharmas and the destruction of Tathagata's genuine Dharma treasury
is done by cultivating the training that is called the cultivation of emptiness. Those who
cultivate the extinction of suffering oppose all those of heretical paths. If it is said
that the cultivation of emptiness is the truth of extinction, then all the heretical paths
which also cultivate the emptiness of dharmas should also possess the truth of
extinction. If someone claims, 'There is a tathagata-garbha, although is cannot be
seen. If one is able to destroy [647c] all of the afflictions, then one can enter it. If
one brings forth in the mind this single thought, then these causes and conditions would
bring mastery of the Dharma. If one practices the Tathagata's esoteric garbha, he
is selfless, empty, and peaceful.' The person making such [claims] will remain in samsara
for a measureless number of lives, circulating and undergoing suffering. If one who does
not perform such cultivation, although he may be afflicted and diseased, he would be able
to destroy [that affliction and disease]. And why? It is because he [can] know the
Tathagata's esoteric garbha. This is called the noble truth of suffering's
extinction. If one is able to thusly cultivate that extinction, this is a disciple of
mine. If one is unable to thusly practice, this is called the cultivation of the emptiness
which is not the noble truth of extinction.
"[Now regarding] the noble truth of the Path: It refers to the jewels of the
Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, as well as the true liberation. There are sentient beings of
deluded minds who say that there is no Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, or any true liberation,
that the circulation through birth and death is like a mirage. They cultivate this view.
Because of these causes and conditions, they will circulate through the three existances
for a long time, undergoing great suffering. If one is able to bring forth in the mind the
view that the Tathgata is eternally abiding and unchanging, the Dharma, Sangha, and
liberation are also again so. Carried by this one thought for a measureless number of
lives, self-mastery is the reward of following this idea, and so it will be attained. And
why? In the distant past, because of the four delusions, I mistook the non-Dharmic to be
the Dharma, and so I underwent the retribution of a measureless number of evil actions (karma).
Now, because I have extinguished such views, I have become a Buddha of pefect awakening.
This is called the noble truth of the path. If someone says the three jewels (triratna)
are impermanent, who cultivates this view, then vacant and delusive is this cultivation.
It is not the noble truth of the path. If they cultivate the Dharma, that it is eternally
abiding, this disciple of mine with the true view practices the Dharma of the four noble
truths. This is called the four noble truths."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, now for the first time
I know and practice this most profound Dharma of the four noble truths."
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