The Great Parinirvana Sutra

(T375.12.647a-c)


Redacted from the Chinese of Dharmakshema by Huiyan, Huiguan, and Xie Lingyun (T375)


Translated into English by Charles Patton

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 accumulation.

"[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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