Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 8: On the Four Dependables
Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra
Chapter 8: On the Four Dependables
Translated by Kosho Yamamoto from Dharmakshema's Chinese version,
edited and revised by Dr. Tony Page
Copyright for this edition is held by Dr. Tony Page, 2012.
"The Buddha further said to Kasyapa: "O good man! In this all-wonderful "Mahaparinirvana Sutra", there appear four kinds of men. These well protect, establish and think of Wonderful Dharma. They benefit others very much and pity the world. They become the refuges of the world and give peace and bliss to man and god. What are the four (categories)? A man appears in the world and possesses illusion. This is the first category. Those persons of the grades of srotapanna and sakridagamin are the second. Those of the grade of anagamin are the third. Those of the stage of arhat are the fourth. Such four kinds of person appear, benefit and pity the world. They become the refuges of the world and give peace and bliss to man and heaven.
"What do we mean by those garbed in illusion? Such people uphold the prohibitions, observe (moral) deportment, and uphold Wonderful Dharma. They accord with what the Buddha says, understand what is said and expound it to others, and say: "Coveting little is the Way; desiring much is not the Way", and expound the "eight awakened minds of a great man". To one who transgresses, the Way is shown, so that he confesses and repents. These people make away with sins and know the expedients and secrets of the teachings of the Bodhisattvas. Such (of this category) is a common mortal, not the eighth person (one who has arrived at the stage of attainment called "eighth-person stage"). The eighth person is no common mortal. He is called "Bodhisattva", but not Buddha.
"The people of the second category are those of the stages of srotapanna and sakridagamin. Having encountered Wonderful Dharma, they uphold it. They follow and listen to the words of the Buddha and act as they have heard. Having heard, they write down what they have heard, uphold what they have heard, recite it and expound the teaching to others. There can be (with these people) no such thing as not writing down, not receiving, upholding and expounding the teaching to others. With them there could never be anything such as saying that the Buddha allows them to keep servants and what is impure. This refers to the people of the second category. They have not as yet attained the second and third places of abode. They are called "Bodhisattvas". They have already received the Buddha's prophecy that they will (one day) attain Buddhahood.
"The people of the third category are those of the stage of anagamin. With them there can never be such things as slandering Wonderful Dharma, keeping servants, male or female, having impure things, or holding (keeping) the books of the tirthikas, being hindered by foreign ("guest" - minor) illusions, or being bound up by various old (inherent) illusions, saving for themselves the true sharira (relics) of the Tathagata, getting attacked by eternal illnesses or the four great poisonous serpents (greed, anger, ignorance and arrogance), and insisting upon self. They talk about selflessness, but never talk about, or cling to, worldly things. They speak about, and uphold, Mahayana, but their body is never soiled by the 80,000 germs. They are forever removed from sensual appetite, and even in their dreams they never ejaculate impure things. At the last moment of their life, they are never afraid. What does "anagamin" mean? (It means that) this person never comes back. As already stated, no wrongs or illnesses ever catch hold of him. He goes, returns and cycles around. He is called a Bodhisattva. Receiving his prophecy (to Buddhahood), he, not long after that, attains unsurpassed Enlightenment. This is the person of the third category.
"The fourth is the arhat. An arhat is he who cuts through the bonds of illusion and who has made away with the heavy weight that rests on his shoulders, and who has attained what he wanted to have. All things having been accomplished, he lives on the tenth level. Attaining an unmolested state of Wisdom, he does what others desire to have and manifests various images. If he desires to accomplish the Buddha-Way as it should be accomplished, he can well do so. One who can so accomplish innumerable virtues is an arhat.
"Such are the four kinds of people who appear, benefit and pity the world. They thus become the refuges of the world and give peace and bliss to man and god. They are the most honoured and the most superb of all men and gods. It is as in the case of the Tathagata, who is the most superb of men and gods and is the Refuge of the world."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! I do not take refuge in these four beings. Why not? It is as stated in the “Ghosila Sutra”, in which the Buddha addresses Ghosila. There you say: "Devas, Maras, and Brahma may desire destruction, present themselves in the forms of Buddhas, perfectly adorn themselves with such as the 32 signs of perfection (which the Buddha is said to possess) and the 80 minor marks of excellence, and the light of a halo, measuring 8 feet, a face perfectly round as at the time of the full moon, and a white tuft of hair in the centre of the brow, whiter than horse-shoe shell or snow. Should they appear thus adorned, look carefully to see if these are genuine. Having made sure (that these are not genuine), subdue them." O World-Honoured One! Maras and others can present themselves as Buddhas. Why might they not be able to present themselves as the four sages, the arhat to begin with, as sitting or sleeping in the air, emitting water from the left-hand side of their body and fire from the right, and emitting blazing flames from their body like a fire-ball? For these reasons, I cannot have faith in this; I dare not accept such, even when taught. I shall not take refuge in them." The Buddha said: "O good man! “If you have doubt in what I say, it is for you not to accept it”. Even more so when you have to deal with such people. This being so, weigh up a thing well and find out if it is good or not, if it is for you to do or not. Acting thus, one becomes blessed with peace and bliss in the long night (i.e. our life in samsara). O good man! There is here a dog with his mind set upon stealing. At night he enters a man's house. When the servants come to know of this, they angrily shout: "Get out this instant, or we will kill you!" The burglar-dog hears this, runs out of the house and never comes back again. From now on, act like this, and drive away the Papiyas (Evil One, Devil), saying: "O Papiyas! Do not present yourself in such a form. Should you dare, we shall bind you up with five ropes." On hearing this, Mara will hide away. He will never again show himself like some burgler-dog." Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! It is as you, the Buddha, said to the rich man, Ghosila. Anybody who can thus conquer Mara will surely draw close to Parinirvana. O Tathagata! How is it that you particularly speak of these four kinds of people and say that we should take refuge in them? What such people say cannot be trusted." The Buddha said to Kasyapa: "O good man! I address the sravakas who have (only) fleshly eyes and say that I subdue Mara. I do not say this to those of the Mahayana. Those of the sravaka class fall under the category of the fleshly eye, though they may possess the heavenly eye. Those who practise Mahayana may also possess fleshly eyes, but they are those who have the Buddha-Eye. How so? These Mahayana sutras are called the Buddha vehicle. Such a Buddha vehicle is most superb. O good man! There are, for example, brave and courageous people and also those who are cowardly and weak and who come and hang on. The strong always teach the weak and say: "Take the bow like this, the arrow like this, and learn (how to handle) the halberd, the long hook, and the policeman's lassoo." Also, the strong man will say: "Now, the fate of those who fight is like walking on sword-blades. But one must not have fear. When one sees man or god, think that they are petty and weak. One must be brave at heart." There may also be a man who, though not brave, presents himself as brave and, armed with a bow, a sword and many other things, goes to the battlefield. Then that person will cry out loudly: "Don't fear these people. If they see that you are not afraid, they will know and soon disperse like the robber-dog." O good man! The same is the case with the Tathagata. To all sravakas, he says: "Do not be afraid of Marapapiyas. If Marapapiyas, clad as a Buddha, comes to you, make effort and harden your mind, so that he will draw back?"
"O good man! It is as in the case of a strong man who does not give ear to what others say. The same is the case with one who learns Mahayana. He hears the teachings of the various sutras of deep thought; he has joy and is not afraid. Why? Because one such who abides in Mahayana has in the past made innumerable offerings to innumerable millions and billions of Buddhas and worshipped them, and he has no mind that fears Maras, who might be as innumerable as billions and thousands and who may come and attack that person. He is not afraid. O good man! For example, a man possesses agasti (a healing plant) and does not fear any poisonous snakes. Through this drug, poison loses all its power. The same with this Mahayana sutra. Just as in the case of the drug, no person will fear any Maras or poisons. It thoroughly crushes the enemy, who can never stand up again. Also, next, O good man! For example, there is a naga who, by nature, is very evil-minded. When it desires to harm people, it approaches with the eye or cheats with the breath. Hence, the lion, tiger, leopard, jackal, wolf and dog all fear (it). When all these evil animals hear its voice, see its form or touch its body, there is not one that does not lose its life. But there is one who knows a good spell, which enables all such evil and poisonous ones as nagas, garudas, elephants, lions, leopards and wolves to be tamed, so that one can well ride on them. These creatures, as they encounter this marvellous spell, become tamed. It is thus with sravakas and pratyekabuddhas. Seeing Marapapiyas, they all become frightened. And (so) Marapapiyas does not feel afraid and does evil. The same is the case with those who practise Mahayana. They see that all sravakas are afraid of evil acts and do not have faith in this Mahayana. First, expedients are resorted to, as a result of which all Maras are conquered, so that they become tame and can now stand (function) as vehicles to carry things in. Through this, they variously teach wonderful doctrines. Seeing the Maras are afraid, the sravakas and pratyekabuddhas become wonder-struck and gain faith and joy in the Wonderful Dharma of this unsurpassed Mahayana. They say: "From now on, we must not cause obstruction to Wonderful Dharma." Also, next, O good man! The sravakas and pratyekabuddhas entertain fear regarding all illusions. Those who study Mahayana have no such fears. By practising Mahayana, one gains such power. As a result, all that was said above is for sravakas and pratyekabuddhas to do away with Maras, and not for Mahayana itself. This all-wonderful Mahayana sutra cannot easily be made away with. All is extremely wonderful. One who hears it and knows that the Tathagata is Eternal is very rare. Such a person is like the udumbara (bloom). There may appear people who, after my death, listen to the teachings of such a wonderful Mahayana sutra and gain faith. Know that such people will not fall into the unfortunate realms in the ages of the future, for 100 thousand billion kalpas to come."
Then the Buddha said to Bodhisattva Kasyapa: "O good man! After my entering Nirvana, there may be 100 thousand innumerable people who will slander and not believe in this all-wonderful Great Nirvana Sutra." Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! Sooner or later, people will slander this sutra. O World-Honoured One! What good and pure people will come and save such as those who commit slander?" The Buddha said to Kasyapa: "O good man! For 40 years after my entering Nirvana, this sutra will flourish in Jambudvipa. Then, it will disappear. O good man! In a land, for example, where one can get sugar cane, rice, rock candy, butter, cream and sarpirmanda, people will say: "This is the best of the most tasty (food)." Or there may be people who may be living on maize and panic grass and who may say that what they eat is the best of all food. Such are people of poor fortune, due to their karmic results. The ears of the fortunate will never hear of millet or barnyard grass. What they will eat will be rice, bran, sugar cane, rock candy, and sarpirmanda. It is the same with this wonderful Sutra of Great Nirvana. Those born dull-minded and unfortunate will not wish to listen, just like those dull and little-fortunate people who hate rice bran and rock candy. It is thus with the two vehicles (i.e. sravakas and pratyekabuddhas), the people of which will hate this unsurpassed Nirvana Sutra. (But) there are people who are gladdened on hearing this sutra and who, having heard it, feel pleased and do not slander it. This is like those of good fortune who eat rice bran. O good man! For example, there is a king who lives in the depths of the mountains, located in a precipitous place, difficult of approach. He has sugar cane, rice bran, and rock candy, but since these are difficult to obtain, he begrudges and stores them away, and does not eat them. Fearing that they may run out, he only eats millet and barnyard grass. Then, the king of a different land, hearing of this and feeling pity, sends rice bran and sugar cane to him. The king receives these and divides them amongst the people of his land, who all eat them. Having eaten them, they are all gladdened and say: "Because of that king, we have now been blessed with this food." O good man! It is the same with the four kinds of people. They become the generals of this great teaching. One of the four kinds of people sees that countless Bodhisattvas of other countries study, copy, or have others copy, Mahayana sutras of this kind, for gain, fame, understanding, reliance, for trading for other sutras, but that they do not speak of it to others. Hence, he takes this all-wonderful sutra over there and gives it to the Bodhisattvas, so that they might aspire to unsurpassed Bodhichitta (Enlightenment-mind) and rest peacefully in Enlightenment. A Bodhisattva, on obtaining this sutra, speaks of it to others, who, through it, become blessed with the amrta (ambrosia) of the Mahayana teaching. All of this is what has been brought forth by this single Bodhisattva. He enables others to hear what they have not heard before. This is like the people who, through the power of that king, enjoy rare dishes. The case is similar.
"Also, O good man! Wherever this all-wonderful Great Nirvana Sutra goes, that place - you may know - is indestructible. The people living there are also alike adamantine. Any person who hears this sutra will attain unsurpassed Enlightenment and never draw back from it. Such persons will gain whatever they wish to have. O you Bhiksus! Uphold well what I say to you today. Any persons who do not hear this sutra, are, you should know, much to be pitied. Why so? Because such cannot uphold the deep meaning of such a Mahayana sutra as this."
Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! It is is the case that after the Tathagata's decease this Mahayana Great Nirvana Sutra will flourish in Jambudvipa for a period of 40 years and that after that it will disappear; when and how will it come back again?" The Buddha said: "O good man! For a period of 80 years after the ending of the age of Wonderful Dharma and during the 40 years preceding it, this sutra will greatly flourish in Jambudvipa."
Kasyapa further said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! When the age of Wonderful Dharma has ended and when the correct observance of the precepts no longer prevails, when unlawful teachings prevail, when there is no longer any person to be found who takes the right path - who might be the ones who will give good ear to the teaching, uphold and recite it, and cause this sutra to circulate in the world, so that people make offerings, respect, copy and expound such a sutra? Please have pity on beings, O Tathagata, and analyse and expound this widely, so that all Bodhisattvas may hear Dharma, uphold it and never pull back from unsurpassed Bodhichitta."
Then the Buddha praised Kasyapa and said: "Well said, well said, O good man! You now put such a question. O good man! If beings, at the river Hiranyavati, at the seat of the Tathagata, aspire to Enlightenment, they will, in this evil world, uphold a sutra such as this and not slander it. O good man! There may be beings at the seats of all Tathagatas as many as the sands of the Ganges who aspire to Enlightenment and do not slander Dharma in the evil world, but love this sutra, (yet) are not able to analyse and expound it to others. O good man! There may be beings at the seats of all Buddhas as numerous as the sands of two Ganges who aspire to Enlightenment, do not slander Dharma in this evil world, rightly understand it, have faith, are gladdened, uphold and recite it, (but) are not able, for the sake of the world, to expound and speak about it to others. Or there may be beings who at the seats of all Tathagatas as numerous as the sands of three Ganges aspire to Enlightenment, slander Dharma in this evil world, uphold, recite and copy this sutra and expound it to others, (yet) are not able to gain the depths of its meaning. Or there may be beings who, at the seats of all Tathagatas, as numerous as the sands of four Ganges, aspire to Enlightenment and in the evil world do not slander but uphold, reicte and copy this sutra and expound one-sixteenth part of its meaning, (although they are as) yet not perfect. Or there may be beings who, at the seats of all Tathagatas as numerous as the sands of five Ganges, aspire to Enlightenment, do not slander in this evil world, but uphold, recite and copy this sutra and speak about eight sixteenths of it. Or there may be beings who, at the seats of all Tathagats as numerous as the sands of six Ganges, aspire to Enlightenment and, in the evil world, do not slander this Dharma, but uphold, recite, and copy this sutra and expound twelve sixteenths of it to others. Or there may be beings at the seats of all Tathagatas as numerous as the sands of seven Ganges who, in the evil world, do not slander the Dharma, but uphold, recite, and copy this sutra and speak about fourteen sixteenths of it. Or there may be beings who at the seats of all Tathagatas as numerous as the sands of eight Ganges aspire to Enlightenment and, in this evil world, do not slander, but uphold, reicte, and copy this sutra and also cause others to copy it, they themselves listening well to what is said in this sutra and making others listen well too, reciting and protecting, strongly upholding and - as they pity all beings - making offerings to this sutra, urging others also to make offerings, to honour, respect, recite, and worship it and thus perfectly understand and penetrate its meaning. “That is to say that the Tathagata is Eternal and Unchanging, that he is the utmost peace itself, and that” “all beings have the Buddha-Nature” (“buddhata”). They well attain all the teachings of the Tathagata, make offerings to all such Buddhas and build up a house of unsurpassed Wonderful Dharma, uphold and protect it. If a person, for the first time, aspires to unsurpassed Enlightenment, know that such a person will assuredly, in the days to come, well build up the house of Wonderful Dharma, uphold and protect it. This you should know of the persons who become the guardians of Dharma. Why? Because such persons will, in the days to come, surely protect Wonderful Dharma.
"O good man! There may be an evil-minded bhiksu who, on hearing that I am now going to enter Nirvana, may not feel any apprehension or sadness, but instead will say: "The Tathagata is now entering Parinirvana. How pleasing is it that he does so! When the Tathagata was alive, he stood in the way of our profit. He is now entering Nirvana. Who else will get in our way? If nobody hinders (me), I shall come to profit as in former days. While in life, the Tathagata was too strict regarding the prohibitions. When he now enters Nirvana, we shall discard all of these. The kasaya (Buddhist robe) given me was originally simply meant as a matter of form. I will now discard it, as I would a banner the size of a head." Such a person slanders this Mahayana sutra and transgresses.
"O good man! You, now, should uphold (this sutra) and think: "If beings are perfect in innumerable virtues, they will indeed believe in this Mahayana sutra and, having faith in it, will uphold it. There may also be other beings apart from these who may feel joy in Dharma, and if this sutra is widely expounded to such persons they will, after listening to it, well make away with all the sins amassed during past innumerable asamkhyas of kalpas. Those who do not believe in this sutra will, in this life, get attacked by innumerable illnesses and will be spoken ill of by all people. After (death), they will be disparaged by others. (In life) they will look ill and their finances will not go well. Or they may gain a little, but that will be very coarse and of bad quality. They will be poor and of low social rank, all their life long. They may gain life (get reborn) in families where slandering and evil relations obtain. The time comes when one must depart this life, when it may be the age of wars or when people may be taking up arms; or when emperors and kings may be practising tyranny; or enmity and vengeance may incessantly visit one. There may be a good friend (a good Buddhsit teacher), but they (i.e. those disbelievers in this sutra) will not have occasion to meet him. It will be hard for them to earn their living. They may gain to some extent, but the apprehension of hunger will bear down upon them. They will only be known to people of low standing, and kings and ministers will not look back (give them a second glance). They may have occasion to talk with reason, but nobody will believe them. Such people do not go to good places. It is like a bird whose wings are broken. The same with such a person. In the life to come, he will not be able to gain a good place in the world of man or heaven. If one well believes in such a Mahayana sutra as this, the rough and coarse form that one may have had at birth will come to look right and correct, by virtue of the power of the sutra; dignity and colour will increase day by day, and man and god will be pleased to look at him. They will respect and love him, and not a moment will be lost in their regard of him. Kings, ministers and family people will listen to, respect and believe him. If any of my sravaka disciples are desirous of doing the first rare thing (most rare act), they should preach such a Mahayana sutra to all the world. O good man! Frost and mist may strongly desire to remain as they are, but this is only up until the time of the sunrise. Once the sun is out, all goes away and nothing remains behind. O good man! The evil acts done by these people also amount to the same. The power (which one may have) in the present life only continues up to seeing the rise of the sun of Great Nirvana. When the sun of this Great Nirvana has risen, all the evils that have been done will die out. Also, next, O good man! For example, one might abandon one's home, shave one's head, put on the kasaya robe, and might not yet receive the ten precepts of a shramana. Or a rich person might come and invite all the priests (to his house), and those who have not received the precepts may get invited, along with the others. They may not have received the precepts as yet, and yet may still be counted as priests. O good man! It is like this with a person who first aspires to Enlightenment, studies this Mahayana Great Nirvana Sutra, keeps, copies and recites it. He may not yet have attained the level of the ten stages (of a Bodhisattva), and yet he will be counted as being one of those of the ten stages. If a person, whether a disciple or not, (even) out of greed or fear or for profit, (chances to) hear just one gatha of this sutra and, having heard it, does not slander it - know that this person is already close to unsurpassed Enlightenment. O good man! For this reason, I say that the four persons will become the refuges of the world. Thus I say, O good man, that such persons will never say that what the Buddha said is not what he said. Nothing of the kind occurs. That is why I say that such four kinds of people become the refuges of the world. O good man! Make offerings to these four kinds of people." "O World-Honoured One! How am I to know who such are, and how am I to make offerings?" The Buddha said to Kasyapa: "Anyone who upholds and protects Wonderful Dharma should be invited. One should abandon one's life (become a monk) and make offerings. This is as I say in my Mahayana sutra:
"To any person versed in Dharma,
No matter whether young or old,
Offerings should be made;
One should respect and worship him,
As the Brahmin worships fire.
To anyone versed in Dharma, young or old,
Offerings should be made.
Such a person should be respected and worshipped,
As all devas serve Shakra."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "Things must proceed as you, the Buddha, say, and we should pay respect to teachers and elders. I have a doubt, which you will (perhaps) kindly dispel for me. If there is an aged person who has long been upholding the precepts and who asks a young person to tell him what he has not heard before - does this (young) person have to be given respect? If so, this cannot be an upholding of the precepts. Or, there may be a young person who has been upholding the precepts and who may ask about what he has not heard from a person who has broken the precepts. Has one to pay respect to such a person? Or, a world-fleeing person might give ear to what a layman says regarding things he has not heard before. Should one pay respect to such a person? The obverse of this would be that the world-fleeing person should not pay respect to the layman, but the young and small should pay respect to the aged, because these aged persons have received the upasampada earlier and their deportment is accomplished. Hence one should pay them respect and make them offerings. According to the Buddha, violation of the precepts is not permitted in the house of the Buddha. It is as in the case of a paddy-field grown over with panic-grass. Also, just as the Buddha says, there is one who abides in Dharma, to whom offerings must be made, whether that person is old or young, in such a way as people serve Shakra. How can these two cases be understood? Now, could it not be that those were false words of the Tathagata which stated that even the precept-obseving person may well transgress? Why does the Tathagata say such a thing? Also, the World-Honoured One says in other sutras that violation of the precepts can certainly be cured (atoned). It is not easy to understand the meaning of suchlike (statements)."
The Buddha said to Kasyapa: "O good man! I speak thus in the gatha for the sake of those Bodhisattvas of the days to come who will study Mahayana; I do not do so for the sake of sravakas. As I said above, when the days of Wonderful Dharma come to an end and when the right precepts are violated, when violation of the precepts increases in extent and when evil deeds go unchecked, when (saints) are hidden and not one is to be met with, when bhiksus accept or keep impure things and servants, there will appear one of these four who will shave his head and practise the Way. All the bhiksus (of that time) will receive and keep impure things and servants, knowing no difference between the pure and impure, rules and non-rules. This person, intending to teach such bhiksus, softens the light and does not get mixed up with evil and well knows what needs to be done and what the Buddha does. He sees others committing grave offences, yet he sits silent and does not take part (in such offences). Why not? Because I appear in the world to establish and protect the right teaching. That is why I sit silently and do not reproach (the offenders). O good man! Such a person, though violating (the rules), is not classed as one who violates the rules of a disciple, because of his protecting of the teaching.
"O good man! A king dies from an illness, for example, and his son, the crown prince, is still young and not yet able to ascend the throne. There is a candala (a despised mixed-caste person, born of a Sudra father and Brahmin mother) who is rich and whose wealth is inestimable. He has many relatives. In the end, using force, he takes advantage of the weak condition of the state and usurps the throne. Before long, the people, upasakas, Brahmins and others revolt and flee to far-distant countries. There are people who do not flee, but who do not wish to see the king, such as the rich and the Brahmins who will not leave their native land, just like the trees, which grow where they find themselves and where they die. The candala king, seeing the subjects leaving the country, sends candala men to block all the roads. Also, after seven days, he has men beat drums and proclaim to all the Brahmins: "To any person who performs the ceremony of abhiseka (a consecration ceremony, involving sprinkling water on the head), half of the land will be given!" They hear this, but no Brahmin comes forward. All say: "How could a Brahmin do such a thing? " The candala king further says: "If no Brahmin comes to be my teacher, I shall assuredly make the Brahmins live, eat, sleep and work together with the candalas. If any Brahmin comes and sprinkles water on my head, I will give him half my land. As it is said, so shall it be done. Also, all-wonderful amrita (ambrosia), that thing of Trayastrimsa Heaven which works all the miracles of deathlessness, will also be given to such a man." At that time, there was the son of a Brahmin, one very young. He was perfect in pure actions, wore his hair long, and was well versed in incantations. He went to the king and said: "O great King! What you, King, say will all be carried out by me." The king was pleased and let this boy perform the abhiseka. All the Brahmins heard about this and were vexed. They reproached the boy, saying: "You, the son of a Brahmin! How could you perform the abhiseka on a candala?" Then the king gave the boy half of his kingdom. And together they reigned over the kigdom. A long time passed. Then the Brahmin boy said to the king: "I rejected my family tradition and came to you to become your teacher, and I taught you, King, all the intricate contents of incantation. And yet you do not befriend me." Then the king answered: "In what way do I not befriend you?" The Brahmin boy said: "I have not yet tasted the amrita which the late king left in your hands." The king said: "Well said! O my great teacher! I did not know. If you desire to use it, please take this (amrita) to your home." Then the Brahmin boy, at the king's word, took the amrita home and invited all the ministers, and partook of it. All the ministers, having had it, said to the king: "It is wonderful that the great teacher has the amrita." On hearing this, the king said to his teacher: "How is it, O great teacher, that you taste the amrita with all the ministers and yet do not show any of it to me?" Then the Brahmin boy gave the king a poisonous potion. On taking the poison, the king became mad and fell to the ground. He lay there unconscious, like a dead man. Then the Brahmin boy called back the previous king, restored him to the throne and said: "The lion's seat (i.e. throne) cannot, by law, be occupied by any candala. I have not yet heard since of old that a candala ever sat on the royal throne. It can never be that a candala could reign over the state and govern the people. O great King! You should now succeed the former king and govern the state righteously and lawfully." Having thus disposed of things, he gave an antidote potion to the candala and let him awaken. After he had awoken, he was driven out of the country. Now, this boy, acting as he did, did not lose the prestige of the Brahmins. And others, on hearing of what had happened, praised his deed and said that this was a thing unheard of. They said: "Well done, well done! You have indeed got rid of the candala king." It is the same with me. O good man! After my entry into Nirvana, the Bodhisattvas who guard Wonderful Dharma will also act thus. Using expedient means, they will behave just like those priests who transgress against the precepts, who are priests only in name and who receive and store up impure things. And when they see a person who, though (seemingly) violating the precepts, nevertheless cures those evil bhiksus who are transgressing against the prohibitions, they will go to him, respect and worship him, and do all such things as offering the four things (i.e. clothing, drink, bedding, and medicine) and sutras and utensils. If these things are not ready at hand, they should devise means and go to danapatis, beg from them and then give (their gifts). To do this, they may store up the eight impure things (i.e. such as gold, silver, manservants, maidservants, cows, sheep, grain, and storehouses). Why? Because this can mend (the ways of) the evil-acting bhiksus. This is as in the case of the boy who conquered the candala. Then, the Bodhisattvas may again respect and worship this person. Though the person may also receive and store up the eight things, this can well pass by with impunity. Why? Because this Bodhisattva desires to reject and cure all wicked bhiksus and to enable the pure-hearted bhiksus to live in peace and to enable the vaipulya Mahayana sutras to prevail in the world and benefit heaven and earth. O good man! That is why I put the two gathas in the sutra and had all Bodhisattvas praise those who protect Dharma. This is similar to the upasakas and Brahmins who all praised the boy, saying: "Well done, well done!" The same will also apply to Dharma-protecting Bodhisattvas. Should anyone see a Dharma-protecting person working with precept-breaking persons, and say that that person is committing a sin, know that the person (who says this) is himself inviting misfortune upon his own self, and that the person who protects Dharma has no connections with sin. O good man! If any bhiksu breaks the precepts and, out of arrogance, does not repent, such is really a breach of the prohibitions. A Bodhisattva who, while committing a violation, does so to protect Dharma, is not called one who commits a violation. Why not? Because he has no arrogance, but confesses and repents. That is why I repeat in the sutra and say in the gatha:
"If there is a person who knows Dharma,
Whether that person is old or young, such a one should be revered,
Respected and worshipped, just as in the case
Of the Brahmins who pay worship to fire and serve
Shakra of the second heaven (i.e. Trayastrimsa)."
On account of this, not for those wishing to learn the sravaka teaching, but for Bodhisattvas do I speak thus in the gatha."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! If it is the case that the Bodhisattva-mahasattva may thus act without restraint as regards the precepts, can the shila (precepts) originally received remain intact and genuine?" The Buddha said: "O good man! Do not speak thus. Why not? The shila first received remains intact and is not forfeited. If one transgresses, one repents. Having repented, one is pure. O good man! When a bank (riverbank, dam) is old and has holes in it, water inevitably leaks out. Why? Because nobody has had it repaired. When once repaired, water cannot leak out. It is the same with the Bodhisattva. When shila is violated, there follows posadha (confession), receiving (anew) shila, and the hours of freedom come. The monastic duties are carried out, but the vinaya rules are not as in the case of the bank with holes in it through which water leaks out. Why not? If there is no one who upholds shila, the size of the Sangha will decrease and there will come about moral laxity and indolence, which will grow. If there are those who are pure in their deeds and who observe the precepts, the original shila remains perfect and holds good. O good man! A person who is loose (careless) in the Vehicle (i.e., overall direction of Mahayana Buddha-Dharma) is (indeed) loose, and a person who is loose regarding the precepts is not loose. The Bodhisattva-mahasattva is not loose regarding the teachings of this Mahayana (i.e. awakening to the real state of existence). This is the observance of the precepts. He guards well Wonderful Dharma and bathes himself in the waters of Mahayana. Thus, though the Bodhisattva violates the precepts, he is not (truly) loose as regards the precepts."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "There are four kinds of people in the Sangha. It is as with the mango, where it is difficult to know when it is ripe. How can we know the difference between a violation and a non-violation of the precepts?" The Buddha said: "O good man! Basing oneself on the all-wonderful Great Nirvana Sutra, it is easy to know. How can one know by looking into the Great Nirvana Sutra? As an example: a farmer plants rice, and weeds out the tares (weeds) in the paddy-field. One looks at the field with the fleshly eye and says that it is a fine field. But when harvesting comes around, we now see that the tares and rice are different. Thus, eight things indeed defile the priest. If thoroughly done away with, we see that he is pure. When a person observes the precepts and does not violate them, this is hard to distinguish with the fleshly eye. If evil arises, this is easy to see. It is as in the case of the tares in the paddy-field, which can easily be seen. The same with the bhiksu. If he is able to make away with the eight impure poisonous serpents, we call him pure and a holy field of weal. He will be made offerings by man and god. It is not easy to see the karma-results of pure deeds clearly with the fleshly eye.
"Also, next, O good man! (Imagine that) there was a forest of kalaka (bambusa vulgaris). The trees were numerous, among which there was one called tinduka (diospyros embryoteris). The fruits of the kalaka and tinduka look alike, and it is difficult to distinguish them one from the other. When the fruit was ripe, a woman picked it all. Only one part was tinduka, ten parts being kalaka. The woman, not knowing (the difference), took these to the market and spread them out for sale and sold them. Dull-minded people and children, not knowing (such) things well, bought the kalaka, ate it and died. A learned person heard about this and asked the woman: "O woman! Where did you get this from?" At that, the woman pointed out the direction. Everybody said: "In that direction, there are innumerable kalaka trees; only one is tinduka." All the people, learning of this, laughed, cast away the fruit and went away. The case is thus.
"O good man! It is the same with the eight impure things regarding beings. Amongst people, there are many who take eight such things. Only one is pure, he who observes the precepts and does not take the eight impure things. He knows well that all people receive and store up things contrary to the precepts, and yet he acts together (with them) and does not leave them. He is like the one tinduka amongst all the trees in the forest. There is an upasaka who sees bhiksus all transgressing. So he does not pay respect or make offerings along with (the other people). If this person does desire to offer something (however), he first asks: "O great ones! Is it right to receive and store up eight such things? Are these things which the Buddha has permitted or not?" If the answer is that the Buddha has permitted them, he will ask: "Can you attend the posadha and pravarana?" Thus does this upasaka ask. At this, all answer: "The Tathagata pities and permits us eight such things." Then, the upasaka says: "In Jetavana, there were many bhiksus who said that the Buddha had permitted the possession of gold and silver, or that he did not. If any bhiksus said that the Buddha had permitted (such things), those persons in the "not permitted" camp did not live together (with those who said gold, etc. was permitted), did not talk (with them) about the precepts, or confess (to them), or drink the water of the same river and did not share with those others what brought in profit. How can you say that the Buddha gave permission? The Buddha, the god of all gods, may well receive such, but you, the Sangha, may not." If there are those who receive such, do not talk about the precepts (with them), or confess or do karman (the ritualistic actions of a bhiksu when receiving shila or making confession), but act as the Sangha should act. If one talks together (with the unrighteous monks) about shila, confesses (to them), or does karman, and thus participates in the works of the Sangha, one will, after death, assuredly fall into hell. This is like all those who lost their life through eating the kalaka.
"Also, next, O good man! For example, there is in the city a drug merchant. He has a wonderfully sweet medicine which comes from the Himalayas. He also sells many other drugs. All of them taste sweet and look alike. People very much desire to buy (the drugs), but cannot distinguish (the different types). They go to the druggist and ask: "Do you sell the drug from the Himalayas?" The druggist says: "Yes!" A man picks up a drug which is not the one from the Himalayas. The merchant cheats the customer and says to him: "This is the sweet drug that I have from the Himalayas." But the buyer is unable to tell the difference. He buys it and takes it back home, thinking: "I have got the drug from the Himalayas." The situation is like that.
"O Kasyapa! Among the sravaka priests, there are those who are priests in name only, and there are the true ones, or those who stick together in harmony; also, those who observe the precepts and those who violate them. All will be made offerings, will be respected and worshipped. But this upasaka cannot, just by looking, make out which is which. This is like the situation of the man who could not see whether the drug he had was from the Himalayas. Who are the ones who observe, and who those who violate, the precepts? Who is a true priest, and who a priest in name only? One with the heavenly eye can well see this. O Kasyapa! If this upasaka knows that (such-and-such) a person is one who transgresses, he will not give him anything, bow or worship him. If he knows that (such-and-such) a person receives and stores the eight impure things, he will not give what he has, not worship or make offerings. Any (bhiksu) who violates the precepts should not be respected or worshipped just because of the kasaya-robe which he wears."
Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "Well said, well said! What the Tathagata says is true, not false. I shall accept (your) word with the greatest respect, for example, just as if I had received an adamantine treasure. Just as the Buddha says, these bhiksus should stand (base themselves) on four things.
"What are the four? They should be based on Dharma, not the person; on the meaning, not the letter; on Wisdom, not on consciousness; on import-embracing sutras, not on non-import-embracing sutras. They should well know these four things, but not four such persons."
The Buddha said: "Being based on Dharma means nothing other than basing oneself on the Mahaparinirvana of the Tathagata. All Buddhist teachings are none but “Dharmata” (essence of Dharma, essence of Reality). This “Dharmata” is the Tathagata. Hence, the Tathagata is Eternal and Unchanging. Any person who says that the Tathagata is non-eternal does not know “Dharmata”. Such a person is not one to base oneself upon. All the four persons mentioned above appear in the world, protect, realise and become a refuge (for all beings). Why? Because they thoroughly understand the deepest points of what the Tathagata says and know that the Tathagata is Eternal and Unchanging. It is not good to say that the Tathagata is non-eternal and that he changes.
"The four persons, when they are such, are the Tathagata. Why? Because such well understand and speak about the undisclosed words of the Tathagata. One who well understands what is deeply hidden and knows that the Tathagata is Eternal and Unchanging will never, for profit, say that the Tathagata is non-eternal. Such a person is one to base oneself upon - why not on those four persons?
"Basing oneself upon Dharma means basing oneself upon “Dharmata”; not basing oneself on man refers to the sravaka. “Dharmata” is the Tathagata, and the sravaka is the created. The Tathagata is Eternal, but the sravaka is non-eternal.
"O good man! A man might violate the precepts and, for gain, say that the Tathagata is non-eternal and that he changes. Such a person is not one to take refuge in. O good man! This is a definite rule.
"We say that we base ourselves on the meaning, not the words. The meaning connotes being fully Enlightened. Full Enlightenment means non-weak. Non-weak is satisfaction. Satsfaction means that the Tathagata is Eternal and Unchanging. That the Tathagata is Eternal and Unchanging means that Dharma is eternal. That Dharma is eternal mens that the Sangha is eternal. This is basing oneself on the meaning. Do not base yourself on the words. What words are we not to base ourselves on? These are discursive and decorative words. They (people sticking to the letter, rather than the spirit) seek out all too greedily and unendingly all the innumerable sutras of the Buddha. Wickedly, skilfully and flatteringly, they cheat and put on the semblance of friendliness, and displaying thus, they seek profit. Garbed in white, they take up posts (run errands). They also loudly proclaim: "The Buddha allows the bhiksus to keep all (kinds of) menials and impure things, to trade in gold, silver, rare gems, to store rice, to trade in cows, sheep, elephants, and horses, and thus to seek profit. And also there may arise a famine, and out of pity for the children, the bhiksus may look for gain (profit), store things up, and put up in a house, prepare food by their own hand, and support themselves, instead of from receiving (the alms of others)." All such words are not to be depended upon.
"We say that we base ourselves (depend) upon Wisdom and not upon consciousness. The Wisdom alluded to is the Tathagata. If any sravaka does not well understand the virtues of the Tathagata, such a consciousness is not to be depended upon. If he knows that the Tathagata is the Dharma-Body, such true Wisdom can indeed be depended upon. If a person sees the expedient body of the Tathagata and says that it belongs to the five skandhas, the eighteen realms (i.e. the six sense-organs, the six sense-fields, and the six consciousnesses), and the twelve spheres (the six sense-organs and the six sense-fields), and that it arises from feeding, such is not to be depended upon. This means that even consciousness is not to be depended upon. If a sutra says thus, it cannot be depended upon.
"We say that we should base ourselves on the import-embracing sutras (those which dig deep into the true spirit of Buddha-Dharma), and not on the non-import-embracing sutras. The non-import-embracing sutras are the sravaka vehicle. Hearing even the depth-plumbing storehouse of the Buddha-Tathagata, doubts raise their heads as regards all things and the person does not realise that this storehouse arises from the sea of great Wisdom, as in the case of a child who cannot distinguish one thing from another. This is the non-grasping of the meaning.
"The attainment of the meaning is nothing other than the true Wisdom of the Bodhisattva. It flows forth from out of the unhindered great Wisdom of his mind, as with an adult, for whom there is nothing not known. This is attainment of the meaning.
"Also, the sravaka vehicle is the non-grasping (non-understanding) of the (real) meaning, and unsurpassed Mahayana is the grasping of the meaning. If a person says that the Tathagata is non-eternal and that he changes, this indicates that this person has not yet arrived at (an understanding of) the meaning. If a person says that the Tathagata is Eternal and Unchanging, this shows that that person has arrived at the meaning. If a person says that what the sravaka says can be understood, this indicates non-grasping of the meaning. If a person says that the Tathagata is a product of feeding, this is non-grasping of the meaning. If a person says that the Tathagata is Eternal and Unchanging, this is full grasping of the meaning. If a person says that the Tathagata enters Nirvana as in the case of fuel that has burnt out, this is non-grasping of the meaning. If a person says that the Tathagata enters the world of “Dharmata”, this is grasping the meaning.
"We cannot depend upon the teaching of the sravaka. Why not? Because the Tathagata, through expediency, articulates the teaching of the sravaka just to save beings. This is like the rich man who teaches his son the alphabet. O good man! The sravaka vehicle is analogous to the situation where a person first tills his land, but has not yet arrived at the harvest. Such is the non-grasping of the meaning. For this reason, one cannot depend upon the sravaka vehicle. One should take refuge in the teachings of Mahayana. Why? In order to save beings, through expediency the Tathagata expounds Mahayana. Hence, one cannot depend. This is grasping the meaning. One should well know of these four things to depend upon.
"Dharma is the Eternal. It also means boundless. It is hard to know. One cannot hold or bind it. And yet one may well see it. If a person says that he cannot see it, one cannot depend upon such a one. That is why we say that we can depend upon Dharma and not upon the person.
"Also, if a person says that the all-wonderful world is non-eternal, such is not to be depended upon. That is why we base ourselves upon the meaning and not the words. To say that "true" depends upon "Wisdom" means that the Sangha is eternal, non-created, and unchanging, and that they do not store away the eight impure things. For this reason, we depend upon Wisdom and not on consciousness. If a person says that consciousness makes and consciousness receives, there is no harmony of the Sangha. Why not? Now, harmony means non-possession. If it is non-possession, how could one say "eternal"? On account of this, consciousness is not to be depended upon.
"We say "meaning". "Meaning" means "being satisfied". This is never, to the end, seeking to cheat, to display deportment, pureness and with arrogance to show that one is of a high position, and thus greedily to seek profit. Also, it is not to show attachment to what the Tathagata says for reasons of expediency. This is arriving at the meaning. If a person abides in this, we may say that this person abides in “Paramartha-satya” (Ultimate Reality). That is why we say that we base ourselves on the meaning of the sutras and not on the non-grasping of the meaning.
"Non-grasping of the meaning relates to what is stated in the sutras saying that all can be snuffed out, all is non-eternal, all is suffering, all is void, and all is selfless. This is non-grasping of the meaning. How so? Because such a person is not able to grasp the intended meaning, only the appearance of (literal) meaning. This causes all beings to fall into Avichi Hell. Why? Because of attachment, as a result of which a person does not grasp the meaning.
"A person (might) say that all is non-eternal, meaning that even Nirvana is non-eternal, and the same with suffering, void, and non-self too. That is why we say that such is non-grasping of the import of the sutras. One cannot depend upon such. O good man! There might be a person who says that the Tathagata, pitying all beings, looks to what is apt for the occasion. As he knows what is right for the occasion, he speaks of what is light as heavy and what is heavy as light. The Tathagata knows that all his disciples are supplied with whatever they need by danapatis. So the Buddha does not allow such persons to receive or keep menials, male or female, gold, silver and gems, or to trade in impure things. When the disciples are not thus supplied by danapatis, as when there is a famine and food is scarce, he allows them, for the purpose of establishing and protecting Wonderful Dharma, to receive menials, male or female, gold, silver, vehicles, fields, houses and rice, and to trade in what they have. Although one is allowed to receive and keep such things, these must be given by faithful danapatis. Then, all such four things are what can be depended upon. If the precepts, abhidharma and sutras do not differ from these four, one may depend upon these. If a person says that there are times and non-times, Dharma to be protected and Dharma not to be protected, and that the Tathagata allows all bhiksus to receive and keep such impure things, such should not be depended upon. If the precepts, abhidharma and sutras agree with these, such three cannot be depended upon. I speak about these four things for the sake of all beings with fleshly eyes, but it is not for those who have the eye of Wisdom. That is why I speak about these four things and say that they are the things to be depended upon. "Dharma" is “Dharmata”; "meaning" is saying that the Tathagata is Eternal and Unchanging; "Wisdom" is knowing that all beings have Buddha-Nature (“Buddhata”); "grasping the meaning" means being well versed in all Mahayana sutras."
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 1: Introductory
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 2: On Cunda
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 3: On Grief
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 4: On Long Life
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 5: On the Adamantine Body
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 6: On the Virtue of the Name
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 7: On the Four Aspects
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 8: On the Four Dependables
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 9: On Wrong and Right
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 10: On the Four Truths
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 11: On the Four Inversions
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 12: On the Tathagata-DHATU
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 13: On Letters
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 14: On the Parable of the Birds
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 15: On the Parable of the Moon
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 16: On the Bodhisattva
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 17: On the Questions Raised by the Crowd
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 18: On Actual Illness
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 19: On Holy Actions
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 20: On Pure Actions
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 21: On the Action of the Child
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 22: Bodhisattva Highly-Virtuous King
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 23: On Bodhisattva Lion's Roar
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 24: On Bodhisattva Kasyapa
- Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 25: On Kaundinya