The Lankavatara Sutra
Self-Realisation of Noble Wisdom
Then said Mahamati to the Blessed One: Pray tell us about
The Blessed one replied: the term, Nirvana, is used with many
different meanings, by different people, but these people may be divided into
four groups: There are people who are suffering, or who are afraid of suffering,
and who think of Nirvana; there are philosophers who try to discriminate
Nirvana; there are the class of disciples who think of Nirvana in relation to
themselves; and finally there is the Nirvana of the Buddhas.Those who are
suffering or who fear suffering, think of Nirvana as an escape and recompense.
They imagine that Nirvana consists in the future annihilation of the senses and
the sense-minds; they are not aware that this life-and-death world and Nirvana
are not to be separated. These ignorant ones, instead of meditating on the
imageless of Nirvana, talk of different ways of emancipation. Being ignorant of,
or not understanding, the teachings of the Tathagatas, they cling to the notion
of Nirvana that is outside what is seen of the mind and, thus, go on rolling
themselves along with the wheel of life and death.
As to the Nirvana
discriminated by the philosophers: there really are none. Some philosophers
conceive Nirvana to be found where the mind-system no more operates owing to the
cessation of the elements that make up personality and its world; or is found
where there is utter indifference to the objective world and its impermanency.
Some conceive Nirvana to be a state where there is no recollection of the past
or present, just as when a lamp is extinguished, or when a seed is burnt, or
when a fire goes out; because then there is the cessation of all the substrata,
which is explained by the philosophers as the non-rising of discrimination. But
this is not Nirvana, because Nirvana does not consist in simple annihilation and
Again, some philosophers explain deliverance as though it was the mere
stopping of discrimination, as when the wind stops blowing, or as when one by
self-effort gets rid of the dualistic view of knower and known, or gets rid of
the notions of permanency and impermanency; or gets rid of the notions of good
and evil; or overcomes passion by means of knowledge-to them Nirvana is
Some, seeing in "form" the bearer of pain alarmed by the notion of
"form" and look for happiness in a world of "no-form." Some conceive that in
consideration of individuality and generality recognizable in all things inner
and outer, that there is no destruction and that all beings maintain their being
forever and, in this eternality, see Nirvana.
Others see the eternally of things
in the conception of Nirvana as the absorption of the finite-soul in the supreme
Atman; or who see all things as a manifestation of the vital-force of some
Supreme Sprit to which all return; and some, who are especially silly, declare
that there are two primary things, a primary substance and a primary soul, that
react differently upon each other and thus produce all things from the
transformations of qualities; some think that the world is born of action and
interaction and that no other cause is necessary; others think that Ishvara is
free creator of all things; clinging to these
foolish notions, there is no
awakening, and they consider Nirvana to consist in the fact that there is no
awakening. Some imagine that Nirvana is where self-nature exists in its own
right, unhampered by other self-natures, as the variegated feathers of a
various crystals, or the pointedness of a thorn.
being to be Nirvana, some non-being, while others conceive that all things and
Nirvana are not to be distinguished from one another. Some, thinking that time
is the creator and that as the rise of the world depends on time, they conceive
that Nirvana consists in the recognition of time as Nirvana. Some think that
there will be Nirvana when the "twenty-five" truths are generally accepted, or
when the king observes the six virtues, and some religionists think that Nirvana
is the attainment of paradise.
These views severally advanced by the
philosophers with their various seasonings are not in accord with logic nor are
they acceptable to the wise. They all conceive Nirvana dualistically and in some
causal connection; by these discriminations philosophers imagine Nirvana, but
where there is no rising and no disappearing, how can there be discrimination?
relying on his own textbook from which he draws his
understanding, sins against the truth, because truth is not where he imagines it
to be. The only result is that it sets his mind to wandering about and becoming
more confused as Nirvana is not to be found by mental searching, the more his
mind becomes confused the more he confuses other people.
As to the notion of
Nirvana as held by disciples and masters who still cling to the notion of an
ego-self, and who try to find it by going off by themselves into solitude: their
notion of Nirvana is an eternity of bliss like the bliss of the Samadhis-for
themselves. They recognize that the world is only a manifestation of mind and
that all discriminations are of the mind, and so they forsake social relations
and practice various spiritual disciplines and in solitude seek self-realization
of Noble Wisdom by self-effort.
They fallow the stages to the sixth and attain
the bliss of the Samadhis, but as they are still clinging to egoism they do not
attain the "turning-about" at the deepest seat of consciousness and, therefore,
they are not free from the thinking-mind and the accumulation of its
habit-energy. Clinging to the bliss of the Samadhis, they pass to their Nirvana,
but it is not the Nirvana of the Tathagatas. They are of those who have "entered
the stream"; they must return to this world of life and death.
* * *
Then said Mahamati to the Blessed One: When the Bodhisattvas
yield up their stock of merit for the emancipation of all beings, they become
spiritually one with all animate life; they themselves may be purified, but in
others there yet remain unexhausted evil and unmatured karma. Pray tell us,
Blessed One, how the Bodhisattvas given assurance of Nirvana? And what is the
Nirvana of the Bodhisattvas?
The Blessed One replied: Mahamati, this
assurance is not an assurance of numbers nor logic; it is not the mind that is
to be assured but the heart. The Bodhisattva's assurance comes with the
unfolding insight that fallows passion hindrances cleared away, knowledge
hindrance purified, and egolessness clearly perceived and patiently accepted.
the mortal-mind ceases to discriminate, there is no more thirst for life, no
more sex-lust, no more thirst for learning, no more thirst for eternal life;
with the disappearance of these fourfold thirsts, there is no more accumulation
of habit-energy; with no more accumulation of habit-energy the defilements on
the face of the Universal Mind clear away, and the Bodhisattva attains
self-realization of Noble Wisdom that is the heart's assurance of Nirvana.
are Bodhisattvas here and in other Buddha-lands, who are sincerely devoted to
the Bodhisattva's mission and yet who cannot wholly forget the bliss of the
Samadhis and the peace of Nirvana-for themselves.
The teaching of Nirvana in
which there is no substrate left behind, is revealed according to a hidden
meaning for the sake of these disciples who still cling to thoughts of Nirvana
for themselves, that they may be inspired to exert themselves in the
Bodhisattva's mission of emancipation for all beings.
teach a doctrine of Nirvana to meet conditions as they find them, and to give
encouragement to the timid and selfish. In order to turn their thoughts away
from themselves and to encourage them to a deeper compassion and more earnest
zeal for others, they are given assurance as to the future by the sustaining
power of the Buddhas of Transformation, but not by the Dharmata-Buddha.
Dharma which establishes the Truth of Noble Wisdom belongs to the realm of the
Dharmata-Buddha. To the Bodhisattvas to the seventh and eighth stages,
Transcendental Intelligence is revealed by the Dharmata-Buddha and the Path is
pointed out to them which they are to follow. In the perfect self-realization of
Noble Wisdom that fallows the inconceivable transformation death of the
Bodhisattva's individualized will-control, he no longer lives unto himself, but
the life that he lives thereafter is the Tathagata's universalized life as
manifested in its transformations.
In this perfect self-realization of Noble
Wisdom the Bodhisattva realizes that for the Buddhas there is no Nirvana. The
death of a Buddha, the great Parinirvana, is neither destruction nor death, else
would it be birth and continuation. If it were destruction, it would be an
effect-producing deed, which is not. Neither is it a vanishing nor an
abandonment, neither is it attainment, nor is it of no attainment; neither is it
of one significance nor of no significance, for there is no Nirvana for the
The Tathagata's Nirvana is where it is recognized that there is
nothing but what is seen of the mind itself; is where, recognizing the nature of
the self-mind, one no longer cherishes the dualisms of discrimination; is where
there is no more thirst nor grasping; is where there is no more attachment to
Nirvana is where the thinking-mind with all its
discriminations, attachments, aversions and egoism is forever put away; is where
logical measures, as they are seen to be inert, are no longer seized upon; is
where even the notion of truth is treated with indifference because of its
causing bewilderment; is where, getting rid of the four propositions, there is
insight into the abode of Reality.
Nirvana is where the twofold passions have
subsided and the twofold hindrances are cleared away and the twofold egolessness
is patiently accepted; is where, by the attainment of the "turning-about" in the
deepest seat of consciousness, self-realization of Noble Wisdom is fully entered
into,--that is the Nirvana of the Tathagatas.Nirvana is where the Bodhisattva
stages are passed one after another; is where the sustaining power of the
Buddhas upholds the Bodhisattvas in the bliss of the Samadhis; is where
compassion for others transcends all thoughts of self; is where the Tathagata
stage is finally realized.
Nirvana is the realm of the Dharmata-Buddha; it is
where the manifestation of Noble Wisdom that is Buddhahood expresses itself in
Perfect Love for all; it is where the manifestation of Perfect Love that is
Tathagatahood expresses itself in Noble Wisdom for the enlightenment of all
-there, indeed, is Nirvana! There are two classes of those who may not enter the
Nirvana of the Tathagatas: there are those who have abandoned the Bodhisattva
ideals, saying, they are not in conformity with the sutras, the codes of
morality, nor with emancipation.
Then there are the true Bodhisattvas who, on
account of their original vows made for the sake of all beings, saying, "So long
as they do not attain Nirvana, I will not attain it for myself," voluntarily
keep themselves out of Nirvana. But no beings are left outside by the will of
the Tathagatas; some day each and every one will be influenced by the wisdom and
love of the Tathagatas of Transformation to lay up stock of merit and ascend the
stages. But, if they only realized it, they are already in the Tathagata's
Nirvana for, in Noble Wisdom, all things are in Nirvana from the beginning.
- - End of Translation - -
Translated by Suzuki and Goddard
As in the version found in A Buddhist