The Great Parinirvana Sutra
(Taisho Tripitaka 0375)
Chapter 10: The Four Truths
[647a]The Buddha again addressed Kasyapa, "That which is called suffering is not called the noble truth of suffering. And why? If it is said that suffering is the noble truth of suffering, all the animal 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 perspective of the eternally abiding, unchanging, fine and mysterious essential body (dharma-kaya), 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 not the Dharma and the what is not the Dharma is seen to be the Dharma. You should know that this person necessarily shall fall into the evil destinies and circulate through birth and death (samsara). Increasing greatly, the bonds will become numerous, and he will undergo discomfort and anxiety.
"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 would then say, '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 suffering's origin . Regarding the true Dharma, the unborn is the true knowledge. Undergoing impure things, then, is said to be a punishment. It is possible by way of what is not the Dharma to say that the true Dharma ends in cessation (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 discomforts and worries, 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 origin, who says that the true Dharma is that there is nothing eternally abiding, all [things] being extinct dharmas, then because of these causes and conditions that person will for measureless kalpas circulate through birth and death (samsara), undergoing discomfort and worry. If one is able to know that the Dharma eternally abides unchanging, this then is called knowing the origin that is known as the noble truth of [suffering's] origin. 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 cessation. If there are many who cultivate the study of the Dharma of emptiness, this is not good. And why? Because the cessation of all Dharmas and the harming of Tathagata's genuine Dharma treasury is done by cultivating the training that is called the cultivation of emptiness. To cultivate the cessation of suffering is contrary to all of the other paths. If it is said that the cultivation of emptiness is the truth of cessation, then all the other paths which also cultivate the emptiness of dharmas should also possess the truth of cessation.
"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 generates 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 as selfless, empty, and peaceful, that person will remain in samsara for a measureless number of lives, circulating and undergoing discomfort. If there is someone 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 knows the Tathagata's esoteric garbha. This is called the noble truth of suffering's cessation. If one is able to thusly cultivate that cessation, this is a disciple of mine. If there is somone who is unable to thusly practice, this is called the cultivation of emptiness that is not the noble truth of cessation.
"[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 discomfort. If one is able to generate 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 inverted views, I mistook what is not the Dharma for the Dharma, and so I underwent the rewards of a measureless number of evil actions (karma). Now, because I have extinguished such views, I have become a Buddha of perfect 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 truely seeing 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."
Endnotes to Chapter 10
1.In Chinese sources, the second Noble Truth is the truth of suffering's "accumulation". I have substituted origin for accumulation here for clarity. It is especially appropriate here since the passage is arguing that the source of suffering is to mistake what is not the Dharma for what is the Dharma.
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