Sutra 1, Chapter 13 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Nirvana
THEN SAID MAHAMATI to the Blessed One: Pray tell Us about Nirvana?
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 the 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
Those who are suffering or who fear suffering, think of Nirvana as an escape and a recompense. They
imagine that Nirvana consists in the future annihilation of the senses and the sense-minds; they are not
aware that Universal Mind and Nirvana are One, and that this life-and-death world and Nirvana are not to be
separated. These ignorant ones, instead of meditating on the imagelessness 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 Nirvanas 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 substrate, 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 deliverance. Some, seeing in "form" the bearer
of pain are 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 recognisable in all things inner and outer, that there
is no destruction and that all beings maintain their being for ever and, in this eternality, see Nirvana.
Others see the eternality of things in the conception of Nirvana as the absorption of the finite-soul in
Supreme Atman; or who see all things as a manifestation of the vital-force of some Supreme Spirit 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 the 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
Some imagine that Nirvana is where self-nature exists in its own right, unhampered by other self-natures,
as the varigated feathers of a peacock, or various precious crystals, or the pointedness of a thorn. Some
conceive 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 reasonings 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? Each philosopher 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
by mental searching, and 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 recognise that the world is only a manifestation of
mind and that all discriminations are of the mind, and so they forsake social relations and practise various
spiritual disciplines and in solitude seek self-realisation of Noble Wisdom by self-effort. They follow 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 are 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
follows passion hindrances cleared away, knowledge hindrance purified, and egolessness clearly perceived and
patiently accepted. As 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 Universal Mind clear away, and the Bodhisattva attains self-realisation of
Noble Wisdom that is the heart's assurance of Nirvana.
There 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. The
Transformation-Buddhas 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
sustaining power of the Buddhas of Transformation, but not by the Dharmata-Buddha.
The Dharma which establishes the Truth of Noble Wisdom belongs to the realm of the Dharmata-Buddha. To the
Bodhisattvas of 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-realisation of Noble Wisdom
that follows the inconceivable transformation death of the Bodhisattva's individualised will-control, he no
longer lives unto himself, but the life that he lives thereafter is the Tathagata's universalised life as
manifested in its transformations. In this perfect self-realisation of Noble Wisdom the Bodhisattva realises
that for 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 it 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 Buddhas.
The Tathagata's Nirvana is where it is recognised that there is nothing but what is seen of the mind
itself; is where, recognising 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
external things. Nirvana is where the thinking-mind with all its discriminations, attachments, aversions and
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-realisation 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 realised.
Nirvana is the realm of 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 myself,"
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 a
stock of merit and ascend the stages. But, if they only realised it, they are already in the Tathagata's
Nirvana for, in Noble Wisdom, all things are in Nirvana from the beginning.
Sutra1 Chapter1 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Discrimination
Sutra1 Chapter2 - The Lankavatara Sutra - False-Imagination and Knowledge of Appearances
Sutra1 Chapter3 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Right Knowledge or Knowledge of Relations
Sutra1 Chapter4 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Perfect Knowledge, or Knowledge of Reality
Sutra1 Chapter5 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Mind System
Sutra1 Chapter6 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Transcendental Intelligence
Sutra1 Chapter7 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Self-Realisation
Sutra1 Chapter8 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Attainment of Self- Realisation
Sutra1 Chapter9 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Fruit of Self- Realisation
Sutra1 Chapter10 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Discipleship: Lineage of the Arhats
Sutra1 Chapter11 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Bodhisattvahood and Its Stages
Sutra1 Chapter12 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Tathagatahood Which Is Noble Wisdom
Sutra1 Chapter13 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Nirvana
Sutra2 Chapter1 - The Diamond Sutra - The Diamond Scripture
Sutra3 Chapter1 - Sutra of Transcendental Wisdom - Sutra of Transcendental Wisdom
Sutra4 Chapter1 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Autobiography of Hui-Neng
Sutra4 Chapter2 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on Prajna
Sutra4 Chapter3 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on Dhyana and Samadhi
Sutra4 Chapter4 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on Repentance
Sutra4 Chapter5 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on the Three-Bodies of Buddha
Sutra4 Chapter6 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Dialogues Suggested by Various Temperaments and Circumstances
Sutra4 Chapter7 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Sudden Enlightenment and Gradual Attainment
Sutra4 Chapter8 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Royal Patronage
Sutra4 Chapter9 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Final Words and Death of the Patriarch