Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": THE TATHAGATA ANNOUNCES THAT HE HAS ENTERED NIRVANA


('Saddharmapundarika,' XV, 268-72)

The Buddha, considered as a spiritual principle and not as a historical person, is called 'Tathagata.' The original meaning of the term is no longer known.

The Lord said- As a result of my sustaining power this world, with its Gods, men and Asuras, forms the notion that recently the Lord Shakyamuni, after going forth from his home among the Shakyas, has awoken to full enlightenment, on the terrace of enlightenment, by the town of Gaya,

But one should not see it thus, sons of good family. In fact it is many hundreds of thousands of myriads of Kotis of aeons ago that I, have awoken to full enlightenment. . . . Ever since, during all that time I have demonstrated Dharma to beings in this Saha world system, and also in hundreds of thousands of Nayutas of Kotis of other world systems. But when I have spoken of other Tathagatas, beginning with the Tathagata Dipinkara, and of the Nirvana of these Tathagatas, then that has just been conjured up by me as an emission of the skill in means by which I demonstrate Dharma.

Moreover, the Tathagata surveys the diversity in the faculties and vigour of successive generations of beings. To each generation he announces his name, declares that he has entered Nirvana, and brings peace to beings by various discourses on Dharma. To beings who are of low disposition, whose store of merit is small, and whose depravities are many, he says in that case: 'I am young in years, monks, I have left the home of my family, and but lately have I won full enlighten ment.' But when the Tathagata, although fully enlightened for s long, declares that he has been fully enlightened but recently, the such discourses on Dharma have been spoken for no other reason than to bring beings to maturity and to save them. All these discourse on Dharma have been taught by the Tathagata in order to discipline beings.

And whatever the Tathagata says to educate beings, and whatever the Tathagata utters,-whether he appears as himself or as another whether under his own authority or another,-all these discourses o Dharma are taught as factually true by the Tath-agata, and there I no false speech in them on the part of the Tathagata. For the Tath-a gata has seen the triple world as it really is: It is not born, it dies not there is no decease or rebirth, no Samsara- or Nirvana; it is not real or unreal, not existent, or non-existent, not such, or otherwise, no false or not-false. Not in such a way has the Tathagata seen the triple world as the foolish common people see it. The Tathagata I face to face with the reality of dharmas; he can therefore be under no delusion about them. Whatever words the Tathagata may utter with regard to them, they are true, not false, not otherwise.

He utters, however, different discourses on Dharma, which differ I their objective basis, to beings who differ in their mode of life an their intentions, and who wander amidst discriminations and percep tions, in order to generate the roots of good in them. For a Tathagata performs a Tathagata's work. Fully enlightened for ever so long, the Tathagata has an endless span of life, he lasts for ever. Although the Tathagata has not entered Nirvana, he makes a show of entering Nirvana, for the sake of those who have to be educated. And eve today my ancient course as a Bodhisattva is still incomplete, and m life-span is not yet ended. From today onwards still twice as man hundreds of thousands of Nayutas of Kotis of aeons must elapse before my life-span is complete. Although therefore I do not at present enter into Nirvana (or extinction), nevertheless I announce my Nirvana. For by this method I bring beings to maturity. Because it might b that, if I stayed here too long and could be seen too often, beings wh have performed no meritorious actions, who are without merit, poorly lot, eager for sensuous pleasures, blind, and wrapped in net of false views, would, in the knowledge that the Tathagata stay (here all the time), get the notion that life is a mere sport, and would not conceive the notion that the (sight of the) Tathagata is hard to obtain. In the conviction that the Tathagata is always at hand they would not exert their vigour for the purpose of escaping from the triple world, and they would not conceive of the Tathagata as hard to obtain.


Translation by Edwin Conze, in Conze, et al., Buddhist Texts through the Ages (Oxford: Bruno Cassirer. 1954)

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