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(2010-02-04 15:49:49)


It is sometimes claimed by scholars who comment on the doctrine of the Self in the Nirvāṇa Sūtra that when the Buddha speaks of the ātman, he is only doing so in a concessionary manner, in a provisional, tactical manoeuvre for those of his students who are not yet ready to face up to the frightening enormity of the non-Self and Emptiness doctrines, and that what he really wishes to say is that there actually exists no Self at all. We shall come back to the question of whether this text views itself as provisional or ultimate in its doctrines a little later, but for now, it needs to be emphasised that for the Buddha to assert something to be satya and tattva (both adjectives appear alongside one another) is tantamount to his insisting that it truly is Real -  not just seemingly real or deceptively authentic. The term, tattva, embedded in such a metaphysical verbal environment as the present context -  where rectification of a misapprehended non-Self doctrine is centre-stage of discussion - really does betoken ultimate Reality itself, rather than some provisional, metaphorical notion or accommodating make-shift simile of Truth.


 在某些时候学者宣称谁声明涅磐经之中自我的教义当佛陀谈到自性是,他仅仅是在做一个减价的方法,临时的,战术演习对那些他的学生没有准备面对巨大恐吓的无我和空虚的教义,但是他真正希望的是说这里确实存在这无我。我们回到这个问题就是否这个文本的观点自身是暂时的或在它的教义之中最后的。但是现在,他需要强调佛来补充某些东西对atya 和 tattva(这个形容词并列在一旁)是等于他坚持这是真的-不仅仅看起来是真的或迷惑的真实。这个术语,tattva,加入了这些形而上学的词语环境就象是当前的内容-那里纠正了错误无我的教义是讨论的中心阶段-他们真实的预示最终的现实自己,而不是某些暂时的,形而上学的观念或乐于助人的真实的微笑。



      A number of the other epithets applied to the True Self in the passage just quoted. Firstly and perhaps most importantly - for this is arguably the core concern and dominant assertion of the entire Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra in its earliest extant manifestation – is the notion of the “eternity” or “permanence” of the Buddha (who is, we must remember, the True Self, according to this scripture). The Sanskrit term, nitya, is usually translated by Buddhist scholars as “permanent”, but I feel that this fails to do justice to the sense of never-endingness or ever-enduringness that the words in the Nirvāṇa Sūtra. The English adjective “permanent” is usually applied to something that lasts indefinitely, yes -  but not forever. For example, a person may be given a “permanent post” in the company for which he or she works. But that particular situation will of course only last for as long as the company survives. No one expects that the company will last forever. And nor will it: being part of Samsāra, it will eventually decline, collapse and die – as will that employee him or herself. But when the Buddha applies the epithet, nitya, to himself or Nirvāṇa, he wishes to express very forcefully the idea of eternal continuance and perpetual persistence throughout all time and beyond. The Self that is nitya is not just real for a million years or even a million kalpas (aeons). It is real and lasting forever.



      So central is this concept of the nityatā or eternal continuance of the Buddha in the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra that the Buddha at one point refers to this scripture as “the great sūtra of the Buddha’s eternity” (nityatā). Perpetual Buddhic Reality would seem to lie at the heart of the message which this sūtra seeks to communicate, as an antidote to the prent Buddhist notion of universal change, decay, flux and death. The Buddha actually says so in terms. The Buddha’s physical form will die, that is true; but that nirmāna body (physically manifested body) is in any case deceptive and impermanent, the Buddha insists. He himself, in contrast,  as the True Self will not reach any end or cessation(24).



      If the Self never mutates or transforms, then it is impossible for it to be killed, since it cannot undergo the transformation inevitably wrought by death. Accordingly of the sūtra, we find the expressive epithet “un-rubbed-out” used of the ātman. The likely Sanskrit term underlying this is aparimardana, which means “not rubbed out”, not obliterated, not broken up or destroyed. We are perhaps reminded here of the colloquial English expression_r_r of “wiping someone out” or “rubbing someone out” to convey the idea of killing them. But unlike what the Buddha calls the “lie” of the worldly ego, made up of its five transforming and transient skandhas, all doomed to death, the true ātman can never be “rubbed out” or erased. It endures, unperishing, forever.   



       Finally in this section, let us consider an adjective found characterise the Self: “sovereign” or “autonomous” (aiśvarya in Sanskrit). Not only do we encounter the term in the present passage, but also scattered across as a whole. For example, we read that  “… on the morning of Buddhahood, he (the Bodhisattva) obtains the sovereign Self” (chapter entitled “On Pure Actions”), and on the all-pervasive presence of the Buddha, who cannot truly be seen and yet can cause all to see him, the Buddha comments that  “Such sovereignty is termed ‘the Great Self’ (mahātman)” (chapter entitled “Bodhisattva Highly Virtuous King”). This word, aiśvarya, is important for three reasons: first, it attests the complete self-mastery, independence and freedom of the Self -  it is not subject to the tyranny of unwanted internal or external forces (unlike the mundane ego comprised of the unstable, conditioned and labile skandhas); second, it hints at a controlling, regulating intelligence: a knowing and utterly free mind (the “transcendental knowing” which the Buddha elsewhere in the sūtra links to the Self); and thirdly, it is of course linguistically related to the Sanskrit noun, Isvara, which in the Brahmanical environment in which Buddhism had its roots denoted God (more particularly the god, Shiva). This attendant sense of the divine and the numinous would not, I am sure, have been lost on the transmitters and auditors of the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra. 



      Moreover, just as a castor-oil shrub (eranda) does not have a core, likewise this body does not have a self (atman), a being (sattva), a life-essence (jiva), an individual (pudgala), manava, nara or an acting agent (kartr). In that way, we repeatedly cultivate the idea that a self does not exist. For example, just as it is pointless to plant even ten million (koti) dry husks, likewise is this body, which is devoid of a Self. For example, just as the flowers of wheat (valla-puspa) have no fragrance, likewise this body is devoid of a Self. In that manner do we cultivate repeatedly the idea that this body is devoid of a Self. 


      The Blessed One has instructed us [in this way]: ‘Monks, all phenomena [dharma] are devoid of a Self. Practise thus! Those who practise thus will eliminate clinging to self (atma-graha). When clinging to self has been utterly eliminated, Nirvana will be attained.’ Blessed One, since all phenomena are thus devoid of a Self, we repeatedly cultivate the idea that a Self does not exist. Moreover, just as a bird leaves no tracks in the sky, so we shall detach ourselves from all types of [false] views when we have cultivated the idea that there is no Self.” 


      The Blessed One asked, “Do you know how to cultivate that kind of meditation. The monks replied, “Blessed One, if we were to cultivate anything contrary to the idea of suffering, impermanence and non-Self, we would be like a staggering drunk who sees the heavens, mountain peaks, the ground, the sun, the moon, trees and hills whirling around, though they are not moving; for those worldly beings who do not cultivate the idea of suffering, impermanence, and non-Self are just like drunks. [For this reason], Blessed One, we have cultivated it properly.”



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