The Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta is one of the Tathāgatagarbha Scriptures; a short Mahayana Sūtra that is extant only in a Chinese translation. Its value is worth its weight in dragon pearls as even the great Ratnagotravibhāga utilizes it as a proof text, quoting roughly half of the Sūtra. Generally, it expounds upon the unitary nature of the tathāgatagarbha, dharmakāya, and the sattvadhātu:
“Śāriputra, ultimate is an expression for the (buddha) element in sentient beings. The (buddha) element in sentient beings, Śāriputra, is an expression for buddha nature. Buddha nature, Śāriputra, is an expression for the dharmakāya.”
The Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta bases its analysis of this interrelationship “in the framework of a critique of false views.” (Jonathan A. Silk: Professor of Buddhist Studies at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies). We will be abiding by Silk’s translation and excellent exegesis of the text—as realized through the lens of Unborn Mind Zen. The false views state that there is an Increase or Decrease within the sphere of Beings. The Blessed Tathāgata will reveal that there is no such basis—rather, there is an absence of this dichotomy. With regard to the actual number of sentient beings there is neither any increase nor decrease, despite the fact of dependent transmigration and that some beings are destined to be enlightened or are to be perpetually paneled on the dense wall of samsara. This is due to the recognition of the Real Essence of all Beings: ekadhātu. This will lead to the Ultimate Truth (Paramārtha) behind sattvadhātu: sattvadhātu essentially means the quintessence of beings—THAT being the Dharma-womb of the Tathāgatas, Tathāgatagarbha. The developing embryo is aligned with the Real Dharma-body—the Dharmakāya. As to the precise nature of the term, beings, the Sūtra will reveal:
Regarding this unborn, unperishing, eternal, tranquil, unchanging refuge [i.e. the tathāgatagarbha], Śāriputra, the inconceivable, pure dharma-realm (dharmadhātu), I term it ‘beings’ (衆生; sattvas).Why? To say ‘beings’ is (only) a synonym for precisely this unborn, unperishing, eternal, tranquil, unchanging refuge, (this) inconceivable, pure dharma-realm, and so on. With this intention, regarding those qualities, I term it ‘beings’.
Considered from a different angle, The Tathāgatagarbha IS their (beings) sattvadhatu. Or, and this is critical to the series as a whole, there’s no Being or Non-Being; there’s only Beingness, awakened or obstructed. When IT is awakened, IT is nirvana; when obstructed IT is samsara.
Turning now to the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta’s Doctrinal basis, Silk expounds with the following:
Turning now more directly to the contents of the AAN, the Buddha’s interlocutoris the ubiquitous Śāriputra who, however, as is usual in such Mahāyāna scriptures, speaks rarely, in fact only twice. The question which motivates the Buddha’s discourse at the outset concerns the extent of the mass of beings in the universe, the sattavadhātu: does this expand or contract? In other words, the basic question which frames the discourse is, does the number of beings in saṁsāra increase or decrease? The short answer is that it does not, the reason lying in the fundamental nature of reality. The Buddha’s response, constituting the body of the scripture, falls into two logical halves, the first focusing on mistaken views (*mithyā-dr̥ṣṭi) which arise from the basic mistake in view about the sattvadhātu, the second taking up more directly the nature of this sattavadhātu, the realm of beings, and the concepts to which this is related, namely the dharmakāya, the dharmadhātu, and the tathāgatagarbha. (Silk, p.15)
Silk emphasizes the central thrust of the Sūtra, that being “precisely the denial of the possibility that the grand total of the number of beings in the universe could increase or decrease.” Within the light of this analysis “there is no question of beings “being” in saṁsāra and then undergoing some “nirvanization.” In this context, the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta (in union with the Diamond Sūtra) holds fast to the primary impetus of all the blogs here in Unborn Mind Zen, that “there is only one reality, one state of “the way things are,” termed among other things dharmatā or dharmadhātu, not in any reified sense of another mode of being, but rather as the absolute ground of being, of “is-ness.”