Chapter Ten: On the Four Truths
There’s an interesting copy of this chapter translated by Charles Patton found on the old Dark Zen website. The notable difference from other copies concerns the line, “That which is called [the sufferer] is not called the noble truth of suffering.” The translation otherwise found says “That which is called [suffering].” Whatever the reason was for the change, it fits in perfectly with the main thrust of the chapter as “the origin of the one who suffers”. The subsequent exegesis will further explain this examination. The opening line will include the change as found at that Dark Zen site.
(Charles Patton translation):
The Buddha again addressed Kasyapa, “That which is called [the sufferer] is not called the noble truth of suffering. And why? If it is said that suffering is the noble truth of suffering, all the beastly and hell dwelling sentient beings would consequently possess that noble truth.
The line as translated in this fashion indicates that in light of the “Noble Truth” of suffering, [the sufferer]. i.e., as one who suffers, will not fit into the proper equation of a Noble Truth (as forthcoming) because in Light of that truth there really is “no one” who really suffers.
Good son, if again there is someone who is unaware of the Tathagata’s most profound viewpoint of the eternally abiding, unchanging, fine and mysterious essential body (dharmakaya), 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 non-Dharmic and the non-Dharmic is seen to be the Dharma. You should know that this person necessarily shall fall into the evil destinies and his circulation through birth and death (samsara) will increase greatly, the bonds becoming numerous, and he will undergo afflictions.
There’s an immediate shift to the main teaching of this Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, that of the True Dharma-Body (Dharmakaya) of the Tathagatas. If one is [unaware] of this truth and fails to partake in its salvific import, i.e., being-as-one with IT, then one is bound to perpetual avidya and will not escape the revolving wheel of perpetual regenesis. Their [ignorance] imposes upon them that they are a “person” (composed of the Skandhic Aggregates) that suffers, when in Light of the Dharmadātu, there really is no skandhic vehicle that undergoes such ignominious trials. Because they are [unaware] and views Dharma as non-Dharma, and non-Dharma (adharma) as Dharma.
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 then says, ‘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.
If one hears of the salvific truth of the eternally abiding Dharmakaya, then great spiritual fortune will be forthcoming. If they are [deaf] to this Noble Truth, then they are [dead in their ignorance.] If this is fully comprehended, then one can truly appreciate the awful implications of dukkha, the benefits of which will be substantial. However, in the absence of such a comprehension, no matter how diligent one is in their practice, there will never be any lasting benefit. Thus the Blessed One expounds that this is comprehending the nature of dukkha, or the [Noble Truth] of suffering.
“[Now, regarding] the truth of sufferings’ accumulation: 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.”
This is what occurs when comprehending the genuine Buddhadharma does not take place. The [Unborn], or UN-create and UN-arisen is the basis for True Buddhagnosis. Standing outside of this nirvanic-grace one succumbs to impurity—both in mind, body, and spirit. Hence, one will never transcend the arisen agonies of the composed—lost to liberation forever.
“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.”
True liberation is knowing the Real Nature of the abiding and Essential Body of the Buddha–the Dharmakaya, or the Nirvanic Kingdom of Self. The truth of the [origin of suffering] is playing the role of the “sufferer”, i.e., enduring many kalpas due to their ignorance of the True Nature of the Tathagatakaya.
“[Now regarding] the truth of suffering’s extinction: If there are many who cultivate the study of the emptiness of dharmas, this is not good. And why? Because the extinction of all dharmas and the destruction of Tathagata’s genuine Dharma treasury is done by cultivating the training that is called the cultivation of emptiness. Those who cultivate the extinction of suffering oppose all those of heretical paths. If it is said that the cultivation of emptiness is the truth of extinction, then all the heretical paths which also cultivate the emptiness of dharmas should also possess the truth of extinction.
This has nothing to do with some “dharma of extinction”, claiming it to be the “emptiness of all dharmas”. One who claims such an adharma is truly heretical and thus antithetical to the True Unborn Way of the Buddhadharma. This is really cultivating a path straight to hell.
(Mark L. Blum translation):
If one were to assert, “There is a tathāgatagarbha, and even though it cannot be seen it is capable of eliminating all the defilements, which is the point at which one comprehends it,” then upon bringing forth this state of mind, by the conditions wrought by this single thought, one can attain freedom in all dharmas. For one whose meditation focuses on [nonself] and empty quiescence as the hidden treasury of the Tathāgata, however, there will be innumerable transmigrations and the incurring of suffering throughout. Those who do not approach practice in that way, despite the presence of the defilements [within themselves] will find [those defilements] quickly eliminated. How could this be? It happens through the understanding of the tathāgata hidden treasury—and this is what I call “the noble truth of the destruction of suffering.” Anyone who is able to practice the destruction of suffering in this way is a true disciple of mine. Anyone who is not able to practice in this way I regard as someone cultivating emptiness, which does not [lead to] the noble truth of the destruction of suffering.
Cultivating the proper mindset within the Dharma-womb of the Sugata-garbha constitutes Right Cultivation and thus liberation of mind and spirit. If one imagines a Non-[Self], thus opens oneself to ceaseless avidya and an unending spin on the maddening ride of transmigration of spirit and mind.
(Charles Patton translation):
“[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 existences 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.”
This last section of the chapter speaks of the four inverted views which is really the full context of the next chapter that simply reinforces our present one. Thus Chapter Eleven succinctly states, “Non-suffering” is the Tathagata. The idea of suffering arises when a person thinks that all Tathagatas are non-eternal and that they change.” In conclusion then of this Noble Truth, always bear in mind the following from the Tathagata:
Do not abide in the thought of the non-Eternal, Suffering, non-Self, and the not-Pure. Study well the Way instead, how to act wherever you go, and “meditate on the Self, the Eternal, Bliss, and the Pure”. Anyone who desires to practice the Way should act like the wise man who deftly gets hold of [a] gem. This refers to the so-called thought of Self, and that of the Eternal, Bliss, and Pure.”