... does not have the appearance of origination and does not have the appearance of cessation, much less the cessation of origination and cessation. Thus, nirvana is right here. But although it is right here, there is no concept of it being right here, which is why it is called everlasting bliss. This bliss is not experienced by anyone, nor is it not experienced by anyone. So how could anyone say there is one body much less...

ordinary fools call it death

other sects claim it's the end

those who follow the Hinayana

think of it as non action....

From Red Pine's translation page 283.

Are ordinary fools right to call "Maha Nirvana" death: is that an aspect of it?

  • wow, this quoted English Version of Platform Sutra is so blurred, one can't make any sense out of reading these sentences. Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 7:44
  • @Bhumishu米殊 sorry, the book i have has no preview on google, and it seems a lot to type out
    – user2512
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 7:45
  • i'm in doubt of this translation. the whole thing about Chan (zen) or Buddhist emptiness like Diamond Sutra is - to make the wordings like saying nothing and rejecting everything... this is my raw impression reading some Eng sutra related articles. But this is not. Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 7:49
  • red pine is an important translator! if you like, answer with a different translation, that would be amazing, especially if you can keep the question. i didn't get that just "rejecting everything" sense at all, really! @Bhumishu米殊
    – user2512
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 7:50
  • 1
    i just find the piece about this Chih-Tao (志道)'s Q&A, let me read and revert... Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 7:55

1 Answer 1


From the Platform Sutra in Classical Chinese:

T48n2008_p0357a19(05)║...剎那無有生相,剎那無有滅相, T48n2008_p0357a20(04)║更無生滅可滅,是則寂滅現前。當現前時, T48n2008_p0357a21(05)║亦無現前之量,乃謂常樂。此樂無有受者,亦無不受者, T48n2008_p0357a22(01)║豈有一體五用之名?何況更言涅槃禁伏諸法, T48n2008_p0357a23(00)║令永不生。斯乃謗佛毀法。聽吾偈曰: T48n2008_p0357a24(00)║「無上大涅槃,  圓明常寂照, T48n2008_p0357a25(00)║凡愚謂之死,  外道執為斷, T48n2008_p0357a26(00)║諸求二乘人,  目以為無作, ...

In 'a split second' (ksaṇa (क्षण)) there is no sign (相, logo, form, nama) of arising; in a split second there is no sign of ceasing; further, there is no arising-ceasing [impermanent activities] to be annihilated (extinguished, ceased, terminated, stopped); thus 'absolute annihilation' (寂滅 Nirvana) emerges. When this emerged, it does not have the quality of emerging {亦無現前之量}, thus this is called constant bliss. For this bliss that is not obtainable, nor that is not unobtainable...

The above is equivalent to your quoted "... does not have.... not experienced by anyone". The bold Chinese quote are the words that's been translated.

This comes from the episode about Chih-Tao inquired the 6th Great Huineng his unable to understand the Mahanirvana Sutra (涅槃經), about the "arising-ceasing (or birthing-dying) annihilated, absolute annihilation as the constant bliss" (生滅滅已,寂滅為樂). It's too much too complex to explain in full. In short, in Nirvana, all signs (logos) created or conceived by the intellect and consciousness ceased (extinguished, annihilated). There, it is not even intellect or consciousness. In the whole one Ksana, it is constant bliss, this is Nirvana. Ksana has to be hinted for our intellect and consciousness created the space/time, Ksana is the minimal unit we could infer when using words to explain ideas. In the other way to say, in Nirvana there is no space/time; no space/time, thus no birth/death, for any change must have the element of either space or time, but space/time is an illusion, the absolute is Śūnyatā, Emptiness, it is beyond all the human intellect categories. Therefore "Maha Nirvana" has nothing to do with death. Death is only applicable to body, form, sign, existence, impermenance, and it's viability depended on the Birth.


The newly bold are:

  • 無上大涅槃,圓明常寂照,
  • 凡愚謂之死,外道執為斷,
  • 諸求二乘人,目以為無作, ...

These are part of the lines of Buddhist Hymn (偈) given by Great Huineng, to summerize what he taught Chih-Tao. The purpose of Hymns is to let students easily memorize, thus it's always concise, poetic and rhythmic in nature, for at that time people used to learn by heart instead of using CPU for data and search engine!

It goes as:

  • The unsurpassed Maha Nirvana, Perfect and bright, in constant absolute splendor;
  • unenlightened laity said that is death {凡愚謂之死}, heretical stuck that is cessation;
  • those secondary practitioners, regarded it as non-Doing...

In simplicity, Great Huineng commented those laity (your "oridnary fools") said death is Nirvana, which is incorrect.  

  • thanks. a bit disappointed you didn't quote the statement about death and fools, it was the point the rest doesn't seem to be what the red pine translation is saying, i think you're right
    – user2512
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 11:04
  • @user3293056 u asked: "Are ordinary fools right to call "Maha Nirvana" death: is that an aspect of it?" i said: "Therefore "Maha Nirvana" has nothing to do with death." it's hard to define fool, not to say ordinary fool, neither death nor nirvana, thus i was playing smart by not answering it directly ;). or, i didn't really understand what intrigued u about the notion "death and fools"? maybe u could be more specific... Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 11:04
  • i saw you answered but you didn't quote, that's all i meant. why i asked the question is somewhat irrelevant, and maybe dumb, but i was wondering a) if death or the end is impossible and b) if that is entailed by maha nirvana
    – user2512
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 11:12
  • @user3293056 i was a bit rush thus bypassed ur quoted wordings about the "fools", i just added in the remark. to answer ur a) & b), "because of nirvana therefore death/ end is impossible" this analogy doesn't stand. death is, the body deceased, but "I" unharmed, this can be easily realized by doing a mind experiment: if my leg chopped off, is this still "I"? My eyes removed... my head cut... with all these the "I" is unscratched; if my eyes removed although i can't see but my category of seeing is unscratched... this is shown in Surangama Sutra about the undying "self" by the Buddha Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 12:02
  • agreed it is easy to show but really very very difficult to demonstrate. on your last sentence in your answer, isn't he saying these fools think that nirvana is death?
    – user2512
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 16:21

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