Talk:Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra

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merge[edit]

This article needs to be merged with Nirvana Sutra.--Carl 13:03, 28 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I took this passage out, because it does not make sense: "The original sutra had probably been expanded gradually by the time Dharmakṣema translated it, since the text that Faxian had first brought home from India was only a small work of six fascicles, while Dharmakṣema's later translation grew to forty fascicles." Considering that all three versions were translated at very nearly the same time, it is hard to see how it could have expanded gradually. - Nat Krause 16:41, 19 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Expert-talk[edit]

Ok, so I just put up 4 flags on this article. Sorry for dumping those, but I do have good reasons for them. First, I do want to apologize to TonyMPNS. It's aparent from the history that Tony has put a lot of time and thought into this article, and from his profile, I gather that he is also a real expert on the topic. Tony has provided this article with far more depth than a casual editor like myself could. That said, this article needs some work in a bad way.

Why prioritize this?

1) It's an article about a book of religious scripture. That means it has to be really tight. Cause it's religion... ya know. Right now it's really hard to read, there's a lot of clutter, and most of all there's huge parenthetical citations everywhere instead of proper Chicago-footnotes which would free up some whitespace.

2) I gather from his profile and his tone that Tony is a Buddhist. Cool, that's fine by me. But parts of this article definitely make value judgments and religious 'Truth' statements. Hey, everyone gets excited about their religion. However, that kind of subtle opinion-shaping really doesn't belong in a religious article. (eg. "...It is striking for its teachings on the eternal, unchanging, blissful, pure, inviolate and deathless "Self"" --Overview)

3) Similar to point 2, there's a whole lot of peacock language in this (eg. "voluptuous" is the first word used to describe the text in the overview). There's also some wierd placement of quotations which makes it seem like the article is peacock-izing, when really it's just some sources. So helping to condense the quotations and citations should help with some of this.

4) Here's the big reason I wanted to put some effort and thought into this: Most of the article was written by an expert in the field, who loves what he does and also participates in it as a worshipper. Half of the references are to books that Dr. Tony helped write. I didn't add a flag for self-reference though, because it seems like this is a case where he should be referencing himself, and for all I know there isn't much else out there on the topic. But that's the problem: I don't know anything about this topic. However, I do know a non-objective, poorly formatted opinion essay when I see one. I asked for an expert on this topic because it seems like Tony is too close to this article (I would be too after working on it since 2005!). I'd like to get someone else to review this, but it has to be someone who can separate the value-judgements from general accademic practice, and who can also say whether there need to be more sources, whether some of this are original research, or whether other opinions need to be represented in the article.

Anyway, I've said my piece. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Cuniformbobo (talkcontribs) 15:51, 26 July 2008 (UTC)

Excellent points all. It's difficult to write religious articles without injecting one's own views and passions into it, so although I too am a Buddhist, I feel it's important to stress neutral language and good writing in such articles. Unfortunately, obtaining second-views may be difficult as the Sutra is both huge (so few have read the whole thing), and translations are hard to come by. Anyone who has studied it is a rare person indeed. Still, it's impact on East Asian Buddhism is strong, so I really hope someone else will come along to help balance things out. --Ph0kin (talk) 10:19, 1 September 2008 (UTC)
Agree with Cuniformbobo. The text on the description of the story of the Sutra itself can be condensed a lot. I added some info on the general characteristic of the text to the introduction, with the references of course. Greetings, Sacca 14:28, 5 October 2008 (UTC)

needs merging[edit]

this doesn;t help!!! —Preceding unsigned comment added by 79.74.82.44 (talk) 15:04, 26 September 2007 (UTC)

This article needs to be merged with Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra.--Carl 13:03, 28 Nov 2004 (UTC)


possible confusion about No-Self/True-Self[edit]

I think the way No-Self/True-Self or the 'Selfhood' of the Buddha is mentioned here is very unskillfull. This is a central and delicate idea in Buddhism - the pointing out of the true reality of sentient beings - necessary to realize in order to attain awakening! This nature is beyond mundane concepts of existence/non-existence (see the four negations) and is described as 'poisonous' when not correctly 'digested' in this sutra! There is always the danger of grasping for concepts of nihilism or eternalism. The True-Self mentioned here is not really different to the No-Self of earlier sutras, it is only opposing extreme nihilistic interpretations of No-Self. Nirvana is not nothingness - it is the true nature, what beings really are, or it couldn't be final. The true reality of beings as opposed to the merely imputed reality can be called their True-Self, but it has to be distinguished clearly from other doctrines of a 'True-Self' that are just examples of that eternalism the Buddha has critisized. One must have *seen* Buddha-dhatu in order to really understand 'True-Self'! I think that clearly rules out intellectual ideas of a 'Self' found in other religions/philosophies.

Rainer Dickermann 218.248.65.66 05:29, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

  • Thanks for the comments. I can understand what you are getting at. But I think the article accurately communicates the idea that the True Self of the MPNS teachings is not the worldly five-skandha construct of ordinary beings, but is the eternal essence of the Buddha. Of course, that is non-ego (= not a worldly, changeful, suffering-filled "self"). And yes - it is poisonous, for example, not only to view the non-Self as Self - but also, according to this sutra, to view the Self as non-Self! Actually, the main thrust of concern in this sutra is with the realisation that the Buddha (who is the sole and only Self) is eternal, unshakeable and changeless. The "poison" which is referred to is understood by this sutra mainly to be the fallacious and heretical view that the Buddha/Nirvana is non-Self and impermanent. Anyway, I do understand what you are saying and I think you have a valid point - that it is not enough just to intellectualise about the Self, but that it must actually be seen and known, and this in an inner environment of moral purity. That's certainly true! All best wishes to you. From Tony.

Titles[edit]

Why give Chinese & Japanese but not Tibetan? Peter jackson 11:10, 21 September 2007 (UTC)

Translations[edit]

Is your translation, Tony, a revision of the 3-volume one by Japanese published many years ago? If not, it's realy biased of you to mention only your own. Articles on texts should list all translations, as I've tried to do in Dhammapada. Peter jackson 11:13, 21 September 2007 (UTC)

  • Thanks for your comments, Peter. Yes, my edition of the MPNS is a revision of Yamamoto's 1970s version. The problem is that the original Yamamoto translation is no longer available - it is long out of print, and in fact at the time of its publication only a small print-run was decided upon. But I will add mention of that original edition to the list of versions in English. My edition of the Yamamoto was authorised by the Japanese publishers and by Yamamoto's son, and has their full support and approval. Best wishes. From Tony. TonyMPNS 11:43, 21 September 2007 (UTC)

Uncited information from the main page moved: editors, please cite appropriately and replace on the main page[edit]

Overview[edit]

The Mahaparinirvana Sutra is a voluminous and major Mahayana scripture which purports to enshrine the Buddha's "final explanation" of his Doctrine, an explanation characterised by "exhaustive thoroughness" and allegedly delivered on the last day and night before his parinirvana. The Buddha in this sutra declares that this scripture is "peerless" and the "all-fulfilling conclusion" of authentic Dharma (verbalised Truth), and that "all the various secret gates to Dharma, the words of implicit meaning uttered by the tathagatas [Buddhas] are gathered up in this Mahaparinirvana". It is in this sutra, the Buddha states, that he will impart to his followers the "intended gist" of his teachings. It is proclaimed by the Buddha as "unique, perfect, pure .... the most excellent, the foremost of all sutras". So powerful is this scripture deemed to be that the very hearing of its name is said by the Buddha to bring happiness, and it is claimed that merely by listening to it, most people will lay the causal foundations for later Awakening (bodhi).

The scripture further presents itself as providing the correct understanding of earlier Buddhist teachings, such as those on non-Self and Emptiness: "non-Self" in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra refers to the impermanent, mundane, skandha-constructed ego, whose seeming reality is called by the Buddha "a lie" (in contrast to the true supramundane Selfhood of the Buddha), while "Emptiness" is explicated as meaning empty of that which is compounded, painful, and impermanent. The Buddha, in the Fa-xian version of the text, points out that worldly beings who misapprehend the authentic Buddhist Doctrine "... have the notion that there is no Self, and are unable to know the True Self." This True Self, of course, is not the suffering-generating and limited clinging ego - not the conditioned and transitory "self" which unawakened persons clutch at as their identity - but the Self-which-signifies-Buddha: all-knowing and all-pure Ultimate Reality, unconstrained by the limitations and illusions of samsara.

The Nirvana Sutra is an enormously important scripture, not least because of its influence on Zen Buddhism and in view of its traditional status as the final Mahayana pronouncements of the Buddha on the eve of his physical death. It is striking for its teachings on the eternal, unchanging, blissful, pure, inviolate and deathless "Self" of the Buddha. Here the sutra controverts the familiar Buddhist dictum that "all dharmas [phenomena] are non-Self", and in the Dharmakshema version the Buddha even declares that "in truth there is Self (Atman) in all dharmas". That Self is "indestructible like a diamond". Any idea that the Buddha (who is the immortal Self) is impermanent is vigorously rejected by the Buddha in this sutra, and those who teach otherwise are severely criticised. He insists: "Those who cannot accept that the Tathāgata is eternal [nitya] cause misery." In contrast, meditating upon the eternality of the Buddha is said to bring happiness and protection from rebirth in evil realms. The eternal being of the Buddha should be likened - the sutra says - to indelible letters carved upon stone. Furthermore, protecting and promoting this teaching of the Buddha's eternity is said to bring innumerable and inconceivable blessings to its votaries.

Much of the central focus of the Nirvana Sutra falls on the existence of the salvific Buddha-dhatu (Buddha-nature, Buddha element, or Buddha principle), also called the Tathagatagarbha ("Buddha-matrix" or "Buddha embryo"), in every sentient being (animals included - hence the Buddha's strong support for vegetarianism in this sutra), the full seeing of which ushers in Liberation from all suffering and effects final deliverance into the realm of Great Nirvana (maha-nirvana). This "True Self" or "Great Self" of the nirvanic realm is said to be sovereign, to be attained on the morning of Buddhahhood, and to pervade all places like space. The Buddha-dhatu is always present, in all times and in all beings, but is obscured from worldly vision by the screening effect of tenacious negative mental afflictions (kleshas) within each being (the most notable of which are greed, hatred, delusion, and pride). Once these negative mental states have been eliminated, however, the Buddha-dhatu is said to shine forth unimpededly and the Buddha-sphere (Buddha-dhatu/ visaya) can then be consciously "entered into", and therewith deathless Nirvana attained.

The Tathagatagarbha is presented by the Nirvana Sutra as a wholly positive, liberational power, and is stated by the Buddha, in the earliest extant version of the sutra (the "six fascicle text" of Fa-xian, q.v.), to "nurture/sustain the person". It is further called "true life" (true "jiva"), and said to be utterly invulnerable to all harm. It is likened to a "precious jewel" and is described as being "indestructible like a diamond" - the hardest substance known to mankind.

The highest form of NirvanaMahaparinirvana — is also discussed in very positive, "cataphatic" terms in the Nirvana Sutra. Mahaparinirvana is characterized as being that which is "Eternal (nitya), Blissful (sukha), the Self (atman) and Pure (subha)". This state or sphere (visaya) of ultimate awareness and Knowing (jnana), however, is said to be accessible only to those who have become fully awakened Buddhas. Even 10th-level Bodhisattvas (i.e. the very highest level of Bodhisattva) are not able clearly to perceive the Buddha-dhatu, and they further fail to see with clarity that the immutable, unfabricated Dhatu dwells indestructibly within all beings. The longer versions of the Nirvana Sutra additionally give expession to the new claim (not found in the shorter Chinese and Tibetan versions) that, because of the Buddha-dhatu (Buddha-principle/ Buddha-nature), absolutely all beings without exception, even icchantikas (the most incorrigible and spiritually base of beings), will eventually attain Liberation and become Buddhas. This is because all beings without exception are transitory manifestations of the Buddha Nature, and when beings arrive at their end, as they eventually must, their real nature, the Buddha Nature, is revealed as it always has been and always will be: unchanging and indestructible.

Some scholars detect Brahmanist or Hindu influence upon this scripture, but the text itself is at pains to distance itself from all such (from its own point of view) "heterodox" teachings and asserts itself to be quintessentially Buddhist.


Quotations from the Nirvana Sutra[edit]

The Buddha on his eternal and blissful ultimate nature as he stands on the brink of physical death:

" ... if you perceive things truly, you will become free from attachment, separated from them, you will indeed be liberated. I have well crossed the watery waste of existence. I abide in bliss, having transcended suffering, therefore I am devoid of unending desire, I have eliminated attachment and gained Liberation [moksha]. There is no old age, sickness or death for me, my life is forever without end. I proceed burning bright like a flame. You must not think that I shall cease to exist. Consider the Tathagata [i.e. Buddha] to be like [Mount] Sumeru: though I shall pass into Nirvana here [i.e. physically die], that supreme bliss is my true nature [dharmata]." (Tibetan version)

"The Buddha-Tathagatas are not eternally extinguished in Nirvana like the heat of an iron ball that is quickly extinguished when cast into water. Moreover, it is thus: just as the heat of an iron ball is extinguished when thrown into water, the Tathagata is likewise; when the immeasurable mental afflictions have been extinguished, it is similar to when an iron ball is cast into water - although the heat is extinguished, the substance / nature of the iron remains. In that way, when the Tathagata has completely extinguished the fire of the mental afflictions that have been accumulated over countless aeons, the nature of the diamond Tathagata permanently endures - not transforming and not diminishing." (Fa-xian version)

On his teaching of "non-Self" (the "worldly self", which ultimately does not exist eternally, but obscures the True Self) and the tathagata-garbha:

"When I have taught non-Self, fools uphold the teaching that there is no Self. The wise know that such is conventional speech, and they are free from doubts.

"When I have taught that the tathagata-garbha is empty, fools meditatively cultivate [the notion] that it is extinction [uccheda], subject to destruction and imperfect. The wise know that it is [actually] unchanging, stable and eternal."

" ... just as cow's milk is delicious, so too is the taste of this [Nirvana] Sutra similar to that. Those who abandon the teaching given in this sutra concerning the tathagata-garbha are just like cattle. For example, just as people who intend to commit suicide will cause themselves extreme misery, similarly you should know that those ungrateful people who reject the tathagata-garbha and teach non-Self cause themselves extreme misery." (Tibetan version)

"And, also, the wise person clearly thinks: "For what reason do beings speak about the Self? Why is it that beings speak about the Self? If this Self exists, it must be [either] one or many. If it is one, how can there be such as Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Sudras, humans and gods, hell, hungry ghosts, animals, or big and small, or old age or the prime of life? For this reason, I know that the Self is not one. If the Self is many, how can we say that the Self of the being is one and all-pervading, knowing no bounds? Be it one or many, in either case, there is no Self."

In contrast to the illusory, conditioned, worldly self, the Self of the Buddha is real and enduring: "The Tathagata's Body is not causally conditioned. Because it is not causally conditioned, it is said to have the Self; if it has the Self, then it is also Eternal, Blissful and Pure." (Dharmakshema).

"The Tathagata also teaches, for the sake of all beings, that, truly, there is the Self in all phenomena." (Dharmakshema).

On Nirvana:

"Noble son, there is 'Nirvana', but that is not Maha-nirvana [i.e. Great Nirvana]. Why is Nirvana not Maha-nirvana? The elimination of the mental afflictions [kleshas] without having seen the Buddha-dhatu [Buddha-principle, Buddha-nature] is called 'Nirvana' and not Maha-nirvana. Thus, because [= when] a person has not seen the Buddha-dhatu, there is [for that person] no eternity nor Self, although there is bliss and utter purity. Hence, even though the mental afflictions have been eliminated, it should not be called 'Maha-nirvana'. When one has seen the Buddha-dhatu and eliminated the mental afflictions, that is called 'Maha-parinirvana'. Because of having seen the Buddha-dhatu [i.e. the dharmakaya or dhammakaya], it is said to be Eternal, the Self, Blissful and utterly Pure, and therefore that elimination of the mental afflictions is said to be Maha-parinirvana." (Dharmaksema version)

"It is not the case that the inherent nature of Nirvana did not primordially exist, but now exists. If the inherent nature of Nirvana did not primordially exist, but does now exist, then it would not be free from taints, nor would it be eternally [nitya] present in nature ... [Nirvana] is primordially existent and does not just come into existence in the present. Because of the obscuring darkness of the mental afflictions, beings do not see it. The Tathagata, endowed with omniscient awareness [sarvajna-jnana], lights the lamp of insight with his skill-in-means and causes bodhisattvas to perceive the Eternal, the Bliss, the Self and the Purity of Nirvana." (Dharmaksema version) (Translations based on Stephen Hodge).

Textual history[edit]

The text contained in the Faxian and Tibetan translations is roughly equivalent to just the first quarter of the greatly expanded Dharmaksema version. Given that all known Sanskrit fragments correspond solely to material found in the Faxian and Tibetan versions, and the corresponding part of Dharmaksema, it is generally accepted that this portion of the text was compiled in India, possibly, as the text itself hints, somewhere in southern India, before it was transferred to Kashmir. The additional material in the long Dharmaksema version would seem to be of Central Asian origin.

Shimoda argues that the main theme of this core text was the permanence and transcendence of the Buddha and that the treatment was strongly Mahāsanghika in its "theology". At this stage of the textual history, the living eternal presence of the Buddha in the great caityas would have been the main concept. The prevalence of this kind of thinking is corroborated by several of Gregory Schopen's essays dealing with the belief that the Buddha was still present as a living force in the caityas containing the remains of his body. The key technical term in this portion of the text is buddha-dhātu. This term is difficult to translate because it has several ranges of connotation, all of which are implied by the use of the term in the text. Apart from the spiritual dhātu or nature of an embodied Buddha, dhātu also refers to the relics enshrined in the caityas. Because these dhātus are enclosed in the caityas, this makes them alive with the Buddha: he is considered to be still present in a real sense. This is what made pilgrimages to caityas so important, to the extent that many people, including possibly the followers of the Nirvana Sutra at this stage of the text, wanted to pass into nirvāna in the presence of the Buddha dwelling there. Contrary to earlier scholarly understandings of Buddhism, this seems to have been a very widespread idea and wish. The presence of the Buddha is also dealt with in other ways in early Mahāyāna texts, but the overall concern is the same: how to enter into the presence of the Buddha for the salvific benefits this would offer. Hence the Sukhāvatī-vyūha Sūtras and other Pure Land texts, and the Pratyutpanna Sūtra also deal with the means to achieve this.

A close reading of its text leads scholars to argue that the people who promulgated the Nirvana Sutra, at least at this early stage of its composition, were neither monks nor laymen, but a previously unremarked group of Buddhist practitioners, who called themselves ācāryas (teaching masters). Their role is clearer in what are believed to be the earlier portions of the Faxian version, though they had already begun to be written out of the frame by the time of the second phase that comprises the remaining chapters of the Faxian and Tibetan versions. From the account given in the text, it seems that these people did not live sedentary monastic lives, but travelled as preachers (dharma-bhānika) and pilgrims. They followed a kind of Vinaya, but one based on the sūtras rather than one of the conventional Vinayas used in the monasteries. Thus, they could perhaps be linked with the forest-dweller tradition, given that they held themselves aloof from the monasteries and did not engage in the type of criticism of the lax monastic life-style that is characteristic of the later layers of the text. Importantly, it seems from the Nirvana Sutra that these ācāryas also came to see themselves as bodhisattvas, which might challenge the popular idea that Mahāyāna had its origins as a lay movement.

The second textual phase, which can actually be further sub-divided, suggests important changes in the Nirvana Sutra movement. The proponents increasing became sedentary, though some degree of wanderering still seems to have occurred. However, this shift to a sedentary life-style had immediate repercussions which can be seen in this part of the text. Sociologically, there are vehement criticisms of lax, corrupt and venal monks who alter the Vinaya to suit their life-style. The kind of things being criticized seem to correspond in large measure to exactly the accommodating changes that the Mūla-sarvāstivādins made to their Vinaya. In contrast, the Nirvana Sutra shows some connections with the Mahāsanghika Vinaya, though these connections may well be the result of convergent development. That is, the early exponents of the Nirvana Sutra were not necessarily Mahāsanghikas themselves, but may have become affiliated with them.

It is at this phase of textual development that the concept of icchantikas makes its appearance. This term was first used to denote the many worldly monks leading settled lives. It was then extended and worsened in its connotations to include those who have destroyed any chance of liberation in themselves. The later idea that they somehow become freed by divine intervention or otherwise is not found in the earlier portions of the Nirvana Sutra, which on the contrary suggests that eventually all beings who can be saved by any means will be saved by the Buddhas, who will then cease to appear in the universe for all eternity. This view was apparently modified in slightly different ways both in China and Tibet, but in a manner that give icchantikas some hope of eventual liberation.

It is also at this stage of development that the Tathāgatagarbha concept makes its appearance in the Nirvana Sutra. As in the case of buddha-dhātu, this term also appears to have strong links to the caitya veneration, for as a technical term, a garbha can either be the enshrined contents of the caitya or the caitya itself. Glossing tathāgatagarbha as a bahuvrhi compound, the caitya is a tathāgata-container. This interpretation underlies the position of the Tathāgata-garbha-sūtra with respect to living beings: they all contain the, or perhaps a, Tathāgata. The other interpretation of the term, as a tat-purusha compound, is that the tathāgatagarbha is the enshrined content of the caitya . The Nirvana Sutra adopts this interpretation as its viewpoint, that beings are embryonic Tathāgatas by virtue of the pervasiveness of the buddha-dhātu. This therefore became the central message of the Nirvana Sutra, that all beings are potential Tathāgatas by virtue of buddha-dhātu or tathāgatagarbha.

Overview[edit]

I notice that somebody has added a reference to an opinion by Williams ~ "It refers to the Buddha using the term "Self" in order to win over non-Buddhist ascetics". Actually this statement is palpably untrue ~ no such thing or hint of such is found in the Mahaparinirvana-sutra. Williams is unsound in this respect.-- अनाम गुमनाम 00:14, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

Do you have a reliable, necessarily secondary source contradicting him? If not, why do you think that your post is relevant? Mitsube (talk) 00:19, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
This is so surreal. You think a scholar's opinions carry more weight than the primary source ? Give us a break ! Find me a passage in the text that corroborates the statement that the "Buddha uses the term "Self" in order to win over non-Buddhist ascetics~ there is none and therefore Williams is unreliable in this respect. Williams is not known to be a specialist on this text.-- अनाम गुमनाम 00:47, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
I think the scholar's statements carry weight according to wikipedia rules for sourcing, and yours do not. If you do not like this then you are not required to participate. Mitsube (talk) 01:03, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Not if they are inaccurate or unreliable. Look, why don't you just take some time out and read the text of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana-sutra for your own education. I'm not talking about Wiki rules here, but just your own obvious lack of knowledge -- a fact, not an insult. If you cannot take that on board, then I'm afraid you will never learn anything of value. Were you to read the primary sources as I have done for almost the entire Mahayana corpus over the years, you will know when some scholars have got it wrong some of the time. I was a professional Buddhologist until recent retirement and I really do know what I am talking about, so have a little respect and try and learn something for a change.-- अनाम गुमनाम 01:15, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
As I have repeatedly told you, your descriptions of your off-wiki life do not interest me, and they are irrelevant. Regarding your suggestion, I have read enough treatments of the text in secondary literature to know it for what it is. Mitsube (talk) 01:42, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
How sad. Really the joke is on you. Do you know the story about Idries Shah and the man he met on holiday in Crete ? He was chatting to another guest for while, when that guest got up and said rather curtly that he couldn't waste any more time chatting as he had better things to do, like reading the latest book by Idries Shah. Hadn't it occurred to you that I might be the author of several of the books or articles that you and others use for your references ? I will say no more as I would rather remain anonymous.-- अनाम गुमनाम 02:00, 17 February 2009 (UTC)
Also, you might like to know that you are possibly wasting your time editing this article in the long-term. You may not be aware of this, but there are at least two major new studies and translations of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Mahasutra (Blum and Hodge) due out in a couple of years or so. There is also a new international research group based at Stanford University that has been formed with first-rate scholars that even you will not quibble with ~ their findings will probably invalidate much of this article, even the bits not edited by you. That's why I haven't bothered to wade in ~ don't like to be left with egg on my face.-- अनाम गुमनाम 02:09, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

The reference should stay. Mitsube's point is valid. it matters what scholars think about this sutra. bye Greetings, Sacca 08:14, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

Disputed Facts[edit]

The "facts" that are attributed by Williams are inaccurate:

1. "Although the Nirvana Sutra, mentions some of the well-known episodes in the final months of the life of the Buddha" This is not true, as I have mentioned previously. The events, such as they are, in the Nirvana-sutra are depicted as taking place on the last morning of the Buddha's life. That's what the text says in the first paragraph. If you think there are other events from the final months of the Buddha's life, please cite them.

2. "The sutra uses these narratives merely as a convenient springboard for the expression of standard Mahayana ideals" This is also untrue. Apart from the fact that there are no "narratives" in this text, the whole point of the sutra is that it does NOT express "standard" Mahayana ideals. Please cite some examples.

3. "Both in style and in content, the Nirvana Sutra displays a disregard for historic particulars and a fascination with the supernatural and the ideals which characterize Mahayana writings in general" This is also inaccurate. There is no special "fascination" with the supernatural in this text, nor does it have a noteworthy fascination with typical Mahayana ideals. Cite me some examples if you think there are.

I also find that the Williams' source cited -- by User Mitsube ? -- is in fact a multi-volume collection of papers edited by Williams. I suggest that the volume number concerned, the author (if other than Williams) and the title of the paper quoted also be cited.

My clarification of the reason why scholars do not use the Nirvana Sutra is entirely valid and assists readers understand the issue. That bit will go back. -- अनाम गुमनाम 00:15, 29 March 2009 (UTC)

Verifiability, not truth. Mitsube (talk) 04:21, 29 March 2009 (UTC)

Williams not a specialist scholar[edit]

I'll leave your deletion for the time being, but I think we owe it to the unsuspecting reader to know that Williams, quoted several times here, is not known as a scholar who has published papers or books on this text. He is therefore not a very reliable source since he is relying on unspecified secondary sources. If you want a citation about this, I'll attach a bibliography of published works by Williams and by the other scholars when I restore my edit. Then readers can make up their own minds about the worth of his comments. I am sure you can have no objections to that. -- अनाम गुमनाम 00:15, 29 March 2009 (UTC)

Fake reference ?[edit]

I have removed this segment (below) [with material arising from the original assertion] originally inserted by User Sacca because the reference given is spurious. The reference given is "Buddhism ~ Critical Concepts in Religious Studies" is actually the title of an 8 volume collection of papers by various scholars, edited by Paul Williams. The reference given here to p190 is not very helpful as it neither specifes the volume nor gives the actual name of the paper and its author. However, today I was able to check the page 190 in each of the 8 volumes and can find nothing remotely resembling the content of this segment. Unless there has been a genuine mistake, I believe User Sacca (Pāli sacca = "truth" !!) has tried to concoct a fake reference to push his/her usual anti-Mahayana line. I shall now be gradually checking all other references to Williams' Critical Concepts supplied by User Sacca to see if there is a pattern here of deception.-- अनाम गुमनाम 23:14, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

Although the Nirvana Sutra, mentions some of the well-known episodes in the final months of the life of the Buddha, the sutra uses these narratives merely as a convenient springboard for the expression of standard Mahayana ideals[1]. Both in style and in content, the Nirvana Sutra displays a disregard for historic particulars and a fascination with the supernatural and the ideals which characterize Mahayana writings in general[1]. Though not a specialist on this text[2], Paul Williams opines that as Mahayana sutra, it is of rather late date (after the second century CE)[1].

Regarding "Scholars specializing in this text believe that the compilation of the core portion (corresponding to the Faxian and Tibetan translations) must have occurred at a relatively early date", who says that second century CE is relatively early? Even for Mahayana sutras, it is not. Mitsube (talk) 01:23, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

According, among others, to Masahiro Shimoda and Wang Fengwei, working independently, there were three earlier, but now lost, translations of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana-sutra, attributed by Dao Zhu, Seng You and Fei Fangchang in their catalogues to Zhi Qian (222 onwards), Dharmabhadra (An Faxian) [precise dates not known, but active between Zhi Qian and Dharmarakṣa], Dharmarakṣa (266 onwards) respectively. It is also generally accepted that there was a time-lag of 100+ years for a text to have made its way from India to China ~ eg the Lotus Sutra was first translated by Dharmarakṣa c270CE, but is thought to have been composed in India at least prior to the 1st century CE ~ Sheishi Karashima (the foremost Japanese scholar on the Lotus Sutra) thinks it is even earlier. So we have a focal date of around 120 CE for the availability of the core portion of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana-sutra ~ but, of course, it could possibly be even earlier in origin. According to the periodization of Mahayana proposed by Hirakawa and others, c120CE is well within the Early Mahayana period. [See Florin Deleanu, "A Preliminary Study on Meditation & the Beginnings of Mahayana Buddhism", ARIRIAB 3, March 2000, pp65-113, esp p66 ~ "We need to clarify our historical and textual background. "Early Mahayana" refers to the period between 1st century BCE and the 5th century CE. Following Shizutani and Nakamura, I also use the term proto-Mahayana, roughly covering the age between 100 BCE and 100 CE, to describe the transitional and incipient stage of the movement". I would say that 5th century CE is a bit late for "early", but even the 2nd century is well-within the accepted use of "Early Mahayana". You need to read more ~ Google Books is probably not the best source of information for current scholarship.-- अनाम गुमनाम 22:53, 17 April 2009 (UTC)
References
  1. ^ a b c Buddhism: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies, Paul Williams, Published by Taylor & Francis, 2005. page 190
  2. ^ "Most of my work has been on Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophy, a school of Buddhism which developed in India probably initially during the first century C.E. and had a wide influence on Buddhist thought throughout India, Tibet and East Asia. In particular this tradition was often taken in Tibet as the final philosophical position of Buddhism, and it has been studied as such by Tibetans to the present day. I have also worked on the Tibetan assimilation and scholastic extension of Madhyamaka ideas, notably the complex understanding developed by a sub-school known as Prasangika Madhyamaka. More recently I have become particularly interested in medieval Western philosophical and mystical theology." Retrieved 29/03/09 at 00:31 from Paul Williams' Home Page at Bristol University http://www.bristol.ac.uk/thrs/contact/pw.html.
Restored it, see talkage of Mahayana Sutras also for more info. Anam Gumnam didn;t check the reference well or not at all??? Greetings, Sacca 12:09, 17 April 2009 (UTC)
Fine ~ but please avoid this kind of confusion by giving a proper reference ~ see Mahayana Sutras Tak page for more.-- अनाम गुमनाम 22:55, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

Conflict of Interest[edit]

It appear that Tony Page (or his associates) is promoting his book and his Tathagatagarbha Buddhism. This appear to be in violation of Wikipedia Guideline "Conflict of interest"[1]. I also can't find some of the book cited so even if such book exist (in another language, may be), it has no verifiability. Another thing I remember is that Stephen Hodge and TonyPage are acquaintance. Has the issue of Self Promotion being discussed here. Vapour (talk) 21:01, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

Merge Problem[edit]

I notice that as a result of this recent undiscussed, unilateral merge, that the entire Page History for "Nirvana Sutra" has been lost. This data is important to know who did what and when ~ or is this a form of suppresive censorship ? -- अनाम गुमनाम 23:56, 13 June 2009 (UTC)

Feel free to restore the history. I don't think anyone will object. Personally, i don't like the fact that Pali nibbana sutta is forked out. Vapour (talk) 20:17, 14 June 2009 (UTC)
I haven't got a clue how to transfer the Page History. I think the person who did the merge should tie up the loose ends ~ unless that is done, it might be better to un-merge the articles, which is something I can do.-- अनाम गुमनाम 23:15, 14 June 2009 (UTC).
I will ask an admin. Mitsube (talk) 01:31, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

Has CIO of TonyPage discussed in that lost talk page? Vapour (talk)

I believe I read some old discussion, posted before I subscribed to Wiki, which clarified that CIO problem in the Talk Page. The upshot was that Page did not quote any of his own work, just an copy-edited version of Yamamoto's translation authorized by the Yamamoto family. Also I think you will find that Page does not contribute to Wiki any more ~ if a rumor I heard that he is no longer in the land of the living is true, then that would be difficult anyway.-- अनाम गुमनाम 20:39, 22 June 2009 (UTC)
I will get on this soon, sorry for the delay. Mitsube (talk) 22:29, 22 June 2009 (UTC)
Oh dear. Vapour (talk)

Expert January 2012[edit]

  • It is unclear what "Mahaparinirvana Sutra, op.cit." is referencing. The scripture itself or a commentary on it?
  • "Chen 1993 p103-5" No title is given. Maybe typo of author (Wang) or date (2004)
  • "Chen" No date or title. Two "Chen" '​s previously cited.

a_morris (talk) 23:16, 22 January 2012 (UTC)

It's - well, not exactly hopeless, but anyone who likes to puzzle might have have some good fun on those references... Joshua Jonathan (talk) 19:57, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
  • I believe that references such as 'Mahaparinirvana Sutra, op. cit.' relate to the Kosho Yamamoto/ Dr. Tony Page 12-volume English translation of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. I seem to remember that a few years ago those citations were clear and in a logical order, but someone subsequently dislocated them. That is why, of course, it is not a good idea on Wikipedia to use terms such as 'ibid, op. cit', etc., as over a period of changeful time they can easily lead to confusion. Regards - Suddha (talk) 02:43, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the input. a_morris (talk) 01:33, 2 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Thank you, A morris, for your thanks! Best wishes from Suddha (talk) 03:18, 3 February 2012 (UTC)

Versions[edit]

Greetings! I was wondering about the following caption at the Versions -section:

There are three extant versions of the Mahāyāna-mahāparinirvāna-sūtra, each translated from various Sanskrit editions: the shortest and earliest is the translation into Chinese by Faxian and Buddhabhadra in six juan (418CE), the next in terms of development is the Tibetan version (c790CE) by Jinamitra, Jnanagarbha, and Devacandra, and the extended version in 40 juan by Dharmakshema (421-430) which was also translated into Tibetan from the Chinese.

Let me see if I got this right: the 1st one 418, the 2nd one 970, but the 3rd one 421-430. How come the 3rd one can be earlier than the second one? I know, the source says it exactly like that. Could someone else please take a look at this and the source as well? Maybe I am just missing/confusing something. Cheers! Jayaguru-Shishya (talk) 19:56, 12 June 2014 (UTC)

Yes, it might be confusing (According to Hodge: "the next in terms of development [!] is the Tibetan version c790CE"). Removing the quote and integrating the information into the text might be an option to achieve more clarity.
I think there is too much repetition in the "Versions" section. JimRenge (talk) 09:10, 13 June 2014 (UTC)

===Mahaparinirvana===[edit]

Hi again. I also made a remark on this one:

Even 10th-level Bodhisattvas (i.e. the very highest level of Bodhisattva) are not able clearly to perceive the Buddha-dhatu, and they further fail to see with clarity that the immutable, unfabricated Dhatu dwells indestructibly within all beings [15]:{{{1}}}

Is that last superscript/reference ({{{1}}}) really right? I mean, if you take a look at the section, you'll find it appearing exactly like that. I'd fix that if I knew where one is trying to refer with that =P Thanks! Jayaguru-Shishya (talk) 20:02, 12 June 2014 (UTC)

Contextualisation[edit]

This contextualisation, of the Nirvana Sutra being an eschatological text, was seriously lacking. It also puts this sentence into perspective:

"Essentially the Buddha asks his audience to accept the existence of buddha-nature [tathagatagarbha] on faith"

Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 19:32, 21 July 2014 (UTC)

And also the classification of non-believers as Icchantikas. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 19:42, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
There is hope for the Icchantika in the later chapters of the MPNS. They are endowed with buddha nature and will definitely gain Nirvana  :). Quotes from the MPNS in: Liu, Ming-Wood (1984). The Problem of the Icchantica in the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 7 (1), pp. 71-72.
JimRenge (talk) 20:34, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
So, there's hope, even for me! Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 07:41, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
See also: Tao Sheng. JimRenge (talk) 08:21, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
It's nice to see how doctrines develop. Compare it woth the Jesus-sayings in the New testament: from hopeful to Doomsday, when the early Christian communities feeled more and more threatened. And then, still, there-after, new perspectives. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 11:17, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

Tony Page's translation[edit]

Copied from User talk:Joshua Jonathan#What is this?
What is this? So if I disagree with a scholar, I can just edit and revise their translation?VictoriaGrayson (talk) 18:12, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

At first thought: no. You'll have to use WP:RS, as usually - though I suspect your scholarly background is more than sufficient. But have a look at this, page 2: "...the sadly unreliable, though pioneering, attempt by Dr. Kosho Yamamoto (1973-75)". If you realize that, throughout several Wiki-articles, the "info" on the doctrinal statements of the MPNS is based on the apparently personal interpretations by one editor of the English translation of Yamamoto's translation - well... not so well. I'm sorry, though, for this editor, and I'd like to ask you to reckon with the personal commitment of this editor. He's really a nice guy. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 18:47, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
What I meant is that Tony Page revised Yamamoto's translation. And that Tony Page has no Buddhist qualifications. We should not be using Tony Page's translation. VictoriaGrayson (talk) 18:55, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
Yes, he did. And that's bothering me too; he's got a 'faith-based' and quite literal interpretation of "Buddha-nature", and seems to be unaware of the need of hermeneutics and contextualisation. I'm afraid you're correct here... Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 18:59, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
We should use scholarly sources.VictoriaGrayson (talk) 19:01, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

Copied from User talk:VictoriaGrayson#Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra
Greetings! I hope you don't mind that I reverted your removal of sources at Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, I was actually thinking if we could discuss about that first at the Talk Page? =P I agree that Tony Page isn't a Buddhist scholar, he is merely made some English translations of the scriptures. When it comes to translations even, I don't think one should be a Buddhist scholar to qualify. Similarly we are using Philip Kapleau's Three pillars of Zen as a source for Zen Buddhism even he was a mere practicant without any academic qualifications in the subject. Cheers! :) Jayaguru-Shishya (talk) 18:41, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

Continuation at this talkpage
It seems we've got a major issue here. I'm afraid VictoriaGrayson is correct, but I'm also afraid this will be painful for the one editor who made all the efforts on this article. I'd like to ask for other opinions as well, from reputable Wiki-editors. @Tengu800, JimRenge: could you give your opinion please? Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 19:05, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

I agree that I am correct:) By the way, I noticed that nearly all the longterm Buddhist Wikipedia editors enforce their own incorrect personal views, hence the bad shape of the Buddhist pages.VictoriaGrayson (talk) 19:32, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
I agree that I am correct:) Hohoho! =] Jayaguru-Shishya (talk) 19:39, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
How very curious, I wasn't quite aware of those things I must admit. :O Maybe we can replace the Tony Page ones with Yamamoto's original ones (I was just replying to VictoriaGray's old post before he changed it, lol[2])? I was wondering if it was easier to just remove everything like VictoriaGrayson did, or restore all that and tag it with {{unreliable sources}} templates so it'd be easier to make the replacements? :P
A tiny little comment about translations and scholarship in general: when it comes to pure translations (no personal POVs included), does one have to be a scholar of the peculiar field in order to be reliable? I mean, wouldn't a linguist of the languages at hand would be more adequate? For example, if one wants to translate a Hindi article about nuclear physics to German language, wouldn't it be more credible for the translation that it is actually carried out by a German/Hindi speaking expert on Hindi/German language rather than a Ph.D. on nuclear physics? =P Jayaguru-Shishya (talk) 19:41, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
Not to step on anyone's toes by jumping in but the reason a Buddhist scholar would be more desirable than a linguist is that it isn't a simple word-to-word translation that is required. If the translator doesn't understand the base concepts of the work being translated then the core message becomes garbled and/or lost completely. Helpsome (talk) 20:57, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Yes, VictoriaGrayson is correct, the revised English version of the MPNS appears to be self-published (London: Nirvana Publications), WP:SPS. I propose to avoid quotes from the MPNS (primary source) without referring to secondary sources that critically analyze them and present them in context. JimRenge (talk) 21:16, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

That goes for all translations, I guess? I agree. I'm reading Ming-Wood Liu's The Doctrine of the Buddha-Nature in the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana-Sutra now. Interesting read. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 05:57, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
Yamamoto isn't reliable, according to Stephen Hodge. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 06:14, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
Then remove Yamamoto too.VictoriaGrayson (talk) 06:48, 23 July 2014 (UTC)

Yes Joshua, this includes all translations (and all sutras). According to Stephen Hodge, Yamamotos translation is not reliable, the review of de Jong might provide a second opinion but I don`t have access to this article: de Jong (1976). Review of the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, translated by Kosho Yamamoto, Eastern Buddhist 9 (2), 134-136. JimRenge (talk) 09:42, 23 July 2014 (UTC)

This one's intersting too:
"specialist scholars accept that this latter portion of the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra translated by Dharmakṣema has no value for the history of the tathāgata-garbha concept and related doctrines during their development in India."
Even more reason to be very careful with citation, let alone drawing conclusions. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 14:32, 23 July 2014 (UTC)

Well, there are a few different versions of the Nirvana Sutra as well as several different English translations. From their website, we can see:

The English text of the sutra mainly cited for reference throughout this study is the specially commissioned English translation by Stephen Hodge of the Tibetan version of the scripture, as well as that same scholar's occasional forays into the Faxian and the Dharmakshema "Northern" versions of the scripture. The website also contains the Dharmakshema "Southern" version of the sutra, The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, as translated into English by Kosho Yamamoto and edited and revised by Dr. Tony Page (Nirvana Publications, London, 1999-2000).

Apparently Page commissioned Stephen Hodge to translate the Tibetan version of the sutra, and that translation I would expect to be quite reliable (being done by a scholar, and largely representing the text as it existed in India). Unfortunately, I don't quite see the translation by Hodge anywhere, and I don't know if it has been published yet. Tengu800 16:14, 23 July 2014 (UTC)

Discussion continues[edit]

Greetings! I was just studying Tony Page's website, and I find there the following reply to critics concerning his scholarly authority:

His book, Buddhism and Animals, has featured on the list of recommended books for Buddhist study at the University of Toronto, and he has been invited to international symposia on the tathagatagarbha doctrine and asked to lecture on the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and Buddhism more than once at the University of London (SOAS). Moreover, the Oxford scholar and Tibetan Buddhist lama, Dr. Shenpen Hookham, has publicly called Dr. Page "a creditable Buddhist scholar" in her Preface to Buddhism and Animals and has spoken of his keen scholarship in connection with his German translation of the Tibetan Nirvana Sutra. Equally significantly, Professor Paul Williams - an international authority on Mahayana Buddhism - wrote a Foreword in support of Dr. Page's book, Buddhism and Animals, and in the 2009 edition of Williams' own acclaimed book, Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, Professor Williams promotes the present 'Nirvana Sutra' website as a reference resource for those interested in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. Furthermore, Tony Page worked in close collaboration with the highly respected Nirvana Sutra expert, Stephen Hodge, on the ideas contained in the Nirvana Sutra for many years.

If not scholarship, he seems to have a lot of credentials though. Jayaguru-Shishya (talk) 13:04, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

You should also have a look at Tony Page, response to critics. After that, read his Affirmation of Eternal Self in the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, and compare it to the information I've added on the origins of the MPS; information with which Tony is familiair, but choose not to use in this article, just like it wasn't used in this WP-article before. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 15:26, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
Thanks mate! I'll have a look =P Cheers and peace! Jayaguru-Shishya (talk) 17:40, 25 July 2014 (UTC)
The following quote, with its disregard of established scholarship, is revealing:
"While scholars such as Sallie B. King and Heng-Ching Shih try, on somewhat flimsy evidential grounds, to re-interpret and re-configure the essentialist teachings of this sūtra into the opposite of what they repeatedly state, some notable Buddhist masters have understood such doctrines in their simple and straightforward form and sought to communicate that understanding. (Page 2010 p.7)"
  • The qualification "somewhat flimsy evidential grounds" lacks any argumentation;
  • "to re-interpret and re-configure" is exactly the hermeneutics and scholarly approach which is needed to avoid a literalist, decontectualized understanding;
  • the claim "what they repeatedly state" needs a thorough contextualisation, historical understanding, and proper hermenutical tools;
  • and "some notable Buddhist masters have understood such doctrines in their simple and straightforward form and sought to communicate that understanding" is a declaration of faith.
Have a look at Buddha-nature#Etymology and Zimmerman p.39-49. The term tathagatagarbha has a rich variety of meanings and interpretations. To give only one interpretation, with an anthology of decontextualized quotes which seem to support your point of view, is not a scholarly approach, but a personal eulogy. Zimmerman shows how a scholar works: by giving a painstaking overview of all the possible meanings and interpretations.
Everyone is entitled their personal views and interpretations. But Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. We try to rely on WP:RS, to avoid such personal interpretations and proselyzing. Oh, and those "credentials" are of course his selection. Remember Popper: falsifibility, not truth. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 06:48, 26 July 2014 (UTC)
The solution is pretty simple: sutra texts should generally not be used on Wikipedia if they require interpretation (and they typically do). Page is also not what we would consider a Buddhologist and most of his work is self-published. That does not mean that it is bad, or that he does not have credibility, or that he is wrong. In fact, he is perfectly entitled to publish whatever he likes, and maybe it will have a great impact. However, Wikipedia should generally avoid relying on religious texts and controversial self-published sources in the citations for articles. Tengu800 15:14, 26 July 2014 (UTC)
Greetings gentlemen! I agree on most part what you said Tengu800. Please do not get upset if I provoke the discussion a little bit more :)
We are using as a source in Zen Buddhism such authors as Philip Kapleau who is not a Buddist scholar nor a linguist. Yet, he has written a book that contains valuable information about the Zen Buddhist sect "Sanbokyodan", and that book is accepted by the lineage dharmaholder Hakuun Yasutani.
So if Mr. Page as a practicing Buddhist who has got plenty of recognition from people (such as lamas), and is indeed being called as "a creditable Buddhist scholar", doesn't this already accreditate him as an adequate source to be used?
I am bringing up Philip Kapleau as a source since it is currently accepted at Wikipedia. He is not a scholar, he is not a linguist (in fact he doesn't even know the source language of his text), and I think that the same treatment should be given to Tony Page as a source. Jayaguru-Shishya (talk) 21:12, 26 July 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── No. To paraphrase: Tony Page is no Philip Kapleau. And there is an important difference: Philip Kapleau is being as a source, one of many, most of them credited scholars. The articles on Zen don'r depend on his book. In contrast, Tony's writings have been used as a main source by one editor, to promote his personal understanding of the subject. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 05:45, 27 July 2014 (UTC)

"The already complete Buddha Element"[edit]

Quote:

"It is important to note that both in the Nirvana Sutra and in the other central tathagatagarbha sutras, the idea of the 'Garbha' is rarely, if ever, glossed as a growing, immature 'embryo', but is envisioned as the already complete Buddha Element deep inside the being."

Sally King gives an explanation (copied from Buddha-nature):

"The term tathāgatagarbha may mean either "embryonic tathāgata", the incipient Buddha, or "womb of the tathāgata". The first meaning is the cause of the Tathāgata, while the second is the "fruit" of Tathāgata.(King 1991 p.4)
The Chinese translated the term tathāgata as "womb", rendering it as ru-lai-zag(King 1991 p.4), ru-lai meaning "tathagata", and zag meaning "storehouse".(King 1991 p.48)"

Looks to me like that the importance of "the already complete Buddha Element" is a personal interpretation. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 15:18, 23 July 2014 (UTC)

At second thought: Zimmerman also speaks about tathagatagarbha as probably meaning "containing a tathagata". Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 05:41, 27 July 2014 (UTC)