BY REV. S. BEAL, M.A., RECTOR OF WARK.
I shall here give a translation of the 25th section of the Chong-Lun Sûtra or Pranyamûla-šâstra-tika, by Nâgârjuna, on Nirvâ.na.
|(1)||If all things are unreal,|
Then how is it possible to remove
From that which does not exist
Something, which, being removed, leaves Nirvâ.na?
This section argues that if all things are alike empty and unreal, then there is no such thing as Birth and Death; consequently there can be no removal from sorrow, and the destruction of the five elements of existence (limited existence), by removal of which we arrive at Nirvâ.na (what is called Nirvâ.na).
|(2)||But if all things are real,|
Then how can we remove
Birth and Death, real existence,
And so arrive at Nirvâ.na?
This section argues that we cannot destroy that which has in itself real existence, and therefore, if all things have this real being, we cannot remove Birth and Death, and so arrive at Nirvâ.na; therefore, neither by the theory of Bhava, nor by the theory of Sunyata (emptiness), can we arrive at the just idea of Nirvâ.na.
|(3)||That which is not striven for or "obtained,"|
That which is not "for a time" or "eternal,"
That which is not born, nor dies,
This is that which is called Nirvâ.na.
"Not to be striven for," that is, in the way of religious action (achârya), and its result (fruit).
"Not obtained" (or "arrived at"), that is, because there is no place or point at which to arrive.
"Not for a time" (or not by way of interruption) [per saltum] for the five skandhas having been from the time of complete enlightenment proved to be unreal, and not part of true existence, then on entering final Nirvâ.na (anupadišesha Nirvâ.na).--What is there that breaks or interrupts the character of previous existence?
"Not for ever," or "everlasting," for if there were something to be obtained that admitted of distinctions whilst in the possession of it, then we might speak of an eternal nirvâ.na, but as in the condition of silent extinction (Nirvâ.na) there can be no properties to distinguish, how can we speak of it as "everlasting?"
And so with reference to Birth and Death.
Now that which is so characterised is what we call Nirvâ.na.
Again, there is a Sûtra which says, "Nirvâ.na is the opposite of 'Being' and 'not Being'; it is the opposite of these two combined, it is the opposite of the absence of 'Being', and the absence of 'not Being'.
So, in short, that which admits of no conditions such as are attached to limited existence; that is Nirvâ.na.
|(4)||Nirvâ.na cannot be called Bhava;|
For if so, then it admits of old age and death,
In fact both "being" and " not being" are phenomena,
And therefore are capable of being deprived of characteristics (lakshanam).
This means that as all things which the eye beholds are seen to begin and to end, and this is what the Šlôka calls "Life" and "Death" (or birth and death). Now if Nirvâ.na is like this, then it would be possible to speak of removing these things and so arriving at something fixed--but here is a plain contradiction of terms--for Nirvâ.na is supposed to be that which is fixed and unchangeable.
|(5)||If Nirvâ.na is Bhava (existent),|
Then it is personal;
But, in fact, that which cannot be individualized
Is spoken of as not "personal."
This means that as all phenomenal existence comes from cause and consequent production, therefore all such things are rightly called "personal."
|(6)||If Nirvâ.na be Bhava,|
Then it cannot be called "without sensation" (anuvedana);
For non-Being comes not from sensation,
And by this obtains its distinct name.
This means that as the Sûtras describe Nirvâ.na as being "without sensation" (anuvedana), it cannot be Bhava; for then Abhava would come from sensation. But now it will be asked, if Nirvâ.na is not Bhava, then that which is "not Bhava" (abhava), surely then is Nirvâ.na. To this we reply--
|(7)||If Nirvâ.na be not Bhava,|
Much less is it nothing (abhava);
For if there be no room for "Being,"
What place can there be for "not Being."
This means that "not Being" is the opposite of "Being." If, then, "Being" is not admissible, how can we speak of "Not Being"? (its opposite).
|(8)||If again Nirvâ.na is nothing,|
How is it called without "sensation?" (anuvedana),
For it would be wonderful indeed if everything not capable of sensation,
Were forthwith spoken of as nothing.
If then Nirvâ.na be neither "Being," nor "non-Being," what is it?
|(9)||By participation in cause and effect|
Comes the wheel of continual existence,
By non-participation in cause and effect
As by knowing a thing to be straight we also know that which is crooked, so by the knowledge of the elements of finite existence comes the knowledge of continual life and death. Do away with those, and you do away also with the other.
|(10)||As Buddha says in the Sûtra,--|
Separate "Being," separate "not Being,"
This is Nirvâ.na,
The opposite of "Being," the opposite of "not Being."
"Being" here alludes to the three worlds of finite existence. The absence of these three worlds is "Not Being." Get rid of both these ideas, this is Nirvâ.na. But it may now be asked, if Nirvâ.na is not "Being," and if it is not "Absence of Being," then perhaps it is the intermixture of the two.
|(11)||If it is said that "Being" and "Not Being,"|
By union, produces Nirvâ.na,
The two are then one;
But this is impossible.
Two unlike things cannot be joined so as to produce one different from either.
|(12)||If it is said "Being" and "Not Being"|
United make Nirvâ.na,
Then Nirvâ.na is not "without sensation;"
For these two things involve sensation.
|(13)||If it is said that "Being" and "Not Being,"|
United, produce Nirvâ.na,
p. 89 Then Nirvâ.na is not Impersonal;
For these two things are personal.
|(14)||"Being" and "Not Being," joined in one,|
How can this be Nirvâ.na?
These two things have nothing in common.
Can Darkness and Light be joined?
|(15)||If the opposites of "Being" and "Not Being,"|
How are they distinguished?
|(16)||If they are distinguished,|
And so, by union, become Nirvâ.na,
Then that which completes the idea of "Being" and "Not Being"
Also completes the idea of the opposite of both.
|(17)||Tathâgata, after his departure,|
Says nothing of "Being" and "Not Being."
He says not that his "Being" is not, or the opposite of this.
Tathâgata says nothing of these things or their opposites. The conclusion of the whole matter is, that Nirvâ.na is identical with the nature of Tathâgata, without bound, and without place or time.
[1. The Oriental, October 9, 1875.]