Many Buddhists are sound asleep to the real genius of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra (hereafter MPS) and the astonishing implications it has within it. That all beings have the Buddha-nature is just not a simplistic observation. There is more to this than meets the eye. What we are supposed to understand is that most primordially we are the awakened (buddha) element which is the same as the âtman. For us, this is the criterion by which we can become actual Buddhas. Now, here comes the major problem in the face of this astonishing fact. We don’t as yet recognize this element in the compositions we see as the world of birth and death. The Buddha says in the MPS:
"Every being has Buddha-Nature. This is the Self [âtman]. Such Self has, from the very beginning, been under cover of innumerable defilements. That is why man cannot see it."
One can only say of the defilements that they hide what we truly are. The MPS says: *All these beings are reigned over by innumerable defilements and thus do not know the whereabouts of the Buddha-Nature.” Ironically, we cuddle our defilements which come from the world of appearance in which we were, not too long ago, born and will surely die. At the same time we want the easy solution which means that we are susceptible to being constantly bamboozled by appearances. It is as if our mantra is: I don’t want to give up my defilements but I want enlightenment. Well, it ain’t going to happen.
In a way, our suffering or duhkha arises because we are attached to countless defilements which do not resonate with our Buddha-nature. On the other hand, if we were able to realize our Buddha-nature, first hand, it would be like vibrating sympathetically with all things, although there are no things really present from the standpoint of our Buddha-nature which is absolute. This vibration, if we can call it that for now, is self-generating which at once reveals the emptiness and illusory quality of all conditioned things and, at the same time, reveals the Buddha-nature, the true reality, which was formally hidden.
The MPS tells us in so many words that the Buddha’s highest teaching begins with the Buddha-nature as the absolute, sole criterion then, subsequently, discloses how this nature is hidden by mistaking what is illusory for the absolute. It can only be described as a form of intoxication. As a result of this intoxication, according to the MPS, “the mind turns upside down and takes Self for non-Self, Eternal for non-Eternal, Purity as non-Pure, and Bliss as sorrow” (according to the MPS, “The Self’ signifies the Buddha; ’the Eternal’ signifies the Dharmakaya; ’Bliss’ signifies Nirvana, and ’the Pure’ signifies Dharma”).