The Sutra of Queen Śrīmālā of the Lion’s Roar

15,590 words

The Sutra of Queen Śrīmālā of the Lion’s Roar (Śrīmālādevī Siṃhanāda Sūtra) is a Mahayana text no longer extant in Sanskrit but preserved in both the Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist canons. It teaches the doctrines of Tathāgatagarbha and the One Vehicle (Skt. ekayāna), through the words of the Indian queen Śrīmālā....

Chapter XII - The Contrary Truths

“The noble truth of the extinction [of suffering] is inconceivable, transcending all the conditions of the consciousness of living beings. This is also not the knowledge of arhats and pratyekabuddhas who, like those born blind, cannot see all shapes; or like a week-old infant who cannot see the disc of the moon. The truth of the extinction of suffering, similarly, does not belong to the condition of the common person’s consciousness nor to the two vehicles’ realm of knowledge. The common person’s consciousness refers to the two contrary views. The wisdom of all arhats and pratyekabuddhas is pure [in comparison with that of the common person].

“‘Limited views’ refer to the common person’s adherence to the misconception that there is a substantial ego within the five psychophysical elements (skandhas), which then causes the two views that are designated ‘contrary,’ namely, eternalism and nihilism. If one considers the conditioned states impermanent, this is nihilism and not the correct view. If one considers nirvana permanent, this is eternalism and not the correct view. Because of misconceptions, there are such views.

“In the sense organs of the body, which are discriminative in nature, some perceive the destruction of phenomena in the present moment. Unable to see phenomena in continuity, they become nihilistic in their views because of misconceptions. The ignorant, who are unable to uderstand or know the momentary consciousness with reference to its continuity, become eternal-istic in their views because of misconceptions. By this or that principle, they discriminate and maintain inadequate positions to an extreme degree. Because of foolish misconceptions they adhere to erroneous conceptions and contrary views, namely, nihilism and eternalism.

“O Lord, living beings have contrary ideas when they have acquired the five psychophysical elements of the individual. The impermanent is considered permanent, suffering is considered happiness. The nonsubstantiality of the self is considered a substantial self, the impure is considered pure. The knowledge of all arhats and pratyekabuddhas has not originally apprehended the Dharma body of the Tathāgata nor the realm of his omniscience. If there are living beings who believe in the Buddha’s words, they will have thoughts of permanence, of happiness, of self, and of purity. These are not contrary views but are correct views. Why? The Dharma body of the Tathāgata is the perfection of permanence, the perfection of happiness, the perfection of the substantial self, and the perfection of purity. Those who see the Dharma body of the Buddha in this way are said to see correctly. Those who see correctly are the true sons and daughters of the Buddha. They arise from the Buddha’s words, from the True Dharma, and from conversion to the Dharma, attaining the remaining benefits of the Dharma.

“O Lord, pure wisdom is the perfection of wisdom that belongs to all arhats and pratyekabuddhas. This pure wisdom, although it is called pure wisdom, with reference to the [conditioned noble] truth of the extinction [of suffering] is not the realm [of unconditioned wisdom]. Of course, the wisdom of [those beginning to study] the four basic truths (i.e., the four noble truths) also [does not belong to the realm of unconditioned wisdom]. Why? The three vehicles’ first actions were not ignorant of the Dharma. Because of their principles, they understood and attained [enlightenment]. The Buddha explained the four basic truths for their sake. O Lord, these four basic truths are the Dharma of the world. O Lord, the one refuge is all refuges. It is the transcendental and supreme refuge, namely, the truth of the extinction [of suffering].”

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