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....
“O Lord, the cycle of birth and death depends on the tathāgatagarbha, because the tathāgatagarbha is referred to as the original limit [of the cycle of birth and death], which is unknowable. O Lord, ‘tathāgatagarbha ’ is referred to as the cycle of birth and death for a proper designation. O Lord, the cycle of birth and death is the extinction of the senses and the subsequent arising of [new] inexperienced senses. This is called the cycle of birth and death.
“O Lord, these two phenomena—birth and death—are the tathāgatagarbha. It is worldly convention to say ‘there is birth’ and ‘there is death.’ ‘Death’ is the extinction of one’s senses. ‘Birth’ is the arising of new senses.
“The tathāgatagarbha is neither life nor death. The tathāgatagarbha is separate from the conditioned. The tathāgatagarbha is eternal and unchanging. Therefore, the tathāgatagarbha is the basis, the support, and the foundation. O Lord, the tathāgatagarbha is not separate, not severed, not liberated from, and not different from the inconceivable Buddha-Dharmas. O Lord, the basis, support, and foundation of conditioned phenomena, which are severed from, separate from, and different from the Buddha-Dharmas, [also] are the tathāgatagarbha.
“O Lord, if there were no tathāgatagarbha there would be no revulsion toward suffering, nor aspiration to seek nirvana. Why? Because the seven [mental] phenomena—the six [sense] consciousnesses and the knowledge of [their accompanying] mental phenomena—do not continue even momentarily and do not accept the impressions of suffering, there cannot be revulsion for suffering nor aspiration to seek nirvana.
“The tathāgatagarbha is without any prior limit, is nonarising, and is indestructible, accepting suffering, having revulsion toward suffering, and aspiring to nirvana. O Lord, the tathāgatagarbha is not a substantial self, nor a living being, nor ‘fate,’ nor a person. The tathāgatagarbha is not a realm for living beings who have degenerated into the belief of a substantially existent body or for those who have contrary views, or who have minds bewildered by emptiness.
“O Lord, the tathāgatagarbha is the womb of the dharmas, the womb of the Dharma body, the transcendental womb, and the inherently pure womb. This tathāgatagarbha that is inherently pure is the inconceivable realm of the Tathāgata that has been contaminated by extrinsic defilements and other virulent defilements. Why? The good mind is momentary and not contaminated by defilements. The evil mind is also momentary but is not contaminated by defilements either. Defilements do not affect the mind. The mind does not affect defilements. Then how does the mind, which is unaffected by nature, become defiled? O Lord, there are defilements and there are defiled minds. The fact that there is defilement in a mind that is inherently pure is difficult to comprehend. Only the buddhas, the lords, who have the eye of truth and the wisdom of truth, who are the sources of the Dharma and penetrate the Dharma, and who are the refuge of the True Dharma, can comprehend this truth.”
When Queen Śrīmāla had explained the difficulties in comprehending [the inherently pure mind’s defilement], she was questioned by the Buddha. The Buddha, with extreme joy, praised her, “Yes, it is so! It is so! The fact that there is defilement in a mind that is inherently pure is difficult to comprehend. There are two subjects that are difficult to completely comprehend. They are the mind that is inherently pure and the fact that this [same] mind has been contaminated by defilements. These two subjects can be heard by you and the bodhisattva māhasattvas who have the great Dharma. The others, namely, the disciples, can only believe through the Buddha’s words.”