- Refer to the analyses of the concepts "Buddha-nature" and "having Buddha-nature" in my article "The Doctrine of the Buddha-nature in the Mahāyāna Mahaparinirvāṇa-sūtra," The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 5.2 (1982), pp. 63–94.
- Takakusu Junjirō & Watanabe Kaikyoku, eds., Taishō shinshū daizōkyō(henceforth abbreviated to T), vol. 12, p. 422c,1.28–p. 423a, 1.3.
- Ibid., p. 575b, 11.25–26.
- Ibid., p. 405a-b.
- Ibid., p. 487b-c.
- Ibid., p. 573c, 11.19-20 & p. 574b, 11.28-29.
- Ibid., p. 522c, 11.23-24.
- See Mizutani Kōshō, op.cit., pp. 66–69 and Ogawa lchizō Busshō shisō (Kyoto: 1982), pp. 123–131.
- T, vol.12, p. 554b, 1.18.
- Ibid., p. 454a, 11.5-6.
- Ibid., p. 419b,1.16.
- See n.l above.
The Problem of the Icchantika in the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvaṇa Sūtra
It is the orthodox belief that the MNS teaches that all sentient beings possess the Buddha-nature. Since in the MNS "Buddha-nature" refers to "the nature of the Buddha" and "to possess" the Buddha-nature in the case of sentient beings usually indicates "to have in the future," this belief amounts to the conviction that the MNS maintains that all sentient beings will achieve Buddhahood someday. This conviction is well attested by the text of the MNS. Thus, we find it clearly expressed in the MNS that "all three vehicles will eventually share the same Buddha-nature":
Good sons! The same is true of the śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas, [all of whom will attain] the same Buddha-nature, in the like manner as [cows of different colours produce] milk [looking the same]. Why is it so? For all of them will [sooner or later] put an end to defilements. However, there are various sentient beings who maintain that Buddhas, bodhisattvas, śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas are different [with respect to their final destiny. [Thus,] there are various śrāvakas and common people who doubt [the teaching] that the three vehicles are not different. These sentient beings will finally come to understand that all three vehicles [will eventually share] the same Buddha-nature. . . .
If this thesis of the eventual enlightenment of all sentient beings does indeed constitute the central theme of the MNS, it is strongly qualified by the presence in the sutra of the concept of the icchantika. The term "icchantika" is derived from the Sanskrit root is meaning "to desire," "to wish" and "to long for." This explains the variant Chinese renderings of the term "icchantika" as "a being of many desires" (to-yü), "a being cherishing desires" (lo-yü) and "a being full of greed" (ta-t'an). But in the MNS, the failings attributed to the icchantikas far exceed those which are usually associated with people of such descriptions. In the sūtra, the icchantika is described as "devoid of good roots" and as "the most wicked being." He is depicted as "having no capacity for the [true] Dharma" such that he can never be rehabilitated by the instruction of the Buddha and so will never attain supreme enlightenment. Taken at its face value, this picture of a being condemned forever to spiritual darkness appears to contradict the proposition of the MNS that all sentient beings possess the Buddha-nature and so are destined for Buddhahood, and commentators of the MNS have been hard pressed to find a viable way out of this apparent dilemma.
The present article, which is the second of a two-part study on the problem of Buddha-nature in the MNS, is an attempt to unravel the various strands of thought present in the MNS regarding the character and fate of the icchantikas. It is hoped that our discussion, brief and sketchy as it is, will be of help in throwing light on this highly intricate question. (Liu, "The Problem of the Icchantika," 57–59)