ln the original of its so-called Mahāyāna version the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra bears the Sanskrit title Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra. The Sanskrit original of this text has come down to us only in fragments. For the reconstruction of the Sanskrit text from these fragments, it is essential to compare the text with the word-for-word Tibetan translation completed at the beginning of the 9th century by Jinamitra, Jñānagarbha and Devacandra. Fǎxiǎn 法顯 translated it into Chinese under the title Dà bānnihuán jīng 大般泥洹經
in 6 fascicles (juàn
卷), and Dharmakṣema 曇無讖 translated it as Dà bānnièpán jīng
大般涅槃經 in 40 fascicles. Both translations were completed at the beginning of the 5th century. The Chinese translations of this sūtra played an important role in the history of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism. The sūtra is famous especially for the formula "切眾生西有佛性 yíqiè zhongshēng xī yǒu fóxìng
," "Every living being has the Buddha-nature." The skill of the Chinese translators is evident from their use of the word fóxing
佛性, which is commonly translated into English as "Buddha-nature." While the underlying Sanskrit term and its intended meaning poses difficulties, as will be shown below, the Chinese term fóxing
, although not resulting from a very literal translation, has been accepted in dogmatical and philosophical interpretations in China and Japan.
Comparing the Sanskrit fragments and the Ratnagotravibhāga, which quotes the Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra (that is the Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra), the original Sanskrit word fóxìng is buddhadhātu, tathāgatadhātu or tathāgatagarbha. Takasaki Jikidō's research on the tathāgatagarbha theory led him to conclude that the Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra is the first known text in which the word buddhadhātu is used in this meaning.
I have been studying the original text of the Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra
for some time, analyzing the Sanskrit fragments in comparison with the Tibetan and Chinese translations. From the viewpoint of the original text, the meaning of the formula "Every living being has the Buddha-nature" reveals nuances slightly different from the interpretations adopted in Chinese and Japanese Buddhism. (Habata, introduction, 176–77)
Habata, Hiromi. "Buddhadhātu, Tathāgatadhātu and Tathāgatagarbha in the Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra." Hōrin 18 (2015): 176–96.
Habata, Hiromi. "Buddhadhātu, Tathāgatadhātu and Tathāgatagarbha in the Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra." Hōrin 18 (2015): 176–96.;Buddhadhātu, Tathāgatadhātu and Tathāgatagarbha in the Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra;buddhadhātu;tathāgatagarbha;Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra;Hiromi Habata;