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Great Nirvana

When the Buddha died, his death was no ordinary death.

For in the eyes of the Buddha sages who knew him, it was seen as the mahaparinirvana. the blowing out of a spiritual life, and the transcendence of a great sage over the endless cycle of birth, life, and death.

In essence, mahaparinirvana is derived from "maha" (great) and "parinirvana" (the death of a truly awakened spiritual master), and means the great final death of the truly awakened. With respect to the Buddha, when the death has arrived for the truly awakened, their death is no ordinary death. In the Buddha's case, flowers bloomed out of season on trees that during the winter monsoon stand dormant.

Thus the nirvana of the Buddha was when his karma blew out the light of transmigration. All his actions on the way to realizing his buddhahood bore the fruit of Nirvana. After this moment in his life, he became the teacher of the Buddhadharma.

What the Buddha taught was dependent arising / dependent origination and the Four Noble Truths, but he followed it up with teachings about the Buddha-dhatu and the Tathagatagarbha. While dependent arising and the Four Noble Truths describe the phenomenon of suffering, its cause and its cure, the Buddha-dhatu and the Tathagatagarbha describe the phenomenon of personal experience and the noumenon of cosmic (transcendent) experience.

What is the Buddha-dhatu? It is the hidden, unconditioned Buddha Nature (Buddha Principle), "Hidden" implies that personal experience occults that spark of Buddha-dhatu in all sentient beings. "Unconditioned" implies further that even though Buddha-dhatu is hidden, it remains pure, real and true.

Quite simply, the Buddha-dhatu is the potential for spiritual awakening to ultimate Reality which is changeless. This potential must be realized, lest the Buddhist who hears the Buddha's teachings be seduced by the lie that there is only one Buddha.

In actual fact, while there may be many Buddhas, there is only one Gautama Buddha.

What is the Tathagatagarbha? It is the hidden, unconditioned Buddha Matrix within which Buddha-dhatu helps the practitioner become truly awakened. Through the aid of Buddha-dhatu, one realizes that one is already awake. Thus the truly awakened are already awake, and she who is already awake is primordially awake. For being awake results from being good, since it is the working of primordial goodness.

Yet Tathagatagarbha is the essence of Dharmakaya, the ultimate level of being. of the Buddha and of all sentient life. With the help of Buddha-dhatu, even you or I may one day be awakened to the reality of primordial goodness. For our original nature is indeed Buddha Nature.

Even so, the pragmatic among the followers of the Buddhadharma may ask, "If originally we are born awakened, then what's the point of the ritual of chanting and meditation?"

When we realize we are originally awaken beings, bodhisattvas in the making, this is because we have heard what the Buddha said, both through hearing his teachings, reading what the Buddha said and comments about what he said, and the practice of chanting of his Name-that-calls.

Personal experience without hearing the Buddhadharma, reading sutras and their commentaries, and Buddha Remembrance would only hide our primordial awakened state.

This is why hearing the Dharma, reading the sutras and their commentaries, and Buddha Remembrance is necessary to realize the cosmic experience that all is Buddha.

For just as Adi-Buddha is reflected in the 108 Buddhas, so too is the Buddha reflected in all sentient beings, including the bodhisattvas.

All it takes to uncover this primordial goodness inherent in all beings is to hear the Buddadharma.

Though, it requires more than merely listening with the ears; to hear the Buddhadharma, one must listen with one's heart. This is known as teaching the heart to be at one with the mind until with practice, one hears with the heartmind.

In conclusion, the Great Nirvana of the Buddha is his transcendence beyond the samsaric cycle of transmigration. Though his body died, his spirit lives on.

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