Commentary on the Buddha’s Parinirvana

Cited in Shinran’s True Teaching, Practice, and Realization (Kyogyoshinsho), “Chapter on Transform Buddha-bodies and Lands”

Section 71

The Commentary on the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra states, explaining the four reliances:

When Sakyamuni was about to enter nirvana, he said to the bhiksus, “From this day on, rely on dharma, not on people who teach it. Rely on the meaning, not on the words. Rely on wisdom, not on the working of the mind. Rely on the sutras that fully express the meaning, not on those that do not.

“As to relying on dharma, dharma refers to the twelve divisions of scripture. Follow this dharma, not people who teach it.

“With regard to relying on the meaning, meaning itself is beyond debate of such matters as, like against dislike, evil against virtue, falsity against truth. Hence, words may indeed have meaning, but the meaning is not the words. Consider, for example, a person instructing us by pointing to the moon with his finger. [To take words to be the meaning] is like looking at the finger and not at the moon. The person would say, ‘I am pointing to the moon with my finger in order to show it to you. Why do you look at my finger and not the moon?’ Similarly, words are the finger pointing to the meaning; they are not the meaning itself. Hence, do not rely upon words.

“As to relying on wisdom, wisdom is able to distinguish and measure good and evil. The working of mind always seeks pleasure, and does not reach the essential. Hence it is said, ‘Do not rely on mind.’

“As to relying on the sutras that fully express the meaning, among all the sages, the Buddha is foremost. Among all the various scriptures, the Buddha-dharma is foremost. Among all human beings, the assemblage of bhiksus is foremost.”

The Buddha regarded the sentient beings of an age in which there is no Buddha as possessed of deep karmic evil. They are people who have not cultivated the roots of good that would enable them to see a Buddha.