What is your Buddha Nature? It’s the real you, your real self – The Buddha in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Now you may find people who claim that there is no True Self taught in Buddhism.  Some of these people even claim, “The translation is wrong – it’s a biased English translation!”  When you show them that 3-4 different translators translate it pretty much the same, they claim, “They’re all biased!”.

Well, let’s try doing some translating for ourselves – all you need to do plug these Chinese words into Google translate to see for yourself (sometimes you might have to translate it word by word).

Let’s first of all forget about the English translations and go straight to the source – the original Chinese version of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra – to a section where the Buddha makes an explicit declaration.

We find the term True Self/Real me – Jen Wo 真我 in the Chinese text of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra itself, in this passage:

善男子! 今日如來所說真我,名曰佛性

The literal translation is of this passage is:

“Good man! 善男子! Today 今日, the Thus Come One 如來 has spoken of/Announced 所說 the True Self 真我, is named/called 名曰 the Buddha Nature 佛性”.

So you can copy and paste the above Chinese word pairs into Google translate to check.  Try it for yourself!

Explaining the rarer words:

  • 真 Jen – means Real or True
  • 我 Wo – means “me” or “myself”.

So Jen Wo 真我 means Real me or True Self or Real Self.

  • 如來 Ru Lai – just means the Thus Come One – the Tathagata – which is what the Buddha called himself.

Polishing it up a little:

“The True Self that the Thus Come One has spoken of today is named the Buddha Nature”.

So the True Self is synonymous with the Buddha Nature.

And the translation from Professor Mark Blum is pretty much the same as my translation above:

Good man, the true self that the Tathagata has been talking about today is what is called the buddha-nature.

Source:  p253 The Mahaparinirvana Sutra translated by Prof. Mark Blum.

So there you go!  You have translated your first little piece of a Chinese Sutra!  In fact, one of the most important Sutras on the planet!


You have learnt some new Chinese words at the same time!

So congratulations on achieving 2 things at once!  Well done!


6 thoughts on “What is your Buddha Nature? It’s the real you, your real self – The Buddha in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra

  1. Hello! After getting into some Buddha Nature stuff I’m slightly confused on what’s the difference between Buddha Nature and a Self taught by externalists. In the Nirvana Sutra Buddha says that he taught impermanence to counter the peoples attachments at the time to impermanent things and a Self of other religions but after breaking down this Self why is another Self of Buddha Nature/Tathagatagarbha established. In addition, the Sixth Ancestor Hui Neng when asked about the Nirvana Sutra said Buddha Nature was both permanent and impermanent how does this match the Nirvana Sutra?

    • Great that you’re getting into the Buddha Nature teachings!

      It’s because the self taught by other teachers had flaws – for example, they said it was the size of a rice grain or a mustard seed – but the real self doesn’t have that characteristic.

      It’s like say a teacher says that the sun is the size of your thumb in the sky – it looks that way but it’s wrong. The sun is much, much bigger than that. But if someone argues with you, “Look! Here’s my thumb, there’s the sun – it’s the same size!” – you need to get them to stop thinking that way and start thinking about the reality that the sun is many times bigger than even the earth!

      So initially, the Buddha taught nonself to help people unlearn what they had learned of all the false things they had learned about the self. This clears the slate so that the correct teaching about the self can be taught properly.

      As for Hui Neng – a lot of Zen is situational and can best be understood between the teacher and the student. Zen teachers say things to break the attachments of his students. In this case, stick with the Mahaparinirvana Sutra’s explanation because it is not situational – even in the final section of this section of the 6th Patriarch’s Sutra that you are referring to, Hui Neng spoke of the 4 virtues of Nirvana:

      1. Eternal (as opposed to anicca/impermanence in samsara)
      2. Utmost happiness (as opposed to suffering/dukkha in samsara)
      3. True Self (as opposed to not-self in samsara)
      4. Purity (as opposed to impurity in samsara)

  2. Haha me again, another question about Buddha Nature.

    The Lankavatara Sutra says that saying Tathagatagarbha is a Self is just Upaya for those that don’t accept Non-self but this seems different to the Nirvana Sutra, how does this make sense?

    Also, I read a lot of things that suggests that in reality Buddha Nature is Ultimate Reality or Emptiness which is a pat of everything, is this right?


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