Mahāparinirvāna Sutra: A reference to several Chinese translations of different texts, both Mahayana and Hinayana. The Sanskrit title Mahāparinirvāna Sutra literally means the Great Complete Nirvana Sutra and has two kinds of Chinese and Japanese transliteration: that accompanying (1) and (3) below, and that accompanying (2).
(1) ［大般涅槃経］ (Chin Ta-pan-nieh-p’an-ching; Daihatsu-nehan-gyō): Also known as the Great Complete Nirvana Sutra, the Great Nirvana Sutra, or simply the Nirvana Sutra. Either of the two Chinese versions of the Mahayana Nirvana Sutra: the northern version, translated by Dharmaraksha in 421; and the southern version, translated by Hui-kuan, Hui-yen, and Hsieh Ling-yün in 436. The latter is a revision of the former. The northern version consists of forty volumes and the southern version of thirty-six volumes. Both concern teachings Shakyamuni expounded immediately before his death. The Mahāparinirvāna Sutra teaches that the Dharma body of the Buddha is eternal, that all people possess the Buddha nature, and that even icchantikas, persons of incorrigible disbelief, can attain Buddhahood. It also contains the stories of the boy Snow Mountains, who offered his body to a demon in exchange for a Buddhist teaching, and of Ajātashatru, who put his father to death but later repented and became Shakyamuni’s disciple. Fragments of the Sanskrit text are extant.
(2) ［大般泥洹経］ (Chin Ta-pan-ni-yüan-ching; Daihatsu-naion-gyō): Also known as the Parinirvāna Sutra, the six-volume Parinirvāna Sutra, or the six-volume Nirvana Sutra. A Chinese version of the Mahayana Nirvana Sutra, translated by Fa-hsien and Buddhabhadra around 417. This sutra consists of six volumes and corresponds in content to the first ten volumes of the forty-volume (northern version) Mahāparinirvāna Sutra translated by Dharmaraksha in 421. Comparing these two versions, Hui-kuan, Hui-yen, and Hsieh Ling-yün produced the thirty-six volume (southern version) Mahāparinirvāna Sutra as a revised version in 436.
(3) ［大般涅槃経］ (Chin Ta-pan-nieh-p’an-ching; Daihatsu-nehan-gyō): A Chinese version of the Hinayana Nirvana Sutra, translated by Fa-hsien around 417. This sutra consists of three volumes and records the final events of Shakyamuni Buddha’s life and what took place after his death such as the cremation of his body and the erection of stupas to enshrine his ashes. There is an extant Pali text called the Mahāparinibbāna-suttanta, but this is not thought to be the text from which Fa-hsien translated his version. See also Nirvana Sutra.