Central to Shinnyo Buddhism is the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, one of the most seminal texts of Mahayana (Great Vehicle) Buddhism. The heart of the message of this Nirvana Sutra lies in four key points:
- Buddhahood is always present: The presence, guidance, and compassion of buddhas is timeless; the essence of the Buddha is present in our time as well as a cosmic reality that knows no beginning and no end.
- All beings possess a buddha nature: there is an inner self that awakened is at one with buddha-hood.
- Everyone is endowed with the ability to reach enlightenment: even the most spiritually destitute or those who try to harm the Buddha, Dharma, or Sangha can eventually attain Nirvana.
- Nirvana is of the present moment and characterized by permanence-bliss-self-purity; in other words, the state of nirvana is timeless, joyous, personal, and pure (clear and free). This stresses the dynamic, blissful aspect of enlightenment in contrast to earlier teachings such as the emptiness of all phenomena.
Perhaps most important for Shinnyo-en practitioners, however, is the equal footing the Nirvana Sutra accords lay disciples and monastic trainees. In transcending this distinction and emphasizing that any true seeker can attain enlightenment, it welcomes all practitioners to the path of cultivating the Four Immeasurable Merits of lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.