Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “for what reasons did the buddha preach mahaprajnaparamitasutra?” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Part 1 - For what reasons did the Buddha preach Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra?

[57c] The prajñāpāramitā is a great path which the Buddha has travelled,
The prajñāpāramitā is a great sea which the Buddha has drained,
The true meaning of the prajñāpāramitās is not closed to the Buddha:
I prostrate to the prajñāpāramitā and the unequalled Buddha.[1]

Ceaseless destruction of the two views of existence and non-existence,[2]
The true nature of the things preached by the Buddha,
Eternal, stable, immutable, purifying the passions:
I prostrate to the venerable Dharma of the Buddha,

The noble Assembly – a great sea – cultivates the field of merits[3]
Śaikṣas and aśaikṣas serve as its ornament,
It has destroyed the thirst that produces rebirths,[4]
Suppressed the feeling of ‘mine’ and destroyed its root.[5]

Having renounced the things of the world,
It is the seat of all the qualities.
It is foremost among all the assemblies:
I prostrate to this Assembly that is pure and full of merits.

Having venerated the Three Jewels whole-heartedly,
I also supplicate the saviors of the world, Maitreya, etc.,
Śāriputra, foremost among sages,
Subhūti, who practices the araṇāsamādhi.[6]

Now, according to my skill, I wish to explain
The true meaning of Mahāprajñaparamitā.
I would wish that all people of great merit and noble wisdom
Give their full attention to my words.

Question. – For what reasons (hetupratyaya) did the Buddha preach the Mo ho pan jo po lo mi king (Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra)?[7] The Buddhas do not preach the Dharma (dharmaṃ deśayati) without a reason (nidāna) or for a futile motive (kārya). It is like the Siu mi (Sumeru), king of mountains (parvatarāja), which does not tremble without a reason or for a futile cause. What then are these solemn reasons that determined the Buddha to preach the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra?

[58a] Answer. –

In the Tripiṭaka, the Buddha developed many kinds of comparisons (dṛṣṭānta), but when he preached to the śrāvakas, he did not speak about the bodhisattva path (bodhisattvamārga). It is only in the Tchong a han pen mo king (Pūrvāparāntakasūtra of the Madhyamāgama)[8] that the Buddha predicted (vyākaraṇa) to bodhisattva Mi lo (Maitreya): “Later you will become the Buddha with the name of Maitreya.”[9] But even there, he said nothing about the various bodhisattva practices (bodhisattvacaryā). Here the Buddha wishes to explain the bodhisattva practices to Maitreya, etc., and this is why he preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra.

2. Moreover, there are bodhisattvas who cultivate (bhāvayanti) the concentration of recollection of the Buddhas (buddhānusmṛtisamādhi).[10] In order that they progress in this samādhi, the Buddha preached the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra to them. Thus, in the first chapter of the Prajñāpāramitā, it is said: “Manifesting the basis of his miraculous power (ṛddhipāda), the Buddha emits golden (suvaṇarūpa) rays (raśmi) that light up in the ten directions (daśadiś) universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges (gaṅgānadīvālukopama lokadhātu). Showing his great body (mahākāya) of pure light (viṣuddhāvabhāsa) and of various colors (nānāvudharūpa), he fills all of space (ākāśa). In the middle of the assembly (parṣad), the Buddha is upright (ṛju), beautiful (abhirūpa), peerless (asama), like Sumeru, king of the mountains, in the center of the great ocean.”[11] The bodhisattvas, seeing this miracle (prātihārya) of the Buddha, progress ever further in the recollection of the Buddha. It is for this reason that the Buddha preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra.

3. Furthermore, at the moment of his birth (janman), the Bodhisattva[12] emits great rays of light (raśmi) that fill the ten directions (daśadiś), takes seven steps (saptapāda) and contemplates the four directions (caturdiṣaḥ parīkṣate); proclaiming the lion’s roar (siṃhanāda), he utters this stanza:

I have been born, my births are ended:
This is my last existence.
I have attained liberation,
Henceforth I will save beings. (see the note on Seven steps of the Buddha)

After this oath, he grew up. He decided to leave his parents and left home (pravrajita) in order to cultivate (bhāvayati) the unsurpassed path (anuttaramārga). In the middle of the night, he woke up and considered the ladies of honor and the courtesans (veśyā) of his harem (antaḥpura): their bodies appeared like rotting corpses.[13] He ordered Tch’ö ni (Chaṇḍaka) to saddle (kalpayati) his white horse.[14] At midnight he passed through the ramparts, traveled twelve miles (yojana) and came to the hermitage (āśrama) where the ṛṣi Po k’ie p’o (Bhārgava)[15] lived. With a knife, he cut his hair (asipaṭṭena cūḍāṃ chinnati)[16] and exchanged his beautiful garments (vastra) for a rough cloak (saṃghātī).[17] He practiced asceticism (duṣkaracaryā) for six years (ṣaḍvarṣa) on the banks of the Ni lien chan (Nairañjanā) river; he ate only one sesame (tila) seed or one rice (taṇḍula) grain each day.[18] Nevertheless, he said to himself: “This way of life (vihāra) is not the good way (mārga).” Then the Bodhisattva gave up the practice of asceticism (duṣkaracaryāvihāra), went to the foot of the tree of enlightenment (bodhidruma) and sat down on the diamond seat (vajrāsana). King Māra with his troupe of eighteen nayutas of warriors, came to overcome him, but the Bodhisattva defeated Māra’s army (mārasenā)[19] by the power of his wisdom (prajñā) and his qualities (guṇa). Then he attained supreme perfect enlightenment (anuttarasaṃyaksaṃbodhi). The lords of the trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhatu, i.e., the Brahmakāyikadevas and their king Che k’i (Mahābrahmāśikhin), the gods of Rupadhātu, Che y’i jouan yin (Śakradevendra), the gods of Kāmadhātu with the Cāturmahārajikas, went to the Buddha and invited (adhyeṣayanti) the Bhagavat to turn the wheel of Dharma (dharmacakra). Remembering his former vow (pūṛvapraṇidhāna) of great compassion (mahākaruṇā), the Bodhisattva accepted their invitation [58b] (adhyeṣaṇā) and proclaimed the Dharma, i.e., the profound dharmas (gambhīradharma) and the Prajñāpāramitā. This is why the Buddha preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra.[20]

4. Furthermore, there are people who think that the Buddha is not omniscient (sarvajñā).[21] Why? They say: “The dharmas are infinite (apramāṇa) and innumerable (asaṃkhyeya); how could a single person know them all?”[22] The Buddha abides in the true (bhūtalakṣaṇa) Prajñāpāramitā pure as space (ākāśaśuddha); in infinite (apramāṇa) and innumerable (asaṃkhyeya) texts, he himself has given the assurance: “I am omniscient (sarvajñā); I wish to destroy the doubts of all beings (sarvasattvasaṃśayacchedaka)”.(see note on the Buddha’s omniscience) This is why he preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra.

5. Furthermore, there are beings who could be saved. Nevertheless, since the great qualities (guṇa) and the great wisdom (prajñā) of the Buddha are immense (apramāṇa), hard to understand (durjñeya) and hard to fathom (durvigāhya), these beings are deceived by evil masters. Lapsing into false doctrines (mithyādharma), they do not enter into the right path. Towards them, the Buddha produces a mind of great loving-kindness (mahāmaitricitta); he grasps them with the hand of his great compassion (mahākaruṇāhasta) and introduces them into the buddha-destiny (buddhagati). This is why he manifests his marvelous qualities (guṇa) and exhibits his great miraculous power (ṛddhibala), as is said in the first chapter of the Prajñāpāramitā: “The Buddha enters into the concentration called ‘King of Concentrations’ (samādhirājasamādhi). Coming out of that concentration and considering the universes of the ten directions with his divine eye, he smiles from all the pores of his skin. Wheels with a thousand spokes mark the soles of his feet; he sends forth six hundred nayutas of multicolored rays. From all parts of his body, from the toes of his feet to his cranial protuberance, he sends out six hundred nayutas of multicolored rays that, in the ten directions, light up innumerable and incalculable buddha-universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. And they were all illuminated.”[23] Coming out of this concentration, the Buddha wishes to teach the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of all dharmas and cut through the bonds of doubt (saṃśayabandhana) of all beings. This is why he preached the Mahāprajñāpāramitā.

6. Furthermore, there are evil people, given up to feelings of envy (īrṣyā), who slander the Buddha by saying: “The wisdom (prajñā) of the Buddha does not surpass that of men; it is just his magic (māyā) that deceives the world.”[24] In order to destroy this scornful arrogance and false pride (mithyāmāna), the Buddha manifests the immense power (apramānabala) of his miraculous power (ṛddhi) and wisdom (prajñā). About the Prajñāpāramitā he says: “My miraculous power has immense qualities (apramāṇaguṇa) and surpasses the threefold world (traidhātukaviśiṣṭa), it is meant for the welfare of all (sarvaparitrāṇa). To form a bad opinion of it is to commit an immense sin (āpatti); to give pure faith to it (viśuddaśraddhā) is to be assured of the happiness of gods and men (devamanuṣyasukha) and to reach the fruit of nirvāṇa (nirvāṇaphala) definitively.”[25]

7. Furthermore, in order that people accept his doctrine, the Buddha says to them: “I am the great teacher (mahāśāstṛ), I possess the ten strengths (bala) and the four fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya); I am established in the abodes of the saints (āryavihāra); my mind enjoys the masteries (vaśitā). Uttering the lion’s roar, I turn the wheel of the Dharma (dharmacakra); in all the universes I am the supreme being.”

8. Moreover, it is for the joy (pramuditā) of beings that the Buddha preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra. He says to them: “You should experience great joy. [58c] Why? Because all beings enter into the net of false views (mithyādṛṣṭijāla): they are all deceived by bad heretical teachers (pāṣaṇḍamithyāśāstṛ). I have escaped from the deceptive net of all bad teachers. The great teacher who possesses the ten strengths (bala) is difficult to find. Today you have found him. I will reveal to you the basket of the profound dharmas (gambhīradharmapiṭaka), i.e., the thirty-seven wings of enlightenment (bodhipakṣya), etc.; you will gather them as you wish.”

9. Furthermore, all beings are afflicted (kliṣṭa) by the sicknesses (vyādhi) of the fetters (saṃyojana). In the course of beginningless transmigration (anādikālikasaṃsāra), never has anyone been able to cure these sicknesses that are misunderstood by the bad heretical teachers. Today I have appeared in the world as the great king of physicians (mahāvaidhyarāja);[26] I have compounded the medicine of the Dharma (dharmabhaiṣajya)[27] and you should take it.” This is why the Buddha preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra.

10. Furthermore, there are people who think: “The Buddha is just like ordinary people; like them, he is subject to transmigration (saṃsāra); he really experiences the pains of hunger (bubhukṣā), thirst (pipāsā), cold (śīta) and heat (uṣṇa), old age (jarā) and sickness (vyādhi).”[28] In order to suppress such concepts, the Buddha preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra and says: “My body (kāya) is inconceivable (acintya).[29] Brahmā king of the gods, etc., the gods and the ancients, for periods (kalpa) as numerous as the sands of the Ganges (gaṅgānadīvālukopama) have tried to measure my body and find the range of my voice (vāc); they were unable to test it and still less, my wisdom (prajña) and my samādhi.” Some stanzas say:

The true nature of dharmas,
Brahmā devarāja,
All the gods and princes of the earth,
Misunderstand it, are unable to understand it.

The profound marvelous Dharma,
No-one can test it.
The Buddha has come to reveal it.
Its light is like the brilliance of the sun.

Moreover, when the Buddha turned the wheel of the Dharma (dharmacakra), bodhisattvas from foreign regions (deśantara) came to examine the Buddha’s body[30] which surpasses space (ākāśa) and the immense buddha-fields (buddhakṣetra). Having come from the universe of the Buddha Houa chang (Padmottara),[31] they saw the body of the Buddha and exclaimed:

Space is infinite,
So are the qualities of the Buddha.       
To want to measure his body
Would be an endless task.

He surpasses the world of space
And the immense buddha-fields.
To see the body of the Lion of the Śākyas
Is just that and none other.

The body of the Buddha is like a mountain of gold,
He sends out great rays,
[59a] He is adorned with the major and the minor marks
Like a garland of lotuses in springtime.

If the Buddha’s body is immense (apramāṇa), so also are his rays (raśmi), his voice (vac), his morality (śīla), his samādhis, his wisdom (prajñā) and his other buddha qualities (buddhadharma). Refer to the three mysteries (guhya) explained in the Mi tsi king (Guhyakasūtra)[32] on which it will be necessary to enlarge.

11. Furthermore, at the time of his birth, the Buddha came down to the earth, took seven steps (saptapada) and spoke some words, then was silent.[33] Like all infants, he does not walk and does not talk; he suckles milk for three years; nurses feed him and he grows slowly. However the body (kāya) of the Buddha is incalculable (asaṃkhyeya) and surpasses all the worlds (sarvalokātikrānta). But he appears to beings as an ordinary man (pṛthagjana). Ordinarily, in a new-born baby, the limbs (kāyabhāga), the faculties (indriya) and the mental consciousness (manovijñāna) are undeveloped (siddha, pariniṣpanna) and thus, the four bodily positions (īryāpatha) – sitting (niṣadana), lying down (śayyā), walking (gamana) standing (sthāna) – going from speech to silence, and all the other human behaviors (manuṣyadharma) are incompletely manifested. With the passing of the days, months and years, the child practices little by little and takes on human behaviors. But why was the Buddha born, if before birth he was already able to talk and walk, and afterwards he could not? This seems strange; but the single purpose of the Buddha is to use his power of skillful means (upāyabala): the Buddha manifests human behaviors (manuṣyadharma) and adopts the human positions (īryāpatha) so that beings will believe in his profound Dharma. If the Bodhisattva were able to walk and talk as soon as he was born, people would say: “This man that we see is extraordinary (adbhuta), he must be a god (deva), a nāga or a demon (asura). The doctrine which he professes is certainly not within our reach. Transmigrating (saṃsārin) and fleshly (māṃsakāya) beings as we are, in the grasp (ākṣipta) of the activities of the fetters (saṃyojana), we do not have the capacity (vaśitā) for it; who among us could attain such a profound Dharma?”[34] Victims of their own modesty, these people cannot become firm adepts of the holy Dharma (āryadharmabhājana). It is for them that the Buddha is born in the Lan p’i ni yuan (Lumbinīvana).[35] – Although he might have gone directly to the tree of enlightenment (bodhidruma) and become Buddha there, he pretended by skillful means (upāya) to act as a child (kumāra), as an adolescent (bāla), as a young man (dāraka) and as a grown man. At every age, he successively fulfilled the appropriate rôle: childish play (kumārakrīda), study of the arts (kāla), householder’s duty (sevanā), enjoyment of the five objects of desire (pañca kāmaguṇa).[36] – Endowed with human faculties, he contemplates the painful spectacle of old age (jatā), sickness (vyādhi) and death (maraṇa) and experiences revulsion (saṃvega)[37] for them. – In the middle of the night, he passed outside the ramparts, left home (pravrajati) and went to the ṛṣis Yu t’o ie (Udraka) and A lo lo (Ārāḍa). He pretended to be their disciple, but did not follow their teaching. Having always had the superknowledges (abhijñā), he recalled his former existence (pūrvajanma) when, at the time of the Buddha Kia cho (Kāśyapa), he followed the path of discipline (śīlacaryamārga);[38] nevertheless, for the moment, he pretended to practice asceticism (duṣkaracarya) and searched for the path (mārga) for six years. – Although he reigns over the trisāhasramahāsāhasra-lokadhātu, the Bodhisattva pretended to destroy Māra’s army (mārasenā) and attain the supreme path (anuttaramārga).

It is in order to conform to the human condition (lokadharmānuvartana) that he manifested all these transformations (pariṇāma). But here in the Prajñāpāramitā he manifested the great power of his superknowledges (abhijñā) and wisdom (prajñā); in that way, people will know that the Buddha’s body (kāya) is incalculable (asaṃkhyeya) and surpasses all the worlds (sarvalokātikrānta).

12. Moreover, there are people who could be saved, but who sometimes fall into [59b] the two extremes (antadvaya), whether, out of ignorance (avidyā), they seek only bodily pleasures (kāyasukha), or whether, by the path of activity (saṃskāramārga), they give themselves up to asceticism (duṣkaracarya).[39] From the absolute point of view (paramārtha), these people lose the right path of nirvāṇa. In order to extirpate these twofold extremes (antadvaya) and introduce people into the middle path (madhyamā pratipad), the Buddha preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitā.

13. Furthermore, he preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra to mark the difference in retribution (vipāka) between worship (pūjā) of the body of birth (janmakāya) and the worship of the body of the Dharma (dharmakāya). Refer to the chapter of the Cho li ‘ta (Śarīrastuti).[40]

14. Furthermore, he preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra in order to teach about the bodhisattva’s irreversibility (avaivartika) and about the characteristics (liṇga) of this avaivartika.[41] He also preaches in order to thwart the tricks and works of Māra.

15. Furthermore, he preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra so that future centuries will honor (pūjati) the Prajñāpāramitā and in order to predict (vyākaraṇa) the Three Vehicles (yānatraya). Thus the Buddha said to A nan (Ānanda): “After my nirvāṇa, this Prajñāpāramitā will go to the south (dakṣiṇāpatha); from the south, it will go to the west (paścimadeśa); in five hundred years, it will go to the north (uttarapatha).(see note on the spread of the Prajñā) There will be many believers there. The sons and daughters of good family will offer flowers (puṣpa), incense (dhūpa), garlands (mālya), standards (dhvaja), banners (patāka), music (tūrya), lamps (dīpa), jewels (maṇiratna) and other riches (vasu). They will write it, preach it, study it, listen to it, reflect on it, meditate on it, and worship it in the usual ways. For this reason, these people will enjoy all kinds of worldly happiness (lokasukha), will obtain the three vehicles (yānatraya) without delay and enter into nirvāṇa-without-residue (nirupadhiśeṣanirvāṇa).” This will be seen in following chapters. It is for these reasons and these motivations that the Buddha preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra.

16. Furthermore, the Buddha preaches the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra to explain the absolute point of view (pāramārthika siddhāntalakṣaṇa). There are four points of view (siddhānta): 1) the mundane point of view (laukika siddhānta), 2) the individual point of view (prātipauruṣika siddhānta), 3) the therapeutic[42] point of view (prātipākṣika siddhānta), 4) the absolute point of view (pāramārthika siddhānta).[43] In these four points of view are contained, in its entirety, the twelve-membered scriptures (dvādaśāṅga) and the eighty-four thousand baskets of the doctrine (caturaśīti-dharmapiṭakasahasra). All four points of view are true (satya) and do not contradict one another (ananyonyavyapakṛṣṭa): in the Buddhadharma, there are realities of mundane order, realities of individual order, realities of antidotal order and realities of absolute order.

a. What is the mundane point of view (laukika siddhānta)? Real dharmas resulting from causes and conditions (hetupratyayasāmagrī) exist, but do not have a nature distinct (bhinnasvabhāva) [from these causes and conditions].[44] Thus the chariot (ratha) exists by the coming together of the pole, the axles, the spokes and the rim of the wheel, but there is no chariot distinct from its constituent parts.[45] In the same way, the individual exists by the coming together of the five aggregates (skandha), but there is no individual distinct from the skandhas. If there were no mundane point of view, the Buddha would be a liar. Why did he actually say: “With my very pure divine eye (divyacakśus), I see that, according to their good or bad actions (kuśalākuśaladharma), beings die here and are reborn there in order to undergo retribution (vipāka). Those who have done good actions are reborn among the gods (deva) and among men (manuṣya); those who have committed [59c] bad actions fall into the three unfortunate destinies (durgati).[46] Moreover, a sūtra says: “A person has been born into this world for the joy, happiness and usefulness of many people. This is the Buddha Bhagavat.”[47] In the same way, the Fa kiu (Dharmapada) says: “A mind is able to save a mind; another man is able to save a mind; the practice of good and wisdom is the best savior.”[48] Also, the Buddha has said in the P’ing cha wang ying king (Bimbasārarājapratyud-gamanasūtra): “The ordinary person (pṛthagjana) does not listen to the Dharma, the ordinary person is attached to the Ātman.”[49] However, in the Fa eul ye king (Sūtra of the two nights of the Dharma, or Dharmarātridvyayasūtra), it is said: “From the night when he acquired the Path to the night of the parinirvāṇa, every teaching given by the Buddha is true and not false.”[50] Now if the individual did not truly exist, why would the Buddha say [without lying]: “With my divine eye I consider beings”? It must be concluded that the individual does exist, but only from the mundane point of view and not from the absolute point of view.

Footnotes and references:


The first four stanzas are an homage to the Three Jewels (triratna): the Buddha, the Dharma and the Community (saṃgha). In the first, the Prajñāpāramitā is closely associated with the praise of the Buddha, for it is the Mother of the Buddhas (cf. Mppś, T 1509, k. 4, p. 93a; k. 34, p. 314a; k. 70, p. 550a. – Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra, T 220, k. 441; p. 224c. – Pañcaviṃśati, T 223, k. 14, p. 323b)


The view of existence and non-existence (bhavavibhavadṛṣṭi) also called view of belief in the extremes (antagrāhadṛṣṭi) consists of believing in eternity (śāśvata) or extinction (uccheda). It has been formally condemned many times by the Buddha and by Nāgārjuna. Cf. Saṃyutta, II, p. 17: Sabbam atthīti ayam eko anto, sabbaṃ natthīti ayaṃ dutiyo anto. Ete te ubho ante anupagamma majjhena Tathagato dhammam deseti – Madh. kārikā, XV, 10, p. 272–273:

astīti śāśvatagrāho nāstīty ucchedadarśanam |

tasmād astitvanāstitve nāśrīyeta vicakṣaṇaḥ ||


I.e., the Buddha who is the puṇyakṣetra par excellence.


The tṛṣṇā paunarbhaikī that ‘leads from rebirth to rebirth, accompanied by pleasure and envy, which finds its pleasure here and there: the thirst for pleasure, the thirst for existence, the thirst for impermanence’ (Vinaya, I, p. 10).


The belief in ‘me’ and ‘mine’ (ātmātmīyagrāha) which makes up the satkāyadṛṣṭi.


The araṇāsamādhi is the power to prevent the arising of passion in others. The bibliography for this subject is in Saṃgraha, p. 53. – Subhūti is the foremost of the araṇavihārins (Aṅguttara, I, p. 24); see M. Walleser, Die Streitlosigkeit des Subhūti, Heidelberg, 1917.


By Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra, the author probably means the collection of the Prajñā literature and particularly the Pañcaviṃśati of which the Mppś is the commentary.


The Pen mo king ‘Sūtra of the beginning and the end’ is known in three Chinese recensions:

1) The Chouo pen king of Tchong a han, T 26 (no. 66), k. 13, p. 508c–511c; 2) the Kou lai che che king, T 44, p. 829b–830c; 3) the Po p’o li king of Hien yu king, T 202 (no. 57), k. 12, p. 432b–436c. – The Sanskrit title, Pūrvāparāntakasūtra, has two citations as evidence from the Karmavibhaṅga, p. 39 and 67; the Tibetan title, Sṅon daṅ phyi mthaḥi mdo, is known by a citation from the Maitreyavyākaraṇa, v. 2 – For this sūtra, see also S. Lévi, Maitreya le consolateur, ML, II, p. 362–363.

The literature on Maitreya is considerable, but of rather late date:

Pāli sources: Dīgha, III. p. 75 seq.; Suttanipāta, Ajitasāṇavapucchā, v. 1932–2039, and Tissameyyamāṇavapucchā, v. 1040–1042; Milinda, p. 159; Atthasālini, p. 361, 415, 431; Visuddhimagga, II, p. 434; Mahāvaṃsa, XXXII, v. 81 seq; Anāgatavaṃsa, JPTS, 1886.

Sanskrit and Chinese sources; Mahāvastu, I, p. 51; III, p. 246; P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 135, p. 135, p. 698b; Chouen tcheng li louen, T1562, k. 38, p. 559a; Kośa III, p. 193; VII, p. 129; IX, p. 269; Koṣavyākhyā, p. 21, 293; Siddhi, p. 176, 418, 622, 737, 772; Maitreyavyākaraṇa, ed. S. Lévi, ML, II, p. 381–402; T 348, 349, 1143, 1525.

Central Asian sources: In eastern Iranian, the Maitreyasamiti; in Tokharian, fragments of the Maitreyasamitināṭaka (Toch. Sprachreste, p.254, n.); in Sogdian, the TSP of Benveniste, p. 29, 115.

Modern works: N. Péri, BEFEO, XI, 1911, p. 439–457; P. Demiéville, BEFEO, 1920, XX, p. 158; XXIV, 1924, p. 240–241; Przyluski, Le N.-O. de l’Inde, p. 58; Le Parinirvāṇa, p. 161, 178, 205, 332; La croyance au Messie dans l’Inde at dans l’Iran, RHR, vol. C, no. 1, Jul.-Aug. 1920, p. 1–12; Un dieu iranien dans l’Inde, RO, VII, 1931, p. 1–9; S. Lévi, Les seize Arhat, Extract from JA 1028, p. 14, 53; Le sūtra du sage et du fou, JA Oct.-Dec. 1025, p. 320–326; Maitreya le consolateur, ML, II, p. 355–492; R. Abegg, Der Messias-glaube in Indien und Iran, Berlin, 1928.


Pūrvāparānatakasūtra, T 26, k. 13, p. 511a: Later, a long time from now, when the duration of human life will be 80,000 years, you will be Buddha with the name Maitreya Tathāgata, arhat … – Dīgha, III, p. 75: asītivassasahassāyukesu bhikkhave manussesu Metteyyo nāma bhagavā loke uppajjissati, arahaṃ …; Tch’ang a han, T 1 (no. 6), k. 6, p. 41c.


For buddhānusmṛitisamādhi, see below, k. 7, p. 108c–109b.


The miracle of the Buddha is described in k. 7, p. 111a.


This paragraph contains a biography of the Buddha. Short and hackneyed though it is, it contains some revealing details that allow it to be placed in the evolution of the Buddha legend. It is later than the sparse biographical fragments in the Nikāya-Āgama, of which the Nidānakathā is but the development. On the other hand, it presents several points of contact with the following biographies of the Buddha: sections of the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, Mahāvastu, Lalitavistara, Buddhacarita, Chinese Lives (T 184–192). – Modern works: Becke, Buddhismus, I; Kern Histoire, I, p. 19–291; Kern, Manual, p. 12–46; Oldenberg, Bouddha, p. 83–225; Fischel, Leben, p. 21–49; Senart, Légende; Thomas, Life of the Buddha; Waldenschmidt, Legende.


Sleep of the women: Ken pen chouo…p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 4, p. 115b (Rockhill, Life, p. 24); Mahāvastu, II, p. 159; Lalitavistara, p. 205–208 (tr. Foucaux, p. 180–183); Buddhacarita, V, v. 43–66 (tr. Johnston, p. 69–74); Lieou tou tsi king, T 152 (no. 78), k. 7, p. 41b–42a (tr. Chavannes, Contes, I, T 184–194, tr. Beal, Romantic Legends, p. 130.


Kaṇṭhaka, his famous steed.


The Bodhisattva’s halt at twelve yojanas from Kapilavastu in the hermitage of the ṛṣi Bārgava (or Vaśiṣta) is mentioned in Ken pen chouo…p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 4, p. 117b; Buddhacharita, VI, v.1. – According to the Nidānakathā, p. 64, the Bodhisattva traveled thirty yojanas directly as far as the river Anomā; in the Lalitavistara, p. 225, he traversed the land of the Śakyas, the Koḍyas and the Mallas and arrived at daybreak at the city of Anuvaineya of the Maineyas.


Cutting of the hair; e.g., in Nidānakathā, p. 64–65, tr. Kern, Histoire, p. 55–56: He thought: “This rich head-dress is not suitable for a monk; nor would it be suitable for the Bodhisattva to have his hair cut by another; that is why I will cut my hair myself with my sword.” Upon which he took his sword in his right hand, his hair in his left hand and, in this way, cut his hair so short that it was a mere two inches long and covered his head, curling to the right. During his whole life, his hair kept this length; his mustache had a corresponding length. From that day on, he never needed to cut his hair or his beard. The Bodhisattva took the hair with the jewel at the top-knot and threw it into the air saying: “If I am destined to become a Buddha, may my hair remain suspended in space; if not, may it fall down to the ground (sac’ āhaṃ Buddho bhavissāmi ākmaśe tiṭṭhatu, no ce bhūmiyaṃ patatu).” The hair rose up into the air to the height of a yojana and remained suspended there. Indra, the king of heaven, seeing that, caught it in a golden box and, within his paradise, established the shrine of the Top-knot Jewel (cūlāmaṇicettiya). This is what is expressed in the verse:
His hair, perfumed with scented ointment,
The most sublime of beings cut and threw up into the air
Where Indra of the thousand eyes took it respectfully
And placed it in a golden jeweled box.

For once, the corresponding story in Lalitavistara, p. 225 (tr. Foucaux, p. 197) is more sober in its details: Then the Bodhisattva thought: “Why should I keep my top-knot after becoming a wandering monk?” And cutting his topknot with his sword, he threw it to the wind. It was gathered up by Trāyastriṃśa gods and honored; and still today, among the Trāyastriṃśa gods, the festival of the Topknot is held. A caitya was also built there; it is still known today by the name of Cūḍāpratigrahaṇa. – Similar stories in Wou ten liu, T 1421, k. 15, p. 102b; Fo pen hing tsi king, T 190, k. 18, p. 737c.


Exchange of clothing: Nidānakathā, p. 65 (tr. Kern, Histoire, I, p. 56): Then the Bodhisattva thought: “These garments of fine Benares muslin are not suitable for a monk”. However he did not have any other clothes to wear. One of his former companions from the time of Buddhakāśyapa understood this. His name was Ghaṭīkāra and he felt a friendship for his former comrade (Jyotipāla, cf. Mahāvastu, I, p. 319] that had not weakened during the thousands of years that had elapsed between the appearance of the two Buddhas. Seeing that his friend had gone forth from home and left his belongings to become a monk, he resolved to go to find and bring him whatever a monk had need of:

Three robes and a begging bowl,
A knife, a needle, a belt.
Also a water filter, those are the eight
Objects necessary for a mendicant monk.

But the Mppś comes rather closer to the story told in the Lalitavistara, p. 225–226 (tr. Foucaux, p. 197). It came into the Bodhisattva’s mind: “Why keep these garments from Benares after becoming a wandering monk? If I had ochre robes (kāṣāya) suitable to live in the forest, that would be good.” Then it came to the mind of the Śuddhāvāsakāyika gods: “The Bodhisattva needs some ochre robes.” Then a son of the gods, making his divine shape disappear, stood before the Bodhisattva in the form of a hunter clothed in an ochre robe. Then the Bodhisattva said to him: “Friend, if you give me some ochre robes, I myself will give you some garments from Benares…” Then the son of a god gave the Bodhisattva the ochre robes and took the Benares garments and, full of reverence, put these garments on the top of his head with his two hands in order to honor them and returned to the world of the gods… There also a caitya was built and still today this caitya is known as Kāṣāyagrahaṇa. – The same main details in the story in Mahāvastu II, p. 195; Buddhacarita, VI, v. 60–63.


Fast of the Bodhisattva at Uruvilvā on the Nairañjanā. According to the canonical tradition, Majjhima, I, p. 245 (no corresponding sūtras in the Chinese Āgama), the food of the Buddha consisted of a little soup (yūsa) made of beans (mugga), vetches (kulattha) chickpeas (kaḷāya) or peas (hareṇuka). – On the other hand, in the Sanskrit tradition, the Buddha successively reduced his food to one kola, to one grain of rice (taṇdula), then to one sesame (tila) seed daily; cf. Lalitavistara, P. 254, l. 3; p. 255, l. 8; p. 255, l. 15; Mahāvastu, II, p. 125, l. 10, p. 126, l. 16; p. 128, l. 4. The Mppś and, even more curiously, the Nidānakathā adhere apparently to this tradition, p. 67: Bodhisatto pi kho koṭippattaṃ … paṭikkhipi. – On the ascetic life of the Buddha, a good study of the sources in J. Dutoit, Die duṣkaracaryā des Bodhisattva in der buddhistischen Tradition, Strassburg, 1905. See especially p. 11, 21, 23, 36, for the Buddha’s food.


Thomas, Life of the Buddha, p. 68, comments that in the canonical story (Majjima, I, p. 237) there is no mention either of the bodhi tree or of Māra’s temptations. The Mppś thus depends here on more recent sources such as the Padhānasutta (Suttanipāta, v. 425–449); Nidānakathā, p. 70–75; Buddhacarita, chap. XII, v. 112–118; XIII, XIV; Lalitavistara, chap. XX-XXII; Mahāvastu (II, p. 267–270, 276–283, 304–349. See E. Windisch, Māra und Buddha, Leipzig, 1895, p. 229, 332–335.


According to the interpretation of the Mppś, when Brahmā invited the Buddha to preach the Dharma (below, k. 1, p. 63a–b), it was a matter of the entire Buddhist doctrine without distinction as to Vehicle. In response to this invitation, the Buddha preached not only the Four Noble Truths, the central point of the Hīnayāna, but also the ‘very profound dharmas and the Prajñāpāramitā’, the basis of the Mahāyāna dogma. For a long time it has been acknowledged that both Vehicles, referring to one and the same teacher, the Buddha Śākyamuni, tell his life and his propagation of the Dharma in almost the same terms and affirm that their main texts were given by him


Below, K. 2, p. 73b, 74b.


Same objection, k. 3, p. 74b27.


Free quotation of the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 5–7, that can easily be restored into Sanskrit: Atha khalu Bhagavān…’vabhāsitāḥ sphuṭāś chābhūvan. – This passage will be commented on in k. 7, p. 111–114.


Heretics have often treated the Buddha as a magician. Upālisutta, Majjhima. I, p. 375 = Tchong a han, T 26 (no. 133), k. 32, p. 629a26: Samaṇo hi bhante…sāvake āvaṭṭeti: “The monk Gotama is a magician; he knows the hidden magic that seduces others’ disciples.” Sanskrit fragments of this sūtra may be found in Hoernle, Remains, p. 27–35; S. Lévi, Notes indiennes, JA, Jan.-Mar. 1925, p. 26–35; Viṃśatikā, p. 10, l. 15. – Pāṭalisatta, Saṃyutta IV, p. 340 = Tchong a han, T 26 (n0. 20), k. 4, p. 445b: Sutaṃ me taṃ…māyaṃ jānāti: “I have heard that the monk Gotama knows magic.” – An allusion to this same Pāṭali occurs in Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 119), k. 5, p. 37b, and in P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 27, p. 139a: “The tīrthika Pāṭali says: Gautama, do you know magic? If you do not, you are not omniscient; if you do, you are a magician.” – P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 8, p. 38b: “The tīrthikas slander the Buddha saying: The śramaṇa Gautama is a great magician who deceives the world.” – Kośa, III, p. 30; Kośavākhyā, p. 206: Yathānyatīrthya…lokaṃ bhakṣayatīti: “The heretics criticize the Buddha. These are Maskari, etc. A treatise of the Nirgranthas says: Who does miracles? Gautama is a magician. – And elsewhere it has been said of the Buddha: After a hundred periods there appeared in the world a magician of this kind who will destroy (exploit) the world by his magic.”

If most of Buddhist texts consider the word ‘magician’ applied by heretics to the Buddha as harmful, some late sources, like the Ratnakūta, describe the Buddha as the greatest of magicians and victor of all magic tournaments. Cf. Bhadrammayākāra, p. 62: “Furthermore, Maudgalyāyana, the magic of the juggler Bhadra, being incomplete, is not the right magic, whereas the magic of the Tathāgata is the right magic, since he has fully realized that all of reality is but magic. If all the beings in the world who are attached to nominal reality each possessed as powerful a magic as the juggler Bhadra, even all of their magic would not reach a hundredth, or a thousandth, or a billionth, or even an incalculably and incomparably small part of the magic of a Tathāgata.”


Buddhists love to mention this disproportion between the error and the punishment on the one hand and the merit and the reward on the other hand, Cf. Bodhicaryāvatāra, I, v. 34–35:

iti santrapatau jinasya…śubhaṃ iv ayatnataḥ ||

Tr. LAV., p. 7: “Such is the son of the Buddha, master of a veritable feast. The Buddha has declared: Whosoever sins against him in his heart remains in hell for as many centuries as the evil thought has lasted in seconds. But when the heart is calm and takes delight in the Bodhisattva, this is a merit so great that it destroys old sins. And is violence not necessary to occur to harm the bodhisattvas? Is it not natural to love them?”

- Similarly the Praśāntaviniṣcayaprātihāryasūtra, cited in Pañjikā, p. 39 and Śikṣāsamucchaya, p. 85: Yāvanti Mañjuśrīr…mayā mahānarakeṣu.


On the Buddha, king of physicians (vaidyarāja), master of medicines (bhaiṣajyaguru), see below, k. 22, p. 224a; k. 85, p. 657b. For details, see P. Demiéville in Hôbôgirin, Byô p. 228, 230–231.- The ‘Sūtra of the good physician’ or the ‘Sūtra on the comparison of the physician’ are important, the Sanskrit texts of which may be found in Kośa, VI, p. 121, n. 4; Kośavyākhyā, p. 514; and the Chinese version in Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 389), k. 15, p. 105a–b. – Other sources mentioned by Demiéville: T 276, p. 384c; T 159, k. 8, p. 328c, 330b; T 375, k. 5, p. 631c; T 26, k. 4, p. 442–443; k. 60, p. 804–805, etc. Further references to Pāli and Sanskrit texts: Aṅguttara, III, p. 238: seyyathā pi bho…abbhatthaṃ gacchanti. – In a list of epithets applied to the Buddha, (Aṅguttara, IV, p. 340), there is that of bhisakha, ‘physician’. The Milinda compares the Buddha to a vejja, p. 74, and to a bhisakha, p. 112, 169, 172. 173. – The Lalitavistara invokes him as vaiyarāj or vaidyarāja, p. 46, 97, 283, 351, 358. – The Bodhicaryāvatāra calls him the omniscient physician, skilled in curing all suffering (sarvajñavaidya sarvaśalyāpahārin, II, v. 37), the best of physicians (varavaidya, VII, v. 24). – Similarly, Śikṣyāsamucchaya, p. 148.5, 243.4, 295.1.


Religious preaching plays an important part in Buddhist therapy; cf. Hôbôgirin, Byô, p. 257.


Like many Mahāyāna sūtras, the Mppś attributes two bodies to the Buddha, one human, the other superhuman. The latter is in question here. Cf. Siddhi, p. 776, 788; Hôbôgirin, p. 178–182.


Marvelous though his powers may be, the Buddha is considered as an ordinary human, not only by his enemies the heretics but also by his first disciples, the Theras, who compiled canonical scriptures and elaborated the Sarvāstivādin scholasticism: see Siddhi, p. 764–772; Hôbôgirin, p. 174–177. It is exclusively on these sources, which represent only a part of Buddhism, that H. Oldenburg has based his well-known work, Le Buddha, sa vie, sa doctrine et sa communauté.


In the Mahāvastu, III, p. 343–345, and the Lalitavistara, p. 438, these are the devas or devaputras who come to praise the Buddha.


The Buddha residing at the limits of the nadir (Pañcaviṃśati, p. 17).


The three mysteries (guhya) of the Tathāgata, the mystery of the body (kāya), of the speech (vāc) and of the mind (manas), are explained in the section of the Ratnakūta entitled Assembly of Guhyaka-Vajrapāṇi, Ta pao tsi king, T 310, k. 10, p. 53b. – Dharmarakṣa has given a different version in the Jou lai pou sseu yi py mi ta tch’eng king (Tathāgatācintyaguhyanirdeśa), T 312, k. 6, p. 716c.- The Tibetan version is called De bzhin gśegs paḥi gsaṅ ba bsam gyis mi khyab pa bstan = Tathāgatācintyaguhyanirdeśa, Dkon brtsegs no, 3 (OKC no. 760.3, p. 231; Csoma-Feer, p. 214). – Below, k. 10, p. 127c, the Mppś refers back to the same text under the name Mi tsi kin kang king (Guhyakavakrapāṇi)


This paragraph contains a short summary of the life of the Buddha, already sketched in paragraph 8. The terrestrial and human existence of Śākyamuni, although real, is not only miraculous but also, in a certain sense, artificial: the Buddha conforms to the world (lokānuvartana); he takes on worldly dharmas which in reality are foreign to him. There are several varieties of Lokottaravādas: sometimes the Bodhisattva Śākyamuni is a fictitious body (nirmāṇakāya), a phantom (Docetism), sometimes it is a body of birth which, at the time of enlightenment, is paired with a glorious body, a body of dharmadhātu (See Siddhi, p. 773–776; Hôbôgirin, p. 177–185). The Lokottaravāda of the Mppś is largely that of the Mahāvastu, summarized by A. Barth, Jour. des Savants, 1890, p. 467–458 (= Oeuvres, V, p. 16): “The Buddhas have absolutely nothing in common with the world (lokena samam); everything in them is supernatural (lokottara), I, p. 159. If they appear to think, speak, act, suffer like us, it is out of pure compassion, in order to conform externally to our weakness (lokānuvartana); they themselves are above all of that and remain strangers to it, I, p. 167–172. To maintain the opposite is heresy, I, p. 96. It goes without saying that our text tells all the miracles of the conception, gestation, birth at great length, but not without adding to it its own note, which is that that all takes place without any natural cause, or rather, as there is no divine cause, it is itself its own cause. In no way are the Buddhas engendered by their father and mother; they are produced by their own energy, they are svaguṇanirvṛtta, which is just a simple variant of the brāhmanical svayambhū, I, p. 145. Their mothers are virgin (see, however, LAV., Dogma et philosophie, p. 57, 186–188; Thomas, Life of the Buddha, p. 36); in those existences in which they are to give birth to a Bodhisattva of the last level, the mothers of the Bodhisattva live in complete chastity; not even in mind do they have any connection with their spouses, I, p. 147. They live as virgins for seven days after having given birth, I, p. 199. Their ladies are also virgins; for, in their last two existences, the Bodhisattvas did not give themselves up to sense pleasures. Thus it is directly from heaven that Rahūla entered the womb of his mother Yaśodharā… As for the Bodhisattvas who have reached their last birth, we know that they come into the world leaving their mothers’ right side without injuring them; that is because, adds the Mahāvastu, their form (rūpa), i.e., their body, is completely spiritual (manomaya), I, p. 218.”


The same idea expressed in almost identical words in the Lalitavistara, p. 87–88: garbhāvasthitah ca…paripūrayitum iti. – Tr. Foucaux, p. 81–82: It is out of compassion for beings that a Bodhisattva is born in the world of men, because if he were a god, he would not turn the wheel of Dharma. And because of that, Ānanda, how could beings not fall into discouragement? (They would say): The Bhagavat Tathāgata Arhat is truly the perfect and accomplished Buddha; but we, being only humans, are incapable of fulfilling the conditions.

Indeed, if the canonical scriptures are to be believed, Śākyamuni’s contemporaries did not know how to characterize him and perplexedly wondered: Is he a man, a god, a gandharva or a yakṣa? Cf. Aṅguttara, II, p. 38 (corresponding passage in Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 101), k. 4, p. 28a–b; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 31, p. 717b–c); Majjhima, I, p. 386; Jātaka, I, p. 66.


The Lumbinīvana, the birthplace of the Buddha, is rarely mentioned in the canonical sources. See, however, Suttanipāta, v. 683 (Lumbineyya janapada); Kathāvatthu, p. 97, 559. – But all the biographies of the Buddha, Sanskrit and Chinese, as well as the Pāli exegetical literature, agree in having the Buddha be born at Lumbinī: Mahāvastu, II, p. 18, 145; Lalitavistara, p. 82, 96, 234, 411; Buddhacarita, I, v. 6; Nidānakathā, p. 53, 54; Manoratha, I, p. 16; Cullavaṃsa, LI, v. 10; Ken pen chouo…p’o sang che, T 1450, k. 2, p. 107c, etc. – At Lumbini, actually Rumindeï, near the Nepalese village of Paderia, two miles north of Bhagavanpura, there is a column erected by Aśoka on the spot where the Buddha was born bearing the following inscription: “Here the Buddha was born, sage of the Śākyas… He has erected a stone column which makes it known: ‘Here the Blessed One was born’.” (Oldenberg, Buddha, p. 110–111).


For the miracles of childhood and youth, Thomas, Life of the Buddha, p. 38–50.


The Mppś mentions only three encounters (the old man, the sick man and the dead man), like the Buddhacarita, III, v. 25–62; the Lieou tsi king, T 152 (no. 77), k. 7, p. 41a–b (Chavannes, Contes, I, p. 267–270) and the Tch’ou yao king (Tokyo Tripiṭaka, XXIV, 6, p. 43). – But most sources add a fourth, the meeting with a monk: cf. Mahāpadānasutta, Dīgha, II, p. 21–28; Nidānakathā, p. 59; Mahāvastu, II, p. 150–157; Lalitavistara, p. 187–191; Ken pen chouo…p’o seng che, T1350, k. 3, p. 112c–114a; Chinese biographies: T 184, p. 3466–467; T 185, p. 474–475; T 186, p. 502–503; T 187, p. 570–571; T 188, p. 618; T 189, p. 629–631; T 190, p. 719–724.


These two individuals are called Āḷāra Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta in Pāli; in Sanskrit, Ārāḍa Kālāma and Udraka Ramaputra (the readings of the Lalitavistara in Lehmann’s edition and Foucaux’s translation are in error). – Contrary to what the Mppś says here, the Buddha followed the teachings of Ārāḍa before those of Udraka: cf. Majjhima, I, p. 163–167, 249; Dhammapadatta, I, p. 70–71; Nidānakathā, p. 66; Mahāvastu, II, p. 119–120; Divya, p. 392; Lalitavistara, p. 238–239, 243–245; Buddhacarita ch. 12; Tchong a han, T 26 (no. 204), k. 56, p. 776b–c; Ken pen chouo…p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 4, p. 119.


These are the two extremes of laxism (kāmasukhallikānuyoga) and rigorism (ātmaklamathānuyoga), condemned by the Buddha who preaches a middle way (madhyamā pratipād) in the sermon at Benares. Vinaya, I, p. 10: dve ‘me bhikkhave antā…nibbaānāya saṃvattati. Mahāvastu, III, p. 331: dvāv imau bhikṣavaḥpravrajitasya…saṃbodhāye nirvāṇāye saṃvartate. Lalitavistara, p. 416: dvāv imau bhikṣavaḥ pravrajitasāntāv…pratipadā tathāgato dharmaaṃ deśayati.

See also Dīgha, III, p. 113, Majjhima, III, p. 230; Saṃyutta, IV, p. 330; V, p. 421; Nettipakaraṇa, p. 110; Visuddhimagga, p. 5. 32; Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra, p. 53; Saṃgraha, p. 2; Bodh. bhūmi, p. 185, 187. In reality, the literature of the Prajñās understands the middle way not in as moral or disciplinary sense as does the Lesser Vehicle, but rather in a philosphical sense. The two extremes which it attacks are not only laxism and rigorism but also, and particularly, the extreme views of being and non-being, of eternalism and nihilism, etc. Cf. Madh. vṛtti, p. 269; Madh. avatāra, p. 22 (tr. LAV., Muséon, VIII, 1907, p. 271); Vaidya, Étude sur Āryadeva, p. 35–37; LAV., Madhyamaka, p. 10; Dutt, Mahāyāna, p. 46, 54.


Śārīrastuti is the title of a chapter (p’in) in the Pañcaviṃśati: T 220, k. 430, p. 151c–166a (chap. 35: Cho li p’in); T 221, K. 7, p. 51b–54a (chap. 38: Cho li p’in); T 223, k. 10, p. 290b–293c (chap. 37: Fa tch’eng p’in). – It is commented on in the Ta tche tou louen, T 1509, k. 59, p. 475b–481b(chap. 35: Kiao liang cho li p’in).


The Bodhisattva becomes irreversible (avaivartika) or predestined to bodhi (niyata) when he acquires the body born of the dharmadhātu. Cf. below, k. 4, p. 86b–c; k. 29, p. 273a; k. 74, p. 579c; Siddhi, p. 736–739.


This is the literal translation of Lamotte’s French. Monier-Williams gives ‘hostile, adverse, contrary’ for prātipākṣa.


The theory of the four siddhāntas appears as a development of the theory of the two truths, relative truth (saṃvṛtisatya) and absolute truth (paramārthasatya) which is explained in Kathāvatthu Comm. p. 22; P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 77, p. 399b–400c (tr. LAV., MCB, V, 1937, p. 161–169; Kośa, VII, p. 130; Madh. vṛtti, p. 492; Madh. avatāra, p. 70 (tr. LAV., Muséon, VIII, p. 313); Bodhicaryāvataāra, IX, v. 2. It is also discussed in the Mppś, k. 38, p. 336b. See Oltramare, Théosophie, p. 300–303; LAV., Documents d’Abhidharma. Les deux, les quatre, les troi vérités, MCB, V, p. 159–187. – The first three siddhāntas correspond to the relative truth, the fourth to the absolute truth. Saṃvṛttisatya = 1) laukika saiddhānta + 2) prātipauruṣika siddhānta + 3) prātipākṣika siddhānta.

Paramārthasatya = 4) pāramārthika siddhānta.

To my [Lamotte’s] knowledge, the theory of the four siddhāntas appears only in the Mppś. However, the Bodh. bhūmi, p. 37, mentions four tattvas or realities and four degrees of knowledge:

1) lokaprasiddhatattva, common reality, known to the whole world; 2) yuktiprasiddhatattva, reality established on proofs, 3) kleśāvaraṇaviśuddhijñānagocara, the sphere of knowledge free of any obstacle consistently consisting of passion; 4) jñeyāvaraṇaviśuddhijñānagocara, the sphere of knowledge free of any obstacle to consciousness. For the expressions kleśa- and jñeyāvaraṇa, frequently found in the Vijñānavādin texts, see Triṃśikā, p. 15, Saṃgraha, p. 6; Madhyāntavibhaṅga, index; Siddhi, p. 366. – It is clear that, under these different names, the four tattvas of the Bodh. bhūmi correspond exactly to the four siddhāntas of the Mppś.


When the Buddha speaks of the person, the individual, it is from the mundane point of view for, from the absolute view, the individual is not different from the five skandhas that constitute him. Most of the texts mentioned here are taken from chap. IX of the Kośa, dedicated to the refutation of the pudgala.


An allusion to the reply of the nun Vajirā (Śilā in the Koś) to Māra. Cf. Saṃyutta, I, p. 135; Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 1202), k. 45, p. 327a; T 100 (no. 218), p. 454: Kinnu satto ti paccesi… hoti satto to sammuti ||

These stanzas are cited in Kathāvatthu, p. 66, Kośa, IX, p. 249, and Madh. avatāra, p. 257, of which here is the Tibetan version: bdag ces bya bdud kyi sems…kun rdzob sems can zhes byaḥo The comparison of the chariot is repeated and developed in Milinda, p. 27: Kim pana mahārāja…tho ti – Na hi bhante ti.


This vision of the Buddha arises from the knowledge of the death and birth of beings which he acquired on the second watch of the night of enlightenment. This discovery is described in the same terms in the Sanskrit tradition (e.g., Lalitavistara, p. 344; Mahāvastu, II, p. 283; Daśabalasūtra in Waldschmidt, Bruchstücke, p. 221; Bimbasārasūtra, ibid., p. 129–130) and in the Pāli tradition (e.g., Dīgha, I, p. 82; Majjhima, I, p. 23, 348; II, p. 21, etc.):

Sanskrit: Atha bodhisattvo divyena cakṣuṣā…bhedāt svargalokeṣūpapadyante.

Pāli: So dibbena cakkhunā visuddhena…sugatiṃ saggaṃ lokaṃ upapannā ti.


Aṅguttara, I, p. 22: ekapuggalo bhokkhave loke…arahaṃ sammāsambuddho; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 3, p. 561a9; Kośa, IX, p. 259.


I [Lamotte] am unable to locate this citation either in the Dhammapada or in the Udānavarga.


T 26 (no. 62), k. 11, p. 498b10: These bālapṛthagjanas who have understood (aśrutavat) nothing see the self as their self and become attached to the self. But there is no ‘me’ (ātman) and there is no ‘mine’ (ātmiya). The ‘me’ is empty, the ‘mine’ is empty. – A parallel passage in T41, p. 826a19: Those who call what is not a self a self are fools (bāla) who have understood little.

The Bimbasārasūtra or Bimbasārarājapratyudgamanasūtra is well known:

1) A portion of the Sanskrit original, entitled Bimbasārasūtra, has been recovered from central Asia by the Turfan expedition and published in Waldschmidt, Bruchstücke, p. 114–148.

2) It is quoted in Kośa, III, p. 84, IX, p. 249 and Kośavyākhyā, p. 299: bālaḥ pṛthijanaḥ saṃskāramātram…karma ārabhate.

3) It has been translated twice into Chinese: a. P’in pi so lo wang ying fo king (Bimbisārarāja-pratyudgamanasūtra) in Tchong a han, T 26 (no. 62), k. 11, p. 497b. – b. Fo chouo p’in p’o so lo wang king (Bimbasārasūtra), translation of Fa hien, T 41, p. 825.

4) There is a Tibetan version entitled: Mdo chen po gzugs can sñiṅ pos bsu ba shes bya ba (Bimbasārapratyudgamanāmahāsūtra), Mdo XXV, 2 ) Csoma-Feer, p. 275; OKC, no. 955). It has been analyzed by Waldschmidt in Bruchstücke, p. 144–148.

5) The Sarvāstivādin Vinaya (Che song liu, T 1435, k. 24, p. 174b) considers the P’in po cha lo po lo che k’ie mo nan (Bimibasārapratyudgamana) as one of the ‘great sūtras’ known concerning a very learned upāsaka.

Bimbasāra met Śākyamuni twice. A first meeting occurred before the Buddha’s enlightenment, at Rājagṛha near Paṇḍavapabbata. The Mppś will allude to it below, k. 3, p. 77a. The second meeting was after the enlightenment; Bimbasāra with a numerous retinue went to the Buddha whom he found at the Supatiṭṭhacetiya of Laṭṭhivanuyyāna. The Bimbasārarājapratyudgamanasūtra refers to this second meeting and it was then that the king was converted along with all his people. This conversion is related in the Vinaya and the Lives of the Buddha: Vinaya, I, p. 35–39 (tr. Rh. D. – Oldenberg, I, p. 136–144) to be compared with Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 1074), k. 38, p. 279a–c, and T100 (n0. 13), k. 1, p. 377a–c. – Mahāvastu, III, p. 443–449. – Wou fen liu, T 1421, k. 16, p. 110a. – Sseu feu liu, T 1428, k. 33, p. 707c. – Ken pen chouo…p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 7, p. 135 seq. – Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 88 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, I, p. 197). – Nidānakathā, p. 83.


This so-called “Sūtra of the two nights” is a well-known aphorism found in Dīgha, III, p. 135; Aṅguttara, II, p. 24; Itivuttaka, p. 121; Sumaṅgala. I, p. 66; Tchong a han, T 26 (no. 137), k. 34, p. 645b18: yañ ca rattim tathāgato…eva hoti mo aññathā.

Later it was accepted that the Bhagavat teaches by an instantaneous emission of voice (ekakṣaṇagudāhārena), or even that he does not speak at all (cf. Vasumitra, p. 20; Fo houa yen king, T 279, k. 80, p. 443c; Wei mo kie so chouo king, T 475, k. 1, p. 538a; Niraupamyastava by Nāgārjuna, v. 7, in JRAS, 1932, p. 314: nodāhṛtaṃ tvayā…dharmavarṣeṇa tarpitaḥ; Hôbôgirin, p. 215–217; Siddhi, p. 796). The “Sūtra of the two nights” was modified consequently: Madh. vṛtti, p. 366, 539: yāṃ ca śantamaterātriṃ…nāpi pravyāhariṣyati. – Pañjikā, p. 419: yasyāṃ rātrau tathāgato…niścarantaṃśṛiṇvanti. – Laṅkāvatāra, p. 142–143: yāṃ ca rātriṃ tathāgatoavacanaṃ buddhavacanam.