Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “traditions regarding katyayana” 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.

Appendix 3 - The traditions regarding Kātyāyana

The traditions relating to Kātyāyana are confused:

a. Mahākātyāyana was one of the great disciples of the Buddha, the foremost of those who explain at length the brief aphorisms of the Buddha (Aṅguttara, I, p.23: aggo saṅkhittena bhāsitassavitthārena atthaṃ vibhajantānam). He was originally from Ujjayinī and was the disciple of Avanti (Theragathā, v. 496–501; Comm. in Rh. D., Brethren, p. 238–239; Manoratha, I, p. 204–209).

According to concordant information, he may have been the author of the Peṭakopadesa: the Gandhavaṃsa, p. 59, attributes this work to him. – The Mppś, k. 2, p. 70a20–23 says: “Mahākātyāyana, during the lifetime of the Buddha, explained the words of the Buddha and made a Pi le (Peṭaka), ‘box-collection’ in the Ts’in language, which, until today, is used in southern India.” – Paramārtha (in P. Demiéville, Origine des sectes, p. 49–50) says: “In the time when the Buddha was in the world, Mahākātyāyana expounded a śāstra to explain the Āgama sūtras of the Buddha.” (This again concerns the Peṭakopadesa and the Abhidharmajñānaprasthāna).

[The Peṭakopadesa is a well-known work: cf. R. Fuchs, Specimen des Peṭakopadesa, Berlin, 1908. According to E. Hardy, Nettipakaraṇa, p. VIII sq., it dates from the beginning of our era. It is a semi-canonical work: the Singhalese tradition rejects it among the extra-canonical books; by contrast, the Mppś includes it among the Abhidharmas, and the Burmese Buddhists include it, along with the Pettipakaraṇa, the Suttasaṃgaha and the Milindapañha, in the canonical collection of the Khuddakanikāya (cf. M. Bode, Pāli Literature of Burma, London, 1909, p. 4 sq.). The Peṭakopadesa is one of the main sources of Buddhagosa’s Visuddhimagga and Upatissa’s Vimuktimārga (cf. P.V. Bapat, Vimuttimagga and Visuddhimagga, Poona, 1937, p. XXV). – According to the evidence of Helmer Smith (in Przyluski, Concile, p. 73, n. 6), it is still in use in Ceylon.

b. Kātyāyāyana, author of the Jñānaprasthāna. – Here also (p. 70a10–12) the Mppś tells us that after the Council of Aśoka (therefore, according to its accounting, in the 200th year after the Nirvāṇa. Kātyāyana composed the Jñānaprasthāna. This date was confirmed by Paramārtha (in Demiévills, p. 50) who informs us “that in the 200 years, Katyāyāna left Lake Anavatapta, came to the country of Magadha into the Mahāsāṃghika school, where he established distinctions related to the holy teaching of the Tripiṭaka…; those who accepted his teachings formed a separate school called ‘the school that enunciates distinctions’; these were the disciples of Mahākātyana.” Actually, Kātyāyana was not a Mahāsāṃghika, but a pure Sarvāstivādin. Paramārtha later corrects himself (p. 53–55) in associating Kātyāyana with the beginnings of the Sarvāstivādin school which was formed at the beginning of the 3rd century after the nirvāṇa. It was as a Sarvāstivādin that he composed the Jñānaprasthāna, but the sources do not agree either on the place of origin or on the date of this work. We have just seen that the Mppś locates it after the Council of Aśoka, therefore in the 200 years after the nirvāṇa. – According to the Vibhāṣā ( T 1545, k. 5. p. 21c), “when the Bhadanta [Kātyāyana] composed the Jñānaprasthāna, he was living in the East; this is why he cites [T 1544, k. 1, p. 918c] the five rivers known in the East.” – According to Hiuan tsang, Si yu ki (T 2087, k. 4, p. 889c), “three hundred years after the nirvāṇa, the śāstra master Kātyāyana composed the Jñānaprasthāna in Tāmasavana”, near Cīnabhukti on the right bank of the Bias (cf. Watters, I, p. 294–295). – According to Paramārtha in his Life of Vasubandhu (T 2049, p. 189a) it is “in the five hundred years after the nirvāṇa of the Buddha that Kātyāyana of the Sarvāstivādin school went to Kashmir where he gathered 500 arhats and 500 bodhisattvas to compile the Abhidharma of his school; the result of this compilation was the Aṣṭagrantha, also called Jñānaprasthāna.”

The Mppś designates this work as Fa tche king pa kien you. In a pinch, one could take this to mean, as does Przyluski, “Jñānaprasthāna in eight kien (93 and 9) tou (khaṇḍa)”, but Paramārtha, in his Life of Vasubandhu (T 2049, p. 189a) explains that k’ien (5 and 10) tou is equivalent to k’ie lan t’a (9 and 5; 140 and 17; 9 and3), i.e., grantha; this is why I [Lamotte] have restored the title as Jñānaprasthānāṣṭagrantha. It is actually known that the Aṣṭagranthābhidharma, or the Abhidharma in Eight Volumes, is a synonym of the Jñānaprasthāna (cf. J. Takakusu, Abhidharma Literature of the Sarvāstivādins, JPTS, 1905, p. 82, n. 2; LAV. Introduction to the Kośa, p. XXX).

The Jñānaprasthāna is cited several times in the Kośavyākhyā of Yaśomitra (p. 89–12, 52, 116, 157, 694); it follows from these citations that the work was in Sanskrit and was subdivided into skandhakas. – We have two Chinese versions: 1. A p’i t’an kien tou louen (Abhidharmāṣṭagrantha), T 1543, translated at Lo yang in 383 by Saṃghadeva and Tchou fo nien; 2. A p’i ta mo fa tche louen (Abhidharmajñānaprasthānaśāstra), T 1544, translated at Lo yang between 657 and 680 by Hiuan tsang (cf. Bagchi, I, p. 161; II, p. 489).

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