Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “traditions regarding shariputra-abhidharma” 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 4 - The traditions regarding Śāriputra-abhidharma

The Chou li fou p’i t’an louen (T 1548) was translated into Chinese at the Che yang sseu monastery by Dharmayaśas in the years 407–408 (Bagchi, I, p. 175).

Śāriputra, the foremost of the great sages (mahāpaññānaṃ: Aṅguttara, I, p. 23) may have composed it in the very lifetime of the Buddha: this is what the Mppś affirms here, probably taking this information from the Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 1, p. 1b1–3: “In all of the disciples of all of the Tathāgatas, the rule is that there are two great masters who bear the holy Dharma: in the lifetime of the Buddha, the ārya Śāriputra, and after his nirvāṇa, the ārya Katyāyanīputra (author of the Jñānaprasthāna).” Moreover, we learn from the Atthasālinī, p. 16 (tr. P.M. Tin, Expositor, I, p. 20–21) how Śāriputra was familiar with the Abhidharma: When the Buddha was preaching the Abhidharma to the Trāyastriṃśa gods, he went each day to bathe in Lake Anavatapata, then, during his rest-period, he communicated to Śāriputra the content of the sermon he had just preached. Having thus learned the Abhidharma, Śāriputra transmitted it to his five hundred disciples (Sāriputtatthera pi Satthārā… bhikkhusatānaṃ desesi). The Pāli school itself claims to hold its Abhidhamma from the Buddha himself, but through the intermediary of Śāriputra. And this explains the close relationship between the Śāriputrābhidharma and the Pāli Abhidhamma, a relationship manifested both in form and in content..

Independent investigations carried on both by L. de La Vallée Poussin (Introduction to the Kośa, p. LX-LXII0 and by T. Kamura (Recherches sur l’Abhidharma, Tokyo, 1922), have shown that the Śāriputrābhidharma is not Sarvāstivādin, but expounds a doctrine very close to that of the Pāli Abhidhamma (in particular of the Vibhaṅga and the Puggalapaññati) and maintains the Vibhajyavādin theses expounded in the Vibhāṣā and the Kośa. To review them, it suffices to compare the description of the rūpadhātu in the Śāriputrābhidharma (T 1548, k. 3, p. 543) with Vibhaṅga, p. 1 and Kośa, I, p. 35; the definition of dharmadhātu (k. 2, p. 535) with Vibhaṅga, p. 89 and Kośa, I, p. 30; the definition of nirodhasatya (k. 4, p. 553) with Vibhaṅga, p. 103.

The Pāli school divides its Basket of Abhidhamma into seven books, but the Haimavata school which is almost confused with it (cf. W. Geiger, Mahāvaṃsa, p. 278) adopts another division. (k. 4, p. 553): 1) Distinctions with questions (Sapraśnaka), 2) Distinctions without questions (Apraśnaka), 3) Connections (Saṃgraha), 4) Correspondences (Saṃprayukta), 5) Places (Āyatana). Cf. P’i ni mou king, T 1463, k. 4, p. 818a28–29 (tr. Przyluski, Concile, p. 179). This should be compared with the first three chapters of the Śāriputrābhidharma: 1) Sapraśnaka, 2) Apraśnaka, 3) Saṃgraha-saṃprayukta.

The Mppś adds that “later, the Vātsiputrīya monks recited the Śāriputrābhidharma” and Paramārtha, probably on the basis of this assertion, will explain that their founder, the arhat Vatsyaputra, had had Rāhula as his upādhyāya, who himself had had as upādhyāya Śāriputra who had expounded the Abhidharma in nine parts of the Buddha, called the Abhidharma of the Characteristics of the Doctrine or Dharmalakṣaṇābhidharma (cf. Demiéville, Origine des sectes bouddhiques, p. 57). Actually, the Śāriputrābhidharma contains no mention of the pudgala which is the doctrine characteristic of the Vātsīputrīyas and the Sāṃmitīyas. The only book of Abhidharma that teaches the doctrine of the pudgala is the San mi ti pou louen, T 1649.