Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “description of the viharas” 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 - Description of the vihāras

What is meant by dwelling?

1. The four bodily positions (īryāpatha):[1] sitting (niśadana), lying (śayyā), walking (gamana) and standing (sthāna) are called dwelling. The Buddha takes up these positions to frighten Māra’s troops (mārasena) and so that his disciples will rejoice (pramodante) and enter into all kinds of dhyānas.

2. Furthermore, there are three dwellings: divine abodes (divyavihāra), the abode of Brahma (brāhmavihāra) and the abode of the saints (āryavihāra).[2]

The divine abodes are the abodes of the six classes of the gods of desire (kāmadeva).

The brāhmavihāras are the abodes of the Brahmā gods, etc., up to the gods who are neither with nor without perception (naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatanadeva).

The abodes of the saints are the abodes of the Buddhas, the pratyekabuddhas and the arhats.

Of these three types of abodes, the Buddha chooses the āryavihāra. But [here], out of compassion (anukampa) for beings (sattva), he abides in the city of Rājagṛha.

3. Furthermore, three things, generosity (dāna), discipline (śīla) and good thoughts (kuśalacitta) constitute the divyavihāra.

[76a] The four limitless minds (apramānacitta): loving-kindness (maitrī), compassion (karuṇā), joy (muditā) and equanimity (upekṣā) constitute the brāhmavihāras.

The three samādhis, namely, emptiness (śūnyatā), signlessness (ānimitta) and wishlessness (apraṇihita) are called āryavihāra. The Buddha dwells in the āryavihāras.

4. Finally, there are four kinds of abodes: divyavihāra, brāhmavihāra, āryavihāra and buddhavihāra.[3] We have already spoken about the first three. As for the buddhavihāras, these are the innumerable samādhis such as the heroic walk (śūraṃgama), the ten powers (bala), the four fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya), the eighteen special attributes (āveṇikadharma) of the Buddha, omniscience (sarvajñāna) and wisdoms (prajñā) of all kinds. It is also the 84,000 baskets of the Dharma (dharmapiṭaka), the means of saving men.[4] These various Buddha-qualities are the places inhabited by the Buddha: the Buddha abides there.

The brief description of the vihāras is finished.

Footnotes and references:


On the four īryāpathas, see, e.g., Saṃyutta, V, p. 78; Divyāvadāna, p. 161: caturvidham īryāthaṃ kalpayati tadyathā caṅkramyate tiṣṭhati niṣīdati sayyāṃ kalpayati.


Dīgha, III, p. 220: Tayo vihāra: dibbo vihāro, Brahmavihāro, ariyo vihāro.


Cf. Bodh. bhūmi, p. 90: tatra śūnyatānimittāpraṇihitavihāra… vihāra ity ucyate. – Same definition in Saṃgraha, p. 137.


This is the 80,000 or 84,000 dharmaskandhas taught in order to heal the four types of adepts: cf. Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya (Przyluski, Concile, p. 155) Theragāthā, v. 1024; Sumaṅgala, I, p. 24; Avadānaśataka, II, p. 155; P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 74, p. 385; Kośa, I, p. 45–47.

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