Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “regressing or non-regressing bodhisattva” 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 3 - Regressing or non-regressing Bodhisattva

There are two kinds of bodhisattvas, with regression (vaivartika) or without regression (avaivartika)[1] as is the case for the arhats who are susceptible of falling back (parihāṇadharman) or not susceptible of falling back (aparihāṇadharman).[2]

The non-regressing bodhisattvas are called the true bodhisattvas for they are it truly; the others, the bodhisattvas susceptible of falling back, are called bodhisattva [by extension]. In the same way, those who have found the fourfold Path (caturvidha mārga)[3] are called the true assembly (saṃgha) for they are really it; the others, those who have not found the Path, are called assembly [by extension].

Question. – How do we know whether a bodhisattva is with regression or without regression?

Answer. – In the Prajñāpāramitā, in the chapter of the A pi po tche (Avaivartikaparivarta),[4] the Buddha himself defined the characteristics (lakṣaṇa): regression has such and such characteristics, non-regression has other characteristics.

1. If the bodhisattva practices or meditates on one single dharma, he is called a non-regressing bodhisattva. What is this one single dharma?

It is the continual and resolute accumulation of good dharmas (kuśaladharmasamuccaya). It is said that by resolutely (ekacittena) accumulating good dharmas, the Buddhas have attained supreme perfect enlightenment (anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhi).

2. Furthermore, the bodhisattva who possesses one single dharma is without regression. What is this one single dharma? It is right effort (vīrya). Thus the Buddha asked Ānanda: “Ānanda, are you speaking about effort?” – “Yes, Bhagavat.” “Ānanda, are you praising effort?” – “Yes, Bhagavat.” – “Ānanda, one must practice, cultivate and remember effort until one leads men to the attainment of supreme and perfect enlightenment (anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhi).”(also see notes on The seven minds of awakening) And so forth.

3. Furthermore, the bodhisattva who possesses two dharmas is without regression. What are these two dharmas? Knowing that all dharmas are empty (śūnya) and never abandoning beings. The person who does that is a non-regressing bodhisattva.

[86c] 4. Finally, the bodhisattva who possesses three dharmas is without regression: 1) Resolutely (ekacittena) he has made the vow (praṇidhāna) to become Buddha, and this resolution is unshakeable (acala) and infrangible (aheya) like diamond (vajra). 2) His compassion (karuṇacitta) for all beings penetrates his bones (asthi) and marrow (majjā). 3) He has attained the samādhi of wisdom (prajñāsamādhi) and sees all the Buddhas of the present (pratyutpanna). Thus he is called non-regressing bodhisattva.

Footnotes and references:


This subject will be taken up again later, k. 74, p. 579c.


See Kośa, VI, p. 253.


The Path is of four types: preparatory path (prayoga), uninterrupted path (ānantarya), path of deliverance (vimukti) and path of excellence (viśeṣa). See Kośa, VI, p. 277–278.


This is one of the chapters of the Pañcaviṃśati entitled Pou t’ouei tchouan p’in in Hiuan tsang’s translation, chap. 53 (T 220, k. 448, p. 260b–264a), A wei yue tche p’in in Mokṣala’s translation, chap. 56 (T 221, k. 12, p. 80a–87c), Pou t’ouei p’in in Kumārajīva’s translation, chap. 55 (T 223, k. 16, p. 339–341b). Very close, chap. 17 of the Aṣtasāhasrikā, entitled Avivartanīyakāraliṅganimittaparivarta, the original Sanskrit of which may be found in the edition of R. Mitra, p. 323–340.