Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “definition (who is called a 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.

1. Definition (who is called a Bodhisattva)

In the Abhidharma, the disciples of Kia tchan yen ni tseu (Kātyāyanīputra) say: Who is called bodhisattva? He who has awakened himself and then awakens others is called bodhisattva; he who necessarily will become Buddha is called bodhisattva.[1] Bodhi is the wisdom (prajñā) of the saint who has destroyed the impurities (kṣīṇāsrava). The person born from this wisdom, protected by the sages and served by the sages, is called bodhisattva.

They also say that he is called bodhisattva as soon as he has produced the non-regressing mind (avaivartikacitta).

They also say that he must have eliminated five dharmas and gained five dharmas in order to be called bodhisattva. What are these five dharmas?

1) He is freed from the three unfortunate destinies (durgati) and is always reborn among gods (deva) and men (manuṣya).

2) He escapes from poverty (dāridya), from commoners (nīcakula) and always belongs to a noble family (uccakula).

3) He is never a female (strībhava) but always a male (puṃbhava).

4) He is free of physical defects and weaknesses (vaikalya); his organs are complete (avikalendriya).

5) He never has lapses of memory (saṃpramoṣa) but remembers his past existences (jatismara).[2]

– Possessing the wisdom (prajñā) of his past lives (pūrvanivāsa), staying away from evil people, always searching for the path of Dharma (mārgadharma), drawing disciples to himself, he is called bodhisattva.

Footnotes and references:


Cf. Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 176, p. 887c (Hôbôgirin, p. 137): The being who is capable of actions of retribution producing the wonderful marks is called bodhisattva. Just the person whose enlightenment (bodhi) and destiny (gati) both are definitively assured (niyata) is called a true bodhisattva. Bodhi alone is assured starting from the production of the mind of enlightenment (cittotpada), but it becomes the destiny only with the faculty of accomplishing the actions productive of the wondrous marks.


These five points are also found in the Vibhāṣā, k. 176, p.887a. – They also occur in a kārikā of the Kośa, IV, p. 222: sugoccakulapūrṇākṣaḥ pumān jātismara ‘vivṛt, and repeated in Saṃghabhadra, T 1562, k. 44, p. 590b.