Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “sojourn in the tushita heaven.” 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.

4. Sojourn in the Tuṣita heaven.

The Buddha became a disciple under the Buddha Kāśyapa, observed the pure precepts (viśuddaśikṣāpada),[1] practiced the qualities (guṇa) and was reborn in the heaven of the Teou chouai (Tuṣita).

Question. – Why was the Bodhisattva born in the Tuṣita heaven and not above or below it? Possessing great power (prabhāva), he could have been reborn wherever he wished.

Answer. – 1. According to some, by virtue of the retribution of actions (karmavipākahetoḥ), he had to be reborn in that place.

2. Furthermore, at a level (bhūmi) lower than that, the fetters (saṃyojana) are too [89c] heavy; in a higher level, they are too light. In the heaven of the Tuṣitas, the fetters are neither too heavy nor too light, for there, wisdom (prajñā) is safe (yogakṣema).

3. Futhermore, the Bodhisattva does not want to miss the time when he is to become Buddha (buddhapradurbhāvakāla). If he were born in a lower level where the lifespan (āyus) is short (hrasva), his life would be over before the time of his coming as Buddha; if he were born in a higher level where the lifespan is long (dīrgha), his life would be prolonged beyond the time of his becoming Buddha. But among the Tuṣita gods, the span of life coincides with the period when Buddhas appear.[2]

4. Finally, the Buddha always dwells in a middling destiny (madhyagati). Now the Tuṣita gods are placed in the middle of the gods [of kāmadhātu] augmented by the Brahmakāyikas: they surpass three classes of gods, the Caturmahārājakāyikas, [the Trayastriṃṣas and the Yamas] and are below the other three classes, the Nirmāṇaratis, the Paranirmitavaśavartins and the Brahmakāyikas. Having come from the Tuṣitas, the Bodhisattva was born in Madhyadeśa ‘Central land’.[3] It was in the middle of the night that he came down from heaven (avatāra); it was in the middle of the night that he left the land of Kia p’i lo p’o (Kapilavastu) and after having traveled the Middle Path (madhyama pratipad), he attained supreme and perfect enlightenment (anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhi); it was the Middle Path that he preached to men; finally, it was in the middle of the night that he entered nirvāṇa without residue (nirupadhiśeṣanirvāṇa). Because he loved these ‘middles’, he was born in the intermediate heaven [of the Tuṣitas].

Footnotes and references:

1.

The Buddha was called Jyotipala at tat time.

2.

The Tuṣita gods live 4,000 years, but the days that constitute these years are each equal to 400 ordinary years (Cf. Aṅguttara, I, p. 214; Kirfel, Kosmographie der Inder, p. 194).

3.

The Madhyadeśa in question here is vaster than the Madhyadeśa of the old brahmanical literature. The latter is practically identical with the Āryāvarta whereas the Madhyadeśa of the Buddhist texts includes fourteen of the sixteen Mahājanapadas. For its precise limits, see Malalasekera, II, p. 418–419. Madhyadeśa is the birthplace of noble individuals (purisājanīyā), including the Buddha (cf. Sumaṅgala, I, p. 173; Aṣṭasāhasrikā, p. 336).