Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “bodhisattva in the mahayana system” 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 5 - The Bodhisattva in the Mahāyāna system

The practitioners of the Mahāyāna say: The disciples of Kātyāyanīputra are beings [immersed] in saṃsāra; they do not recite and do not study the Mahāyānasūtras; they are not great bodhisattvas; they do not recognize the true nature (satyalakṣaṇa) of dharmas. By means of their keen faculties (tīkṣṇendriya) and their wisdom (prajñā), they have theories about the Buddhadharma: they define the fetters (saṃyojana), cognition (jñāna), samādhi, the faculties (indriya), etc. If they commit errors in these various subjects, what would happen if they were to give us a theory (upadeśa) regarding the Bodhisattva? If a weak man who wants to jump across a little brook does not succeed in crossing over, what would he do if he comes to a great river except to sink and drown and be lost?

Question. – How is he lost?

1. Actions producing the thirty-two marks

Answer. – The disciples of Mahākātyāniputra have said that one is called bodhisattva after three asamkhyeyas. But already in the course of these three asamkhyeyas, the bodhisattva has experienced no regret in giving his head (śiras), his eyes (nayana), his marrow (majjā) and his brain; such a sacrifice could not be attained by the arhats or the pratyekabuddhas.

Thus at one time, the Bodhisattva, the great chief of a caravan (Sa t’o p’o, sārthavā) was voyaging on the ocean. A violent wind having destroyed his ship, he said to the merchants: “Take hold of my head (śiras), my hair (keśa), my hands (hasta) and my feet (pāda) and I will take you across.” When the merchants took hold of him, he killed himself with his knife (śastra). As a general rule, the ocean does not retain corpses (kuṇapa); a brisk wind began to blow and brought them to the shore.[1] Who would dare to deny that this was an act of great compassion (mahākāruṇika)?

When he had finished the second asamkhyeya and not yet entered into the third, the Bodhisattva received from the Buddha Dīpaṃkara the prophecy (vyākaraṇa) that he would be Buddha. Then he rose up into the sky (ākāśa), saw the Buddhas of the ten directions (daśadigbuddha) and, standing up in space, he praised the Buddha Dipaṃkara.[2] The Buddha Dīpaṃkara had said to him: “In one asamkhyeya, you will be Buddha with the name Śākyamuni.” Since he did indeed receive this prophecy (vyākaraṇa), could one say, without committing a grave error, that he was not already Bodhisattva?

[92a] The disciples of Kātyāyanīputra have said that, during the three asamkhyeyas, the Bodhisattva did not possess the marks (lakṣaṇa) of the Buddha and did not yet accomplish the actions producing the thirty-two marks (dvātriṃśalakṣaṇakarman). [If this is so], how would they know that he is Bodhisattva? Everything must first manifest its characteristic marks; it is only later that one can recognize its reality. If it has no marks, one does not cognize it.

We Mahāyānists say: Receiving the prophecy that one will be Buddha, rising up into the sky, seeing the Buddhas of the ten directions, these are not the great marks. What was predicted by the Buddha is that one will act as a Buddha. The fact of acting as Buddha is the great mark. You ignore this mark and you adopt the thirty-two marks [of the Great Man]. But the cakravartin kings also possess these thirty-two marks;[3] devas and also mahārājas produce them by transformation (nirmāṇa); Nan t’o (Nanda),[4] T’i p’o la (Devadatta),[5] etc., possessed thirty; P’o po li (Bāvari)[6] had three; the wife of Mo ho kia chö (Mahākāśyapa) had the mark of ‘the golden color’ (suvarṇavarṇa).[7] Even people of our generation have one or two of these marks, such as deep black eyes (abhinīlanetra), long arms (dīrghabāhu), the upper part of the body like a lion (siṃhapūrvārdhakāya), etc. These various marks are encountered more or less frequently. So why do you attach so much importance to them?

In what sūtra is it said that the Bodhisattva does not accomplish the actions producing the marks during the three asaṃkhyeyakalpas? Nan t’o (Nanda) had given a bath to the Buddha Pi p’o che (Vipaśyin) and wished to obtain pure beauty (saundarya). On the stūpa of a pratyekabuddha he had painted a wall blue, and while drawing the image of the pratyekabuddha, he made the vow (praṇidhāna): “I wish to obtain the mark of the golden color (suvarṇavarṇa) always.” Finally, he built the steps on the stūpa of the Buddha Kāśyapa. (also see notes on the vows and actions of Nanda) As a result of these three merits (puṇya), he enjoyed happiness in all his lifetimes and wherever he was born, he always acquired great beauty. With this stock of merit (puṇyaśeṣa), he was reborn at Kapilavastu into the Śākya clan as younger brother [variant ti, preferable to ti tseu] to the Buddha. He possessed thirty marks of the Great Man and pure beauty. He went forth from home (pravrajita) and became arhat. The Buddha has said that of his five hundred disciples, the bhikṣu Nanda was foremost in beauty. These marks are thus easy to obtain (sulabha). Then why do you say that the Bodhisattva must ‘plant’ (avaropayati) them during ninety-one kalpas while others obtain them in one single lifetime (janman)? That is a serious error.

You [disciples of Kātyāyanīputra] say: “In the course of the first asaṃkhyeyakalpa, the Bodhisattva does not know whether or not he will become Buddha. – In the course of the second asaṃkhyeyakalpa, he does indeed know that he will be Buddha, but does not dare to announce it. – At the end of the third asaṃkhyeyakalpa, he does indeed know that he will be Buddha and he announces it to men.” Where did the Buddha say that? In what sūtra did he teach that? Is it in the Three Baskets of the Listeners (śrāvakadharmatripiṭaka), or is it in the sūtras of the Greater Vehicle (mahāyānasūtra)?

The disciples of Kātyāyanīputra. – Although the Buddha did not say it in the Tripiṭaka, it is reasonable and plausible. Moreover, it is what the A p’i t’an pi p’o cha (Abhidharmavibhāṣā) teaches in the chapter on the Bodhisattva (Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 176, p. 886c).

The Mahāyānists. – From the first production of the mind of bodhi (prathamacittotpāda), the Bodhisattva knows that he will be Buddha. Thus, when the [92b] bodhisattva A tchö lo (Acala),[8] in the presence of the Buddha Tch’ang cheou (Dīrghapāṇi?), first produced the mind [of bodhi], he attained the diamond seat (vajrāsana) and immediately acquired buddhahood; errors (viparyāsa) and impure thoughts (aviśuddhacitta) do not arise in him. The four bodhisattvas of the Cheou leng yen san mei (Śuraṃgamasamādhi) received the prophecy (vyākaraṇa): the first received the prophecy without having produced the thought of bodhi; the second received the prophecy at the moment when he was about to produce the thought of bodhi; before the third one received it, the others all knew [that he would be Buddha], but he himself did not know it; before the fourth one received it, the others and he himself knew it. Then why do you say that in the course of the second asaṃkhyeyakalpa the Bodhisattva knows the prophecy but does not dare to proclaim [that he will be Buddha]? – Besides, the Buddha has said that for innumerable kalpas the Bodhisattva realizes the qualities (guṇa) in order to save beings. In these conditions, why do you speak of [only] three asaṃkhyeyakalpas, which are finite and limited?

The disciples of Kātyāyanīputra. – Although it is a matter [of these numberless asaṃkhyeyas] in the Mahāyānasūtras, we do not believe in them entirely.

The Mahāyānists. – That is a grave error, for [the Mahāyānasūtras] are the true Buddhadharma (saddharma) coming from the very mouth (kaṇṭhokta) of the Buddha. You cannot reject them. Moreover, you derive your origin from the Mahāyāna;[9] how can you say that you do not entirely believe it?

You [disciples of Kātyāyanīputra] also say: “The Bodhisattva accomplishes the actions producing the thirty-two marks in the desire realm (kāmadhātu) and not in the realm of form (rūpadhātu) or in the formless realm (ārūpyadhātu).” [Without a doubt], in the ārūpyadhātu there is neither body (kāya) nor form (rūpa) and, as these thirty-two marks are bodily adornments, it is not possible to accomplish the actions that produce them in the ārūpyadhātu. But why could they not be accomplished in the rūpadhātu? In the rūpadhātu there are the great Brahmārājas who usually invite the Buddhas to turn the wheel of the Dharma (dharmacakra). Wise and pure, they are capable of seeking Buddhahood. Why do they not accomplish the actions producing the thirty-two marks?

You also say: “The Bodhisattva accomplishes these actions in his human births (manuṣyagati) and not in the other destinies.” But he can accomplish them equally in animal or other destinies. Thus So k’ie tou long wang (read So k’ie [lo] long wang tou = Sāgaranāgarājaduhitā), the daughter of Sāgara, king of the nāgas, is a bodhisattva of the tenth level (daśamā bhūmi); (notes on the daughter of Sāgara) the nāga king A na p’o ta to (Anavataptanāgarāja) is a seventh-level bodhisattva (saptamā bhūmi),[10] and the king of the asuras, Lo heou (Rāhu) is also a great bodhisattva.[11] Why do you say that the Bodhisattva cannot accomplish the actions producing the thirty-two marks in destinies other [than the human destiny]?

You also say: “The Bodhisattva accomplishes them in the human destiny and in Jambudvīpa.” It is reasonable to say that he cannot accomplish them in Yu tan lo (Uttarakuru), for there men are without individuality (?) (F: personnalité), attached to pleasure (rakta) and without sharp faculties (tīkṣnendriya). But why could they not accomplish them in the other two continents, K’iu t’o ni (Godānīya) and Fou p’o t’I (Pūrvavideha) where merit (puṇya), wisdom (prajñā) and duration of life (āyus) are much greater than in Jambudvīpa?[12]

You also say: “A volition (cetanā) is necessary to accomplish each mark.” But in the time of a finger snap, the mind (citta) arises and ceases sixteen times; in one thought, there is neither duration (sthiti) nor parts (vibhāga);[13] how could it accomplish a mark of the Great Man? [On the other hand], a mark of the Great Man cannot do without a mind for its accomplishment. Therefore [only] the [92c] coming together of many volitions (bahucetanāsaṃyoga) can accomplish one single mark. In the same way, in order to carry a heavy load, one single man is not enough; the united strength of several men is necessary. Similarly, in order to accomplish a mark, a great mind is necessary and to this effect, the joining of many volitions is indispensible. Therefore it is called ‘the mark of one hundred merits’ (śatapuṇyalakṣaṇa). It is impossible that a single volition could accomplish a determined mark. If other things cannot be accomplished by a single volition, what can be said of the mark of one hundred merits?

Why do you say that the mind of the Bodhisattva Śākyamuni was impure whereas that of his disciples was pure, that the mind of Bodhisattva Maitreya was impure whereas that of his disciples was pure? Where was that said? We cannot find anything like that in the Tripiṭaka or in the Mahāyāna. This statement is your imagination. You believe that only the Bodhisattva Śākyamuni saw the Buddha Puṣya in his cave of precious stones and praised him with one single stanza for seven days and seven nights. But the Bodhisattva Maitreya also praised the Buddha Puṣya in every way. The A po t’o na king (Avadānasūtra or the Avadānaśataka) is the only one that does not say anything about it. If you do not know that, that is not a sufficient reason. Then you add that the mind of Maitreya’s disciples was pure; that is a complete contradiction.

2. The six virtues

You say: “[By the virtue of generosity], the Bodhisattva gives everything without feeling regret, like king Śibi who, to save the pigeon, gave his flesh to the falcon without feeling any regret.” To give wealth (āmiṣadāna) is a lesser gift (hīnadāna); to give one’s body (kāyadāna) is a middling gift (madhyadāna); to give anything whatsoever, provided that the mind is detached (niḥsaṅga) is the highest gift (agradāna).[14] [By telling the story of the gift of the body by king Śibi], why do you praise the middling gift as if it were the complete perfection of the virtue of generosity (dānapāramitāparipūri)?

Although its intention (citta) may be lofty and full of loving kindness (maitrī) and compassion (karuṇā), this [middling] generosity may or may not involve wisdom (prajñā). [King Śibi] is like a man who would sacrifice his body for his parents, his family or his teacher. Since he knows that he is sacrificing his life for a pigeon, his generosity is middling.

[The disciples of Kātyāyanīputra]. – The Bodhisattva [sacrifices himself] for all beings, for his parents, for his teacher, or for all people. This is why [if we accept your definition of highest generosity where detachment plays the essential part], the gift of the body will [never] constitute the complete virtue of generosity.

[The Mahāyānists]. – Although he sacrifices himself for all beings, his mind (citta) is impure (aviśuddha), for he does not know that he himself is non-existent (anātmaka); he does not know that the one who receives his gift (pratigrāhaka) is not a person, is not his teacher; he does not know that the thing given by him (deyadravya) is in reality neither the same as (eka) or different (anya) from him. Since his mind (citta) is attached (sakta) to the three concepts [of donor, recipient and thing given], it is impure (aviśuddha). It is in this world (lokadhātu) that he will receive the reward of his merit (puṇyavipāka); he will not be able to go directly to Buddhahood. Thus it is said in the Prajñāpāramitā that the three things [donor, recipient and the thing given] are non-existent (anupalabdha)[15] and that he should not be attached to them.

This is applied to the virtue of generosity but it is valid also [for the other virtues] up to and including the virtue of wisdom. [According to the disciples of Kātyāyanīputra], to divide the great earth, the cities, towns and villages and to make seven parts of it is the perfection of the virtue of wisdom [93a] (prajñāpāramitāparipūri). But the virtue of wisdom is immense (apramāna) and infinite (ananta) like the water of the ocean. To divide the earth is only ordinary mathematics (gaṇanā); it is a modest part (hīnabhāga) of conventional wisdom (saṃvṛtiprajñā), like one or two drops of water (bindu) in the ocean.

The true prajñāpāramitā is called the ‘mother of the Buddhas’ (buddhamātṛ) of the three times (tryadhvan); it reveals the true nature of all dharmas (sarvadharmasatyalakṣaṇa). This prajñāpāramitā has no point of coming or point of going; it is like a magic show (māyā), an echo (pratiśrutkā), the moon reflected in water (udakacandra) which one sees and which immediately disappears. Out of compassion and, although this wisdom has but a single nature (ekalakṣaṇa), the āryas define it using all kinds of conventional expressions (nāmasaṃketa) as being the precious treasure of the wisdom of the Buddhas (buddhaprajñāratnakośa). You are speaking grave errors.

3. The time of appearance of the Buddhas

You speak of the four examinations (vilokana) made by the Bodhisattva: 1) examination of time (kālavilokana), 2) examination of place (deśavilokana), 3) examination of clan (kulavilokana), 4) examination of mother (upapattisthānavilokana). You add that that the Buddha appears in the world (prādurbhavati) when the human lifespan (āyus) is 80,000, 70,000, 60,000, 50,000, 40,000, 30,000, 20,000, 100 years. – But if the Buddhas always have compassion (anukampa) for beings, why do they appear only at these eight times and not at others? Just as a good medicine (oṣadhi) once swallowed, cures the sickness (vyādhi), so the Buddhadarma does not depend on time.

[The disciples of Kātyāyanīputra]. – Although the Bodhisattva has compassion for beings and although the Buddhas do not depend on time, when the lifespan surpasses 80,000 years, long-lived people (dīrghāyus) revel in pleasures (sukha); their fetters, lust, desire, etc. (rāgatṛṣṇādisaṃyojana) are heavy (sthūla) and their faculties are weak (mṛdvindriya). This is not the time to convert them. On the other hand, when the lifespan is less than 199 years, people have a short life (alpāyus) and are overcome with suffering (duḥkha): their fetters, hatred, etc. (dveṣādisaṃyojana) are thick (sthūla). This period of pleasure [when the lifespan is more than 80,000 years] and this period of suffering [when it is less than 199 years] are not times favorable to finding the Path (mārgalābha). This is why the Buddhas do not appear [at those times].

[The Mahāyānists]. – 1. The lifespan of the gods is more than 10,000 years; that is because of their previous life (pūrvajanma). Although they have plenty of pleasures (sukha) and their sensual desires (rāgatṛṣṇa) are heavy (sthūla), they are able to find the Path (mārga). What could be said then of people who are not happy and whose thirty-two impurities are easily corrected, [except that they find the Path even more easily than the gods]? This is why, even when the human lifespan is greater than 80,000 years, the Buddhas must appear in the world. At this time, people are not sick and their minds are joyful; consequently, their faculties are keen (tīkṣnendriya) and they are virtuous. As a result of their virtues and their keen faculties, they can easily find the Path.

2. Furthermore, under the Buddha Che tseu kou yin wang (Siṃhadundubhisvararāja), the human lifespan is 100,000 years; under the Buddha Ming wang (Ālokarāja), it is 700 asaṃkhyeyakalpas; under the Buddha A mi t’o (Amitābha), it lasts innumerable asaṃkhyeyakalpas. How can you say that the Buddhas do not appear when the human lifespan is longer than 80,000 years?

[93b] [The disciples of Kātyāyanīputra]. – These teachings are in the Mahāyānasūtras, but in our system it is not a question of the Buddhas of the ten directions (daśadigbuddha) but only of the one hundred Buddhas of the past (atītabuddha), Śākyamuni, K’iu tch’en jo (Krakucchanda), etc., and the five hundred Buddhas of the future (anāgatabuddha), Maitreya, etc.[16]

[The Mahāyānists]. – In the Mahāyānasūtras, we speak of the Buddhas of the three times (tryadhvan) and the ten directions (daśadiś) for various reasons. In the universes (lokadhātu) of the ten directions, all the torments rage: old age (jarā), sickness (vyādhi) and death (maraṇa), lust, (rāga), hatred (dveṣa) and delusion (moha), etc.; this is why the Buddhas must appear in these regions. It is said in a sūtra: “If old age, sickness, death and the afflictions (kleśa) did not exist, the Buddhas would not appear.”[17] Furthermore, wherever there are many illnesses (vyādhita), there should be many physicians (vaidya).

In one of your Śrāvaka texts, the Tch’ang a han (Dīrghāgama), king P’i cha men (Vaiśravaṇa) addresses the following stanza to the Buddha:

I bow before the Buddhas, past, future and present;
I take refuge (śaraṇa) in the Buddha Śākyamuni. (notes on Vaiśravaṇa’s stanzas)

In this sūtra of yours, it is said that the king bows down before the Buddhas of the past (atīta), the future (anāgata) and the present (pratyutpanna) and that he takes refuge in Buddha Śākyamuni. Thus we know that, in the present, there Buddhas other [than Śākyamuni]. If the other Buddhas did not exist, why would the king first bow down to the Buddhas of the three times, then afterwards take refuge specially (pṛthak) in Śākyamuni? This king had not yet renounced all desire (avītarāga), but he was at the side of Śākyamuni and, as a result of the affection and respect he had for him, he took refuge in him. As for the other Buddhas, he bowed down before them.

4. Place of appearance of the Buddhas

[The disciples of Kātyāyanīputra]. – The Buddha said: “Two Buddhas do not appear simultaneously in the same world (ekasmin lokadhātu), just as two cakravartin kings do not appear simultaneously in the same world.”[18] Therefore it is wrong that presently there are other Buddhas [than Śākyamuni].

[The Mahāyānists]. – 1. No doubt the Buddha said that; but you misunderstand the meaning of his words. The Buddha means that two Buddhas do not appear simultaneously in the same trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu (or trichiliomegachiliocosm); he does not say that in the universes of the ten directions (daśadiglokadhātu) there are not actually [several] Buddhas. Thus, two cakravartin kings do not appear simultaneously in the same caturdvīpika (or universe of four continents), for these very powerful beings have no rival in their domain. Consequently, in one caturdvīpaka there is one single cakravartin only. In the same way, two Buddhas do not appear simultaneously in one single trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu. Here the sūtra puts the Buddhas and the cakravartin kings on the same level. If you believe that there are [other] cakravartins in the other cāturdvīpakas, why do you not believe that there are [other] Buddhas in the other trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātus?[19]

2. Furthermore, one single Buddha cannot save all beings. If one single Buddha could save all beings, there would be no need for other Buddhas and only one single Buddha would appear. But the qualities of the Buddhas (buddhadharma), who save beings to be converted (vaineya), perish as soon as they arise (jātamātrā nirudhyante) like the flame that is extinguished when the candle is used up; indeed, conditioned dharmas (saṃskṛtadharma) are transitory (anitya) and empty of self nature (svabhāvaśūnya). Thus, in the present, there must be yet other Buddhas.[20]

[93c] 3. Finally, beings are numberless and suffering (duḥkha) is immense. This is why there must be magnanimous bodhisattvas and numberless Buddhas who appear in the world to save beings.

[The disciples of Kātyāyanīputra]. – It is said in the sūtra that the Buddha appears from age to age after a number of years as immense as the flower of the Ngeou t’an p’o lo (Udumbara) tree which appears once at regular times. (also see notes on the appearance of the Buddha) If the ten directions were full of Buddhas, the Buddha would appear easily, he could easily be found and we would not say that it is difficult to meet him.

[The Mahāyānists]. – No! It is in one single mahāsāhasralokadhātu that the Buddha usually appears after an immense number of years. It is not a question of the ten directions. Because sinners do not know how to honor him and do not seek the Path (mārga), we say that the Buddha appears from age to age after an immense number of years. Moreover, as punishment for their sins (āpattipāka), these beings fall into the evil destinies (durgati) where, for innumerable kalpas, they do not even hear the name of Buddha pronounced and still less see one. Due to these people, the appearance of the Buddha is said to be rare.

[The disciples of Kātyāyanīputra]. – If there really are numerous Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the ten directions, why do they not come to save all beings from sin (āpatti) and suffering (duḥkha)?

[The Mahāyānists]. – These beings [have accumulated] faults (āpatti) and very serious taints (mala) for innumerable asaṃkhyeyakalpas. Although they have accrued all sorts of other merits (puṇya), they do not possess the qualities (guṇa) required to see a Buddha. Thus they do not see any. Some stanzas say:

When the reward for merits is far off,
When sins (āpatti) are not erased,
For that time, one cannot see
The Bhadanta, the man endowed with power.

Among the ārya bhadanta (i.e., the Buddhas)
Their intentions are unchangeable:
Out of loving kindness (maitrī) and compassion (anukampā) for all men,
They want to save them at all times.

But it is necessary that the merits (puṇya) of beings be ripe,
That their wisdom (prajñā) and their faculties (indriya) be keen,
That they thus fulfill the conditions of salvation
In order they may then attain deliverance.

In the same way that the great nāga king
Makes the rain fall in accordance with wishes,
So it is in accordance with his former actions, sins or merits
That each man is recompensed.

[The disciples of Kātyāyanīputra]: [According to you], the Buddha is able to save men full of merits (puṇya) and endowed with wisdom (prajñā) but does not save men deprived of merits and wisdom. If that is so, men full of merits and endowed with wisdom do not derive their salvation from the Buddha.

[The Mahāyānists]: These merits and this wisdom do indeed derive their origin from the Buddha. If the Buddha did not appear in the world, the bodhisattvas would teach as Path (mārga) the ten good causes (daśakuśalanidāna),[21] the four limitless ones (catvary apramāṇāni)[22] and the various causes and conditions (hetupratyaya) that assure the retribution of sins and merits (āpattipuṇyavipāka) in the course of rebirths (punarbhava). If there were no Bodhisattva, this is the admonition found in all kinds of sūtras: “The person who practices this doctrine carries out meritorious actions.”

Furthermore, whatever the merits (puṇya) and the wisdom (prajñā) of men, [94a] if the Buddha did not appear in the world, men would receive their reward (vipāka) in this world but they would not be able to find the Path (mārga). [On the other hand], if the Buddha appears in this world, men find the Path and this is a great benefit. Thus, although a person has eyes, he sees nothing if the sun (sūrya) does not rise; light is necessary so that he can see something. However, he cannot say: “I have eyes; of what use are they to me?” The Buddha has said: “Two causes, two conditions give rise to right vision: 1) hearing the Dharma from another’s mouth; 2) reflecting properly oneself.”[23] Thanks to these merits, a man can be assured of a wholesome mind (kuśalacitta), sharp faculties (tīkṣṇendriya) and wisdom (prajñā) and thus reflect correctly. This is why we know that men derive their salvation from the Buddha.

These are the various and numerous errors [which we, Mahāyānists, discover among the disciples of Kātyāyanīputra], but as we wish to give the teaching (upadeśa) of the Prajñāpāramitā, we cannot expand further on secondary subjects.

Footnotes and references:


This story is told in the Mahāvastu, III, p. 354–355:

Bhūtapūrvaṃ bhikṣavo atītam adhvane jambudvīpe vāṇijakā … sarvasatvānāṃ anugrahapravṛtā.

The same story in the Tibetan Karmaśataka, 28, II, 13 (tr. Feer, p. 49–51), where the sārthavāha has the name Dbyig dga (Vasunandana) and, as in the Mahāvastu, his companions were saved by holding onto his floating corpse.

In the Hien yu king, T 202 (no. 50), k. 10, p. 42c–422b, the sārthvāha, who lived at the time of Brahmadatta, king of Benares, is called Le na chö ye (Ratnajaya). – In the Lieou tou tsi king, T 152 (no. 67), k. 6, p. 36b (tr. Chavannes, Contes, I, p. 245–247), he is brought back to life by Śakra. – Other details may be found in the Ta pei king, T 380, k. 4, p. 963b.


This phenomenon of levitation is mentioned, among other sources, in the Mahāvastu, I, p. 239: Samanantaravyākṛto … Dīpaṃkareṇa Megho maṇavo… saptatālān abhyudgataḥ. – The frieze of Sikri, in the Lahore Museum, which shows the Bodhisattva four times in the same panel, places him, the last time, at the top of the frieze above the Buddha Dīpaṃkara (cf. Foucher, Art Gréco-bouddhique, I, p. 275).


The thirty-two marks adorn the body of the Buddhas and the cakravartin kings. It is said and often repeated that “for a young man endowed with the thirty-two marks, there are two paths and no others; if he remains at home he will be a cakravartin king; if he leaves home, he will be a perfect accomplished Buddha” (among other sources, cf. Dīgha, II, p. 16–17).

These marks are possessed, in full or partially, by yet other individuals: The Kathāvatthu, IV, 7, p. 283, in its refutation of the Uttarāpathakas, uses as an argument the non-bodhisattvas “who partially possess the marks” (padesalakhaṇehi samannāgatā). – According to the Yin kouo king, T 189, K. 2, p. 628b, among the Śākyas at the time of the Buddha, there were five hundred young princes endowed with a certain number of marks: three, ten, thirty-one or even thirty-two; in those who possess thirty-two, they were not very distinct (vyakta). – The Tsa p’i yu king, T 207, p. 522c, tells of a cakravartin king, father of 999 sons of whom some had twenty-eight marks, some had thirty and others had thirty-one.


Nanda had thirty marks. At k. 29, p. 273a, the Mppś will be more explicit: “Other individuals than the Buddha possessed the marks… Thus Nanda, from one lifetime to the next, obtained the adornment of the physical marks; in his last lifetime, he left home, became a monk (śramaṇa) and, when the saṃgha saw him at a distance, they mistook him for the Buddha and rose to meet him.” This is an allusion to the Sarvāstivādin Vinaya, Che song liu, T 1435, K. 18, p. 130 (cf. the Tokharian fragment of the same Vinaya in Hoernle, Remains, P. 369): “The Buddha was dwelling in Kapilavastu. At that time, the āyuṣmat Nanda, the younger brother of the Buddha who had been born to a sister of the Buddha’s mother, had a body quite like the Buddha’s with thirty marks and four inches shorter than the Buddha. Nanda had a robe the same size as the Buddha’s. When the bhikṣus were gathered together either at meal time or in the afternoon, if they saw Nanda coming at a distance, they arose to go and greet him: ‘Here is our great leader coming!’ When they came near, they saw that it was not the Buddha…” The same story occurs in the other Vinayas, especially in the Pāli Vinaya, IV, p. 173, where there is no mention of the thirty marks. But this detail is known to the Ken pen chouo … tsa che, T 1451, K. 56, p. 912b.


Bāvari had three marks. The Mppś, k. 29, p. 273a, will return to this individual, but the passage presents difficulties. Poussin in Siddhi, p. 737, translates it as follows: “When Maitreya was a lay person, he had a teacher named Po p’o li (Bāvari), who had three marks: the ūrṇā, the tongue covering the face and the cryptorchidy.” I [Lamotte] rather would understand it as: “When Maitreya was a ‘White-Garment’ (avadātāvasana), his teacher, Po p’o li, had three marks: the ūrṇā, the tongue covering his face and the cryptorchidy.” This translation is called for not only by the Mppś, k. 4, p. 92a, which attributes three marks to Bāvari, but also by the Pārāyaṇa (Suttanipāta, v. 1019) which recognizes in him the same quality: vīsaṃvassasatuṃ āyu… vedān’ pmaragū. “He is 120 years old, in his family he is Bāvari; he has three marks on his body; he is learned in the three Vedas.” Bāvari is especially known to the Vatthugāthās of the Pārāyaṇa (Suttanipata, V, 1) and to the 57th story of Hien yu king, T 202, k. 12, p. 432b–436c (see P. Demiéville, BEFEO, XX, p. 158; S. Lévi, JA, Oct.-Dec. 1925, p. 320–322; Mélanges Linossier, II, p. 371–373). In these latter texts, Bāvari has only two marks: black hair (asitakeśa) and the broad tongue (prabhūtajihvā)…, he is 120 years old…, he had 500 disciples.”


Devadatta had thirty marks as the Mppś will say later (k. 14, p. 164c28). This detail is known to Hiuan tsang (Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 6, p. 900a), which has him say: “I have thirty marks, a few less than the Buddha; a great assembly follows me; how am I different from the Tathāgata?” – We know that elsewhere Devadatta claimed to tbe equal to the Buddha in family and superior to him in his magical powers (Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 47, p. 803a; Che song liu, T 1435, k. 36, p. 257).


The wife of Kāśyapa had a body golden in color. The Ken pen chouo … pi tch’ou ni p’i nai yo, T 1443, k. 1, p. 909b, tells about her marriage with Kāśyapa: “When Kāśyapa had grown up, he had a golden statue made and declared to his parents that he would marry only a woman golden in color like the statue. His parents had three other statues made and each of the statues was carried about in one of the four directions so that the maidens would come and wonder at it. When young Miao hien (Bhadrā) arrived, she was so beautiful that the brilliance of the statue was eclipsed. Kāśyapa’s father made arrangements with Miao hien’s father and the marriage of the two young people took place.” (Chavannes, Contes, IV, p. 151) – An analogous account occurs in Tsa p’i yu king, T 207 (no. 9), p. 524a–525a (tr. Chavannes, Contes, II, p. 14–20); Fo pen hing tsi king, T 190, K. 45, p. 862b. – The Apadāna, II, p. 578–584, dedicates a chapter to the therī Bhaddā Kāpilāni; it tells her earlier lives and her last lifetime and mentions, in v. 58, her marriage to Kāśyapa: ghanakañcanabimbena… vijjitassa me. – See also the comm. on the Therigāthā in Rh. D., Psalms of the Sisters, p. 47–48, and Manoratha, I, p. 375–376.


Acala, or Acalanātha, is well-known in Vajrayana Buddhism and the Shingon sect; he is one of the five vidyārājas, protectors of the Dharma. He is closely connected to Vairocana and Prajñāpāramitā with whom he forms a trinity. He is shown bearing a sword and surrounded by flames. Cf. Grünwedel, Mythologie d. Buddh., p. 162; W. De Visser, Ancient Buddhism in Japan, Leiden, 1935, p. 144 sq.; Glasenapp, Buddh. Mysterien, p. 80, 84, 98.


Historically the Greater Vehicle is later than the Lesser Vehicle but its practitioners often claim an origin at least as old for it. The well-known stanza ādāv avyākaraṇāt of the Sūtrālaṃkāra, ed. Lévi, p. 3, repeated in Siddhi, p. 176, affirms that the Greater Vehicle is the authentic ‘word of the Buddha’ because “from its beginning, it coexists in the Lesser Vehicle (samapravṛtteḥ)”, and the commentary explains: samakālaṃ ca Śrāvakayānena Mahāyānasya pravṛttir upalabhyate na paścāt. – According to some Mahāyānists, the scriptures of the Greater Vehicle, like those of the Lesser Vehicle, must have been compiled after the Buddha’s death, and the Mppś, k. 100, p. 756b, seems to confirm them: “There are those who say: Whereas Mahākāśayapa, at the head of the bhikṣus, compiled the Tripiṭaka on Gṛdhrakūtaparvata immediately after the Buddha’s nirvāṇa, the great bodhisattvas, Mañjuśrī, Maitreya, etc., taking Ānanda with them, compiled the Mahāyāna. Ānanda knew how to measure the extent of the aspirations and conduct of beings; that is why he did not preach the Mahāyāna to the śrāvakas [whom he judged to be unable to understand this teaching].” For this compilation of the Greater Vehicle which took place on Mount Vimalasvabhāva, south of Rājagṛha, see also the quotations gathered by Bu ston, II, p. 101.


The Mppś will return to this individual later (k. 30, p. 344a): Among the beings immersed in the animal destinies, some do and others do not obtain Buddhahood; thus Anavataptanāgarāja, Sāgaranāgarāja, etc., obtain Buddhahood. – Anavatapta is one of the eight great nāga-kings; he lives in the Anavatapta pool from which flow the four great rivers of the world (see below, k. 7, p. 114a; k. 8, p. 116a). According to the Tch’ang a han, T 1, k. 18, p.117a, he does not have the three misfortunes of the other three dragon-kings, which are: i) wind and hot sand burn their skin and bones; ii) a violent wind blows in their palace and uncovers it; iii) the garuḍa bird torments them in the midst of their play. According to the Jou lai hing hien king, T 291, k. 2, p. 602c, the rains that emanate from his body make Jambudvīpa fertile. – For more details, see Hôbôgirin, Anokudatsu, p. 33. – Whereas the Mppś makes Anavatapta a bodhisattva of the seventh level, Hiuan tsang (Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 1, p. 869b) claims that he was a bodhisattva of the eighth level before taking on the form of a nāga.


Rāhu, personification of the eclipse, appears in two well-known suttas in the Saṃyutta, the Candimasutta and the Suriyasutta, which the Mppś will reproduce later (k. 20, p. 136b). The palace of Rāhu is described in the Tch’ang a han, T 1, k. 20, p. 129b. – Rāhu has a city called Kouang ming, four parks, four wives called Jou ying ‘Shadow’, Tchou hiang ‘Perfume’, Miao lin ‘Marvelous Forest’ and Cheng tö ‘Eminent Virtue’; his lifespan is 5,000 years where each day equals 500 human years (Hôbôgirin, Ashura, p. 42).


These four continents are described in Kośa, III, p. 145.


Sixteen mind moments arise and cease in the time that a material dharma lasts. “It is better to consider as a self this body made up of the four great elements rather than the mind. We see that this body lasts one year … one hundred years and more. But that which bears the name of mind (citta), spirit (manas), consciousness (vijñāna) by day and by night is born as one and dies as another. In the same way that a monkey grasps one branch, lets it go, takes another…” (Samyutta, II, p. 94–95: Tsa a han, T 99, k. 12, p. 81c). – “Like a mountain river…, there is no khaṇa, laya, muhutta where it rests, but it flows on…; the life of men is short…That which arises cannot cease.” (Aṇguttara, IV, p. 137).


The highest generosity which constitutes, properly speaking, the virtue of generosity (dānapāramitā) rests in essence on knowledge free of concept (nirvikalpakapāramitā) which makes it triply pure (trimaṇḍalapariśuddha); it consists of making no distinction between the thing given (deya), the donor (dāyaka) and the recipient (pratigrāhaka). Cf. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 264; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 92; Bodhicaryāvatāra, IX, st. 168; Pañjikā, p. 604; Uttaratantra, p. 120, 254; Saṃgraha, p. 185, 225; Siddhi, p. 629 n.


Cf. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 264: tatra katamā lokottarā dānapāramitā? … tadvipākaṃ ca nopalabhate. – Cf. Śatasāhasrikā, p. 92.


For the number and names of the past and future Buddhas, refer to Malalasekera, II, p. 295 and Hôbôgirin, Butsu, p. 195–197.


Cf. Aṅguttara, V, p. 144: Tayo bhikkhave dhammā loke na saṃvijjeyyuṃ, … Jāti ca jarā ca marmaṇañ ca.


A phrase which the Mppś will return to later, (k. 9, p. 125a) which is found in several sūtras.

a) In Pāli, e.g., in Aṅguttara, I p. 27–28: Aṭṭhānaṃ etaṃ bhikkhave anavakāso yaṃ … acarimaṃ uppajjeyyuṃ n’etaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjatti.

b) In Sanskrit, e.g., in Kośavyākhyā, p. 338: Asthānam anavakāśo yad apūrvācaramau dvau tathāgatau loka utpadyayeyātām.

c) In mixed Sanskrit, e.g., in Mahāvastu, III, p. 199: Asthānaṃ khalv etam anavakāśaṃ … loke utpadyensuḥ.

We know from the Kośavyākyā that asthānam refers to the present and anavakāśaḥ to the future. Thus it may be translated: “It is impossible that in the present, in the future, two Tathāgatas appear in the same world without one preceding and the other following.”

The phrase appears in many sūtras, e.g., Dīgha, II, p. 225; III, p. 114; Majjhima, III, p. 65; Aṅguttara, I, p. 27; Milinda, p. 236; Mahāvastu, III, p. 199; Tch’ang a han, T 1, k. 5, p. 31a; k. 12, p. 79a; Tchong a han, T 26, k. 47, p. 724a. – The great treatises have tried to interpret it: see, e.g., Kośa, III, p. 198–201; Bodh. bhūmi, p. 92; Madhyāntavibhaṅga, p. 152; and especially Saṃgraha, p. 332–333, 338.


The interpretation given here by the Mahāyānists is recorded in the Madhyāntavibhaṅga, p. 152: tathāgatayoś cakravartinoś … api cāturdvīpaka evety apare. – Tr. : “The [sūtra] says that two Tathāgatas and two cakravartins do not arise [simultaneously in the same world}. According to some, the world in question is a trichiliomegachiliocosm if it concerns Tathāgatas, but a universe-of-four-continents if it concerns the cakravartins. According to others, in both cases it is a matter of a universe-of-four-continents.” The Kośavyākhyā, p. 338, also mentions this two-fold explanation: “What should be understood by ‘this same world? By ‘this same world’ one should understand either one single cāturdvīpaka or one single trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu.”


In several places (p. 272–273, 284, 328–329), the Saṃgraha shows how there must be one and many Buddhas at the same time.


The ten wholesome paths of action (kuśalakarmapatha) will be described below, k. 8, p. 120b.


Loving kindness (maitrī), compassion (karuṇā), joy (muditā) and equanimity (upekṣā). See bibliography in Saṃgraha p. 52.


Aṅguttara, I, p. 87: Dve ‘me bhikkhave paccayā sammādiṭṭhiyā … yoniso ca mansikāro. – Cited also in Kośavyākhyā, p. 188 and Saṃgraha, p. 65. – The Nettipakaraṇa, p. 8, explains that the wisdom coming from meditation (bhāvanāmayī paññā) is the knowledge (ñāṇa) produced parato ca ghosena paccattasamuṭṭhitena ca yonisomanasikārena.

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