Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “having renounced greed and ambition” 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.

Bodhisattva quality 8: having renounced greed and ambition

8. apagatalābhayaśaścitta:

Sūtra: Apagatalābhayaśaścittaiḥ; they have renounced greed (lābhacitta) and ambition (yaśaścitta).[1]

Śāstra: Greed is like a thief; it destroys the root of the qualities (guṇamūla). Just as a heavy frost destroys the five grains, so greed and ambition destroy the young shoots (bīja) of the qualities (guṇa) and prevent them from prospering. The Buddha made the following comparison (upamāna): “Just as a horse-hair rope (vālarajju) binds a man, tears his skin (chavi) and breaks his bones (asthi), so the [98c] greedy man destroys the root of the qualities.”[2] Some stanzas say:

Those who enter into a forest of sandalwood (candana)
Gather up only leaves (parṇa);
Or who go into the seven-jewel mountain (saptaratnagiri)
Collect only crystals (sphaṭika).

[In the same way], some men having entered into the Buddha’s Dharma
Do not seek the bliss of nirvāṇa
But turn back to the pursuit of wealth and honors:
They are cheating themselves!

This is why the disciple of the Buddha
Who wants to taste the taste of ambrosia (amṛtarasa),
Must abandon this blend of poison
And zealously seek the bliss of nirvāṇa.

Just as a heavy frost
Destroys the five cereals,
So the man attached to wealth and pleasures
Destroys respect (hrī) and discipline (dhūta).

From now on in this life, he burns up the roots of good;
In the next life, he falls into hell.
Like Devadatta
Who was lost out of greed.[3]

This is why the bodhisattvas are said to be apagatalābhayaśaścitta.

Footnotes and references:


There are eight lokadharmas with which a person may be especially preoccupied and which lead to his ruin: gain (lābha) and glory (yaśaś) are among them. Cf. Dīgha, III, p. 260; Aṅguttara, IV, p. 156 sq.; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 40, p. 764b. The canonical scriptures many times note the dangers of gain and honors (lābhasakkāra: cf. Vinaya, II, p. 196; Ittivuttaka, p. 73), of gain, honor and fame (lābhasakkhārasiloka: cf. Majjhima, I, p. 192; Samyutta, II, p. 227, 237; Anguttara, II, p. 73; II, p. 343, 377).


This comparison occurs in Saṃyutta, II, p. 328, in the Rajjusutta which, error excepted, does not appear in the Chinese Tripiṭaka: Seyyathāpi bhikkhave balavā puriso daḷhāya … aṭṭhiṃ chetvā aṭṭhimiñjam āhacca tiṭṭhati. “If a man wraps a strong horse-hair rope around his leg tightly and saws it back and forth, the rope will cut through his skin, flesh, muscles and bones successively, and will not stop until it has pierced the marrow; in the same way, gain, honors and glory successively cut through the skin, etc.”

This comparison is repeated in the Ta tchouang yen louen king, T 201 (no, 41), k. 7, p. 293a, but E. Huber, in his translation of the Sūtrālaṃkāra, has understood it wrongly: “Greed is more terrible than an enemy … Such is the anguish of the rough rope (as note: We do not know what this anguish consists of) that tears the skin, destroys the flesh and bone and does not stop before having penetrated the marrow.” Mao cheng is not a “rough rope” but a horse-hair rope (vālarajju) with which limbs are sawed off.


Devadatta is the archetype of those destroyed by their greed and selfish preoccupations. See Aṅguttara, IV, p. 160: Aṭṭhahi asaddhammehi abhibhūto … etc.

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