Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “skilled in preaching the dharma” 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 18: skilled in preaching the Dharma

18. anantakalpakoṭidharmadeśanāniḥsaraṇa­kuśala:

Sūtra: For innumerable koṭi of kalpas, they have been skilled in preaching the Dharma and in surpassing (anantakalpakoṭidharmadeśanāniḥsaranakuśalaiḥ).

Śāstra: They themselves have thoroughly cultivated the roots of good [101b] (kuśalamūla), such as zeal (apramāda), etc. This was not for just one, two, three or four lifetimes, but indeed for innumerable asaṃkhyeyakalpas that the bodhisattvas have accumulated qualities (guṇa) and wisdom (prajñā). A stanza says:

They have produced the great thought for beings;
The person who disdains and scorns them
Commits an unspeakably grave sin.
How much more guilty the person who wants to harm them!

Moreover, for incalculable (asaṃkhyeya) and immeasurable (aprameya) kalpas, the bodhisattvas have cultivated their body, practiced discipline (śīla), exercised their mind (citta) and their intelligence (mati), understood themselves arising (utpāda) and cessation (nirodha), the bonds (bandhana) and deliverance (vimokṣa), intractability[1] (pratiloma) and adaptability[2] (anuloma); they understand the true nature of dharmas (dharmasatyalakṣaṇa); they possess the three kinds of analysis (nirmocana), namely, of text (śruta), of meaning (artha) and of acquisition (lābha); they understand the various sermons (nānādharmaparyaya) without difficulty (pratigha); in order to preach the doctrine they use the virtue of skillful means (upāyakauśalyapāramitā) and the virtue of wisdom (prajñāpāramitā); all the words of these bodhisattvas are the words of the āryas to whom it is appropriate to accord faith. Some stanzas say:

The person who is intelligent but who lacks knowledge
Does not know the true nature.
He is like an eye that can see nothing
In complete darkness.

The learned person who has no wisdom
Also does not know the true meaning.
He is like a lamp (dīpa) in full daylight
Where the eye would be absent.

As for the learned person of keen wisdom,
His words merit trust.
The person who has neither wisdom nor knowledge
Is just an ox in a human body.

Question. – The sūtra should say that the bodhisattvas for innumerable koṭi of kalpas are skilled in preaching the doctrine; why does it also say [that they are skilled] in surpassing (niḥsarana)?

Answer. – The bodhisattvas preach easy subjects to the ignorant and the disciples; they preach difficult subjects to the learned (bahuśruta) and the masters with keen wisdom (tīkṣnaprajñopadeśa). Among teachers of mediocre knowledge, they diminish themselves; among the śaikṣa and the learned (bahuśruta), they welcome objections with courage and joy. Among all beings, they give evidence of great power (anubhāva). Thus, a stanza in the T’ien houei king (Devasamājasūtra)[3] says:

His face, his eyes and his teeth gleam
And light up the great assembly.
He outshines the brilliance of all the gods
Who all disappear.

This is why it is said that for innumerable koṭi of kalpas the bodhisattvas have been skilled in preaching the doctrine and in surpassing.

Footnotes and references:


Lamotte translates pratiloma as “rébellion” in French, in English ‘intractibility”. Monier Williams gives: reverse, inverted, adverse, hostile, disagreeable, unpleasant, in inverted or reverse order, against the natural course or order.


Lamotte translates anuloma as “adaptation”, in English, adaptability. Monier Williams gives: natural direction, in order, regular, successive, conformable.


The Taisho edition has T’ien houei king “Sūtra of the assembly of gods”, but one should read Ta houei king “Sūtra of the great assembly” according to the Souei and T’ang editions. Ta houei king is the title given to the Mahāsamājasūtra in the Tch’ang a han, T 1 (no. 19), k. 12, p. 79b, and in the Che song liu, T 1435, k. 24, p. 174b which, in order to avoid error, also adds the title in transcription: Mo ho cha mo k’i kien. There are several editions of this text, which E. Waldschmidt has studied in detail:

1) Sanskrit text, Mahāsājasūtra, occurring in central Asia and published in Waldschmidt, Bruchstücke, p. 149–206.

2) Pāli text, Mahāsamayasuttanta, in Dīgha (no. 20), II, p. 253–262. – Cf. Saṃyutta, I, p. 26–27.

3) Chinese translations in Tch’ang a han, T 1 (no. 19), k. 12, p. 79b–81b; Ta san mo jo king, T 19, vol. I, p. 258–259; Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 1192), k. 44, p. 323a; T 100 (no. 105), k. 5, p. 411a.

4) Tibetan translations: Ḥdus pa chen poḥi mdo or Mahāsamayasūtra (cf. Csoma-Feer, p. 288; OKC, no. 750, p. 226); Mdo chen po ḥdus pa chen poḥo mdo zhes bya ba or Mahāsamājasūtranāmamahāsūtra, of which there are two versions (cf. OKC, no. 332, p. 112; no. 688, p. 174).

This sūtra is cited under the title of Mahāsamājīya in Karmavibhaṅga, p. 156.

Error excepted, the stanza which the Mppś attributes to it here does not occur in any of these versions.

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