Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the moon reflected in water (udakacandra)” 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.

Third comparison or upamāna: The moon reflected in water (udakacandra)

Actually, the moon (candra) is situated in space (ākāśa) but its reflection (bimba) appears in the water (udaka). In the same way, ‘the moon’ of the true Dharma (bhūtadharma) is in ‘the space’ of suchness (dharmatā) and the peak of existence (bhūtakoṭi), but its ‘reflection’ – the wrong notions of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ (ātmātmīyanimitta) – appear in the ‘water’ of the minds of fools (bālacitta), gods or men. This is why [dharmas] are like the moon reflected in water.

Furthermore, when a little child (bālaka) sees the moon reflected in the water, he is happy and wants to grab it, but the adults who see it make fun of him. In the same way, the ignorant person, seeing his body, believes in the existence of a personal self (atman): lacking true knowledge, he sees all kinds of dharmas and, having seen them, he is happy and wants to grasp (udgṛhṇati) the characteristics of male or female (strīpuruṣa), etc.; but the āryas who have found the Path make fun of him. A stanza says:

Like the moon reflected in water, like the water of a mirage,
Like attainments in a dream, death and birth are like that.
The person who wants to really secure them
Is a fool whom the āryas ridicule.

Finally, it is in clear water that one sees the reflection of the moon; when the water is disturbed, the reflection vanishes. In the same way, it is in the pure water of an ignorant mind (avidyācitta) that the pride of self (asmimāna) and the reflections of the fetters (saṃyojana) appear; but when the stick of wisdom (prajñādaṇḍa) stirs up the water of the mind, one no longer sees the self or the other reflections of the fetters. This is why the bodhisattvas think that dharmas are like the moon reflected in water.