Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the ten comparisons (upamana)” 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.

Introduction: the ten comparisons (upamāna)

[101c] Sūtra: These bodhisattvas accept that dharmas are like 1) a magic show, 2) a mirage, 3) the moon reflected in water, 4) space, 5) an echo, 6) a city of the gandharvas, 7) a dream, 8) a shadow, 9) a reflection in a mirror, 10) a creation (māyāmarīcidakacandrākāśapratiśrutkā-gandharvasvapnachāyapratibimbanirmāṇopamadharmādhimuktaiḥ).

According to the teaching of the Prajñās and Nāgārjuna, dharmas or phenomena are empty of self-nature (svabhāvaśūnya) because they result from causes (pratītyasamutpanna). These dharmas that are empty of self-nature, arising from dharmas that are themselves empty of self-nature, really do not arise (anutpanna): they are non-existent. But if things are non-existent, how can they be seen, heard, and experienced? It is to this question that the ten comparisons (upamāna) that are presented here reply: they are seen in the way that one sees a magical object, they are heard in the way that one hears an echo, they are experienced in the way that one experiences things in a dream, etc.

A. Upamāna in canonical Buddhism and the Lesser Vehicle:

Although canonical Buddhism and the Lesser Vehicle, which is its extension, limit their criticism to negation of the pudgala and acknowledge a real existence in dharmas, professions of nihilism in the spirit of pure Nāgārjunaism may be found here and there in their scriptures. The Mppś will give a specimen of them: this is a stanza taken from the Saṃyutta, III, p. 142, often reproduced in the Pāli texts:

pheṇapiṇḍūpamaṃ rūpaṃ vedabā bubbuḷupamā,
marīcikūpamā saññā saṅkhārā kadalūpamā,
māyūpamañca viññāṇaṃ dīpitādiccabandunā.

“Form is like a mass of foam, feeling like a bubble of water, perception is like a mirage, volition is like the trunk of a banana tree, consciousness is like a magic show: this is what the Buddha, a relative of the sun, has taught.”

The Dhammapada, v. 170, may also be cited:

yathā bubbulakaṃ passe, yathā passe marīcikaṃ.
evaṃ lokaṃ avekkhantaṃ maccurājā na passati
.

“See the world as a bubble of water, see it as a mirage. The lord of death does not see the person who considers the world in this way.”

Furthermore, most of the comparisons used by the Prajñās already occur in the canon but are presented in a different spirit; see Rhys-Davids-Stede, s.v. māyā, marīci, etc.

B. Upamāna in Prajñāpāramitā literature:

In order to explain dharmanairātmya, the Prajñās resort to ten type-comparisons of which the Mppś gives a specimen here. But their number is not fixed at ten and they do not follow the same order.

Pañcaviṃśati, Sanskrit text, p. 4: 1) māyā, 2) marīci, 3) dakacandra, 4) svapna, 5) pratiśrutkā, 6) pratibhāsa, 7) pratibimba, 8) nirmāṇa (idem in Mahāvyutpatti, no. 854).

Ibid., Hiuan tsang’s tr., T 220, vol. VII, p. 1b22: 1) māyā, 2) marīci, 3) svapna, 4) dakacandra, 5) pratiśrutkā, 6) khapuṣpa (sky flower), 7) pratibimba, 8) chāyā, 9) nirmāṇa, 10) gandharvanagara.

Ibid., Mokṣala’s tr., T 221, k. 1, p. 1a17: 1) māyā, 2) svapna, 3) pratiśrutkā, 4) pratibhāsa, 5) chāyā, 6) nirmāṇa, 7) budbuda, 8) pratibimba, 9) maricī, 10) dakacandra.

Ibid., Kumarajīva’s tr,, T 223, k. 1, p.217a: cf. Mppś.

Śatasāhasrikā, Sanskrit text, p. 5: 1) māyā, 2) marīci, 3) udakacandra, 4) svapna, 5) pratiśrutka, 6) pratibhāsa, 7) gandharvanagara, 8) pratibimba, 9) nirmāṇa.

Ibid, p. 1209: The category ‘bodhisattva’ is also unreal, like the following things: ākāśaśakuni, svapna, māyā, marīci, udakacandra, pratiśrutkā, pratibhāsa, bimba, tathāgatanirmita.

The Vajracchedikā, p. 46, puts all of this into verse:

tadyathākāśe tārakā timiraṃ dīpo āyāsvaśyāya budbudaṃ |
svapnaṃ ca vidyud abhraṃ ca evaṃ draṣṭavyaṃ saṃskṛtam
||

“The conditioned should be thought to be like a star in space, shadows, a lamp, hoarfrost, a water bubble, a dream, a flash of lightning a cloud.” (See the Khotanese commentary in Hoernle, Remains, p. 287.)

C. Upamāna in the Vaipulyasūtras:

The Vaipulyasūtras repeat this entire nomenclature:

The Lalitavistara, p. 181, when listing the qualities of the bodhisattva, ends with the following list: māyāmarīcisvapnodakacandrapratiśrutkāpratibhāsopamasarvadharmanayāvatīrṇaḥ. – The Avataṃsaka, T 279, k. 44, p. 232b, repeats it in regard to the ten kṣāntis.

D. Upamāna in the Madhyamaka tradition:

The great Madhyamaka masters, Nāgārjuna, Deva, Candrakīrti, Śāntideva, explain the ten comparisons (upamāna) in detail: Madh. kārikā and Madh. vṛtti: māyā, p. 45, 443, 449; marīci, p. 188. 346. 457, 549; udakacandra and ambucandra, p. 53, 109, 173; ākāśapuṣpa and khapuṣpa, p. 182; pratiśrutkā, p. 215, 518; gandharvanagara, p. 334, 340, 419; svapna, p. 289; bimba and pratibimba, p. 345, 495, 540 544, 545, 591; nirmāṇa, p. 334, 552; alātacakra, p. 173, 219, 238, 419; taimirika (a person suffering from ophthalmia), p. 30, 75, 261, 274, 445, 523.

Catuḥśataka, XIII, v. 325 (ed. Vaidya, p. 108; ed. Bhattacharya, p. 197):

alātacakranirmāṇasvapnamāyāmbucandrakaiḥ |
dhūmikāntaḥ pratiśrutkāmarīcyabhraiḥ samo bhavaḥ ||

“Existence is like a burning brand brandished in a circle, a creation, a dream, a magic show, the moon reflected in water, a fog, an echo in the midst [of the mountains], a mirage, a cloud.”

E. Upamāna according to the sūtras of the Vijñānavadin school:

The sūtras from which the Vijñānavadin school is derived have adopted these comparisons:

Laṅkāvatāra, p. 25:

māyāsvapnopamaḥ kena kathaṃ gandharvasaṃnibhaḥ |
marīcidakacandrābhaḥ kena loko bravīhi me ||

“Tell me how is the world like a magic show, a dream, like [a city] of the gandharvas, like a mirage and the moon reflected in water?”

The citations can be infinitely multiplied by referring to D. T. Suzuki’s Index to the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, Kyoto, 1934, s.v. māyā, marīci, etc.

Saṃdhinirmocana, I, v. 4–5, where the example of the magic show is fully developed.

Daśabhūmika, p. 47: Ninth equality: sarvadharmamāyāsvapnapratibhāsapratiśrutkodakacandrapratibimba-nirmāṇasamatā.

F. Upamāna according to various Vijñānavādin masters:

The Vijñānavādin masters Vasubandhu, Asaṅga, Hiuan tsang, etc., have used these comparisons (upamāna).

Viṃśikā, p. 1: examples of the taimirika, the gandharvanagara and svapna.

Triṃśikā, p. 35:

Vijñanaṃ ca māyāgandharvanagarasvapnatimirādāv asaty ālambane jayate

(Consciousness arises like a magic show, like a city of the gandharvas, like a dream, like ophthalmia, etc., although its object does not exist.)

– Ibid., p. 40:

tatpṛṣṭhalabdhena jñānena māyāmarīcisvapnapratiśrutkodakacandranirmitasamān sarvadharmān pratyeti

(By subsequent knowledge, one understands that all dharmas are like a magic show, a mirage, a dream, an echo, the moon reflected in water, a creation).

Sūtrāṃkāra, XI, 29–30, ed. Lévi, p. 62:

māyāsvapnamarīcibimbasadṛśāḥ … vibuddhottamaiḥ ||

“Like a magic show, a dream, a mirage and a reflection, like an image and an echo, like the moon reflected in water, and like a creation: this is how the formations are and have been elucidated by the Buddhas, the supreme enlightened ones.”

Saṃgraha, p. 122–124, where the dependent nature (paratantrasvabhāva) is compared successively to māyā, marīci, svapna, pratibimba, pratibhāsa, pratiśrutkā, udakacandra and pariṇāma. – The explanations given by the Bhāṣya are especially clear.

Madhyāntavibhaṅga, p. 229: tathā māyā svātmany avidyamāne na hastyādyātmanā … gandharvanagarapratiśrutkādayo veditavyāḥ.

Siddhi, p. 532, which repeats the explanations of the Saṃgraha.

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