Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “having acquired the unhindered fearlessnesses” 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 20: having acquired the unhindered fearlessnesses

20. asaṅgavaiśāradyapratilabdha:

Sūtra: They have acquired the unhindered fearlessnesses (asaṅgavaiśāradyapratilbadhaiḥ).

Śāstra: Their mind encounters no obstacle (āvaraṇa), neither exhaustion (kṣaya) nor cessation (nirodha), in regard to the various aggregates (skandha), elements (dhātu), bases of consciousness (āyatana) or causes and conditions (hetupratyaya). Thus they have unhindered fearlessnesses (asaṅgavaiśāradya).

Question. – The sūtra said above that in the midst of infinite assemblies the bodhisattvas are endowed with the fearlessnesses (anantaparṣanmadhya vaiśāradyasamanvāgataḥ); why does it repeat here that they have unhindered fearlessnesses?

Answer. – Above, it was a question of the cause (hetu) of the vaiśāradyas, here it concerns their effect (phala). In the assemblies (saṃgha), including those of the bodhisattvas, their preaching (dharmadeśanā) is inexhaustible (akṣaya), their teaching (upadeśa) indomitable (anapakarṣa) and their mind (citta) imperturbable, for they have acquired the unhindered fearlessnesses. Moreover, the sūtra said above that they are fearless in the midst of infinite assemblies, but one does not know by virtue of what power they are fearless. This is why here it adds that they are fearless because they have acquired an unhindered power (asaṅgabala).

Question. – If the bodhisattvas, like the Buddha, have these unhindered fearlessnesses, how does the Buddha differ from them?

Answer. – We have said that the bodhisattvas who have the power of the fearlessnesses [106a] experience no fear in respect to any dharma. But that is not the [superior] fearlessnesses enjoyed by the Buddha.

Moreover, there are two kinds of unhindered dharmas (asaṅgadharma), universal (sarvaga, sarvabhūmika) and non-universal (asarvaga). The person, for example, who experiences no difficulty in a whole series of texts (śāstra), from one text to a hundred thousand texts, or who experiences no fear in front of a whole series of assemblies (saṃgha), from one to a hundred thousand assemblies, is non-universal. In the same way, the bodhisattvas do not encounter any obstacle in their own wisdom (prajñā) but rather in that of the Buddha. Thus when the Buddha dropped his begging bowl (pātra), the five hundred arhats and the bodhisattvas, Maitreya, etc., were unable to catch hold of it.[1] In the same way, the bodhisattvas encounter no obstacles in their own power (bala), but they do in that of the Buddha’s wisdom. It is in this sense that we say that the bodhisattvas have unfettered fearlessness (asaṅgavaiśāradya).

Footnotes and references:

1.

Cf. Lalitavistara, p. 270 (tr. Foucaux, p. 232): When the Bodhisattva had eaten the honey milk-broth (madhupāyasa) that Sujāta had offered, not caring about the golden vase (suvarṇapātrī), he dropped it in the water. Sāgara, king of the nāgas took it and went to his home. However, Indra, having taken the shape of a garuḍa with a lightning-bolt in his beak, tried to take the golden vase away from the nāga king with no success. Then in his usual form, he courteously asked for it and brought it back to the Trāyastriṃśa heaven to build a caitya for it and to pay homage to it. – This ‘theft of the bowl’ is represented on a medallion on the balustrade of Amarāvati (see RAA, XI, 1937, pl XVI, or Histoire universelle des Arts, published by L. Réau, vol. IV, Arts musulmans et ExtrĪme-Orient, Paris, 1939, p. 142, fig. 103).