Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “their mind had no obstacles” 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 22: their mind had no obstacles

22. apratihatacitta:

Sūtra: Their mind had no obstacles (apratihatacitta).

Śāstra: How is their mind unhindered?

i) In respect to all people, enemies (vairin), relatives (bandhu) or neutral ones, their impartiality (samacittatā) is complete (apratigha).

ii) [This impartiality] is extended to beings of all the universes (sarvalokadhātusattva): they feel no hostility (āghāta) if someone comes to torment them; they feel no joy (muditā) if they are honored in many ways. A stanza says:

They have no attachment
Towards the Buddha or the bodhisattvas;
They have no hostility
Towards heretics or bad people.

This purity [of mind] is called apratihatacitta.

iii) Finally, their mind is without obstacles in regard to dharmas.

Question. – But these bodhisattvas have not attained buddhahood and do not yet possess omniscience (sarvajñāna); why does their mind not encounter obstacles in regard to the dharmas?

Answer. – Having attained immense pure wisdom (apramāṇaviśuddhaprajñā), their mind is free of obstacles with regard to dharmas.

Question. – But since they have not reached buddhahood, they cannot possess immense wisdom (apramāṇajñāna); since they retain a residue of fetters (bandhana), they cannot have pure wisdom.

Answer. – The bodhisattvas [in question here] are not the bodhisattvas with fleshly body (māṃsakāya), who are bound to actions and limited to the threefold world (traidhātuka). All of them have acquired the sovereignty of the dharmakāya (dharmakāyaiśvarya) and transcended old age (jarā), sickness (vyādhi) and death (maraṇa); out of compassion for beings, they dwell in the universes (lokadhātu), move about in and adorn the buddha-fields (buddhakṣetra) and convert beings. Having acquired sovereignty (aiśvarya), they wish to become Buddha and to succeed therein.[1]

Question. – If the bodhisattvas of the dharmakāya are no different from the Buddha, why are they called bodhisattva; why do they serve the Buddha and listen to his teaching? If they are different from the Buddha, how do they possess the immense and pure knowledge (apramāṇaviśuddhajñāna)?[2]

Answer. – Although they have attained the dharmakāya and transcended old age, sickness and death, they differ slightly from the Buddha; they are like the moon of the fourteenth day (caturdaśicandra) which we wonder whether it is full (pūrna) or not. Thus the bodhisattvas have not yet become truly Buddha although they act as Buddha and preach the Dharma. The Buddha himself [106c] is like the moon of the fifteenth day (pañcadaśicandra) which is undeniably full.[3]

Furthermore, there are two types of immense purity (apramānaviśuddhi). The first is limited, but those who cannot measure it call it immense; this is, for example, [the number] of drops of water in the ocean (samudrabindu), or [the number] of grains of sand in the sands of the Ganges (gaṅgānadīvālukā); unable to evaluate it, people describe it as immense. But for the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, there is no limited immensity: the immense and pure wisdom of the bodhisattvas is unlimited. For gods, humans, śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas, [the wisdom] that cannot be measured is called immense wisdom (apramānajñāna), but the bodhisattvas, at the moment they find the path of non-arising (anutpādamarga), cut through the fetters (saṃyojana) and acquire pure wisdom (viśuddhajñāna).

Question. – If it is at this moment that they cut through the fetters, what do they still have to cut through when they become Buddha?

Answer. – Purity (viṣuddhi) is of two types: i) At the moment when they become Buddha, they expel the bonds (bandhanāni samudghātayanti) and obtain real purity completely; ii) At the moment when they cast off the fleshly body (māṃsakāya) and acquire the dharmakāya, they [simply] break the bonds (bandhanāni chinnanti): this is the [lesser] purity. It is like a lamp (dīpa) that chases away the shadows (andhakāra) and fulfills its rôle, but there is a more powerful lamp that shines still more brightly. For the cutting of the fetters (saṃyojanachchedana), it is the same for the Buddhas and bodhisattvas: [the fetters] that are broken in the bodhisattvas may be described as ‘broken’, but in comparison with those that are broken in the Buddhas, they have not completely disappeared. This is what is called the immense and pure wisdom (apramāṇaviśuddhajñāna) by virtue of which the bodhisattvas have an unhindered mind towards (apratihatacitta) all dharmas.

Footnotes and references:


The Mppś distinguishes two types of bodhisattvas: the bodhisattva of fleshly body (māṃsakāya b.) who is reborn as a result of his actions; the bodhisattva of dharmakāya (dharmakāya b.) who transcends ordinary existence and exists in accordance with the dharmadhātu. The bodhisattva abandons his fleshly body and attains a body of dharmadhātu when he enters into the samyaktvaniyāma and acquires the patient acceptance that accepts and understands non-arising (anutpattikadharmakṣānti). Cf. Mppś, k. 30, p. 278a; k. 34, p. 309b; k. 38, p. 340a. These passages have been translated and explained by L. de La Vallée Poussin in Siddhi, p. 780–784.


For the strict analogy of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, the Hôbôgirin, Bosatsu, p. 149, has collected a number of references of which several have been taken from the Mppś. In general, it can be said that the great bodhisattva is ‘the result of the dharmadhātu’ (dharmakāyaprabhāvita): cf. Śikṣāsamuccaya, p. 159, citing the Tathāgataguhyasūtra, whereas the Buddha is ‘the sovereign of the dharmadhātu’ (dharmakāyavaśavartin): cf. Laṅkāvatara, p. 70.


Cf. k. 29, p. 273b (tr. Poussin in Siddhi, p. 737): “If the bodhisattvas are the dharmakāya, teach the Dharma, save beings, in what way do they differ from the Buddhas? The bodhisattvas have great magical powers, reside in the ten bhūmis, possess the dharmas of the Buddha; however, they remain in the world in order to save beings: therefore they do not enter into nirvāṇa and they teach the dharma to people. But they do not really have a body of the Buddha. They liberate beings, but within certain limits; whereas the beings liberated by the Buddha are immeasurable, they have a buddha body but they do not fill up the ten directions. The Buddha-body fills innumerable universes and the beings to be converted all see the body of the Buddha. The bodhisattvas are like the moon on the fourteenth day: they shine, but not as much as the moon of the fifteenth day.” At k. 94, the Mppś will make this comparison again: “The bodhisattvas are like the moon of the fourteenth day that does not yet raise the tide; the Buddhas are like the moon of the fifteenth day.”

The Ratnakūta, cited in Madh. avatāra, p. 5 (tr. Poussin, Muséon, 1907, p. 255), compares the bodhisattvas to the new moon (zla ba tshes pa) and the Buddha to the full moon (zla ba ña ba).