Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “endowed with utmost patience” 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 23: endowed with utmost patience

23. adhimātrakṣāntisamanvāgata:

Sūtra: They were endowed with utmost patience (adhimātrakṣāntisamanvāgataiḥ).

Śāstra: Question. – We have already discussed the patience of equanimity (samatākṣānti) and the patience with respect to dharmas (dharmakṣānti); why does the sūtra say again that the bodhisattvas are endowed with utmost patience?

Answer. – The increase (vṛddhi) of the two patiences you have just mentioned is called utmost patience (adhimātrakṣānti).

Moreover, the patience of equanimity (samatākṣānti) may be held by beings (sattva); the patience consonant with the Dharma (dharmānulomiki kṣāntiḥ) is the patience relating to profound dharmas (gambhīradharma): the increase (vṛddhi) of these two patiences realizes (sākṣātkaroti) the patience relating to non-arising (anutpattikadharmakṣānti).[1] During his last fleshly existence (caramamāṃsabhava), the bodhisattva contemplates the Buddhas of the ten directions (daśadigbuddha) and their emanations (nirmāṇa): he is seated in space opposite them. This is what is called ‘endowed with utmost patience’. It is like in the śrāvaka system where the increase (vṛddhi) of heat (uṣmagata) is called summit (mūrdhan) and the increase of summit is called patience (kśānti): they are not distinct dharmas but merely [three] different degrees [of one and the same thing].[2] (also see Appendix 1) Thus it is the same for the utmost patience (adhimātrakṣānti) and the patience of equanimity (samatākṣānti) [which constitute different degrees of the same patience].

Furthermore, there are two kinds of patience: the patience towards beings (sattvakṣānti) and the patience towards dharmas (dharmakṣānti). The patience towards beings relates to beings: if beings as numerous as the sands of the Ganges (gaṅgānadīvālukopamasattva) persecute you in every way, you do not feel any anger (dveṣa); if they honor you (arhayanti) and pay homage to you (pūjayanti) in every way, you experience no joy (muditā). Moreover, you know that beings have no beginning (agra); if they have no beginning, they have no causes and conditions (hetupratyaya); if they have no causes and conditions, they have no end either. Why? Because the beginning and the end are interdependent (anyonyāpekha). If they have neither beginning nor end, they have no middle (madhya) either.[3] When things are seen in this way, one does not fall into the [107a] two extreme views (antadvaya) of eternalism (śaśvata) and nihilism (uccheda); it is by means of the way of safety (yogakṣema) that one considers beings without producing wrong views (mithyādṛṣṭi). This is what is called patience towards beings (sattvakṣānti).

The patience relating to dharmas (dharmakṣānti) is the unhindered mind (apratihatacitta) relating to profound dharmas (gambhīradharma).

Question. – What are the profound dharmas?

Answer. – See the explanation already given for gambhīradharmakṣānti. By gambhīradharma we mean the following: In the twelve-membered pratītyasamutpāda, the result is produced successively; the result (phala) is not present in the cause (hetu), but neither is it absent; it is from this intermediate state that it arises. This is called gambhīradharma.

Furthermore, when the three gates of liberation (vimokṣamukha), namely, emptiness (śūnyatā), signlessness (ānimitta) and wishlessness (apraṇihita), are penetrated, the eternal bliss of nirvāṇa is found. This also is a gambhīradharma.

Finally, it is also a gambhīradharma to consider dharmas as neither empty (śūnya) nor non-empty (aśūnya), neither with marks (sanimitta) nor without marks (animitta), neither active (sakriya) nor inactive (akriya) and, by considering them thus, not to attach one’s mind to it. Some stanzas say:

Dharmas resulting from causes and conditions
Are called empty of nature (śūnyalakṣaṇa),
Are described as conventional (prajñaptisat),
Are called the Middle path (madhyamā pratipad).

If dharmas really existed
They would not return into nothingness.
Not existing after having existed (bhūtva abhāva)
Is what is called annihilation (uccheda).

When there is neither eternalism nor nihilism,
Neither existence nor non-existence,
The basis of the mind and of consciousness disappears
And words are exhausted.

Faced with these gambhīradharmas, the mind of the bodhisattvas experiences neither difficulty (āvaraṇa) nor repugnance (vipratisāra) nor any setback. This is why they are endowed with utmost patience (adhimātrakṣāntisamanvāgata).

Footnotes and references:


Cf. the three kṣāntis in the Sukhāvativyūha, p. 55 (v. 32): ghoṣānugā-, anulomikī- and anutpattikadharmakṣānti, as well as the satyānulomāḥ kṣāntayaḥ of the Divya, p. 80.


An allusion to the four auxiliaries of penetration or insight (nirvedhabhāgiya): heat (uṣmagata), summit (mūrdhānaḥ), patience (kṣānti) and supreme dharma (laukikāgradharma).


Another paraphrasing from Madh. Kārikā, XI, 2, p. 220–221:

naivāgraṃ nāvaraṃ yasya tasya madhyaṃ kuto bhavet |

tasmān nātropapasyante pūrvāparasahakramāḥ ||

“How could that which has neither beginning nor end have a middle? Consequently, there is no series consisting of an initial and a final term.”

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: