Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,909 words

This page describes “excelled in saving appropriately” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This is part of the serie known as ‘Unhindered Mind’. Writtin in five volumes, this book represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Bodhisattva quality 24: excelled in saving appropriately

24. yathātmyāvatāraṇukuśala:

Sūtra: They excelled in saving appropriately (yathātmyāvatārakuśalaiḥ).

Śāstra: The systems of the heretics (tīrthikadharma), while saving beings, do not save them appropriately, because all kinds of wrong views (mithyādṛṣṭi) and fetters (saṃyojana) remain. – The two vehicles, [that of the śrāvakas and that of the pratyekabuddhas], while possessing the means of salvation, do not save as they should (yathāyogam), for their adepts, not being omniscient (sarvajñā), use only rather rudimentary skillful means (upāyacitta). It is only bodhisattvas who can save appropriately.

[There is a good and a bad way of saving beings, just as there is a good way and a bad way to cross a river or to cure a sickness.] Thus, to take someone across to the other shore, the master ferryman (taraṇācārya) is able to use a fisherman’s straw raft (kaivartatṛṇakola) or a big boat (nau-); there are notable differences between these two ways of crossing. In the same way, [the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas lead beings to the other shore of salvation by using the straw raft of the Lesser Vehicle, whereas the bodhisattvas take them across in the ship of the Greater Vehicle]. Or again, there are different remedies for curing sicknesses (vyādhi), such as medicinal herbs (oṣadhi) or cauterization with a needle; but there is a still more wonderful herb called Sou t’o chan t’o (Śuddhaśāntā?) which it suffices that the sick person looks at it and all his ills are cured. Although these remedies seem similar, their quality differs. It is the same for the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas in their methods of converting beings: asceticism (tapas), dhūtaṅga, practice of the three nights (prathama-madhyama-paścima-yāma), exertion (vīryacitta) and ecstasy (dhyāna). According to the śrāvaka doctrine, one finds the Path by considering suffering (duḥkha); according to the bodhisattva doctrine, the mind finds purity (viṣuddhi) by considering the dharmas as free of bonds (bandhana) and free of deliverance (mokṣa).

Compare the [Wen chou che lo pen yuan (Mañjuśryavadāna)]

Thus ‘to be skillful in preaching the [true] nature of the dharmas’ is ‘to excel in saving appropriately (yāthātmyāvatāraṇakuśala).’