Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the buddha smiles a first time with his whole body” 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.

Act 1.2: The Buddha smiles a first time with his whole body

Sūtra: Then, having tranquilly come out of this samādhi and having contemplated the entire universe with his divine eye, the Bhagavat smiled with his whole body. (Atha khalu bhāgavān smṛtimān saṃprajānaṃs tasmāt samādher vyutthāya divyena cakṣuṣā sarvalokadhātuṃ vyavalokya arvakāyat smitam akarot).

Śāstra: Question. – Having entered into the Samādhirājasamādhi, why does the Buddha leave it immediately and contemplate the universe?

Answer. – The Buddha enters Samādhirājasamādhi; he opens and examines the precious basket (ratnapiṭaka) of all the buddhadharmas. In this samādhi, he contemplates and says to himself: “The basket of my Dharma (dharmapiṭaka) is immense (aprameya), incalculable (asaṃkhyeya) and inconceivable (acintya).” Immediately afterwards, he comes out of samādhi and contemplates beings (sattva) with his divine eye (divyacakṣus). He knows the misery of beings, he knows that the basket of the Dharma which comes from causes and conditions (hetuprayayasamutpanna) can also be attained by all beings but that the latter, plunged in the shadows of error (mohāndhakāra), do not ask for it and do not seek it. This is why he smiles with his whole body (sarvakāyāt smitaṃ karoti).

Question. – The Buddha possesses the buddha-eye (buddhacakṣus). the wisdom-eye (prajñācakṣus) and the Dharma-eye (dharmacakṣus); (also see Appendix 1) they are better than the divine eye (divyacakṣus). Why does he use the divine eye to contemplate the universe?

Answer. – Because the visual range of the fleshly eye (māṃsacakṣus) is not great enough. The wisdom-eye (prajñācakṣus) knows the true nature (satyalakṣaṇa) of the dharmas; the Dharma-eye (dharmacakṣus) sees a given person and discovers by what skillful means (upāya) and by what teaching (dharma) that person will find the Path; the buddha-eye (buddhacakṣus) is the direct insight (pratyakṣāvagama) into all dharmas. Here it is the divine eye that considers the universe (lokadhātu) and beings (sattva) without encountering any obstacles (anāvaraṇam). It is not the same for the other eyes. The wisdom-eye, the Dharma-eye and the buddha-eye, although superior [to the divine eye] are not meant to see beings. If one wishes to see beings, there are only two eyes one can use, the fleshly eye (māṃsacakṣus) and the divine eye (divyacakṣus) but since the fleshly eye’s range is insufficient and encounters obstacles, the Buddha uses the divine eye.

Question. – But the divine eye occurs in the Buddhas; why is it called divine eye [and not buddha-eye]?

Answer. – 1) Because it often occurs among the gods (deva). The range of the divine eye is not obstructed by mountains (parvata), walls (kuḍya) or forests (vana). The zealous person (vīryavat), disciplined (śīlavat) and concentrated (dhyāyin), obtains it by the power of practice (abhisaṃskārabala); it is not an inborn gift (upapattija). This is why it is called divyacakaṣus.

2) Furthermore, people are very respectful towards the gods and take them as teachers; and as the Buddha is in harmony with human conceptions, he calls this eye divyacakṣus.

3) Finally, there are three types of gods (deva): gods by metaphor (saṃmatideva), gods by birth (upapattideva), and pure gods (viśuddhideva). The saṃmatideva are [112c] kings (rājan) and princes (kumāra). The upapattideva are gods like Che (Indra), Fan (Brahmā), etc. The viśuddhideva are the Buddhas, pratyekabuddhas and arhats. The Buddha is the most venerable of the viśuddhidevas; this is why it is not wrong to speak of the divyacakṣus [concerning him here].

[The sūtra says]: “With his divine eye he contemplates the entire universe.” All the beings of this universe always seek happiness (sukha); their minds become attached (abhiniviṣate) to the ātman, but in reality there is no ātman. Beings always are afraid of suffering (duḥkha) but they always suffer: they are like blind people (andha) who lose their way and fall into the ditch while seeking the right path.

After all these considerations, the Buddha “smiles with his whole body”.

Question. – One smiles with one’s mouth (mukha) and sometimes with the eyes (akṣi). Why does the sūtra say that the Buddha smiles with his whole body (sarvakāyāt)?

Answer. – The Buddha who has obtained mastery (aiśvarya, vaśita) over the universe can make his whole body like the mouth or the eyes. Besides, we call ‘smiling’ the dilatation of all the pores of the skin (sarvaromakūpavivartana): when we smile with pleasure, all the pores dilate.

Question. – Why does the Buddha who is always so serious (guru) smile like this?

Answer. – When the great earth (mahāpṛthivī) trembles (kampate), it is not without a reason or for a trivial reason; it is the same for the Buddha: he does not smile without rhyme or reason. He smiles with his whole body for a grave reason. What is this grave reason?

1) The Buddha is about to preach the Prajñāpāramitā and innumerable beings (asaṃkhyeyasattva) will continue the Buddha’s lineage (buddhagotra): that is the grave reason.

2) Furthemore, the Buddha said: “From lifetime to lifetime, I was once a tiny insect (kṛmi), a wretched thing, but little by little I accumulated the roots of good (kuśalamūla) and I finally attained great wisdom (mahāprajñā). Today I am a Buddha: my miraculous power (ṛddhibala) is immense (apramāṇa). All these beings could themselves do as I have done. Why are their efforts in vain and why do they fall into the lower destinies?” That is why the Buddha smiles.

3) Furthermore, small cause (hetu), large effects (phala); small condition (pratyaya), great results (vipaka)! If those who seek Buddhahood have only to pronounce a single stanza (gatha) and burn only a single pinch of incense (gandha) to be assured of becoming Buddha, what will not be the success of those who, from having heard (śruta) that dharmas are neither born (anutpanna) nor destroyed (aniruddha), will perform the actions that lead [to Buddhahood]? That is why the Buddha smiles.

4) Furthermore, the Prajñāpāramitā is essentially pure (viśuddha): like space (ākāśa), it can be neither given nor received. The Buddha, who wants to convert all beings, resorts to various skillful means (upāya), such as rays (raśmi) and miraculous qualities (ṛddhiprabhāva), in order to soften their minds and cause them to have faith (śraddhā) in the Prajñāpāramitā. That is why he smiles and emits rays.

Finally, a smile has all kinds of causes (hetupratyaya): one smiles out of joy (muditā) or anger (dveṣa) or timidity; one smiles at the sight of strange or ridiculous things; one smiles in the face of strange customs or extraordinary [113a] difficulties. Here it is a matter of an absolutely extraordinary difficulty. Dharmas are non-arisen (anutpanna), non-ceasing (aniruddha), absolutely empty (śūnya), unpronounceable (anakṣara), unnameable (anāmaka), unspeakable (anabhilāpya), inexpressible (anirvācya); however, they must be given a name (nāman) and letters (akṣara) must be applied to them when one speaks of them to others in order to lead them to deliverance (vimokṣa): this is an enormous difficulty. Let us suppose that there is a fireplace one hundred yojanas in length and that a man carrying dry grass (śuṣkatṛṇa) enters this fireplace and crosses it without burning a single blade; that would be an exploit. In the same way, it is very difficult for the Buddha to take these dried grasses that are the 80,000 sayings of the Dharma (dharmanāmasaṃketa)[1] and to enter with them into the true nature of the dharmas (dharmasatyalakṣaṇa) without letting them be burned by the fire of attachment (saṅgatejas) and to pass through this fire safely without stopping. That is why the Buddha smiles and it is a result of these difficulties of every kind that the Buddha smiles with his whole body.

Footnotes and references:


This is a matter of the 80,000 or 84,000 dharmaskandhas.

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