Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the buddha emits light rays from the soles of his feet” 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 1.3: The Buddha emits light rays from the soles of his feet

Sūtra: Wheels with a thousand spokes [imprinted on] the soles of his feet shoot out six hundred prabhedakoṭi of rays (Tasyādhastāt pādatalayoḥ sahasrārābhyāṃ ṣaṭraśmiprabhedakoṭiśatāni niśceruḥ)

Śāstra: Question. – Why does he first emit light from his body?

Answer. – We have already answered this question by talking about the causes for the smile, but we will repeat it here.

1) By seeing the immense body of the Buddha emit great rays, some people are filled with pure faith (śraddhāviśuddhi) and great veneration (satkāra): they know that he is not an ordinary man.

2) Moreover, the Buddha wishes to manifest his wisdom. By means of the miracle of his rays, he first emits a bodily light and beings know that if his bodily light appears, the rays of his wisdom (prajñāraśmi) will [soon] be emitted.

3) Finally, all beings are attached (sakta) to sensory pleasure (kāmasukha) and the first of the five sensory objects is form (rūpa). Seeing the marvelous light of the Buddha, their mind becomes attached to it; they renounce their earlier pleasures; their mind becomes detached little by little from sensory objects and then wisdom can be preached to them.

Question. – Yet others, gods or men, are able to emit rays; how are they different from the Buddha who emits rays?

Answer. – The rays that gods and men are able to emit are limited. The sun and the moon (sūryacandramas) illuminate only the four continents (cāturdvīpaka); but the rays emitted by the Buddha fill a trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu and, leaving this trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu, they extend as far as the nadir (adhastād diś). The rays emitted by men make only men rejoice, but the rays emitted by the Buddha make all beings hear the Dharma and find salvation. That is the difference.

Question. – The head is the noblest part of the body; why does the Buddha first emit rays from the soles of his feet (pādatala)?

Answer. – The body owes its stability (pratiṣṭhāna) to the feet. Moreover, if the head is noble in the body, the feet are lowly and, since the Buddha does not esteem his own rays and does not consider them very precious, he emits them from the lowly place. Finally, the nāgas, mahoragas and asuras emit rays from their mouths and poison whatever is in front of them. If the Buddha emitted his rays from his mouth, beings would be frightened and fear to be exposed to them. This is why the Buddha emits rays from the soles of his feet.

Question. – The six hundred prabhedakoṭi of rays that escape from the soles of his feet up to and including those that come from his cranial protuberance [113b] (uṣṇīṣa) can be counted. If they cannot fill the trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu, how could they then fill the ten directions?

Answer. – The rays from the body [of the Buddha] are a source of light (ālokamūla) and the secondary currents coming from this source are innumerable (apramāṇa) and incalculable (asaṃkhyeya). Just as the K’ie lo k’ien lo insect (?), the body of which is minuscule (paramāṇu), grows in contact with the wind to the point of being able to devour everything, so the Buddha’s rays, on contact with beings to be converted (vineyasattva), grow to be infinite.