Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the buddha illuminates by means of his usual light” 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 3: The Buddha illuminates by means of his usual light

Sūtra: Then by means of his usual light (prakṛtiprabhā) the Bhagavat illumined the trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu; this brilliance extended to all the universes of the east as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, and it was the same in the ten directions. All the beings who were touched by this light were destined to supreme complete enlightenment (Atha khalu Bhagavān prakṛtiprabhayā trisāhasramahāsāhasraṃ lokadhātum avabhāsayāmāsa. yāvat pūrvasyāṃ diśi gaṅgānadīvālukopamā lokadhātavas tayā prabhayā avabhāsitā abhūvan. yāvat daśasu dikṣu gaṅgānadīvālukopamā lokadhātvas tayā prabhayā avabhāsitā abhūvan. ye ca sattvas tayā prabhayā spṛṣṭās te sarve niyatā abhūvan anuttarāyāṃ samyaksaṃbodhau).

Śāstra: First the Buddha smiled with his entire body (sarvakāyāti) then he emitted rays from the pores of his skin (romakūpebhyaḥ); why now does he exhibit his usual light (prakṛtiprabhā) to light up the ten directions?

Answer. – Some people who have seen the different rays [shooting out from the body and the pores of the Buddha] believed that this was not the light of the Buddha. [Now] seeing the great development of the usual light of the Buddha, they are filled with joy (muditā) and, recognizing the true light of the Buddha, they finally reach anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhi.

Question. – What is the usual light (prakṛtiprabhā) of the Buddha?

Answer. – It is a light one armspan in width (vyāmaprabhā) surrounding the body of the Buddha on all sides; the Bodhisattva possessed it since his birth and it is one of the thirty-two marks (lakṣaṇa) called vyāmaprabhālakṣaṇa. (see Appendix 3)

Question. – Why is the usual light of the Buddha one armspan in width (vyāma) and not larger?

Answer. – The usual light of the Buddha is immense (apramāṇa) and lights up the universes of the ten directions. The miraculous bodily light of the Buddha Śākyamuni is immense; it is the width of one armspan, a hundred armspans, a thousand prabhedakoṭi of armspans and fills up the trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu and the ten directions. However, the Buddhas’ custom is to manifest in the world of the five corruptions (pañcakaṣāyaloka), where beings are of middling qualities (guṇa) and knowledge (jñāna), a brilliance of only one armspan (vyāmaprabhā). If he showed a larger brilliance, the people today, of little merit (alpapuṇya) and weak faculties (mṛdvindriya), would be unable to tolerate the light. When a person sees a god, his eyes are blinded because the greater the [outer] light, the more the eye contracts. It is to people of keen faculties (tīkṣnendriya) and eminent merit (gurupuṇya) that the Buddha shows his immense brilliance (apamāṇaprabhā).

Besides, there are people who, seeing the usual light of the Buddha, rejoice (pramodante) and find salvation.

[115a] The king makes a gift of the leftovers from his usual table to his inferiors, and the latter receive them rejoicing greatly. The Buddha does the same. Some people feel no joy in seeing the other many lights of the Buddha but, on contemplating his usual light, they are destined to anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhi.

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