Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the shaking of the earth in the universes of the ten directions” 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 5.7: The shaking of the earth in the universes of the ten directions

Sūtra: In the universes of the ten directions, universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, the earth shook similarly in six ways. The damned (naraka), the pretas, the animals (tiryak) and the other inhabitants of the eight difficult conditions (akṣaṇa) were at once liberated (vimukta) and reborn among the gods of the six classes.

Śāstra: Question. – Beings, infinite (apramāṇa) and innumerable (asaṃkhyeya), form a considerable number just in the trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu; why does the Buddha also address himself to beings in the universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges?

Answer. – The power of te Buddha (buddhabala) is immense (apramāṇa): it is a trifle for him to save the beings of the trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu: this is why he addresses himself also [to the beings] of the ten directions.

Question. – If, by his great power, the Buddha Śākyamuni saves the ten directions as a whole, why are other Buddhas still needed [to save beings]?

Answer. – 1) Because beings are infinite (apramāṇa) in number and do not all ripen (paripakva) at the same time.

2) Furthermore, causes and conditions (hetupratyaya) vary for each being. Thus it is said in the system of the śrāvakas: “In the Chö li fou yin yuan (Śāriputrāvadāna), disciples become separated from Śāriputra;[1] if the Buddhas cannot save them, how could others do so?”

3) Furthermore, here it is a matter only of universes of the east equal in number to the sands of a single Ganges; we are not speaking of universes as numerous as the sands of two, three, four, up to a thousand prabhedakoṭi of Ganges.

4) Finally, universes (lokadhātu) are infinite (ananta) and unlimited (apramāṇa) in number. If they were finite and limited, the number of beings would be exhausted. This is why the Buddhas must save the innumerable universes of the ten directions.

Footnotes and references:


This perhaps concerns the schism of Kauśambī in which Śāriputra had to intervene (cf. Vinaya, I, p. 354).