Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “all beings obtained the mind of equanimity” 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 5.9: All beings obtained the mind of equanimity

[120b] Sūtra: All beings obtained the mind of equanimity (sarvasattvāḥ samacittā bhavanti sma) by thinking of one another [with the feelings one would feel] for one’s mother (mātṛ), one’s father (pitṛ), one’s older brother (bhrātṛ), one’s younger brother (kanīyabhrātṛ), one’s older sister (bhaginī), one’s younger sister (kamīyabhaginī), one’s relatives (jñāti), or one’s spiritual friend (kalyānamitra). They practiced the ten wholesome ways of acting (daśakuśalakarmapathasevinaś ca bhavanti sma). Pure, remaining celibate, they were without faults (śucayo brahmacāriṇo nirāmayāḥ) and were full of bliss like that experienced by a bhikṣu in the third dhyāna (sarvasukhasamarpitā idṛśaṃ sukhaṃ pratilabhante sma tadyathāpi nāma tṛtyadhyānasamāpannasya bhikṣuḥ). They approved of wisdom (prajñā), keeping the precepts (śīla), mastery of the self (dama) and non-violence towards beings (prāṇibhūteṣu avihiṃsā).[1]

Śāstra: Question.- These beings had not renounced desire (avītarāga), were not concentrated (asamāhita) and did not possess the four limitless ones (apramāṇacitta);[2] how could they attain an evenness of mind (samacittatā)?

I. Answer. – This evenness (samatā) is not that of concentration; it is absence of hostility (avaira) and malice (avyāpāda) towards all beings. Thanks to this evenness, they consider one another with good feelings. Concerning this mind of evenness (samacitta), it is said in a sūtra: “What is samācitta? It is to consider one another with the feelings one would feel for one’s father or mother.”

Question. – Do they consider all beings indiscriminately as their father, mother, elder brother, younger brother, older sister or younger sister?

Answer. – No. They consider old people as their father and mother, large people as their elder brother, small people as their younger brother; similarly for elder or younger sister. By the power of samācitta, everybody is considered as a relative (jñāti).

Question. – Why call father and mother somebody who is neither father nor mother, etc.? Why call somebody who is not a relative a relative? Is that not a falsehood (mṛṣāvāda)?

Answer. – In the course of innumerable generations, all beings have been one’s father, mother, elder brother, younger brother, elder sister, younger sister and relative. Furthermore, according to the true nature (satyalakṣaṇa) of dharmas, there is no father or mother, no elder or younger brother; but people who are submerged in the error of self (ātmaviparyāsābhiniviṣṭa) believe in their existence and thus there is the question of father and mother, elder and younger brother. Therefore it is not a lie when, by virtue of a wholesome mind (kuśalacitta), we consider one another [with the feelings we would feel] for a father or mother. Finally, there are people who, out of interest, treat as a father someone who is not their father and as a mother someone who is not their mother. It is the same for elder brother, younger brother and children. There are people who send away their son when he is badly behaved and other families take him in and treat him as their own son.

A stanza says:

Consider another person’s wife (parakalatra) as a mother,
Consider the welfare of another (paradhana) like fire,
Consider all beings as your relatives,
This is what is called the vision of evenness.

II. [The sūtra says that] all beings practice the ten good paths of action (daśakuśaladharmapathasevino bhavanti sma).

1) The paths of bodily action (kāyakarmapatha) are three in number: abstaining (virati) from murder (prāṇātipāta), theft (adattādāna), and wrongful sexual relations (kāmamithyācāra).

2) The paths of vocal action (vākkarmapatha) are four in number: abstaining from falsehood (mṛṣāvāda), slander (paiśunyavāda), harmful speech (pāruṣyavāda) and thoughtless speech (saṃbhinnapralāpa).

3) The paths of mental action (manaskarmapatha) are three in number: abstaining from envy (abhidhyā), spitefulness (vyāpāda) and wrong views (mithyādṛṣṭi).[3]

Every path of action, from abstention from murder to abstention from wrong views, involves four subdivisions: not to kill beings oneself, not to order others to kill, praising (praśaṃsā) those who do not kill, rejoicing (anumodanā) when one does not kill.

[120c] Question. – The last three paths of action, [abstaining from envy, spitefulness and wrong views] are not actions, whereas the first seven are actions. Then why speak of ‘ten paths of action’?

Answer. – Because they are often resorted to, they are rightly called ‘paths of action’. Although the last three may not be actions, they can give rise to actions; this is why they are called paths of action as a whole (samāsataḥ).

III. [The sūtra continues]: “Pure, observing chastity, they are without fault” (śucayo brahmcāriṇo nirāmayāḥ).

Question. – We have just said that these beings practiced the ten wholesome paths of action and the argument is satisfactory. Why add that they are pure and practice chastity?

Answer. – There are beings who practice the ten wholesome paths of action and who have not cut through their sensual desire. Here we are also praising those who observe the conduct of king Brahmā (brahmacarya, in the sense of chastity). Because they have cut through lust, [the sūtra] says that they are ‘pure, chaste and without fault’. People who practice impurity have an ugly malodorous body. This is why we praise those who have cut through their sensual desire by saying that they are without fault (nirāmaya).

IV. [The sūtra says] that they were full of bliss (sarvasukhasamarpita).

Question. – What is bliss (sukha)?

Answer. – This bliss is of two types, internal bliss (ādhyātmikasukha) and the bliss of nirvāṇa (nirvāṇasukha). This bliss is not the result of the five coarse objects (rajas-). This mental bliss (cittasukha) is like water from a spring that gushes forth spontaneously from the rocks and does not come from the outside. By practicing the mind of evenness (samacitta), by observing chastity (brahmacarya), by practicing the ten wholesome paths of action (daśakuśalakarmapatha), one is pure (śuci) and faultless: this is what is called internal bliss.

Question. – To what realm (dhātu) does this bliss belong? Does it belong to the desire realm (kāmadhātu), the form realm (rūpadhātu) or the formless realm (ārūpyadhātu)?

Answer. – This bliss both belongs to and does not belong to the desire realm (kāmadhātu); it does not belong to the form realm or the formless realm. The sūtra says that it is ‘like that experienced by a bhikṣu entered into the third dhyāna’ (tadyathāpi nāma tṛtyadhyānasamāpannasya bhikṣoḥ). If this bliss belonged to the form realm (rūpadhātu), the sūtra would not have used this comparison (upamāna); that is why we know that it does not belong to the form realm. It is a matter here of a mind of the desire realm (kāmadhātucitta) that produces a joy filling the entire body; it is like a warm joy that floods the body, makes it flexible (snigdha), soft and happy (sukha). Those who are without bonds (anavacara) discover the nature (lakṣaṇa) of Prajñāpāramitā; they see that all dharmas are unborn (anutpanna) and unceasing (aniruddha); they acquire real wisdom (prajñā) and their mind is without attachment (asaṅga). The bliss of the signless (ānimittasukha) is the absence of bonds.

Question. – The Buddha has said that nirvāṇa is the supreme bliss (nirvāṇaṃ paramaṃ sukham);[4] why do you speak here about the bliss of the third dhyāna (tṛtīyadhānasukha)?

Answer.[5] – There are two types of bliss, the bliss that involves feeling (saveditasukha) and the bliss that involves the abandonment of feeling (veditanirodhasukha). In the latter, the five aggregates (pañcaskandha) are completely eliminated and there is no further rebirth; this is the bliss of nirvāṇa-without-residue (nirupadhiśeṣanirvāṇasukha). But the bliss of the mind (cittānanda) that suppresses displeasure (arati) and the afflictions (kleśa) is called pleasant feeling (sukhavedana) and the fullness of the pleasant feeling (sukhavedanāparipūri) occurs in the third dhyāna. This is why [the bliss which these people experience] is compared to that of the third dhyāna.

Question. – The first and second dhyānas involve a pleasant feeling as well: why does the sūtra speak only of the third dhyāna?

Answer. – Bliss is lesser (avara), medium (madhya) and greater (agra). The lesser bliss is that of the first dhyāna, the medium bliss is that of the second dhyāna, the greater bliss is that of the third dyāna.

In the first dhyāna it is twofold: the faculty of pleasure (sukhendriya) and the faculty of satisfaction (saumanasayendriya), namely, the faculty of pleasure associated with the [first] five consciousnesses (pañcavijñānasaṃprayuktaka sukhendriya) and the faculty of satisfaction associated with the mental consciousness (manovijñānasaṃprayukataka saumansasyendriya).

[121a] In the second dhyāna, there is the faculty of satisfaction associated with the mental consciousness (manovijñānasaṃprayuktaka saumasyendriya).

In the third dhyāna there is the pleasure associated with the mental consciousness (manovijñānasaṃprayuktaka sukhendriya).

In all the threefold world (traidhātuka), with the exception of the third dhyāna, this faculty of pleasure associated with the mental consciousness is absent. The [first] five consciousnesses (pañcavijñāna) are unable to conceive (vikalpanā) things; they do not know their names (nāma) or their symbols (saṃketa) or their marks (nimitta). At the moment it is produced, the visual consciousness (cakṣurvijñāna) is like a first indication; but it is the mental consciousness arising later [that knows the thing]. This is why the faculty of pleasure associated with the first five consciousnesses (pañcavijñānasaṃprayuktaka sukhendriya) is unable to perfect (paripṛ) happiness; it is the faculty of pleasure associated with the mental consciousness (manovijñānasaṃprayuktaka sukhendriya) that perfects bliss. Consequently if, in the third dhyāna, the qualities (guṇa) are few in number, bliss (sukha) abounds. It is not vimokṣa, abhibhvāyatana or kṛtsnāyatana which surpasses this third dhyāna, for they themselves lack this bliss. This is why the sūtra compares the [bliss of these beings] to that experienced by a bhikṣu in the third dhyāna.

V. [The sūtra says]: “They approve of wisdom (prajñā), keeping the precepts (śīla), mastery of the self (dama) and non-violence toward others (prāṇibhūteṣv avihiṃsā).”

Question. – Having spoken of the bliss [which they experience], why does the sūtra say that they approve of wisdom?

Answer. – Those who have not found bliss (sukha) can still acquire qualities (guṇa); but when they have found it, attachment to bliss (saṅgasukha) dominates and they no longer acquire qualities. This is why, immediately after this bliss, they set their minds to the approval of wisdom Those who approve wisdom keep the precepts, master themselves and do no harm to others.

Question. – Keeping the precepts is ‘mastering oneself’ and ‘not harming others’; why add this useless comment?

Answer. – Purity of body and speech (kāyavākkauśalya) constitutes ‘keeping the precepts’; setting one’s mind on the wholesome is ‘mastering oneself’ and also ‘not harming others’. All these qualities are included in the section on morality (śīlaskandha), the section on concentration (samādhiskandha) and the section on wisdom (prajñāskandha).[6] Keeping the precepts constitutes the śīlaskandha; mastering oneself constitutes the samādhiskandha; not harming others – loving-kindness (maitrī) in the course of dhyāna and other qualities (guṇa) – constitutes the prajñāskanda.

Question. – Nobody boasts about hating the precepts. Why does the sūtra say that the beings [whom it praises here] approve the observing of the precepts?

Answer. – There are some brahmins attached to worldly things (lokadharmāsakta) who say: “Leaving home, observing the precepts, those are the deeds of a casteless person. Dedicating one’s life to acquiring wealth (dhana) and accumulating qualities (guṇa), that is what is good. How can a mendicant (pravrajita) who begs for his food and makes no personal effort acquire qualities?” This is how they criticize those who keep the precepts.

There are also people attached to political institutions who criticize the partisans of self-mastery (dama). They say: “People should govern the world by law. Rewarding good and punishing evil is an inviolable principle. There is great profit in never forgetting to pay respect to one’s parents, establishing laws and helping one’s neighbor. Why should one be limited to improving oneself, mastering oneself, without doing anything about putting the disordered world into order, or helping those in need?” This is how they criticize the partisans of self-mastery.

Finally, there are people who criticize the partisans of non-violence towards beings (prāṇibhūteṣv avihiṃsā) by saying: “They do not punish the wicked, they [121b] do not arrest thieves or chastise rogues; they show no severity towards the guilty; they are unable to repel an offense or put aside difficulties. What is the use of preserving profitless silence?” This is how they criticize the partisans of non-violence toward beings. They also say:

Why does a man without energy
Come into the world?
He does not avoid his own difficulties.
He is like a wooden statue fixed in the ground.

With evil words like these, they criticize non-violence toward beings.

But the gods and men [with whom the sūtra is concerned] all approve of wisdom, observation of the precepts, mastery of oneself and non-violence toward beings. Practicing these good dharmas, [they enjoy] peace of body and mind (kāyacittayogakṣema) and the fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya); they are without worry and without anger; they have a good reputation; they are beloved by people; they are going towards entry into nirvāṇa. When their life reaches its end and they think about their merits, they feel neither sorrow nor remorse. If they do not attain nirvāṇa, they are reborn in the Buddha universes or in the heavens (svarga). This is why the sūtra say that they approve wisdom, keeping the precepts, self-mastery and non-violence toward beings.

Footnotes and references:


The last phrase translates only imperfectly the original Sanskrit of the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 10 and the Śatasāhasrikā, p. 19: tasminn eva ca samaye evaṃrūpayā … sādhu prāṇibhūtṣv avihiṃseti: “At that very moment, they were filled with such wisdom that they cried: “Long live mastery of the self! Long live the discipline! Long live the practice of the religious life! Long live non-violence towards animate beings!”


Namely, loving-kindness (maitrī), compassion (karuṇā), joy (muditā) and equanimity (upekṣā).


These ten karmapatha are listed in the same way in Aṅguttara, V, p. 261, 266–267; Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 1052), k. 37, p. 274c; Mahāvyutpatti, no. 1685–1698; Kośa, IV, p. 168. See Rhys Davids-Stede, s.v. kammapatha.


For example, in the well-known stanza of the Māgandiyasutta (Majjhima, I, p. 508; Tchong a han, T 26, k. 38, p. 672b):

Ārogyaparamā lābhā nibbānaṃ paramaṃ sukhaṃ |

aṭṭhaṅgiko ca maggānaṃ khemaṃ amatagāminaṃ ||


For this entire explanation, see Kośa, VIII, p. 150 seq., where there are some refereces.


These three skandhas, śīla, samādhi and prajñā are the three elements constituting the Path. See for example Aṅguttara, I, p. 291.