Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “buddha shakyamuni reigns over the saha universe” 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 9.4: Buddha Śākyamuni reigns over the Sahā universe

Sūtra: The Buddha Ratnākara answered Samantaraśmi: “O son of good family, in the west, beyond universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, is the universe called So p’o (Sahā). The Buddha named Śākyamuni is there who, at this time, is preaching the Prajñāpāramitā to the bodhisattva-mahāsattvas. These [marvels are caused] by his miraculous power” (Evam ukte Ratnākaras tathāgataḥ Samantaraśmiṃ bodhisattvam etad avocat. asti kulaputra itaḥ paścimāyāṃ diśi gaṅgānadīvālukopamān lokadhātūn atikramya Sahā nāma lokadhātus tatra Śakramunir nāma tathāgatas tiṣṭati. sa bodhisattvānāṃ mahāsattvānāṃ prajñāpāramitāṃ saṃprakāśayati. tasyāyam īdṛṣo ’nubhāvaḥ.)

Śāstra. – Question. – The Buddha is like Mount Sumeru which cannot be moved by the waves (taraṅga) of the great sea; why does he reply here to Samantaraśmi? That is a mark of agitation (ijyānimitta), for when the mind is concentrated, one does not talk; a certain agitation of the mind is necessary to talk. Preaching the Dharma comes from an arousal (avabodhana) which in itself is a coarse thing (sthūladravya). But the Buddha cannot have anything coarse.

[127c] Answer. – 1) Deep in samādhi, the Buddha is not disturbed (iñjita) by things of the world; nevertheless, as a result of has great loving kindness (maitrī) and great compassion (karuṇā), he has compassion for beings and preaches the Dharma for them to destroy their doubts. Like Sumeru, king of the mountains, unshaken by gentle winds but which trembles strongly when the Souei-lan winds[1] blow, the Buddha, at the breath of the wind of his great loving-kindness and great compassion, is moved by compassion and constantly enters into the five destinies (pañcagati) in order to convert beings; to this effect he assumes [the five kinds of existence], from the god realm to the animal realm.

2) Actually, [even while he speaks], the Buddha is not disturbed and is always resting in samādhi; but as a result of his merits (puṇya) acquired in earlier existences (pūrvajanma), he utters sounds (śabda) and answers in the manner of an echo (pratiśruta). Like a heavenly musical instrument (divyatūrya) that emits sounds automatically (svataḥ), like a precious stone (maṇi) that automatically gives people everything they desire in the way of clothing (cīvara), food (āhāra) or music (vādya), the Buddha speaks automatically through all the pores (romakūpa) of his body and preaches the Dharma according to the wishes [of his listeners] without any action, thought (manasikāra) or conception (vikalpa) on his part.

Thus it is said in the Mi tsi kin kang king (Guhyakvajrapaṇisūtra):[2] “There are three secrets (guhya) in the Buddha: the body secret (kāyaguhya), the speech secret (vāgguhya) and the mind secret (cittaguhya). Neither gods nor men can grasp them or understand them.

a. The members of a given assembly (saṃgha) see the body of the Buddha [with its changing aspects]: his color (varṇa) is yellow-gold, silver-white or a mixture of precious colors; his size is one arm-span and six feet, one li, ten li, a hundred li, a thousand li, ten thousand li or one hundred thousand li, sometimes even it is infinite (ananta), immense (apramāṇa) like space (ākāsa). Such is the secret of the body.

b. Secret of the voice. – They hear the voice of the Buddha at a distance of one li, ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand li, or even at an incalculable (asaṃkhyeya) immense (aprameya) distance like space. In a given assembly, some hear the Buddha preach on generosity (dāna), others on morality (śīla), others on exertion (vīrya), dhyāna or wisdom (prajñā). And so the twelve classes of sūtra and the 80,000 dharmaskandhas are heard according to the wishes of everyone. Such is the secret of speech.

One day Mou lien (Maudgalyāyana)[3] had this thought: “I would like to know the range of the Buddha’s voice.” Then, by virtue of his base of miraculous powers (ṛddhipāda), he passed through innumerable thousands of millions of buddha-universes (buddhalokadhātu) and then he stopped; he still heard the voice of the Buddha as if he were quite close. In the universe where he had stopped, a Buddha was in the process of dining with his great assembly.[4] In that land, the people were large, and Maudgalyāyana [coming from the Sahā universe where people are small] was standing in a begging bowl (pātra). The disciples asked their Buddha: “Where does this insect-headed person come from? He is dressed like a śrāmaṇa.” The Buddha replied: “Do not despise this man. In the west (paścimāyāṃ diśi), beyond innumerable buddha-lands, there is a Buddha named Śākyamuni and this man whom you see is a powerful disciple of this Buddha.” Then the Buddha asked Maudgalyāyana: “Why have you come here?” Maudgalyāyana answered: “I have come to find out [the range] of the Buddha Śākyamuni’s [128a] voice.” The Buddha said to him: “So you want to know the range of the Buddha’s voice! If you distanced yourself [from him] for innumerable kalpas, you would never get to the limit of his range.”

3) Finally, the Buddha appeared in the world and preached the Dharma to destroy the doubts of beings (sattvasaṃśayasamucchedana): this cannot be denied. Just as one cannot ask the sun (sūrya) why it chases away the shadows (andhakāta), in the same say one cannot ask the Buddha why he responds [to questions that are asked of him].

Question. – Being alike one to another (sama), the Buddhas are said to be ‘alike enlightened’ (saṃbuddha); then why speak here about the miraculous power (ṛddhibala) of one [particular] Buddha?

Answer. – 1) Having proclaimed the non-existence of self (nairātmya) and [the vanity of distinctions] between this and that, [the Buddhas] have destroyed envy (īrṣyā) and pride (māna).

2) Moreover, in the universe there are gods (deva) who claim superiority and, out of their pride (abhimāna), claim to be the creators of the beings and the things in heaven and on earth. Thus Fan t’ien wang (Brahmadevarāja) said to the Brahmā gods: “It is I who have created you”; and the god P’i nieou (Viṣṇu) said: “All the rich, noble and glorious men of the universe are parts of me. It is I who have created the universe and it is I who destroy it. Creation and destruction of the universe are my work.”[5] [By speaking thus], these gods destroy the law of causation (pratītyasamutpāda). On the other hand, the truthful speech (satyavāc) of the Buddhas does not destroy the law of causation; this is why the sūtra speaks of the miraculous power of a particular Buddha.

Footnotes and references:


The reading Souei lan (170 and 13; 140 and 14) found in the Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 34, p. 736 under its homophone, Souei lan (170 and 13; 46 and 9), is probably in error and should be corrected to P’i lan (81 and 4; 140 and 14). It is actually the latter reading which is found in two other passages of the Mppś: 1) At k. 11, p. 139b–c: “The winds coming from the four cardinal directions cannot shake mount Meru, but at the end of the great kalpa, the P’i lan wind arises and blows [upon mount Meru] like a pile of straw.” At k. 17, p. 188b: “The winds coming from the eight directions cannot shake mount Meru, but at the end of the kalpa, the P’i lan winds arise and blow on mount Meru like a pile of straw.”

These P’i lan winds are the vairambha or vairambhaka of the Sanskrit texts (Divyāvadāna, p. 90, 105; Kośa, VI, p. 155) and the verambha of the Pāli texts (Saṃyutta, II, p. 231; Aṅguttara, I, p. 137; Jātaka, III, p. 255, 484; VI, p. 326). According to the Saṃyutta (l.c.), the verambha winds blow in upper space (upari ākāsa). When a bird encounters them, the verambha winds strike it and its claws, wings, head and body are scattered.


Here the Mppś gives some extracts from the third part of the Ratnakūta, of which we have two Chinese and one Tibetan translations. Cf. Mi tsi kin kang li che houei, T 310, k. 10, p. 53b seq.; De bzhin gśegs paḥi gsaṅ (Tathāgatacintyaguhyanirdeśa): cf. Csoma-Feer, p. 214; OKC, no. 760, 3, p. 231.


In the sources mentioned in the preceding note, Maudgalyāyana’s experience is told in the following places: T 310, k. 10, p. 56c–57a; T 312, k. 7, p. 720c–721a. Later, the Mppś, k. 30, p. 284a, will refer to it also.


According to T 310 and T 312 (l.c.), the universe where Maudgalyāyana stopped was called Kouang ming fan (Raśmipatākā, ‘Banner of Rays’); it was led by the Buddha Kouang ming wang (Raśmirāja).


For Brahmā and Viṣṇu whom the heretics consider to be creators of the world and of beings, see above.