Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “samantarashmi starts his journey to 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 9.7: Samantaraśmi starts his journey to the Sahā universe

Sūtra: Then, taking these thousand-petalled golden lotuses from the hands of Ratnākara, the bodhisattva Samantaraśmi went away with innumerable monastic (pravrajita) and householder (gṛhastha) bodhisattvas and with youths and maidens (Atha khalu Samanataraśmir bodhisattvo Ratnākarasya tathāgatasya sakāśāt tān saharapattrāṇi suvarṇāvabhāsāni padmāni gṛhīvā, asaṃkhyeyair bodhisattvaiḥ pravrajitair gṛhasthaiś ca dārakair dārikābhiś ca sārdhaṃ prakrāntaḥ).

Śāstra. – Question. – The bodhisattva Samantaraśmi is able to travel by virtue of his great power (mahābala) and his abhijñās; but how can the monastic (pravrajita) and householder (gṛhastha) bodhisattvas, as well as the youths (dāraka) and maidens (dārikā), travel about? The Ratnāvati universe [which they had to traverse in order to get to the Sahā universe] is large. [What power have they borrowed for that purpose?] Is it their own power? Or is it the power of the Buddha Ratnākara, or that of the bodhisattva Samantaraśmi, or that of the Buddha Śākyamuni?

Answer. – They use all of these four powers at the same time:

a. These monastics and householders can be non-regressing (avaivartika) bodhisattvas endowed with the five superknowledges (pañcābhijñāsamanavāgata). By means of the four bases of miraculous power (ṛddhipāda), they have cultivated the causes and conditions (hetupratyaya) that must be fulfilled during earlier lifetimes (pūrvajanma) in order to be able now to go to the Buddha Śākyamuni. Therefore they use their own power (svabala).

b. They also use the power of the bodhisattva Samanataraśmi. Why? Those whose power is too [130b] weak travel by means of the power of the bodhisattva Samantaraśmi. Thus, when a cakravartin king wants to fly, his army (caturaṅgabala), his officers (rājakulādhyakṣa) and his stables accompany him in the sky; because his qualities (guṇa) are great, the cakravartin king can make his whole suite fly along with him. It is the same here: those whose power is too weak travel by way of the power of the bodhisattva Samantaraśmi.

c. They also use the power of the Buddha Ratnākara.

d. Finally, the rays of the Buddha Śākyamuni illumine them. If they had no other power, the rays of the Buddha Śākyamuni would be enough for them to be able to travel. What more can be said if they use the other three sources?

Question. – Why does the bodhisattva Samantaraśmi not come alone, instead of at the head of a numerous troupe?

Answer. – Because he needs a suite like a king who is traveling. Besides, the bodhisattva Samantaraśmi and the Buddha Śākyamuni choose among people. How is that? In the great assembly there are two groups: those who fulfill the causes and conditions [permitting them leave], go; those who do not fulfill the causes and conditions, stay.

Question. – Why is this bodhisattva accompanied by householder (gṛhastha) and monastic (pravrajita) bodhisattvas, youths (dāraka) and maidens (dārikā)?

Answer. – The Buddha’s disciples (buddhaśravaka) are of seven categories: bhikṣu, bhikṣuṇī, śaikṣa, śramaṇera. śramaṇerī, upāsaka and upāsikā. The upāsakas and upāsikās are the lay people (gṛhastha); the five other categories are monastics (pravrajita). Among the monastics and the lay people there are two kinds, the old and the young. The young are the youths (dāraka) and maidens (dārikā); the others are the old.

Question. – [Only] the old ones should go. Why do the young ones go also?

Answer. – It is a matter of worthiness (guṇa) and not of age (āyus). The person who lacks qualities (guṇa) and practices evil (akuśaladharma) is small despite their great age; the person who has the qualities and practices the good (kuśaladharma) is great despite their youth.

Furthermore, these young ones come from far away and those who see them admire the fact that, despite their youth, they are able to come from so far away to hear the Dharma.

This also proves that both young and old are capable of acquiring (pratipad-) the Buddhadharma, which is different from the heretical sects (tīrthikadharma) where the brahmins alone are able to follow the rules and those who are not brahmins cannot. In the Buddhadharma, there is no old or young, no insiders (ādhyātmika) and no outsiders (bāhya); everybody can practice the Dharma. In the same way, when medicine (bhaiṣajya) is given, it is the cure to be attained that rules everything; whether the sick person is noble or commoner, old or young, is of no importance.