Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the universes and buddhas 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 10.7: The universes and Buddhas of the ten directions

Sūtra: In the south (dakṣiṇasyāṃ diśi), beyond universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges (gaṅgānadīvālukopamān lokadhātūn atikramya) and at the extreme limit of these universes (tebhyo yaḥ sarvāvasānikaḥ), there is the universe called Li yi ts’ie yeou (Sarvaśokāpagata); its Buddha is named Wou yeou tö (Aśokaśrī) and its bodhisattva Li yeou (Vigataśoka). – In the west (paścimāyāṃ diśi), beyond universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges and at the extreme limit of these universes, there is a universe called Mie ngo (Upaśantā); its Buddha is called Pao chan (Ratnārcis) and its bodhisattva Yi pi (Cāritramati). – In the north (uttarasyāṃ diśi), beyond universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges and at the extreme limits of these universes, there is the universe called Cheng wang (Jayendra) and its bodhisattva Tö cheng (Jayadatta). – In the region of the nadir (adhastād diśi), beyond universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges and at the extreme limit of these universes, there is the universe called Houa (Padma);[1] its Buddha is called Houa tö (Padmaśrī)[2] and its bodhisattva Houa chang (Padmottara). – In the region of the zenith (upariṣṭād diśi), beyond universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges and at the extreme limit of these universes, there is the universe called Hi (Nandā); its Buddha is called Hi tö (Nandaśrī) and its bodhisattva Tö hi (Nandadatta).

In these universes everything occurred just as it did in the east.

Śāstra: Question. – According to the Buddhadharma, the directions (diś) do not really exist. Why? Because they are not included (saṃgṛhīta) in the list of the five aggregates (skandha), the twelve bases of consciousness (āyatana) and the eighteen elements (dhātu) [that embrace the totality of existent things]. Neither is there any mention of the directions in the four baskets of the Dharma (dharmapiṭaka).[3] Similarly, one would search in vain for the causes and conditions (hetupratyaya) that would make these directions into real things. Then why speak here about the Buddhas of the ten directions and the bodhisattvas of the ten directions?

Answer. – It is in order to be in harmony with the traditions of conventional language (lokasaṃvṛti) that we speak of directions; but regardless of the search, their reality cannot be demonstrated.

Question. – How can you say that they do not exist? If the directions are not in your four baskets of the Dharma (dharmapiṭaka), they are mentioned in my six baskets of the Dharma;[4] if they are not contained in your list of skandhas, āyatanas and dhātus, they are contained in my own dhāraṇīs.

Moreover, by virtue of its nature of existence, the dharma ‘direction’ exists and is eternal. Thus it is said in a sūtra: “The place where the sun rises is in the eastern direction; the place where the sun sets is in the western direction; the place where the sun travels to is in the southern direction; the place where the sun does not travel to is in the northern direction.” The sun has a threefold conjunction (saṃyoga): prior conjunction, actual conjunction and later conjunction. It is divided according to direction. The first direction with which it enters into conjunction is the east, then the south, and finally the west. The place where the sun does not travel is not counted. The specific nature (lakṣaṇa) of the direction is the distinction between ‘there’ and ‘here’, between ‘here’ and ‘there’. If the directions did not exist, these distinctions would be wrong and, since these distinctions constitute the specific nature of the direction, there would be no directions.

Answer. – That is not correct. Mount Sumeru is situated at the center of the four continents; the sun makes a circuit around Sumeru and [successively] lights up the four continents (dvīpaka). When it is noon (madhyāhna) in Uttarakuru (northern continent), the sun is rising in Pūrvavideha (eastern continent) because, for the inhabitants of Pūrvavideha, [Uttarakuru] is east. – When it is noon in Pūrvavideha (eastern continent), the sun is rising in Jambudvīpa (southern continent) because, for the [133c] inhabitants of Jambudvīpa, [Pūrvavideha] is east.[5] Therefore there is no initial term. Why? Because according to the course [of the sun], all directions are [successively] east, south, west and north.[6] Therefore it is not true, as you said, that “the place where the sun rises is the eastern direction, the place where the sun sets is the western direction, the place where the sun travels to is the southern direction and the place where the sun does not travel to is the northern direction.” Moreover, the place with which the sun does not enter into conjunction [namely, north] is not a direction because it is lacking the specific characteristic (lakṣaṇa) of direction [namely, conjunction].

Question. – I was speaking of ‘direction’ in reference to one single country and you are basing your objection on four countries [namely, the four continents]. This is why the direction of the east is not without initial term.

Answer. – If, in one single land, the sun enters into conjunction with the east, that is limited (antavat); if it is limited, it is not eternal (anitya); if it is not eternal, it is not universal (vyāpin). This is why the directions have only nominal existence and are not realities.

Footnotes and references:

1.

This universe is called Chan “Good” in the Chinese text, but Padmā “Lotus” (Chin. Houa) in the original Sanskrit of the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 17. This last reading is the proper one (note that the names of all the universes are feminine; this is why Padmā ends with ‘ā’).

2.

This Buddha is called Chan tö “Beauty of the Good” in the Chinese text (Chin. Houa tö), but Padmaśrī “Beauty of the Lotus” (Chin. Houa tö) in the Sanskrit text of the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 17. This last reading is the proper one.

3.

Understand: there is no mention of these directions as truly existent things (dharma).

4.

We know from k. 11, p. 143c that these four dharmapiṭakas are the Sutrapiṭaka, the Vinayapiṭaka, the Abhidharmapiṭaka and the Mixed Basket (Tsa tsang); for this last one, see Przyluski, Concile, p. 119–120. As for the six Baskets, this is the first time I [Lamotte] have heard of them.

5.

These facts are taken from the Cosmology of the Dīrgha, Tch’ang a han, T 1 (no. 30), k. 22, p. 147c: “When it is noon in Jambudvīpa, the sun is setting in Pūrvavideha, rising in Godānīya, and it is midnight in Uttarakuru. – When it is noon in Uttarakuru, the sun is setting in Godānīya, rising in Pūrvavideha and it is midnight in Jambudvīpa. – When it is noon in Pūrvavideha, the sun is setting in Uttarakuru, rising in Jambudvīpa and it is midnight in Godānīya.” – See also Kośa, III, p. 157.

6.

Tch’ang a han, T 1 (no. 30), k. 22, p. 147c: When Jambudvīpa is east, Pūrvavideha is west. When Jambudvīpa is west, Godānīya is east. When Godānīya is west, Uttarakuru is east. When Uttarakuru is west, Pūrvavideha is east.”

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