Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the saha universe transforms into jewels” 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 10.8: The Sahā universe transforms into jewels

Sūtra: Then this trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu was transformed into jewels; it was strewn with flowers, decorated with fabrics, banners and bouquets, adorned with perfume-trees and flowering arbors (Atha khalo ayaṃ trisāhasramahāsāhasro lokadhātū ratnamayaḥ saṃsthito ‘bhūt puṣpābhikīrṇaḥ. avasaktapattadāmakalāpo gandhavṛkṣaiḥ puṣpavṛṣaiś copaśobhita ‘bhūt).

Śāstra: Question. – What is the miraculous power (ṛddhibala) that transforms the earth into jewels?

Answer. – This transformation (pariṇāma) is brought about by the immense miraculous power of the Buddha. People versed in spells (mantra) and magic (māya), the asuras, the nāgarājas, the devas, etc., are able to transform small objects, but no-one other [than the Buddha], including Brahmā devarāja, has the power to transform the trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu into precious jewels. When the Buddha is in the fourth dhyāna, the four minds of metamorphosis (nirmāṇacitta) adorn (alaṃkṛta) the trisāhasaramahāsāhasralokadhātu, with its flowers, perfumes and trees, in all its superiority. All beings in perfect agreement [at this sight] turn their minds to the good.

Why does the Buddha adorn this universe? In order to preach the Prajñāpāramitā and also to honor the bodhisattvas of the ten directions who have come to visit him accompanied by gods and men. When the master of a household invites a noble individual, he adorns his home; if it is the leader of a country, he adorns his kingdom; if it is a cakravartin king, he adorns the four continents (caturdvīpa); if it is Brahmā devarāja, he adorns the trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu. The Buddha himself adorns his universe for the chiefs of the universes of the ten directions – universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges – i.e., for the foreign bodhisattvas (deśantarabodhisattva) and for the gods and men who have come to visit him. He also wants people, on seeing the fairyland of the metamorphoses (pariṇāmavyūha) that he has produced, to produce the great thought of enlightenment (mahābodhicitta), feel pure joy (viśuddhamuditā), be inspired by the thought of enlightenment to accomplish the great acts (mahākarma), obtain a great reward (mahāvipāka) from these great acts, profit from this great reward by producing the great thought once more, and thus, successively (paraṃparavṛdhi) they succeed in attaining supreme perfect enlightenment (anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhi). This is why the Buddha adorns this universe and transforms it into jewels.

Question. – What is meant by jewels (ratna)?

Answer. – There are four types of jewels: 1) Kin (suvarṇa), gold; 2) Yin (rajata, rūpya), silver; 3) [134a] P’i lieou li (vaiḍūrya), lapis-lazuli; 4) P’o li (sphaṭika), crystal.

There are four more kinds of jewels:[1] 1) gold; 2) silver;3) lapis-lazuli; 4) crystal; 5) Tch’ö k’iu (musāragalva) cat’s-eye; 6) Ma nao (aśmagarbha) emerald; 7) Tch’e tchen tchou (lohitamukti), red pearl. [Note by Kumārajīva: This pearl is very precious; it is not Chan hou (pravāḍa, vidruma), coral].

There are yet other jewels: 1) Mo lo k’ie t’o (marakata), emerald [this pearl is extracted from the beak of the golden-winged garuḍa bird; it is green in color and it counteracts poisons); 2) Yin t’o ni lo (indranīla), sapphire [pearl of celestial azure]; 3) Mo ho ni lo (mahānīla) ‘great blue’ pearl; 4) Po mo lo k’ie (padmarāga), ruby [bright red pearl]; 5) Yue chö (vajra) diamond; 6) Long tchou (nāgamaṇi), nāga pearl; 7) Jou yi tchou (cintāmaṇi), precious stone that grants all the wishes of its owner; 8) Yu, jade; 9) Pei (śaṅkha) conch; 10) Chan hou (pravāḍa, vidruma), coral; 11) Hou p’e (tṛṇamaṇi) amber, etc. All these are called jewel (ratna).

These jewels are of three types, human jewels (manuṣyaratna), divine jewels (divyaratna) and bodhisattva jewels (bodhisattvaratna).

Human jewels have minimum power and have merely a bright pure color; they combat poisons (viṣa), demons (piśāca), and shadows (tamas); they also combat all the sufferings of hunger (kṣudh), thirst (pipāsā), cold (śīta) and heat (uṣṇa).

Divine jewels are larger and more powerful; they always accompany the gods; one can give orders to them and communicate with them; they are light and not heavy.

Bodhisattva jewels surpass the divine jewels; they combine the benefits of human and divine jewels. They allow all beings to know the place of their death and birth, their history (nidāna), their beginning and their end (pūrvāparānta): it is like a clear mirror (pariśuddādarśa) where a person can contemplate their reflection. Moreover, the bodhisattva jewels can emit the various sounds of the Dharma (dharmasvara). As for the crown jewel (ratnamukuta) that adorns their head, it rains down flags (dhvaja), banners (patākā), bouquets of flowers (puṣpadāma) and all kinds of offerings (pūjāpariṣkāra) onto the Buddhas of the innumerable universes of the ten directions; it is a way of paying homage to the Buddhas. It also rains down clothing (vastra), coverlets, beds (śayana), seats (āsana) and means of livelihood (ājīva): it causes everything that answers the needs of beings to rain down and gives them to beings.

These various jewels remove the poverty (dāridrya) and the suffering (duḥkha) of beings.

Question. – Where do these marvelous jewels come from?

Answer. – Gold (suvarṇa) comes from rocks, sand and red copper. – [Red] pearls (lohitamukti) come from fish stomachs, bamboo and snakes’ heads. – Nāga pearl (nāgamaṇi) comes from the heads of nāgas. – Coral (pravāda, vidruma) comes from petrified trees found in the sea. – Conch (śaṅkha) comes from insects. – Silver (rajata, rūpya) comes from burned rocks. – The other jewels, lapis-lazuli (vaiḍūrya), crystal (sphoṭika), etc., all come from caves. – The Cintāmaṇi comes from the Buddha’s relics (buddhaśarīra); when the Dharma will have disappeared, all the Buddha’s relics will change into cintāmani. Similarly, at the end of a thousand years, water will change into crystal (sphoṭika) pearls.

All these jewels are the usual jewels found among mankind; but the universes adorned (alaṃkṛta) by the Buddha have far more value and cannot be obtained even by the gods. Why? Because they come from the great qualities of the Buddha.

The perfumed trees (gandhavṛkṣa) are: 1) the A k’ie leou (agaru),[2] Agalloche [tree with the perfume of honey]; 2) the To k’ie leou (tagaru),[3] Tabernaemonatana coronaria [very perfumed tree]; 3) the Tchan t’an (candana), sandalwood, and other species of perfumed trees.[4]

The flowering trees (puṣpavṛkṣa) are: 1) the Tchan p’ou (jambhu), Eugenia jambolana [tree with white flowers]; 2) the A chou kia (aśoka) Jonesia asoka [tree ‘without a care’]; 3) the P’o ho kia lo [tree with red flowers], and others.

Footnotes and references:


Classic list of seven jewels, occurring in, e.g., Milinda, p. 267; Divyāvadāna, p. 297; Saddharmapuṇḍarīka, p. 151; Sukhāvatīvyūha, v. 16; Saṃgraha, p. 318; Mahāvyutpatti, no. 5943 seq. – See Burnouf, Lotus, p. 319–321; Finot, Les lapidaires indiens, Paris, 1896.


In Sanskrit, agaru or aguru (cf. Avadānaśataka, I, p. 24; Divyāvadāna, p. 158, 315, 327); in Pāli, akalu or agalu (cf. Milinda, p. 338). The word also occurs in Hebrew and Greek.


Most likely Tagara, attested in Vinaya, I, p. 303; Itivuttaka, p. 68, Milinda, p. 338, Divyāvadāna, p. 158, 327.


These gandhavṛkṣa furnish precious essences used as perfumes. Milinda, p. 338, tells of a man whose body is anointed with agaru, tagara, tālīsaka (Flacourtia cataphracta) and red sandalwood (akalutāgaratālīsakalojitacandānulittagatto).