Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “generosity of the dharma” 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.

Question. – What is meant by generosity of the Dharma (dharmadāna)? (see Notes below for the difference with material generosity)

Answer. – Here are various opinions:

1. All speech well-spoken (subhāṣita), all useful (arthasahita) speech constitutes generosity of the Dharma.

2. Generosity of the Dharma consists of preaching the Holy Dharma (saddharma) explained by the Buddha (buddhakaṇṭhokta) to people.

3. Generosity of the Dharma consists of teaching people the threefold Dharma: 1) the Sieou tou lou (Sūtra); 2) the P’i ni (Vinaya; 3) the A p’i t’an (Abhidharma).

4. Generosity of the Dharma consists of teaching people the four Baskets of the Dharma (dharmapiṭaka): 1) the Sieou tou lou tsang (Sūtrapiṭaka); 2) the P’i ni tsang (Vinayapiṭaka); 3) the A p’i t’an tsang (Abhidharmapiṭaka); 4) the Tsa tsang (Saṃyuktapiṭaka).[1]

5. Generosity of the Dharma consists of teaching in brief form the twofold Dharma: 1) the śrāvaka Dharma; 2) the Mahāyāna Dharma.

Question. – But T’i p’o ta (Devadatta), Ho to (Hatthaka, should be Udraka),[2] etc., have also taught people[3] the Tripiṭaka, the four Baskets, the Dharma of the śrāvakas and that of the Mahāyāna; nevertheless, they fell into hell (niraya). Why?

Answer. – The sins of wrong view (mithyādṛṣṭyāpatti) in Devadatta were [144a] numerous; in Ho to, the sins of falsehood (mṛṣāvāda) were numerous. [Their sermons] did nor constitute a gift of the pure Dharma (viśuddhadharmadāna), made with the Path (mārga) in view; they sought only honors (yaśas), wealth (lābha), the signs of respect (satkāra, arcanā) and homage (pūjā). Because of these bad intentions, Devadatta was reborn in the hells (niraya).[4]

Furthermore, it is not enough to preach to fulfill generosity of the Dharma. In order for it to be true generosity of the Dharma, it is necessary to teach everyone with a pure mind (viśuddhacitta) and good intention (kuśalacetanā). Just as the material gift (āmiṣadāna) is not meritorious if it is not inspired by a good mind (kuśalacitta), so also the gift of the Dharma is not generosity of the Dharma without a pure mind and good intention. Moreover, preaching the Dharma (dharmadeśana) inspired by a pure mind and a good intention praises the Three Jewels (triratna), opens the door of sin (āpatti) and merit (puṇya), teaches the four noble Truths (āryasatya), converts beings and introduces them to the Buddhist path (buddhamārga): this preaching constitutes the authentic generosity of the Dharma.

Finally, in brief (samāsataḥ), preaching the Dharma (dharmadeśanā) is of two types: the first, which avoids tormenting beings (sattvān anupahatya) and is inspired by a good mind (kuśalacitta) and compassion (karuṇā), is the cause and condition for reaching Buddhahood; the second, which perceives (samanupaśyati) the true emptiness (śūnyatā) of dharmas, is the cause and condition of the path of nirvāṇa. When one preaches this twofold Dharma in the midst of a great assembly (mahāparṣad) with feelings of compassion (karuṇā), without aiming at fame (yaśas), wealth (lābha) or honors (satkāra), one is practicing generosity of the Dharma of the pure Buddhist path (viśuddhabuddhamārga).

[Aśoka and the bhikṣu with the pleasant breath]

Question. –Which is more important, material generosity (āmiṣadāna) or generosity of the Dharma (dharmadāna)?

Answer. – As the Buddha has said: “Of the two generosities, generosity of the Dharma is more important.”[5] Why?

1) The fruit of retribution (phalavipāka) of material generosity occurs in the desire realm (kāmadhātu), whereas the fruit of retribution of generosity of the Dharma is in the threefold world (traidhātuka) or above the threefold world.[6]

2) Moreover, words (vac) that are pure (viśuddha) reach the central point of the reasoning (yukti) and the mind (citta) attains it also. This is why they surpass the threefold world.

3) Moreover, material generosity is limited (sapramāṇa), whereas generosity of the Dharma is limitless (apramāṇa); material generosity is exhausted, whereas generosity of the Dharma is inexhaustible: it is like a fire (agni) fed by kindling (indhana), the light of which is always increasing.

4) Moreover, the retribution (vipāka) of material generosity involves mediocre purity (viśuddhi) and many stains (mala), whereas the retribution of generosity of the Dharma has few stains and great purity.

5) Moreover, carrying great gifts requires (apekṣate) a great show of power, whereas the gift of the Dharma depends on nothing other than realization.

6) Moreover, material generosity can bring about the increase (vṛddhi) [only] of the four great elements (caturmahābhūta) and material organs (indriya), whereas generosity of the Dharma leads to the perfection (paripūri) of the pure organs (anāsravendriya), the powers (bala) and the Path of enlightenment (bodhimārga).

7) Moreover, whether there is a Buddha [here below] or not, material generosity always exists in the world; on the other hand, generosity of the Dharma can be practiced only if there is a Buddha in the world. This is how we know that generosity of the Dharma is very rare. Why is it rare? Even the pratyekabuddhas [do not practice it], because they cannot preach the Dharma. They [are limited] to practicing mendicancy (piṇḍapāta) correctly and to converting beings by flying (patana) or by transforming themselves (pariṇāma).[7]

8) Moreover, material gifts can be derived from generosity of the Dharma, and one can equal the śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas, the bodhisattvas and even the Buddhas.

9) Finally, generosity of the Dharma can analyze (vibhaj-) all dharmas: impure (sāsrava) and pure (anāsrava) dharmas, material (rūpidharma) and immaterial (ārūpyadharma) dharmas, conditioned (saṃskṛta) and unconditioned (asaṃsakṛta) dharmas, good (kuśala), bad (akuśala) and indeterminate (avyākṛta) dharmas, permanent (nitya) and impermanent (anitya) dharmas, existent (sat) and non-existent (asat) dharmas. The true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of all dharmas is pure (viśuddha), indestructible (abhedya) and unchangeable (avyaya). The brief explanation (saṃkṣepa) of all these dharmas makes up the eighty-four thousand Baskets of the Dharma (caturaśītidharmapitaka): the developed (vistara) explanation is limitless (apramāṇa). All these dharmas are analyzed (vibhakta) and cognized (vijñāta) thanks to the generosity of the Dharma; this is why generosity of the Dharma is the higher gift.

These two generosities, [material and Dharma], together form “Generosity”. When one practices this twofold generosity while wishing to become Buddha, one is able to lead people to the state of Buddha and, all the [145a] more so, to other states.

Question. – Four kinds of abandonings (tyāga) constitute generosity, namely: abandoning material goods (āmiṣatyāga), the gift of the Dharma (dharmatyāga), the gift of safety (abhayatyāga) and abandonment of the afflictions (kleśatyāga). Why mention only the [last] two tyāgas here?

Answer. – Because the gift of safety (abhayatyāga) is not distinct from the virtue of morality (śīla), we do not speak of it here. On the other hand, as [we will deal later with the virtue] of wisdom (prajñā), we do not speak of the abandonment of the passions (kleśatyāga) here. If we were not going to deal with the six virtues (pāramitā), it would be necessary to mention these four abandonments together.

Distinction between Material Generosity and Generosity of the Dharma

The distinction between material generosity (āmiṣadāna) and generosity of the Dharma (dharmadāna) is of canonical origin: cf. Aṅguttara, I, p. 91; Itivuttaka, p. 98; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 7, p. 577b. To these two types of generosity, the Mahāyāna treatises, especially those of the Vijñānavādin school, add a third, namely, the generosity of safety (abhayadāna): cf. Dharmasaṃgraha, chap. CV; Saṃdhinirmocana, IX, § 12; Saṃgraha, p. 190–191; Abhidharmasamuccayavyākhyā, T 1606, k. 12, p. 749c; Siddhi, p. 620; Bodh. Bhūmi, p. 133:

āmiṣadānaṃ dharmadānam abhayadānaṃ ca samāsataḥ ihāmutrasukhaṃ āmiṣadānaṃ dharmadānam abhayadānaṃ casamāsataḥihāmutrasukhaṃ dānaṃ sattvānāṃ veditavyaṃ. tat punar āmihadānaṃ praṇītaṃ śucikalpitaṃ vinīya mātsaryamalaṃ saṃnidhimalaṃ ca dadāti. tatra mātsaryamalavinayaḥ cittāgrahaparityāgāta, saṃnidhimalavinayo bhogāgrahaparityāgād veditavyaḥ, abhayadānaṃ siṃhavyāgragrāharājachorodakādibhayapartirāṇatayā veditavyaḥ. dharmadānam aviparītadharmadeśanā nyāyopadeśaḥ śikṣāpadasamādāpanatā ca; Madhyāntavibhāga, p. 206–207: pūjānugrahakāṅkṣayā bāhyādhyātmikavsatuniravadyāt pratyupakāravipākādinirapekṣo yayā cetanayā parityajati kāyavākkarmaṇā ca pratipādayatīdaṃ bodhisattvasyāmiṣadānam… sattvānupaghātakānām ājīvaśāstrakalānipuṇānāṃ karuṇāpūrvakānām upadeśaḥ sugatimokṣamārgopadeśaś ca dharmadānam… rājacauradāyadavyālādibhir āghrātānāṃ tebhyo vimokṣaṇam abhayadānam.

Footnotes and references:

1.

The question has already been raised (Traité, I, p. 596F) of the four Dharmapiṭakas; on the fourth “the Mixed Basket”, see Przyluski, Concile, p. 119–120.

2.

Ho to (30 and 5; 36 and 3) may transcribe an original Hattaka (cf. Akanuma, p. 222a); but the censure addressed here to Ho to does not fit in any way the famous disciple of the Buddha Hatthaka Ālavaka (cf. Traité, I, p. 562–565F); it actually does apply to Udraka. First of all, the Mppś blames Devadatta and Ho to of giving alms, not in view of the Path, but to acquire benefit, honor and fame (lābhasatkāraśloka, cf. Majjhima, I, p. 192, etc.). Now we know, from the Adhyāśayasaṃcodanasūtra, cited in the Śikṣasamuccaya, p. 105, that “the search for profits and honor causes men to fall into the hells, into the animal destinies or into the world of Yama, and makes him similar in conduct to Devadatta and Udraka” (narakatiryagyoniyamalokaprapātano lābhasatkāraḥ, devadattodrakasamācaro lābhasatkāraḥ pratyuavekṣitavayaḥ). Secondly, the Mppś will record that in Ho to “the sins of lying are numerous”; now this is precisely the reproach that could be addressed to Udraka Rāmaputra, whose teachings the Buddha had followed when he was still the Bodhisattva. The Buddha was full of respect for his old teacher and, if he had been still alive, it was to him and to Ālāra Kālāma that he would have preached the Dharma in the first place (Vinaya, I, p. 7; Mahāvastu, III, p. 322–323; Lalitavistara, p. 403), but that does not prevent him from disputing Udraka’s false pretenses in Saṃyutta, IV, 83: Taṃ kho panetaṃ bhikkhave uddako Rāmaputto avedagū yeva samāno vedagusmīti bhāsati; asabbajī yeva samāno sabbajismīti bhāsati; apalikhitaṃ yeva gaṇḍamūlaṃ palikhitaam me gaṇḍamūlan ti bhāsati: “Although Uddaka Rāmaputta had not attained supreme wisdom, he pretended to have attained it; although he was not a universal conqueror, he pretended to be one; although he had not uprooted the root of evil, he pretended to have uprooted it.” We may note also that the Mahāvyutpatti, no. 3516, places Udraka Rāmaputra in the list of the Tīrthikas.

3.

A sermon of Devadatta is mentioned in the Tsa a han, t 99, no. 499, k. 18, p. 131; Aṅguttara, IV, p. 402–403; Candikāputta summarizes it for Sariputta in these words: Devadatto āvuso bhikkhūnaṃ evaṃ dhammaṃ deseti: yato kho āvuso bhikkhuno cetasā cittam paricitaṃ hoti tass’etaṃ bhikkhunokallaṃ veyyākaraṇāya: khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ, nāparaṃ itthattāyā ti pajānāmi ti: “Here is how Devadatta preaches the Dharma to the monks: When the mind of a bhikṣu, O monks, is full of understanding, he is allowed to say: Rebirth is destroyed, sainthood is fulfilled, duty is accomplished; there is no further return to this world.” We may add that the orthodoxy of this sermon is indisputable.

Udraka taught the doctrine professed by his father Rāma, a doctrine that led to the state of neither perception nor non-perception (naivasaṃjñānā-saṃjñāyatana); but, finding it insufficient, the Buddha renounced it (cf. Majjhima, I, p. 165 sq.; Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 85; Mahāvastu, II, p. 200; Lalitavistara, p. 244).

4.

See references in Traité, I, p. 407, note.

5.

Aṅguttara, I, p. 91; Itivuttaka, p. 98; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 7, p. 577b: Dve ‘māni bhikkhave dānāni. Katamāni dve? Āmisadānañ ca dhammadānañ ca. Imāni kho bhikkhave dānāni. Etad aggaṃ bhikkhave imesaṃ dvinnaṃ dānānaṃ yadidaṃ dhammadānam ti.

6.

Compare Bodh. Bhūmi, p. 133: āmiṣabhayadānaṃ saprabhedam ihasukham, dharmadānaṃ puṇaḥ saprabhedam amutrasukham.

7.

On the pratyekabuddhas, see L. de La Vallée Poussin, Pratyekabuddha, ERE, X, p. 152–154; Malalasekera, II, p. 94–96.