Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “non-existence of the thing given” 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.

Part 11 - Non-existence of the thing given

Question. – Generosity is the renunciation of wealth (dhanaparityāga); why then do you say that the perfect gift (paripūra) involves a thing to be abandoned (parityaktadharma)?

Answer. – 1. There are two kinds of generosity, supramundane (lokottara) and that which is not supramundane.[1] Here we are talking about supramundane generosity, which is without marks (animitta); being without marks, it does not involve anything abandoned. This is why we say that perfect generosity does not involve renunciation.

2. Moreover, it does not involve renunciation because the material object (āmiṣadravya) is non-existent (anupalabdha): this object is empty (śūnya) in the future (anāgata) and the past (atīta); in the present (pratyutpanna), it has no defined property (niyatadharma). This is why we say that there is no renunciation.

3. Moreover, the agent (kāraka), when he renounces his riches, says to himself: “My alms have great value (mahāguṇa)” and thereby gives rise to pride (abhimāna) and bonds of thirst (tṛṣṇābandhana). This is why we say that [the perfect gift] does not involve a thing abandoned. Since nothing is abandoned, all pride is excluded; pride being absent, the bonds of thirst do not arise. [147b]

4. Moreover, there are two kinds of donors (dāyaka), mudane (laukika) donor and supramundane (lokottara) donor. The mundane donor renounces his riches (dhana) but does not renounce his generosity (dāna), whereas the supramundane donor renounces both his riches and his generosity. Why? Because the material object (āmiṣadrvaya) and the concept of generosity (dānacitta) are both non-existent (anupalabdha). This is why we say that the perfect gift does not involve renunciation.

5. Finally, in the Prajñāpāramitā, it is said that three things do not exist (anupalabdha), namely, the object given (āmiṣa), the donor (dāyaka) and the recipient (pratigrāhaka).[2]

Footnotes and references:


See above p. 675F,


Cf the passage of the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 264, relative to lokottara dānapāramitā: Tatra katramā lokottarā dānapāramitā yaduta trimaṇḍalapariśuddhiḥ. tatra katamā trimaṇḍalapariśuddhiḥ. tatra katamā trimaṇḍalapariśuddhiḥ. iha bodhisattvo mahāsattvo dānaṃ dadat nātmānam upalabhate pratigrāhakaṃ nopalabhate dānaṃ ca nopalabhate.

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