Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “generosity and the virtue of morality” 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.

2. Generosity and the virtue of morality

How does the generosity of the bodhisattva give rise to the virtue of morality (śīlapāramitā)? The bodhisattva says to himself that, if he does not give anything to beings, he will be poor in the following existence; because of this poverty, thoughts of stealing (adattādāna) will arise in him; in the course of these thefts, he will commit murder (prāṇātipāta). As a result of his poverty, he will have insufficient pleasure; since these pleasures are insufficient, he will engage in illicit lovemaking (kāmamithyācāra). Because of his poverty, he will be a man of [150c] low condition (hīna); fearful of the fact of this lowly condition, he will speak falsehoods (mṛṣāvāda), etc. Thus in the course of his poverty, he will commit the ten bad paths of action (akuśalakarmapatha).[1] [On the other hand], if he practices generosity, he will be reborn wealthy, and having riches, he will not commit sins (adharma). Why? Because one has no needs, then the five objects of enjoyment (pañca kāmaguṇa) are assured.

[The snake, the frog and the rat].

If one develops generosity, one will become rich in future existences and never have needs; then one will be able to keep morality (śīla) and avoid all these sins. Therefore generosity can engender the virtue of morality.

Furthermore, generosity leads to the alleviation of the bonds of immorality (dauḥśīlya); it increases the mind of morality (śīlacitta) and brings about its strengthening (dṛḍhatva). Thus generosity is the cause and condition (hetupratyaya) that advances (vardhana) morality.

Furthermore, the bodhisattva who gives always feels sentiments of goodwill (maitrī) and compassion (karuṇā) towards his beneficiary. Detached from riches, unsparing of his own goods, how could he steal? Full of loving-kindness and compassion towards his recipient, how could he have the intention to kill? This is how generosity impedes immorality and gives rise to morality. By practicing generosity, all thoughts of miserliness (mātsaryacitta) are suppressed, and henceforth morality (śīla), patience (kṣānti), zeal (vīrya) and the other [virtues] are readily practiced.

[The gift of Mañjuśrī].

Finally, as reward for generosity, one obtains the fourfold offering, a fine kingdom, a good teacher and one has no needs. Under these conditions, one [easily] keeps morality. Besides, as reward for generosity, the mind becomes gentle; the gentleness of the mind gives birth to morality; thanks to this morality, one can maintain one’s mind free of bad dharmas (akuśaladharma).

For many reasons of this kind, generosity engenders the virtue of morality.

Footnotes and references:


The ten good and bad paths of action have been listed above, Traité, I, p. 501F.

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