Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “mahasudassana-suttanta” 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.

This is what has been told: The eighty-four thousand vassals of the noble king Hi kien (Sudarśana) (see notes below) came one morning to offer him precious things made of the seven jewels. The king said: “I have no need of them. Each of you should cultivate merit (puṇya).” The petty kings had the following thought: “Even though the great king does not want to accept [our gifts], it is not fitting that we should use them ourselves.” Thereupon, they set to work together to build a palace (prāsāda) made of the seven jewels (saptaratnamaya); they planted rows of trees (vṛkṣapaṅkti)[1] made of the seven jewels and built pools (puṣkiriṇi)[2] made of the seven jewels. In this palace they built eighty-four thousand floors (kūṭāgāra)[3] made of the seven jewels; on each floor was a bed (paryaṅka) made of the seven jewels; cushions of different colors (miśravarṇopadhāna) were placed at the two ends of the bed; they had banners (dhvaja) and flags (patākā) hung and incense (dhūpa) was spread on the ground.

When all was ready, they said to the great king: “We would like you to accept this Dharma-palace (dharmaprāsāda) with its precious trees and its pools.” The great king accepted by remaining silent; then he thought: “I must not be the first to live in this new palace and devote myself to pleasure; I am going to look for holy people (sajjana), śramaṇas and brāhmaṇas to be the first to enter the ceremonies (pūjā); only afterwards will I myself live there.”[4] Then he joined the holy men who were the first to enter into the precious palace, filled with offerings of all kinds (nānāvidhapūjā) and splendid accessories (pariṣkāra).

When these men had gone, the king entered the precious palace,[5] ascended to the floor of gold (suvarṇakūṭāgāra), sat down on the silver bed (rūpyaparyaṅka) and, meditating on generosity, eliminated the five hindrances (pañcanīvaraṇa), concentrated his six organs (ṣaḍyātmikāyatana), swept away the six sense objects (ṣaḍbāhyāyatana), experienced joy (prīti) and happiness (sukha) and entered into the first dhyāna (prathamadhyāna). – Then he ascended to the floor of silver (rūpyakūṭāgāra), sat down on the golden bed (suvarṇaparyaṅka) and entered the second dhyāna (dvitīyadhyāna). – Then he ascended to the floor of beryl (vaidūryakūṭāgāra), sat down on the crystal bed (sphaṭikaparyaṅka) and entered into the third dhyāna (tṛtiyadhyāna). Finally, he ascended to the crystal floor (sphaṭikakūṭāgāra), sat down on the beryl bed (vaidūryaparyaṅka) and entered into the fourth dhyāna (caturthadhyāna): he spent three months in solitary meditation.[6]

The queen Yu niu pao (Strīratna)[7] and her eighty-four thousand followers (upasthāyikī) who had all adorned their bodies with the White Pearl jewel (maṇiratna) came to the great king and said: “For a long time you have been averse to visits from your family and we have come to ask why.” The king answered: “Sisters (bhaginī), you should change your feelings and be friends, not enemies, to me.” In tears, queen Strīratna said: “Why does the great king call me ‘sister’? Surely he has a hidden motive; I would like to know the meaning. Why doe he order us to be his friends and not his enemies?” The king replied: “For [152c] me, you have been the cause of rebirths; together we give ourselves up to pleasure; while giving me joy, you are my enemies. If you could wake up [to the doctrine] of impermanence (anityatā), know that the body is like a magic show (māyā), cultivate merit (puṇya), cultivate the good (kuśala) and give up the satisfactions of desire (kāma), you would be my friendss.” The women agreed:

“We will obey your orders with respect.” Having spoken thus, they took their leave and went away.

When the women had gone, the king ascended to the floor of gold (suvarṇakūṭāgāra), sat down on the silver bed (rūpyaparyaṅka) and practiced the absorption of loving-kindness (maitrīsamādhi). – Then he went to the floor of silver (rūpyakūṭāgāra), sat down on the golden bed (suvarṇaparyaṅka) and practiced the absorption of compassion (karuṇāsamādhi). – He went up to the floor of beryl (vaiḍuryakūṭāgāra), sat down on the bed of crystal (sphaṭikaparyaṅka) and practiced the concentration of joy (muditāsamādhi). – He went up to the floor of crystal (sphaṭikakūṭāgāra), sat down on the bed of beryl (vaiḍūryaparyaṅka) and practiced the concentration of equanimity (upekṣasamādhi).[8]

This is how generosity gives rise to the virtue of meditation in bodhisattvas.

Notes on Sudarśana:

Sudarśana is here rendered as Hi kien (30 nd 9; 147); elsewhere as Chan kien (30 and 9; 147) or Miao kien (38 and 4; 147). – This cakravartin Mahāsudarśana belongs to the royal lineage of Mahāsaṃmata from which the Buddha came: cf. Dīpavaṃsa, III, v. 8; Mahāvaṃsa, II, v. 5; Mahāvastu, I, p. 348; Mahāvyutpatti, no. 3570; Tch’ang a han, T 1, k. 22, p. 149a8; Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 1, p. 101c27. – In mythical times, he reigned in Kuśāvatī, in the actual location of Kuśinagara. This city and its splendid palaces are fully described in the various versions of the Mahāsudassanasuttanta mentioned above; see also Divyāvadāna, p. 227; Divyāvadāna, p. 227; P’o p’o cha, T 1545, k. 76, p. 395c. The Dharmaprāsāda was built following to the model of the cakravartin’s city; cf. Przyluski, La ville du Cakravartin, Rocznik Orjent., V, 1927, p. 165–185.

Notes on the Mahāsudassana-suttanta:

The Mahāsudassanasuttanta, of which the present passage is a somewhat variant version, is a separate sūtra in the Pāli Dīgha, II, p. 169–199 (tr. Rh. D., II, p. 198–232), whereas the Chinese Dīrghāgama and related sources incorporate it into the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra: cf. Tch’ang a han, T 1, no. 2, k. 3, p. 21b–24b; Fp pan ni yuan king, T 5, k. 2, p. 169c–171a; Pan ni yuan king, T 6, k. 2, p. 185b–186c; Ta pan nie p’an king, T 7, k. 2 and 3, p. 200c–203a; Ken pen chouo… tsa che, T 1451, k. 37, p. 393a–394b. – However, an independent version of the Mahāsudassana is in the Tchong a han, T 26, no. 68, k. 14, p. 515b–618c; and Ta tcheng kiu wang king, T 45, p. 831a seq.

The story of Sudassana is also summarized in Dīgha, II, p. 146–157; Saṃyutta, III, p. 144; Pāli Jātaka, I, p. 391–393.

Footnotes and references:


Seven rows of palm trees (tāla); cf. Dīgha, II, p. 171–172.


These pools were placed between the rows of palm trees (tālāntarikā) at a distance of a hundred bow-lengths (dhamnuśata); each pool had four staircases (sopāna) and two balustrades (vedikā), of which the uprights (stambha), the crosspieces (sūci) and the handrails (uṣṇīṣā) were of different metals; cf. Dīgha, II, p. 178–179.


For these stories (kuṭāgāra), see Dīgha, II, p. 182.


The inauguration of palaces was reserved for monastics, f. Dīgha, II, p. 185.


According to Dīgha, II, p. 186–187, the king first practiced the four dhyānas and the four brāhmavihāras and only after that did he receive the queen. On the other hand, in the Mppś, the king first practiced the four dhyānas then repulsed the requests of the queen; after her departure, he devoted himself to the practice of the four brāhmavihāras.


This manner of practicing the four dhyānas is described in similar words in Dīgha, II, p. 189–195.


Compare the visit of queen Subhadrā in Dīgha, II, p. 189–195.


This royal manner of practicing the four brāhmavihāras, maitrī, etc., is described in Dīgha, II, p. 186–187; cf. Kośa, VIII, p. 196–203; Traité, I, p. 163F. – King Mahāsudassana, having cultivated the four brāhmavihāras, died soon after and was reborn in the Brahmaloka, cf. Dīgha, II, p. 196.