Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

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

6. Generosity and the virtue of wisdom.

How does generosity give rise to the virtu of wisdom (prajñāpāramitā)?

1) When the bodhisattva practices generosity, he knows that this generosity will necessarily have its reward (vipākaphala) and he is free of doubts (saṃśaya, vicikitsā); he destroys wrong views (mithyādṛṣṭi) and ignorance (avidyā). This generosity gives rise to the virtue of wisdom.

2) When the bodhisattva cultivates generosity, he knows clearly that an immoral (duḥśīla) person who strikes, beats or imprisons, but who practices generosity, nevertheless has broken the law to obtain wealth, is reborn among the elephants (hastin), horses (aśva) and oxen (go-); while taking on an animal existence (tiryagyonisaṃsthāna) where he is burdened down with loads, beaten, fettered and used as a mount, he will always have good shelter, be well-fed and will be respected (gurukṛta) by men who will take good care of him.

He knows that an evil bad-tempered man, but one who practices generosity even though it be for tortuous and indirect intentions, will be reborn among the nāgas where he will have a palace made of the seven jewels, good food and beautiful women.

He knows that a proud man, but one who practices generosity even though it be ostentatiously (abhimāna), is reborn among the golden-winged birds (garuḍa), where he will always have power (aiśvarya), possess the philopher’s stone (cintāmaṇi) in place of a ring (keyūra), succeed in having all his needs satisfied, suffer nothing contrary to his wishes, and can manage everything.

He knows that a minister (amātya) who wrings money out of people and plunders them of their goods illegally, but one who practices generosity, is reborn among the Kouei chen (asura) where he is the demon Kieou p’an tch’a (Kumbhāṇḍa),[1] who enjoys himself by carrying out multple transformations (pariṇāma) on the five outer objects (pañcabāhyāyatana).

He knows that a very ill-tempered and wicked man who loves good wine and good cheer, but one who practices generosity, is reborn among the Ye tch’a, the terrestrial yakṣas (bhūmya), where he always has varied pleasures, fine music (vādya) and good food (āhāra).

He knows that an unfeeling and violent man, but one who who satisfies by gifts [his army, for example] his chariots (ratha), his cavalry (aśva) and his infantry (pattika), is reborn among the heavenly yakṣas (vihāyasayakṣa),[2] where he possesses great power (mahābala) and moves like the wind.

He knows that a jealous man who loves to dispute but who can give fine houses (gṛha), beds and seats (śayāsana), clothing (vastra) and food (āhāra), will be reborn among the yakṣas who fly about in palaces and temples where they enjoy all kinds of pleasures and material advantages.

That is what the bodhisattva knows completely when he cultivates generosity. Therefore, generosity gives rise to the virtue of wisdom in bodhisattvas.

[153a] Furthermore, when one gives food (bhojana), one obtains strength (bala), beauty (varṇa), long life (āyus), happiness (sukha) and good servants (upasthaÌa). – By giving clothing (vastra), from birth one knows modesty and honor (hrīrapatrāpya), power (anubhāva), beauty (prasāda) and comfort of body and mind (kāyacittasukha). – By giving a house (gṛha), one obtains a palace made of the seven jewels (saptaratnamayarājakuta), and one possesses the enjoyment of the five pleasurable objects (pañcakāmaguṇa) automatically (svataḥ). – By giving a well (kūpa), a pool (taḍāga), a spring (udbhida), water (udaka) or any kind of juices, at birth one obtains freedom from hunger (kṣudh) and thirst (pipāsā) and the five pleasurable objects (pañcakāmaguṇa) are assured. – By giving a bridge (setu), a ship (nau) or shoes (upanāh), at birth one obtains a whole set of chariots and horses (rathāśvasaṃbhāra). – By giving a pleasure-garden (ārāma), one gets to be an eminent servant of refuge for all (sarvāśraya), and one receives [one’s share] of beauty of body (kāyaprasāda), joyous mind (cittasukha) and freedom from sadness. These are the various benefits obtained by generosity in human existences.

The person who cultivates (bhāvayati) merits (puṇya) by his gifts, who abhors the conditioned (saṃskṛta) and conditioning (saṃskāra) life, is reborn in the Cāturmahārājika heaven. – The person who, by his gifts, increases the care (pūjā) for his parents, his uncles and aunts and his brothers and sisters, the person who, without anger (dveṣa) or hatred (pratigha), abhors arguments (kalaka) and is unhappy to see people who are arguing, is a person who obtains rebirth among the Trāyastriṃśa, Yāma, Tuṣita, Nirmāṇarati and Paranirmitavaśavartin gods. The bodhisattva distinguishes all these gifts, and this is the way generosity gives rise to the virtue of wisdom in the bodhisattva.

If a person gives with detached mind (asaktacitta), out of distaste for the world (lokanirveda), with the view of the happiness of nirvāṇa, this is the generosity of an arhat or pratyekabuddha. – If a person gives with the view [of attaining] buddhahood and for the welfare of beings, this is the generosity of a bodhisattva. The bodhisattva knows all these gifts, and this is how generosity gives rise to the virtue of wisdom.

4) Moreover, when the bodhisattva gives, he reflects (manasikaroti) on the true nature (bhūtalakṣana) of the three elements [of the gift, namely, the donor, the recipient and the gift given], as has been said above (p. 724F). In this way, generosity gives rise to the virtue of wisdom.

5. Finally, omniscience (sarvajñā), the prime quality [of the Buddhas], takes its origin in generosity. Thus, the thousand [latest] Buddhas, at the moment when they [each in turn] first produced the mind of Bodhi (prathamābodhicittotpādakāle), were in the process of offering something to the Buddha [who was their contemporary]: one offered a lotus (utpala), another a garment (cīvara), a third a tooth-pick (dantakāṣṭha); and it is by giving this gift that they produce the mind of Bodhi. These different gifts prove that generosity gives rise to the virtue of wisdom in the bodhisattva.

Footnotes and references:


Class of demons listed along with the yakṣas, asuras and nāgas. They live in the south and their king is Virūdha (Dīgha, II, p. 257; III, p. 198). They are so called because their genitals (aṇḍa) are as large as pots (kumbha): cf. Sumaṅgala, III, p. 964.


The Mppś distinguishes three kinds of yakṣas: terrestrial (bhūmya) yakṣas, heavenly (vihāyasayakṣa) yakṣas and the yakṣas who haunt palaces and temples. Other types are mentioned in Dīgha, II, p. 156–257. The Pathavatthu Comm., p. 45, 55, calls them bhummadevatā, terrestrial divinities.