Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “benefits resulting from abstention from murder” 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 6 - Benefits resulting from abstention from murder

Question. – By one’s strength, a person can overcome people, conquer kingdoms and kill enemies; the income that he derives from the meat and hides of game animals is considerable. What benefits (lābha) does he find in not killing living beings?

Answer. – 1) He derives confidence (vaiśaradya), happiness (sukha) and fearlessness (abhaya). [He says to himself]: “Since I am not tormenting these beings, they will not torment me either.” This is why he is fearless. The person who loves to kill, even if his position places him above kings, never enjoys the same peace as the moral man: even though he walks alone and in isolation, the latter has no worries to be fearful of.

2) Moreover, in the case of the murderer, all creatures (jīvin) around him (parivāra) have a horror on seeing him; but all beings willingly visit the person who does not love to kill.

3) Moreover, at the end of his life (jīvitparyavasāna), the moral person has a peaceful heart and is not worried or afraid. Whether he is reborn among the gods (deva) or among men (manuṣya), he will have a long life (dīrghāyus) which is the cause and condition (hetupratyaya) of obtaining the Path (mārgalābdha); having reached Buddhahood, the length of his life is limitless (apramāṇa).

4) Moreover, in the present (iha) lifetime and in future (paratra) lifetimes, the murderer will undergo all kinds of suffering of body and mind (kāyacittaduḥkha); the man who has not killed does not have all these worries; this is a great benefit.

5) Moreover, the ascetic (yogin) has the following thought: “I spare my own life, I love my own body, and it is the same for them; how are they any different from me? This is why I must not kill a living being.”

6) Moreover, the murderer is decried by good people (satpuruṣa) and envied by wicked people. Being guilty of the death of a man, he will always be afraid of being despised by them. At the time of his death, his mind dread is of falling into the hells (naraka) or into the animal destinies (tiryagyonigati). If he were to reappear amongst men, he would always have a short life.

7) Moreover, supposing even that, in the future lifetime, he does not undergo punishment, that he is neither decried by good people nor envied by the wicked, he should not even then take the life of another. Why? Because this conduct is not appropriate for an honest person. All the more reason (prāk) he should abstain from it when, in both lifetimes, [present and future], he must suffer the [punishment for his fault.

8. Moreover, murder is the most serious (gariṣṭha) of all sins (āpatti). Why? When people are in danger of death, they sacrifice their treasures and keep their safety as primordial thing.

[The joy of the merchants saved from shipwreck].

The person who, in many ways, practices (bhāvayati) all the meritorious virtues but who does not have the morality of abstention, does not derive any benefit. [155c] Why? One can have wealth, nobility, rank, power and bravery; but without a long life (dīrghāyus), who could enjoy it? This is how we know that, of the sins (āpatti), the sin of murder is the most serious; of all the virtues (guṇa), abstention from murder is the foremost.

In the world (loka), anxiety for life is primordial. How do we know that? All people suffer punishments (daṇḍa) willingly, ruin, house-search, pillage, provided that they can preserve their life.

8) Moreover, the person who pledges to observe morality (samādānaśīla) and has made the resolution to no longer kill any living being has already given to numberless beings the most important gift that they wish for, and the merits that he has attained are immense. Thus the Buddha said: “There are five great gifts (mahādāna). What are they? Abstaining from killing living beings is the first great gift, and so on for renunciation of theft, lust, falsehood and the use of intoxicants.”[1]

9) Finally, the merits (puṇya) of those who practice the meditative stabilization of loving-kindness (maitrīsamādhi) are immense: water and fire cannot harm them, soldiers cannot wound them, poisons have no effect on them. These are the benefits of the five great gifts.

Footnotes and references:


Extract from sūtra in Aṅguttara, IV, p. 246, which does not seem to have a correspondent in the Chinese canon.

“Monks, there are five great gifts, known from the beginning, known for a long time, known to tradition, ancient, unadulterated; not having been adulterated in the past, they are not now and never will be adulterated; they are not despised by monks and enlightened brāhmanas. What are these five?

Monks, the noble disciple renounces murder and abstains from it. Because he abstains, he gives fearlessly to innumerable beings, he gives without hatred; he gives without malevolence; giving thus, he takes part in immense confidence, friendliness and kindness. This, monks, is the first gift, the first great gift, known from the beginning… Such, monks, is the fourth result in merit and kindness, the food of happiness, heavenly, rewarded by happiness, leading to the heavens, leading to [all] that is pleasant, lovely, admirable good. Next, monks, the noble disciple renounces theft and abstains from theft…, renounces forbidden love and abstains from it…, renounces falsehood and abstains from it…, renounces the use of intoxicants, the causes of weakness, and abstains from them…”

Towards the end of the 10th century, the present extract was translated into Chinese by Che hou (Dānapāla) a monks who was native of Uḍḍiyāna in northern India, who acted as translator in K’ai fong from 982. The work is entitled Wou ta che king (T 706).