Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “definition of theft (steya)” 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 1 - Definition of theft (steya)

Taking what is not given (adattādāna), knowing that an object belongs to another (paraparigṛhītasaṃjñā), forming the intention to steal it

(steyacetanāsamutthāpana), taking the object (dravyagrahaṇa) and leaving the original place, saying: “This object belongs to me”: that is theft (steya). Not doing that is abstaining from theft. The rest, viz., stratagems (upāya), plots (nirūpaṇa), up to the fact of laying hands on some land that is not abandoned (aparityaktabhūmi) are auxiliary to theft (steyopakāra).

There are two kinds of wealth (vasu), that which belongs to another (paratantra) and that which does not belong to another (aparatantra). The fact of taking (grahaṇa) an object belonging to another constitutes the sin of theft (steyāpatti).

There are two kinds of objects belonging to another (paratantradravya): i) that which is in a village (grāma) and ii) that which is in a forest (araṇya).[1] Taking them with the intention of theft (steyacitta) is committing a sin of theft (steyāpatti). If the object is in the forest, an enquiry (nirūpaṇa) should be made to know which kingdom it is neighboring and, if this object has an owner, it is forbidden to take it.

In the Vinaya, all kinds of renunciations of theft that are characteristics (lakṣaṇa) of honesty are dealt with.

Notes on the conditions for theft:

See the canonical definition of theft in Majjhima, I, p. 286; II,p. 46, 54; Aṅguttara, V, p. 264; Tsa a han, T 99, no. 1039, k. 37, p. 271b:

Adiññādāyī hoti: yan taṃ parassa paravittāpakaraṇaṃ gāmagataṃ vā araññagātaṃ vā, taṃ adinnaṃ theyyasaṃkhātaṃ ādātā hoti:

“The thief, with stealthy intent, lays hand on that which has not been given to him, on another’s property who is in the village or in the jungle.”

Five conditions are needed for there to be theft: they are explained in the Daśakuśalakarmapathaḥ of Aśvaghoṣa, JA, Oct.-Dec., 1929, p. 269:

[Tatra katham adatta]dāyī bhavati: parakīyaṃ ca bhavati, paraparigṛhītasaṃjñī ca bhavati, steyacittaṃ ha patyupasthitaṃbhavati, upakramaṃ ca karoti, sthānāc ca …, nvāgataḥ adattādāyī bhavati:

“How is one a thief? There is the property of another, one knows that it is the property of another, one has the intention of stealing, one goes ahead to carry it out and [one changes] the position [of the object]. That fulfills [the five conditions] to be a thief.”

This teaching is repeated and developed by Buddhaghosa in Sumaṅgala, I, p. 71; Atthasālinī, p. 98 (tr. Tin, Expositor, I,p. 130):

Pañca sambhārā honti: paraparigghahītaṃ, parapariggahītasañnnitā, theyyacittaṃ, upakkamotenāharaṇan ti. Chappayayogā sāhatthikādayo va. Te ca kho yathānurūpaṃ theyyāvahāra pasayhāvahāro paṭicchannāvahāro parikappāvahāro kusāvahāro ti imesaṃ avahārānaṃ vasena pavattā:

“There are five factors constituting [theft]: another’s possessions, the awareness that it is another’s possessions, the intention to steal, the execution and removal that results. There are six ways of stealing: with one’s own hand, etc. One or another of these ways will be carried out according to the circumstances, dealing in false weights and measures, by force, by fencing stolen objects, by intrigue or by forgery.”

– See also Kośa, IV, p. 155–156; Hardy, Manual, p. 465–467; Bigandet, Gaudama, p. 417.

Footnotes and references:


See the preceding note that distinguishes the goods of another gāmagataṃ vā araññagataṃ vā. Buddhaghosa in Papañca, II, p. 329, explains: gāmagataÈm vā ti antogāme vā ṭhapitaṃ, araññagataṃ vā ti araññe rukkhagga-pabbatamatthakādisu ṭhapitaṃ.