Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “pancashila” 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.

Note: here starts the section known as “The fivefold discipline of the upāsaka”.

Abstention from the five sins (āpatti), [murder, theft, illicit sex, use of intoxicating drinks], constitutes excellent physical discipline (kāyakuśalasaṃvara); abstention from falsehood (mṛṣāvāda) constitutes the excellent discipline of speech (vākkuśalasaṃvara); the whole thing is called ‘discipline of fivefold morality characteristic (pañcaśīla) of the lay practitioner’ (upāsakapañcaśīlasaṃvara).

Question. – If the eightfold discipline (aṣṭavidhasaṃvara) and the means of pure livelihood (pariśuddhājīva) constitute morality (cf. p. 771F), why is not the upāsaka, in his discipline of speech (vāksaṃvara) not subject to the threefold discipline [which forbids slander, harmful speech and thoughtless speech, cf. p. 771F] and is not subject to the means of pure livelihood (pariśuddhajīva)?

Answer. – 1) Lay people (avadātavasana) residing at home (gṛhastha) who enjoy worldly pleasures (lokasukha) and at the same time cultivate fully both wealth (vitta) and virtue (guṇa) are unable to practice the laws of morality (śīladharma) completely; this is why the Buddha has them observe [only] five precepts.

2) Moreover, of the four sins of speech (caturvidhavākkarman), [lying, slander, harmful speech and frivolous speech], lying is the most serious (gariṣṭa).

3) Moreover, lying is [always] cultivated (kou tso = saṃskṛta) by the [wicked] intention (cittotpāda) [from which it originated]; the other [sins of speech, sometimes are refined, sometimes not refined.

4) Moreover, it is enough to list falsehood to include the very fact of the other [sins of speech].

5) Moreover, of the good dharmas (kuśaladharma), truth (satya) takes first place. Speaking true words (satyavāk) is observing entirely the four kinds of right speech (samyagvāk).

6) Finally, lay persons [avadātavasana] living in the world are officially called to busy themselves with family affairs and to give commands; this is why it is hard for them to observe the rule [forbidding the speaking] of harmful speech (pāruṣyavāda). But lying, a serious fault due to its refinement, should never be committed.

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