Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “five kinds of upasaka” 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: This distinction is taken from Mahānāmasūtra in its Sanskrit version; cf. Kośa, IV, p. 73; Kośavyākhyā, p. 377. See also Mahāvyutpatti, no. 1609–1613. According to the Mppś, it seems that some upāsakas choose from the five rules constituting the discipline of the upāsaka and observe only one, two, three, or four rules. In this case, one wonders if they deserve the name of upāsaka. According to Kośa, IV, p. 73, every upāsaka pledges to observe the five rules, but may transgress one or another subsequently, and it is this breach that makes the distinction among the various classes of upāsaka.

There are five ways of taking (samādāna) these five precepts (śīla) which makes five kinds of upāsakas: 1) upāsaka of a single practice (ekadeśakārin), 2) upāsaka of limited practice (pradeśakārin), 3) upāsaka of developed practice (yadbhūyaskārin), 4) upāsaka of complete practice (paripūrṇakārin), 5) upāsaka who has renounced sexual activity (samucchinnarāga).

1) The ekadeśakārin takes (samādadāti) only one of the five precepts (pañcaśīla) and does not pledge to observe the other four.

2) The pradeśakārin takes either two or three precepts.

3) The yadhūyaskārin takes four precepts.

4) The paripūṇakārin takes all five precepts.

5) The samucchinnarāga is the person who, having taken the five precepts, makes the following oath (praṇidhāna) in the presence of the teacher (āchārya): “I will not have sexual relations with my own wife.”

These are the five precepts (pañcaśīla).