Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “reward of the 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.

Part 1.3 - The reward of the upāsaka

[159a] Some stanzas say:

Not killing, not stealing,
Abstaining from forbidden sex,
Telling the truth, not drinking wine,
Living correctly (samyagjiva) constitutes the pure mind.

The person who practices these
In both lifetimes escapes from sadness and fear,
The merit of morality (śīlapuṇya) becomes attached to him,
He is always accompanied by gods and men.

In the world six seasons[1] are necessary
For flowers to develop their bright colors.
But one has these annual flowers
In one single day in heaven.

The heavenly tree[2] spontaneously produces
Flowers, garlands (mālya) and necklaces (keyāra).
The red flowers are like the brightness of a torch (dīpajvāla),
All the colors are intermingled in them.

There are heavenly garments in immense quantities.
Their colors appear in every hue.
Their cool whiteness provides shade from the sun,
They are light and [their texture] is unbroken.

Their gold threads make embroidery pale
Their decoration is like vapor:
These wondrous garments
All come from the heavenly tree.

Brilliant pearls (mani), ear-rings
Precious rings to ornament the hands and feet
At will, all these desirable things
Are given by the heavenly tree.

Golden lotuses (suvarāpadma) with stems (daṇḍa) of vaiḍūrya,
With diamond (vajra) stamens,
Tender and fragile, with penetrating perfume
Are produced by the celestial pools.

K’in che, Tcheng and K’ouang heou[3] guitars
Set with the seven jewels (saptaratna),
Marvelous instruments with pure sounds,
All come from the heavenly tree.

The Po li tche tou tree (Pārijātaka)[4]
King of all the heavenly trees,
Is found in the Houan hi (Nandanārāma) garden.
There is none like it.

Observing morality is working the field
In which the heavenly tree grows.
Heavenly food has the taste of ambrosia (amṛtarasa);
Taking it chases away hunger and thirst.

The heavenly maidens (apsaras) have no eunuchs to guard them;
They are free of the problems of pregnancy.[5]
Pleasure and debauchery are but joys for them.
After a meal, one does not have a bowel movement.

He who observes morality, always concentrating his mind
Can be reborn in the land (bhūmi) of his choice.
He is free of difficulties and problems
And will always enjoy the four happinesses.

With the gods, he enjoys sovereignty (aiśvarya);
Sadness and grief no longer arise for him.
The objects of his desires arise as he wishes,
The light of his body illuminates the shadows.

All these various joys
Result from generosity and morality.
[159b] Whoever wishes to have such a reward
Should exert themselves zealously.

Question. – Here it is a matter of the virtue of morality (śīlapāramitā) by means of which one attains buddhahood; then why praise heavenly happiness (divyasukha) [which rewards simply morality and nothing else]?

Answer. – The Buddha said: “Three things (vastu) necessarily and inevitably bring fruit of retribution (vipākaphala): by means of generosity, great wealth (mahādhanya) is obtained; by morality (śīla), rebirth in fortunate places is obtained; by meditation (bhāvanā), deliverance (vimokṣa) is obtained.”[6] When one limits oneself to practicing morality, one is reborn in fortunate places; when meditation (bhāvanā), wisdom (prajñā) and loving-kindness (maitrīkaruṇā) are joined, one obtains the path of the threefold Vehicles (yānatrayamārga). Here we are limited to praising morality [which ensures], in the present lifetimes, virtue (guṇa), knowledge (bahuśrutya) and happiness (sukha) and, in the future lifetime, a reward like that celebrated in the [preceding] stanzas. Just as sugar is put into a bitter medicine so that the child can swallow it, so morality is praised above the other virtues so that people can observe it; when a person observes it, he will make the great resolve (praṇidhāna) to arrive at buddhahood. This is how morality (śīla) engenders the virtue of morality (śīlapāramitā).

Moreover, all people are attached to happiness (sukha). Of all worldly happiness (laukikasukha), heaven (svarga) is the greatest. If a person hears about the many kinds of happiness in heaven, he will busy himself in observing morality. Then, when he hears speak of the impermanence of heaven (svargānityatā), he will feel distaste (nirveda) and will seek for deliverance (vimokṣa). Finally, when he hears about the infinite virtues (apramāṇaguṇa) of the Buddhas, he will develop loving-kindness (maitrī) and compassion (karuṇā) and, based on the virtue of morality (śīlapāramitā), he will reach the state of buddhahood. This is why there is no fault in speaking about the reward for morality here.

Footnotes and references:


The Indian year is divided into two, three, five or six seasons (ayana). The six seasons are known in the Brāhmaṇas; beginning with spring, they are: vasanta. grīṣma, varṣā, śarad, hemanta and śiśira. See G. Thibaut, Astrologie, Astronomie und Mathematik, 1899, p. 10–11; Yi tsing, transl. Takakusu, p. 102.


This is the Pārijātaka


Chinese guitars having five, twelve and twenty-three strings respectively (cf. F. S. Couvreur, Dictionnnaire classique de la langue chinois, Sien-Hsien, 1930, p. 594a, 680b, 680a). But Kumārajīva seems to be too precise in his translation, and the musical instruments used by the Hindus at this time were undoubtedly simpler: see M. Dubois, Notes sur les instruments de musique figurés dnas l’art plastique de l’Inde ancienne, BAA, XI, p. 38–49.


The Pārijātaka (in Pāli, pāricchattaka) is a magnolia (kovidāra) that grows in the Nandanavana of the Trāyastriṃśa gods; its roots are fifty yojanas deep, it is one hundred yojanas high and its foliage extends to fifty yojanas: it is the foremost place for pleasure and love. In Sanskrit, besides pārijātaka, the reading pāriyātraka also occurs (cf. Divyāvadāna, p. 194, 195, 219). Here are some references to this tree: Vinaya, I, p. 30; Aṅguttara, IV, p. 117; Jātaka. I, p. 40, 202; II, p. 20; VI, p. 265, 278; Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 273; Atthasālini, p. 298; Visuddhimagga, p. 206; Kośa, III, p. 162; Cosmogony of the Dīrgha (T 1, p. 115c, 131c; T 23, p. 278a, 295a; T 24, p. 311c, 342a; T 25, p. 366, 397); Ting cheng sang yin yuan king, T 165, k. 3, p.398b; Tsie wa, nang, fa t’ien tseu king, T 595, p. 129b.


Actually, all the gods are “apparitional” (upapāduka); see Kośa, III, p. 27, 165.


Dāna, śīla and bhāvanā make up the three meritorious actions (puṇyakriyāvastu) studied in Dīgha, III, p. 218; Aṅguttara, IV, p. 241; Itivuttaka, p. 51; Nettipakaraṇa, p. 50, 128; Kośa, IV, p. 231.