Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “taking of vows by the upavasatha” 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 2.1 - The taking of vows by the Upavāsatha

Note: The Mppś here adopts the ceremony in use by the Sarvāstivādins, a ceremony recorded in the Che song kie mo pi k’ieou yao yong, T 1439, p. 496b 3–20. It consists of the following rituals: 1) taking refuge in a humble posture, 2) declaration that one has taken refuge; 3) confession of past sins, 4) taking the eight vows. 5) taking the fast, 6) declaring one’s intention. – See details in text; cf. Kośa, IV, p. 65.

Question. – How does one take this discipline of one day?

Answer. – Here is the rule for taking the discipline of one day:

Bending one’s knee (jānumaṇḍalaṃ pratiṣṭhāpya) and joining one’s palms together (añjaliṃ praṇamya), one should say the following:

I, so-and-so (amukha) today, for one day and one night, take refuge in the Buddha, take refuge in the Dharma, take refuge in the Saṃgha. – This is repeated a second and a third time.

I, so-and-so, have taken refuge in the Buddha, have taken refuge in the Dharma, have taken refuge in the Saṃgha. – This is to be repeated a second and a third time.

Today, with a sincere heart, I, so-and-so, confess (pratiseśayāmi) every bad physical action, every bad vocal action, every bad mental action that I have committed, out of desire (rāga), hatred (dveṣa) or delusion (moha), in the present life or in past lives.[1]

With pure body, pure speech and pure mind, I pledge (samādadāmi) to observe the eightfold discipline (aṣṭāṅgaśīla) that constitutes the upavāsa [in the language of Ts’in: dwelling in common]:

1) Just as the Buddhas, to the end of their life, abstained from killing living beings, so I too, so-and-so, for a day and a night, will abstain from killing living beings.

2) Just as the Buddhas, to the end of their life, abstained from theft, so I too, so-and-so, for a day and a night, will abstain from stealing.

3) Just as the Buddhas, to the end of their life, abstained from sexual activity, so I too, so-and-so, for a day and a night, will abstain from sexual activity.

[159c] 4) Just as the Buddhas, to the end of their life, abstained from lying, so I too, so-and-so, for a day and a night, will abstain from lying.

5) Just as the Buddhas, to the end of their life, abstained from drinking wine, so I too, so-and-so, for a day and a night, will abstain from drinking wine.

6) Just as the Buddhas, to the end of their life, did not sit on high and elevated seats, so I too, so-and-so, for a day and a night, will not sit on high and elevated seats.

7) Just as the Buddhas, to the end of their life, did not wear flower garlands, did not anoint their bodies with perfume, did not wear perfumed clothes, so I too, so-and-so, for a day and a night, will not wear flower garlands, will not anoint my body with perfume and will not wear perfumed clothes.

8) Just as the Buddhas, to the end of their life, did not sing or dance, did not play music and did not go to shows, so I too, so-and-so, for a day and a night, will not sing or dance, will not play music, and will not go to shows.[2]

After having undertaken the eightfold discipline (aṣṭāṅgaśīla), [he continues]:

Just as the Buddhas, until the end of their life, did not eat past mid-day, so I too, so-and-so, will not eat.[3]

I, so-and-so, pledge (samādadāmi) to observe the eightfold discipline and to imitate (anuśikṣ-) the qualities of the Buddha. This is the upavāsa: making the vow of observing it is meritorious: during successive lifetimes, one will not fall into the three unfortunate destinies (durgati) or into the eight difficult situations (akṣaṇa).[4]

I no longer seek the worldly happiness of a noble cakravartin king, of a Brahmā or a Śakradevendra. I wish for the cessation of my afflictions (kleśa), I wish to arrive at omniscience (sarvajñāna) and to attain Buddhahood.

Footnotes and references:

1.

See also this confession of sins followed by a declaration of purity in the Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 16, p. 625b.

2.

These eight vows, in slightly different form, occur in Aṅguttara, I, p. 211–212 (Tseng a han, T 125, k. 16, p. 625b–c); Aṅguttara, IV, p. 255–256 (Tchong a han, T 26, no. 202, k. 55, p. 770b–c; Tchai king, T 87, p. 911a–b; Yeou p’o yi to chö kia king, T 88, p. 912b–c; Pa kouan tchai king, T 89, p. 913a–b.)

3.

In agreement with the Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāṣikas, the Mppś makes the fast or upavāsa, in the proper meaning of fast, consist of the renunciation of taking a meal outside of the proper time; the other eight renunciations are the members of the fast (upavāsāṅga). The Sautrāntikas do not hold this opinion for, they say, according to the sūtra, immediately after the renunciation of having a meal outside of the time, the person fasting should say: “By this eighth member, I am imitating the rule, I am conforming to the rule of the Arhats.” Cf. Kośa, IV, p. 68.

4.

For these eight akṣaṇas, see Traité, I, p. 479F, n. 2.

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