Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “taking of vows 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 2.2 - The taking of vows of the upāsaka

Question. – How is the fivefold discipline (pañcaśīla) taken?

Answer. – Here is the ceremony for taking the fivefold discipline:

Bending one’s knee (jānumaṇḍalaṃ pratiṣṭhāpya) and joining one’s palms (añjaliṃ prāṇamya), one says:

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

I am an upāsaka of the Buddha Śākyamuni: may I be considered as someone who has taken refuge from today until the end of my life.

The master of discipline (śīlācarya) then says:

You, the upāsaka, listen: The Tathāgata, arhat, samyaksaṃbuddha, who knows and sees beings, has set five precepts for the upāsaka; you will observe these rules for the rest of your life. What are these five?

1) It is a rule for upāsakas, as long as they live, not to kill living beings. This is why, as long as you live, you will no longer consciously kill living beings.

If the upāsaka is capable of observing this rule, he should say yes.

2) It is a rule for upāsakas, as long as they live, not to steal. This is why, as long as you live, you will no longer steal.

If the upāsaka is capable of observing this rule, he should say yes.

3) It is a rule for the upāsakas, as long as they live, to abstain from illicit sexual relations. This is why, as long as you live, you must abstain from forbidden sexual relations.

If the upāsaka is capable of observing this rule, he should say yes.

4) It is a rule for upāsakas, as long as they live, to abstain from lying. This is why, as long as you live, you should no longer tell lies.

If the upāsaka is capable of observing this point, he should say yes.

[160a] 5) It is a rule for upāsakas, as long as they live, not to drink wine. This is why, as long as you live, you must not drink wine.

If the upāsaka is capable of observing this rule, he should say yes.

This is the fivefold discipline that the upāsaka undertakes to observe (samādadāti) during his life. He will pay homage to the Three Jewels (triratna), the Jewel of the Buddha, the Jewel of the Dharma and the Jewel of the Saṃgha of bhikṣus; he will exert himself energetically in meritorious actions (puṇyakarman) and so reach the state of Buddhahood.

Notes on the vows of the upāsaka:

Here also the Mppś adopts the ceremony used by the Sarvāstivādin school which is more complicated than the old ceremony.

a. Originally, it seems that one became upāsaka simply by taking refuge: cf. Aṅguttara, IV, p. 220; Saṃyutta, V, p. 395; Sumaṅgala, I, p. 234:

“How, O venerable one, does one become upāsaka? Mahānaman, one becomes upāsaka by the mere fact that one has taken refuge in the Buddha, in the Dharma and in the Saṃgha.”

However, in some old canonical texts we see that the candidate, having taken refuge, them asks the Buddha or the preceptor to consider him as an upāsaka. In the Sanskrit version of the Mahānāmasūtra (cited in Kośavyākhyā, p. 376, l. 31–32) and its Chinese translation (Tsa a han, T 99, no. 928,k. 33, p. 236c15–16), the candidate, after taking refuge, says to the Buddha: upāsakaṃ māṃ dhāraya “Consider me as an upāsaka”.

Similarly in Dīgha, I, p. 85; Saṃyutta, IV, p. 113; Aṅguttara, I, p. 56; Vinaya, II, p. 157, the candidtae says:

Ahaṃ bhagavantaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi dhammaṃ ca bhikkhusaṅghaṃ ca; upāsakaṃ maṃ bhagavā dhāretu ajjatagge pāṇupetaṃ saraṇaṃ gataṃ:

“I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Saṃgha; may the Bhagavat consider me as an upasaka from this day on as long as I live (pāṇchi upetaṃ), [as] an upāsaka who has taken refuge.”

b. The ceremony is more complicated and the vows more strict in the Sarvāstivādin sect, as may be seen according to present passage of the Mppś, taken from the Sarvāsivādin Vinaya (Che song liu, T 1435, k. 21, p. 149c; Che song kie mo pi k’ieou yao yong, T 1439, p. 496a): 1) In a humble posture, the candidate takes the triple refuge; 2) He declares that he has taken the triple refuge and asks to be considered as an upāsaka; 3) The ordination master gives him the five precepts (pañcaśīla) incumbent on an upāsaka, and the candidate shows his agreement with each of them.

c. If the two rituals are compared, it may be said that there are two kinds of upāsaka, the one who has merely taken refuge, and the one who, having taken refuge, has further vowed to observe the five precepts. This distinction is made in the Āloka, commentary on the Aṣṭasāhasrikā, ed. Wogihara, p. 331, l. 22: One is an upāsaka because one has taken the triple refuge or because one has [further] taken the five precepts.

Thus there are two kinds of upāsaka according to the twofold reading attested in the Vinaya:

“May the master consider me as an upāsaka who has taken the triple refuge”,

or else,

“May the master consider me as an upāsaka who has taken the triple refuge and who has taken the five precepts.”

d. Hence the discussion amongst the scholars. The Aparātakas (scholars from Konkan) and the Sautrāntikas, basing themselves on the old formulas brought together under a, think that one becomes upāsaka just by taking refuge. On the other hand, the Sarvāstivādins and the Vaibāṣikas from Kaśmir, reasoning from their more complicated ceremonial, are of the opinion that one can only be upāsaka by possessing the discipline, i.e., by taking the five precepts.

– The arguments may be found in P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 124, p. 645 seq.; Kośa, IV, p. 71–76.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: