Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “comparison between the pancashila of the upasaka and the ashtangashila of the upavasastha” 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 2.5 - Comparison between the pañcaśīla of the upāsaka and the aṣṭāṅgaśīla of the upavāsastha

Question. – Which is preferable, the fivefold discipline [of the upāsaka] or the [eightfold] discipline of one day [taken by the upavāsastha]?

Answer. – There are two reasons (hetupratyaya) for considering the two disciplines as equivalent.

1) Only the fivefold discipline (pañcaśīla) is observed for one’s entire life (yāvajjīvam), whereas the eightfold discipline (aṣṭāṅgaśīla) is observed for one day [for six days of the month.] But if the fivefold morality is great by reason of the duration of its perpetual observance, it is small by reason of the number of rules [which are only five]; on the other hand, the morality of one day lasts for a very short time but involves more rules, [eight].

2) Furthermore, if one is lacking a high ideal (mahācitta), one will be able to observe the [five] precepts as long as one lives, but one will not be the equal of the person with a great ideal who observes [the eight] precepts for one day only. Thus, if the general is a feeble man, were he commander of soldiers for his entire life, his lack of skill and bravery would prevent him from earning the title entirely. On the other hand, a brave, courageous, zealous man who stands up in the midst of chaos is able to conquer the world by his deeds of a single day.