Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “caturdevarajasutra” 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.

Thus the Buddha said in the Sseu t’ien wang king (Caturdevarājasūtra):

During the monthly six days of fast,[1] the messenger-princes (dūtakumāra) and the four kings of the gods (caturdevarāja)[2] examine (anuvicaranti) beings. If the people who cultivate generosity, observe morality and honor their parents are few in number (alpaka), they go to the Tao li gods (Trāyastriṃśa) and inform Ti che (Śakra); Śakra and the gods[3] are unhappy (anāttamanas) and say: “Surely the armies of the asuras are increasing and the armies of the devas are decreasing.” If the people who cultivate generosity, observe morality and honor their parents are many (bahu), the gods and Śakra are happy and say: “The armies of the devas are increasing and the armies of the asuras are decreasing.”

One day, seeing the joy of the gods, Che t’i p’o na min (Śakra devānām indra) spoke this stanza:

He who, for six days and the marvelous fortnight,
Pledges to observe pure morality,
To the end of his life
Will be my equal in virtue.[4]

The Buddha said to the bhikṣus:

“Śakradevendra should not have spoken this stanza. Why? Śakradevendra has not expelled the five obstacles (read: wou chouai) nor the three poisons;[5] How could he claim that by observing the discipline of one day that a man would definitely be like him in virtue (guṇa) and in reward for merit (puṇyavipāka)? The man who undertakes to observe this discipline will definitely (read pi, 61 and 2, instead of sin, 61) be like the Buddha: this is true (satyavāc). As for the great gods, because of the joy that they experience, they will obtain an increase of merit (puṇyavardhana).”

Notes on this Sūtra:

This sūtra is part of the Chinese Āgamas: Tch’ang a han, T 1, no. 30, k. 20, p. 134b14–135b7; Tsa a han, T 99, no. 1117, k. 40, p. 295c–296a; T 100, no. 46, k. 3, p. 389a–b; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 16, p. 624b–625a (incomplete). It is reproduced in the Li che a p’i t’an louen, T 1644, K. 2, p. 184b9–185b13. Furthermore, it was subject to a separate translation entitled Sseu t’ien wang king, T 590 by the efforts of Tche yen and Pao yun, who visited Kaśmir in 394 and 397 respectively, then returned to China where they worked at Tch’ang ngan.

– The corresponding Pāli version is in two consecutive sūtras incorporated in Aṅguttara, I, p. 142–145.

Footnotes and references:


Whereas the Caturdevarājasūtra speaks of a fortnight (pakṣa), the Mppś speaks of a month: whether there are three days of fast per fortnight or six days of fast per month, the result is the same, but there is a change in the calculation.


According to the sūtra, the ministers proceed with this examination on the 8th and the 14th day of each fortnight, the four great kings on the 15th day, the paṇṇarasika uposatha.


Śakra and the Trayastriṃśa gods assemble for the occasion in the Sudharmā, the meeting hall, situated south-east of the city Sudarśana, on the summit of Mount Meru. For Sudharmā, see Dīgha, II, p. 268; Majjima, II, p. 79; Saṃyutta, I, p. 221; Aṅguttara, I, p. 143; Tch’ang a han, T 1, k. 10, p. 63a; k. 20, p. 131b; Tchong a han, T 26, k. 33, p. 637b; Tsa a han, T 99, k. 40, p. 292b; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 26, p. 697b; Mahāvastu, I, p. 32; III, p. 198; Divyāvadāna, p. 220; P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 133, p. 692a; Kośa, III, p. 163.


This stanza is repeated four times in Aṅguttara, I, p. 144–146:

Chātuddasī pañcadasī yāva pakkkassa aṭṭhami
pāṭihāriyapakkhañ ca aṭṭhaṅgasusamāgataṃ
uposssathaṃ upavaseyya yo passa mMadiso naro ti.

With the exception of the last line, it also occurs in Saṃyutta, I, p.208; Suttanipāta, v. 402; Therīgathā, v. 31, p. 126; Dhamadaddaṭṭha, IV, p. 21. – “He who observes the uposatha with its eight aspects, on the 14th, 15th and 16th day and during the pāṭihāriyapakkha …” Pratihāryapakṣa is translated into Chinese as chen pien yue (113 and 5; 149 and 16; 74) in T 99, p. 296a7; as chen tsou yue (113 and 5; 157; 74) in T 1509, p. 160a18; according to the suggested explanations of Buddhaghosa (Sāratha, I, p. 307), it is the additional fasts preceding (paccuggamana) and following (anugamana) the usual days of abstinence.


According to the Caturdevarājasūtra, more detailed, the five obstacles would be jāti, jarā, maraṇa, śoka, parideva; and the three poisons, rāga, dveṣa and moha (see text above, p. 844F, as n.). However, wou chouai, “five obstacles” may mean the five signs of death among the lower gods: see Kośa, III, p. 136.