Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “definition and division of patience (kshanti)” 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 - Definition and division of patience (kṣānti)

Śāstra. – Question. – What is kṣānti?

Answer. – In the language of Ts’in, kṣānti means patience.

There are two kinds of patience: i) the patience toward beings (sattvakṣānti); ii) the patience toward the Dharma (dharmakṣānti). The bodhisattva who practices patience toward beings acquires immense merit (apramāṇapuṇya); the bodhisattva who practices patience toward the Dharma acquires immense wisdom (apramāṇaprajñā). Endowed with these two benefits, merit and wisdom, he obtains the realization of all his wishes (yatheṣṭasiddhi): he is like the person who, having eyes and feet, can go wherever he wishes. The bodhisattva who encounters insult or injury, who is struck by sword or stick, knows, on thinking about it, that the cause of it is his [previous] actions, that the dharmas, both internal (adhyātmam) as well as external (bāhyam) are absolutely empty (atyantaśūnya), without substantial self (anātman), not possessed by a “me” (anātmya). The threefold seal of the Dharma (dharmamudrā)[1] is imprinted on all dharmas and, although they have the power to bring a painful retribution, the bodhisattva withstands them without feeling annoyance (duṣṭacitta) or speaking abusively.

At the same time, patience is called the production of a certain mental event (caitasikadharma): when one has it, patience and knowledge become stable, like a painting owes its resistance to the glue.

Some say that there are two kinds of good minds (kuśalacitta), one coarse (sthūla), the other subtle (sūkṣma), the former being patience, the latter, rapture (dhyāna). As long as one has not acquired rapture, spiritual joy (prīti) is only able to mask (praticchādana) sins: this is called patience; when one has acquired rapture, this joy can avoid all sin: this is called rapture.

Patience is a mental event (caitasikadharma) associated with the mind (cittasaṃprayukta) and accompanying the mind (cittānusārin); it is not an action (karman) or the retribution of an action (karmavipāka) but a companion of action (karmāsnusārin).

According to some, it belongs to two realms (dhātudvayāvacara) (desire realm and form realm]. According to others, it belongs only to the desire realm (kāmadhātvavacara) or to no realm (anavacara); [it would be foreign to the form realm] for there are no external annoyances to be withstood in the form realm (rūpadhātu).

Patience is impure (sāsrava) or pure (anāsrava), for it is found among worldly people as well as in the saints (ārya).

The patience that puts an obstacle (āvṛṇoti) to the bad instincts of one’s own mind or the mind of another (svaparacittākuśaladharma) is said to be good (kuśala). Since it is good, there is suppression (samuccheda) or non-suppression (asamuccheda) of thinking (manasikāra). All this is fully analyzed in the Abhidharma.

Footnotes and references:


The three seals of the Dharma will be defined below, k. 15, p. 170a.

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