Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “indifference toward sycophants” 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 - Indifference toward sycophants

Question. – Can there be patience in the face of respect and veneration?

Answer. – There are two kinds of fetters: i) those that depend on affection (anunayapatita); ii) those that depend on aversion (pratighapatita). Respect and veneration do not give birth to aversion but lead to affection (anunaya) and attachment (ahiniveśa); these are skillful seducers and this is why it is necessary to cultivate indifference toward them without becoming attached to them and without liking them. How does one remain insensible to them? By thinking about their impermanence (anityatā) and [by knowing] that they are a source of fetters (saṃyojanopapattisthāna). Thus the Buddha said: “Profit and honors (lābhasatkāra) are a deep wound (vraṇa). Just as a wound cuts through the skin (chavi) into the flesh (māṃsa) to the bone (asthi), breaks the bone and penetrates to the marrow (asthimiñja), so the man attached to profit and honors cuts the skin of morality (śīlacchavi), breaks the flesh of rapture (dhyānamāṃsa), crushes the bone of wisdom (prajñāsthi) and loses the marrow of the subtle good mind (sūkṣmakuśalacittamiñjā).”[1]

[Devadatta, the victim of profit and honors].

Furthermore, there are three kinds of honors (pūjā): i) One is respected (satkṛta) by people as a result of merit (puṇya) acquired in the course of previous existences (pūrvajanman); ii) One is respected by people as a result of qualities (guṇa) of which one has given evidence in the present lifetime (ihajanman) in practicing morality (śīla), rapture (dhyāna) and wisdom (prajñā); iii) By falsehood (mṛṣā) and deception (vipralambha) one can have no virtue inwardly and outwardly seem quite white: one wins honors by deceiving one’s contemporaries. In the face of these three kinds of honors, [the bodhisattva] has the following thoughts:

1) “Presently I am enjoying these honors as a result of the merits that I diligently cultivated in my previous existences; this is the natural result of my diligent activity. Why feel proud (darpa)? What has been planted in spring is harvested in autumn. Why be proud of what happens naturally?” Having thought thus, the bodhisattva disciplines his mind and feels neither attachment (abhiniveśa) nor pride (abhimāna).

2) If the honors that he enjoys are due to he qualities of which he has given evidence in the present lifetime, the bodhisattva has the following thoughts: “It is thanks to wisdom (prajñā) that I know the true nature (satyalakṣaṇa) of dharmas and that I have cut through the fetters (saṃyojana); it is as a result of my qualities (guṇa) that these honors come to me; I have no part in it.” Having thought thus, he disciplines his mind and feels no pride. He says: “actually, it is my qualities that people love, not me.”

[The trick of the Kaśmirian].

The ascetic who obtains honors while practicing virtue (guṇa), morality (śīla) and wisdom (prajñā) likewise says to himself that he owes these honors to his qualities and not to himself. This consideration is a mental discipline called patience.

3) To obtain honors by falsehood (mṛṣā) or deception (vipralambha) is to inflict unbearable torture on oneself. One should say: “By obtaining honors by means of deception I am no different from brigands and thieves who get their food [by means of petty theft]. This is falling into the sin of deception (vipralambhāpatti).”

Not feeling any affection for the people who cover one with all kinds of honors, not exalting oneself, constitutes patience toward beings (sattvakṣānti).

Footnotes and references:


Actually, the Buddha did not compare greed and ambition to a wound but to the torture of a hair-rope (vālarajju): see the Rajjusutta of Saṃyutta, II, p. 238, which the Mppś has cited more accurately above, Traité, p. 234F.