Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “indifference toward women” 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 2.3 - Indifference toward women

Furthermore, when women want to charm and disturb the bodhisattva, the latter must tame his mind and endure it without being disturbed.

[The first attack by the daughters of Māra].

Thus the bodhisattva, in the presence of sexual attractions, can control his mind and endure them without being disturbed.

Moreover, the bodhisattva understands all the impurities of desire. Of all the calamities, the calamity of the woman is the most serious. One can come up to a moment of the sword (asi), fire (agni), lightning (vidyut), thunderbolt (vajra), enemy (vaira), poisonous snake (āsīviṣa); one cannot come up to the woman who is miserly, jealous, angry, flattering, tricky, dirty, aggressive, quarrelsome, lustful and envious. Why? Girls are vulgar, short-tempered and of little [166a] knowledge; they do not like what they see; they have no consideration for wealth, nobility, knowledge, virtue or renown; they follow only their own wicked tendencies. They destroy the roots of good (kuśalamūla) in men. Difficult as they are to open, still it is easy to break through fetters, manacles, the cangue, a lock, or a prison; but when the lock of a woman is fastened on a man, it holds firmly and deeply. The ignorant man who allows himself to be taken by it will find it hard to free himself. Of all illnesses, the sickness of woman is the most serious.

Some stanzas say:[1]

It is better to put out one’s eyes
With red-hot iron
Than to become distracted
And contemplate the beauty of women.

By her smile and her looks,
Her pride and her false modesty,
Her way of turning her head or closing her eyes,
Her fine words and her fits of anger and jealousy,

The provocativeness of her walk,
Woman drives a man mad.
The net of lust is full:                
All men are caught in it.

Whether she is seated, lying down, walking or standing,
A glance, a lifting of the eyebrow is enough
For the inexperienced fool
To be completely intoxicated by her.[2]

A swordsman marching against the enemy
Can still be conquered;
The female enemy, tormenter of men,
Cannot be stopped.

A snake full of poison
Can still be held in the hand;
Woman, this deceiver of men
Should not be touched.

The man endowed with wisdom
Should not look at her
Or, if he is forced to see her,
He should treat her as his mother or his sister.

Looking at her objectively, he will consider woman
As a mass of impurities.
Not running away from the fire of lust
Is to [condemn oneself] to perish in its flames.

Moreover, there is in woman the peculiarity that her husband is proud when she is treated with respect, vexed when she is slighted. Thus woman brings man only afflictions (kleśa) or sadness (daurmanasya). Then why approach her? Instability in affections is the defect of woman; wicked curiosity into the business of men is her knowledge. The great fire burns men, but it is possible to approach it; the brisk wind has no material form, but it is possible to grasp it; the snake contains venom, but it is possible to touch it; the heart of a woman, nothing can gain possession of it.[3] Why? Because it is a characteristic of woman that she has no consideration for wealth, nobility, fame, knowledge, virtue, family, ability, eloquence, stability of the household, or depth of affection: all that is of no account in her mind; she desires only what she sees. She is like a dragon that seeks only to kill men without distinguishing good from evil.

Moreover, woman cares nothing for the grief or sadness [that she provokes]; she can be loaded with gifts and attention, she will follow her fancy without letting herself be guided.

Moreover, in the midst of good people, woman is puffed up with pride; she considers the ignorant as enemies; she pursues the wealthy and the noble with her flattery; she treats the poor and the humble like dogs. She always follows her own appetites and never virtue.

[The fisherman lover of the king’s daughter].

From this example, we can know that women’s hearts make no distinction between nobles and serfs and that they let themselves be guided only by their sensual desires.

Furthermore, once there was a king’s daughter who pursued a caṇḍala and committed sin with him. Likewise, the daughter of ṛṣi pursued a lion. The hearts of all women are without discernment. For all these diverse reasons, [the bodhisattva] sets aside all affection and desire for women and succeeds in not loving them at all.

Footnotes and references:


These stanzas show some connection with those of the Aṅguttara, III, p. 69, but the order is different. Here is the text and the translation, which presents some difficulties:

Sallape asihatthena [pisācena pi sallape
āsīvisam pi āsīde yena daṭṭho na jīvati,
na tveva eko skāya mMatugāmena sallape.

Muṭṭhassatiṃ tā bandhanti pekkhitena mhitena ca
atho pi dunnivatthena mañjunā bhaṇitena ca
n’eso jano svāsisaddo api ugghātito mato.

Tesaṃ kāmoghāvūṭhānaṃ kāme aparijānataṃ
kālaṃ gatiṃ bhavābhavaṃ saṃsārasmiṃ purakkhatā.

Ye ca pariññāya caranti akutobhayā
te ve pāragatā loke ye pattā āsavakhayan ti.

“Speak with a man who holds a sword in hand; speak with a meat-eating demon; come near a poisonous snake whose bite is fatal! Never speak to a woman alone.

They enchain the thoughtless one with a look or a smile, or again by a disordered dress or sweet talk. Happy (?) though he may be, this man will never be looked upon as skillful.

The five sense objects appear in the female body, color, sound, taste, smell and touch: the charm the mind.

Those who are carried away by the torment of the passions and who does not know the passions will, at the proper time and because of their previous actions, take on all the forms of existence in the world of transmigration.

But those who understand the passions go forth fearless of whatever may be; they have reached the other shore of this world and have attained the destruction of the impurities.”


Cf. also Aṅguttara, III, p. 68: Ithi, bhikkhave, gacchantī [pi … ṭhitā pi nisinnā pi sayānā pi hasantī pi bhṇantī pi gāyantī pi rodantī pi ugghātitā pi matā pi purisassa cittaṃ pariyādāya tiṭṭhati.


This phrase is reminiscent of the Saundarānada of Aśvaghoṣa, VIII, v. 36:

Pradahan dahano ’pi gṛhyate
viśarīraḥ pavano ’pi gṛhyate,
kupito bhujago ’pi gṛhyate
pramadānāṃ tu mano na gṛhyate.