Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “enduring outer and inner sufferings and the afflictions” 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 - Enduring outer and inner sufferings and the afflictions

Furthermore, the dharmas altogether form two groups: i) beings (sattva), ii) things (dharma). We have already spoken about the bodhisattva’s patience toward beings (chapter XXIV); here we will speak about patience toward things. There are two kinds of things: i) mental things (cittadharma), ii) extra-mental things (acittadharma). – Among the extra-mental things, some are inner (ādhyātmika) and others are outer (bāhya). Cold (śīta), heat (uṣṇa) wind (anila), rain (varṣa), etc., are outer; hunger (kṣudh), thirst (pipāsa), old age (jarā), sickness (vyādhi), death (maraṇa), etc., are inner: all the categories of this type are extra-mental. – Among the mental things, there are two types: i) anger (krodha, vyāpāda), sadness (daurmanasya), doubt (saṃśaya), etc.; ii) lust (rāga), pride (abhimāna), etc.: these two categories are mental things. Whether it is a question of mental things or extra-mental things, the bodhisattva endures them both without flinching; this is what is called dharmakṣānti.

A. Enduring outer sufferings.

Question. – With regard to a being (sattva), anger or killing are sinful whereas compassion is meritorious; but cold, heat, wind, or rain derive neither benefit nor inconvenience [from our attitude toward them]. Then why endure them?

[168c] Answer. – 1) Although they derive no benefit or inconvenience [from our attitude], the very fact of experiencing annoyance or anger as a result of them is fatal to the bodhisattva’s career; this is why it is necessary to endure them.

2) Moreover, in killing, the sin consists not in the very fact of killing a being but rather in the evil intention (duṣṭacitta) which is the cause of the killing. Why is that? To kill a being, provided that it is without a predetermined intention (avyākṛtacitta), does not constitute a sin, but to nourish benevolence for a being, even though this being derives no benefit from it, is very meritorious. This is why, even if cold, heat, wind or rain derive no benefit or inconvenience [from our attitude toward them], one commits a sin merely by having bad feelings toward them. Therefore they should be endured.

3) Finally, the bodhisattva knows that it is as a result of his previous faults (pūrvāpatti) that he has taken birth in this sorrowful place (duḥkhavihāra); h says to himself: “What I myself have done I must myself endure.” Thanks to this reflection, he is able to endure [cold and the other outer sufferings].

B. Enduring inner sufferings.

1) Moreover, the bodhisattva says to himself: “There are two kinds of fields (kṣetra), those that are pure (viṣudda), those that are impure (aviśuddha). The bodhisattva who has been born into an impure field and undergoes bitter suffering there, such as the torments of hunger or cold, makes the aspiration (praṇidhāna) [to possess] a pure field and says to himself: “When I will be Buddha, all these sufferings will not exist in my field; these sufferings, although they are impure, will be of benefit to me.”

2) Moreover, the bodhisattva says to himself: “If the eight human situations (aṣṭau lokadharmāḥ)[1] cannot be avoided by the saints (ārya), how then could I avoid them? Therefore I must endure them.”

3) Moreover, the bodhisattva who reflects knows that the human body is without power or weight, is prey to old age (jarā), sickness (vyādhi) and death (maraṇa). Even though the celestial existence [to which he could aspire] is pure, free of old age and sickness, the bodhisattva hesitates to become attached to celestial bliss. [Actually, a god (deva)] is like a drunk man, unable to cultivate the merits of the Path (mārgapuṇya), of entering the monastic life (pravraj-) or of renunciation (viraj). Therefore it is in his human body that the bodhisattva is obliged to win merit and act for the benefit of beings.

4) Moreover, the bodhisattva says to himself: “I have taken on a body made of the four great elements (mahābhūta) and the five aggregates (skandha); thus inevitably I will experience all kinds of suffering. It is impossible that one can avoid suffering when one assumes a body; rich or poor, monastic (pravrajita) or lay (gṛhasta), foolish or wise, scholarly or ignorant, all cannot avoid it. The rich man experiences constant fear in guarding his wealth; he is like a fat sheep about to be led to the slaughterhouse; he is like a crow holding some meat in its beak with the other crows chasing it. The poor experience hunger and cold. The monk, despite the sufferings he undergoes in the present lifetime, will find happiness and will win the Path in the next lifetime. The lay person, despite the happiness he experiences in the present lifetime, will find suffering in the future lifetime. The fool, who is looking for happiness in the present lifetime, runs up against impermanence (anityatā) and then will find suffering. The wise person, who meditates on the sadness of impermanence, will later find happiness and will attain the Path. Thus all those who possess a body cannot avoid suffering. This is why the bodhisattva must cultivate patience.

5) Moreover, the bodhisattva says to himself: The entire universe is suffering: how then could I seek happiness?

6) Moreover, the bodhisattva says to himself: For innumerable cosmic [169a] periods (aprameyakalpa), I have ceaselessly undergone all the sufferings without getting any benefit; now that I am seeking buddhahood in the interests of beings, I should have great benefit in enduring this suffering. This is why he will patiently endure all outer and inner sufferings.

7) Finally, with a great mind, the bodhisattva has made the aspiration (praṇidhāna) to endure the sufferings of the A pi (avīci) hell and the No li (niraya) hell. How could he not endure the lesser sufferings [of the present]? If he does not withstand these petty sufferings, how will he withstand the great sufferings?

The enduring of these many outer inconveniences is called dharmakṣānti.

C. Enduring the afflictions.

Question. – How are the inner mental sufferings endured?

Answer. –

1) Crushing the armies of Māra:

The bodhisattva says to himself: although I have not yet obtained the Path nor cut through the bonds (bandhana), if I do not withstand these sufferings, I am not yet a bodhisattva. He also says: If I had obtained the Path and cut through all the fetters (saṃyojana), I would have nothing else to endure. Besides, hunger, thirst, cold and heat are Māra’s outer army (mārabāhyasenā); the fetters (saṃyojana) and the afflictions (kleśa) are Māra’s inner army (mārādhyātmikasenā). I must crush these two armies in order to attain buddhahood; if I do not succeed in that, the state of buddhahood will not be realized.


The bodhisattva who has not yet crushed all these armies puts on the armor of patience (kṣāntivarman), grasps the sword of wisdom (prajñākhaḍga), takes the buckler of rapture (dhyānaphalaka) and arrests the arrows of the afflictions (kleśeṣu): this is called inner patience.

2) Patience toward his own afflictions (kleśa):

Moreover, the bodhisattva should exercise patience toward his own afflictions (kleśa) but he must not cut the bonds (bandhana). Why? Because if he cut these bonds, the loss would be very serious: he would fall into the arhat class [169b] and would be no different than someone who has lost their senses. This is why he stops his passions but does not completely cut them; by cultivating patience he does not follow his passions (saṃyojana).

Question. – How is he able to not follow his passions without having previously cut them?

Answer. – By correct reflection (saṃyagmanasikāra), while still having afflictions, he succeeds in not following them. By reflecting, he contemplates the empty impermanent nature of everything (śūnyānityanimitta) and, although the five desires (pañcakāma) are still subtly present in him, he no longer produces any bond (bandhana).

[The corpulent sheep without fat].

3) An immense reward (apramāṇavipāka):

Moreover, an immense reward (apramāṇavipāka) is attached to the qualities (guṇa) and merits (puṇya) of the bodhisattva; this is why his mind is gentle (mṛdu) and tender (taruṇa), his fetters are slight and it is easy for him to cultivate patience. He will act in the manner of the royal lion (siṃharāja); when he roars in the forest and when people, on seeing him, prostrate with their face on the ground begging for mercy, the lion releases them and lets them go. The tiger (vyāgra) and the jackal (śārdūla), smaller animals, do not act in this way. Why? Because the royal lion, a noble animal, has the discretion of knowledge, whereas the tiger and the jackal, lowly animals, do not have it. If bad troops succeed in finding a good leader, they are safe, but if they encounter only a mediocre soldier, they are lost.

4) Anger (krodha) has all kinds of defects:

Moreover, by the power of his wisdom (prajñā), the bodhisattva knows that anger (krodha) has all kinds of defects and that patience has all kinds of qualities. This is why he is able to endure the fetters.

5) Curbing the hostile passions:

Moreover, by the power of knowledge, the bodhisattva knows how to cut the fetters; but in the interest of beings, he prefers to remain in the world for a long time [and retain his passions]; however, he knows that the fetters are enemies and that is why, while enduring them, he does not follow them. The bodhisattva curbs these hostile passions and, without allowing them to be unleashed, he practices virtue. When one has an enemy whom, for some reason or other, one does not want to kill, one imprisons him closely some place and one goes about one’s own business.

6) The nature of dharmas (dharmalakṣaṇa):

Moreover, the bodhisattva who understands well the nature of dharmas (dharmalakṣaṇa) does not consider the fetters as bad and does not consider the qualities as good; this is why he does not hate the fetters and does not love the qualities. He practices patience with the power of this knowledge. Some stanzas say:

The bodhisattva who has cut through all evil
Will arrive at absolute cessation without residue.
His qualities and merits are immense
The action that he carries out is not ill-advised.

In his great wisdom, the bodhisattva
Does not destroy all the fetters.
This is why he understands the nature of dharmas:
[169c] Transmigration and nirvāṇa are but one and not two.

For these various reasons, without yet having obtained the Path, the bodhisattva endures all his afflictions. This is what is called dharmakṣānti.

7) All the dharmas are of a single nature (ekalakṣaṇa):

Moreover, the bodhisattva knows that all the dharmas are of a single nature (ekalakṣaṇa), non-dual (advaya):[2]

a. All dharmas are intelligible (vijñātalakṣaṇa) and consequently “one”. The eye consciousness (cakṣurvijñāna) understands color (rūpa), and so on up to the mental consciousness (manovijñāna) which understands dharmas. As a result of this characteristic of intelligibility, all dharmas are proclaimed “one”.

b. All dharmas are knowable (jñātalakṣaṇa) and consequently “one”. The duḥkhe dharmajñāna and the duḥkhe ’nvayajñāna cognize the truth of suffering (duḥkhasatya); the samudaye dharmajñāna and the samudaye ’nvayajñāna cognize the truth of the origin of suffering (samudayasatya); the nirodha dharmajñāna and the nirodhe ’nvayajñāna cognize the truth of the cessation of suffering (nirodhasatya); the mārge dharmajñāna and the marge ’nvayajñāna cognize the truth of the Path (mārgasatya).[3] Finally, excellent worldly knowledge (kuhala laukikajñāna) also cognizes suffering (duḥkha), its origin (samudaya), its destruction (nirodha), the path of its cessation (mārga), space (ākāśa) and cessation not due to knowledge (apratisaṃkhyanirodha). As a result of this nature of cognizability, all dharmas are proclaimed “one”.

c. All dharmas are capable of being object (ālambhana) and consequently “one”. The visual consciousness (cakṣurvijñāna) and the things associated with it (saṃprayuktakadharma) are concerned with color (rūpa). In the same way, the auditory consciousness (śrotrav.), olfactory (ghrāṇav.), gustatory (jihvav.) and tactile (kāyav.) consciousnesses [are concerned with sound, smell, taste and the tangible] respectively. The mental consciousness (manovijñāna) and the things associated with it are concerned with the eye (cakṣus), color (rūpa) and the visual consciousness (cakṣurvijñāna) as well as all the others, including the mind (manas), dharmas and the mental consciousness (manovijñāna). As a result of this nature of objectivity, all dharmas are declared “one”.

d. Moreover, some claim that all dharmas, taken separately, form a unity: One and one is two; three times one is three, and so on up to a thousand, ten thousand, etc. Everything reduces to unity; it is metaphorical (prajñapti) to speak of thousands and tens of thousands.

e. Finally, in all dharmas there is a characteristic that makes them to be declared “one”; they are one by means of this same characteristic. Every object (sarvadravya) is called ‘dharma’; by means of this nature of ‘dharma’ it is one. [The patience consisting] of destroying any characteristic of multiplicity by means of innumerable categories of this type without, however, being attached to unity, is called dharmakṣānti.

8) The bodhisattva sees everything as duality:

Moreover, the bodhisattva sees everything as duality. What is duality? Duality is inner nature (ādhyātmikanimitta) and outer nature (bāhyanimitta). As a result of this inner nature and this outer nature, that which is inner is not outer, and that which is outer is not inner.

Moreover, all dharmas are dual by virtue of their nature of existence (bhāva) and their nature of nonexistence (abhāva). They are empty (śūnya) and non-empty (aśūnya), eternal (nitya) and transitory (anitya), personal (ātman) and non-personal (anātman), material (rūpa) and non-material (ārūpya), visible (sanidarśana) and invisible (anidarśana), resistant (sapratigha) and non-resistant (apratigha), impure (sāsrava) and pure (anāsrava), conditioned (saṃskṛta) and unconditioned (asaṃskṛta), mind (hitta) and non-mind (acittaka), of mental order (caitta) and of non-mental order (acitta), associated with mind (cittasaṃprayukta) and dissociated from mind (cittaviprayukta). [The patience that consists] of destroying uniqueness by means of innumerable categories of this type without, however, becoming attached to duality, is called dharmakṣānti.

9) Triplicity of the dharmas:

Moreover, sometimes the bodhisattva sees all dharmas as triple. What is this triplicity? [All the dharmas] are lower (avara), middling (madhya) or higher (agra); good (kuśala), bad (akuśala) or indeterminate (avyākṛta); existent, non-existent, neither existent nor non-existent; to be abandoned by seeing the truths (darśanaheya), to be abandoned by meditation (bhāvanāheya), not to be abandoned (aheya); pertaining to the student (śaikṣa), pertaining to the teacher (aśaikṣa), pertaining to neither the student or the teacher (naivaśaikṣanāśaikṣa); involving retribution (savipāka), not involving retribution, involving neither retribution nor the absence of retribution. [The [170a] patience consisting] of destroying unity by means of innumerable ternary categories of this type without, however, being attached to multiplicity (nānātva) is called dharmakṣānti.

Footnotes and references:


The lokadharmas are eight in number: gain (lābdha), loss (alābha), etc.; cf. Dīgha, III, p. 260; Aṅguttara, IV, p. 156 seq.; V, p. 53.


The identical and multiple characteristics of the dharmas will be studied in detail below, k. 18, p. 194b–195c.


For these knowledges which precede the laukikāgradharma and whose subjects are the four noble Truths, cf. Saṃyutta, II, p. 58; Vibhaṅga, p. 293, 329; Kośa, VI, p. 179–185; Mahāvyut., no. 1217–1232.