Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “notes regarding the kshana time unit” 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.

Appendix 2 - Notes regarding the kṣaṇa time unit

Note: this appendix is extracted from Chapter XXV part 3:

“In the time of a finger-snap, there are sixty moments (kṣaṇa); in each kṣaṇa, the mind is born (utpāda) and ceases (bhaṅga);...”

The kṣaṇa, moment, is the shortest time. Buddhists of the Lesser Vehicle agree in saying that dharmas are kṣaṇika, momentary, but disagree on the meaning of this epithet. Pāli scholars and the Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāṣikas, who accept the existence of the past and the future and who recognize in the kṣaṇika dharma two, three or four characteristics of the conditioned dharma (saṃskṛtadharmalakṣaṇa), see above, Traité, I, p. 36F, n. 2), are of the opinion that the dharma arises, perdures and perishes in the space of one kṣaṇa (cf. Visuddhimagga, p. 431, 473; Abhidhammaṭṭhasaṃgha, tr. Aung, Compendium, p. 25; P’i p’o cha, T 1545k. 39, p. 201b–c; Kośa, II, p. 222–226; Saṃghabhadra, T 1562, k. 13, p. 409b–c).

– The Sautrāntikas who deny the past and the future and reject the characteristics of the conditioned dharma, birth, etc., (cf. Kośa, II, p. 226–230), see, in the kṣaṇa, “the nature of the thing which is to perish immediately [and spontaneously] after it has been born” (cf. Kośa, IV, p. 4; Tattvasaṃgraha, p. 142).

– Following them, the Mādhyamikas and the Vijñānavādins reject the characteristics of the conditioned dharma; cf. Madh, vṛtti, p. 145–179; 545–547; Mppś, k. 1, p. 60b (Traité, I, p. 37F); Siddhi, p. 64–68.

– See the Sarvāstivādin-Sautrāntika argument in L. de La Vallée-Poussin, Note sur le “moment” des bouddhistes, RO, VIII, 1931, p. 1–13; Sarvāstivāda, MCB, V, 1937, p. 151–158.

Scholars have tried to establish the relative duration of the kṣaṇa relative to the tatkṣaṇa, lava, muhūrta, etc. Cf. Divyāvadāna, p. 645; P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 136, p. 701b; Kośa, III, p. 179. “In the time that a strong man snaps his fingers” (acchaṭāmātra or acchaṭāsaṃghātamātra), the Mppś counts 60 kṣaṇas here; the Vibhaṣā (T 1545, k. 136, p. 701b14) counts 64; the Kośa (III, p. 178), Saṃghabadra (T 1562, k. 32, p. 521c13–14) and the Madh. vṛtti (p. 547) count 65.

– The original phrase is known in the Madh vṛtti, p. 547: balavatpuruṣācchaṭāmātreṇa pañcaṣaṣṭiḥ kṣaṇā atīkrāmanti. The expression acchaṭā or acchaṭāsaṃghāta (in Pāli, accharā, accharāsaṃghāta) indicates the gesture of snapping the fingers; it is found, e.g., in Aṅguttara, I, p. 10, 34, 38; Milinda, p. 102; Dīvya, p. 142, 555; Mahāvyut., np. 2802, 826.