Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “nature of exertion (viryalakshana)” 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 - The nature of exertion (vīryalakṣaṇa)

Question. – What are the characteristics of exertion (vīryalakṣaṇa)?

[174b] Answer. – Dynamism in activity, ease in enterprises, firmness of will, ardor of spirit, perseverance in action: these five things constitute the characteristics of exertion.

Moreover, according to the words of the Buddha, the characteristic of exertion is bodily and mental non-withdrawal (kāyikacaitasikāsraṃsanatā).


The ascetic acts in the same way [in order to conquer] the good dharmas (kuśaladharma). During the first, second and fourth quarters of the night, he recites the sūtras, practices meditation and seeks the true nature of dharmas. Not obstructed by fetters (saṃyojana), his body and mind are free of withdrawing: this is the nature of exertion.

Exertion is a mental event characterized by diligent and unceasing action. It follows the mind (cittānusārin) and arises with it (cittasahaja). Sometimes it includes investigation and analysis (savitarkasavicāra); sometimes it does not involve investigation, but only analysis (avitarka savicāramātra); sometimes it involves neither investigation nor analysis (avitarkāvicāra). As is said fully in the Abhidharma, diligent and relentless cultivation of all the good dharmas is called exertion. Among the five faculties (indriya), it is called the faculty of exertion (vīryendriya); the progression of the faculties (indriyavardhana) is called power of exertion (vīryabala); inasmuch as it opens the mind, it is called enlightenment of exertion (vīryasaṃbodhi); inasmuch as it comes to buddhahood and nirvāṇa, it is called right effort (samyagvyāyama); inasmuch as it diligently fixes the mind on the four foundations of mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna), it is called the factor of exertion (vīryāṅga); among the four infallible knowledges (pratisaṃvid), it is the gateway of energy (vīryadvāra); among the four bases of miraculous power (ṛddhipāda), exertion is zeal (chanda); among the six virtues, it is the virtue of exertion (vīryapāramitā).[1]

Question. – Earlier you praised exertion and here you are speaking of the characteristics of exertion, but what exertion is it?

Answer. – It is the exertion that is applied to [reuniting] all the good dharmas.

Footnotes and references:


For these classifications, see above, p. 935F, n. 1