Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “virtue of exertion (viryaparamita)” 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 - The virtue of exertion (vīryapāramitā)

Question. – But here in a treatise dedicated to the virtue of exertion (vīryapāramitā), it is necessary to speak of the virtue of exertion; why do you speak about exertion being applied to all good dharmas?

Answer. – From the time of his first resolve (prathamacittotpāda), the bodhisattva applies himself with exertion to all the good dharmas; then little by little he acquires the virtue of exertion.

[174c] Question. – This too much about exertion in regard to all good dharmas; talk about the virtue of exertion now, for we already know exertion in regard to all good dharmas.

Answer. – Exertion that aims at obtaining the state of buddhahood is called virtue; exertion that has all the other good dharmas in view is called just exertion and not virtue.

Question. – Why is diligent application to all good dharmas not called virtue of exertion and why it is only the exertion of the bodhisattva that is called virtue?

Answer. – Virtue (pāramitā) indicates arrival at the other shore (pāram ita). Now people of the world (loka), śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas cannot practice the virtues completely. Therefore there is no virtue of exertion in them.

Moreover, these people do not have great loving-kindness (mahāmaitrī) or great compassion (mahākaruṇā); they abandon beings and do not seek the ten powers (bala), the four fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya), the eighteen special attributes (āveṇikadharma), omniscience (sarvajñāna), the infallible knowledges (pratisamvid), the liberations (vimokṣa), the immense body (apramāṇakāya), the immense rays (apramāṇaraśmi), the immense sounds (apramāṇasvara), the immense morality, concentrations and wisdom (apramāṇaśīlasamādhiprajñā). This is why exertion among men is not described as virtue.

Moreover, with unceasing exertion the bodhisattva one-pointedly (ekacittena) seeks buddhahood; such effort merits the name of virtue of patience. Thus the bodhisattva Hao che (Mahātyāgavat)[1] seeking the philosopher’s stone (cintamaṇi), filtered the water of the ocean using his nerves and his bones, and did not stop working before having found this philosopher’s stone; he gave it to beings to ease their sufferings. The bodhisattva thus accomplishes difficult things; this is his virtue of exertion.

Moreover, when the bodhisattva who considers exertion as fundamental (pradhāna) also practices the other five virtues, his is truly practicing the virtue of exertion of the bodhisattva. Just as a whole collection of medicines (sarvabhaiṣajyasāmagrī) is needed to cure a serious illness, so exertion alone [is not enough] for the bodhisattva. If he uses his exertion alone without practicing the other five virtues, he would not be exercising “the virtue of exertion” [which characterizes] the bodhisattva.

Moreover, by practicing exertion, the bodhisattva does not lean on material benefits (āmiṣārtha), wealth, nobility or power (sthāma); he does not pursue his own personal interest, or rebirth among the gods, cakravartin kings, as Brahmā or as Śakradevendra; he does not seek nirvāṇa for himself; he wants only to reach the state of buddhahood and do good for beings. This is the nature [of disinterestedness] that constitutes the virtue of exertion in the bodhisattva.

Moreover, the exertion of the bodhisattva is applied in the practice of all good dharmas and mainly in great compassion (mahākaruṇā). The good father loves his son; if he has only one son and the latter contracts a serious illness, he one-pointedly (ekacittena) seeks a remedy to cure his sickness; thus the energetic bodhisattva in whom loving-kindness predominates will not cease until he has saved all beings.

Finally, in the energy that characterizes the bodhisattva, knowledge of the true nature of things (satyalakṣaṇajñāna) is a major element. Practicing the six virtues [in these conditions] constitutes the virtue of exertion belonging to the bodhisattva.     

Question. – The true nature of dharmas is unconditioned (asaṃskṛta) and [175a] non-fabricated (anabhisaṃskṛta). Now exertion is conditioned and ‘fabricated’. Why would the true nature be the main element?

Answer. – Although he knows that the true nature is unconditioned and unfabricated, by virtue of his original vow (maulapraṇidhāna) and his great compassion (mahākaruṇā), the bodhisattva wishes to save beings. This is why, in the unfabricated, he uses the power of his exertion to save and liberate all beings.

Moreover, the true nature of all dharmas is unconditioned (asaṃskṛta), non-manufactured (anabhisaṃskṛta), like nirvāṇa (nirvāṇasama), without one-ness (aneka) or duality (advaya). Why then do you claim that this true nature is different from the nature of exertion? Actually, you do not understand the nature of things.

Moreover, the bodhisattva sees that the beings of the threefold world (traidhātuka) and the five destinies (pañcagati) are, each of them, deprived of happiness.

[The world of transmigration].

Thus the bodhisattva, who sees beings undergo the sufferings of the five destinies, thinks of them ceaselessly as his parents.

Footnotes and references:


For Hao che or Ta che (Mahātyāgavat), see references above, Traité, I, p. 265F, n. 1.

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