Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “beings of the threefold world (traidhatuka)” 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.

The beings of the threefold world (traidhātuka)

God realm.

The gods of the formless realm (ārūpyadhātu), who enjoy the absorptions (samāpatti) and are attached to them, do not understand that when their life is over they will fall back into the desire realm and will take on the form of a bird or animal. In the same way, the gods of the form realm (rūpadhātu), having fallen from the pure abodes (śuddhāvāsa), will again conceive sensual desire and will abide in the impure spheres. Finally, the six classes of gods of the desire realm (kāmadhātu), attached to the five desirable objects, will fall into the hells (niraya) and be subjected to all the sufferings.

Human realm.

In the human destiny (manuṣyagati), the bodhisattva sees beings who, by practicing the ten meritorious actions, have obtained a human body. The human life involves many sufferings and but little joy; when their life is over, people often fall into the unfortunate destinies (durgati).

Animal realm.

The bodhisattva sees the animals (tiryak) undergoing all the torments: they are made to gallop by blows of the whip or stick; they are made to make long journeys carrying burdens; their harness is damaged; they are branded with hot iron. People who, in their former lives, have trussed them up, whipped them or been guilty of crimes of this kind, assume the animal form of an elephant (haja), a horse (aśva), a cow (go), a sheep (eḍaka) or a deer (mṛga).

– If sensual desires (kāmarāga), passion and ignorance (avidyā) were predominant in them, they are reborn as goose (haṃsa), a duck (kāraṇdava), a peacock (barhin, matūra), a cakra bird (cakravāka). a pigeon (kapota), a cock (kukkuta), a parrot (śuka) or a blackbird; thus they become one of the hundred thousand kinds of birds. If they are guilty of lust, their body becomes covered with hairs and feathers; their plumage is fine and smooth; their beak, big and wide; thus they cannot distinguish touch (sparśa) and taste (rasa).

– If hatred (dveṣa, pratigha) is predominant, they take the form of a poisonous snake (āsiviṣa), a scorpion (vṛṣcika), a spider (lūtā), a bee (madhukara), a myriapod (śatapadī) or a poisonous insect.

– If delusion (moha) is abundant, they are reborn as a kind of worm (kīta), a butterfly, a dung-beetle, an ant (pipīlika), an owl (ulūka), among the insects and stupid birds.

– If pride (abhimāna) and anger abound, they take the form of a savage beast: lion (siṃha), tiger (vyāghra) or leopard (dvīpin).

– As a result of stupid conceit (mithyāmāna), they re reborn as an ass (gardabha), a pig (sūkara) or a camel (uṣṭra).

– As a result of greed (mātsarya), envy (īrṣyā), impulsiveness and haste, they take the form of an ape (markaṭa), a long-tailed monkey (vānara) or a bear (ṛkṣa).

– Guilty of evil desires (mithyārāga), hatred and jealousy (īrṣyā), they take the form of a cat (mārjāra), fox or field-tiger.

– As a result of shamelessness (anapatrāpya), lack of self-respect (āhrīkya) and gluttony (gṛddhitva), they take the form of a bird such as a crow (kāka), a magpie, an owl or a vulture (gṛdhra).

– If they have deceived honest people (sajjanāvamāna), they take the body of a rooster (kukkuṭa), a dog (kukkura), a jackal (śṛgāla), etc.

– Very generous (mahādātṛ) but short-tempered (krodhana) and crafty (kuṭilacitta), they take the form of a nāga.

– Very generous (mahātyāgin), if they have tormented beings by their arrogance (cittonnati) and their tyranny (darpa), they take the form of a golden-winged bird (garuḍa).

– As a result of all these passions [175b] (saṃyojana) and all these actions (karman), they undergo the sufferings reserved for animals (tiryak), birds (pakṣin) or quadrupeds (paśu).