Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “rejection of pleasant touchables” 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.

Section A.5 - Rejection of pleasant touchables

Why condemn touch (sparṣṭavya)? Touch is a flame that gives rise to all the fetters (saṃyojana); it is the root that binds the mind. Why? The other four instincts [the need to see, to hear, to feel and to taste] are each limited to a part [of the body], but the instinct [to touch] is spread over the entire body consciousness (kāyavijñāna); its place of arising (utpattisthāna) being vast, it produces a lot of passions (saṅga), and the attachment to which it leads is tenacious. How do we know that? If a person, attached to beauty [of the body], contemplates the body’s impurities, which are thirty-six in number, he experiences feelings of disgust (nirvedacitta); on the other hand, if he is attached to [pleasant] touch, it feels good to know impurity, he does not covet sweetness in the least: to consider the impurity of touching is of no use; this is why this instinct is so tenacious.

Furthermore, since it is so difficult to renounce it, one is always committing grave sins because of it and one will fall into the hells (niraya). There are two kinds of hell, namely, cold water and burning fire. In these two kinds of hell, one will suffer punishment as a result of bodily touch; the poison of the pain will take ten thousand forms. Touch is called the place of great darkness (mahātamas), the most dangerous path of all.

[The story of yaśodarā].

For this reason, we know that slight attachments (sūkṣmamṛdusparśana) can trouble recluses and, all the more so, worldly people (pṛthagjāna). For these reasons, subtle desires are condemned.