Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “removing doubt” 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 B.5 - Removing doubt

The obstacle of doubt (vicikitsānīvaraṇa). – When doubt covers the mind, one is unable to fix one’s mind on the good dharmas. Concentration (samāhitacitta) being absent, there is nothing to be gained from the Buddhadharma. Thus the man who goes to a mountain of jewels (ratnagiri) is unable to gather any if he has no hands. Speaking of doubt, some stanzas say:

The person at the crossroads
Who hesitates goes nowhere.
It is the same for doubt
About the true nature of dharmas.

As a result of doubt, one does not diligently seek
The true nature of dharmas.
Doubt is the outcome of ignorance (avidyā);
It is the worst of all the evils.

In regard to good and bad dharmas,
Saṃsāra and nirvāṇa,
The absolute truth (tathatā) and dharmatā. [185a]
One should not conceive any doubt.[1]

If you conceive doubts,
The king of death and his jailers will enchain you;
Like the gazelle taken by the lion,
You will find no way to escape.

Although here below there may always be doubts,
It is important to follow the Holy Dharma.
The person who comes across a fork in the road
Should always take the good Path.

It is for all these reasons that it is necessary to remove the obstacle of doubt (vicikitsānīvaraṇa).

Removing these five obstacles is like escaping from the debt that you owe, curing a serious illness, finding an oasis in the desert, being saved from the hands of brigands and finding safety (yogakṣema) free of torment. Thus the ascetic who has removed the five obstacles has a pacified (kṣema) mind, pure (viśuddha) and joyful (sukha). The sun and moon are hidden by five things: when smoke (dhūma), cloud (abhra), dust (rajas), fog (mahikā) or the hand of the āsura Rāhu intercepts them, they cannot shine;[2] similarly, when a person’s mind is covered by the five obstacles (nīvaraṇa), it can be of no use either to oneself or to others.

Footnotes and references:


We know that every word spoken by the Buddha is recognized by four characteristics: it is useful and not harmful, it conforms to (ethical) Law and is not contrary to the Law, it destroys the afflictions and does not increase them, it inspires love for nirvāṇa and not for saṃsāra. See the passage of the Madhyāśāyasaṃcodanasūtra cited in Traité, I, p. 82F as note. On the other hand, the speech of the Buddha does not contradict the nature of dharmas (dharmatāṃ na vilomayati), i.e., pratītyasamutpāda (ibid. p. 81F as note). These essential truths are not to be held in doubt by Buddhists.


Cf. Upakkilesasutta (Aṅguttara, II, p. 53; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 20, p. 650a: Cattāro ‘me bhikkhave candimasuriyānaṃ upakkilesā yehi upakkilesehi upakkiliṭṭhā candimasuriyā na tapanti na bhāsanti na virocanti. Katame cattāro? Abhaṃ… mahikā… dhūmarajo… Rāhu asurindo hena upakkilesena upakkikiṭṭhā sandimasuriyā na tapanti na bhāsanti na virocanti, – This sūtra appears accounts of the second council: Vinaya, II, p. 295; T 1421, k. 30, p. 192c; T 1428, k. 54, p. 969a–b; cf. Hofinger, Concile de Vaiśalī, p. 34, 36, 39.