Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “fourth samapatti” 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.

In this ākiṃcanyāyatana, he perceives sensations (vedanā), notions (saṃjñā), formations (saṃskāra) and consciousnesses (vijñāna) that seem to him to be a sickness (roga), an ulcer (gaṇḍa), a wound (āghāta), an arrow (śalya), transitory (anitya), painful (duḥkha), empty (śūnya) and non-self (anātman), an accumulation of deceit, without true reality. While he is meditating thus, the sphere of non-consciousness (asaṃjñāyatana) seems to him to be an ulcer (gaṇḍa) and the sphere of consciousness (saṃjñāyatana) seems to him to be a sickness, an ulcer, a wound and an arrow: [for him], the sphere par excellence is the sphere of neither discernment nor non-discernment

Question. – But the naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana involves sensations (vedanā), notions (saṃjñā), formations (saṃskāra) and consciousnesses (vijñāna): why do you call it neither discernment nor non-discernment?

Answer. – There is discrimination (saṃjñā) in this sphere, but as it is very subtle (sūkṣma) and hard to perceive (durvabodha), we speak of ‘non-discrimination’; on the other hand, since there is discrimination, we add ‘not non-discrimination’.[1] Ordinary people (pṛthagjana) claim to attain the true nature of dharmas in this sphere and identify it with nirvāṇa; but in the Buddhist system, although it is known that this sphere includes discrimination, the old name is retained and it is called the sphere of neither discrimination nor non-discrimination.

Question. – What is non-discrimination?

Answer. – There are three kinds of non-discrimination: i) the absorption of non-discrimination (asaṃjñisamāpatti),[2] ii) the absorption of the cessation of discrimination and feeling (read Mie sianng cheou ting = saṃjñāvedayitanirodhasamāpatti,[3] iii) the non-discriminating gods (asaṃjñideva).[4] The worldly person who wants to destroy his mind enters into the saṃjñāvedayitanirodhasamāpatti.

Footnotes and references:


On the point of knowing whether or not there is saṃjñā in the sphere of neither discrimination nor non-discrimination, cf. Aṅguttara, IV, p. 427: Kathāvatthu, I, p. 263 (tr. Rh. D., p. 155); Kośa, VIII, p. 144.


Asaṃjñisamāpatti, its preparation, conditions and fruit are studied in Kośa, II, p. 132, 200, 211, 310; IV, p. 200.


For saṃjñāvedayitanirodha, which is confused in practice with nirvāṇa on earth, see Majjhima, I, p. 160, 301; III, p. 45; Saṃyutta, II, p. 212; Aṅguttara, I, p. 41; IV, p. 454; Kathāvatthu, I, p. 202; Kośa, II, p. 203–214; VII, p. 96; VIII, p. 193, 207, 215. – LAV., Nirvaṇa, p. 77, 80, 157.


The asaṃjñisattva, non-discriminating gods, are defined in Kośa, II, p. 199–200; VIII, p. 136.