Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “definition of distraction (vikshepa)” 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.

Definition of distraction (vikṣepa)

Question. – What is distraction (vikṣepa)?

Answer. – There are two kinds of distraction, subtle (sūkṣma) and coarse (sthūla).

Subtle distraction is of three types according to whether it abounds in attachment (āsaṅgabahula), pride (abhimānabahula) or wrong view (dṛṣṭibahula). What is abounding in attachment? Having obtained the bliss of concentration, the ascetic’s mind becomes attached to it and he enjoys the taste (āsvādana). – What is abounding in pride? Having obtained the concentration, the ascetic tells himself that he has attained a very difficult thing and praises himself (ātmānam utkarṣayati). – What is abounding in wrong view? This is to enter into concentration with the wrong view of the self (ātmadṛṣṭi), etc.; to make distinctions (pravibhāga) and grasp at characteristics (nimittodgrahaṇa) saying: “This is true, the rest is false” (idam evasaccaṃ mogham aññan ti). These three distractions are subtle distractions. Because of that, one falls out of the concentrations and produces the threefold poison (rāga, dveṣa and moha) that constitutes the coarse distraction (sthūlavikṣepa).

Enjoyment (āsvādana) consists of becoming passionately attached with one’s whole mind (ekacitta) to the concentration once one obtains it.

Question. – All the afflictions (kleśa) are adherence (abhiniveśa): why do you reserve the name of attachment (āsaṅga) for enjoyment?

Answer. – Because attachment (āsaṅga) and dhyāna resemble each other. How is that? Dhyāna is the fixing of a concentrated mind (saṃgṛhītacittaprasthāpana), and attachment also is an exclusive adherence, difficult to eliminate (abhiniveśa). As soon as one seeks dhyāna, one wishes to [190a] obtain it absolutely; becoming attached to it is as natural as pursuing the objects of desire (kāmaguṇaparyeṣaṇā). [From this point of view], there is no opposition (virodha) between desire (kāma) and concentration; the ascetic in possession of an absorption is deeply attached to it, does not let go of it, and thus taints his absorption. Just as there is no merit in giving something when one is certain of a reward, so the absorption [is of no value] when one is enjoying its taste and is passionately attached to it. This is why we reserve the name of attachment for enjoyment without resorting to other passions in order to describe it.