Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “what is the virtue of wisdom (prajnaparamita)” 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.

Part 1 - What is the virtue of wisdom (prajñāpāramitā)

Sūtra: The Bodhisattva must fulfill the virtue of wisdom by not adhering to any system (prajñāpāramitā paripūrnayitavyā sarvadharmānabhiniveśam[1] upādāya).

Śāstra. – Question. – What is prajñāpāramitā?

Answer. – From the first production of the mind of Bodhi (prathamacittotpāda), the bodhisattvas seek the knowledge of all the aspects (sarvākārajñāna), in the course of which they understand the true nature of dharmas: this wisdom is the prajñāpāramitā.

Question. – If that is so, this wisdom should not be called virtue (pāramitā). Why? Because it does not reach the end (na pāram ita)[2]of wisdom.

Answer. – Only the wisdom obtained by the Buddha is the true wisdom; but, as a result of this virtue, the efforts of the bodhisattva are also called virtue, for the effect (kārya) is included in the cause (kāraṇā). Inasmuch as this virtue resides in the mind of the Buddha, it changes its name and is called the knowledge of all the aspects (sarvākārajñāna );[3] but when the bodhisattva, practicing this wisdom, seeks to attain the other shore (pāra), it is called virtue (pāramitā). As the Bodhisattva has already attained the other shore, his wisdom is called knowledge of all the aspects.

Footnotes and references:


In place of sarvadharmānabhiniveśam there is, in the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 18: prajñādauṣprajñānupalabditām; in the Śatasāhasrikā, p. 56: sarvadharmānupalabdhitām.


Pāramitā, derived from the adjective parama, simply means superiority. The etymology pāram ita “that which goes to the other shore” or pāra-mita “that which attains the other shore” is purely fantasy. For the etymology of the word, see Kośa, IV, p. 231; Madh. avatāra, p. 30 (tr. Muséon, 1907, p. 277); Saṃdhinirmocana, IX, par. 13; Sūtrālaṃkāra, XVI, p. 101; Saṃgraha, p. 186; Siddhi, p. 628; T 1606, k. 11, p. 747c21. – F. W. Thomas,JRAS, 1904, p. 547.


For sarvākārajñāna, see above, p. 640F.