Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “prajnaparamitastotra” 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 3 - The Prajñāpāramitāstotra

The stanzas of the Tsan pan jo po lo mi (Prajñāpāramitāstotra) say:

The Prajñāpāramitā,
The true Dharma, free of error (aviparita).
Mind, concept, view are expelled,
The elements of speech have been destroyed.

Immeasurable, free of any defect,
Mind pure, always unified:
This is how the venerable one
Sees Prajñā.

Sanskrit equivalent:
nirvikalpa namas tubhyaṃ prajñāpāramite ‘mite,
tvaṃ sarvānavadyāṅgi nirvadayair nirīkṣyaso.

“Homage to thee, O inconceivable, immense Prajñāpāramitā! With irreproachable members, you are contemplated by the irreproachable ones.”

Immaculate like space,
Free of speech and designation:
To see Prajñā in this way
Is also to see the Buddha.

Sanskrit equivalent:
ākāśam iva nirlepāṃ niṣprapañcaṃ nirakṣarām,
yas tvāṃ paśyati bhāvena sa paśyati tathāgatam.

“Immaculate like space, free of speech and designation; he who sees you in truth sees the Tathāgata.”

Seeing the Buddha, the Prajñā and nirvāṇa
According to the rules,
These three things are identical;
There is no difference among these realities.

Sanskrit equivalent:
tava cāruaguṇādhyāya buddhasya ca jagadguroḥ,
na paśyanty antaraṃ santaś canracadtikayor iva.

“Between you who are so rich in holy qualities and the Buddha, the teacher of the world, honest people see no more difference than between the moon and the light of the moon.”

Of Buddhas and bodhisattvas
Who carry out the benefit of all beings,
Prajñā is the mother:
She gives birth to them and nourishes them. [190c]

Sanskrit equivalent:
sarveṣām api vīrāṇāṃ parārthe niyatātmanām,
poṣikā janayitrī cha mātā tvam asi vatsalā.

“Of all the heroes who have dedicated themselves to the good of others, you are the nourisher, the generator and the tender mother.”

The Buddha is the father of beings
Prajñā is the mother of the Buddha.
Thus, the Prajñā is the grandmother
Of all beings.

Sanskrit equivalent:
yad buddhā lokaguravaḥ putrās tava kṛpālavaḥ,
tena tvam asi kalyāṇi sarvassattvapitāmahī.

“Since the Buddhas, the compassionate teachers of the world, are your own sons, you are, thus, O virtuous one, the grandmother of all beings.”

The Prajñā is a unique dharma
To which the Buddha applies all kinds of names;
According to the capacities of beings
He applies different sounds.

Sanskrit equivalent:
vineyaṃ janam āsāsya tatra tatra tathāgataiḥ,
bahurūpā tvam evaikā sānānmamabhir īḍyase.

“Singular although multiform, you are invoked everywhere under various names by the Tathāgatas, in the presence of beings to be converted.”

For the person who has grasped the Prajñā
Speech and thoughts vanish,
Like the morning dew evaporates
All at once at day break.

Sanskrit equivalent:
prabhāṃ prāpyeva dīptāṃśor avaśyāyobindavaḥ,
tvāṃ prāpya pralayaṃ yānti doṣa vādāh ca vādinām.

“Like dew-drops in contact (with starlight) at the blazing rays, the faults and opinions of the theoreticians dissolve at your touch.”

The Prajñā has this wonderful power
Of stimulating two types of people,
The ignorant by means of fear,
The wise by means of joy.

Sanskrit equivalent:
tvam eva trāsajananī bālānāṃ bhīmadarśanā,
āśvāsajananī cāsi viduṣāṃ saumyadarśanā.

“In your terrifying aspect, you give rise to fear among fools; in your friendly aspect, you give rise to faith in the wise.”

The person who possesses the Prajñā
Is the king of Prajñā.
He is not attached to Prajñā
And even less to the other dharmas.

Sanskrit equivalent:
yasya tvayy apy abhiṣvaṅgas tvannāthasya na vidyate,
tasyāmba katham anyatra rāgadveṣau bhaviṣyataḥ.

“If he who is clasped to you is not recognized as your husband, how, O mother, would he experience love or hate for another object?”

Prajñā comes from nowhere
Prajñā goes nowhere.
The sage looks for it everywhere
But does not find it.

Sanskrit equivalent:
nāgacchasi kutaścit tvaṃ na ca kvacana gacchasi,
sthāneṣu api ca sarveṣu vidvadbhir nopalabhyase.

“You do not come from anywhere and you do not go anywhere; in whatever place there may be, you are not seen by the wise.”

The person who sees Prajñā
Finds deliverance.
The person who does not see Prajñā
Also finds deliverance.

Sanskrit equivalent:
tvām eva badhyate paśyann apaśyann api badhyate,
tvām eva mucyate paśyann apaśyann api mudhyate.

“The person who sees you is fettered, the person who does not see you is also fettered; the person who sees you is liberated, the person who does not see you is also liberated.”

The Prajñā is astounding,
Very profound and glorious.
Like a magical object,
It is seen without being visible.

Sanskrit equivalent:
aho vismayanīyāsi gambhīrāsi yaśasvinī,
sudurbodhḥasi māyeva dṛśyase na ca dṛśyase.

“Oh! You are astounding, you are profound and glorious; you are very difficult to cognize; like a magic show, you are seen and you are not seen.”

The Buddhas, the bodhisattvas
The śrāvakas and the pratyekabuddhas
All derive from the Prajñā
Their liberation and their nirvāṇa.

Sanskrit equivalent:
buddhaiḥ pratyekabuddhaiśca śrāvakasiś ca niṣevitā,
mārgas tvam eko mokṣasya nāsty anya iti niścayaḥ.

“You are cultivated by the Buddhas, pratyekabuddhas and śrāvakas. You are the single path to salvation; there is no other: it is certain.”

Their language is conventional:
Having pity for all beings,
They speak of dharmas in metaphors;
Speaking [about the Prajñā], they say nothing.

Sanskrit equivalent:
vyavahāraṃ puraskṛtya prajñaptyasthaṃ śarīriṇām,
kṛpayā lokanāthais tvam ucyuase ca na cocyase.

“Having recourse to ordinary language to make (embodied) beings understand, the Teachers of the world, out of compassion, speak about you and say nothing.”

The Prajñāpāramitā
Is like the flame of a great fire:
Ungraspable from any direction,
Without holding or not holding.

Escaping from any grasp,
It is called ungraspable.
The taking of it when it is ungraspable
Is what the grasping of it consists of.

The Prajñā is unchangeable
And surpasses any speech.
It occurs unceasingly.
Who can praise its qualities?

Sanskrit equivalent:
śaktas kas tvām iha statuṃ nirmittāṃ nirañjanām,
sarvavāgviṣayātītā yā tvaṃ kvacid aniḥśrtā.

“Who here is able to praise you, you who are without characteristic or nature? You surpass all praise, you who have no support anywhere.”

Although the Prajñā cannot be praised
I can praise it now.
Even without having escaped from this land of death, [191a]
I have already found the way out (niḥsaraṇa).

Sanskrit equivalent:
saty evam api saṃcṛtyā vākpathair vayam īdṛśaiḥ,
tvām astutyām api atutvā tuṣṭūṣantaḥ sunirvṛtāḥ.

“But, since there is conventional language, we are pleased and reassured to have praised you verbally, you who surpass all praise.”

Notes on the Prajñāpāramitāstotra:

The Prajñāpāramitāstotra serves as preface to several Prajñās: Pañcaviṃśati, ed. N. Dutt, p. 1–3; Aṣṭasāhasrikā, ed. R. Mitra, Bibl. Ind., p. 1–3 (see also R, Mitra, Sanskrit Buddhist Lit. of Nepal, p. 190–192); Suvikrāntavikrāmi, ed. T. Matsumotso, Die P.P. Literatur, Stuttgart, 1932, appendix, p. 1–4. But it is found only in the Sanskrit manuscripts of these Prajñās and not in the Chinese versions or the corresponding Tibetan versions.

This stotra, consisting of about twenty ślokas, is the work of Rāhulabhadra. Actually, Haraprasād Shāstrī in 1907 found a Nepali manuscript of the stotra bearing the comment: kṛtir iyaṃ Rāhulabhadrasya (cf. J. Proc. Asiatic Soc. Bengal. VI, no. 8, 1910, p. 425 seq._.

On the other hand, in his Tchong kouan louen chou (T 1824, k. 10, p. 168c4–5), says:

“The stanzas of the Prajñāpāramitāstotra found in the 18th scroll of Nāgārjuna’s Ta tche tou louen are the work of the dharmācārya Lo ho (Rāhula)”;

cf. H. Ui, Indo-Tetsugaku-Kenkiu, I, 1934, p. 431 seq.; Matsumoto, Die P.P. Literatur, p. 54.

Rāhulabhadra, alias Saraha, appears in the lists of magicians (siddha); for the Tibetan tradition, he was the teacher of Nāgārjuna; for the Chinese sources, he was his disciple: cf. G. Tucci, Animadversiones indicae, J. Proc. Asiatic Soc. Bengal. XXVI, 1930, p. 141.

The Sanskrit text of the stotra corresponding to the stanzas of the Mppś are found in the notes that follow.