Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “prajna of the pratyekabuddhas” 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.

2. Prajñā of the pratyekabuddhas

Question. – If it is the same for the state of pratyekabuddha, why do you make a distinction between śrāvaka and pratyekabuddha?

Answer. – Although the final state may be of the same type, the knowledges used are different. At the stage where the Buddhas do not appear and the Buddhadharma has disappeared, the pratyekabuddhas, by reason of previous causes (pūrvajanmahetupratyaya), alone produce wisdom without having heard it from others; it is by means of their own wisdom that they obtain the Path.

Thus the king of a country had gone for a walk in his garden. In the cool morning, he saw how the flowers and fruits of the forest trees were beautiful and desirable. He ate some and fell asleep. His wives and courtesans, walking together to gather flowers, wrecked the forest trees. The king woke up, saw the [191b] destruction and said to himself: “The entire world is transitory (anitya) and perishable like this forest.” As soon as he had this thought, the mind of the pure path (anāsravamārga) arose in him; he cut all the fetters (saṃyojana) and attained the state of pratyekabuddhahood. Endowed with the six superknowledges (abhijñā) he went flying to a solitary forest. – There are other stories of this kind. The merits (puṇya) and vows (praṇidhāna) of previous lifetimes activate a fruit of retribution (vipākaphala) and, in the present lifetime, it is enough for a pratyekabuddha to see a very minor event in order to realize the state of pratyekabuddha. This is what he difference consists of.

Furthermore, there are two kinds of pratyekabuddhas: the one who is enlightened by himself and the one who is enlightened as the result of an event (nidāna). We will give an example of the pratyekabuddha enlightened following an event. The one who is enlightened by himself is he who attains wisdom by himself during the present lifetime without learning from another; this is the pratyekabuddha enlightened by himself.

There are two kinds of self-enlightened pratyekabuddhas: i) First he was a śaikṣa, born among humans; at a time when the Buddha and his Dharma had not yet disappeared, he was a srotaāpanna; since then, at the end of seven lifetimes without an eighth, he himself attains Bodhi. This person is not called Buddha, is not called arhat; he is a minor pratyekabuddha no different from the arhats. – ii) There are also pratyekabuddhas who are not like Śāriputra or the other great arhats; these great pratyekabuddhas, during one hundred great kalpas, have practiced the qualities and increased (vardhana) their wisdom; they have some of the thirty-two marks [of the Great Man]: thirty-one, thirty, twenty-nine or even one single mark; in their wisdom they prevail over the nine kinds of arhats; they are able to penetrate the general characteristics (sāmānyalakṣaṇa) and the specific characteristics (bhinnalakṣaṇa) inherent in the profound dharmas (gambhīradharma); they cultivate (bhāvayanti) the absorptions (samāpatti) for a long time and are always pleased with solitude. They are called great pratyekabuddhas for all these characteristics. This constitutes the difference.