Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “mahanama-sutta” 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.

Thus, Mo ho nan (Mahānāman), king of the Śākyas, went to find the Buddha one day and said to him:

“The population of Kapilavastu is great. Sometimes it happens, when I meet a runaway chariot, an excited horse, a mad elephant, or people who are quarreling, that I no longer think about the Buddha”.

Then I say to myself: “If I were to die at this moment, where would I be reborn?”

The Buddha said to Mahānāman:

“Don’t be afraid, fear not; you are not going to be reborn in the unfortunate destinies (durgati), but you will certainly be reborn in the blissful abodes (sukhavihāra). Just as a tree that has always leaned to the east will, when it is cut down, necessarily fall in the eastern direction so, on the dissolution of the body after death, the honest man whose mind (citta), spirit (manas) and consciousnesses (vijñāna) have for a long time been perfumed (paribhāvita) by faith (śraddhā), morality (śīla), learning (śruta), generosity (tyāga) and wisdom (prajñā), will certainly find his benefit (viśeṣagāmin) and will be reborn above (ūrdhvagāmin) in the heavens.”

If, [as you say], all dharmas, arising and perishing from moment to moment (kṣaṇakṣaṇotpannaniruddha), are non-eternal, why does the Buddha say that by perfuming the mind with all the virtues (guṇa), one will certainly obtain high rebirths? This is why we know that [dharmas or the world] are not non-eternal in nature (aśāśvatasvabhāva).

Notes on the Mahānāma-sutta:

Mahānāmasutta, the various recensions of which show interesting variations: cf. Saṃyutta, V, p. 269–271 (tr. Woodward, Kindred Sayings, V, p. 320–321); Kośa, III, p. 95, and Kośavyākhyā, p. 303, l. 32: Mṛtasya khalu kālaṃ gatasya, etc.; Tsa a han, T 99, no. 930, k. 33, p. 237b–c; T 100, no. 155, k. 8, p. 432b; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 35, p. 744a–c.

In the Pāli sutta and the Tseng yi a han (T 125, p. 744a18), the Buddha backs up his sermon with the example of a pot of butter (sappikumbha) or a pot of oil (telakumbha), broken at the bottom of a pool, the contents of which float necessarily to the surface: a classic example frequently used (cf. also Saṃyutta, IV, p. 313). The Chinese versions of the Saṃyuktāgama (T 99, p. 237b29); T 100, p. 432b23), faithfully followed here by the Mppś, prefers the example of the tree that always falls to the direction in which it was leaning.

This comparison is not unknown to the Pāli sources which resort to it in the Rukkhasutta of the Saṃyutta, V, p. 47–48:

Seyyathāpi bhikkhave rukkho pācīnaninno pācīnapoṇo pācīnapabbhāro, so mūle chinno katamena papātena papateyyā ti. – Yena bhante ninno yena poṇo yena pabbhāro ti.