Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the four right efforts (samyakpradhana)” 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.

E.2. The Four Right Efforts (samyakpradhāna)

The four right efforts (samyakpradhāna) are of two kinds: i) right efforts in themselves (svabhāvasamyakpradhāna); ii) right efforts by connection (saṃsargasamyakpradhāna).

Right effort in itself develops four kinds of exertion (vīrya) in view of the path (mārga): it eliminates the two types of bad dharmas (akuśaladhama), [namely, those that have not yet arisen and those that have already arisen], and it brings together the two types of good dharmas (kuśaladharma), [namely, those that have not yet arisen and those that have already arisen.]

During the examination (anupaśyanā) characteristic of the four foundations of mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna), when [the yogin] feels some laziness (kausīdya), when the five obstacles (pañcanīvaraṇa) and the other passions (kleśa) cloud the mind and he strays away from the five kinds of roots of good, faith, etc. (śraddhādhikuśalamūla), then he makes an effort (vyāyacchate) and develops exertion (vīryam ārabhate) for: 1) eliminating the bad dharmas that have already arisen (utpannānām akuśaladharmāṇāṃ prahāṇāya); 2) preventing the arising of the bad dharmas that have not yet arisen (anutpannānām akuśalānāṃ dharmāṇām anutpādāya); 3) making the good dharmas, faith, etc., that have not yet arisen, arise (anutpannānāṃ śraddhādikuśaladharmāṇāṃ utpādyāya); 4) developing the good dharmas that have already arisen (utpannānāṃ kuśaladharmāṇāṃ bhūyobhāvāya).[1] When these [four] exertions are abundant during the four doundations of mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna), they take the name of right efforts (samyakpradhāna). [202c]

Of the seven categories of dharmas [auxiliary to enlightenment (bodhipakṣika)], why are these four called right efforts and the last eight, [namely, samyagdṛṣṭi), etc.] not described as right (samyak)?

Answer. – Because these four kinds of exertion (vīrya), of spritual energy (cittābhyusāha) or efforts (ārambha) are easily damaged by error (bhrānti), they are called right efforts. Because the [eight] factors of the Path, [samyagdṛṣṭi, etc.] take pleasure in the Dharma and are are easily damaged by falling into bad doctrines (mithyādharma), they are called right Path.

[The right efforts] in themselves (svabhāva) are the four kinds of exertions (caturvidhavīrya). [The right efforts] by connection (saṃsarga) are the dharmas of the Path resulting from causes and conditions (hetupratyaya), [dharmas other than the four right efforts] but having primarily the four kinds of exertion (caturvidhavīrya) in question. They are impure (sāsrava) or pure (anāsrava), with form (rūpin) or formless (arūpin), as has been said above (p. 1170F).

Footnotes and references:


Canonical formula already cited above, p. 1123F.