Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the four bases of magical power (riddhipada)” 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.3. The Four Bases of Magical Power (ṛddhipāda)

When the four right efforts (samyakpradhāna) are practiced, the mind is slightly distracted (vikṣipta); this is why the concentrations (samādhi) are used to fix the mind: [concentrations of zeal (chanda), of exertion (vīrya), of the mind (citta) and of examination (mīmāṃsā). These concentrations are called bases of magical power (ṛddhipāda).

Thus, when good food (praṇītāhāra) is under-salted, it lacks flavor (rasa), but when salt (lavaṇa) is added, the taste is sufficient and is in accord with what is desired (yatheṣṭa). Or again, when a person who has two legs finds a good horse (aśva) or a good chariot (ratha), he comes to his destination as desired.

Similarly, when the yogin has obtained the true wisdoms that are the four foundations of mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna) and these right exertions (samyagvīrya) that are the four right efforts (samyakpradhāna), his wisdom (prajñā) is increased (vardhate) by means of these exertions; however, the strength of his concentration (samādhibala) remains weak. But when he obtains the four kinds of concentration (caturvidhasamādhi) and therefore fixes his mind (cittaṃ pragṛhṇati), the strength of his wisdom (prajñā) and concentration (samādhi) are equal (sama) and his vows (praṇidhāna) are realized. [These four concentrations] are called bases of magical power.

Question. – Concentration (samādhi) already was present in the four foundations of mindfulness and the four right efforts. Why not call them the bases of magical power?

Answer. – These practices do indeed contain [a certain measure] of concentration, but although wisdom (prajñā) and exertion (vīrya) are strong in them, concentration is weak. That is why the yogin did not realize his wishes (praṇidhāna) as he desired. [In the bases of magical power], there are four kinds of concentrations:

i) The concentration obtained by giving predominance to zeal (chandam adhipatiṃ kṛtvā).[1]

ii) The concentration obtained by giving predominance to exertion (vīryaṃ adhipatiṃ kṛtvā).

From these concentrations as causes and conditions there arise [the practices of] the Path, impure (sāsrava) or pure (anāsrava).

iii) The concentration obtained by giving predominance to the mind (cittam adhipatiṃ kṛtva).

iv) The concentration obtained by giving predominance to examination (mīmāṃsām adhipatiṃ kṛtva).

From these concentrations as causes and conditions there arise [practices of] the Path, impure or pure.

Together with the five good elements (kuśalaskandhasaṃsargāt) these practices are called [bases of] magical power by connection (saṃsargaṛddhipāda).

The four kinds of concentrations under the predominating influense of zeal (chanda), etc., are called [bases of] magical power in itself (svabhāvaṛddhipāda).[2]

For the four right efforts (samyakpradhāna) and the four bases of magical power (ṛddhipāda) see what was said in full detail in regard to the smṛtyupasthānas in themselves and as smṛtyupasthānas by connection (p. 1169F).

Footnotes and references:

1.

Formulas appearing in the Vibhaṅga, p. 216, and Kośavyākhyā, p. 601–602; see above, p. 1125F.

2.

The four concentrations having zeal, exertion, the mind, examination a predominating respectively are the bases of magical power (see above, p. 382–383F).

Taken by themselves (svabhāva), they are of lower order: they are right views but are impure (sāsrava), having only meritorious value (puṇyabhāgīya) and bearing fruit only in this world (upadhivaipkaya); it is the right view of worldly people who see the truth but stay apart from the path traced by the Buddha.

On the other hand, together with the five good elements (the dhammakkhandha of the Dīgha, III, p. 229, 279, Itivuttaka, p. 107; the lokottaraskandha of the Dhrmaguptaka, § 23; the asamasamāḥ skandhāḥ of the Mahāvyut., no. 103–108) – namely, śīla, samādhi, prajñā, vimukti, vimuktijñānadarśana -, these four concentrations ‘by connection’ (saṃsarga) are the right views of the nobles (ārya), pure (anāsrava), supraworldly (lokottara) and linked to the Path (mārgāṅga); this is the view found in the noble mind, purified, joined to the way, following the noble Path. See Majjhima, III, p. 72.

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