Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “the eight members of the path (aryashtangamarga)” 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.7. The Eight Members of the Path (āryāṣṭāṅgamārga)

On the eight members of the noble Path (āryāṣṭāṅgamārga), see what has been said above (p. 1150F).

1. [The first member], right view (samyakdṛṣṭi), is the wisdom mentioned in regard to the four foundations of mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna), the faculty of wisdom (prajñendriya), the strength of wisdom (prajñābala) and the member of enlightenment called discernment of dharmas (dharmapravicayasaṃbodhyaṅga).

2. [The second member], right thought (samyaksaṃkalpa), is, at the time of contemplating the four truths (satyānupaśyanā), associated with a pure mind (anāsravacittasaṃprayukyta): it is a reflection (tarka), an enquiry (vitarka), an understanding (avabodha), an examination (mīmāṃsa).

3. [The sixth member], right effort (samyagvyāyāma) has already been mentioned in regard to the four right efforts (samyakpradhāna), the faculty of exertion (vīryendriya), the strength of exertion (vīryabala) and the member of enlightenment called exertion (vīryasaṃbodhyaṅga).

4. [The seventh member], right attentiveness (samyaksmṛṭi), has already been mentioned in regard to the faculty of attentiveness (smṛtīndriya), the strength of attentiveness (smṛtibala) and the member of enlightenment called attentiveness (smṛtisaṃbodhyaṅga).

5. [The eighth member], right concentration (samyaksamādhi) has already been mentioned in regard to the bases of magical power (ṛddhipāda), the faculty of concentration (samādhīndriya), the strength of concentration (samādhibala) and the member of enlightenment called concentration (samādhisaṃbodhyaṅga).

Now it is necessary to speak [of the three remaining members]: right speech (samyagvāc), right action (samyakkarmānta) and right livelihood (saṃyagājīva).

6. [The third member or samyagvāc]. – With the exception of the four bad ways of livelihood (mithyājīva),[1] fixing vocal actions (vākkarmapragrahaṇa) and, by means of a pure wisdom (anāsravaprajñā), rejecting and eliminating bad vocal actions (vāṅmithyākarman).

7. [The fourth member or samyakkarmānta.] – For right action (samyakkarmānta), it is the same [allowing for a few minor variations].

8. [The fifth member or samyagājīva.] – By means of a pure wisdom (anāsravaprajñā), to reject and eliminate the five bad ways of livelihood is right livelihood (samyagājīva).

[The five bad ways of livelihood]

These eight right paths (samyagmārga) are arranged into three groups (skandha):

a. Three of them, [right speech (samyagvāc), right action (samyakkarmānta) and right livelihood (samyagājīva)], make up the class of morality (śīlaskandha).

b. Three others, [right effort (samyagvyāyāma), right mindfulness (samyaksmṛti) and right concentration (samyaksamādhi)], make up the class of concentration (samādhiskandha).

c. Two, finally, [right view (samyagdṛṣṭi) and right thinking (samyaksaṃkalpa)], make up the class of wisdom (prajñāskandha).[2]

The class of wisdom and the class of concentration are as above. Now we must talk about the class of morality.

The class of morality (śīlaskandha) has form (rūpasvabhāva), is invisible (anidarśana), non-resistant (apratigha), pure (anāsrava), conditioned (saṃskṛta), non-retribution (avipāka), the result of causes and conditions (hetupratyayaja), included in the three times (tryadhvasaṃgṛhīta), included in form (rūpasaṃgṛhīta), not included in name (na nāmasaṃgṛhīta), included in the outer bases of consciousness (bāhyāyatanasaṃgṛhīta), not to be destroyed by meditation (na bhāvanayā prahātavya) and not to be destroyed by seeing (na darśanena prahātavya), something to be cultivated (bhāvanādharma) and something non-defiled (asaṃkliṣṭadharma), being fruit (phala) and involving a fruit (saphala), not being either feeling (na vedanādharma) nor derived from the four great elements (na bhautika), not something of subordinate rank (na sottaradharma) nor a cause associated with existence (na bhavasaṃprayuktahetu).

One section of the good (kuśala) includes (saṃgṛhīta) three [members of [203b] the] right path and these three [members of the right path] include a section of the good. The members are dissociated from the bad, indeterminate, impure or involving impurity dharmas (akuśala-avyākṛta-sāsrava-sāsravadharma-viprayukta).

One dharma of the anāsrava includes three [other members of] the right path, and these three members also include one dharma of the anāsrava.

These various explanations are presented in full in the Abhidharma.

Footnotes and references:


These will be discussed in regard to the fifth member or samyagājīva.


Cūḷavedallasutta of the Majjhima, I, p. 301 (Tchong a han, T 26, k. 58, p. 788c9–12), cited in Atthasālinī, p. 305: Na kho Visākha ariyena aṭthaṅgikena …. dhammā paññākhande saṅgaītā ti.

For these three elements (skandha) of the eightfold path, see also Dīgha, I, p. 206; Anguttara, I, p. 125, 291; II, p. 20; III, p. 15–16; V, p. 326; Itivuttaka, p. 51; Nettippakaraṇa, p. 64, 126.

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