Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “altruism in the practice of the faculties (indriya)” 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.

Altruism in the practice of the faculties (indriya)

Note: Whereas the śrāvaka practices the bodhipakṣikas in his own interest, the bodhisattva practices them for the benefit of others: this is an essential difference.

The bodhisattva in possession of the five faculties understands well (prajānāti) the various faculties of beings.

He understands the faculties of beings with desire (sarāga) or without desire (vītarāga), hateful (sadveṣa) or without hatred (vītadveṣa), stupid (samoha) or without stupidity (vītamoha).[1]

He understands the faculties of beings destined to fall into the bad destinies (durgati), destined to be reborn among humans (manuṣya) or destined to be reborn among the gods (deva).

He understands the beings of weak faculties (mṛdvindriya) or of sharp faculties (tīkṣṇendriya). He understands beings of superior (agra), medium (madhya) or lower (avara) faculties.

He understands the faculties of guilty (sāpattika) or faultless (anāpattika) beings, rebellious or docile.

He understands the faculties of beings who are always reborn in the desire realm (kāmadhātu), in the form realm (rūpadhātu) or in the formless realm (ārūpyadhātu).

He understands the faculties of beings of coarse (sthūla) or fine (sūkṣma) roots of good (kuśaladharma).

He understands the faculties of beings predestined to salvation (samyaktvaniyata), predestined to ruin (mithyātvaniyata) or without predestination (aniyata).[2]

He understands the faculties of careless or impetuous people. He understands the faculties of beings bearing the burden (bhārasaha).[3]

He understands the faculties of miserly (matsarin) or generous (tyāgavat) people, respectful people or disrepectful people, people of pure morality (viśuddhaśīla) or of impure morality (aviśuddhaśīla), angry (vyāpanna) or patient (kṣamin) people, energetic (vīryavat) or lazy (kusīda) people, people of distracted mind (vikṣiptacitta) or of concentrated mind (samgṛhītacitta), stupid people (mūḍhā) or wise people (prajñāvat), fearless (nirbhāya) or fearful (sabhaya) people, prideful people (abhimānika) or people without pride (nirabhimāna), people of right conduct (samyakpratipanna) or of wrong conduct (mithyāpratipanna), controlling their senses (guptendriya) or not controlling their senses.

He understands the faculties of people who seek the path of the śrāvakas, that of the pratyekabuddhas, or that of the Buddhas.

In this knowledge of the faculties of beings, the bodhisattva shows his mastery (vaśita), skillfulness (upāya) and power (bala): this is what is called the faculty of wisdom (jñānendriya).

Footnotes and references:


Common canonical locutions: cf. Majjhima, I, p. 59.


These are the three categories of beings (sattvarāśi): 1) samyaktvaniyatarāśi, those who have entered onto the Path and will quickly reach nirvāṇa; 2) mithyāniyatarāśi, those who, having committed grave sins, will definitely go to the bad destinies and who, coming out of these bad destinies, will go into the third rāśi; 3) aniyatarāśi, those who do not belong to either the first or the second rāśi and may enter either the first or the second.

These three rāśi are mentioned in Dīgha, III, p. 217; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 13, p. 614b24; k. 27, p. 698c; Kathāvatthu, II, p. 611; Dhammasaṅgani, p. 186; Nettippakaraṇa, p. 96; Mahāvastu, III, p. 318; Lalitavistara, p. 5400; Pañcaviṃśati, T 223, k. 23, p. 384a26–27.

According to the Sukhāvativyūha, p. 44, the last two rāśi are absent in Amitābha’s paradise.

In the later sources, the system of the rāśi is mixed with that of the gotras ‘race, family’; certain eternal or acquired mental dispositions that cause a person to obtain nirvāṇa: on this subject, see Vimalakīrti, appendix, p. 425–430.


On the ‘burden’, see above, p. 215–216F.

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