Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the seven factors of enlightenment” 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.

Mahāyāna auxiliaries (F): The seven factors of enlightenment

Here are the seven factors of enlightenment (saṃbodhyaṅga):

1. The bodhisattva no longer thinks about or reflects on any dharma: this is the factor of enlightenment called attentiveness (smṛtisaṃbodhyaṅga).

2. Looking among the dharmas for good (kuśala), bad (akuśala) or neutral dharmas (avyākṛta), the bodhisattva finds nothing: this is the factor of enlightenment called discernment of dharmas (dharmapravicayasaṃbodhyaṅga).

3. Without entering into the threefold world (traidhātuka), the bodhisattva reduces the characteristic traits (lakṣaṇa) of all worlds into pieces: this is the factor of enlightenment called exertion (vīryasaṃbodhyaṅga).

4. In regard to all the formations (saṃskāra), the bodhisattva produces no attachment (abhiniveśa) or pleasure (sukha) and, as all signs of grief (daurmanasya) and joy (prīti) have been overcome in him, this is the factor of enlightenment called joy (prītisaṃbodhyaṅga).

5. In all dharmas, there is nothing but an object of mind (cittālambana): this is the factor of enlightenment called relaxation (praśrabdhisaṃbodhyaṅga).

6. The bodhisattva knows that all dharmas, which have as their characteristic being always concentrated (sadāsamāhita), are not [sometimes] scattered (vikṣipta) and [sometimes] concentrated (samāhita): this is the factor of enlightenment called concentration (samādhisaṃbodhyaṅga).

7. The bodhisattva is not attached to any dharma (na dharmam abhiniviśate), does not rest there (nāśrayate) and no longer sees them (na paśyati): this mind of equanimity (upekṣacitta) is the factor of enlightenment called equanimity (upekṣāsaṃbodhyaṅga).

This is how the bodhisattva considers the seven factors of enlightenment as empty (śūnya).

Question. – Why explain these seven factors of enlightenment so briefly (saṃkṣepeṇa)?

Answer. – Of these seven factors of enlightenment, [four, namely] attentiveness (smṛti), wisdom (prajñā), exertion (vīrya) and concentration (samādhi) have been fully explained above (p. 1149F). Now we must speak of the three others.

1. The bodhisattva who practices the factor of enlightenment called joy (prītisaṃbodhyaṅga) considers this joy as unreal (abhūta). Why? This joy arises from causes and conditions (hetupratyayaja). These are the formations (saṃskāra), conditioned dharmas (read: yeou tso fa: saṃskṛtadharma), impermanent (anitya) dharmas that produce (read cheng in place of k’o) attachment (abhiniveśa). But if the thing that produces attachment is impermanent (anityalakṣaṇa), once it has disappeared, it arouses grief (daurmanasya). Worldly people (pṛthagjana) are attached to it out of error (viparyāsa), but if they know that dharmas ar empty of reality (tattvaśūnya), they correct themselves at once and say: “I made a mistake (bhranti).”

It is like a man in the darkness (andhakāra) tormented by hunger and thirst (kṣutpipāsāpīḍita) who has swallowed impure things; then, by the light of day, he re-examines the things and finally understands his mistake.

Considering things in this way, the bodhisattva puts his joy (prīti) into real wisdom (bhūtaprajñā): this is true joy (bhūtaprīti).

2. Having acquired this true joy, first he eliminates unwholesome physical states (kāyadauṣṭhulya), then he eliminates unwholesome mental states (cittadauṣṭhulya), and finally he eliminates all characteristics of dharmas (dharmalakṣaṇa). Thus he acquires well-being that fills the body and the mind and that constitutes the factor of enlightenment called relaxation (praśrabdhisaṃbodhyaṅga).

3. Since he has attained joy (prīti) and relaxation (praśrabdhi), he disregards any form of examination (anupaśyanā), namely, examination of impermanence (anityānupaśyanā), examination of suffering (duḥkhānupaśyanā), examination of emptiness and non-self (śūnyānāmānupaśyanā), examination of arising and cessation (utpādanirodhānupaśyanā), examination of existence (sadanupaśyanā), examination of non-existence (asadanupaśyanā), examination of what is neither existence nor non-existence (naivasannāsadanupaśyanā). The bodhisattva abandons all futile proliferation (prapañca) of this kind completely. Why? Because absence of nature, absence of object, non-activity, absence of futile discursiveness, perpetual pacification are the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of dharmas.

If the bodhisattva did not practice this equanimity (upekṣā), there would still be arguments (raṇa). Indeed, those who hold the existent (sat) to be true consider the non-existent to be false (moha); those who hold the non-existent (asat) to be true consider the existent (sat) to be false; and those who hold to be true what is neither existent nor non-existent (naivasannāsat) consider as false that which is both existent and non-existent (sadasat). They like what they believe to be true (satya), they hate what they believe to be false (moha), and this gives rise to grief (daurmanasya) and joy (prīti). Why not disregard all that?

When the bodhisattva has attained this [real] joy (prīti), this relaxation (praśrabdhi) and this equanimity (upekṣā), the seven factors of enlightenment are complete (paripūrṇa).