Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “example of the master-archer” 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.

Appendix 1 - The example of the master-archer

Note: This appendix is extracted from the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra Chapter XXXI part 1:

Thus the Buddha said:

“It is like [an archer] who, raising his head, shoots his arrows into the air: the arrows support each other so that they do not fall to earth. In the same way, the bodhisattva, taking the arrow of the Prajñāpāramitā, shoots it into the air at the three gates of deliverance; then, taking the arrow of skillful means, he shoots it at the arrow of Prajñā so that it does not fall on the ground of nirvāṇa.”

Aṣṭasāhasrikā, p. 374 (ed. U. Wogihara, p. 755): Tadyathāpi sāma Subhūte balavān iṣvastrācārya iṣvastraśikṣikṣāyāṃ suśikṣitaḥ supariniṣṭhitaḥ. sa ūrdhvaṃ kāṇḍaṃ kṣiped ūrdhvaṃ kāṇḍaṃ kṣiptvā tadanyaiḥ kāṇḍais tat kāṇḍaṃ bhūman patat pratinivārayed vārayet, tasya paurvakasya kāṇḍasya kāṇḍaparamparayā bhūmau patanaṃ na dadyāt. tāvat tat kāṇḍaṃ bhūmau na patet yāvan nākāṅkṣed aho batedaṃ kāṇḍaṃ bhūmau pated iti. evam eva Subhūte bodisattvo mahāsattvaḥ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ carann upāyakauśalyaparigṛhītas tāvat tāṃ paramāṃ bhūtakoṭiṃ na sākṣātkaroti yāvan na tāni kuśalamūlāny anuttarāyāṃ samyaksaṃbodhau paripakvāni suparipakvāni. yadā tāni kuśalamūlāny anuttarāyāṃ samyaksaṃbodhau paripakvāni bhavanti suparipakvāni, tadā tāṃ paramāṃ bhūtakotiṃ sākṣātkaroti.

Transl. –

“It is, O Subhūti, as if a powerful master archer, well practiced and well versed in the practice of shooting the bow, shot an arrow into the air and, having shot one arrow into the air prevented, by means of other arrows, this arrow from falling to the ground, by means of a series of arrows, prevented the first arrow from falling to the ground: this first arrow would not fall to the ground as long as the master archer did not consent to its falling to the ground. In the same way, O Subhūti, the bodhisattva-mahāsattva, progressing in the perfection of wisdom and endowed with skillful means, does not realize the supreme summit of the real (i.e., nirvāṇa) as long as these roots of good are not ripe, are not indeed ripened by supreme complete enlightenment. But when these roots of good are ripe, are indeed ripened for supreme complete enlightenment, then he realizes this supreme summit of the real.”

The example of the master-archer appears in every version of the Prajñā: Aṣṭasāhasrikā T 224, k. 7, p. 458c16; T 225, k. 4,p. 497c10; T 226, k. 5, p. 531c11; T 227, k. 7, p. 560a16; T 228, k. 18, p. 649c8; Pañcaviṃśati, T 221, k. 14, p. 94c21; T 223, k. 18, p. 350c3; T 220, t. VII, k. 452, p. 281a9; Aṣṭādaśa, T 220, t. VII, k. 517, p. 646c19.

The same example is summed up in the Ratnaguṇasaṃcaya, XX, 9–10, p. 74, as follows:

Iṣvastraśita yathā puruṣordha kāṇḍaṃ
kṣepitva anya puna kāṇḍaparaṃpareṇa |
patanāya tasya purimasya na deya bhūmiṃ
ākāṅkṣamāṇa puruṣasya pataye kāṇḍaṃ ||

Evam eva prajñāvarapāramitāṃ caranto
prajñā-upāyabalaṛddhivicāramāṇo |
tāvan na tāṃ paramaśūnyata prāpuṇotī
yāvan na te kuśalamūla bhavanti pūrnāḥ ||

Transl. –

“It is as if a man practiced in shooting the bow shot an arrow into the air and then, by means of a series of other arrows, did not allow the first arrow to fall: but if the man so wished, the arrow could fall. In the same way, the person who practices wisdom, the best perfection, and who practices wisdom and skillful means, the strengths and magic, would not take this supreme emptiness as long as these roots of good are not fulfilled.”

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