Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “impermanence of the mind (cittanityata)” 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 4 - The impermanence of the mind (cittānityatā)

Note: This appendix is extracted from the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra Chapter XXXI (The Four Foundations of Mindfulness):

“Among the conditioned dharmas, the impermanence of the mind (cittānityatā) is very easy to detect. Thus the Buddha said: ‘Sometimes worldly people recognize the impermanence of the body (kāyānityatā) but do not recognize the impermanence of the mind (cittānityatā). Some worldly people say that the body is eternal, but the mistake that holds the mind to be eternal is even more fatal. Why? It may be that the body will last for ten years or twenty years, whereas the mind, night and day, disappears each moment, arising as one thing, perishing as another, without stopping for a single moment. On the point of arising, it is born one thing; on the point of perishing, it dies another thing’.”.

Beginning of the Markaṭasūtra of the Samyukta (Nidānasaṃyukta, p. 115–120; Tsa a han, T 99, no. 289, k. 12, p. 81c), entitled Assutavato in the Saṃyutta, II, p. 94–95:

Translation of the Sanskrit:

1. A foolish and unlearned worldly person, O monks, can indeed become disgusted with it, detached from it, and liberated from the body formed of the four great elements.

2. Why? We notice, O monks, that this body formed by the four great elements gets bigger, gets smaller, is taken and rejected. [This is why one can become disgusted with it.]

3. But in regard to the ‘mind’, or the ‘consciousness’, the foolish and unlearned worldly person is incapable of becoming disgusted with it and liberated from it.

4. Why? During the long night [of saṃsāra], this [mind] has been cared for, guarded, assimilated, espoused, adopted by the foolish unlearned worldly person, who says to himself: “It belongs to me, it is me, it is my self.”

This is why the foolish unlearned worldly person is incapable of becoming disgusted with it, detached from it, liberated from it..

5. And moreover, O monks, it would be preferable that the foolish unlearned worldly person considers as his self the body formed by the four great elements rather than the consciousness.

6. Why? We notice that the body formed by the four great elements, when it is maintained [in health], lasts for ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred years, or even a little longer.

7. On the contrary, what is called ‘mind’, ‘consciousness’, over the days and nights, in the course of instants, moments and hours, appears in many different aspects: when it arises, it is [already] another mind that is born, when it disappears, it is another mind that is destroyed.

8. It is like a monkey who grasps a branch of a tree and, having let go of it, grasps another. In the same way, what is called ‘mind’ or ‘consciousness’, over the course of nights and days, etc., as before up to ‘when it is disappears, it is another that is destroyed.’