Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “five bad ways of livelihood (mithyajiva)” 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.

The five bad ways of livelihood (mithyājīva)

Question. – What are the five bad ways of livelihood (mithyājīva)? Answer. –

a. Out of love for profit (lāhalobha), to manifest all kinds of wonders (āścarya) by cheating (kuhāna).

b. Out of love for profit, to boast about one’s own qualities (svaguṇalapanā).

c. Out of love for profit, to predict good luck (svasti) or bad luck (asvasti) to people.

d. Out of love for profit, to proclaim loudly (uccais) one’s own power (prabhāva) in order to frighten people and make them respect oneself.

e. Out of love for profit, to speak of offerings already obtained (labdhapūjā) in order to encourage [other] people [to give in their turn].

Notes on the five bad ways of livelihood:

The five bad ways of livelihood are formulated in sybilline terms which have severely tested the wisdom of translators. Besides, the texts show many variations:

a. Pāli sources.

Majjhima, III, p. 75: Katamo ca bhikkhave micchā-ājīvo. Kuhanā, lapanā, nemittakatā, nippesikatā, lābhena lābhaṃ nijigiṃsanatā. – Transl. I. B. Horner, Middle Length Sayings, III, p. 118: ‘Trickery, cajolery, insinuating, dissembling, rapacity for gain upon gain’. Scholarly notes justify this translation.

Dīgha, I, p. 8, 67; Anguttara, III, p. 111: Kuhakā ca honti, lapakā ca, nemittikā ca, nippesikā ca, lābhena ca lābhaṃ nijigiṃsitaro iti. – Transl. L. Renou, Canon bouddhique pāli, vol. I, fasc. 1, 1949, p. 8: ‘They become swindlers, boasters, soothsayers, jugglers, seeking to gain profit upon profit.’

The Pāli commentaries pile synonym upon synonym and are not of much help: cf. Vibhaṅga, p. 352–353 (reproduced in Visuddhimagga, ed. Warren, p. 19); Sumaṅgalavilāsinī, I, p. 91–92: Papañcasūdanī, IV, p. 134; Manorathapūraṇī, III, p. 273, 412.

b. Sanskrit sources.

Kośavyākhyā, p. 420: 1) kuhanā, 2) lapanā, 3) naimittikatā, 4) naiṣpeṣitā, 5) lābhena lābhaniścikīrṣā.

Bodh. bhūmi, p.168: 1) kuhanā, 2) lapanā, 3) naimittikā, 4) naiṣpeṣikatā, 5) lābhena lābhaṃ niścikīrṣutā.

Abhidharmadīpa, p. 309: 1) kuhanā, 2) lapanā, 3) naimittikatā, 4) naiṣpeṣikatā, 5) lābhena lābhasya niścikīrṣatā.

Mahāvyut., no. 2493–97: 1) kuhanā = ṅan pa, 2. lapanā = kha = gsag, 3. naiṣpeṣikatva = thob kyis ḥjal ba, thob ciṅ ḥjal ba, 4) naimittikatva = gzhog sloṅ, 5) lābhena lābhaniṣpādanatā = rñed pas rñed pa sgrub pa. – For the Chinesse translations, see Hiuan-tsang (T 1579, k. 41, p. 518a7), preferable to the translations adopted by the editions of the Mahāvyutpatti.

In the Lexikalisches annexed to his edition of the Bodh. bhūmi, p. 21–26, U. Wogihara has succeeded in defining the meaning of these five expressions. Edgerton’s Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary (p. 189, 461, 312, 313, 462) is mainly inspired by Wogihara.

The explanations given here by the Traité may be found mainly in the Abhidharmadīpa, p. 310: Abhūtaguṇadarśanārtham īryāpathavikalpakṛe caittaviśeṣaḥ kuhanā. Lābhārtham eva guṇapriyalapanakṛl lapanā. Upakaraṇārthitvanimittadarśanakṛc caittaviśeṣo naimittikatā. Paraguṇavad doṣavacananiṣpeṣaṇakṛd eva caitasiko naiṣpeṣikatā. Labdhalābhakhyāpanenānyalābhaniścikīrṣaṇatā lābhena lābhasya niścikīrṣatā.

The five bad ways of livelihood are thus special mental evenrs (caittaviśeṣa). Kuhanā, cheating, resorts to various attitudes to show qualities that one does not have. Lapanā, boasting, consists of praising one’s own qualities towards one’s own interest. Naimittikatā, divination, under pretext of rendering service, to interpret favorable or unfavorable signs. Naiṣpeṣikatā, extortion, to snatch a favor by means of threats. Lābhena lābhaniścikīrṣatā, to try to grab new profit by virtue of a profit previously won.

Footnotes and references:


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.