Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “aspects of the immeasurables (apramana)” 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.

II. Aspects of the immeasurables (apramāṇa)

1. Loving-kindness, compassion and joy

Question. – What are the aspects (ākāra) of these four immeasurables (apramāṇa)?

Answer. – As the Buddha said everywhere in the sūtras: “With a mind associated with loving-kindness (maitrīsahagatena cittena), free of enmity (avaireṇa), free of hostility (anupanāhena), free of rivalry (asapatnena), free of malice (avyāvadhyena), extended (vipulena), expanded (mahadgatena), immense (apramāṇena) and well cultivated (subhāvitena), the bhikṣu intentionally includes in this mind of loving-kindness (maitrīcittenādhimucya spharati) the beings of universes in the eastern direction (pūrvā diś), then he intentionally includes in this mind of loving-kindness the beings of the universes of the ten directions: those of the south (dakṣiṇā), the west (paścimā), the north (uttarā), of the four intermediate directions (vidiś), of the zenith (upariṣṭāt) and the nadir (adhastāt). And in the same way, he includes them by means of a mind associated with compassion (karuṇāsahagatena), associated with joy (muditāsahagatena) and associated with equanimity (upekṣāsahagatena cittena).”[1]

a. maitrīsahagatena cittena.

“With a mind associated with loving-kindness.” – Maitrī is a mental event (caitasika dharma) capable of counteracting the corruptions (kaṣāya) contained in the mind, namely, hatred (dveṣa), hostility (upanāha), avarice (mātsarya), lust (rāga), and the other passions (kleśa). Thus, when the purifying pearl (maṇi) is placed in dirty water, it becomes clear.

b. avaireṇānupanāhena cittena.

“With a mind free of enmity and free of hostility.” – Let us suppose that, with or without reason, one hates someone. If one wants to insult him, curse him, strike him or rob him, this is enmity (vaira), If one waits for the proper moment and, given the chance, one torments him with all one’s strength, this is hostility (upanāha). Since maitrī counteracts both these things, it is said to be free of enmity and hostility.[2]

c. asapatnenābyāvadhyena cittena.

“With a mind free of rivalry and free of malice.” – Hostility (upanāha) is rivalry (sapatnatā). The first offensive movement (āghāta) is of hostility (upanāha). In time, hostility becomes rivalry (sapatnatā). When one inflicts torment (vyābādha) by means of physical and vocal actions (kāyavākkarman), this is malice (vyāvadhya).

Furthermore, the fetter ‘hostility’ (pratighasaṃyojana) is called enmity (vaira). When enmity increases, is prolonged and becomes attached to but not yet fixed (niyata) in the mind, it takes the name of hostility (upanāha) and also rivalry (sapatnatā). When the mind is determined and no longer has any scruples, this is called malice (vyāvadhya).[3]

Because the power of maitrīcitta rejects, abandons and leaves behind these three things, it is said to be ‘free of enmity, free of hostility, free of rivalry and free of malice’. The Buddha praised maitrīcitta in regard to this fourfold exemption.[4]

All beings fear suffering and are attached to happiness. Enmity is cause and condition for suffering, and maitrī is cause and condition for happiness. Beings who hear it said that this concentration of loving-kindness (maitrīsamādhi) can chase away suffering and bring happiness become mindful (smṛtimat), brave (ātāpin) and full of energy (vīryavat) to practice this meditative stabilization, and this is why they are ‘without enmity, without hostility, without rivalry and without malice.’

d. vipulena, mahadgatenāpramāṇena cittena.

“With a vast, expanded, immense mind”.[5] – This mind is single, but as its magnitude differs, there are three attributive adjectives used.

This mind is vast (vipula) when it includes one single region, extended [209b] (mahadgata) when it goes far and high, immense (apramāṇa) when it includes the nadir (adhastād diś) and the other nine regions.

Furthermore, if it is low (avara), maitrī is called vast (vipula); middling (madhya), it is called extended (mahadgata); higher (agra), it is called immense (apramāṇa).

Furthermore, if it bears upon the beings of the four main directions (diś), maitrī is called vast (vipula); if it bears upon the beings of the four intermediate directions (vidiś), it is said to be extended (mahadgata); if it bears upon the beings of the zenith and the nadir, It is said to be immense (apramāṇa).

Furthermore, if it destroys[6] the minds of enmity (vairacitta), maitrī is called vast (vipula); if it destroys the minds of rivalry (sapatnacitta), it is called extended (mahadgata); if it destroys the minds of malice (vyāvadhyacitta) it is called immense (apramāṇa).

Furthermore, all the defiled minds (kliṣṭajñāna) cultivated by vile individuals giving rise to evil things are called vile (hīna). The most vile of them are enmity (vaira), rivalry (sapatnatā) and malice (vyāvadhya). Since maitrī destroys these vile minds, it is called vast (vipula), extended (mahadgata) and immense (apramāṇa). Why? Because great causes and conditions are necessary to destroy vile things. The ‘vast’ mind (vipulacitta) that fears sin (āpatti), that fears falling into hell, eliminates the bad dharmas from the mind; the ‘extended’ mind (mahadgatacitta) that believes in the retribution of merits (puṇyavipāka) eliminates the bad thoughts; the ‘immense’ mind (apramāṇacitta) that wants to attain nirvāṇa eliminates the bad thoughts.

Furthermore, when the yogin observes the purity of the discipline (śīlaviśuddhi), this is a ‘vast’ mind; when he is endowed with trance and absorption (dhyānasamāpattisaṃpanna), this is an ‘extended’ mind ; when he is endowed with wisdom (prajñāsaṃpanna), this is an ‘immense’ mind.

When the yogin, by means of this mind of loving-kindness (maitrīcitta), thinks about the noble people (āryapudgala) who have found the Path, this is an ‘immense’ mind because he is using immense means to distinguish these noble people. When he thinks about the noble abodes (āvāsa) of gods and men, this is an ‘extended’ mind. When he thinks about lower beings (hīnasattva) and the three unfortunate (durgati) destinies, this is a ‘vast’ mind.

When he thinks with loving-kindness about a being that is dear to him (priyasattva) and he extends this thought [to all dear beings], this is a ‘vast’ mind. When he thinks with loving-kindness about people who are indifferent to him (madhyastha puruṣa), this is an ‘extended’ mind. When he thinks with loving-kindness about his enemies (vaira) and thus his merits (guṇa) are many, this is an ‘immense’ mind.[7]

The mind that bears upon a limited object is called ‘vast’; that which bears upon a small object is called ‘extended’; that which bears upon immensity is called ‘immense’.

This is the meaning of these distinctions.

e. subhāvitena cittena.

By a ‘well-cultivated’ mind is meant a strong (dṛḍha) mind of loving-kindness (maitrīcitta). The mind is not yet ‘well-cultivated’ when one is just beginning to acquire it. In order that it be ‘well-cultivated’, it is not enough to practice it just toward fond people, or toward good people, or toward those who do good to us, or toward beings of a single direction; following long practice, it is necessary to acquire deep affection for and love equally and without any difference the three types of beings, friends (priyapudgala), enemies (vairipudgala) and neutrals (madhyastha), to look upon beings in the five destinies (pañcagati) and the ten directions with the same loving-kindness as one regards one’s mother, father, older brother, younger brother, older sister, younger sister, one’s son, nephew, one’s friend; one should always look for good things to procure their welfare (hita) and safety (yogakṣema); finally, one should include the beings of the ten directions in this loving-kindness.

2. The three kinds of loving-kindness[225]

1) The mind of loving-kindness (maitrīcitta) of which we have just spoken is that which has beings as object (sattvālambana). It is found mainly among worldly people (pṛthagjana) practicing the trances or in adepts on the path of practice (śaikṣa) who have not yet destroyed the impurities (akṣīṇasrava).

2) There are those who practice a loving-kindness that has things as object (dharmālambana); these are the arhats who have destroyed the impurities [209c] (kṣīṇāsrava), the pratyekabuddhas and the Buddhas. Having destroyed the concept of self (ātmasaṃjñā) and eliminated notions of identity and difference (ekatvānyatvasaṃjñā), these holy individuals (āryapudgala) consider only the objects of enjoyment (kāmaguṇa) continually (prābandika) coming from causes and conditions (hetupratyaya). When they think about beings with loving-kindness, they think only of the emptiness (śūnya) coming continually from causes and conditions together. The ‘being’ is the five [empty] skandhas. When they think with loving-kindness, they are thinking about these five skandhas. But beings themselves ignore this emptiness of things (dharmaśūnyatā) and, with their whole heart, always want to find happiness (sukha). The holy individuals (āryapudgala) of whom we are speaking take pity on them and make them find happiness as they wish, but only from the conventional point of view (saṃvṛtitas). This is what is called loving-kindness having things as object (dharmālambana).

3) As for the loving-kindness that has no object (anālambana), this is the one that only the Buddhas possess. Why? The mind of the Buddhas does not rest on the conditioned (saṃskṛta) or on the unconditioned (asaṃskṛta); it does not rest on the past (atīta), the future (anāgata) or the present (pratyutpanna). The Buddhas know that all objects (ālambana) are not real, are erroneous and deceptive: this is why their mind is without object (anālamabana). Beings do not know the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of things; they wander through the five destinies (pañcagati), their minds are attached (abhiniviśate) to things, they make distinctions, take [certain things] and reject other things. And so the Buddhas use the wisdom (prajñā) of the true nature of things and make beings obtain it: this is the loving-kindness ‘without object’.

It is as if one gave material (vasu) objects to a needy person (daridra), precious things of gold or silver (suvarṇarūpyamayaratnadravya) and [finally] the precious wish-fulfilling gem: it is the same for the loving-kindness that has beings as object, the loving-kindness that has things as object and the loving-kindness without object, respectively.[8]

This briefly (saṃkṣepeṇa) defines the meaning of the mind of loving-kindness. It is the same for the mind of compassion (karuṇācitta): the ascetic includes with compassion the suffering of beings of the ten directions and reflects as follows: “Beings are in misery; they should not endure all these sufferings.” Then “with a mind free of enmity (avaira), free of hostility (anupanāha), free of rivalry (asapatna), free of malice (avyāvadhya),” etc., “he includes the ten directions.”

3. The subjective nature of loving-kindness

Question. – There are three kinds of beings: i) those who experience happiness (sukhita), such as the gods and a small portion of humans (manuṣyāṇāṃ prabheda); ii) those who undergo suffering (duḥkhita), such as the beings of the three unfortunate destinies (durgati) and a small portion of humans; iii) those who experience neither suffering nor happiness (aduḥkhāsukhita), such as a small portion of beings in the five destinies. How do those who practice loving-kindness see all beings as experiencing happiness, and those who practice compassion see all beings as undergoing suffering?

Answer. – When the yogin wants to use the infinite feeling of loving-kindness, first he makes the following vow (praṇidhāna): “I wish that beings may experience all kinds of happiness.”[9] Having in this way grasped (udgṛhya) the character of the happy man (sukhitanimitta), he concentrates his mind (cittaṃ pragṛhṇāti) and enters into dhyāna. This nature increases gradually (krameṇa vardhate) and then the yogin sees all beings as experiencing happiness.

Thus, when one is making fire by friction (mathana), first the flame takes fire on the soft grass (mṛdutṛṇa) and dried cow dung (śuṣkagomaya) and, as the strength of the fire increases, it is able to consume big pieces of moist wood (sasnehakāṣṭha).[10] It is the same for the concentration of loving-kindness (maitrīsamādhi): at the beginning, when one make the vows for loving-kindness (maitrīpraṃidhāna [maitrīpraṇidhāna?]), one applies them only to one’s friends (mitra); but when the mind of loving-kindness has grown, enemies (amitra) and relatives (bandhu) become mixed up and one sees them all as experiencing happiness: this is because the dhyānas or samāpattis of loving-kindness have grown (vardhita) and are becoming complete (saṃpanna).

It is the same for the minds of compassion (karuṇā), joy (muditā) and equanimity (upekṣā).

4. Object and merit of equanimity

Question. – In the course of the mind of compassion (karuṇācitta), one takes hold of the character of the unhappy man (duḥkhanimittam udgṛhṇāti); in the course of the mind of joy (muditā) one takes hold of the character of the joyful man (muditānimitta. What character does one take hold of in the course of the mind of equanimity (upekṣanimitta)? [210a]

Answer. – One takes hold of the character of the neither unhappy nor happy man (aduḥkhāsukhita). When this mind has increased gradually, the yogin sees the entire world as being neither unhappy nor happy.

Question. – The first three minds – loving-kindness, compassion and joy – are certainly meritorious (puṇya). But what benefit (arthakriyā) can there be in the mind of equanimity bearing on beings who are neither unhappy nor happy?

Answer. – The yogin thinks thus: “When they lose their happiness (sukha), beings encounter suffering (duḥkha), and in the time of suffering, they are unhappy (duḥkhita). Finding a state without either suffering or happiness would be safety for them (yogakṣema).” This is how [the mind of equanimity] presents a benefit (arthakriyā).[11]

When the yogin practices the minds of loving-kindness (maitrī) and joy, it may happen that a feeling of attachment (abhiṣvaṅgacitta) arises in him; when he practices the mind of compassion (karuṇā), it may happens that a feeling of sadness (daurmansayacitta) arises in him. His mind is distracted (vikṣipta) by this attachment or this sadness. Then he enters into the mind of equanimity (upekṣacitta) and drives away (apanayati) this attachment and this sadness. Since attachment and sadness are eliminated, there is a ‘mind of equanimity’.

5. Differences between loving-kindness and joy

Question. – We can ascertain the differences (viśeṣa) that exist between the mind of compassion (karuṇācitta) and the mind of equanimity (upekṣacitta). [But the differences are less evident between the other two.] The mind of loving-kindness (maitrīcitta) wishes that all beings be happy (sukhita) and the mind of joy (muditācitta) wishes that all beings be joyful (muditā). What difference is there between happiness (sukha) and joy (muditā)?

Answer. – Happiness is bodily happiness (kāyika sukha); joy is mental happiness (caitasika sukha).

We call happiness the happiness associated with the first five consciousnesses (pañcavijñānasaṃprayutasukha);[12] we call joy the happiness associated with the mental consciousness (manovijñānasaṃprayuktasukha).

We call happiness the happiness that arises in regard to the first five [external] bases of consciousness (pañcāyatana);[13] we call joy the happiness that arises in regard to the base made up of mental objects (dharmāyatana).

First the yogin formulates vows of happiness (sukhapraṇidhāna) that beings find this happiness and that, after this happiness, they find joy (muditā). Thus, when someone has pity on a needy person, first he gives him a precious thing (ratnadravya): that is ‘happiness’; next, he invites the poor person to trade it for money so that he can enjoy the five objects of enjoyment (pañcakāmaguṇa): that is ‘joy’.

Furthermore, we call happiness the happiness of the desire realm (kāmadhātusukha) which one is wishing for beings; we call joy the happiness of the form realm (rūpadhātusukha) which one is wishing for beings.

Furthermore, we call happiness: i) the happiness associated with the five consciousnesses (pañcavijñānasaṃprayuktasukha) in the desire realm (kāmadhātu); ii) the happiness associated with the three consciousnesses (trivijñānasaṃprayuktasukha) in the first dhyāna; iii) all the happiness in the third dhyāna.[14] – We call joy: i) the happiness associated with the mental consciousness (manovijñānasaṃprayuktasukha) in the desire realm (kāmadhātu) and the first dhyāna; ii) all the happiness in the second dhyāna.

We call happiness coarse (audārika) happiness; we call joy subtle (sūkṣma) happiness.

‘Happiness’ refers to the time of the cause (hetukāla); ‘joy’ refers to the time of the fruit (phalakāla). When one is beginning to find happiness, that is called ‘happiness’; when the joyful mind arises within (adhyātman) and the signs of happiness appear outwardly (bahīrdā) by way of singing, dancing and leaping about, that is called ‘joy’. Thus when one starts to swallow a medicine (bhaiṣajya), it is happiness, but when the medicine has penetrated the whole body, that is joy.

Question. – If that is so, why not combine these two minds into one single immeasurable (apramāṇa)? Why, on the contrary, distinguish two different things?

Answer. – At the start, the yogin’s mind is not concentrated (pragṛhīta) and as he cannot love beings deeply, that gives him happiness only; but when he has concentrated his mind and loves beings deeply, that gives him joy. This is why he is first happy and, only after that, is he joyful.

Question. – If that is so, why does [the sūtra][15] not mention loving-kindness (maitrī) and joy (muditā) one after the other [but interposes compassion]?

Answer. – When the mind of loving-kindness is being practiced, one loves beings as one’s son and one wishes to bring them happiness. But having emerged from the concentration of loving-kindness, one sees beings undergoing all kinds of suffering. Then, producing a mind of deep love, one has compassion for [210b] beings and makes them obtain deep happiness.[16]

Just as parents who love their son at all times, nevertheless redouble their affection for him when he falls sick, so the bodhisattvas who have entered into minds of compassion (karuṇācitta), considering the sufferings of beings, develop a feeling of pity (anukampācitta) and grant them profound happiness. This is why the mind of compassion takes an intermediate place [between the mind of loving-kindness and the mind of joy].

6. Reasons for practicing equanimity

Question. – If one loves beings so deeply, why practice the mind of equanimity (upekṣācitta) in addition?

Answer. – The yogin sees things in the following way: he never abandons beings and he thinks only of abandoning the three minds [of loving-kindness, compassion and joy]. Why? First of all, to put an end to other dharmas.[17]

Then, by the mind of loving-kindness (maitrīcitta), he wished that beings be happy, but he did not succeed in making them happy. By the mind of compassion (karuṇācitta), he wished that beings could escape from suffering, but he did not succeed in making them free of suffering. When he practiced the mind of joy (muditācitta) he did not succeed in causing them to experience great joy either. All of that was mere mental activity (manakāra) without any real reality (bhūtārtha). And so, wishing to make beings find the real truth, the yogin makes the resolve (cittam utpādayate) to become Buddha. He practices the six perfections (pāramitā) and perfects within himself the attributes of Buddha so that beings may find true happiness. This is why the yogin abandons the three minds [of loving-kindness, compassion and joy] so as to enter into the mind of equanimity (upekṣacitta).[18]

Finally, the minds of loving-kindness, compassion and joy are minds of love so deep that it is hard to abandon beings. [On the other hand], if one enters into the mind of equanimity, it is easy to separate from them.

7. Limit to the salvific action of the immeasurables

Question. – The bodhisattva, who has finally become Buddha after having practiced the six perfections cannot do anything further so that beings may escape from suffering and find happiness. Then why do you limit yourself to saying that the three minds [of loving-kindness, compassion and joy] are mental activity arising in the mind and without any real truth? [Why not say that also of the mind of equanimity]?

Answer. – It is true that the bodhisattva, having become Buddha, cannot do anything to make beings find happiness, but when he is still bodhisattva, he makes the great vows (mahāpraṇidhānāny utpādayati); as a result of these great vows, he gains great merit (mahāpuṇya) and, as the reward of this great merit, he is able to do great good for worldly people (pṛthagjana).

When the śrāvakas practice the four immeasurables (apramāṇa), it is to tame themselves (ātmadamanāya), for their own welfare (svahitāya), and they think about beings in vain.[19] The bodhisattvas, however, practice the mind of loving-kindness so that beings may escape from suffering and find happiness. As a result of this mind of loving-kindness, they themselves gain merit and teach others how to gain merit. Gathering the ripened fruits (vipākaphala) of their merit, these bodhisattvas sometimes become noble cakravartin kings, rich in kind deeds; sometimes also they leave home (pravrajanti), practice the dhyānas, guide beings and teach them how to practice the dhyānas to be reborn in pure universes (śuddhalokadhātu) and there enjoy the happiness. Finally, when they become Buddha, they enter into nirvāṇa without residue (nirupadhiśeṣanirvāṇa) with immeasurable and incalculable beings (apramāṇāsaṃkhyeyasattva). Compared to the mind of emptiness (śūnyatācitta), their vows (praṇidhāna) are much more salutary, and still other things, including their relics (śarīra), are very beneficial.

Furthermore, if a single bodhisattva completely saved all beings, the other bodhisattvas would have no one to save. From then on, there would be no more future (anāgate) Buddhas, the lineage of the Buddhas (buddhavaṃśa) would be interrupted (samucchinna) and other faults of the same kind would ensue. This [210c] is why a single Buddha does not save all beings without exception.

Finally, what is called the nature of beings (sattvasvabhāva) is only a product of error (mohaja): it is not a real thing (bhūta) nor is it determinate (niyata). If all the Buddhas of the three times and the ten directions went to look for a being, they would find none. Then how would they save all completely?

8. Is the idea of salvation is purely conventional?

Question. – If [the beings] who are empty [of intrinsic nature] cannot all be saved (trāta), a small number of beings will be equally empty. Then how do [the Buddhas] save a small number of them?

Answer. – I have just said that if the Buddhas of the three times and the ten directions went to look for beings, they would find not a single one and, consequently, that there is no one to save. If you object: “Why do they not save them all?”, you fall into a questionable position (nigrahasthāna), a position from which you cannot extricate yourself. And if you object: “Since the categories of few and many do not apply to beings, how could the Buddhas save a small number of them?”, you fall into an even more questionable position.

Furthermore, from the absolute point of view (paramārtha), the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of things, there are no beings (sattva) and there is no salvation (trāṇa). It is merely conventionally that we affirm the existence of salvation. As for you, you seek the absolute (paramārtha) in the conventional (saṃvṛti), which is inadmissible (nopapadyate). It is as if you were looking for a precious pearl (maṇiratna) in a brick or a stone: never would you find it there.

Furthermore, all the qualities acquired by the Buddhas in the interval of time between their first production of the mind of awakening (prathamacittotpāda) until the disappearance of the Holy Dharma (saddharmavipralopa), all these qualities are formations (saṃskāra), limited (saparyanta), measurable (sapramāṇa), having a beginning (ādi) and an end (paryavasāna). This is why the number of beings to be converted (vaineyasattva) must also be measurable. It is not possible, with measurable qualities, fruits of retribution [of a given number] of causes and conditions, to completely save beings without number in their totality.

It is like a strong man (balavān puruṣaḥ): no matter how powerful his bow (dhanus) and no matter how far his arrow (iṣu) can fly, it will necessarily finally fall down. Or it is like the great fire (mahāgni) at the end of the kalpa (kalpasaṃvartana)[20] that burns the trisāhasralokadhātu: its brilliance (arcis) is immense, but although it burns for a long time, it is finally extinguished. It is the same for the bodhisattva become Buddha. From his first production of the mind of awakening, he holds the bow of exertion (vīryadhanus) in his hand, wields the arrow of wisdom (prajñeṣu), penetrates deeply into the Buddhadharma and accomplishes the great deeds of the Buddhas (buddhakārya), but he also must end up becoming extinguished. When the bodhisattva has won the knowledge of dharmas in all their aspects (sarvakārajñāna), his body emits rays (raśmi) that light up innumerable universes (apramāṇalokadhātu); each of these rays creates numberless bodies (apramāṇakāya) that save numberless beings (apramāṇasattva) in the ten directions by metamorphosis (nirmīte). After his nirvāṇa, the eighty-four thousand articles of the Dharma that he has taught (caturśītisahasra dharmaskandha) and his relics (śarīra) convert (paripācayanti) beings. But, like the fire at the end of the kalpa, having shone for a long time, he too must become extinguished.

Question. – You yourself say that these rays create innumerable bodies by metamorphosis that save the innumerable beings of the ten directions. Why did you sometimes say that, due to measurable causes and conditions, the number of beings to be converted should also be measurable?

Answer. – There are two kinds of immeasurable (apramāṇa):[21]

1) The true immeasurable (bhūtāpramāṇa) which cannot be measured by any holy individual (āryapudgala). Space (ākāśa), nirvāṇa and the true nature of being (sattvabhāva) cannot be measured [in any way].

2) Measurable things (prameyadhama) which only weak people are incapable of measuring; for example, the weight (gurutva) of Mount Sumeru, or the number of drops of water (bindu) in the great ocean (mahāsamudra). The Buddhas and bodhisattvas know these things, but they are unknown to gods and humans.

It is the same for the number of beings to be converted (vinītasattva) by [211a] the Buddhas; the Buddhas know it, but as it is not within your range, it is described as immeasurable.

Finally, dharmas, coming from causes and conditions (hetupratyayasāmagrī), have no intrinsic nature (niḥsvabhāva). Since their intrinsic nature does not exist, they are eternally empty (śūnya) and, in this eternal emptiness, the being does not exist (sattva nopalabhyate). Thus the Buddha said:

When I was seated on the sphere of enlightenment,[22]
My wisdom was non-existent.
Like the empty fist that deceives little children,[23]
I have saved the entire world.

The true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of things
Is the mark of beings (sattvanimitta).
But to seize the mark of beings
Is to stray far from the true Path.

Always thinking about the eternally empty,
A person does not follow the Path.
He invents imaginary characteristics
For dharmas that are without birth or cessation.

Imaginings, reflections, concepts
Are the net of Māra (mārajāla).
Not moving, not standing still
That is really the seal of the Dharma (dharmamudrā).

9. Differences between ‘happiness’ and ‘compassion’

Question. – If ‘happiness’ (sukha) is subdivided into two parts, the mind of loving-kindness (maitrīcitta) and the mind of joy (muditācitta), why is not the mind of compassion (karuṇācitta) that contemplates suffering (duhkha) considered to be of two parts?

Answer. – Happiness (sukha), loved by everyone, is important (guru); this is why it is divided into two parts, [loving-kindness and joy]. On the other hand, suffering (duḥkha), which nobody loves, which nobody commemorates, is not divided into two parts.

Furthermore, when happiness is experienced, the mind is soft (mṛdu); but when suffering is endured, the mind is hard (dṛḍha).

[The story of Vītaśoka].

From that, we know that the power of suffering is strong whereas that of happiness is weak. When a person who experiences happiness throughout his body is stabbed some place, all his happiness disappears and he feels nothing but the pain of his wound. The power of happiness (sukhabala) is so weak that two parts[24] are needed to make it strong; that of suffering (duḥkhabala) is so strong that it needs only one part.

Footnotes and references:


Here the Traité reproduces, with a few liberties, the canonical stock phrase cited above, p. 1239F, with references. Like the Kośa, VIII, p. 199, and the Visuddhimagga, p. 255, it is careful to state that the apramāṇas include not the directions but the beings in these regions. It insists on the voluntary nature of their action, for the ascetic voluntarily (adhimucaya) and in contradiction to the actual fact that the ascetic sees beings as happy, unhappy, joyful: see Kośa, IV, p. 245; VIII, p. 198–199.


According to the Visuddhimagga, p. 256, the mind is without enmity (avera) inasmuch as it destroys malice and hostility (byāpādapaccatthikappahānena)


On the other hand, for the Visuddhimagga, p. 256, the mind is abyāpajjha ‘without affliction’, because it destroys sadness (domanassappahānato). The expression then would mean absence of suffering (niddukkha).


Notably in the Mettasutta of the Suttanipāta, p. 26, v. 149–151:

Mātā yathā niyaṃ puttaṃ
āyusā ekaputtam anurakkhe |
evam pi sabbabhūtesu
mānasam bhāvaye aparimāṇaṃ ||

Mettañ ca sabbalokasmiṃ
mānasam bhāvaye aparimāṇaṃ |
udhaṃ adho ca tiriyañ ca
asambādhaṃ averaṃ asapattaṃ ||

Tiṭṭhaṃ caraṃ nisinno vā
sayāno vā yāvat’ assa vigatamiddho |
etaṃ satiṃ adhiṭṭheyya,
brahmam etaṃ vihāraṃ idha-m-āhu ||

Transl. – “As a mother, during her entire life, protects her own son, her only son, so should everyone nourish an immense friendliness for all beings.

Let him nourish an immense friendliness and loving-kindness for the entire world, above, below and across, free of any obstacle, enmity or rivalry.

Standing, walking, sitting or lying down, as long as he is awake, let him be filled with this feeling, for this, they say, is the abode of the Brahmā gods.”


Cf. Visuddhimagga, p. 256: Vipulenā ti attha ca pharaṇavasena vipulatā daṭṭhabbā. Bhūmivasena pana etaṃ mahaggataṃ. Paguṇavasena ca appamāṇasattārammaṇavasena ca appamāṇam: “By vast here we should understand its amplitude as inclusion. It is also expanded in regard to the levels in which it is applicable [from kāmadhātu up to rūpadhātu included]. It is immense in regard to its competence and to the fact that it has innumerable beings as object.”


In fact, it does not destroy the passions; it removes them and undermines them.


Maitrī should be practiced gradually in this way to include with all beings, friends, neutrals and enemies, in the same loving-kindness. This is called ‘breaking the barriers (sīmasambheda). Cf. Visuddhimagga, p. 246: Bhikkhunā… sīmasambhedaṃ katthkāmena… atippiyasahāyake, atippiyasahāyakato majjhatte, majjhattato veripuggate mettā bhāvetabbā. Bhāventena ca ekekasmiṃ koṭṭāse muduṃ kammaniyaṃ cittaṃ katvā tadanantare tadanantare upasaṃharitabbaṃ: “The monk who wishes to break the barriers should cultivate loving-kindness toward a very dear friend, then toward a neutral person as though he were very dear, then toward an enemy as though he were neutral. While he is doing this, in each case he should make his mind soft and gentle before going on to the next one.”

For the way in which beginners (ādikmarmika) should practice loving-kindness, see also Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 82, p. 421c15–22; Kośa, VIII, p. 201–202.


The three kinds of maitrī are comparable to the gift of an ordinary object, the gift of a precious object, and the gift of the cintāmaṇi, respectively.


We may recall that the practice of the apramāṇas is limited to formulating and extending to infinity purely platonic vows: cf. Abhidharmadīpa, p. 428: Sukhitā vata santu sattvā iti manasi kurvan maitrīṃ samāpadyate, dhuḥkhitā vata sattvā iti karuṇām, modantāṃ vata sattvā iti muditām, sattvā ity eva manasi kurvann upekṣāṃ samāpadyate mādhyasthyāt. See also Kośa, VIII, p. 198.


Cf. Majjhima, I, p. 240: Api nu… puriso allaṃkaṭṭhaṃ sasnehaṃ udake nikkhhittaṃ uttarāraṇiṃ ādāya abhimanthento aggiṃ abhinibbatteyya tejo pātukareyyāti. – “A man who rubs a soaking wet piece of wood with a fire stick, would he be able to produce fire and create heat?”


An advantage for the person who is practicing it, but not for the person who is the object of it.


Eye, ear, nose, tongue and body consciousnesses.


Color, sound, smell, taste and tangible.


On the nature of sukha in the kāmadhātu and the first three dhyānas, see Kośa, VIII, p. 150–151.


The canonical expression for the four apramāṇas is cited above, p. 1239–40F.


Psychologically, joy (muditā) follows after compassion (karuṇā); we should note that beings are unhappy before wishing to be joyful.


By practicing equanimity (upekṣā), the yogin removes sensual attachment (kāmarāga) and hostility (vyāpāda) towards beings: see above, p. 1242F.


This mind of equanimity is indispensable to becoming Buddha.


In the sense that beings will derive no benefit, for the vows formulated by the śrāvakas profit only themselves.


Cf. Kośa, III, p. 184, 209–210.


The same distinction is made above, p. 152F, 393F, 451F.


The bodhimaṇḍa, in its proper sense, the diamond seat (vajrāsana) at Gayā where Śākyamuni reached supreme enlightenment; in the figurative sense, the spiritual presence of the Dharma or of the dharmakāya of the Buddhas which is independent of any material localization: cf. Vimalakīrti, p. 199–200, note.


Bālollāpana riktamuṣṭivat: cf. above, p. 1195F and n. 2.


Namely, happiness (sukha) and joy (muditā).

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