Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “ashubha in the canonical texts” 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 Pāli canon contains three suttas entitled Asubha: Samyutta,V, p. 132; Aṅguttara, II, p. 150–152; Itivuttaka, p. 80–81.

Aśubhā or aśubhasaṃjñā also appears in the canonical lists:

1. List of three dharmas: Anguttara, III, p. 446.

2. List of four saṃjñās: Anguttara, IV, p. 353, 358; Tchong a han, T 26, k. 10, p. 492b23–25.

3. Lists of five saṃjñās: i) Anguttara, II, p. 150, 151, 55, 156; III, p. 83, 142–143; ii) Anguttara, III, p. 79, 277.

4. Lists of seven saṃjñās: i) Dīgha, II, p. 79; III, p. 253; Anguttara, IV, p. 24,148; ii) Anguttara, IV, p. 46, 148; iii) Tch’ang a han, T 1, k. 2, p. 11c26–29.

3. Lists of nine saṃjñās: i) Dḥigha, III, p. 289–290; Anguttara, IV, p. 387, 465; ii) Tch’ang a han, T 1, k. 9, p. 56c22–24.

4. Lists of ten saṃjñās: i) Dīgha, III, p. 291; Saṃyutta, V, p. 132–133; Anguttara, V, p. 105, 309; ii) Anguttara, V, p. 109.

5. List of twenty saṃjñās: Anguttara, I, p. 41–42.

But aśubha is a complex entity since it concerns the various stages of decomposition of the corpse. However, the canonical sources mention only a few without enumerating them.

Among the most frequently mentioned stages of decomposition mentioned are the corpse reduced to bones (aṭṭhika), rotten (puḷuvaka), turning bluish (vinīlika), torn apart (vicchiddaka), bloated (uddhumātaka), and a few others, but the description is not systematic: cf. Anguttara, I, p. 42; II, p. 17; V, p. 310; Tsa a han, & 99, k. 31, p. 221b27–28; Tseng yi a han, Y 125, k. 42, p. 781a19–21; k. 44,p. 789b2–5.

There is an almost complete list in a Sanskrit sūtra cited in the Kośavyākhyā, p. 55, l. 1–2:

  1. vinīlaka,
  2. vipūyaka,
  3. vyādhmātka,
  4. vipaṭumaka,
  5. vilohitaka,
  6. vikhāditaka,
  7. vikṣiptaka,
  8. asthi,
  9. asthisaṃkalikā.