Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the ten asubhasanna in the pali abhidhamma” 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. The ten Asubhasaññā in the pāli Abhidhamma

The Abhidhamma, its commentaries and related treatises fix the number of asubhasaññās at ten and cite them in the following order:

  1. Bloated corpse (uddhumātaka),
  2. bluish (vinīlaka),
  3. rotten (vipubbaka),
  4. torn apart (vicchiddaka),
  5. devoured (vikkhhāyitaka),
  6. scattered (vikkhittaka),
  7. chopped up and scattered (hatavikkhittaka),
  8. bloody (lohitaka),
  9. infested with worms (puḷuvaka),
  10. reduced to bone (aṭṭhika).

These terms are cited and commented upon in Dhammasaṅgani, p. 55 (tr. Rhys Davids, p. 63 and n. 3); Atthasālinī, p. 197–198 (tr. Tin, p. 264–267); Visuddhimagga, ed. Warren, p. 89, 145–146 (tr. Nanamoli, p. 185–186); Vimuttimagga, tr. Ehara, p. 132–139.The Visuddhimagga, ed. Warren, p. 146–158 (tr. Nanamoli, p. 186–200) deals at great length with the manner of practicing the first asubhabhāvana. As in the kasinas, the ascetic must apprehend a twofold sign, the sign of learning (uggahanimitta) and the counter-sign (paṭibhāganimitta). To this end, he goes to a charnel-ground and contemplates with extreme attentiveness the ten stages of decomposing corpses, the bloated corpse, etc. The pertinent uggahanimitta appears to him as a unit (paripuṇṇa). See two fine articles in Ceylon Encyclopedia, II, p. 270–281.