Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “results of the nine notions” 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.

1. Rejection of the seven types of lust

These nine notions [of the horrible] eliminate the seven types of lust (saptavidha rāga) in people.[1]

1) There are people who are attached to colors (varṇa), red (lohita), white (avadāta), reddish-white (śvetarakta), yellow (pīta), black (kṛṣṇa).

2) There are people who are not attached to colors but who are attached only to shapes (saṃsthāna), delicate skin, tapered fingers, expressive eyes, arched eyebrows.

3) There are people who are not attached to either colors or shapes, but who are attached only to postures (īryāpatha), ways of entering, of stopping, sitting, rising, walking, standing, bowing, raising or lowering the head, raising the eyebrows, winking the eye, approaching, holding an object in the hand.

4) There are people who are not attached to colors or shapes or postures, but who are only attached to language, soft sounds, elegant words, speech appropriate to the circumstance, replying to a thought, honoring orders, capable of moving people’s hearts.

5) There are people who are not attached to colors or shapes or positions or soft sounds, but who are only attached to fine smooth [furs], gentle to the skin, softening the flesh, refreshing the body in the heat and warming it in the cold.

6) There are people who are attached to all five things listed above at once.

7) There are people who are not attached to these five things but who are only attached to the human appearance, male or female. Even if they were to enjoy the five lusts (kāma) mentioned above, when they come to lose the loved person, they refuse to separate from them and they renounce the five objects of enjoyment (pañcakāmaguṇa) so esteemed by the world so as to follow their loved one in death.

[But the nine notions of the horrible reject these seven kinds of lust]:

1. The notion of death (maraṇasaṃjñā) eliminates lust for postures (īryāpatharāga) and lust for fine language (vādarāga) in particular.

2. The notion of the bloated corpse (vyādhmātakasaṃjñā), the notion of the torn-up corpse (vidhūtakasaṃjñā) and the notion of the scattered corpse eliminate lust for shapes (saṃsthānarāga) in particular.

3. The notion of the bloody corpse (vilohitakasaṃjñā), the notion of the bluish corpse (vinīlakasaṃjñā) and the notion of the rotting corpse (vipūyakasaṃjñā) eliminate the lust for colors (varṇarāga) in particular.

4. The notion of the corpse reduced to bones (asthisaṃjñā) and the notion of the burned corpse (vidagdhakasaṃjñā) eliminate the lust for fine and gentle touch (sūkṣmaślakṣṇaspraṣṭavayarāga) in particular.[2]

Thus the nine notions eliminate these various lusts and also lust for the loved person. But it is the notion of the devoured corpse (vikhāditakasaṃjñā), the notion of the burned corpse (vidagdhakasaṃjñā) and the notion of the corpse reduced to bones (asthisaṃjñā) that preferentially eliminate lust for an individual because it is hard to see how a person can be attached to devoured, scattered or white bony remains (śvatāsthika).

2. Diminishing of hatred and delusion

By means of the meditation on the nine notions, the minds of lust [218b] (rāga) are eliminated, but hatred (dveṣa) and delusion (moha) are also decreased. If one is attached to the body, it is because of delusion (moha), an error consisting of taking what is impure to be pure (aśucau śucir iti viparyāsaḥ).[3] But now, with the help of the nine notions [of the horrible], the interior of the body is analyzed and the [impure] nature of the body is seen. From now on, error (mohacitta) decreases; as error decreases, lust (rāga) diminishes and, as lust diminishes, hatred (dveṣa) also decreases. It is because a person loves their own body that they experience hatred [when the latter is menaced]. But now that the yogin has contemplated the impurities (aśuci) of his own body and is disgusted (nirvinna) by them, he no longer loves his own body and, not loving his own body, he does not have hatred [when the latter is menaced].

3. Realization of great benefits

As the threefold poison (triviṣa) [of lust, hate and delusion] decreases, the entire mountain of the ninety-eight perverted tendencies (anuśaya) is shaken and the yogin gradually (kramaśas) progresses towards Bodhi. Finally, by the diamond-like concentration (vajropamasamādhi),[4] he breaks the mountain of the fetters (saṃyojana) to pieces.

Although the nine notions are meditations on the horrible (aśubhabhāvanā), one depends on them to realize great benefits (mahānuśaṃsa). Similarly, when a repulsive corpse is floating in the sea, the shipwrecked sailor clings to it to save himself from the waves.

Footnotes and references:

1.

Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 40, p. 207c10–13: “Although aśubhabhāvanā concerns only visibles (rūpa), it counteracts lust (rāga) in regard to the six sense objects. Thus, those who are prey to lust for visibles (rūpa) eliminate the latter by practicing aśubhabhāvanā; those who are prey to lust for sounds (śabda) eliminate the latter by practicing aśubhabhāvanā, etc.”

Kośa, VI, p. 149; Kośavyākhyā, p. 526; Nyāyānusāra,T 1562, k. 59, p. 671a18–20: The nine notions are in opposition to fourfold rāga: lust for colors (varṇa), shapes (saṃsthāna), touch (sparśa) and honors (upacāra).

Here the Traité departs from classic scholasticism: for it, the nine notions are horrors opposed to the seven kinds of rāga: lust for colors (varṇa), shapes (saṃsthāna), postures (īryāpatha), fine language (vāda), pleasant touch (sparśa), of all five at once, and finally of the human appearance. Undoubtedly the Traité was inspired by the Tch’an yao king ‘Summary sūtra on the dhyānas’ (T 609), wrongly thought to be an anonymous translation by the Han, where these kinds of lust are mentioned (k. 1, p. 237c19–21).

The same classification of rāga is adopted by Kumārajīva in his Tch’an fa yao kiai ‘Summary explanation of the dhyāna method’ (T 616, k. 1, p. 286b16–18), an original work that he composed between 402 and 405, during which time he was busy with his translation of the Traité. On this subject, see P. Demiéville, La Yogācārabhūmi de Saṅgharakṣa, p. 354.

2.

‘Soft’ is one of the eleven kinds of touch: cf. Kośa, I, p. 18.

3.

The third of the four errors.

4.

See above, p. 242F and note, 940F, 986F, 1068F.

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