Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “dhvajagrasutra” 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.

Thus, in a sūtra, the Buddha said to the bhikṣus: When you are meditating in a forest, an empty house, a charnel-ground, a mountain, a woods or a desert, and you experience fear (bhaya), trembling (chambitatva) or exasperation (romaharṣa), then recollect the Buddha, thinking: [219a] Yes, he is the Tathāgata ‘thus come’, Arhat ‘worthy of homage’, Saṃyaksaṃbuddha ‘completely and fully enlightened’, [Vidyācaraṇasaṃpanna ‘endowed with knowledge and practice’, Sugata ‘well-come’, Lokavid ‘knower of the world’, Anuttaraḥ puruṣadamyasārathiḥ ‘supreme leader of beings to be tamed’, Śāstā devamanuṣyāṇām ‘teacher of gods and men’, Buddha ‘awakened’ and Bhagavat ‘blessed’. Your fears will immediately disappear.

If you do not recollect the Buddha, you should recollect the Dharma saying: The Dharma of the Buddha is pure (pariśuddha), skillfully announced, well said (svākhyāta), receiving its retribution in the present lifetime (sāṃdṛṣṭika), offering itself to be shared (veditavyo vijñaiḥ). If you recollect the Dharma thus, your fear will immediately disappear.

If you do not recollect the Dharma, you should recollect the Saṃgha, saying: The Community of disciples of the Buddha (buddhaśrāvakasaṃgha) cultivates the proper path (ṛjupratipanna) and acts in accordance with the instructions (sāmīcipratipanna). In this Community, there are arhats and candidates for the fruit of arhat (arhatphalapratipannaka) and so on, down to srotaāpannas and candidates for the fruit of srotaāpanna (srotaāpannaphalapratipannaka): thus four pairs of individuals (catvāri puruṣayugāni) or eight classes of individuals (aṣṭau puruṣapudgalāḥ). This Community of disciples of the Buddha is worthy of offerings (dakṣīṇīya), worthy of being greeted with joined palms (añjalikaraṇīya), venerated (arcanīya), saluted and welcomed: for the world, it is the supreme field of merit (anuttaraṃ puṇyakṣetraṃ lokasya). If you commemorate the Community thus, your fears will immediately disappear.

The Buddha said to the bhikṣus: In the struggle against the asuras, in the midst of a great battle (saṃgāma), Devendra said to his army of devas: When you are struggling against the asuras and you feel afraid, recollect my standard made of seven jewels (mama saptaratnamayo dhvajaḥ samanusmartavyaḥ) and immediately your fear will disappear.

If you do not recollect my standard, recollect the precious standard of devaputra Yi-chö-na (Iśāna) [Kumārajīva’s note: the devaputra who is on the left of Indra-Śakra]. At once your fear will disappear. If you do not recollect the precious standard of Iśāna, recollect the standard of devaputra P’o-leou-na (Varuṇa) [Kumārajīva’s note: the devaputra to the right of Indra]. At once your fear will disappear.[1]

From that we know that [the Prajñāpāmaitasūtra] continues its account here by speaking of the eight recollections as the means to drive away fear.

Notes on the Dhvajāgrasūtra:

The Sūtra on the “Top of the Standard” is well known. At Śrāvastī in the Jetavana in the garden of Anāthapiṇḍada, the Buddha advised the monks who were afraid of solitude to recollect the Buddha, the Dharma or the Saṃgha, a recollection the nature of which could dispel their fear. For this purpose, he related to them how once the god Śakra advised his devas who were in battle against the Asuras to think of his standard or that of Īśāna or Varuṇa in order to conquer their fears.

The sūtra in question is known in several versions in Sanskrit, Pāli, Chinese and Tibetan. They have been studied by E. Waldschmidt, Bruchstücke buddh. Sūtras, p. 43–54:

A. Dhvajāgrasūtra, restored on the basis of manuscripts from Central Asia by E. Waldscmidt, Kleine Brāhmī-Schriftrolle, Nachrichten der Akad. der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, 1959, no. 1, p. 8–18.

B. Tch’ouang king, in Tsa a han, T 99, no. 981, k. 35, p. 255a25–b14.

C. Mdo chen po rgyal mtshan dam pa (Dhvajāgranāmamahāsūtra), OKC no. 959 (Tib.Trip., vol. 38, p.285–5–1 to 285–3–5.

D. Dhvajaggasutta, in Saṃyutta, I, p. 218–220.

E. Kao tch’ouang king, in Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 14, p. 615a6–b6.

The Sūtra of the “Top of the Standard” should be compared and, on occasion, completed by another sūtra the title of which is poorly defined. Coming from the land of the Vṛji, the Buddha stayed at Vaiśālī at the Markaṭahrada, in the Kūṭāgāraśālā. Invited by some embarking merchants who were fearful of the dangers of the journey, he advised them also to recollect the Buddha, the Dharma or the Saṃgha in order to conquer their fears. To this end, he reminded them of the advice once given by Śakra to his devas. This sūtra, a simple variant of the preceding one, is attested by a Chinese version and a Tibetan version:

F. P’i chö li kou k’o king “Sūtra of the Vaiśalī merchants”, in Tsa a han, T 99, no. 980, k. 35, p. 254c2–255a24.

G. Mdo chen po rgyal mtshan mchog (Dhvajāgranamamahāsūtra), OKC no. 958 (Tib. Trip., vol. 38, p. 283–2–3 to 284–5–1).

In sources A, B, C, F, G, the advice addressed by the Buddha to his monks precedes the recommendations once given by Śakra to the devas; in sources D and E, it is the reverse.

The version of the Dhvajāgrasūtra given here by the Traité is very close to sources A and B, but slightly more developed.

Footnotes and references:


In the Pāli sutta, Śakra advises the devas to look at his own standard and, that lacking, that of the Prajāpati gods, Varuṇa and Īśāna. In sources E, F, G and here in the Traité, only his own standard and that of Iśāna and Varuṇa are mentioned. Indra, Soma, Varuṇa, Iśāna, Prajāpti, Brahmā, Mahāṛddhi and Yama are deities invoked by the Brahmins.

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