Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “all the recollections drive away fear” 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. All the recollections drive away fear

Question. – But the [Dhvajāgra]-sūtra mentions only three recollections, [those of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Saṃgha] as the means to drive away fear. Are the other five recollections also able to drive away fear?

Answer. – 1–2) If the bhikṣu thinks about his own virtues of abandonment (tyāga) and discipline (śīla), his fear also disappears. Actually, immoral (duḥśīla) beings fear falling into hell (niraya) and misers (matsarin) fear being reborn among the hungry ghosts (preta) or among poor people (daridra). The bhikṣu himself remembers that he has pure morality (pariśuddhaśīla) and generosity-abandonment (tyāga). If he recollects his pure discipline or his own abandonment, his mind is joyful and he says to himself: “As long as my life (āyus) is not exhausted (kṣīṇa), I will still increase my virtues (guṇa) and, at the end of my life, I will not be afraid of falling into the unfortunate destinies (durgati).” This is why the recollection of discipline (śīlānusmṛti) and the recollection of renunciation (tyāgānusmṛti) can also prevent fear from arising.

3) The bhikṣu remembers that the higher heavens (uttamasvarga) are the fruits of retribution (vipākaphala) resulting from abandonment (tyāga) and discipline (śīla) and that if the deities (devatā) have taken rebirth there, it is precisely because of these merits (puṇya). “I too”, he says to himself, “possess these merits.” This is why the recollection of the deities (devatānusmṛti) also can prevent fear from arising.

4) When the bhikṣu recollects the sixteen ways of breathing (ānāpāna),[1] even the subtle discursiveness (sūkṣmavitarka) disappears; then what can be said (kaḥ punar vādaḥ) of the coarse thoughts (audārikavitarka) [such as fear]?

5) In the recollection of death (maraṇānusmṛti), the bhikṣu says to himself: “The group of the five aggregates (pañcaskandhakāya) arises and perishes in a moment and, from its very birth, it is always associated with death. At this moment, why should I fear death particularly?”

The Buddha did not speak about these five recollections [in the Dhvajāgrasūtra]; nevertheless, they too can drive away fear. Why [did the Buddha not speak of them]? When we think about the qualities (guṇa) of [219b] another, [be they those of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Community], it is difficult to drive away fear. On the other hand, when we think of our own qualities, [those of discipline, generosity, etc.], it is easy to drive away fear. This is why the Buddha did not speak of them [in the Dhvajārasūtra].

Footnotes and references:


See above, p. 641–642F.

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