Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “recollection of the buddha (1): the ten names (adhivacana)” 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.

I. Recollection of the Buddha (1): The ten names (adhivacana)

Note: These ten traditional names (adhivacana) have been studied above, p. 126–144F. Here the Traité adds some new explanations.

Question. – How does one recollect the Buddha?

Answer. –

1. Tathāgata.

The yogin thinks of the Buddha one-pointedly (ekacittena): The Buddha has acquired right knowledge (yathābhūtajñāna); he is endowed with great loving-kindness and great compassion (mahāmaitrīmahākaruṇāsamanvāgata). This is why his words (āgada) are infallible (aviparīta): whether they are coarse (audārika) or subtle (sūkṣma), numerous (bahula) or few (alpa), profound (gambhīra) or superficial, there is nothing false in them. Since all his words (āgada) are true (tathā), the Buddha is called TATHĀGATA ‘of true speech’.[1]

Past (atīta), future (anāgata) or present (pratyutpanna), the Buddhas of the ten directions feel great compassion (mahākaruṇā) for beings, practice the six perfections (pāramitā) and discover the [true] nature of dharmas: they have reached (āgata) the anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhi. The present Buddha too has arrived (āgata) there in the same way (tathā): this is why he is called TATHĀGATA ‘thus come’.

The body of the Buddhas of the ten directions in the three worlds emits great rays (raśmi) that illumine the ten directions and drive away the shadows (tamas); from their minds there come rays of knowledge that destroy the shadows of ignorance (avidyā) in beings; their virtues (guṇa) and their glory (yaśas) also fill the ten directions: they have gone to nirvāṇa. The present Buddha has also gone (gata) in the same way (tathā): this is why he is called TATHĀGATA ‘thus gone’.

2. Arhat

Because he possesses such qualities (guṇa), the Buddha is entitled (arhati) to the supreme worship (pūjāviśeṣa) of all gods and men: this is why he is called ARHAT ‘entitled to’.

3. Samyaksaṃbuddha

Some ask why only the Buddha “speaks in accordance with the truth” and “has gone” in the same way [as his predecessors] and is “entitled to” supreme worship. It is that the Buddha has obtained samyak-saṃ-bodhi ‘complete perfect enlightenment’: samyak ‘perfect’ insofar as it accords with the immovable indestructible nature (acalākaṣaslakṣaṇa) of all dharmas; saṃ ‘complete’ because, instead of concerning merely one or two dharmas, it completely cognizes all dharmas without exception. This is why the Buddha is called SAMYAKSAṂBUDDHA ‘fully and perfectly enlightened’.

4. Vidyācaraṇasaṃpanna

This samyaksaṃbodhi has not been obtained without cause (ahetu) or without condition (apratyaya). Here it is by depending on the perfection (saṃpad) of knowledge (jñāna) and moral discipline (śīlasaṃvara) that the Buddha has obtained saṃyaksaṃbodhi.

By knowledge (jñāna) we mean the sciences (vidyā) that the bodhisattva possesses from the time of the first production of the mind of Bodhi (prathamacittotpāda) until reaching the diamond-like samādhi (vajropamasamādhi). Moral discipline (śīlasaṃvara) is the fact that for the bodhisattva, from the first production of the mind of Bodhi until the diamond-like samādhi, his bodily actions (kāyakarman) and his vocal actions (vākkarman) are pure (viśuddha) and accomplished as he wishes (yatheṣṭam).

This is why the Buddha is called VIDYĀCARAṆASAṂPANNA ‘endowed with sciences and practices’.

5. Sugata

Going along with this twofold course [of sciences and practices], the Buddha makes good progress (sugati), like a chariot (ratha) that runs well when it has two wheels (cakra). Since the Buddha also goes in this way to the place (sthāna) where the earlier Buddhas have gone (gata), he is called SUGATA ‘well-gone’.

6. Lokavid

If someone tells us that the Buddha, using his own qualities (svaguṇa), does not know certain things, for example, the ātman, etc., we answer: It is because he knows the world (loka), the origin of the world (lokasamudaya), the cessation of the world (lokanirodha) and the path that leads to the cessation of the world (lokanirodhagāminīpratipad)[2] that the Buddha is called LOKAVID ‘knower of the world’.

7. Anuttaraḥ puruṣadamyasārathiḥ

Knowing the world, the Buddha tames (damayati) beings, and of all the kinds of teachers (ācārya), he is truly [219c] without superior (anuttara): this is why he is called ANUTTARAḤ PURUṢADAMYASĀRATHIḤ ‘supreme leader of those beings to be tamed who are humans’.

8. Śāstā devamanyuṣyāṇām

By means of the three kinds of paths, the Buddha is able to destroy the threefold poison (triviṣa) and make beings travel on the paths of the Three Vehicles (yānatrāya): this is why he is called ŚĀSTĀ DEVAMANUṢYĀṆĀM ‘teacher of gods and men’.

9. Buddha

If someone asks us how the Buddha, who is able to assure his own good (svahita) without limit, is able to assure the good of others (parahita), we answer: Being endowed with omniscience (sarvajñānasamanvāgata), the Buddha cognizes clearly and fully the past (atīta), the future (anāgata) and the present (pratyutpanna), perishable things and imperishable things (kṣarākṣara), moveable things and immoveable things (calācala), the whole world: this is why he is called BUDDHA.

10. Bhagavat

The Buddha who possesses these nine kinds of names (adhivacana) has great glory (mahāyaśas)[3] filling the ten directions: this is why he is called BHAGAVAT ‘the blessed one’.

In the sūtras, the Buddha himself said that it is necessary to recollect him under these ten names (adhivarana).

Footnotes and references:


This etymology is valid only in the hypothesis that ‘Tathāgata’ is an erroneous reading for ‘Tathāgada’: cf. Sumaṅgala, p. 66: Evaṃ tathavāditāya Tathāgato. Api ca āgadanaṃ āgado vacanan ti attho. Tatho aviparīto āgado assāti da-kārassa ta-kāraṃ katvā Tathāgat ti.


Anguttara, II, p. 23: Loko bhikkhave Tathāgatena abhisambuddho … lokasamudayo … lokanirodha … lokanirodhagāminī paṭipadā Tathāgatena abhisambuddhā.


Among the six meanings of the word bhaga, the Visuddhimagga, ed. Warren, p. 174, l. 25, also mentions that of glory (yaśas).

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