Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “recollection of the buddha (3): physical marks and superhuman power” 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 (3): Physical marks and superhuman power

The recluse A-sseu-t’o (Asita) (see the Story of the prediction of Asita) examined him and said to king Tsing-fan (Śuddhodana):

1) On the soles of his feet are [two] wheels with a thousand spokes (adhas tasya pādayoś cakre jāte sahasrāre); his toes are joined by a web (jālāvanaddhāṅguli); he will be able to be firmly established in the Dharma (dharme supratiṣṭitaḥ) and nobody can shake him or destroy him.

2) His hands are marked with the śrīvatsa (śrīvatsalakṣitapāṇi) and adorned with a web (jālālaṃkṛta): with these hands he will be able to reassure beings and prevent them from being fearful.[1]

Continuing his examination, [Asita also noted the following marks]:[2]

3) On his head there is a fleshy bone (uṣṇīṣaśiraskatā) like the top of a mountain of blue pearls; rays of blue light radiate on all sides from it.[3]

4) On his head there is the mark of the cranium, the height of which cannot be seen (anavalokitamūrdhatā); (see Appendix 2) among gods and men, nobody will be able to surpass him.

5) A tuft of white hair grows between his eyebrows (ūrṇā cāsya bhruvor madhye jātā) the white brilliance of which surpasses that of crystal (sphotika).[4]

6) He has clear eyes (viśuddhanetra), wide eyes (viśalanetra), the color of which is deep blue (abhinīlanetra).[5]

7) His nose is high (tuṅganāsa), fine (śucināsa) and pleasing.[6]

8) His mouth has forty teeth (catvāriṃśaddanta), white (suśukla), pure, sharp and wondrous.[7]

9) His four canine teeth are very white (śukladaṃṣtra) and very shiny.[8]

10) His upper and lower lips (aṣṭha) are equal (sama), neither too big nor too small, neither too long nor too short.[9]

11) His tongue is thin and long (tanuprabhūtajihva); it is soft (mṛdu), red (lohitavarṇa), like a heavenly lotus (divyapadma).[10]

12) His brahmic voice (brahmasvara) is deep (gambhīra) and carries afar; those who hear him rejoice and are never tired of listening.[11]

13) The color of his body (kāyavarṇa) is marvelous, more beautiful than the gold of the Jāmbu river (jāmbunadakāñcana).[12]

14) A halo one arm-span in width (read tchang kouang = vyāmaprabha) surrounds his body, of varied colors, incomparable in beauty.[13]

Endowed with these thirty-two marks, this man will, before long, leave home (pravrajita), will attain omniscience (sarvajñāna) and will become Buddha.

This is how the physical qualities (kāyaguṇa) of the Buddha should be [220a] recollected.

Moreover, the qualities (guṇa) and the physical strength (kāyabala) of the body of the Buddha surpasses ten myriads of white gandhahastins:[14] this is physical power inherited from his parents. His supernatural powers (abhijñā), his qualities and his strength are immense and limitless. The body of the Buddha is adorned with the thirty-two marks (dvātriṃśallakṣaṇa) and the eighty minor marks (aśītyanuvyañjanāni); inwardly he has the innumerable attributes and qualities of the Buddhas: this is why one does not tire of seeing him. Those who see the Buddha’s body forget about the five worldly objects of enjoyment (pañcakāmaguṇa) and never think of them again. One’s happiness is complete on seeing the Buddha’s body; one never tires of seeing it.[15]

These are the qualities of the Buddha’s body under which one should recollect him.

Footnotes and references:


Here the Traité limits itself to citing the first of the 32 lakṣaṇas and the 84th and last of the anuvyañjanas according to the order established by the Pañcaviṃśati, T 223, k. 24, p. 395b28–396b9. Above, p. 272–279F, it has commented fully on the 32 lakṣaṇas, to which the reader is referred.


In the lines that follow, the Traité draws attention to twelve of the marks, namely, nine lakṣaṇas and three anuvyañjanas.


32nd lakṣaṇa.


31st lakṣaṇa according to the list of the Prajñāpāramitā.


29th lakṣaṇa.


2nd anuvyañjana.


22nd lakṣaṇa.


24th lakṣaṇa.


29th anuvyañjana.


27th lakṣaṇa.


28th lakṣaṇa.


40th lakṣaṇa.


50th lakṣaṇa: see above p. 277F, 453–456F.


The Buddha has the physical strength of Nārāyana, equal to myriads of white elephants in rut. See Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 36, p. 749b23–749c13; Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 30, p. 155a–b; k. 83,p. 428c20; k. 191, p. 957a26; Kośa, VII, p. 72–74; Nyāyānusaāra, T 1562, k. 75, p. 748b; Abhidharmadīpa, p. 388–389.


Thus at the moment of his death, the disciple Vakkali had nothing to blame himself for, but he felt one cruel regret; he confessed: “For a long time I wanted to go to the Buddha to contemplate him, but I did not have the strength in my body to go to visit him.” (Saṃyutta, III, p. 120).

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