Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “recollection of the buddha (4): the five pure aggregates (anasrava-skandha)” 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 (4): The five pure aggregates (anāsrava-skandha)

1. Śīla-skandha

Furthermore, in the Buddha, maintenance of morality (śīla) is perfect (saṃpanna) and complete (pariṣuddha). From the first production of the mind of Bodhi (prathamacittotpāda), he practices morality and accumulates it without measure. Endowed with the mind of compassion (karuṇācitta), he does not seek the fruit of retribution (vipākaphala). He does not lean toward the Bodhi of the śrāvakas or of the pratyekabuddhas. He is without fetters (saṃyojana). He maintains discipline from birth to birth only for the purification of his own mind (svacittapariśodhana) and so as not to harm beings. Thus, when he obtains the Bodhi of the Buddhas, his morality is perfected.

This is how one should recollect the aggregate of morality (śīlaskandha) of the Buddha.

2. Samādhi-skandha

Furthermore, the aggregate of samādhi (samādhiskandha) is perfected in the Buddha.

Question. – We can know that the Buddha is disciplined because his bodily and vocal actions (kāyavakkarman) are pure; we can know that he is wise because he explains the Dharma in detail and cuts through the doubts (saṃśaya) of beings. But in regard to meditative stabilization (samādhi), it is impossible to know if a third person is practicing it, especially if it is a Buddha.

Answer. – As the great wisdom (mahāprajñā) of the Buddha is perfect (saṃpanna), it must be concluded that his dhyānas and his absorptions (samāpattis) are perfected. Similarly, when we see that the lotus flowers (padmapuṣpa) are large, we agree that the pool (hrada) must also be large. When we see that the light of the lamp (dīpāloka) is large, we agree that there is also abundant oil (taila). And so, since the supernatural powers (abhijñā) and the prodigious strength (prātihāryabala) of the Buddha are immense and incomparable, we know that the power of his dhyānas and his absorptions is also perfected. When we see that an effect (phala) is great, we know that its cause (hetu) is necessarily great.

Furthermore, in some circumstances, the Buddha himself said to people that his dhyānas and samāpattis are very deep (gambhīra).

[The Miracle of Ādumā].

In other sūtras, the Buddha said to the bhikṣus: “The samādhis into which the Buddha enters and comes out of, Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana do not even know the names of them.”[1] How then (kiṃ punar vādaḥ) would they know their nature?

See, for example, the samādhi of the King of Samādhi (samādhirājasamādhi),[2] the samādhi of the Lion’s Play (siṃhavikrīḍitasamādhi),[3] etc.: when the Buddha enters them, he makes the universes of the ten directions shake in six ways; he emits great rays (raśmi) and by emanation he creates innumerable Buddhas who fill the ten directions.

[The miracle of the multiplication of the Buddhas].

This is why we know that the dhyānas and the absorptions of the Buddha are perfected (saṃpanna).

3. Prajñā-skandha

Furthermore, the wisdom aggregate (prajñāskandha) is perfected (saṃpanna) in the Buddha. From the first production of the mind of Bodhi (prathamacittotpāda) and during incalculable periods (asamkhyeyakalpa), there is no dharma that he has not practiced. From existence to existence, he has accumulated qualities (guṇa). Mindful (smṛtimat) and resolute (ātāpin), he sacrificed his life to find wisdom (prajñā), as was the case for the bodhisattva Sa-t’o-po-louen (Sadāprarudita). (also see Appendix 3)

Furthermore, as he has cultivated great compassion (mahākaruṇā) and wisdom (prajñā), the Buddha has perfected the wisdom aggregate (prajñāskandha). Other people do not have this great compassion, and even if [220c] they do have wisdom, they do not perfect great compassion. Wanting to save beings and seeking all kinds of wisdoms, the Buddha has destroyed even his attachment to the Dharma (dharmasaṅgha) and suppressed the sixty-two kinds of wrong view (dṛṣṭigata). He does not fall into the pairs of extremes (dvāv antau):[4] a life attached to the five objects of enjoyment and pleasure (pañcakāmaguṇeṣu kāmasukhallikānuyoga) or a life of personal mortification (ātmaklamathānuyoga), nihilism (ucchedadṛṣṭi) or eternalism (śāśvatadṛṣṭi), existence (bhava) or non-existence (vibhava), and other extremes of this kind.

Furthermore, the Buddha’s wisdom is peerless (anuttara) and his penetration (prativedha) without equal (asama), for they are all the result of very deep concentrations (gambhīrasamādhi) and are not disturbed by coarse or subtle emotions (sthūlasūkṣmakleśa). He practices well the thirty-two auxiliaries to enlightenment (bodhipākṣikadharma), the four trances (dhyāna), the four formless absorptions (ārūpyasamāpatti), the eight liberations (vimokṣa), the nine successive absorptions (anupūrvavihārasamāpatti) and the other qualities (guṇa); he possesses the ten strengths (bala), the four fearlessnesses (vaiśaradya), the four unhindered knowledges (pratisaṃvid), and the eighteen special attributes (āveṇikadharma); he has obtained the unhindered and inconceivable liberations (asaktācintyavimokṣa):[5] this is why the wisdom aggregate of the Buddha is perfected (saṃpanna).

Furthermore, the Buddha has vanquished the great heretical scholars (tīrthikamahopadeśācārya), namely:

Yeou-leou-p’in-li kia-chö (Urubilvākāśyapa), (see Appendix 4)

Mo-ho-kia chö, Mahākāśyapa,[6]

Chö-li-fou (Śāriputra),

Mou-k’ien-lien (Maudgalyāyana),[7]

Sa-tchö Ni-k’ien-tseu (Satyaka Nirgranthīputra),[8]


Tch’ang-tchao (Dīrghanakha),[10] etc.

The Buddha vanquished all these great scholars: this is why we know that his wisdom aggregate (prajñāskandha) is perfected (saṃpanna).

Furthermore, in the three Baskets (tripiṭaka), the twelve classes of texts (dvādaśāṅgabuddhavacana) and the eighty-four thousand articles of the Dharma (caturśītisahasradharmaskandha), we see how numerous were the words of the Buddha (buddhavacana): this is why we know that his wisdom also is great.

Thus, a vaiśya, seeing at dawn a place where there had been a lot of rain, said to the people: “Last night, the power of the rain-dragon (varṣa-nāga) was very great.” The people asked him: “How do you know?” He answered: “I see that the ground is damp, the mud abundant, the mountain collapsed, the trees knocked down and the animals killed; that is how I know that the power of the dragon was great.”

It is the same for the Buddha: although his profound wisdom is not visible to the eye, it makes the mighty rain of the Dharma (mahādharmavarṣam abhivarṣati) rain down; he vanquishes the great scholars (mahopadeśācārya) like the kings of the gods Śakra and Brahmā: this is why it is possible to know that the Buddha’s wisdom is great.

Furthermore, as the Buddhas have acquired the unhindered liberations (asaktavimokṣa) over everything, their wisdom is unhindered.

Furthermore, this wisdom of the Buddha is completely pure (pariśuddha) and surpasses all ordinary analysis (vicāra). He does not see any nature in dharmas that is eternal (nitya) or non-eternal (anitya), finite (antavat) or infinite (anantavat), mobile (gamika) or immobile (agamika), existent (sat) or non-existent (asat), impure (sāsrava) or pure (anāsrava), conditioned (saṃskṛta) or unconditioned (asaṃskṛta), arising and perishing (utpanna-niruddha) or non-arising non-perishing (anutpanna-aniruddha), empty (śūnya) or non-empty (aśūnya). The eternal purity (nityaviśuddhitā) of dharmas is immense (apramāṇa), like space (ākāśasama)! This is why his wisdom is unhindered (asakta).

Those who see arising and cessation (utpādanirodha) [in dharmas] cannot see non-arising and non-cessation (anutpādānirodha) in them; those who see non-arising and non-cessation in dharmas cannot see arising and cessation in them. If non-arising and non-cessation are real (bhūta), then arising and cessation are false (abhūta). If arising and cessation are real, non-arising and non-cessation are false. It is the same for all analyses of this type (evaṃvidhavicāra). As the Buddha has unhindered wisdom (pratisaṃvid) [on this subject], we know that his wisdom is perfected.

4. Vimukti-skandha

Furthermore, one recollects the perfection of the deliverance skandha (vimuktiskandhasaṃpad) in the Buddha. The Buddha is free from all the disturbing emotions (kleśa) and their traces (vāsanā). As he has [221a] uprooted them, his deliverance is real (bhūta) and indestructible (akṣaya). Since he is endowed with omniscience (sarvajñānasamanvāgata), it is ‘unhindered deliverance’ (asaktavimukti). Since he has the eight liberations (vimokṣa) and these are profound (ganbhīra) and universal (vyāpin), it is ‘complete deliverance’ (saṃpannavimukti).

Furthermore, since the Buddha has left [the lower stages] of those who are liberated by chance (samayavimukta) and those liberated by wisdom (prajñāvimukta), he realizes the twofold deliverance (ubhayabhāgavimuti) perfectly.[11] As he has these [two] deliverances, it is ‘perfected deliverance aggregate’ (saṃpannavimuktiskandha).

Furthermore, the Buddha has obtained deliverance because he has destroyed Māra’s armies (mārasenā),[12] eliminated the negative emotions (kleśa), rejected the dhyāna systems, and also because he enters into and comes out of samādhi supremely and without obstacle.

Finally, in the path of seeing the truths (satyadarśanamārga),[13] the Bodhisattva attained sixteen profound deliverances (vimukti):

(i) [The first vimukti] was a conditioned deliverance (saṃskṛtavimukti) associated with duḥkhe dharmajñāna. [Commonly called duḥkhe dharmajñānakṣānti].

(ii) [The second vimukti] was an unconditioned deliverance (asaṃskṛtavimukti)[14] resulting from the abandonment (prahāṇa) of the ten fetters (saṃyojana) relating to the suffering [of kāmdhātu]. [Commonly called duḥkhe dharmajñāna.]

And so on up to [the sixteenth Vimukti] called mārge ’nvayajñāna.

Then, in the path of meditation (bhāvanāmārga), the Bodhisattva obtained eighteen deliverances:

(i) [The first vimukti] was a conditioned deliverance (saṃskṛtavimukti) associated either with anvayajñāna or with dharmajñāna.

(ii) [The second vimukti] was an unconditioned deliverance (asaṃskṛtavimukti) resulting from the abandonment of the three fetters to meditation (bhāvanāsaṃyojana) in ārūpyadhātu.

And so on up to the eighteenth vimukti where there is a conditioned deliverance associated with the destruction of the impurities (āsravakṣayajñāna) and an unconditioned deliverance resulting from the abandonment of all the fetters (sarvasaṃyojanaprahāṇa). These two deliverances together constitute the ‘perfection of the deliverance aggregate’ (vimuktiskandhasaṃpad).

5) Vimuktijñānadarśana-skandha

Furthermore, one recollects the perfection of the aggregate of the Buddha called knowledge and seeing deliverance (vimuktijñānadarśanaskandha). This aggregate is of two types:

(i) In regard to emancipation from his disturbing emotions, the Buddha puts the knowledge of destruction of the impurities (āsravakṣayajñāna) to work: from his own experience (adhyātmasākṣātkāra) he knows: “In me, suffering is completely known, its origin has been abandoned, its destruction has been realized and the path [to its destruction] has been practiced” (duḥkhaṃ me parijñātaṃ, samudayo me prahīṇo, nirodho me sākṣātkṛto, mārgo me bhāvita iti):[15] this is the vimuktijñānadarśanaskandha consisting of the knowledge of the destruction of the impurities (āsravakṣayajñāna).

Next, he knows this: “The suffering completely known by me is no longer to be known; [its origin abandoned by me is no longer to be realized]; the path [to its destruction] practiced by me is no longer to be practiced” (duḥkhaṃ me parijñātaṃ na punaḥ parijñātavyaṃ, samudayo me prahīṇo na punaḥ prahātavyo, nirodho me sākṣātkṛto na punaḥ sākṣātkartavyo, mārgo me bhāvito na punar bhavitavya iti):[16] this is the vimuktijñānadarśana consisting of the knowledge that the impurities, once destroyed, will not arise again (āsravānutpādajñāna).

ii) The Buddha knows that this particular person will find deliverance by entering the concentration of emptiness (śūnyatā), another person by entering into the concentration of signlessness (ānimitta), yet another into the concentration of wishlessness (apraṇihita). He knows that one individual will be led to deliverance without resorting to any skillful means (upāya). Another will find deliverance after a long time, a third after a short time, a fourth in this very moment. One individual will find deliverance if he is addressed in subtle words, another in coarse words, yet another in varied conversation (saṃbhinnapralāpa). One individual will find deliverance if he sees miracles (ṛddhibala), another if the Dharma is preached. The person in whom lust predominates (rāgabahula) finds deliverance if his desire (rāga) is increased; the one in whom hatred predominates (dveṣabahula) finds deliverance if his hate is increased, as was the case for the nāgas Nan-to’ (see Appendix on Nandopananda) and Ngeou-leou-p’in-louo (Urubilva).(see Appendix on the nāga of Urubilvā)

It is for various reasons of this kind that people find deliverance, as it is explained in regard to the Dharma eye (dharmacakṣus). Knowing and clearly seeing these various deliverances is called vimuktijñānadarśanaskandhasaṃpad. [221b]

Furthermore, one recollects the Buddha who knows all (sarvajñā), who sees all (sarvadarśin), his great loving-kindness (mahāmaitrī), his great compassion (mahākaruṇā), his ten powers (bala), his four fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya) his four unhindered knowledges (pratisaṃvid) his eighteen special attributes (āveṇikadharma), etc.

Recollecting the immense and inconceivable qualities (apramāṇācintyaguṇa) is what is called ‘recollection of the Buddha’ (buddhānusmṛti).

This recollection takes place in seven stages (bhūmi). Sometimes it is impure (sāsrava), sometimes it is pure (anāsrava). If it is impure, it entails retribution (savipāka); if it is pure, it does not entail retribution (avipāka). It is associated with three indriyas (indriyatrayasaṃprayukta), namely, the indriyas of happiness (sukha), satisfaction (saumanasya) and indifference (upekṣā).[17]

It is acquired by effort (prāyogika) or by retribution (vaipākika). That of the present universe is acquired by effort, e.g., when one practices the concentration of recollection of the Buddha (buddhānusmṛtisamādhi). That of the buddhafield of the Buddha Wou-leang-cheou (Amitāyus) is acquired by retribution; the people who are born there spontaneously (svaraseṇa) recollect the Buddha.[18]

All this is fully explained in the Abhidharma.

Footnotes and references:


Mūlasarv. Vin, Bhaiṣajyavastu, in Gilgit Manuscripts, III, Part I, p. 171, l. 14–19: Api tu yāsāṃ dhyānavimokṣasamādhisamāpattīnāṃ lābhī Tathāgatas tāsāṃ pratyrkabuddhā nāmāni na jānanti. yāsāṃ pratyekabuddhā lābhinas tāsāṃ bhikṣuḥ Śāriputo nāmāni na jānīte. yāsāṃ lābhī Śāriputro bhikṣus tāsāṃ Maudgalyāyano bhikṣur nāmāni na jānīte: “The trances, the liberations, the concentrations and the absorptions that the Tathāgata obtains, the bhikṣu Śāriputra does not know their names. Those that Śāriputra obtains, the bhikṣu Maudgalyāyana does not know their names.


Fully described above, p. 433–438F.


See above, p. 472F, 479F, 518F, and below, k. 41, p. 361a9–10.


See above, p. 23F and note, 396F, 655F and below, k. 25, p. 246a.


For these acintyavimokṣa of the bodhisattva, see Vimalakīrti, p. 250–258.


For Mahākāśyapa, see above, p. 87–103F, 190–196F, 287F and n.


The conversion of Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana has been told above, p. 621–640F


For Satyaka Nirgranthīputra, see above, p. 48F and n.; below, k. 25, p. 242c7; k. 26, p. 251c10.


Perhaps Śrenika Vatsagotra, already mentioned, p. 32F note, 46F, 184F. See below, k. 37, p.334b4; k.77, p. 602b13.


Dīrghanakha (or Mahākauṣṭhila): see above, p. 46–51F, 184F, 633F, 639F; below, k. 25, 242c7; k. 26, p. 254b10.


Of the six kinds of arhats, five are liberated as a result of chance (samayavimukta): their deliverance of mind (cetovimukti) is thus by chance (sāmayikī) because it depends on circumstance and is cherished because it must be guarded constantly: cf. Anguttara, III, p. 173; Kośa, p. 251, 154, 167, 274.

The saint who is liberated from the obstacle of the disturbing emotions (kleśāvaraṇa) by the power of wisdom is said to be liberated by wisdom (prajñāvimukta): cf. Anguttara, IV, p. 452–453; Kośa, VI, p. 274, 276, 297; VII, p. 97; VIII, p. 181.

The saint who, by the power of wisdom, is freed from the obstacle of the disturbing emotions (kleśāvaraṇa) and who, by the power of concentration (samādhi), is freed from the obstacle which stands in the way of the eight liberations (vimokṣāvaraṇa), is said to be doubly delivered (ubhayatobhāgavimukta): cf. Anguttara,I, p.73; IV, p. 10, 77: Kośa, II, p. 205; VI, p. 273, 276.


Above, p. 341–343F.


An allusion to the enlightenment of Śākyamuni who attained Bodhi in thirty-four moments of mind: sixteen of darśanamārga and eighteen of bhāvanamārga: see above, p. 130F note, and especially p. 1036F note.


On the difference between conditioned vimukti and unconditioned vimukti, see Kośa, VI, p. 2906.


Mahāvyut., no. 1321–1324; Kośavyākhyā, p.600, l. 7–9. Compare the canonical passage on the three turnings of the Wheel of the Dharma and on the twelve aspects (dharmacakraṃ triparivartaṃ dvādaśākaram): Vinaya, I, p. 11; Saṃyutta, V, p. 422, 436; Paṭisambidhā, II, p. 150 seq.; Catuṣpariṣad, p. 146–148.


Kośavyākhyā, p. 600, l. 11–14.


These three indriyas ‘sovereign organs’ in fact make up the members (aṅga) of dhyāna: see above, p. 1237F, n. 3; Kośa, VIII, p. 147.


The inhabitants of Sukkhāvatī, the buddhafield of Buddha Amitāyus, spontaneously and effortlessly recollect the Buddha, because it is precisely by the practice of anusmṛti that they are reborn in Sukhāvatī. See Amitāyurbuddhānusmṛtisūtra, T 365, p. 344c13–17: “There are three kinds of beings who will reborn in Sukhāvatī. Who are these three? 1) Beings with loving-kindness of mind (maitrīcitta), who do not kill and are endowed with morality (śīla); 2) those who study and recite the Vaipulyasūtra; 3) those who practice the six recollections (ṣaḍanusmṛti). If in applying these merits (puṇyapariṇāmanā) they express the wish to be reborn in this buddhafield and they fulfill these qualities (guṇa) in one to seven days, they will be reborn in Sukhāvatī.”

Later (k. 29, p. 276a17–22), the Traité will return to this subject: “The bodhisattva always practices the buddhānusmṛtisamādhi and, for that reason, wherever he is reborn, he always encounters the Buddhas. Thus it is said in the Pan tcheou san mei (Pratyutpannasamādhi, T 318): The bodhisattva who enters this samādhi sees the Buddha Amita. This Buddha is asked: As a result of what action has he acquired rebirth in this field? – The Buddha answers: O son of noble family, it is because he has always practiced the buddhānusmṛtisamādhi and his mindfulness was infallible that he obtains rebirth in my buddhafield.”

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: