Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “qualities of the moralities to be recollected” 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.

IV.2. Qualities of the Moralities to be recollected

The yogin recollects pure morality (viśuddhaśīla).

[According to the sūtras]: “The faultless moralities (śīlāny akhaṇḍāni), the moralities without cracks (acchidrāṇi), the moralities without rifts (aśabalāni), the unvarying moralities (akalamāṣāṇi), the liberating moralities (bhujiṣyāṇi), the [226a] moralities without careless attachment (aparāmṛṣṭāni), the moralities praised by the sages (vijñapraśastāni) and without defects (agarhitāni)[1] are pure morality.”

[1–2) Śīlāny akhaṇḍāny acchidrāṇi]. – What are the faultless (akhaṇḍa) moralities?

a. If, with the excepton of the four grave offenses formulated in the fivefold discipline (pañcaśīla), one violates all the other serious precepts, this is a violation ‘with faults’ (khaṇḍa). The other wrongdoings are ‘cracks ‘ (chidra).

b. Moreover, the physical wrongdoings (kāyikāpatti) are called ‘defects’ and the vocal wrongdoings are called ‘rifts’.

c. Finally, the great sins are called ‘defects’ (defeats?) and the small wrongdoings are called ‘cracks’.

[3) Śīlāny aśabalāni]. – If the good mind (kuśalacitta) is turned toward nirvāṇa and prevents the fetters (saṃyojana) and the various faulty examinations (vitarka) and subtle analyses (vicāra) from gaining access, there is morality ‘without rifts’ (aśabala).

[4) Śīlāny akalmāṣāṇi]. – If the mind goes [alternately] in two directions, sometimes toward nirvāṇa and sometimes toward saṃsāra, there is ‘varying’ morality (kalmāṣa). [If the mind goes exclusively toward nirvāṇa, there is ‘unvarying’ morality (akalmāṣa)].

[5) Śīlāni bhujiṣyāṇi]. – Following morality, not following after external conditions (bāhyapratyaya), like the independent (svatantra) unfettered man, observing pure morality without being enslaved by desire (tṛṣṇādāsya), this is ‘liberating morality’ (bhujiṣya).

[6) Śīlāny aparāmṛṣṭāni]. – In the face of morality, the yogin does not undergo the fetter of lust (rāga), pride (māna), etc. He knows the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of morality (śīlaninittani nodgṛhṇāti). If he grasps the characteristics of morality, he would be like a prisoner held by manacles who, even after having been pardoned, remains attached to his golden manacles. The person attached [to his own morality] by the passion of love is as if in prison: even if he manages to escape, he remains attached (sakta) to the morality like golden fetters. But the yogin who knows that morality is cause and condition for purity (anāsravahetupratyaya) does not experience this attachment [to morality itself] and is liberated, free of fetters: this is what is called morality ‘without thoughtless attachment’ (aparāmṛṣṭa).[2]

[7) Śīlāni vijñapraśastāni]. – These are the moralities praised by the Buddhas, the bodhisattvas, the pratyekabuddhas and the śrāvakas. If the yogin practices such morality, uses such morality, these are the moralities ‘praised by the sages’ (vijñapraśasta).

The moralities of the heretics (tīrthikaśīla) are the moralities of the bull (gośīla), the deer (mṛgaśīla), the dog (kukkuraśīla),[3] the flesh-eating demons (rākṣasaśīla), the mute (mūkaśīla), the deaf (badhiraśīla): these moralities are not praised by the sages; they are cruel and do not bring any good retribution (vipāka).

Furthermore, among the three kinds of morality, pure morality (anāsravaśīla) is praised by the sages. It is indestructible, unchanging and, by depending on this morality, one obtains true wisdom: therefore it is the morality ‘praised by the sages’.

Pure morality is of three kinds: it is, as the Buddha said, right speech (samyagvāc), right action (samyakkarmānta) and right livelihood (samyagājīva).[4] The meaning of this threefold activity has been explained (p. 1182F) in regard to the eightfold noble Path (āryāṣṭāṅgika mārga). It is necessary to continue this explanation fully here.

Footnotes and references:


See the preliminary note to the present chapter, p. 1332F. Here Kumārajīva translates the canonical terms rather freely. The latter are explained literally in Visuddimagga, ed. Warren, p. 182–183.


The Buddha several times has condemned the unjustified trust in the efficacy of rituals and vows (śīlavrataparāmarśa): cf. Vinaya, I, p. 184; Majjhima, I, p. 433; Anguttara, III, p. 377; IV, p. 144.


Heretics having taken the vow of living in the manner of a given animal. Majjhima, I, p. 387 mentions a Puṇṇa who was a govatika, a Seniya who was a kukkuruvatika, etc. See also Dīgha, III, p. 6–7; Comm. On the Majjhima, III, p. 100; Nettipakaraṇa, p. 99.


Majjhima, I, p. 301: Yā c’āvuso Visakha sammāvācā yo ca sammākammanto yo ca sammā ājīvo, ime dhammā sīlakkhandhe saṅgahītā.

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