Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “impure morality (sasravashila)” 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.4. Impure morality (sāsravaśīla)

Question. – We accept that pure morality (anāsravaśīla) must be praised by the sages; but why praise impure morality (sāsravaśīla)?

Answer. – Impure morality is similar to pure morality and, in harmony with it, implements causes and conditions [for salvation]. This is why the sages praise it jointly. Suppose that, in a band of brigands, someone rebels and comes to confide in me. Brigand though he was, now he is coming to me and I must welcome him. I am able to use him to destroy the thieves. Why should one not remember that these thieves that are the negative emotions (kleśa) are in the ramparts of the threefold world (traidhātukanagara)?

These roots of good (kuśalamūla) constituting impure morality (sāsravaśīla) that are called heat (uṣmagata), summits (mūrdhan), patience (kṣānti) and supreme worldly dharmas (laukikāgradharma) are indeed superior to other [good]-impure (kuśalasāsrava) dharmas. This is why the yogin uses them: it is thanks to them that he can destroy the brigands that are the disturbing emotions (kleśa) and that he can obtain the precious pure dharma (anāsrvadharma) that is the duḥkhe dharmajñānakṣānti. That is why [this impure morality] is praised by the sages.

This is the recollection of morality (śīlānusmṛti).