Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “ills of the world (2) wretchedness of lands” 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.

VII. Ills of the world (2) Wretchedness of lands

All lands are filled with calamities and disadvantages: heat and cold (śītoṣna), hunger and thirst (kṣutpipāsā), sickness, epidemics, malaria, suffering, old age, sickness, death, fears; there is no country free of them. Anywhere you go, all these evils follow you and there is no place where you can avoid them. Although there are wealthy peaceful lands, many are tormented by the defilements (kleśa) and do not deserve the name of happy lands. All involve the two kinds of suffering, bodily suffering (kāyika duḥkha) and mental suffering (caitasika duḥkha); no land is free of them. Thus it is said:

There are lands that are too cold,
There are lands that are too hot,
There are lands without safety and protection,
There are lands where the miseries abound.

There are lands perpetually in famine (durbhikṣa),
There are lands where sicknesses are abundant,
There are lands where merit is not cultivated.
Thus there is no happy place.

As beings and lands have all these troubles, it is said that there is no happiness in the world (loka).

The ills of the desire realm (kāmadhātu) are such [as we have spoken of], but when one dies in the two higher realms [rūpa- and ārūpyadhātu] and falls back down here, one suffers even greater humiliation than in this lower world: thus, when one falls from a very high place, one is smashed to pieces and crushed.

Question. – What are the differences between anitya, duḥkha and anātmasaṃjñā on the one hand and sarvaloke ’nabhiratisaṃjñā on the other hand, and why speak of them separately?

Answer. – There are two kinds of consideration (anupaśyanā): i) a general consideration (samastānupaśyanā), ii) a specific consideration (bhinnānupaśyanā). The first three concepts are of the general order whereas [the concept of the world] is of specific order.[1]

Furthermore, there are two kinds of consideration: i) consideration about things (dharmānupaśyanā), and ii) consideration about beings (sattvānupśyanā). The first three concepts are a consideration consisting of disapproval of all things, whereas here, the concept of the world is considering the wickedness and the troubles of beings: it is not the same.

Furthermore, the first three notions are the pure path (anāsravamarga),[2] whereas the concept of the world belongs to the impure path (sāsravamārga).

Finally, the first three notions are of the path of seeing the Truths (satyadarśanamārga) whereas the concept of the world is of the path of meditation (bhāvanāmārga).

Thus there are many differences. The concept of dissatisfaction in regard to the entire world (sarvaloke ’nabhiratisaṃjñā) is included in all the levels (sarvabhūmisaṃgṛhīta) and bears upon the dharmas of the threefold world.

Footnotes and references:


The concepts of anitya and duḥkha include all conditioned dharmas (saṃskṛta) and the concept of anātma includes all dharmas without exception: they therefore have as object all dharmas inclusively. The concept of sarvaloke ’nabhirati is concerned only with beings (sattva) and lands (pradeśa).


Because they involve detachment in regard to the threefold world.