Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the eleven knowledges in the mahayana” 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.

Note (3): The Eleven Knowledges in the Mahāyāna

The Mahāyāna retains the list of ten knowledges established by the Sanskrit Abhidharma but gives it a very different interpretation and adds an eleventh knowledge at the end.

1. Lists of Eleven Knowledges in the Prajñāpāramitās in Sanskrit

List A appears in the Pañcaviṃśati, ed. N. Dutt, p. 208, l. 23—209, l. 1. It should also be on p. 20 of the same editions but the text is corrupt.

List B appears in the Aṣṭādaśasāhasrikā, ed. E. Conze, p. 193, l. 18–23, and the Śatasāhasrikā, ed. P. Ghosa, p. 61, l. 6–62, l. 16; p. 1440, l. 10–13.

List A (the Pañcaviṃśati):

  1. duḥka-
  2. samudaya-
  3. nirodha-
  4. mārga-
  5. kṣaya-
  6. anutpāda-
  7. dharma-
  8. anvaya-
  9. saṃvṛti-
  10. parijaya-
  11. yathāruta-jñāna.

List B (the Aṣṭādaśasāhasrikā):

  1. duḥkha-
  2. samudaya-
  3. nirodha-
  4. mārga-
  5. kṣaya-
  6. anutpāda-
  7. dharma-
  8. anvaya-
  9. saṃvṛti-
  10. paricaya-
  11. yāthāruta-jñāna.

The last two numbers are problematic:

Paricaya- or parijaya-jñāna. – For the meaning of the word, see Edgerton, Dictionary, p. 322; Conze, Materials, p. 245. The Pañcaviṃśati defines it as pratipatparijayajñāna ‘cognition of the mastery of the path’ according to Conze. The Śatasāhasrikā, p. 1441, l. 20, defines it as pratipakṣajñāna ‘knowledge of the antidote’. Neither of these definitions is satisfactory. But if we proceed by elimination, it is clear that in the list of the ten knowledges paricaya or parajayajñāna, whichever the orthography of the word, can here only designate the paracittajñāna ‘knowledge of another’s mind’ rendered in the Pāli sources given above by the terms paricchede ñānaṃ or cittaparicchede ñānaṃ.

Yathārutajñāna. – Taken out of context, the expression can only mean ‘knowledge that conforms to the expression’. But the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 209, l. 9 and the Śatasāhasrikā, p. 1441, l. 21, defines it as tathāgatasya sarvākārajñatājñānam ‘knowledge of the consciousness of all aspects [of things], belonging to the Tathāgata’. If this explanation is valid, then I [Lamotte] think the reading yathārutajñāna should be corrected to yathābhūtajñāna ‘consciousness conforming to reality’, the variant attested by some Chinese versions.

2. Lists of the eleven knowledges in the Chinese Prajñāpāramitās

List A appears in the Pañcaviṃśati translated by Kumārajīva, T 223, k. 1, p. 219a13–15; and in the Pañcaviṃśati by Hiuan-tsang, T 220, vol. VII, k. 415, p. 80b1–3.

List B appears in Kumārajīva’s Pañcaviṃśati, T 223, k. 5, p. 254c19–21, and the translations of Hiuan-tsang in the Śatasāhasrikā (T 220, vol. V, k. 3, p. 12a25–27), the Pañcaviṃśati (T220, vol. VII, k. 402, p. 7c4–6), and the Aṣṭādaśasāhasrikā (T 220, vol. VII, k. 479, p. 429c24–26; k. 489, p. 487c24–25).

It should be noted that Kumārajīva calls the eleventh knowledge yathābhūtajñāna whereas Hiuan-tsang always give it the reading yathārutajñāna.

List A (the Pañcaviṃśati translated by Kumārajīva):

  1. dharma-
  2. anvaya-
  3. paracitta-
  4. saṃvṛti-
  5. duḥkha-
  6. samudaya-
  7. nirodha-
  8. mārga-
  9. kṣaya-
  10. anutpāda-
  11. yathābhūtajñāna in K (yathārutajñāna in H-t.).

List B (Kumārajīva’s Pañcaviṃśati):

  1. duḥkha-
  2. samudaya-
  3. nirodha-
  4. mārga-
  5. kṣaya-
  6. anutpāda-
  7. dharma-
  8. anvaya-
  9. saṃvṛti-
  10. paracitta-
  11. yathābhūtajñāna in K (yathārutajñāna in H-t.).

3. Definition of the eleven knowledges in the Prajñāpāramitās

This will be found in the following recensions:

1. Pañcaviṃáti, p. 209, l. 1–9; T 223, k. 5, p. 254c21–255a4; T 220, vol. VII, k. 415, p. 80b3–21.

2. Aṣṭadaśasahāsrikā, T 220, vol. VII, k. 489, p. 487c26–488a15.

3. Śatasāhasrikā, p. 1440, l. 13–1441, l. 22.

Here I [Lamotte] limit myself to restoring the Pañcaviṃsati translated by Kumārajīva, T 223, k. 5, p. 254c21–255a4, into Sanskrit:

1. Tatra katamad duḥkhajñānam. yad duḥkhasyānutpādajñānam idam ucyate … 11. … tathāgatasya sarvākārajñatājñānam idam ucyate yathābhūtajñānam.

Transl. – 1. What is the knowledge of suffering? It is the knowledge of the non-production of suffering.

2. What is the knowledge of the origin of suffering? It is the knowledge of the abandonment of this origin.

3. What is the knowledge of the cessation of suffering? It is the knowledge of the original cessation of this suffering.

4. What is the knowledge of the path of cessation of suffering? It is the awareness of the noble eightfold Path.

5. What is the knowledge of the cessation of the impurities? It is the knowledge of cessation of lust, hatred and ignorance.

6. What is the knowledge of the non-rearising of the impurities? It is the knowledge of the non-production of these impurities in the Blessed One.

7. What is the knowledge of things? It is the knowledge consisting of the discerning of [the characteristics, impermanence, etc.] of these things.

8. What is subsequent knowledge? It is the knowledge consisting of saying: “The eye is impermanent” and so on up to “Mind, contact, co-dependent production and feeling are impermanent.”

9. What is conventional knowledge? It is the knowledge of the name of causes and conditions.

10. What is the knowledge of another’s mind? It is to know the minds of other beings and other individuals by means of the mind.

11. What is knowledge conforming to reality? It is the knowledge, belonging to the Tathāgata, of the consciousness of all the aspects.

These explanations are exactly opposite to the definitions given above by the Sanskrit Abhidharma: they represent the Mahāyānist point of view and are commented on by the Traité in turn: below, p. 1483F and later, k. 27, p. 257c14–16; k, 48, p. 406b–c; k. 84, p. 650c9–15; k. 99, p. 749a14.