Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the three faculties of understanding (tri-indriya)” 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 (1): The three faculties of understanding (tri-indriya)

This is a group of three dominant faculties (indriya), pure (anāsrava) and supramundane (lokottara), assuring complete understanding (ājñā) of the four truths at different stages. They are:

1. The faculty signifying “I will understand [the holy truths] which I do not yet understand” (anājñātamāsyāmīdriya).

2. The faulty of understanding assuring the understanding of these truths (ājñendriya).

3. The faculty belonging to the saint who has understood the truths (ājñātāvīndriya).

These three faculties which form a homogeneous group have already been mentioned in the canonical sources: Dīgha, III, p. 219; Saṃyutta, V, p. 204; Itivuttaka, p. 53;Tch’ang a han, T 1, k. 8, p. 50b13; Tsa a han, T 99, k. 26, p. 182a12–13.

They are defined in the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 209 and the Śatasāhasrikā, p. 1442:

Anājñātamājñāsyāmīndriyaṃ yac chaikṣāṇāṃ pudgalānām anabhisamitānāṃ … pudgalānām arhatāṃ pratyekabuddhānāṃ bodhisattvānāṃ tathāgatānām arhatāṃ samyaksaṃbuddhānānāṃ śraddhendriyaṃ, etc., up to prajñendriyam.

Translation. – The anājñātamājñāsyāīndriya is the faculty of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom in individuals who are still practicing and who have not yet understood [the truths]. The ājñendriya are the same faculties in individuals who are still practicing but who already possess the understanding of the truths. The ājñātāvīndriya are the same faculties in individuals who have nothing further to practice, namely the arhats, pratyekabuddhas, bodhisattvas and the Tathāgatas, saints, fully and completely enlightened ones.

These are definitions analogous to those found in the treatises of the Vijñānavādin school: Madhyāntavibhāga, p. 156, l. 6–14; Abhidharmasamuccaya, rec. Pradhan, p. 75, l. 25–76, l. 4; Siddhi, p. 449–452.