Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the twenty-two faculties (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 (2): The Twenty-two Faculties (indriya)

In the Abhidharma treatises, Pāli as well as Sanskrit, the three faculties of understanding are included in a numbered list of twenty-two also described as faculties (indriya).

So far as I [Lamotte] know, this list of twenty-two indriyas does not appear in the Pāli Nikāyas or the Sanskrit Āgamas. However, according to the Kośa, I, p. 101 and the Abhidharmadīpa, p. 44, the Buddha taught it “in a sūtra”: Dvāviṃśatir indriyāṇi. katāni dvāviṃśatiḥ. cakṣurindriyam… According to Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 142, p. 729a3; 730a7, the Buddha was speaking on that occasion to the brahmin Cheng-wen, i.e., to the brahmin Jātiśroṇa according to the Kośavyākhyā, p. 90, l. 25 and 28. We may, however, note that the Chinese characters Cheng-wen are often known in Pāli under the name of Jāṇussoṇī (cf. Akanuma, p. 240).

The list of twenty-two indriyas, cited here in the order most often adopted, appear in all the Abhidharmas which devote long explanations to them: Paṭisambhidā of the Khuddakanikāya, I, p. 7, l. 23–24; Vibhaṅga, p. 122; Kathāvatthu, p. 13; Visuddhimagga, p. 417; Prakaraṇapāda, T 1542, k. 15, p. 753c9; Jñānaprasthāna, T 1544, k. 14, p. 991b23–26; Vibhāṣā, T 1645, k. 152, p. 728c7–10; Abhidharmāmṛta, T 1553, k. 1, p. 871b28–c1 (rec. Sastri, p. 74); Satyasiddhiśāstra, T 1646, k. 1, p. 251b2–18; Kośa, p. 101; Kośavyākhyā, p. 90–91Nyāyānusāra, T 1562, k. 8, p. 377a14–17; Abhidharmadīpa, p. 44.

These twenty-two indriyas are constituted by the organs, the sensations or the faculties as follows:

1. sight (cakṣus), 2. hearing (śrotra), 3. smell (ghrāna). 4. taste (jihvā), 5. touch (kāya), 6. mind (manas), 7. male organ (puruṣendriya), 8. female organ (strīndriya), 9. vital organ (jīvitendriya), 10. sensation of pleasure (sukha), 11. sensation of displeasure (duḥkha), 12. sensation of satisfaction (saumanasya), 13. sensation of dissatisfaction (daurmanasya), 14. sensation of indifference (upekṣā), 15. faculty of faith (śraddhā), 16. faculty of energy (vīrya), 17. faculty of mindfulness (smṛti), 18. faculty of concentration (samādhi). 19. faculty of wisdom (prajñā), 20–22, the three faculties of understanding the truths defined above.

Among so many others, why are these twenty-two dharmas the only ones to be indriyas? The word indriya, derived from the root id or ind, is synonymous with great power (paramaiśvarya), with control (ādhipatya). The twenty-two dharmas in question have the characteristic of being dominant in regard to the living being (sattva) in that which concerns: 1. his primary constitution (mauladravya), 2. his distinctiveness (vikalpa), 3. his duration (sthiti), 4. his moral defilement (saṃkleśa), 5. his purification (vyavadāna). Indeed:

1. The point of support of the mind (cittāśraya) is made up of the six organs of consciousness, from the organ of sight to the mental organ (indriyas no. 1–6).

2. This point of support is distinguished by the two sexual organs (indriyas no. 7–8).

3. It lasts for a given time due to the vital organ (indriya no. 8).

4. It is defiled as a result of the five sensations (indriyas no. 10–14).

5. Its purification is prepared by the five moral faculties, faith, etc. (indriyas no. 15–19).

6. This purification is definitively assured by the three faculties of understanding (indriyas no. 20–22).

This nature of dominant-faculty is absent in other dharmas. This is why the indriyas are twenty-two in number, no more and no less.

All of this is explained in Kośa, II, p. 110–111.

Conforming to its custom, the Traité will explain in turn the viewpoint of the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma and the view-point of the Mahāyāna concerning the three faculties of understanding, the only ones that are absolutely pure (anāsrava) and supramundane (lokottara). The difference between the two systems resides in the fact that, for the Abhidharma, understanding concerns the four noble Truths (suḥkha, samudaya, nirodha, mārga), whereas for the Mahāyāna, it concerns the true nature of all dharmas.