Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the auxiliaries in the abhidharma” 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.

III. The auxiliaries in the abhidharma

Of the eighteen treatises contained in the Pāli Vihaṅga, the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh are dedicated to the five classes of bodhipākṣikas respectively: the smṛtyupasthānas (p. 193–207), the samyakpradhānas (p. 208–215), the ṛddhipādas (p. 216–226), the saṃbodhyaṅgas (p. 227–234) and the mārgāṅgas (p. 235–243). Each treatise is made up of three parts: 1) the suttantabhājaniya or literal explanations of the canonical sources; 2) the abhidhammabhājaniya or scholastic explanations of the same sources; 3) the pañhāpucchaka or summary by means of questions and answers.

The bodhipākṣikas are often discussed in the Visuddhhimagga as well by Buddhaghosa who summarizes his views at the beginning of chapter XXII (ed. Warren, p. 582–585, tr. Ñānamoli, p. 792–796).

But in the second part of the present chapter, the Traité takes its inspiration solely from the Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāṣika sources and enunciates theories already described in the Ṣaṭpādābhidharma (T 1553–1554), the Vibhāṣā (T 1545), the Amṛtasāra (T 1550–1552), the Abhidharmāmṛtarasa (T 1553), all texts dealing copiously with the bodhipākṣikas. It seems that the Traité preferably consulted the Prakaraṇapāda of Vasumitra (T 1541–42) which it cites twice under the heading of chapter VII, namely ‘the Thousand Difficulties’.

The Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma shows considerable progress in elaborating the doctrine of the auxiliaries in regard to the number of elements (dravya) entering into the constitution of the bodhipākṣikas, their successive appearance in the course of practice of the Path and their distribution in the levels (bhūmi) of birth or absorption.

1. Elements making up the bodhipākṣikas. – The Abhidharma authors rightly noted that although the canonical lists enumerate 37 bodhipākṣikas, many of them are fundamentally the same. Thus, when the lists speak of samyakprahāna, vīryendriya, vīryabala, vīryasaṃbodhyaṅga and samyagvyāyāma, basically it is a matter of one and the same thing, exertion. This is why these authors were led to reducing the 37 bodhipākṣikas to a certain number of constitutive elements, i.e., faith, exertion, mindfulness, etc. The Vibhāṣā (T 1545, k. 96, p. 496a-b) hesitates between ten, eleven or twelve constitutive elements; the Abhidharmāmṛtarasa (T 1553, k. 2, p. 977c11–12; Reconstruction by Bhikṣu Sastri, p. 116) settles for ten; the Kośa (VI, p. 283–284) has ten and the Abhidharmadīpa (p. 358) has eleven. Here the Traité also has ten.

2. Successive appearance of the bodhipākṣikas. – But if several auxiliaries are intrinsically the same, should we not accuse the canonical lists of having introduced fictional distinctions? No, for a given practice may have been practiced more or less efficaciously at different stages. This is why exertion, as it progresses, successively takes the name of samyakprahāna, vīrendriya, vīryabala, vīryasaṃbodhyaṅga and finally samyagvyāyāma.

Since then, the authors of the Abhidharma were brought to determining the successive appearance of the seven classes of bodhipākṣikas in the course of the various stages of the path:

1) The first class, that of the smṛtyupasthānas, appears at the beginning stage (adikāramika).

2–5) The four following classes appear during the preparatory Path (prayogamārga) or the practice of the four roots of good (kuśalamūla) ‘leading to penetration’ (nirvedhabhāgīya): 1) The four samyakpraghānas, in the Heat (uṣmagata); 2) the four ṛddhipādas in the Summits (mūrdhan); 3) the five indriyas in the Patiences (kṣānti); 4) the five balas in the Supreme worldly dharmas (laukikāgradharma).

6) The sixth class, that of the seven saṃbodhyaṅgas, develops in the Path of meditation (bhāvanmārga).

7) The seventh and last class, that of the eight mārgāṅgas, appears in the Path of seeing (darśanamārga).

Here, the Traité will not mention this classification although it appears in the Vibhāṣā (T 1545, k. 96, p. 496c22–497a2), the Kośa (VI, p. 287–288), the Abhidharmadīpa (p. 362), etc.

3. Distribution of the bodhipākṣikas in the levels. – On the other hand, the Traité borrows textually from the Vibhḥaṣā the paragraph on the distribution of the bodhipākṣikas in the levels (bhūmi). This distribution is also accepted by the Abhidharmāmṛta (T 1553, k. 2, p. 977c21–26; Reconstruction of Sastri, p. 117), the Kośa, VI, p. 291–292, and the Abhidharmadīpa, p. 365.

In this entire section, the Traité shows its complete understanding of the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma.