Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the auxiliairies 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.

IV. The auxiliairies in the mahāyāna

1. The Madhyamaka viewpoint        

Preliminary question. – From the beginning of this chapter, the Traité is confronted with an objection of principle. The auxiliaries of Bodhi that lead directly to nirvāṇa are of interest primarily to the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas whose aspirations concern nirvāṇa. But can we say that they also concern bodhisattvas who delay their nirvāṇa indefinitely in order to dedicate themselves to the welfare and happiness of beings?

The answer of the Traité is categorical: the bodhisapākṣikas concern the bodhisattvas as well as the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas and consequently are relevant to the three Vehicles.

Some arguments drawn from scripture and reasoning support this thesis:

1. In the Great Prajñās (Pañcaviṃśati, p. 194–223; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 1405–1473), there is a long chapter dedicated to the constitutive elements of the Mahāyāna. These are the six pāramitās, the twenty śūnyatās, the one hundred and twelve samādhis, the twenty-one practices, the forty-three dhāraṇīmukhas and the ten bhūmis. The seven classes of bodhipākṣikas are placed at the head of the twenty-one practices (Pañcaviṃśati, p. 203–308; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 1427–1439). This is proof that the bodhipākṣikas are an essential part of the Greater Vehicle and must be practiced in some way by the bodhisattvas.

Other Mahāyānasūtras may be called upon as witness. Thus the Avataṃsaka (T 278, k. 38, p. 640a27–28; T 279, k. 54, p. 286c24–25) makes the seventh of the ten gardens frequented by the bodhisattvas to be the six pāramitās, the three saṃgrahavastus and the thirty-seven bodhipākṣikas. In its section on the Daśabhūmika (p. 38–39, 42, 57), the same Avataṃsaka comments that the bodhisattva practices (bhāvayati) the bodhipākṣikas as early as the fourth bhūmi, purifies them by the view of sameness (samatā) in the fifth and fulfills them completely (paripūrayati) in the seventh.

Similarly, the Bodh. bhūmi (p.342) section of the Yogācārabhūmi, describes the Arcismatī, the fourth bodhisattva level, as the level ‘associated with the auxiliaries’ (bodhipākṣyapratisaṃyukta).

2. We also know from reasoning that the bodhipākṣikas are a part of the bodhisattva path, the intent of which is to save beings and lead them to nirvāṇa. But there is no nirvāṇa without bodhi, and bodhi can be attained only by practice of the Path (mārgabhāvana) with all the auxiliaries of bodhi (bodhipākṣika dharma). It is thus necessary that the bodhisattva fulfill them completely (paripūr) himself in order that he can teach them to others. But although he fully completes them (paripūrayati), he does not realize (na sākṣātkaroti) them immediately for, if he did that, he would enter into nirvāṇa immediately. He means, however, in his great compassion imitating the Buddhas, to stay in saṃsāra for a long time in order to ripen (paripācana) the greatest possible number of beings. Established in the perfection of wisdom (prajñāpāramitā), he knows that saṃsāra is identical with nirvāṇa, but that does not prevent him in any way from perfecting beings by the practice of the Path. This is why ‘his wisdom is accompanied by skillful means, and his skillful means is accompanied by wisdom’ (upāyasahitā prajñā, prajñāsahita upāyaḥ).

The Traité will develop considerations of this type in the first section of this chapter. But although the bodhisattva shares the thirty-seven auxiliaries with the śrāvaka and the pratyekabuddha, he practices them in quite a different spirit. This is what the Traité will set out to show in the third section of the chapter.

View and aim of the bodhisattva in the practice of the auxiliaries.

Two passages of the Great Prajñās are involved here:

1. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 146–147; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 841–842. – The bodhisattva clings (nopalabhate) to no dharma in general nor to any class of bodhipākṣika in particular because of their absolute purity (atyantaviśuddhitām upādāya). This purity is a non-arising (anutpāda), a non-manifestation (aprādurbhāva), an absence of clinging (anupalambha), a non-activity (anabhisaṃskāra). Things do not exist (na saṃvidyante) as worldly fools would like to believe (yathā bālapṛthagjanā abhiniviṣtāḥ); things exist by not existing (yathā na saṃvidyante tathā saṃvidyante). Consequently, because they exist only out of ignorance, they are called (the result) of ignorance (evam asaṃvidyamānās tenocyate ‘vidyeti).

2. Śatasāhasrikā, p. 56–57. – Dharmas in general and the seven categories of bodhipākṣikas in particular must be completely fulfilled (paripūrayitavya) by the bodhisattva who abides in the perfection of wisdom by a method of non-abiding (bodhisattvena prajñāpāramitāyāṃ sthitvāsthānayogena) basing himself on the impossibility of their being apprehended (anupalabdhitām upādāya).

The Traité has defined the method of non-abiding (asthānayoga) above (p. 656F): it consists of not grasping any characteristic (nimitta) in things. The translation of anupalabdhi and anupalabdhitā, rendered in Tibetan by mi dmigs pa and in Chinese by wou so tö, is very tricky. In his Materials for a Dictionary, p. 35, Prof. E. Conze proposes different translations such as no(n)-apprehension, impossibility of apprehending, that cannot be got at, etc., and he cannot be blamed for sticking to the purely literal meaning. However, I [Lamotte] think that the understanding of the term is much vaster than may be given to it by understanding the etymology. A dharma is anupalabhda, non-apprehended, not only because it is not grasped by any faculty whatsoever, but also as a result of its basic non-existence which puts it beyond the range of any clinging. For my part, the ultimate meaning of anupalabdhi and anupalambha is pure and simple non-existence. We may cautiously say, with J. May (Candrakīrti, p. 167) that the anupaladhasvabhāva dharma is that which is not perceived as existing in itself.

The two passages of the Prajñās that have just been presented permit the attitude of the bodhisattva towards the thirty-seven bodhipākṣikas to be defined:

1. For the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas, the ātman, the individual, does not exist in itself, but things (dharma) exist as they are produced by causes. For the bodhisattva, on the other hand, there is neither ātman nor dharma, and it is from the twofold perspective of pudgala- and dharmanairātmya that he ‘completely fulfills’ (paripūrayati) the auxiliaries of bodhi ‘by being based on their non-existence’ (anupalabdhitām upādāya).

The Traité as well will dedicate the third section of the present chapter to showing that the bodhipākṣikas operate within emptiness. The body, feelings, mind and dharmas, the objects of the four smṛtyupasthānas, are not only without self (anātman) and without ‘mine’ (anātmīya), but also non-existent (asat). The four samyakpradhānas and the four ṛddhipādas are empty (śūnya) and without basis (apratiṣṭhāna). The five indriyas and the five balas are applied to empty (śūnya) dharmas, without characteristics (ānimitta) and are of no interest (apranihita). The seven saṃbodhyaṅgas illuminate the True nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of things, namely, pure and simple non-existence. Finally, the eight mārgāṅgas lead to total absence of mind, speech and action.

2. The śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas who aspire to bodhi and nirvāṇa ‘realize’ (sākśātkurvanti) the bodhipākṣikas regarded as leading to it. On the other hand, the bodhisattva, wishing to remain in saṃsāra in order to work for the benefit and happiness of all beings, keeps from realizing the dharmas that would have the effect of making this task impossible and in which he does not believe. If he does ‘completely fulfill’ them (paripūrayati), it is not for himself but for a purely altruistic end, to teach them to beings destined to be converted by way of the Vehicle of the śrāvakas. For the bodhisattva, the bodhipākṣikas are merely skillful means (upāya) to be used according to the circumstances.

By this twofold attitude of theoretical refusal and practical acceptance, the bodhisattva remains faithful to his plan, namely, prajñā accompanied by upāya and vice versa.

2. The Vijñānavādin viewpoint

In contrast to the Prajñāpāramitā and the Madhyamaka of which the Traité is here the spokesman, the Vijñānavādin school is of the opinion that the True nature of dharmas is not pure and simple non-existence but a True manner of being (bhūtatathatā) and that the practice of the bodhipākṣikas allows its attainment.

To illustrate this point of view, a passage from the Bodh. bhūmi, p. 259, is cited:

Bodhisattva upāyaparigṛhītena jñānena … iyam asya pāramārthikī kāyānupaśyanā.

Transl. – By means of wisdom incorporating skillful means, the bodhisattva understands fully the thirty-seven auxiliaries but does not realize them; and he understands them fully from the point of view of both Vehicles, namely, the point of view of the śrāvaka Vehicle and the point of view of the Greater Vehicle.

From the point of view of the śrāvaka Vehicle, he understands precisely those that have been explained completely in (the chapter) on the śrāvaka level to which reference will be made (T 1579, k. 21–34, p. 395c–477c; cf. A. Wayman, A report on the Śrāvaka-Bhūmi and its Author Asaṅga, J. Bihar research Soc., XLII, 2–4, Parts 3–4, 1956, p. 1–14).

But how does the bodhisattva understand exactly the thirty-seven auxiliaries of enlightenment from the point of view of the Greater Vehicle? Here the bodhisattva abides considering the body in the body, but he does not conceive the body as being body [which is the viewpoint of the śrāvakas], nor as not existing in any way whatsoever [which is the viewpoint of the Mādhyamikas]; but he understands exactly the manner of existence of the inexpressible nature of the body [which is the viewpoint of the Vijñānavādins]. That is the bodhisattva’s consideration of the body in the absolute sense.