Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “preliminary note to chapter xxxix” 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.

In chapter XVII to chapter XXX, the six perfections (pāramitā) to be fulfilled completely (paripūrayitavya) by the bodhisattva were discussed. They constitute the essentials of his career provided that he fulfills them by ‘the method of non-dwelling’ (asthānayogena), without grasping the characteristics (na nimittodgraheṇa).

Chapters XXXI to XXXVIII dealt with the Path of nirvāṇa, its auxiliaries and its aids. The dharmas of the Path belong to adepts of both Vehicles but under different headings. The śravakas aspire to nirvāna, whereas the bodhisattvas delay their nirvāṇa in order to dedicate themselves to the welfare and happiness of all beings. The result is that the dharmas of the Path ‘must be realized’ (sākṣātkartavya) by the śrāvakas but merely completely ‘fulfilled’ (paripūrayitavya) or ‘cultivated’ (bhāvitavya) by the bodhisattvas. The intention of the bodhisattva is to convert beings and introduce them into the Greater Vehicle, the Vehicle of the Buddhas. They consider the dharmas of the Path as inefficacious or even non-existent (anupalabdha) and propose a new method of liberation. But how can they divert the śrāvakas from the dharmas of the Path if they have not themselves cultivated them? Someone will certainly say to them: “You criticize the old method because you are unable to use it!” It is, therefore, important for the bodhisattvas to be aware of both the theory and practice of things of the Path in order that they can discuss them in a valid manner.

In chapter XXXIX to the beginning of chapter XLII, it will be a matter not only of the perfections of the bodhisattva or the dharmas of the Path but also of the great attributes of the Buddhas. Since the bodhisattva does not yet possess them, it is not a matter of his completely fulfilling them or developing them; he can simply formulate the ‘desire to know them’ (jñatukāma), the ‘desire to attain them’ (prāptukāma).

In the present chapter, the Traité limits itself to presenting the Abhidharmic theories concerning the ten powers of the Buddha; it is in the next chapter that it will present the Mahāyāna point of view.