Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “why teach the ten powers (dasha-bala)?” 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. Why teach the ten powers (daśa-bala)?

Question. – The bodhisattvas have not yet obtained the ten powers and the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas are unable to obtain them; why speak of them here?

Answer. – 1) It is true that the śrāvakas are unable to obtain them but if they hear about the qualities of these ten powers, they tell themselves that the Buddha himself has these great qualities and they rejoice saying: “We have obtained great gains (lābhā naḥ sulabdhāḥ) and have received an unlimited benefit.” Thanks to the purity of their faith (śraddhācittaviśuddhi), they enter into the path of cessation of suffering (duḥkhakṣayamārga).

As for the bodhisattvas who hear about these powers, they diligently cultivate the bodhisattva path and will obtain these great fruits that are the ten powers, etc.

Furthermore, there are śrāvakas and bodhisattvas who, practicing the concentration of recollection of the Buddha (buddhānusmṛṭisamādhi), do not recollect merely the Dharmakāya with its many Buddha qualities. They must make the following reflections:

The Buddha is able to explain all dharmas in all their aspects (ākāra): this is why he is called ‘Omniscient’ (sarvajña).

In accordance with reality, he analyzes and skillfully preaches all dharmas: this is why he is called ‘Seeing everything’ (sarvadarśin).

By direct perception (pratyakṣam), he cognizes all dharmas: this is why he is called ‘the One whose knowledge and vision are unhindered’ (apratihatajñānadarśana).

He loves all beings impartially: this is why he is called ‘the Being of great loving-kindness and great compassion’ (mahāmaitrīmahākaruṇā).

He possesses great loving-kindness and great compassion: this is why he is called ‘Savior of the world’ (lokarātṛ).

He comes by a path that is in accord with the truth (yathābhūtamārgena gacchati): this is why he is called ‘Tathāgata’.

He has the right (arhati) to receive the worship (pūjā) of the entire world this is why he is called ‘Arhat’.

He is endowed with a wisdom free of error (aviparītaprajñā): this is why he is called ‘Samyaksaṃbuddha’.

His morality (śīla), his concentration (samādhi) and his wisdom (prajñā) are complete (saṃpanna): this is why he is called ‘Vidyācaraṇasaṃpanna, endowed with sciences and practices’.

He does not turn back: this is why he is called ‘Sugata’.

He cognizes the general characteristics (sāmānyalakṣaṇa) and the specific characteristics (svalakṣaṇa) of the world: this is why he is called ‘Lokavid, knower of the world’. [236b]

He skillfully preaches the path of supramundane salvation (lokottarakṣemamārga): this is why he is called ‘Anuttarapuruṣadamyasārathi, supreme leader of beings to be converted’.

He saves beings by the threefold teaching (śāsana): this is why he is called ‘Śāstā devamanuṣyāṇām, master of gods and men’.

He can awaken himself and awaken people from the sleep of all the afflictions (kleśa) of the world: this is why he is called ‘Buddha’.

He is endowed with all the aspirations (sarvapraṇidhānopeta): this is why he is called ‘Bhagavat, endowed with qualities’.

He is endowed with the ten powers (daśabalasaṃpanna): this is why he is called ‘Dhīra, strong’.[1]

He has obtained the four fearlessnesses (caturvaiśāradyaprāpta): this is why he is called ‘Puruṣasiṃha, man-lion’.

He has obtained immense profound knowledge (jñāna): this is why he is called ‘Mahāguṇasāgara, great ocean of qualities’.[2]

All these statements are without obstacles (apratihata): this is why he is said to be like the wind (vāyusama).

He has neither aversion (pratigha) nor fondness (anunaya) for all that is beautiful (suvarṇa) or ugly (durvarṇa): this is why he is said to be like the earth (pṛthivīsama).

He burns the kindling of all the fetters (sarvasaṃyojananendhana): this is why he is said to be like fire (tejaḥsama).

He has skillfully destroyed all the lingering traces of the afflictions (sarvakleśavāsanā): this is why he is said to be fully liberated (vimukta).

His abode being supreme (uttarāvasatha), he is called ‘Bhagavat’.

Since the Buddha possesses such qualities, one should recollect the Buddha. This is why the bodhisattva-mahāsattva who wants to attain the ten powers (bala), the four fearlessesses (vaiśāradya) and the eighteen special attributes (āveṇikadhrma) of the Buddhas should practice the Prajñāpāramitā.

3) Furthermore, at Rājagṛha on the Gṛdhrakūṭaparvata, when the Buddha was preaching the Prajñāpāramitā, the four communities (catuṣpariṣad) and a great crowd of heretics (tīrthika), lay people (gṛhastha), monastics (pravrajita), devas, yakṣas, etc., gathered together. The Buddha entered into the concentration of the King of Samādhis and emitted great rays of light (raśmi) that illumined universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges (gaṅgānadīvālukopama lokadhātu); the earth trembled in six ways (pṛthivī ṣaḍvikāram akampata);[3] then the Buddha preached the Prajñāpāramitā from the six perfections up to the three faculties, [i.e., chapter XVII to chapter XXXVIII]. At this moment, some beings experienced doubts (saṃśayajāta) and wondered by means of what powers and by means of how many strengths the Buddha could be of such inconceivable (acintya) and such moving service (upakāra). Knowing that these beings had such doubts, the Buddha said to them: “I possess the power of knowledge (jñānabala) of the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of all dharmas. This power has ten kinds of applications and thanks to these ten kinds of knowledges, I am able to carry out these moving miracles (prātihārya) and even surpass those that have been done.” This is why it is said [in the Prajñāpāramitā] that the bodhisattva who wants to attain the ten powers must exert himself in the perfection of wisdom.

4) Furthermore, some disciples of the Buddha (buddhaśrāvaka) who have planted the roots of good (avaropitakuśalamūla) lifetime after lifetime can, out of some fault, fall into heresy. Now heretics (tīrthika) often say: “The Buddha does not really have the power of the qualities (guṇabala): it is by magical powers (māyabala) that he seduces (āvartayati) the minds of beings.”[4] And the disciples of the Buddha who have fallen into heresy have doubts and wonder if indeed the Buddha is not the Great Man (mahāpuruṣa). Wanting to counteract this insult (abhyākhyāna), the Buddha said: “I truly possess the ten powers (bala) and the four fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya) with which I save beings: it is not magic (māyā).”

5) Finally, for the bodhisattvas who cultivate the bodhisattva path, the practice of austerities (duṣkaracaryā) is difficult to observe and difficult to realize and they have the tendency to laziness (kausīdya). This is why the Buddha says to them: “Practice the ten powers and you will obtain an immense fruit of retribution (vipākaphala).” [236c]

It is like the leader of a caravan (sārthavāka) who encourages his merchants by saying: “Be careful and avoid fatigue (klamatha): by means of energy, diligence effort and strength, you will arrive at the jewel mountain (ratnagiri) and there you will find the seven jewels (saptaratna) and the wish-fulfilling gem (cintāmaṇi).” In the same way, the Buddha encourages the bodhisattvas and says to them: “Do not be lazy; cultivate the bodhisattva path diligently and with energy; practice the ten powers and you will obtain an immense fruit of retribution.”

It is because of these many benefits that [the Prajñāpāramitā] deals with the ten powers, etc., here.

Footnotes and references:


Mahāvyut., no. 35.


Ibid., no. 36.


Events described and commented on above, p. 431F seq.


A spiteful insinuation often found in the mouths of heretics (Majjima, I, p. 375, 381; Anguttara, II, p. 190, 193): Samaṇo hi bhante Gotamo māyāvī, āvaṭṭaniṃ māyaṃ jānāti yāya aññatitthiyānaṃ sāvake āvaṭṭeti.

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