Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “why are there only ten powers?” 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.

V. Why are there only ten powers?

Question. – The Buddha possesses innumerable powers; why speak of only ten here?

Answer. – It is true that the Buddha possesses innumerable powers but in order to save beings, to speak of ten powers is sufficient to settle the question:

1) By the power of the knowledge of what is possible and what is impossible (sthānāsthānajñānabala), the Buddha distinguishes (vibhanakti) and evaluates (tulayati) those beings who can be converted (vaineyasattva) and those who cannot be converted (avaineya).

2) By the power of the knowledge of retribution of actions (karmavipākajñānabala), he distinguishes and evaluates in one given person the obstacle consisting of action (karmāvaraṇa), in another person the obstacle consisting of retribution (vipākāvaraṇa), in yet another person the absence of obstacles.[1]

3) By the power of the knowledge of the dhyānas, vimokṣas, samādhis and samāpattis, he distinguishes and evaluates those who are attached to the flavors of trance (rasarakta) and those who are not attached to them.

4) By the power of the knowledge of the moral faculties (indriyaparāparajñānabala), he distinguishes and evaluates the degree of peoples’ strength of knowledge.

5) By the power of the knowledge of the various aspirations of beings (nānādhimuktijñānabala), he distinguishes and evaluates what is loved by beings.

6) By the power of the knowledge of the various dispositions acquired by beings (nānādhātujñānabala), he distinguishes and evaluates the progression of profound thoughts (gambhīracitta) of beings.

7) By the power of the knowledge of the route leading to the various destinies (sarvatragāminīpratipajjñānabala), he distinguishes and evaluates the doors to deliverance (vimokṣamukha) among beings.

8) By the power of the knowledge of previous abodes (pūrvanivāsajñānabala), he distinguishes and evaluates the earlier comings and goings of beings.

9) By the power of the knowledge of birth and death (cyutyupapādajñānabala), he distinguishes and evaluates the places of birth of beings (upapattisthāna), beautiful (suvarṇa) or ugly (durvarṇa).

10) By the power of the knowledge of the cessation of the impurities (āsravakṣayajñānabala), he distinguishes and evaluates the attaining of nirvāṇa by beings.

By using these ten types of powers, the Buddha saves beings. True and free of error, all are perfected (saṃpanna). This is why, although the Buddha possesses innumerable powers, we speak only of these ten powers.

Footnotes and references:

1.

By āvaraṇa is meant that which is an obstacle to the Path and to the roots of good preparatory to the Path (nirvedhabhāgīya). The Buddha said that there are three obstacles: i) the obstacle constituted by action (karmāvaraṇa), namely, the five sins of immediate (ānantarya) retribution; ii) the obstacle constituted by the conflicting emotions (kleśāvaraṇa), chronic (abhīkṣṇika) and violent (tīkṣṇa) passion; iii) the obstacle consisting of retribution (vipākāvaraṇa): the three bad destinies and some good destinies: cf. Anguttara, III, p. 436; Kośa, IV, p. 201–203 and notes; Bodh. bhūmi, p. 79.