Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “why the first power includes the other nine” 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.

VI. Why the first power includes the other nine

1) Futhermore, by the power of the possible and the impossible, he knows exactly from what cause a certain fruit of retribution comes. This power includes the nine others to save beings. Nine different modalities occur in this first power. How is that?

2) Beings in the world see the grain grow from the seed with their eyes (pratykaṣam), but they do not know it. How then would they know the fruit of retribution (vipākaphala) caused by the mind and mental events (caitasikadharma)? The Buddha, however, knows clearly and fully the fruit of retribution in its inner and outer causes (adhyātmabāhyahetupratyaya): thus this is a ‘power’.[1]

The Buddha knows the beings who are bound (baddha) by actions (karman) and defilements (kleśa) and the beings who are freed (mukta) by the pure dhyānas, samāpattis, samādhis and vimokṣas. He knows fully and completely the three kinds of actions of all beings, past, future and present, the lightness or gravity, the depth or superficiality, the coarseness or subtlety of their afflictions: thus this is a ‘power’.

3. He knows fully and completely the depth or the shallowness of the dhyānas, samāpattis, samādhis and vimokṣas of all beings and the causes for their liberation (vimukti): this is thus a ‘power’. [237a]

4. In view of the future lifetime (punarjanman), beings of weak faculties (mṛdvindriya) carry out shameful or meritorious actions; in view of not being reborn, people of keen faculties (tīkṣṇendriya) accumulate actions (upacinvanti). The Buddha knows fully and completely the beauty or ugliness of these superior or inferior faculties: thus this is a ‘power’.

5. The Buddha knows the two kinds of aspirations (adhimukti) in all beings that are the determining causes of their higher or lower faculties (indriya); he knows fully and completely the kindness, the malice and the various modalities of these two kinds of aspirations: thus this is a ‘power’.

6. These two kinds of aspirations (adhimukti) being cause and condition for the two kinds of acquired dispositions (dhātu), the Buddha knows fully and completely the progress of the profound thoughts (gambhīracitta) of beings: thus this is a ‘power’.

7. By reason of their various acquired dispositions (dhātu), beings follow two types of paths (pratipad), the good path and the bad path. The Buddha knows fully and completely the many gates and destinations: thus this is a ‘power’.

8–9. The unhindered knowledge of [the mechanism] of causes and results in past and future existences is called the power of the knowledge of previous abodes (pūrvanivāsajñāna) and the knowledge of death and rebirth (cyutyupapādajñāna).

10. To know the causes and results of the past and the future and, being fully aware of skillful means (upāya), to break the continuity (prabandha) of the mechanism of cause and effect, this is the power of the cessation of impurities (āsravakṣayabala). The Buddha knows the twofold causality of the three times, distinguishes and evaluates the moral faculties (indriya), the aspirations (adhimukti) and the acquired dispositions (dhātu) of beings and, in order to break their impurities, he preaches the Dharma to them. This is what is called the power of cessation of the impurities (āsravakṣaya).

Footnotes and references:


Power (bala) here being taken in the sense of jñānabala ‘power consisting of knowledge’.