Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the knowledge of the degree of the moral faculties (indriya-parapara-jnanabala)” 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 knowledge of the degree of the moral faculties (indriya-parāpara-jñānabala)

The power of the knowledge of the degree of the moral faculties of beings (parapudgalānām indriyaparāparajñānabalam). – The Buddha knows the beings who are of sharp faculties (tīkṣnendriya), of weak faculties (mṛdvindriya) or of medium faculties (madyendriya). The strong knowledge (tīkṣṇajñāna) is called superior (para); the weak knowledge (mṛdujñāna) is called inferior (apara). [239a]

Using this awareness of the degree of the faculties of beings, the Buddha distinguishes (vibhanakti) the beings who are of keen, medium or weak faculties:

Such and such an individual who has such and such faculties can, in the present existence (ihajanma), obtain only the first fruit (phala), i.e., the fruit of srotaāpanna, but cannot obtain the other fruits; such and such another individual can obtain only the second, the third or the fourth fruit.

Such and such an individual can obtain only the first dhyāna; such and such another can obtain only the second, third or fourth dhyāna, etc., up to the absorption of the cessation of discrimination and feeling (saṃjñāvedayitanirodhasamāpatti).

Such and such an individual will become conditionally liberated (samayavimukta); such and such another individual will become unconditionally liberated (asamayavimukta).[1]

Such and such an individual can obtain the first rank (agratā) among the śrāvakas; such and such another can obtain the first rank among the pratyekabuddhas; such and such another, completely fulfilling the six perfections (pāramitā), can obtain supreme perfect enlightenment (anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi).

Knowing all this, the Buddha also knows those who pass to the other shore (pāraga) if [the Dharma] is preached to them in brief (saṃkṣepeṇa), fully (vistareṇa), or in brief and fully at the same time. He knows which beings are to be instructed by means of gentle words (ślakṣṇavacana), which by means of rough words (paruṣavacana), or which by means of both gentle and rough words.

Such and such an individual who already possesses the other faculties (indriya) should act so as to increase further his faculty of faith (śraddhendriya); such and such another should act so as to produce the faculties of exertion (vīrya), mindfulness (smṛti), concentration (samādhi) and wisdom (prajñā).

By using his faculty of faith (śraddhendriya), such and such an individual enters into certitude [of the acquisition] of the supreme good (samyaktvaniyāmam avakrāmati); such and such another individual, by using the faculty of wisdom (prajñendriya), enters into the certitude [of the acquisition] of the supreme good.

These people, of keen faculties (tīkṣnendriya), are hindered by the fetters (saṃyojana): for example Yang-k’iun-li-mo-lo (Aṅgulimāla), (see Appendix 3) etc. Certain others, of keen faculties, are not hindered by the fetters, for example Chö-li-fou (Śāriputra), Mou-lien Maudgalāyana), etc.

The Buddha knows the individuals of weak faculties (mṛdvindriya) but who are not hindered [by the fetters], for example Tcheou-li-pan-t’o-k’ie (Cūḍapanthaka). (see Appendix 4) But there are people of weak faculties who are hindered by the fetters.

The Buddha knows the people whose [passions] have been destroyed by seeing the truths (satyadarśanahīna) and whose faculties are weak, the people whose [passions] have been destroyed by meditation (bhāvanāhīna) whose faculties are keen, the people whose passions have been destroyed by meditation and whose faculties are keen, the people whose passions have been destroyed by meditation and whose faculties are weak, and finally, the people whose passions have been destroyed by seeing the truths and whose faculties are keen.

In such people, all the faculties (indriya) are equally weak (mṛdu) or equally keen (tīkṣṇa); in others all the faculties are neither equally weak nor equally keen.

A given person is of great strength as a result of previous causes (pūrvahetu); another person is of great strength as a result of present conditions.

A given person, while searching for bondage (bandhana), finds liberation (mukti); another person while searching for liberation, finds bondage. Thus, Aṅgulimala, who wanted to kill his mother and torment the Buddha, found liberation, whereas a bhikṣu who had obtained the four dhyānas and developed pride (abhimāna) because of that, fell into hell.[2]

Finally, the Buddha knows that such and such an individual will fall into the bad destinies (durgati), that a second individual will come out only with difficulty, that a fourth will come out easily, that a fifth will come out quickly and that a sixth will come out after a long time.

The Buddha knows fully and completely (prajānāti) all these various degrees of the faculties of beings and since this knowledge is intact (avyāhata) [in him] and invincible (ajeya), it is called the fourth ‘power’.

Footnotes and references:

1.

See Kośa, VI, p. 251–252.

2.

See above (p. 1052–1053F) the story of the bhikṣu who confused dhyāna and fruits of the Path and fell into the Avīci hell.