Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the knowledge of acquired dispositions (dhatu-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.

VI. The knowledge of acquired dispositions (dhātu-jñānabala)

The power of the knowledge of acquired dispositions (dhātujñānabala). The Buddha knows the world with its many varied acquired dispositions (nānādhātukaṃ lokam anekadhātukaṃ prajānāti).

By acquired disposition (dhātu) is meant an accumulated habitual pattern (ācitavāsanā). The characteristics (lakṣaṇa) arise from the dhātu. The aspiration (adhimukti) functions in accordance with the dhātu. Sometimes the dhātu results from the adhimukti. Habitual patterns (vāsanā) and aspirations (adhimukti) realize the dhātu. Dhātu is the lofty resolution (adhyāśaya), adhimukti arises as a result of the conditions (pratītyasamutpanna). These are the differences between adhimukti and dhātu.[1]

The Buddha knows “the world with its many various acquired dispositions”; indeed, each being has many dispositions, infinite (apramāṇa) and incalculable (asaṃkhyeya) dispositions. This is what is called the many dispositions of the world.

There are two kinds of world (loka): the world as universe (lokadhātu) and the world of beings (sattvadhātu). Here it is a question of the world of beings only.

The Buddha knows that beings have such and such acquired dispositions (dhātu), such and such aspirations (adhimukti) and that they come from such and such a place (sthāna). He knows the beings endowed with good roots (kuśalamūla) or bad roots (akuśalamūla), those who are able to be converted (vaineya) or incapable of being converted (avaineya), determinate (niyata) or indeterminate (aniyata), destined or not destined; he knows in what practices they are engaged, in what places they are born, in what lands they are to be found.

Furthermore, the Buddha knows the various dispositions particular to beings. According to the place where they are led, they have such and such inclinations, such and such evaluations, such and such high resolutions, such and such actions, such and such conduct, such and such emotions, such and such knowledge of life, determination, attitude, ways of seeing, ways of thinking; they do or do not acquire such and such fetters (saṃyojana).

Among them, attachment rules aspiration, aspiration rules defiled mind (variant: profound), defiled mind rules direction, direction rules evaluation, [239c] evaluation rules inquiry (vitarka), inquiry rules judgment (vicāra), inquiry and judgment rule speech (bhāṣā),[2] speech rules mindfulness, mindfulness rules activity, activity rules action and action rules retribution.

Furthermore, using this power of knowledge of the various acquired dispositions, the Buddha knows the beings capable or incapable of being converted, the beings to be converted in the present existence or in a future existence, the beings to be converted at this very moment or at another time, the beings to be converted publicly or without being seen, the beings to be converted by the Buddha, by a śrāvaka or by both together, the beings to be necessarily converted or not, the beings to be converted by a short discourse, by a developed discourse or by a discourse first shortened and then developed, the beings to be converted by praise or by blows, the beings to be converted by seeing them frequently or by leaving them alone, the beings to be converted by a subtle teaching or by an obvious teaching, the beings to be converted by suffering, by gentleness, or by both suffering and gentleness.

The Buddha knows those who have wrong views (mithyādṛṣṭi) and those who have right views (samyagdṛṣṭi), those who are attached to the past (atīta) or the future (anāgata), attached to nihilism (uccheda) or eternalism (śāśvata), attached to the view of existence (bhavadṛṣṭi) or the view of non-existence (vibhavadṛṣṭi), wanting to be reborn or disgusted with rebirth, seeking happiness in wealth and fame or attached to dull wrong views.

The Buddha knows those who profess the non-existence of causes and conditions; those who profess wrong causes and conditions or right causes and conditions; those who profess non-action, bad action or right action; those who advocate non-seeking, wrong seeking or right seeking; those who esteem the self, the five objects of enjoyment, gain, drink and food, joking; those who like crowds, company (saṃsarga) or solitude (parivarjana), those who indulge especially in pleasures (rāgacaritra) or those who indulge especially in wrong views (dṛṣṭicarita); those who love faith or those who love wisdom; those who should be kept or those who should be left behind; those who esteem discipline (śīla), concentration (samādhi) or wisdom (prajñā); those who understand easily or those who understand with difficulty by means of explanations; those whom it is enough to guide and those to whom it must be explained word by word; those who are of keen faculties (tīkṣnendriya), of weak faculties (mṛdvindriya) or of medium faculties (madhyendriya); those who are easy to pull out or tear out and those who are difficult to pull out or tear out; those who are afraid of wrong-doing and those who have heavy faults; those who fear saṃsāra and those who do not fear saṃsāra; those who abound in desire (rāga), in hatred (dveṣa) or in ignorance (moha ); those who abound in both desire and hatred, or in desire, hatred and ignorance; those whose emotions are slight and those whose emotions are heavy; those who have few afflictions (mala) and those who have many; those who have a clouded wisdom, a shallow wisdom or vast wisdom.

The Buddha knows the people who understand well the five aggregates (skandha), the twelve bases of consciousness (āyatana), the eighteen elements (dhātu), the twelve-membered dependent origination (dvādaśāṅgapratītyasmautpāda), the things that are possible (sthāna) and the things that are impossible (asthāna), suffering (duḥkha), its origin (samudaya), its cessation (nirodha) and the path to its cessation (mārga); who understand well how to enter [240a] into meditative stabilization (samādhipraveśa), come out of it (vyuṭṭhāna) or remain in it (sthiti).

Furthermore, the Buddha knows the beings belonging to the desire realm (kāmadhātu), the form realm (rūpadhātu) or the formless realm (ārūpyadhātu); the beings [in the realms of the] damned (naraka), animals (tiryagyoni), hungry ghosts, humans (manuṣya) or gods (deva): born from eggs (aṇḍaja), from the womb (jarāyuja), from moisture (saṃsvedaja) or of apparitional birth (upapāduka); with form (rūpin) or formless (arūpin); aware (saṃjñika) or unaware (saṃjñika); of short life (alpāyuṣa) or of long life (dīrghāyuṣa); simple ordinary people (pṛthagjana) who have not yet destroyed desire (avītarāga) or ordinary people who have destroyed the desire of the lower levels (avarabhūmi) but have not yet destroyed the desire of the dhyānas. The Buddha knows all these beings up to and including the beings who are neither discriminating nor non-discriminating (naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñā), the holy candidates [for the fruits] of the path (mārgaphalapratipannaka) or in possession of the fruits of the path (phalaprajñā), the pratyekabuddhas or the buddhas at unhindered liberation and various other categories of this type: the five destinies (gati), the four modes of birth (yoni), the three categories (rāśi),[3]the designations (prajñapti), the obstacles (āvataṇa), the aggregates (skandha), the bases of consciousness (āyatana), the elements (dhātu), the roots of good (kuśalamūla), the roots of bad (akuśalamūla), the fetters (saṃyojana), the levels (bhūmi), actions (karman), the fruits (phala), the beings capable of being converted (vaineya) or incapable of being converted, the knowledge of the destruction of suffering (nirodhajñāna), etc.

These are all the distinctions that “the Buddha knows the world with its many and varied acquired dispositions” and its deliverance is without obstacle. The Buddha knows completely and fully these many diverse dispositions and, since this knowledge is intact (avyāhata) and invincible (ajeya) [in him], it is called the’ sixth power’.

Footnotes and references:


Kośavyākhyā, p. 385: Pūrvajanmasu guṇadoṣavidyāśilpakarmābhyāsebhyo yā vāsana tās khale iha dhātavo viśeṣeṇa boddhavyāḥ: “Here in particular, by dhātu we should understand the traces resulting from the qualities, faults, sciences and arts, actions and habitual patterns in the course of previous rebirths.”

Dhātu should be interpreted in the same way in the canonical passage (Saṃyutta, II, p. 154, 157): Dhātuso sattā saṃsandanti samenti: “It is because of their acquired dispositions that beings come together, marry.” The hīnādhimuktikas join with the hīnādhimuktikas, the kalyānādhimuktikas with the kalyānādhimuktikas.

There is a slight difference between adhimukti, dhātu and āśaya, as the Traité says here.


According to the principle Vitarkya vicārya vācaṃ bhāṣate nāvitarkya nāvicārya. Cf. Majjhima, I p. 301; Saṃyutta, IV, p. 293.


The category predestined for salvation (samyakvaniyatarāśi), the category predestined to bad rebirths (mithyāniyatarāśi), the category foreign to the two previous ones (aniyatarāśi): see Dīgha, III, p. 217; Dhammasaṅgaṇī, p. 186; Kośa, III, p. 137.

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