Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the knowledge of the way leading to the various destinies” 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.

VII. The knowledge of the way leading to the various destinies

The power of the knowledge of the way leading to the various destinies (sarvatragāminīpratipajñānabala).[1]

1) Some say that action (karman) is this way (pratipad). Why? It is because of action that one circulates through the destinies (pañcagati). If action exists, there is the possibility of destroying it and putting an end to it. This ending consists of the three elements of the noble Path (āryamārga)[2] and pure intention (anāsravacetanā). This is why actions are the way leading to the various destinies.

2) Others say that it is the concentration of five members and five knowledges. [A note in red says that this is pure concentration (anāsravasamādhi) and the five factors of trance (dhyānāṅga).] In all cases, it realizes profitable things (upakāra).

3) Others say that the fourth dhyāna is the way in question. Why? The fourth dhyāna is the culmination of all the concentrations; as is said in the sūtras, the good minds (kuśalacitta), concentrated (samāhita), free of distraction (avikṣipta), collected (saṃgṛhita), all enter into the fourth dhyāna. (see Appendix 8)

4) Others say that mindfulness of the body (kāyasmṛtyupasthāna) is the way leading to the various destinies (sarvatragāminī pratipad), for it is the origin (mūḷa) of the benefits (upakāra) resulting from the Path.

5) Others say that it is a question of all the noble paths (āryamārga) for, by using these noble paths, one obtains the benefits at will (yatheṣṭam).

6) Finally, there are teachers who have explained all the good paths, all the bad paths, all the noble paths, and for each of them, [the Buddha] knows the culmination as is said in the Mao-chou king (Romaharṣaṇīyasūtra).[3]

The Buddha knows all of this fully and completely (prajānati) and, since this wisdom is intact (avyāhati) and invincible (ajeya) [in him], it is called the ‘seventh power’.

Footnotes and references:


Pratipad, ‘way’, should be understood as the cause determining the five destinies (naraka, tiryagoni, preta, manuṣya, deva-gati) and nirvāṇa: cf. Vibhaṅga, p. 339. l. 8–10. We may note, with Kośa, VII, p. 70, that pratipad is the cause of the destinies but not of nirodha.


Śīla, samādhi and prajñā.


The Hair-raising Sūtra, understood here not as a sign of fear but as a sign of joy. This is the Mahāsīhanāda of the Majjhima, I, p. 68–83. At the end of this text, Nāgasamāla asks the Bhagavat how to name this sūtra, and the Buddha gives him the title, in Sanskrit, Romaharṣaṇīyasūtra, cf. Karmavibhaṅgopadeśa, p. 158, l. 11), in Pāli, LomahaÔanapariyāya (cf. Majjhima, I, p. 83, l. 25; Milindapañha, p. 396, l. 2) or Lomahaṃsanasutta (Sumaṅgala, I, p. 179, l. 3).

This is one of the rare cases where a Hīnayāna sūtra itself gives its own title. On the other hand, the Mahāyānasūtras generally end by allocating two or three titles to themselves. Cf. Vimalakīrti, p. 392, n. 42.

The Mahāsīhanāda, alsias Lomahaṃsana, has been the object of several Chinese translations, the oldest of which were incomplete: Tsa a han,T 99, no. 684, k. 26, p. 186b26–187b6; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 23, p. 670c2– 672b3; k. 42, p. 776b14–777a14; k. 48, p. 811a29–812b13; Chen mao hi chou king, T 757, p. 591c–600b; Sin kiai tcho li king, T 802, p. 747a–748c.

This sūtra alludes to a number of śrāmaṇas and brahmaṇas searching for the path of deliverance and purity (śuddhi) in food (āhāra), saṃsāra, rebirths (upapatti), dwellings (āvāsa), sacrifice (yajña) or sacrifices (agniparicāraṇa). The Buddha, who has followed all these paths in the course of innumerable existences which he remembers, declares that they are not the true Path.

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