Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the knowledge of death and rebirth (cyutyupapada-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.

IX. The knowledge of death and rebirth (cyutyupapāda-jñānabala)

The power of the knowledge of death and rebirth (cyutyupapādajñānabala). Using the divine eye, the Buddha sees the place of deaths and rebirths of beings.

The worldly person (pṛthagjana) using the divine eye sees, at the maximum, one universe of four directions (caturdvīpaka). The śrāvaka, at the maximum, sees about a small chiliocosm (sāhasracūḍika lokadhātu); he sees it entirely from top (ūrdhvam) to bottom (adhas).[1]

Question. – But the great Brahmarāja, he too is able to see a chiliocosm. How does the śrāvaka differ from him?

Answer. – The great Brahmarāja, standing in the middle (madhya) of the chiliocosm, sees it all, but standing at the edge (pārśve), he does not see the other parts. This is not so for the śrāvaka: wherever he is, he always sees [all of] the chiliocosm.[2]

The pratyekabuddha sees a hundred thousand universes (lokadhātu); the Buddhas see innumerable (apramāṇa) and infinite (ananta) universes.

In worldly people (pṛthagjana), the knowledge of the divine eye (divyacakṣurjñāna) is an awareness (abhijñā) but not yet a knowledge (vidya). He sees only the things (vastu) that exist, but he cannot see for what karmic causes and conditions (karmahetupratyaya) they have taken birth. See what has been said in regard to former abodes (p. 1555F).

Furthermore, in A-ni-lou-teou (Aniruddha), the foremost of those who possess the divine eye, the material derived from the four great elements (caturmahābhautikarūpa) of the form realm – the matter constituting his divine eye – was only semi-pure (prasanna). On the other hand, in the Buddha, the divine [240c] eye, material derived from the four great elements, is completely pure: this is the difference.

Furthermore, it is in the concentrations (samādhi) in which he is dwelling (viharati) that the śrāvaka obtains the divine eye and it is in the concentrations in which he is dwelling that he can see, and this is a matter of concentration with investigation and analysis (savitarkasavicārasamādhi), of concentration without investigation but with analysis (avitarka vicāramātra samādhi), or of concentration with neither investigation or analysis (avitarkāvicārqsamādhi). On the contrary, as soon as he enters (praviśati) into concentration, the Buddha, if he so wishes, is able to see everything. Abiding in concentration without investigation or analysis, he obtains the divine eye; entering into concentration with investigation and analysis, or into concentration without investigation but with analysis, he can see equally.

Furthermore, when the śrāvaka sees by means of the divine eye and if his mind in concentration (samādhicitta) enters into another concentration, his divine eye disappears. This is not the case in the Buddha: even if his mind enters into another concentration, his divine eye does not disappear.

By means of this knowledge, the Buddha knows the places of birth and death of all beings and since this knowledge is intact (avyāhata) and invincible (ajeya) [in him], it is called the ‘ninth power’.

Footnotes and references:


Cf. Kośabhāṣya, p. 419–430: Kiyad dūraṃ punar divyena cakṣuṣā paśyati. yasya yādṛśaṃ cakṣur bhavati. śrāvakapratyekabuddhabuddhās tv anabhisaṃskāreṇa sāhasradvisāhasrakān lokadhātūn yathāsaṃkhyaṃ paśyanti… savābhisaṃskāreṇa saha śrāvakao ’pi dvisahasraṃ lokadhātuṃ divyena cakṣuṣā paśyati, trisāhasra ṃ khadgaviṣāṇkalpaḥ, buddhas tu bhagavān asaṃkhyeyān lokadhātūn paśyati yāvadevecchati.

Transl. – To what distance does one see with the divine eye? That depends on who possesses the eye and the eye itself. The śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas and the Buddhas, without any effort, see sāhasra, dvisāhasra and trisāhasra universes respectively. With effort, with the divine eye, the śrāvaka sees up to one dvisāhasra, the rhinoceros-like [pratyekabuddha] sees a trisāhasra, and the Buddha Bhagavat sees as many innumerable universes as he wishes.

The sāhasra, dvisāhasra and trisāhasra universes have been defined above, p. 337–448F.


Being natural and acquired by birth, the divine eye of the gods, including Brahmarāja, is defiled by eleven apakṣāla; as it is acquired by abhijñā, the eye of the śrāvaka is free of defilement and is very pure (suviśuddha). Cf. Kośavyākhyā, p. 279, l. 5–9.

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