Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “there is no boastfulness in the buddha” 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.

III. There is no boastfulness in the buddha

Question. – According to a rule of human decency, even the sage cannot boast. How then (kaḥ punarvādaḥ) could a being free of egotism boast of his ten powers? Indeed, it is said:

To boast about oneself (ātmotkarṣaṇa), to blame oneself (ātṃapaṃsana),
To boast about another (parotkarṣaṇa) and to blame another (parapaṃsana)
Those are four things
Which the sage does not do.

Answer. – Although free of egotism and attachment, the Buddha possesses innumerable powers and, out of his great compassion (mahākaruṇā) to save beings, he speaks of only ten powers: that is not boasting.

Thus, the good caravan leader (sārthavāha), seeing robbers (caura) deceiving his merchants and inviting them to take the wrong road, is moved by compassion and says to his merchants: “It is I who am truthful (satyavādin); do not follow these hypocrites (śaṭha)!” And also, when charlatans are deceiving the sick (glāna), the good physician (vaidya), out of compassion for these [sick people], tells them: “I have the good remedy (bhaiṣajya) and I am able to cure your illness; do not believe these impostors! You will become even more sick.” [341b]

Furthermore, the qualities (guṇa) of the Buddha are profound and distant; if the Buddha did not speak about himself, nobody would know him, and the little that he does say is very useful to beings. This is why the Buddha himself speaks about his ten powers.

Furthermore, there are beings to be converted (vaineya) to whom it is necessary to speak, and among the things to say to them, he must, at the proper time, speak of the ten powers. If one did not speak about them, [these people] would not be converted. This is why the Buddha himself tells them about them.

Thus when the sun (sūrya) and the moon (candra) rise, they do not think: “By lighting up the world, we will have glory.” The mere fact of their rising is worthy itself of glory. It is the same for the Buddha: he thinks not at all about collecting glory when he speaks about his own qualities. When the Buddha is preaching the Dharma in a pure voice and the brilliance of his rays (raśmiprabhasa) destroys the shadows of ignorance among beings (mohatamas), he derives great glory from that automatically. Therefore there is nothing wrong in the Buddha himself speaking of his ten powers and his other qualities.

Power can have results. By using the ten powers, the Buddha increases wisdom (prajñāṃ vivardhayati): this is why he can confound the scholars (upadeśacārya). By using the ten powers, he increases wisdom: this is why he preaches the Dharma. By using the ten powers, he increases wisdom: this is why he triumphs over his adversaries. By using the ten powers, he increases wisdom; this is why he attains sovereignty (aiśvarya) over all the dharmas, just as the great master of a kingdom gets sovereignty over the ministers, the people and the populace.

This has been a brief explanation of the ten powers according to the śarāvaka system.[1]

Footnotes and references:


The Mahāyāna system on the ten powers will be explained in the following chapter.