Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “why distinguish between the powers and the fearlessnesses?” 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.

V. Why distinguish between the powers and the fearlessnesses?

Question. – Do the ten [powers (bala) of the Buddha not contain the fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya)? If they do contain the fearlessnesses, one should not speak only of four fearlessnesses, [but of of ten]. If they also contain the subjects of [243b] fear, why is it said that the Buddha is endowed with fearlessnesses (vaiśāradyasamanvāgata)?

Answer. – One and the same knowledge (jñāna) in ten places (sthāna) means that the Buddha is endowed with ten powers, in the same way that one and the same man who knows ten things is called after these things.

When the ten powers (bala) appear and function in four places, these are the four fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya).

[The first power], the knowledge of things possible and things impossible (sthānāsthānajñāna) and [the tenth power], the knowledge of the cessation of the impurities (āsravakṣayajñāna) constitute the first fearlessness [i.e., sarvadharmābhisaṃbodhi] and the second fearlessness [i.e., sarvāsravakṣaya] respectively.

Although the other eight powers are extensive, it is said that they are mixed up with the third fearlessness [mārgāntarāyikadharmavyākaraṇa] and the fourth fearlessness [duḥkhanirodha-pratipadvyākaraṇa].

Thus, although the fearlessnesses are contained in the ten powers, there is nothing wrong in speaking of them separately.