Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the ten powers (bala) of the bodhisattva” 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.

Question. – The Buddha possesses ten powers (bala) and four fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya). Does the bodhisattva possess them?

Answer. – He does possess them. What are they?

1) He makes the resolution [to reach] omniscience (sarvajñatā): this is the power of high resolve (dṛḍhādhyāśaya-bala).

2) Because he is endowed with great loving-kindness (mahāmaitrīsamanvāgata), he possesses the power of not abandoning beings (sarvasattvāparityāga-bala).

3) Because he does not seek any benefit by way of worship (pūjā) or veneration (satkāra), he possesses the power of great compassion (mahākaruṇā-bala). [246a]

4) He believes in all the attributes of the Buddha and his mind never tires in order to reproduce them completely in himself; this is why he possesses the power of great exertion (mahāvīrya-bala).

5) He is mindful (smṛtimat) and he conducts himself intelligently[1] and does not transgress the attitudes (īryāpatha); this is why he possesses the power of the concentrations (samādhi-bala).

6) He avoids the pairs of extremes (antadvaya), he acts in conformity with the twelve-membered [pratītyasamutpāda], he destroys false views (mithyādṛṣṭi), he suppresses all thought (manasikāra), all discursiveness (vikalpa) and all idle proliferation (prapañca); this is why he possesses the power of wisdom (prajñā-bala).

7) He ripens beings (sattvān paripācayati), he takes on innumerable births and deaths (apramaṇāni jātimaraṇāny ādadāti), he relentlessly accumulates the roots of good (kuśalamūlāny ācinoti), he knows that the whole world is like a dream (svapnasama): this is why he possesses the power of being tireless in the voyage through transmigration (saṃsārāparikheda-bala).

8) He sees the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of dharmas; he knows that there is neither one’s self (ātman) nor beings (sattva); he is convinced (adhimucyate) that dharmas do not arise, are unborn: this is why he possesses the conviction that things are unborn (anutpattikadharmakṣānti-bala).

9) He has passed through the gates of liberation (vimokṣamukha), namely, emptiness (śūnyatā), signlessness (ānimitta) and wishlessness (apraṇihita); he knows and sees the liberation of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas: this is why he possesses the power of deliverance (vimukti-bala).

10) He has mastery over the profound dharmas (gambhīradharmavaśita), he knows the wanderings of the mind and the behavior of beings (sattvavittacaritragati): this is why he possesses the power of the unhindered knowledges (pratisaṃvid-bala).

These are the ten powers of the bodhisattva.

Footnotes and references:


Adopting the variant houei hing.

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