Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the eighteen avenikadharmas of the buddhas” 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.

Preliminary note (1): The eighteen āveṇikadharmas of the Buddhas

By special attributes (āveṇikadharma) we mean the attributes possessed by the Buddha alone which are not shared with others.

As far as we know, they do not appear in the old canonical sūtras except for the Chinese translation of the Brahmāyuḥsūtra of the Madhyamāgama by Tche K’ien (T 76, p. 885b17–18).

On the other hand, eighteen āveṇikabuddhadharmas, the details of which are not given, are frequently mentioned in the Hīnayānist post-canonical literature and the Mahāyānasūtras. Most often they are cited equally with the ten balas and the four vaiśāradyas to which other categories of attributes came to be added, such as the three vidyās, the four pratisaṃvids, mahāmaitrī, mahākaruṇā, the sarvajñānas, etc.

In the Hīnayāna literature, see: Lieou tou tsi king, T 152, k. 7, p. 43b5–6;P’ou sa pen hing king, T 155, k. 1, p. 108c25; Hien yu king, T 202, k. 10, p. 418c29–419a1; k. 12, p. 433a9; Tsa pao tsang king, T 203, k. 10, p. 496b16; Abhiniṣkramaṇasūtra, T 190,k. 47, p. 871a2–3.

In the Mahāyānist or semi-Mahāyānist literature, see: Lalitavsitara, ed. Lefmann, p. 5, 1, 2; 403, 1. 2; and T 186, k. 7, p. 528c28; T 187, k. 5, p. 565b16–17;; k. 8, p. 585a22–23; k. 11, p. 605b8–9, 611b6; Pañcaviṃśati, T 223, k.1, p. 219a17–19; k. 2, p. 228a19–20; k. 4, p. 243a22–23; k. 7, p. 266c17–19; k. 9, p. 285c18–20; k. 17, p. 345c19–20; k. 23, p. 384a25–26, and many other Mahāyānasūtras.

The Pāli texts, with the exception of those of late date, are practically silent about the Buddha’s āveṇikas, but the Milindapañha should be mentioned which three times notes (p. 105, 216, 285) the 18 attributes of the Buddha (aṭṭārasabuddhadahmmā) without, however, giving any further explanations.

When the sources do detail the 18 āveṇikas, we find three different lists, two of Sarvāstivādin or Vaibhāṣika origin and the third of MahāyaÌist, probably Mahāsāṃghika, origin.

The first Sarvāstivādin list.

It is by far the best established and what is special about it is that it considers the 18 āveṇikas not as dharmas distinct from the other attributes of the Buddha but rather as a simple group of the four categories of buddhadharmas already appearing in the old canonical sūtras, namely, the 10 balas, 4 vaiśāradyas, 3 smṛtyupasthānas and mahākaruṇā, making up 18 āveṇikas. The balas and the vaiśāradyas have already been dealt with in the preceding chapters; as for the three smṛtyupsathānas belonging to the Buddha, they are also found “in the sūtra” (Pāli version in Majjhima, III, p. 221; Sanskrit version in Kośavyākhyā, p. 646, l. 34–647, l. 19).

This list is customary in the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharmas and theVaibhāṣika Śāstras: Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 17, p. 85a26–27; k. 120, p. 624a14–15; k. 143, p. 735c16–18; T 1546, k. 37, p. 277b13–14; Saṃyuktabhidharmasāra, T 1552, k. 6, p. 922c15–17; Kośa, VII, p. 66–67; Kośabhāṣya, p. 411; Kośavyākhyā, p. 640, l. 33–34; Nuāyānusāra, T 1562, k. 75, p. 746a11–12;Kośakārikāvibhāṣā, T 1563, k. 36, p. 955b2–3.

The Dīvyāvadāna, p. 182, l. 20; 268, l. 4, also mentions the 10 balas, 4 vaiśāradyas, 3 smṛtyupasthānas and mahākaruṇā as a group, but does not describe them as āveṇikabuddhadharmas.

A somewhat aberrant list is in Mañjuśrīparipṛcchā (T 468, k. 2, p. 505a28–29: the 18 āveṇikas are the 10 balas, the 4 vaiśāradyas plus the 4 great apramāṇas (maitrī, karuṇā, muditā and upekṣā).

The second Sarvāstivādin list.

Here the āveṇikabuddhadharmas are not mixed in with the other categories of attributes but rather form an independent and distinct series. To my [Lamotte’s] knowledge, the Traité is the only one to speak of it (see below, p. 1699F). It seems to attribute it to a group of Sarvāstivādin or Vaibhāṣika scholars and will comment that this list does not appear in the Tripiṭaka or in any of the other sūtras.

The Mahāyānist list.

Here also it is a matter of 18 āveṇikabuddhadharmas completely independent and distinct from the other categories of attributes of Buddha. Even though they are not of canonical origin, this list is by far the best known and is adopted by all the Mahāyānasūtras. Its title shows some divergences and the 18 āveṇikadharmas are not always cited in the same order.

The Sanskrit version of this list appears in the Prajñāpāramitāsūtras and especially in the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 211, l. 17–212, l. 7, and the Śatasāhasrikā, p. 1449, l. 22–1450, l. 14. The text of the editions contain some misprints which I [Lamotte] will take the liberty of correcting:

Punar aparaṃ Subhūte bodhisattvasya mahāsattvasya mahāyānaṃ yad utḥāṣṭādaśāveṇikabuddhadharmāḥ. katame ‘ṣṭādaśa. Yāñ ca rātriṃ Subhūte tathāgato ‘rhan anuttarāṃ samyaksaṃbodhim abhisaṃbuddho yāñ ca rātrim anupādāya parinirvāsyaty etasminn antare Subhūte.

  1. nāsti tathāgasya skhalitaṃ,
  2. nāsti ravitaṃ,
  3. nāsti muṣitasmṛtitā,
  4. nāsti nānātvasaṃjñā,
  5. nāsty asamāhitaṃ cittaṃ,
  6. nāsty apratisaṃkhyāyopekṣa,
  7. nāsti chandaparihāṇir,
  8. nāsti vīryaparihāṇir,
  9. nāsti smṛtiparihāṇir, <nāsti sammadhiparihānir>,
  10. nāsti prajñāparihāṇir,
  11. nāsti vimuktiparihāṇir,
  12. nāsti vimuktijñānadarśanaparihāṇir,
  13. sarvaṃ tathāgatasya kāyakarma jñānapūrvaṃgamaṃ jñānānuparivarti,
  14. sarvaṃ vākkarma jñānapūrvaṃgamaṃ jñānānuparivarti,
  15. sarvaṃ manaskarma jñānapūrvaṃgamaṃ jñānānuparivarti,
  16. atīte ’dhvany apratihatam asaṅgaṃ darśanam,
  17. anāgate ’dhvany apratihatam asaṅgaṃ jñānaṃ darśanam,
  18. pratyutpane ’dhvany apratihatam asaṅgaṃ jñānaṃ darśanam.

For the corresponding Chinese versions, see Kumārajīva’s translaion in Pañcaviṃśati (T 223, k. 5, p. 255c25–256a5; k. 24, p. 395b20–28) and Hiuan-tsang’s translation in Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra (T 220, vol. V, k. 53, p. 302a17–27; vol. VII, k. 415, p. 81b26–c4; k. 490, p. 489b4–14).

I [Lamotte] have described this list as Mahāyānist because it has been adopted by all the Mahāyānasūtras where it is discussed at length, e.g., in the Ratnakūṭa, section of the Bodhisattvapiṭaka (T 310, k. 40, p. 229b–233a; T 316, k. 15, p. 815b–818b). However, it was known by all Buddhists whatever their affliation:

1) It appears in the Chinese version of the Lalitavistara by Dharmarakṣa: T 186, k. 6, p. 522c16–24.

2) It appears in the Mahāvastu, I, p. 160, l. 8–16.

3) It is mentioned in the Kośavyākhyā next to the first list of the Sarvāstivādins, p. 640, l. 34–641, l. 8.

4) It is repeated in the Vijñānavādin treatises: Sūtrālaṃkāra, XXI, 57, p. 187; Saṃgraha, p. 288–290, 302; Abhidharmasamuccayavyākhyā (T 1606, k. 14, p. 761c5–762a27) where it is commented on at length; Yogācārabhūmi, T 1579, k. 79, p. 738b18–c25. – We may note, however, that beside these 18 āveṇikas, the Yagācārabhūmi also accepts 40 others (T 1579, k. 50, p. 574b4; Bodh. bhūmi, p. 375, l. 3).

5) Glossaries such as the Dharmasaṃgraha, chap. 79, the Mahāvyutpatti, no. 136–151 and the Arthaviniśacaya, cap. 24, p. 579–580, list it.

6) It was known to the Ceylonese masters of late date such as Buddharakkhita (5th cent.), author of the Jinālaṅkāra, and Moggallāna (12th cent.) author of the Abhidānappadīpikā: cf. Burnouf, Lotus, p. 649; Kern, Histoire, I, p. 283.

In the pages that will follow, the Traité will unreservedly adopt this Mahāyānist list and will criticize the two Sarvāstivādin lists which, in its opinion, include attributes not exclusively belonging to the Buddha himself.