Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “detailed commentary on the list” 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.

1–2. The Buddha has no bodily or vocal defect

Question. – Why does the Buddha have no bodily defect (skhalita) or vocal defect (ravita)?

Answer. – For innumerable incalculable periods (asaṃkhyeyakalpa) the Buddha has observed purity of morality (śīlaviśuddhi): this is why his bodily and vocal actions are faultless. The other arhats such as Śāriputra, etc., have cultivated the precepts for less time, sixty kalpas at maximum:[1] this is why they have faults. For innumerable incalculable periods the Buddha has accumulated and perfected the pure precepts (viśuddhiśīla), he has always practiced the profound concentrations (gambhīrasamādhi), he has obtained all the marvelous knowledges and has properly cultivated the mind of great compassion (mahākaruṇācitta): this is why he is without faults.

Furthermore, the Buddha has uprooted all the root causes of the wrongdoings: this is why he is faultless. The root causes of the wrongdoings are of four kinds: i) lust (rāga), ii) hatred (dveṣa), iii) (bhaya), iv) ignorance (moha). The Buddha has uprooted these root causes and their traces (vāsanā). The arhats and pratyekabuddhas, although they have uprooted the causes of the wrongdoings, have not eliminated the traces (vāsanā): this is why they sometimes have faults. The Buddha himself knows all these dharmas fully and completely,

Those who do not know them [thus] commit faults. Thus, Śāriputra while walking with five bhikṣus came to an empty house where he spent the night. It was a day when the pratimokṣa is recited. Śāriputra was not familiar with the rules for the inner limits (antḥasīmā) and the outer limits (bāhyasīmā).[2] This was reported to the Buddha who said: When one leaves the residence (āvāsa) at the end of one night, there are no determined limits.

Another time Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana returned leading five hundred bhikṣus who uttered loud shouts and cries (uccaśabdā mahāśabdā abhūvan). Then the Buddha chased them away (praṇāmayati sma).[3] This was a vocal fault [on the part of the disciples].

Another time Śāriputra had neglected the dietary rules and the Buddha said to him: You are eating impure food (aviśuddhāhāra).[4]

Thus, therefore, [the arhats] had bodily and vocal faults. But the Buddha who has eliminated the traces of the passions (kleśavāsanā) has no such faults.

Finally, in the Buddha, all the bodily and vocal actions accompany knowledge (jñānānuparivartin): this is why his body is faultless and his voice is faultless.

For all these kinds of reasons, the Buddha has no defect of body (nāsti skhalitam) and no defect of speech (nāsti ravitam).

3. The Buddha has no lapse of mindfulness

There is no failure of mindfulness (nāsty muusitasmṛtitā). Indeed, during the long night (dīrgharātram) he developed the mind of the four foundations of mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna), he developed the profound concentrations (gambhīrasamādhi), his mind was without any distractions (avikṣipta), he eliminated the thirst of desires (kāmatṛṣṇā) and joy of the dharma (dharmaprīti), his mind was not attached to any dharma and he attained the supreme safety of mind (paramacittakakṣemavihāra). If the mind is fearful or hasty, there are lapses of mindfulness; but the mind of the Buddha has none of these faults: this is why is he has no lapses.

Furthermore, by means of the [memory of] former abodes (pūrvanivāsānusmṛti), the sciences (vidya) and the powers (bala), the Buddha has triply adorned his mindfulness which is perfect and without defect because his mindfulness often bears upon the past.

Furthermore, as his faculty of mindfulness (smṛtīndriya) is of immense and inexhaustible power, his memory has no lapses.

Finally, in the Buddha, all mental actions accompany knowledge (sarvaṃ manaskarma jñānānuparivarti): this is why his mindfulness has no lapses since at each moment it accompanies the mind.

This is what is understood by mindfulness without lapse. See what has been [248a] said in the T’ien wen king (Devatāparpṛcchāsūtra).[5]

[The deity asked]:

Who is the man without fault?
Who is the man with unfailing mindfulness?
Who is the ever-attentive man (smṛtimat)
Who accomplishes what he must do?

[The Buddha answered]:

The man who knows all dharmas perfectly,
Who is freed of all obstacles
And is endowed with all the qualities:
He is unique: it is the Buddha.

4. The Buddha has no notion of variety

He has no notion of variety (nāsti nānātvasaṃjñā). The Buddha has no point of distinctions (vibhaṅga) among beings; he makes no difference between those who are far away and those who are close; he does not say: This one is noble and I can speak to him; that one is lowly and I must not speak to him. Just as the sun lights up everything, so the Buddha with the rays of his great compassion (mahākaruṇāraśmi) has pity for all and saves all alike. Whether one honors him or does not honor him, whether it concerns enemies or relatives, noblemen or scoundrels, all are alike to him.

See for example this stranger, the dung-sweeper called Ni-t’o (Nītha): the Buddha converted him and he became a great arhat. (see Appendix 1)

See also the vaiśya Tö-hou (Śrīgupta) who wanted to harm the Buddha with a ditch full of fire and with poisoned rice. The same day, the Buddha liberated him from the threefold poison (triviṣa) and extinguished the fire of wrong views (mithyādṛṣṭi) in him.[6]

Such examples show that the Buddha has no notion of variety (nānātvasaṃjñā).

Furthermore, the Buddha has no fondness (anunaya) for the practitioners of his doctrine such as Śāriputra, the bodhisattva Maitreya, etc.; he has no aversion (pratigha) either for people of wrong view such as Devadatta or the six heretic masters, Pūraṇa, etc. As the Buddha has formed his mind [in total impartiality] for innumerable incalculable periods (asaṃkhyeyaklpa), he is the Jewel (ratna) among beings and, like pure gold, he does not undergo variations.

Furthermore, “three times during the night and three times during the day, the Buddha considers beings with his Buddha eye” (trī rātres trir divasasya ṣaṭkṛtvo rātriṃdivasena buddhacakṣuṣā lokaṃ vyavalokayati)[7] and never allows the time of asking himself who can be converted (vaineya) to pass by. Considering beings impartially, he has no notion of variety.

Furthermore, the Buddha has praised the good dharmas (kuśaladharma) in many ways (anekaparyāyeṇa) and criticized the bad dharmas (akuśaladharma) in many ways. However, faced with good or with bad, his mind shows no increase or decrease (anūnānadhika): it is only in order to save beings that he makes distinctions. Thus he has no notion of variety.

Furthermore, it is said in the Yi-ts’ie-pou-hing king (Sarvadharmāpravṛttinirdeśa):[8] “The Buddha considers all beings as his own self, as having fulfilled their role (kṛtya) and having neither beginning, middle or end (anādimadhyaparyavasmana).”[9] That is why he has no notion of variety.

Furthermore, the Buddha sees that all beings and all things are, from the beginning, unborn (anutpanna), unceasing (aniruddha), always pure (śuddha) and like nirvāṇa: thus he has no notion of variety.

Finally, the Pou-eul-jou fa-men (Advayapraveśadharmaparyāya) or the ‘Teaching on the entry into non-duality’[10] is the doorway to the true nature of dharmas (dharmāṇāṃ bhūtalakṣaṇa). Variety (nānātva) is duality (dvaya), and duality is wrong view (mithyādṛṣṭi). But the Buddha is not a deceiver (amāyāvin) and cannot commit a deception (māyā). He always applies the Teaching on the entry into non-duality, and deception is variety.

That is why he has no notion of variety.

5. The Buddha has no non-concentrated mind

He has no non-concentrated mind (nāsty asamāhitacittam). Concentration (samādhi) is the non-distraction of the mind (cittāvikṣepa). In a distracted mind, it [248b] is impossible to see the truth: distraction is like a body of water disturbed by waves where one cannot see one’s own face; it is like a lamp (dīpa) in the full wind which cannot illumine well. This is why it is said that the Buddha does not have a non-concentrated mind.

Question. – The concentrations go from the anāgamya [preliminary concentration of the first dhyāna] on up to the absorption of cessation (nirodhasamāpatti). When one enters into these absorptions, it is impossible to assert any physical action (kāyakarman) or vocal action (vākkarman). Hence, if the Buddha is always concentrated (samāhita) and has no non-concentrated mind, how can he travel through the kingdoms, take up the four positions (īryāpatha) and preach the Dharma to the great assemblies with all kinds of nidānas and avadānas? Whether these actions are of the domain of the desire realm (kāmadhātvavacara) or of the Brahmā world, the Buddha cannot enter into concentration if he wants to accomplish them.

Answer. – When we said that he has no non-concentrated mind, that can have several meanings.

Being concentrated means being fixed on the good dharmas with a mind that is always absorbed (sadāsaṃgṛhītacittena). Now the Buddha is fixed on the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of dharmas and never strays from that. Therefore he does not have a non-concentrated mind.

Furthermore, in the desire realm (kāmadhātu) there are some concentrations where those who have entered into them are able to preach the Dharma. Thus, in the Abhidharma it is a question of [concentrations] belonging to the desire realm (kāmadhātvavacara), such as the four levels of saints (āryavaṃśa),[11] the four foundations of mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna), the four right efforts (samyakpradhāna), the four bases of magical power (ṛddhipāda), the five faculties (indriya), the five strengths (bala), the concentration preventing being attacked by others (araṇāsamādhi),[12] the knowledge resulting from aspiration (praṇidhījñāna),[13] and the four unhindered knowledges (pratisaṃvid). There are marvelous qualities of this kind in which the Buddha is established while entering into the world of desire: this is why he has no non-concentrated mind.

When the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas emerge from concentration (samādher vyuthitāḥ), they enter into an undefined mind (avyākṛtacitta), they enter into a good mind (kuśalacitta) or they enter into a defiled mind (samalacitta). But when the Buddha comes out of concentration and enters into a concentration of the desire realm (kāmadhātusamādhi),[14] he has not a single moment of distracted mind (vikṣiptacitta): this is why he has no non-concentrated mind.

Furthermore, according to the śrāvaka system, when the magically created beings (nirmita) preach the Dharma, their creator (nirmātṛ), [namely, the śrāvaka, does not speak, and when the creator speaks, the magically created beings do not speak. It is not so with the Buddha: the magically created beings and their creator, [namely, the Buddha,] preach the Dharma together.[15] [In the śrāvakas, the mind in concentration (samādhicitta) is necessarily different [from the mind of creation (nirmāṇacitta)] and when the śrāvaka enters into concentration, he does not speak. The Buddha himself, while remaining in concentration, is able to preach the Dharma and to walk about (caṅkramitum). This is what is said in the Mi-tsi king (Guhyasūtra, or Tathāgatācintyaguhyanirdeśa), in regard to the Secret of the mind (cittaguhya):[16] “The mind of the Buddhas is always in concentration”, but they are still able to preach the Dharma.

Furthermore, distractions (vikṣiptacitta), fetters (saṃyojana), doubts (vicikitsa) do not exist in the Buddha. Although he has no doubts concerning the four truths (catuḥsatya), the arhat often still has doubts about dharmas. The eternally concentrated Buddha has no doubts about dharmas: this is why he has no non-concentrated mind.

Moreover, the arhat who still has traces of the disturbing emotions (kleśavāsanā) and is capable of regressing (parihāṇadharman) has distractions. The Buddha who, in his omniscience, has complete knowledge, has no distractions. He is like a vessel (ghaṭa) full of water where there is neither sound (svara) nor movement (īraṇa). The Buddha is the only person who can be called free of deception (amāyāvin);[17] he is the foremost of the three strong individuals (dṛḍhapudgala).[18] His mind remains unchanged in suffering as in happiness.

All the characteristics of things (dharmalakṣaṇa), unity (ekārtha), multiplicity (nānārtha), production (utpāda), cessation (nirodha), interruption (uccheda), permanence (śāśvata), coming (āgama) and going (nirgama) are deceptions, [248c] the formation (saṃskāra) of a collection of falsehoods.[19] Since the Buddha is well established (supratiṣṭhita) in the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of dharmas, his mind is never non-concentrated and, being never non-concentrated, it does not change.

Moreover, among the five incomprehensible things (acintyadharma), the attributes of the Buddha are the most incomprehensible: (see Appendix 2) these eighteen special attributes (āveṇikadharma) are the profound treasure (gambhīranidhāna) of the Buddha. Who can understand them? This is why it is certain that the Buddha has no non-concentrated mind.

Although the Buddha enters into concentration, he does not have these coarse minds (audārikacitta) of investigation (vitarka) and analysis (vicāra) and, having incomprehensible knowledge (acintyajñāna), he can preach the Dharma.

The heavenly musical instruments (divyatūrya) make all sorts of sounds dear to the gods, and they do so while being without mind (citta) or consciousness (vijñāna) by virtue of the merits (puṇya) acquired by the gods.[20] If these heavenly musical instruments that are without mind or consciousness do such things, how could it be said that the Buddha, who is endowed with mind, cannot preach the Dharma?

This is why it is said that the Buddha does not have a non-concentrated mind.

6. The Buddha has no unconsidered equanimity

He has no unconsidered equanimity (nāsty apratisaṃkhyopekṣā). – Beings have three types of sensations (vedanā): unpleasant (duḥkhavedanā), pleasant (sukhavedanā), neither unpleasant nor pleasant (adḥkhāsukhavedanā). The unpleasant sensation produces hatred (dveṣa), the pleasant sensation produces love (rāga), the neither unpleasant nor pleasant produces confusion (moha). Of these three kinds of sensation, the unpleasant sensation produces suffering (duḥkha), abides in suffering and destroys happiness; the pleasant sensation produces happiness (sukha), abides in happiness and destroys suffering; as for the neither unpleasant nor pleasant sensation, one does not know if it is suffering or if it is happiness.

Other people who are of weak faculties (mṛdvindriya) experience the unpleasant and the pleasant sensations especially, but they do not feel the neither unpleasant nor pleasant sensation, they do not know it and have only indifference (upekṣā) for it: they are fettered by the fetter of confusion (mohasaṃyojana). The Buddha, on the other hand, knows completely the moment of arising (utpāda), the moment of duration (sthiti) and the moment of cessation (bhaṅga) of the neither unpleasant nor pleasant sensation: this is why it is said that the Buddha has no unconsidered equanimity.

Question. – But what is equanimity (upekṣā) here? Is it the absence of suffering and happiness which is upekṣā, or is it a matter of the upekṣā that is one of the seven factors of enlightenment (saṃbodhyaṅga), or again is it the upekṣā that is one of the four immeasurables (apramāṇacitta)?

Answer. – The absence of suffering and of happiness constitutes the twofold domain (sthānadvaya) of upekṣā and the abandoning [of this domain] is also called upekṣā. How is that?

In the course of a neither unpleasant nor pleasant sensation, other people do not take into account, from moment to moment, the moments of arising (utpāda), of duration (sthiti) and cessation (bhaṅga) of this sensation: it takes a long time for them to notice it. But the Buddha cognizes [these three moments] completely each successive moment.

Upekṣā is also part of the seven factors of enlightenment (saṃbodhyaṅga); when the mind is completely balanced, when it is not sinking (nāvālīyte) or being scattered (na vikṣipyate), this is when equanimity (upekṣā) should be practiced. In the moments of sinking, one practices the notion of exertion (vīryasaṃjñā), and in the moments of distraction, one practices the notion of concentration of the mind (cittasaṃgrahaṇasaṃjñā).

In some circumstances, the arhats and pratyekabuddhas concentrate their mind wrongly or excite it wrongly, and their equanimity is thus in disequilibrium. The Buddha, however, is never without completely cognizing the coarseness or the subtleness, the profundity or the superficiality inherent in the instantaneous minds. Knowing that, he is [truly] indifferent.

Question. – If that is so, how was the Buddha able to talk to the bhikṣus about Nan-t’o, saying: “In Nanda, the sensations (vedanā) are completely conscious at the moment when they arise, completely conscious when they endure and completely conscious at the moment when they are destroyed, and it is the same for the notions (saṃjñā) and investigations (vitarka)”? [Is that not a privilege reserved to the Buddha?]

Answer.- There are two ways of being conscious: [249a]

1) When a duḥkhavedanā ‘unpleasant sensation’ arises, knowing that a duḥkhavedanā is arising; when a duḥkhavedanā continues, knowing that a duḥkhavedanā is continuing; when a duḥkhavedanā ceases, knowing that a duḥkhavedanā is ceasing. When a sukhavedanā ‘pleasant sensation’ arises, knowing that a sukhvedanā is arising; when a sukhavedanā continues, knowing that a sukhavedanā is continuing; when a sukhavedanā ceases, knowing that a sukhvedana is ceasing. The same for a duḥkhāsukhavedanā ‘neither unpleasant nor pleasant sensation’. This is knowing only the general characteristics (sāmānyalakṣaṇa), but not the specific characteristics (svalakṣaṇa) of the sensation. [This way of being conscious was that of Nanda.]

2) Having full consciousness and full awareness from moment to moment of the duḥkha-, sukha- and aduḥkhāsukha-vedanā succeeding one another from moment to moment (kṣanekṣaṇā) and not ignoring the mental events (caitasikadharma) following one another from moment to moment. [This is the way of being conscious of the Buddha.] This is why it is said that he has no unconsidered indifference.

Furthermore, the Buddha sometimes went away from beings in order to enter into deep meditation (pratisaṃlayitum) for one or two months.[21] There are people who doubt and wonder: The Buddha came into the world to save beings; why then is he always in concentration?

The Buddha tells them: “It is for many reasons and knowingly that I am leaving beings. There is no unconsidered indifference (apratisaṃkhyāyipekṣā) in me.”

Question. – What are the reasons why he leaves them knowingly?

Answer. – In the middle of the great assemblies, the Buddha is tired and that is why he wants to rest for a while.[22]

Furthermore, from lifetime to lifetime, the Buddha has always liked solitude (naiṣkramya).

When, as a bodhisattva, he was in his mother’s womb (mātṛkukṣi), his mother loved solitude as well, and it was at forty li from the capital, in the forest of Lan-pi-ni (Lumbinīvana) she gave birth to him.[23]

When the Buddha attained Bodhi, it was in the forest of Ngeou-leou-p’in lo (Uruvilvāvana) alone, at the foot of a tree that he became Buddha.[24]

When he turned the wheel of the Dharma for the first time, it was also at Sien-jen tchou-tch’ou (Ṛṣipatana) in the forest of Lou-lin (Mṛgadāva).[25]

When he entered nirvāṇa, it was in the forest of So-lo trees (Śālavana) under two trees.

Thus, during the long night (dīrgharātraṃ), he liked to practice solitude: this is why he entered into concentration.

Furthermore, the Buddha always has the mind of solitude (naiṣkramyacittasamanvāgata): that is why he entered into concentration.

Furthermore, the Buddha avoided crowds (saṃsarga) and places of unnecessary speech (saṃbhinnapralāpasthāna) and, by contemplating his own treasury of Buddha qualities (buddhaguṇanidhāna), he experienced happiness of supreme purity (paramaśuddhasukha): that is why he entered into concentration.

Furthermore, when the Buddha finished preaching the Dharma, he always advised the bhikṣus to practice solitary meditation (pratisaṃlayana) in the manner of having no regret (paścāttāpa) and, as he himself applied the advice that he gave (kaṇṭhokta), he entered into concentration.

Furthermore, he disliked homage (pūjā) but, when he knew there were beings to be converted (vaineya), he entered into concentration and created fictive beings (nirmitapuruṣa) to come to save them.[26]

Furthermore, there are beings whose concentrations (samādhi) are rare and whose wisdoms (prajñā) are numerous. By giving them the example of his own practice of the dhyānas, the Buddha converts them.

Furthermore, there are people who get tired of always seeing the Buddha, and the Buddha withdraws a little so that they might aspire to see him again.[27]

Furthermore, when the Buddha wished to preach the Dharma to the devas, he went to a solitary place (vivikte sthāne).[28]

Furthermore, it is in order to establish a rule for future generations that the Buddha meditated and, when he turned the Wheel of Dharma, he passed this custom on to his disciples: this is why he entered into concentration.

Furthermore, the Buddha has shown a twofold path for gathering beings (sattvasaṃgrahāya): that of concentration (samādhi) and that of wisdom (prajñā). When the Buddha preaches the Dharma in the great assemblies, he illustrates the path of wisdom (prajñāmārga); but when he concentrates his mind in a solitary place (vivikte sthāne cittaṃ saṃgṛhṇāti), he illustrates the path of concentration (samādhimārga). [249b]

Finally, in the face of the six sense objects (ṣaḍviṣaya), beings have three kinds of reactions (saṃskāra): i) seeing beautiful colors (rūpa), they experience the happiness of joy (prītisuklha); ii) seeing ugly colors, they experience the suffering of sadness (daurmanasyaduḥkha); iii) seeing neither unpleasant nor pleasant colors, they experience a feeling of indifference (upekṣacitta). And it is the same for [the other sense objects] on up to dharmas. The Buddha, however, has control (vaśita) over the six sense objects (ṣaḍviśaya): in the face of pleasant or unpleasant objects, he is able to produce a feeling of indifference as has been said in regard to his holy magic (ṛddhi).

These are the various reasons why he enters into concentration and does not have any unconsidered indifference.

7. The Buddha has no loss of zeal

He has no loss of zeal (nāsti chandaparihāṇiḥ). – Knowing the value of the good dharmas (kuśaladharma), the Buddha always wants to accumulate the good dharmas and since his mind never tires of cultivating the good dharmas, he has no loss of zeal.

[The Buddha helps a blind bhikṣu thread his needle.][29] – Thus there was once an partially blind old bhikṣu who was repairing his cloak (saṃghāṭī). Unable to thread his needle (sūcī), he said to people: “Would someone who wants to gain merit thread my needle for me?” The Buddha appeared before him and said: “I am someone who loves merit without ever tiring of it. Bring your needle.” Full of respect, the bhikṣu caught a glimpse of the Buddha’s radiance and recognized his voice. He said to the Buddha: “The Buddha has exhausted the ends and the depths of the immense sea of qualities (apramāṇaguṇasāgara); why is he not yet satisfied?” The Buddha said to the bhikṣu: “The reward of the qualities (guṇavipāka) is very profound (gambhīra). There is nobody who knows their benefits as I do. Although I have exhausted the ends and the depths, my zeal (chandacitta) for merit is not yet satisfied (atṛpta): this is why I have become Buddha, Consequently, even now I do not stop. Although there are no further qualities that I might obtain, my zeal does not cease.” In fear, gods and men understood: “If the Buddha, [perfect as he is] is so insatiable for the qualities (guṇeṣv atṛptaḥ), what would it be for other people?” The Buddha preached the Dharma to the bhikṣu and at once his fleshly eye (māṃsacakṣus) was enriched with the pure eye of wisdom (prajñācakusus).

Question. – But the Buddha had previously eliminated the zeal for all the good dharmas (sarveṣu kuśaleṣu dharmeṣuchandaḥ); why is it said here that he has not lost zeal (nāsti chandapariāṇiḥ)?

Answer. – When he ruled out zeal for all the good dharmas, he had in mind those who are “zealous to obtain good dharmas that have not yet been obtained” (anutpannānāṃ kuśalānāṃ dharmāṇāṃ utpādāya chandam janayanti) or who “are zealous so that good dharmas already obtained should develop” (upannānāṃ kuśalānāṃ dharmāṇāṃ bhūyobhāvāya chandaṃ janayanti).[30] But the Buddha does not have that type of zeal. Completely endowed with all the qualities (sarvaguṇasaṃpanna), there is nothing that he has not obtained and he has nothing to increase. Here the word ‘zeal’ (chanda) means what I have said above: although the Buddha is endowed with all the qualities, his zeal for them has not come to a stop.

In the horse-jewel (aśvaratna),[31] even if it has arrived at its destination, the desire to go forward never ceases and persists until death. It is the same for the Buddha-Jewel. When the great fire at the end of the kalpa (mahākalpoddāha) has burned and consumed the trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu,[32] the power of fire has not disappeared. It is the same for the fire of the Buddha’s wisdom: when he has burned up all the passions (kleśa) and illumined all things, the zeal associated with this wisdom (prajñāsaṃprayuktachanda) is not extinguished.

Moreover, although the Buddha fulfills all the good dharmas and all the qualities, beings are inexhaustible (akṣaya) in number and this is why the desire which the Buddha has to save them all does not stop.

Question. – If the desire that the Buddha has to save all beings never [249c] ceases, why then does he enter into nirvāṇa?

Answer. –There are two ways to save beings: some obtain salvation when the Buddha is present, others obtain salvation after his nirvāṇa.[33] Thus it is said in the Fa-houa king (Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra): “When the master physician had given the medicinal plants he had gathered to his sons, he left them.”[34] This is why the Buddha enters into nirvāṇa.

Moreover, there are beings with weak faculties (mṛdvindriya) and slight virtues who are incapable of realizing the grand undertaking [of salvation] and who can only plant the causes of merits. This is why the Buddha enters into nirvāṇa [without waiting for them to reach their salvation].

Question. – But even after the death (nirodha) of the Buddha, there are still people who become arhat; why do you say that they can only plant the causes of merits?

Answer. – Although some become arhat, they are so rare that it is not worth mentioning. On the other hand, as soon as the Buddha preaches the Dharma, there are, in the ten directions, innumerable and incalculable beings who obtain Bodhi. After the death of the Buddha, it is the same. Similarly in a great kingdom, there are indeed some punitive military expeditions, but these are so rare that we do not speak about them. This is why, although beings are inexhaustible in number, the Buddha enters into nirvāṇa.

Finally, it is said in the Mo-ho-yen Cheou-leng-yen king (Mahāyāna Śūraṃgamasamādhisūtra): “In the Pratimaṇḍitā universe, the Buddha has a life-span of seven hundred incalculable periods (asaṃkhyeyalkalpa) during which he saves beings.” (see Appendix 3) This is why it is said that the Buddha has no loss of zeal (chandaparihāṇi).

8. The Buddha has no loss of exertion

He has no loss of exertion (nāsti vīryaparihāṇiḥ). – See what hs been said about loss of zeal: zeal (chanda) is synonymous with exertion (vīrya).

Question. – If that is so, the special attributes (āveṇikadharma) are no longer eighteen in number [but just seventeen]. Furthermore, in the list of mental events (caitasikadharma), a distinction is made between zeal and exertion.[35] Then why do you say that zeal is confused with exertion?

Answer. – Zeal is the action taken at the beginning and, when zeal is developed, it has the name of exertion. This is what the Buddha said: “All dharmas have zeal as their root” (chandamūlakāḥ sarve dharmāḥ).[36] Zeal is like a thirsty man who wants to find something to drink; exertion is like the means (upāya) used to seek something to drink. Zeal is mind (citta), desire to find: exertion serves to realize the thing. Zeal comes from a mental action (manakarman); exertion comes from three actions: [mental action, vocal action and physical action]. Zeal is internal; exertion is external. These are the resemblances and the differences.

Moreover, exertion is loved by the Buddhas: it is in this way that the Buddha Śākyamuni skipped over nine kalpas[37] and quickly attained anuttara samyaksaṃbodhi.

[Śaikṣasūtra.] – Moreover, it is said that one day the Buddha said to Ānanda: “Preach the Dharma to the bhikṣus; my back hurts (pṛṣṭhī ma āvilāyati); I am going to rest for a while.” Then the Bhagavat folded his upper garment in four (caturguṇam uttarāsaṅgaṃ prajñapya), spread it on the ground and with his cloak (saṃgāṭī) as a pillow (bimbohana), lay down. Ānanda preached the seven factors of enlightenment (saptasaṃbodhyaṅga). When he had come to the factor ‘exertion’ (vīryasaṃbodhyaṅga), the Buddha arose with a start and said to Ānanda: “Ānanda, are you praising exertion?” (pratibhātaṃ ta Ānanda vīryam) Ānanda answered “I am praising it.” And this happened three times. Then the Buddha said: “Good, good! Exertion well cultivated leads to the supreme perfect enlightenment (vīryam āsevitam anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhaye) and all the more so to the other Bodhis.”[38]

This is why the Buddha has no loss of exertion and, if he does not stop [250a] even when he is sick, what can be said about when he is not sick?

Moreover, in order to save beings, the Buddha gives up the happiness of his very deep concentration (gambhīrasamādhi) and he saves beings by means of all kinds of bodies (kāya), by all kinds of voices (vāc), by all kinds of means (upāya). Sometimes he borrows dangerous paths; sometimes he eats bad food;[39] sometimes he suffers cold and heat (śītoṣṇa); sometimes he encounters wicked objections (mithyācodana), harmful words (pāruṣyavāda) and curses. He endures them patiently without disgust. Although he has mastery (vaśita) over all dharmas, the Buddha accomplishes these things without producing laziness (kausīdya).

[Conversion of Subhadra.][40] – Thus, after having saved beings, when the Buddha had lain down in the So-lo-lin (Śālavana) under two trees, the brahmacārin Siu-p-t’o (Subhadra) said to Ānanda: “I have heard that this very night (adya rātryām) the Omniscient One (sarvajñā) will die: I would like to see the Buddha.” Ānanda stopped him, saying: “The Buddha has preached the Dharma far and wide to people and he is very sick (klānta).” The Buddha overheard and said to Ānanda: “Let Subhadra approach: he will be the last of my disciples (ayaṃ me paścimo bhaviṣyati śrāvānām).” Subhadra was able to approach, questioned the Buddha on his doubts; the Buddha preached the Dharma to him as he wished and cut through his doubts. Subhadra obtained Bodhi.

Before the Buddha entered into nirvāṇa without residue (anupadhiśeṣa nirvāṇa), the bhikṣus said to the Buddha: “Bhagavat, it is wonderful (adbhuta) that, right at the end, you had compassion for this brahmcārin heretic and you spoke with him.” The Buddha said: “It is not just in the present lifetime (ihajanman) that I have saved him as I was dying. In an earlier lifetime (pūrvajanman), when I had not yet obtained Bodhi, I saved him as I was dying.”

[Jātaka of the deer who sacrificed himself]

This happened a long time ago and it is not just today [that I have saved someone when I was at the end of my strength]. Those who at that time were the first to cross are my present disciples; the hare who crossed last is today Subhadra.

Therefore it is from lifetime to lifetime that the Buddha likes to use exertion, and it is not just today that he never stops. This is why it is said that he has no loss of exertion.

9. The Buddha has no loss of mindfulness

He has no loss of mindfulness (nāsti smṛtiparihāṇiḥ). – Since he is endowed with all the knowledges (sarvajñāna) of the things of the three times (tryadhvadharma), his memory (smṛti) is perfect (saṃpūrṇa) and without lapse (aparihāṇi).

Question. – First it was said that the Buddha has no failure of mindfulness (muṣitasmṛtitā) and now it is said that he has no loss of mindfulness (smṛtiparihāṇi). Are the absence of failure of mindfulness and the absence of loss of mindfulness the same or different? If they are the same, why repeat it; if they are different, what does the difference (viśeṣa) consist of?

Answer. – Failure of mindfulness (muṣitasmṛtitā) is a mistake (viparyaya); loss of mindfulness (smṛtiparihāṇi) is a defect (abhibhava). Failure of mindfulness is an error in the postures (īryāpatha), the way one holds one’s head, comes or goes; non-loss of mindfulness is the mindfulness lasting during the concentrations (samādhi) and the superknowledges (abhijñā), the unhindered penetration (apratiataprativedha) of the past and the present. [250b]

Question. – Why is just non-loss of mindfulness (smṛtyuparihāṇi) itself a special attribute of the Buddha?

Answer. – The śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas who practicethe four foundations of mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna) well have strong minfulness; but, strong as it is, it still has lows (ānatva) and obstacles (vighna) and does not penetrate deeply. As I have said in regard to the power of the mindfulness of former abodes (pūrvanivāsānusmṛtijñānabala),[41] the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas remember their former abodes for a maximum of 84,000 kalpas: beyond that they have lapses of memory. Moreover, in the path of seeing the truths (satyadarśanamārga), they cannot distinguish the successive moments [of the sixteen minds making up this path]. The Buddha himself distinguishes the three characteristics of each of these moments: [arising, duration and cessation]. There is not a single thing that the Buddha does not remember: this is why he alone has no loss of mindfulness.

Moreover, the power of knowledge of the former abodes is a knowledge (jñāna) depending on the memory. That is what the Buddha has power (bala) in. The śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas do not possess this power of memory (smṛtibala) and other people still less.

Finally, the Buddha guards his mindfulness by his unobstructed deliverance (apratihatavimukta) and his omniscience: this is why he has no loss of mindfulness.

For all these reasons, the Buddha has no loss of mindfulness.

10. The Buddha has no loss of wisdom

He has no loss of wisdom (nāsti prajñāparihāṇiḥ). – As the Buddha has obtained all these wisdoms (prajñā), he has no loss of wisdom; as his wisdom of the three times (tryadvajñāna) is unobstructed, he has no loss of wisdom.

Moreover, he is endowed with the ten powers (bala), the four fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya) and the four unhindered wisdoms (pratisaṃvid): this is why he has no loss of wisdom. If the oil (taila) is plentiful and the wick (vartikā) is clean, the flame of the lamp (dīpajvāla) is excellent.[42] It is the same for the Buddha who has concentrations such as the Samādhirājasamādhi as oil and, as clean wick, the absence of loss of mindfulness. This is why the radiance of his wisdom is immense and uneclipsed.

Moreover, since his first production of the mind of awakening (prathamacittotpāda) and for innumerable and incalculable periods (asaṃkhyeyakalpa), the Buddha has accumulated all the wisdoms and, in accordance with his high resolution (adhyāśaya), he has sacrificed his head (śiras), his eyes (nayana), his marrow (majjā) and his skull (mastaka), he has given all his inner and outer possessions, he has entered into fire, he has thrown himself down from mountains, he has flayed his skin, he has nailed his body, etc.;[43] there is no suffering that he has not endured, careful to accumulate wisdom. This is why he has no loss of wisdom.

Furthermore, the wisdom of the Buddha is aided by all the qualities: morality (śīla), concentration (samādhi), etc. This is why he has no loss of wisdom.

Furthermore, from lifetime to lifetime, he has studied all the books, whether it is the conventional sciences (saṃvṛtidharma) or the Buddha dharma, coarse (audārika) or subtle (sūkṣma), good (kuśala) or bad (akuśala), he has studied it all and understands it all. This is why he has no loss of wisdom.

Furthermore, he has read, thought about, meditated on and investigated the teachings heard from the mouths of the innumerable Buddhas of the ten directions. This is why he has no loss of wisdom.

Furthermore, in the interest of beings and to increase all the good dharmas, he has destroyed ignorance (avidyā) everywhere. This is why he has no loss of wisdom.

Furthermore, his wisdom really understands the [true] nature of dharmas, non-arising (anutpāda), non-cessation (anirodha), non-defilement (asaṃkleśa), non-purification (avyavadāna), non-action (anabhisaṃskāra), non-functioning (asamudācāra). He makes no distinction between true knowledge and false knowledge.[44] He knows that the dharmas are identical and equally pure (viśuddha), without defilement (akliṣṭa) and without stain (nirupalepa) like space (ākāśa). Disregarding all duality, he acquires the [true] nature of the Dharma, i.e., [250c] entry into non-duality (advayapraveśa). This entry into non-duality, characteristic of the Dharma, is immense (apramāṇa) and infinite (ananta). This is why he has no loss of wisdom.

For various reasons of this kind, the Buddha has no loss of wisdom.

11. The Buddha has no loss of deliverance

He has no loss of deliverance (nāsti vimuktiparihāṇiḥ). – Deliverance (vimukti) is twofold: i) conditioned (saṃskṛta) and ii) unconditioned (asaṃskṛta).[45] Conditioned deliverance is the deliverance associated with pure wisdom (anāsravaprajñāsaṃprayukta). Unconditioned deliverance is the cessation without residue of all the disturbing emotions (kleśa) with their residues (vāsanā). In the Buddha there is no loss of this twofold deliverance. Why? The śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas whose wisdom is not very keen (tīkṣnā) and whose disturbing emotions have not been entirely destroyed have loss of deliverance, but the Buddhas whose wisdom is supremely keen and whose disturbing emotions and the traces of the emotions have ceased definitively without residue have no loss of deliverance.

Moreover, as I have said above (p. 1560F) in regard to the power of the destruction of the impurities (āsravakṣayabala), there are differences between the deliverance of the Buddhas and that of the śrāvakas. The Buddha has the power of the destruction of the impurities and therefore has no loss of deliverance; the adepts of the two Vehicles, (i.e., the śrāvakas and the pratyekabuddhas], do not have this power and therefore have loss of deliverance.

12. The Buddha has no loss of the wisdom and the vision of deliverance

There is no loss of the wisdom and the vision of deliverance (nāsti vimuktijñānadarśanaparihāṇiḥ). – In regard to these deliverances, the wisdom of the Buddha is immense (apramāṇa), infinite (ananta) and pure (viśuddha): this is why he has no loss of the wisdom and the vision of deliverance.

Question. – The Buddha has no loss of anything; why would it be only in regard to such things [chanda, vīrya, smṛti, prajñā, vimukti and vimuktijñānadarśana mentioned in the special attributes no. 7 to12] that there is no loss?

Answer. – In order to realize one’s own benefit (svārtha) and the benefit of others (parārtha), the first four things are enough: i) chanda ‘zeal’ is the basis (mūla) for seeking all the good dharmas; ii) virya ‘exertion’ is capable of acting; iii) smṛti ‘mindfulness’ mounts guard like a gatekeeper (dauvārika): it lets the good enter but keeps out the bad; iv) prajñā ‘wisdom’ illumines all the teachings (dharmamukha) and destroys the disturbing emotions (kleśa). Using these four things allows the realization of the goal: [the benefit of oneself and that of others].

The fruit of retribution (vipākaphala) of these four things is twofold: i) vimukti, ‘deliverance’; ii) vimuktijñānadarśana, ‘knowledge and vision of deliverance’. The meaning of vimukti has been defined above. As for vimuktijñānadarśana, it is by using it that one understands the two kinds of deliverance, i.e., conditioned deliverance (saṃskṛta) and unconditioned deliverance (asaṃskṛta), and one also understands the other kinds of deliverance; occasional deliverance (sāmayikī vimukti), non-occasional deliverance (asāmayikī vimukti), deliverance of mind (cetovimukti)], deliverance by wisdom (prajñāvimukti), twofold deliverance (ubhayatobhāgavimukti), destructible deliverance (bhedayavimukti), indestructible deliverance (abhedyavimukti), the eight liberations (vimokṣa), the inconceivable liberations (acintyavimokṣa), the unobstructed liberations (avyāhatovimokṣa), etc.

The Buddha distinguishes all these deliverances, solid or non-solid: that is why ‘he has no loss of the knowledge and the vision of deliverance.’

As has been said above (p. 1358F) in regard to the recollection of the Buddha, among the five elements of sainthood (aśaikṣaskandha), the latter possesses the element consisting of the knowledge and vision of deliverance (vimuktijñānadarśanaskandha). Here it is necessary to speak about it at length.

Question. – We say ‘knowledge and vision of deliverance’: it should be enough to say ‘knowledge’ (jñāna); why add ‘vision’ (darśana) as well?

Answer. – By saying knowledge and vision, we reinforce the matter. It is like with ropes (rajju): when two ropes are joined together into one, it is stronger.

Moreover, to say only ‘knowledge’ would not include all the wisdoms (prajñā). See what the Abhidharma says:

“The wisdoms (prajñā) are of three types: i) involving knowledge (jñāna) and not vision (darśana); ii) involving vision and not knowledge; iii) involving both knowledge and vision. Those that involve knowledge and not vision are: the knowledge of the destruction of the impurities (āsravakṣayajñāna), the knowledge of non-arising (anutpādajñāna) and the knowledge associated with the [251a] first five consciousnesses (pañcavijñānasaṃprayuktajñāna). Those that involve vision and not knowledge are the eight kṣāntis [of the path of seeing the truths], right worldly vision (laukikā samyagdṛṣṭi) and the five wrong views (mithyadṛṣṭi). Those that involve both knowledge and vision are all the other wisdoms.”[46]

[In the case we are dealing with here] simply saying ‘knowledge’ would exclude vision; simply saying ‘vision’ would exclude knowledge. This is why we say ‘knowledge and vision’: that makes it complete (saṃpanna).

Moreover, whatever is conceived (vikalpita) and determined (vicārita) as a function of the teachings of a third person is called knowledge (jñāna); what one realizes by oneself (svataḥ śākṣātkṛta) is called vision (darśana). Similarly, if the ear hears something but still has doubts, that is called knowledge; on the other hand, if the eye sees and perceives by itself unhesitatingly, that is called vision. These are the differences (viśeṣa) between knowledge and vision.

Furthermore, according to some, arhats still doubt their own deliverance (vimukti) and do not recognize it personally. But such arhats are not real arhats. Also, in order to cut this wrong view (mithyadṛṣṭi), the Buddha said that the saints (āryapudgala) recognize and see deliverance. But although these arhats may have obtained the knowledge and vision of deliverance, they can lose this knowledge and vision of deliverance because they do not have omniscience (sarvajñmatā), they are not endowed with an absolutely superior wisdom (nādhimātraprajñendriyasamvāgata) and they cannot recognize the various special characteristics (bhinnalakṣaṇaviśeṣa) of things, [namely], the moments of instantaneous arising and cessation (kṣaṇikotpādanirodha).

The Buddha, on the other hand, is endowed with an absolutely pure faculty of wisdom (adhimātraprajñendriyasamanvāgata) and cognizes the instantaneous arisings and cessations (kṣaṇikotpādanirodha) belonging to each dharma. This is why he ‘has no loss of knowledge and vision of deliverance’.

Finally, the Buddha is endowed with the perfection of the Dharma eye (dharmacakṣurviśuddhi) and, as is said in regard to this Dharma eye, the Buddha knows the beings who enter nirvāṇa either by the gate of deliverance of emptiness (śūnyatāvimokṣamukha) or by the gate of deliverance of signlessness (ānimittavimokṣamukha) or by the gate of deliverance of wishlessness (apraṇihitavimokṣamukha). He knows those who see the five aggregates (skandha), the twelve bases of consciousness (āyatana) and the eighteen elements (dhātu), and who, by these various teachings (nānāvidhadharmamukha), obtain deliverance. In this knowledge and this vision of deliverance, the Buddha has a complete and universal knowledge. This is why it is said that he has no loss of the knowledge and vision of deliverance.

13–15. Every physical, vocal or mental action of the Buddha accompanies knowledge

All his bodily actions, all his vocal actions and all his mental actions accompany knowledge (sarvāṇi kāyavāgmanaskarmāṇi jñānānuparivartini). – In the Buddha, all bodily, vocal and mental actions are preceded by knowledge (jñānapūrvaṃgama) and, subsequently, accompany knowledge (jñānānuparivartin).

Of all the bodily, vocal or mental actions of the Buddha, there is not one that is not useful to beings: this is why it is said that his actions are preceded by knowledge and accompany knowledge.

Thus it is said in a sūtra: “In the Buddhas, even the outbreath (praśvāsa) and the inbreath (āśvāsa) are useful to beings.” How, then, would their bodily, vocal and mental actions not be useful to them? The wicked who smell the perfume (gandha) of the breath (ānāpāna) of the Buddha obtain pure faith (cittaprasāda) and love the Buddha. The gods who breatheperfume of his breath renounce the five objects of desire (pañcakāmaguṇa) and resolve to practice the good. This is why it is said that his bodily, vocal and mental actions accompany knowledge.

The śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas do not have this privilege. First they do good in their mind and then only afterwards by means of bodily or vocal actions.[47] Sometimes even their mental action (manaskarman) is indeterminate (avyākṛta) and is produced without accompanying knowledge. [If that is so for [251b] them], what can be said for other people?

Take for example the bhikṣu Kiao-fan-po-t’i (Gavāmpati): although he was arhat, he spit up his own food and then swallowed it again.[48] Such an action does not accompany knowledge.

See also the bhikṣu-arhat Mo-t’eou-po-sseu-tcho (Madhuvāsiṣṭha) who climbed onto scaffolding (gosāraka), walls (bhitti) and trees (vṛkṣa). (see Appendix 4) 

Finally, see Pi-ling-k’ie-p’o-ts’o (Pilindavatsa) who insulted the Ganges and treated it as a little slave (vatsala)[49]

Such bodily and vocal actions are not preceded by knowledge (jñānpūrvaṃgama) and do not accompany knowledge (jñānāparivartin). The Buddha himself has none of these things.

[Digression on a case brought against the Buddha]

If one does not cling to the emptiness of dharmas, the mind does not arouse debate (vivāda) and merely drives out the fetters (saṃyojana): this is true knowledge. But if one grasps (udgṛhṇāti) the empty nature (śūnyanimitta) of dharmas, one provokes debate and one does not destroy the fetters; holding on to that wisdom is not true wisdom.

Everything that the Buddha says is aimed at saving beings; that is why there is not a single one of them that is not true. Accoording to whether people cling (abhiniviśante) or do not cling to them to them, they are sometimes in the right and sometimes in the wrong. For all these reasons, the bodily, vocal or mental actions of the Buddha are ‘preceded by knowledge’ (jñānapūrvaṃgama) and ‘accompany knowledge’ (jñānānuparivartin).

Question. – You said at the beginning that the Buddha has neither physical defect nor vocal defect nor mental defect (cf. āveṇikadharmas no. 1–3), and here [254c] you say again that his bodily, vocal and mental actions accompany knowledge (cf. āveṇikadharmas no. 13–15). What is the difference in meaning (arthaviśeṣa)?

Answer. – The first three attributes in terms of which the Buddha has no defect did not give a reason. These do give the reason: because his actions accompany knowledge (jñānānuparivartin). If the Buddha did not reflect before carrying out his bodily, vocal or mental actions, he would make mistakes, but since the Buddha first uses knowledge before carrying out his bodily, vocal or mental actions, he is faultless.

Furthermore, the Buddha is endowed with three kinds of pure action (pariśuddhakarman), three kinds of pacified actions (praśantakarma), three kinds of actions not requiring secrecy (ārakṣyakarman).[50] Some people wonder why the Buddha has such actions and this is why the Buddha says: “All my bodily, vocal and mental acts (kāyavāgmanaskarman) are preceded by knowledge (jñānapūrvaṃgama) and accompany knowledge (jñānānuparivartin).”

16–18. The Buddha penetrates the past, the future and the present

The Buddha knows the past (atīta), the future (anāgata) and the present (pratyutpanna) by means of his knowledge, and his penetration is without obstacle (apratihata).

His threefold knowledge bears upon the three times and his penetration is without obstacles because his three actions accompany knowledge. (see Appendix 5)

[A. Sarvāstivādin-Sautrāntika Debate on Time]

[B. The Non-existence of Time According to the Mahāyāna]

This is a brief explanation (saṃkṣepanirdeśa) of the meaning of the eighteen special attributes of the Buddhas.

Footnotes and references:


Cf. Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 71, p. 366c11–12; k. 101, p. 525b19.


These are the precepts relating to the boundaries of the parishes (sīmā) and the celebration of the Upoṣada in common: cf. Vinaya, I, p. 102–136.


Episode related in Majjhima, I, p. 456–457 and already mentioned above, p. 1575F.


Episode related in detail above, p. 120–121F


Arahaṃ sutta of the Saṃyutta, I, p. 14, already cited above, p. 67–68F and notes.


For Śrīgupta, see above, p. 184F, note 4.


Stock phrase: cf. Divyāvadāna, p. 95, 124, 265; Avadānaśataka, I, p. 16, 30, 72, etc.


The correct title is indeed Sarvadharmāpravṛttinirdeśa (cf. Śikṣāsamuccaya, p. 6, l. 16; 90. l. 19; 99. l. 3; Mahāvyut. no. 1362) ‘Teaching of the non-functioning of all dharmas’ and not Sarvadharmapravṛttinirdeśa as it is spelled most often in western lists. This sutra has come down to us in three Chinese translations and one Tibetan translation:

1) T 650: Tchou fa wou hing king, transl. by Kumārajḥiva.

2) Tchou fa pen wou king, transl. under the Souei by Jinagupta between the 6th and 7th month of the 15th, k’ai houang year or August to September 595 (cf. Li, T 2034, k. 12, p. 103c6).

3) T 652: Ta tch’eng souei tchouan chouo tchou fa king, transl. under the Pei Song (960–1127) by Chao tö and others.

4) OKC 847: Chos thams cad ḥbyuṅ ba med par bstan pa, transl. by Rin chen mtsho.


Cf. Tchou fa wou hing king, T 650, k. 1, p. 751a28–29: “Beings are Bodhi; Bodhi is beings. Bodhi and beings are one and the same thing, namely, the Bhagavat.”


According to the practice somewhat current at its time, the Traité here refers to the Vimalakīrtinirdeśasūtra by citing the title of one of its chapters instead of the title of the sūtra itself. It refers to chapter VIII: ‘Introduction to the doctrine of non-duality’ (p. 301–318 of my [Lamotte’s] translation of the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa).


Being content with clothing (cīvara), food (piṇḍapāta), beds (śayanāsana) and delighting in renunciation and meditation (prahāṇabhāvanā): cf. Dīgha, III, p. 224–225; Anguttara, II, p. 27–28.


See above, p. 4F and note 1, 633F, 1041F; Kośa, VII, p. 86–87.


See Kośa, VII, p. 88–89.


In other words, when the Buddha comes out of a dhyāna or a samāpatti of the two higher realms in order to enter into the concentrations of the desire realm so as to devote himself to the practice of the bodhipākṣikadharmas.


Here the Traité is repeating what it has already said above, p. 468–469F. Once more it seems to stray from the canonical sources in whose words the nirmitas of the śrāvakas speak when the śrāvaka speaks and remain silent when the śrāvaka is silent. Only the Buddha was able to converse with his nirmitas.


Cf. T 310, k. 11, p. 59c8 and seq; T 312, k. 9, p. 724c14 and seq.: “From the night when the Tathāgata realized the Bodhi of the Buddhas until the day when he was nirvāṇized, during that interval, the Tathāgata is free of doubt and transformation: his mind is without thought, without movement, without instability, without mixing, without scattering, without distraction, without change…”.

For the Tathāgatacintyaguhyanirdeśa, one of the sources of the Traité, see above, p. 10F, note 3; p. 560F; and later, k. 26, p. 253b3; k. 30, p. 284a17–18; k. 57, p. 466b6; k. 88, p. 684a22.


However, the bhikṣu who has destroyed the impurities (kṣīṇāsvara) is also without cheating or deceit (asaṭho hoti amāyāvi): cf. Majjhima, I, p. 97; II, p. 95, 25; Anguttara, III, p. 65; V, p. 15.


According to the Tseng yi a han (T 125, k. 12, p. 607a2–5), the three individuals worthy of homage (pūjā) are the Tathāgata, the disciple of the Tathāgata who has destroyed the impurities and is arhat, and the cakravartin king. For the pratyekabuddhas, these individuals are worthy of a stūpa (Dīgha, II, p. 142;Anguttara, II, p. 245).


The eight characteristics in question are rejected by Nāgārjuna in the dedication to his Madhyamakakārikā (cf. Madh. vṛtti, p. 3, l. 11:

Anirodham anutpādam anucchedam aśāśvataṃ |
anekārtham anānārtham anādamam anirgamaṃ ||

These are the eight well-known Nāgārjunian negations.


See above, p. 1049F, the comments on the lute of the Asuras.


These retreats of the Buddha have been frequently mentioned in the texts: Vinaya, III, p. 68, 230; Dīgha, II, p. 237; Saṃyutta, V,p. 12–13, 320, 325. The Buddha always used the following expression to tale leave: Iccham’ ahaṃ addhamāsaṃ (or temāsaṃ, cattāro māse) paṭisallīyituṃ, n’amhi kenaci upasaṃkamitabbo aññatra piṇḍapātanīhārakena: “I wish to go into meditation for two weeks (three or four months); I do not wish to be approached by anyone except the person who will bring me food.”


Several times, having preached until late in the night, the Buddha was tired and asked one of his disciples, Śāriputra, Ānanda or Maudgalyāyana, to continue with the teaching. The episode is always related in the following words:

Dīgha, III, p. 209; Majjhima, I, p. 354; Saṃyutta, IV, p. 184; Anguttara, V, p. 126: Atha kho Bhagaā… āyasmantaṃ sāriputtaṃ āmantesi: Vigatathīnamiddho kho Sāriputta bhikkhusaṃgho, paṭibhātu taṃ Sāriputta bhikkhūnaṃ dhammaikathā. Pitthi me āgilāyati, tam ahaṃ āyamissāmīti. – Evam bhante to kho āyasmā Sāriputto Bhagavato paccassosi. – Atha kho Bhagavā catugguṇaṃ saṃghāṭiṃ paññāpetvā dakkhiṇena passena sīhaseyyaṃ kappesi, pāde pādaṃ accādhāya sato sampajāno uṭṭhānasaññaṃ manasikaritvā.

“Then the Blessed One said to venerable Śāriputra: ‘The community of monks is free of langor and torpor, O Śāriputra; let the religious instruction [for it] come into your mind. My back is sore: I am going to lie down.’ Saying: ‘May it be so, O Lord’, the venerable Śāriputra gave his assent to the Blessed One. Then the Blessed One, having folded his cloak into four, lay down on his right side in the lion pose, one foot resting on top of the other, attentive, lucid, after having fixed his mind on the time to re-arise.”

For the corresponding Sanskrit wording, see Sanskrit Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, p. 264, 286: Pṛṣṭhī ma āvilāyati tāṃ tāvad āyāmayiṣye…Atha bhagavān gaṇaguṇāṃ saṃghātiṃ śirasi pratiṣṭhāpya dakṣiṇena pārśvena śayyāṃ kalpayati pāde pādam ādhāyāloksaṃjñī pratismṛtaḥ saṃprajāna utthānasaṃjñāṃ manasi kurvāṇaḥ.


See above, p. 21F, note 2.


See above, p. 179F, 227–228F.


See above, p. 87F; 182F, note 1, 420F.


See the miracle of the multiplication of the fictive buddhas, p. 531–534F and notes; 1352–1353F.


Allusion to the schism at Kauśāmbī related above, p. 896–898F and notes.


Thus Śakradevendra was converted in the Indraśailaguhā (abive, p. 180F, note 2), and the four Caturmahārājakāyikadevas, on the shores of lake Mandākini (Sarvāstivādin Vin., T 1435, k. 26, p. 193a; Mūlasarv. Vin., in Gilgit Manuscripts, III, I, p. 256–259; Tch’ou yao king, T 212, k. 23, p. 734b; Vibhḥaṣā, T 1545, k. 79, p. 410a; T 1546, k. 41, p. 306c; T 1547, k. 9, p. 482c).


Anecdote taken from the Śibijātaka of the Avadānanaśataka, I, p. 182–183 which the Traité has already related above, p. 569–570F.


Two of the four samyakpradhānas.


One of the seven jewels of the cakravartin king.


Cf. Kośa, III, p. 184.


In the view of the Mahāyāna, the nirvāṇa of the Buddha is not an historical fact but simply skillful means (upāya), a fiction destined to convert beings.


Saddharmapuṇḍarīka, p. 322, l. 5–6 (cf. Transl. of Kumārajīva, T 202, k. 6, p. 43a27–28: Sa (vaidyapuruṣa) evaṃ tān putrān upāyakauśalyenānuśiṣyānayataraṃ janapadapradeśaṃ prakrāntaḥ.

A physician, having returned from a voyage, found his sons sick from a poisonous drink. He offered them an antidote. Some of his sons took it and were cured at once. Others, repulsed by the smell and taste of the remedy, refused to drink it. In order to make these recalcitrants take the potion, the physician resorted to a skillful stratagem. He gave them the antidote again, then he left for a foreign land. From there, he spread the rumor of his death, and his afflicted sons, in memory of their father, finally took the remedy and were cured. Knowing that his sons were free of their illness, the physician showed himself to them again.

Similarly, the Buddha preaches the path of salvation, but some of his listeners refuse to take it. Then the Buddha pretends to enter into nirvāṇa so that the obstinate ones, grieved by his death, finally consent to be converted. Actually this nirvāṇa is just a skillful stratagem.


The Pāli Abhidhamma (cf. Compendium of Philosophy, p. 237 and seq.) lists 52 mental events (cetasika); the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma (cf. Kośa, II, p. 150–165) has 46. Both make a distinction between chanda, defined as ‘desire for action’ (kartukamatā) and vīrya, defined as ‘endurance in the mind’ (cetaso ‘bhyutsāhaḥ).


Anguttara, IV, p. 339, l. 4; V, p. 107, l. 6; Tchong a han, T 26, k. 28, p. 602c4: Chandamūlakā, āvuso, abbe dhammā.


Normally a bodhisattva needs a hundred kalpas to accomplish the actions productive of the marks of the Great Man, but Śākyamuni, thanks to his exertion, accomplished them in 91 kalpas. On these nine kalpas skipped over thus by Śākyamuni, see the references above, p. 252, note 1.


This has already been cited twice, p. 243–244F and 942–943F. To the references given on p. 244F, the Sanskrit Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, p. 286–288, should be added and the Chinese version Pan ni yuan king (T 6, k. 2, p. 184b14–28) summarized by E. Waldschmidt, Lebensende des Buddha, p. 169–170. See also Tsa a han (T 99, no. 727, k. 27, p. 195b29–196a11.


Invited to Verañjā by the Brahmin Agnidatta, the Buddha was reduced to eating barley: see above, p. 124F and n. 1.


On the conversion of Subhadra, see above, p. 205–209F and n. To these references, add the account of this conversion given in the Sanskrit Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, p. 366–386.


Above, p. 1555F.


Cf. Saṃyutta, II, p. 86: Seyyathāpi bhikkhave telaṃ ca paṭicca vaṭṭiṃ ca paṭicca telappadīpo jhāyeyya.


These deeds of the future Buddha have been told in preceding pages (143–144F, 688–691F, 714–720F, 755–766F, 889–890F, 972–977F, etc.). Most took place in the north-west of India.


An idea often developed by the Traité, e.g., p. 1058F, 1106F.


Cf. Kośa, VI, p. 296 seq.


See the detail in Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 95, p. 490b–c.


According to the principle: Cetanāhaṃ, bhikkhave, kammaṃ vadāmi; cetayitvā kammaṃ karoti kāyena manasā: “I say that action is volition, and it is after having willed that one does an action by the body, speech or mind” (Anguttara, III, p. 415; Kathāvatthu, p. 393; Tchong a han, T 26, k. 27, p. 600a24). In ordinary beings, volition must be followed by a bodily or vocal ‘gesture’ in order to be effective; in higher beings, volition is enough to realize the intention.


For Gavāmpati, see above, p. 97F and n. 2. In his earlier existences, he had been a ruminant and later, becoming an arhat, he always re-swallowed his food.


See above, p. 121–122F and notes.

[Note by Migme Chödrön: Edgerton’s Dictionary gives vatsa = ‘dear little child’.


The physical, vocal and mental conduct of the Buddha being perfectly pure, he has no bodily, vocal or mental misdeeds to be hidden for fear that somebody should find it out: these are the three or four arakkheyya (ārakkheyya) in Pāli (Dīgha, III, p. 217;Anguttara, IV, p. 82–84), the arakṣya (arakṣana, arakṣaṇīya, ārakṣya, ārakṣana) in Sanskrit: Mahāvyut., no. 192–195; Bodh, bhūmi, p. 403; Sūtrālaṃkāra, XXI, v. 53; Saṃgraha, p. 287, 299; Abhidharmasamuccayavyākhyā, T 1606, k. 14, p. 761b14; Āloka, p. 915.