Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “refutation of the first sarvastivadin 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.

Note: For this first list prepared by Kātyāyanīputra, see references above, p. 1626F.

The Sarvāstivādin.

If that is so, why did Kātyāyanīputra give the name āveṇikadharma to the ten powers (bala), the four fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya), the great compassion (mahākārūṇā) and the three special equanimities (āveṇikasmṛtyupasthāna) of the Buddha? If the eighteen special attributes that you mentioned above, [namely, nāsti tathāgatasya skhalitam, etc.] were really true, why did Kātyāyanīputra list others?

The Mahāyānist.

This is why he is called Kātyāyanīputra ‘son of Kātyāyanī’. If he was truly Śākyaputrīya ‘son or disciple of the Buddha’ [like [255c] us], he would not say that. The Śākyaputrīyas have defined the real special attributes. Moreover, the attributes of the Buddha are numberless and the 36 attributes [mentioned by us, namely, the 18 non-special attributes studied in chapters XXXIX and XL, plus the 18 special attributes studies in chapter XLI] are, amongst all the Buddha’s attributes, like a drop of water (bindu) in the great ocean (mahāsamudra). The attributes of the Buddha are not rare. Why enumerate eighteen [like Kātyāyanīputra]?

Moreover, the arhats, pratyekaduddhas and bodhisattvas [share to some degree in the ten balas that Kātyāyanīputra reserves as special attributes of the Buddha]; they too know what is possible and what is impossible (bala no. 1); they reveal the retribution of action in the three times (bala no. 2); they distinguish the dhyānas and the samāpattis (bala no. 3) and they reach āsravakṣayajñāna (bala no. 10). Under these conditions, how could [Kātyāyanīputra] say that these attributes are special to the Buddha?

The Sarvāstivādin.

Yes, but the śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas do not have ‘an exhaustive knowledge, a universal knowledge’ (cf. above, p. 1526–7F) of these things. They have only the cognition (abhijñā) and the knowing (vidyā) of them, but do not have the power of knowledge (jñānabala) like the Buddha. Only the Buddha knows all that ‘in an exhaustive manner, in a universal manner’, and this is why these knowledges are ‘special’ to him. Therefore refer back to what has been said about the ten powers (above, p. 1556–7F).

The Mahāyānist.

When the Buddha explained the meaning (artha) of these ten powers, he did not emphasize his ‘exhaustive and universal’ knowledge of them; he simply said that he knew what is possible and what is impossible (sthānāsthāna), etc. Those who have spoken of his ‘exhaustive and universal knowledge’ are the scholars (upadeśācarārya).

The Sarvāstivādin.

I beg your pardon! As you yourself said above (p. 1557F) they are spoken of in the Mahāyāna and the Buddha, being still a bodhisattva, claimed to know all ‘in an exhaustive and universal way’.

The Mahāyānist.

Yes, we talk about them in the Mahāyāna, but what does that matter to you? You do not believe in the Mahāyāna, you refuse the evidence and you yourself say that the śrāvaka system is the [only] valid one.

Moreover, although the Buddha has this ‘exhaustive knowledge’, this ‘universal knowledge’ of the ten powers, the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas have a small portion of it. [Therefore Kātyāyanīputra is wrong in considering the ten powers (bala) as special attributes of the Buddha.] But śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas have absolutely no part of the eighteen special attributes [which we propose in the Mahāyānist list: nāsti tathāgatasya skhalitam, etc]. This is why we describe them as truly special attributes.

The Sarvāstivādin.

But the practitioners of the two Vehicles, [namely, the śrāvakas and the pratyekabuddhas] also share in the eighteen special attributes [of the Mahāyānist list: nāsti tathāgatasya skhalitam, etc.]. The Buddha alone never has bodily, vocal or mental faults (attributes no. 1 to 3 of the Mahāyānist list); but sometimes the practitioners of the two Vehicles do not have them either. Therefore they share in these attributes [and these do not belong exclusively to the Buddha].

The Mahāyānist.

Your objections do not hold (ayuktam etad). Why? What constitutes the special attribute is the fact of never having faults and not the fact of not having them [from time to time]. The śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas do not share the perpetual harmlessness of the Buddha. [Thus this perpetual harmlessness is indeed a special attribute of the Buddha.]

Furthermore, the arhats are indeed said to possess the powers in question, but nowhere do they qualify them as special attributes (āveṇika). And you who do not believe in the Mahāyāna reject the eighteen truly special attributes [proposed in our Mahāyānist list: nāsti tathāgatasya skhalitam] and you count the ten powers (bala) [in the list of attributes drawn up by your Kātyāyanīputra]. This procedure is inadmissible!

Then look at these 80 secondary physical marks (aśīty anuvyañjanāni) of the Buddha in which you believe but which are not mentioned in the Tripiṭaka. Why not reject them [since you reject the powers, etc., in your list of special attributes]?