Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “shramanasatya-sutra” 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.

Seeing at a distance a great assembly of heretics (tīrthikapariṣad) who were debating in loud voices (uccaśabda), the Buddha wanted to go elsewhere and was turning around to leave.

The scholars (upadeśācārya) who had seen the Buddha approaching from afar said to their assembly:

“Be quiet! The Buddha is a person who likes solitude (vivekakāma). If you look quiet and are silent, perhaps he will come here.”

[251c] The assembly maintained silence. The Buddha entered into this assembly and preached the three truths of the brāhmaṇas (brāhmaṇasatya) (also see Appendix 9).

The heretic assembly remained silent (tūṣṇīṃbhūta).

The Buddha thought:

“These angry people are in Māra Pāpīmat’s grasp. This teaching is so wondrous that none of them will try to become my disciple.”[1]

Having had this thought, the Buddha arose from his seat and went away.

But the heretics, free from the grasp of Māra, thought:

“We have been able to hear a marvelous Dharma; how can we profit from it?”

At once they went to the Buddha, became his disciples, found the Path and escaped from suffering.[2]

Finally, the disciples of the heretics did not dare to go to the Buddha out of fear of their teachers. This is why the Buddha entered into their assemblies. When they hear the Dharma, their faith is strengthened; they no longer fear their teachers, they become disciples of the Buddha and sometimes they obtain ‘the traces of the Path’.[3]

It is for all these wise reasons that the Buddha enters into the assemblies of the heretics.

Notes on the Śramanasatya-sūtra:

This sūtra has come down to us in numerous very divergent versions and bears various titles:

A. Samaṇasaccasutta, in Anguttara, II, p. 176–177.

B. Brāhmaṇaparivrājakasūtra, in Tsa a han, T 99,no. 972, k. 35, p. 251a20–b19. Sanskrit fragments of this version have been published by R. Pischel, Bruchstücke des Sanskritkanons… aus Idykutsari, 1904, p. 817–818.

C. Pie yi tsa a han, T 100, no. 206, k. 11, p. 450c5–451a10.

D. Vibhḥaṣā, T 1545, k. 77, p. 400b5–c12 (transl. L. de La Vallée Poussin, Les deux vérités, MCB, V, 167–169.

E. Nyāyanusāra, T 1562, k. 58, p. 667c2–21 (transl. Idem, ibid., p. 183–185.

The comparison with Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 18, p. 639a1–11, proposed in the edition of Taisho, is to be avoided.

Notes on the Tīrthikapariṣad:

These were very illustrious Paribbājakas, living on the banks of the Sappinī river in Paribbājakārama, namely, Antabhāra, Varadhara, Sakuludāyin, and other famous memdicants Version A. Versions B and C locate them at Magadha on the shores of the Sumangādhā pool.

Footnotes and references:


This disillusioned reflection is also noted in versions B and C.


The Pie yi Tsa a han (version C) is the only canonical source coming out in favor of the conversion of the heretics, and here are its words:

The Buddha had not long gone when the deity of the Summagadhā pool pronounced these gāthās: “Just as soon trace designs on the water, harvest a crop by seeding a salt-pan, spray a dung-heap with perfume, dive into the water moistening the bank, make beautiful music by blowing into an iron pipe, hope for a mirage in the middle of winter: these heretics are so blunt that even if they hear the wondrous Dharma, they do not believe and do not accept it.”

Hearing the deity of the pool pronounce these gāthās, the brāhmaṇas quickly went to join the Buddha and asked to be allowed to enter the religious life. The Buddha accepted them and, having gone forth from the world, they cultivated the Path with exertion and obtained arhathood.


The characters tao tsi are often used to render the expression dharmābhisamaya ‘understanding of the Dharma’ (cf. T 1462, k. 2, p. 688c5).

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