Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “three truths of the brahmanas (brahmana-satya)” 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.

Appendix 9 - The three truths of the Brāhmaṇas (brāhmaṇa-satya)

Note: This appendix is extracted from Chapter XLI part 1 (the Śramanasatya-sūtra):

“The assembly maintained silence. The Buddha entered into this assembly and preached the three truths of the Brāhmaṇas (brāhmaṇa-satya)”.

Here the Traité introduces an episode not found in the other sources; it is, in fact, a stock phrase (cf. Dīgha, I, p.179; III, p. 37, 39; Majjhima, I p. 514; II, p. 2, 3, 30; Anguttara, V, p. 185, 190): Appasaddā bhonto hontu, mā bhonto saddamakattha. Ayaṃ Samaṇo Gotamao āgacchati, appasaddakāmo kho pana so āyasmā, appasaddassa vaṇṇavādī, appeva nāma appasaddaṃ parisaṃ viditvā upasamkamitabbaṃ maññeyyāti.

By ‘brāhmaṇa truths’, we should understand here the truths of the adepts of the Buddhist religion (buddhadharmastha). Remember that the Wheel of the Buddha is often called Brahmacakra and that the Buddha described himself sometimes as Brāhmaṇa (cf. Udānavarga, XXXIII, stanza 68–73).

Version A (Samaṇasaccasutta, in Anguttara, II, p. 176–177.) lists four brāhmaṇa truths, but the text of the PTS is faulty and should be corrected by that of the Commentary of the Anguttara, III, p. 162:

Brāhmaṇo evam āha:

1) Sabbe pāṇā avajjhā ti…,

2) Sabbe kmama aniccā dukkhā vipariṇāmadhammā ti…,

3) Sabbe bhavā aniccā dukkhā vipariṇāmadhammā ti…,

4) Nāhaṃ kbacana kassaci kiñcana tasmiṃ na ca mama kvacana katthaci kiñcanaṃ n’ atthīti.

– “The Brāhmaṇa says:

1) No being should be killed;

2–3) All pleasures (all existences) are impermanent, suffering and perishable;

4) I am in no way whatsoever an individual, and in no way whatsoever is there anything whatsoever that is me. (p. 1664F, n. 3)

The other versions that list only three truths boil down to this: No being should be killed; everything that is subject to production is subject to destruction; I am not that and that is not me.

These three truths are in contrast with the practices and beliefs of the traditional Brahmanism. In the words of the Vibhḥaṣā (l.c.), the brāhmins sacrifice cattle and sheep, accept nihilism or eternalism, and practice continence in order to be reborn in heaven and enjoy heavenly pleasure.