Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “epithet ‘great’ refused for the wisdom 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.

IV. Epithet ‘great’ refused for the wisdom of the Buddhas

Question. – There are yet other qualities (guṇa) in the Buddha, such as concentration (samādhi), etc., and people do not know them, do not describe them as great. But the Buddha’s wisdom (prajñā), his preaching of the Dharma (dharmanirdeśa), etc., make beings find the Path; why are they not called great?

Answer. – Nobody fully knows the power of the Buddha’s wisdom but, in his great loving-kindness and great compassion, the Buddha, from lifetime to lifetime, sacrifices his life and abandons the bliss of the concentrations in order to save beings and this everyone knows. The Buddha’s wisdom is cognizable by induction (anumaya), it cannot be cognized directly. But his loving-kindness and compassion are visible to the eye and audible to the ear; they are cognizable, for the Buddha has uttered his lion’s roar (siṃhanāda) several times.

Furthermore, the Buddha’s wisdom is subtle (sukṣma) and wonderful and if the bodhisattvas and Śāriputra do not know it, what can be said of other people? Loving-kindness and compassion are visible and audible and people can believe them and accept them. The wisdom of the Buddha is so subtle that it cannot be probed (durvigāhya).

Furthermore, great loving-kindness and great compassion are loved by everyone: they are like a delicious medicine (oṣadhi) that people like to swallow. Wisdom is like an unpleasant medicine that many do not like at all. But because they like loving-kindness and compassion so much, they have described them as great.

Furthermore, there are hardly any beings already enlightened (abhisaṃbuddha) who are able to believe and accept the Buddha’s wisdom. In contrast, great loving-kindness and great compassion are of such a different kind that everybody can believe them and accept them. As they have seen a picture of them or heard the voice, they can believe and accept them and, since they have derived much benefit (hita) from them, they call them great loving-kindness and great compassion.

Furthermore, great wisdom has as its nature the relinquishment (parityāga), the rejection (parivarjana) of dharmas; great loving-kindness and great compassion have as their nature pity for (anukampā) and service (upakāra) to beings. [257b] This pity and service are loved by all beings; that is why they call them great loving-kindness and great compassion of the Buddha.

In the Tch’e-sin king (Viśeṣacintisūtra or Brahmaviśeṣacintiparipṛcchā) it is said that great loving-kindness and great compassion have thirty-two ways of acting on beings.[1] On the extent (saṃgraha), nature (lakṣaṇa) and object (ālambana) of this great loving-kindness and great compassion, see above (p. 1269F) what has been said in regard to the four immeasurables.

Footnotes and references:

1.

See references above, p. 1269F, n. 1.