Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “preliminary note on acquiring the knowledges of the paths” 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.

Preliminary note on acquiring the knowledges of the paths

At the end of the Sermon at Benares, the Buddha taught the fourth noble truth to his disciples: the way of the destruction of suffering (duḥkhanirodhagāminī pratipad) or the noble eightfold path (āryāṣṭāṅgikamārga) that leads to nirvāṇa. Later, on many occasions (Dīgha, II, p. 81, 84; Itivuttaka, p. 51) he defined its three elements, namely, morality (śīla), concentration (samādhi) and wisdom (prajñā). This supraworldly (lokottara) path is the only one able to assure the total liberation of the śrāvakas who aspire for their own benefit. They have the direct understanding of it at the end of the stage of seeing the truths (satyadarśanamārga), a vision which destroys any error they may have of the nature of things, especially of the existence of the ātman, and brings them the fruit of entry into the stream of nirvāṇa (srotaāpattiphala). From then on, the śrāvakas know the Path in its fourfold aspect of path (mārga), reasoning (nyāya), acquisition (prāpti) and exit from the world (nairyāṇika): cf. Saṃyuktābhidharmasāra, T 1552, k. 6, p. 918a-b; Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 79, p. 408c; Kośa, VI, p. 163; VII, p. 30–34; Mahāvyut., no. 1190–1205).

A much vaster understanding is required of the bodhisattvas who want to assure the benefit and happiness of all beings. It is not enough for them to know the single path that leads to deliverance, but all the paths, good or bad, that beings are liable to take. But they cannot be taken in by this multiplicity of paths: they must understand that “all these paths end up in a single path”, that of the true nature which is none other than the absence of nature (alakṣaṇa).

Thus, at the stage of seeing the truths, the bodhisattva must hold a twofold knowledge which is absent in the śrāvaka, the knowledge of the paths and the knowledge of the aspect of the paths (mārgākmarajñatā), which is empty of any nature.