Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “preliminary note on winning omniscience and the knowledge of all the aspects” 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 Winning omniscience and the knowledge of all the aspects

The bodhisattva aspires to omniscience (sarvajñatā), the knowledge of all dharmas, conditioned and unconditioned, isolated or grouped, existent or non-existent, true or false.

There are two kinds of omniscience, perfect or imperfect:

1. Perfect omniscience cognizes all dharmas under their general characteristics (sāmānyalakṣaṇa) and their specific characteristics (svalakṣaṇa). The general characteristics of dharmas are three or four in number: all dharmas are impermanent (anitya), suffering (duḥkha), empty (śūnya) and selfless (anātman). The specific characteristics are infinite in number: these are, for example, the solidity (khakkhatva) of the earth element, the moistness (dravatva) of the water element, etc., etc.

Perfect omniscience belongs only to the Buddhas: it is called omniscience (sarvajñatā) in the full sense of the word or also knowledge of all the aspects (sarvākārajñatā) to show that it extends to the specific characteristics of the dharmas.

2. As well, there are imperfect or incomplete omnisciences that bear upon only the general characteristics of the dharmas and a restricted number of the specific characteristics. They are the exploits of the first two Vehicles, the śrāvakas and the pratyekabuddhas. It is wrong that they are sometimes called ‘omniscient’ (sarvajñā): the proof of this is that the wisest of them ere unable to answer all the difficult questions they were asked.

Buddha, arhat and pratyekabuddha have access to their respective omnisciences or bodhis by using the paths or Vehicles of their choice. Each having attained their final goal, they no longer use the knowledge of the paths (mārgajñatā) or the knowledge of the aspect of the paths (mārgākārajñatā). Indeed, they say: “The path already practiced by me is no longer to be practiced” (mārgo me bhāvito na pounar bhavitavyaḥ): cf. above, p. 1359F.

This is not the case for the bodhisattvas who, from their first cittotpāda until their arrival at buddhahood, are in the course of their career. The path or the paths that they have to travel, particularly the bodhipākṣikadharmas, the pāramitās, the balas, the vaiśāradyas, etc., include all the good dharmas. They know them by practicing them, and this experimental science finally ends up in the perfect enlightenment which is that of the Buddhas.