Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “knowledge of the paths leading to omniscience” 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.

II. Knowledge of the paths leading to omniscience

Question. – The [Prajñāpāramitā]-sūtra has said that by practicing certain dharmas such as the six perfections (pāramitā), the thirty-seven auxiliaries of enlightenment (bodhipākṣika), the ten powers (bala), the four fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya), etc., omniscience (sarvajñatā) is obtained.[1] Why does it say here that it is only by using the knowledge of the aspect of the paths (mārgākārajñatā) that [the bodhisattva] obtains omniscience?

Answer. – The six perfections, etc., of which you speak are precisely the Path. By knowing these paths, by practicing these paths, the bodhisattva obtains omniscience. Why do you doubt that?

Furthermore, all the good dharmas (kuśaladharma) included between the first production of the mind of awakening (prathamacittotpāda) and sitting on the seat of enlightenment (bodhimaṇḍaniṣadana) together comprise the Path. Practicing these Paths by distinguishing them and meditating on them constitutes the knowledge of the paths. The [Prajñāpāramitā]-sūtra will say later that this is the concern of the bodhisattva.

Question. – I understand that there is no question of knowledge of the paths in the Buddha where the business of the Path has already ended. But all the qualities are not yet complete among the arhats and pratyekabuddhas. Then why not recognize the knowledge of the paths in them?

Answer. – The arhats and pratyekabuddhas have also completed the practice of their own paths.[2] This is why for them there is no question of knowledge of the paths, for the nature of the Path (mārga) is practice (caryā).

Furthermore, the sūtra in question speaks of the śrāvakas and the pratyekabuddhas, and [the path] of the śrāvakas does not consist of three Vehicles.[3] This is why [knowledge of the paths] is not their concern. Being great, the path of the Buddhas [and that of the bodhisattvas] includes the knowledge of the paths; those of the śrāvakas and the pratyekabuddhas, being small, does not include it.

Finally, the bodhisattva-mahāsattva himself practices the paths and also teaches beings the paths for each of them to practice. This is why the [Prajñāpāramitāsūtra] says here that by practicing the knowledge of the paths the bodhisattva obtains omniscience.

Footnotes and references:


Pañcaviṃśati, T 223, k. 5, p. 247c12–15.


By at least virtual possession of nirvāṇa, the arhat has nothing more to follow or to know.


The śrāvaka knows and practices only the path of his own Vehicle; the Buddhas and the great bodhisattvas know the three Vehicles experientially and use them to convert beings based on the needs and the dispositions of the latter.