Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “dharmas known by 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.

Question. – What are all these dharmas cognized by omniscience?

Answer. –

1. The two bases of consciousness

[Sabbasutta]. – The Buddha said to the bhikṣus: “I will teach you ‘all dharmas’ (sarvam = sarve dharmāḥ). What are all these dharmas? The eye (cakṣus) and colors (rūpa); the ear (śrotra) and sounds (śabda); the nose (ghrāṇa) and smells (gandha); the tongue (jihvā) and tastes (rasa); the body (kāya) and tangibles (spraṣṭavya); the mind (manas) and things (dharma). These twelve bases of consciousness (āyatana) are all dharmas.”[1]

2. Names and forms (or five aggregates)

Furthermore, ‘all dharmas’ are names and forms (nāmarūpa).[2]

[Arthavargīyāṇi sūtrāṇi] – Thus in the Li-tchong king

(Arthavargīyāṇi sūtrāṇi)[3] the Buddha spoke these stanzas:

For the person who seeks right seeing
There are only names and forms.
The person who wants to consider and know truly
He too will know only names and forms.[4]

When a foolish mind multiplies notions
And is attached to distinguishing many dharmas,
He will never have anything
But names and forms.

3. Groups of two dharmas

Note: These groups of two dharmas have been mentioned above, p. 644F, 1101F.

‘All dharmas’ is also dharmas with form (rūpin) and without form (arūpin); visible (sanidarśana) and invisible (anidarśana); resistant (sapratigha) and [259c] non-resistant (apratigha); impure (sāsrava) and pure (anāsrava); conditioned (saṃskṛta) and unconditioned (asaṃskṛta); mind (citta) and non-mind (na citta); associated with mind (cittasaṃprayukta) and non-associated with mind (na cittasaṃprayukta); coexisting with mind (cittasahabhū) and non-coexisting with mind (na cittasahabhū); resulting from mind (cittānuparivartin) and not resulting from mind (na ciitānuparivartin); taking its origin from mind (cittasamutthāna) and not taking its origin from mind (na cittasamutthāna). Numberless similar groupings of two dharmas contain all the dharmas. See the Abhidharma, in the Chö-fa p’in (Dharmasaṃgrahaparivarta).[5]

4. Groups of three dharmas

‘All dharmas’ is also the good (kuśala), the bad (akuśala) and indeterminate (avyākṛta) dharmas; the dharmas to be destroyed by seeing the truths (satyadarśanaheya), to be destroyed by meditation (bhāvanāheya) and not to be destroyed (aheya); the dharmas with retribution (savipāka), without retribution (avipāka), neither with nor without retribution. Innumerable similar groups of three dharmas comprise all the dharmas.

5. Groups of four dharmas

‘All dharmas’ is also dharmas past (atīta), future (anāgata), present (pratyutpanna), neither past, future nor present; dharmas belonging to the world of desire (kāmadhātvavacara), belonging to the world of form (rūpadhātvavacara), belonging to the formless world (ārūpyadhātvavacara), not having any membership (anavacara); dharmas coming from a good cause (kuśalahetusamutthāna), coming from a bad (akuśala) cause, coming from an indeterminate (avyākṛta) cause, and coming from a cause that is neither good, bad nor indeterminate; dharmas that are object condition (ālambanapratyaya), that are non-object condition, that are both object and non-object condition, that are neither object nor non-object condition. Innumerable similar groups of four dharmas comprise all the dharmas.

6. Groups of five dharmas

‘All dharmas’ is also the dharmas that are material (rūpa), mind (citta), mental (caitasika), a formation dissociated from mind (cittaprayuktasaṃskāra) or unconditioned (asaṃskṛta); the four truths (satya) and the indeterminate-unconditioned (avyākṛtasaṃskṛta). Innumerable similar groups of five dharmas comprise all the dharmas.

7. Groups of six dharmas

‘All dharmas’ is also the five aggregates (skandha) and the unconditioned (asaṃskṛta); the dharmas to be destroyed by the truth of suffering (duḥkhasatya), by the truth of the origin (samudayasatya), by the truth of cessation (nirodhasatya), by the truth of the path (mārgasatya), by meditation (bhāvanā), or not to be destroyed (aheya). Innumerable similar groups of six dharmas comprise all the dharmas.

8. Other groups of dharmas

Groups of seven, eight, nine, ten dharmas, etc., are analyzed in the Abhidharma in the chapter of the [Dharma]-vibhaṅga.[6]

‘All dharmas’ is thus all existing (sat) or non-existing (asat), empty (śūnya) or real (satya), objects (ālambana) or subjects (ālambaka), united or scattered, etc., dharmas.

‘All dharmas’ is thus existent, non-existent, existent and non-existent; false, not false, false and not false; false, true, neither false nor true; arising, perishing, arising and perishing; neither arising nor perishing; and so on, dharmas.

‘All dharmas’ is also existent, non-existent, existent and non-existent, [260a] neither existent nor non-existent dharmas.

Apart from these tetralemmas (catuṣkoti), such as ‘empty (śūnya), non-empty (aśūnya), arising and perishing, neither arising nor perishing’ dharmas, there are also pentalemmas of the same kind.[7]

All the dharmas are included in these innumerable and incalculable groupings. Knowing the said dharmas in an exhaustive and complete way with unhindered wisdom (apratihātaprajñā) is called omniscience and knowledge of all aspects (sarvākārajñatā).

Footnotes and references:


Sabbasutta of the Saṃyutta, IV, p. 15, corresponds to the sūtra no. 319 of the Tsa a han, T 99, k.13, p. 91a24–91b3. The latter may be restored by the citations of the Kośabhāṣya (p. 4, l. 2–3) and the Abhidharmadīpa (p. 271, l. 17–272, l. 2), but the individuals are different and the sūtra in entitled Hastatāḍipama.

Pāli: Sabbaṃ vo bhikkhave dessissāmi, taṃ suṇātha. Kiñca bhikkhave sabbaṃ. Cakkhuṃ ceva rūpa ca, sotañca saddā … kissa hetu. Yathā tasṃ bhikkhave avisayasmin ti.

Sanskrit: Sarvam astīti brāhmaṇa yāvad eva dvāsaṣāyatanāni. Etāvat sarvaṃ yaduta cakṣū rūpaṃ … uttare vā saṃmoham āpadyeta. Yathāpi tad aviṣayatvāt.

Transl. of the Pāli. – Monks, I will teach you ‘everything’. Listen then. What is everything? The eye and colors, the ear and sounds, the nose and odors, the tongue and tastes, the body and tangibles, the mind and dharmas. That, O monks, is called everything. Monks, the person who says: “Dismissing all that, I propose another everything”, that, on his part, would be a pointless statement; if he were to be questioned, he would be unable to stick to it and, furthermore, he would fall into confusion. Why? Because, O monks, it would not be objective.


In the expression nāmarūpa, nāman represents the four formless skandhas (vedanā, saṃjñā, saṃskāra, vijñāna), and rūpa represents the rūpaskandha: cf. Kośa, III, p. 94–95.

The expression ‘all dharmas’ designates that which has it own nature (svabhāva) and its own characteristics (svalakṣaṇa), whether these dharmas are classified into five skandhas, twelve āyatanas or eighteen dhātus. The Commentary on the Anguttara, II, p. 259, l. 4–5 says: Sabbadhammā vuccanti pañcakkhandhā dvādasāyatanāni aṭṭhārasa dhātuyo.


The Sanskrit sources place the Arthavargīyāṇi sūtrāṇi in the Kṣudrakāgama or Kṣudrapiṭaka “Minor Texts” (cf. Lamotte, Histoire du bouddhisme indien, p. 174–176); the Pāli sources incorporate the Aṭṭhakavagga in the Suttanipāta, the fifth book of the Khuddakanikāya.

In his translation of the Traité, Kumārajīva designates the Arthavargīyāṇi sutrāṇi under various names: Tchong-yi king ( see above, p. 39F), A t’a p’o k’i king (p. 65F), Yi-p’in (p. 1089F) and also here, Li-tchong king, a translation which will be adopted later (k. 31, p. 295c; k. 45, p. 389a, where Li-chong-chen king should be read as Li-tchong king).


Cf. Aṭṭhakavagga of the Suttanipāta, v. 909, p. 177 and Yi-tsou king, T 198, k. 2, p. 183b3–4:

Passaṃ naro daakkhiti nāmarūpaṃ,
disvāna vāññassati tāni-,-eva
kāmaṃ bahuṃ passatu appakaṃ vā,
ma hi tena suddhiṃ kusalā vadanti.

“The clear-sighted man sees names and forms and, having seen them, just recognizes them. Supposing he sees a very great number of them of a small number of them, no valid proof of them will happen: this is what the experts say.”

But this translation departs notably from the explanations given by the Mahānidesa, II, p. 325 and the Commentary on the Suttanipāta, II, p. 560. E. M. Hare, Woven Cadences of Early Buddhists, London, 1944, p. 133 translates it as:

The man with eyes will see both ‘name’ and ‘form’,
And having seen, will know them just as such:
Let him see much or little as he lists,
No cleansing comes by that the experts say.


The Traité refers here to the Abhidharmaprakaraṇapāda, in the beginning of chapter VI, entitled Fen-pie-chö p’in in Guṇabhadra’s version (T 1541, k. 4, p. 644b5–644c23) and Pien-chö-teng p’in in Hiuan-tsang’s version (T 1542, k. 5, p. 711b6–711c26). A note added to Guṇabhadra’s translation (T 1541, k. 4, p. 644c23) mentions 216 groups of two dharmas (see above, p. 1101F). For the author of the Traité, chapters V to VIII of the Prakaraṇapāda were not the work of Vasumitra but that of the arhats of Kaśmir (cf. 0. 111–112F).


Prakaraṇapāda, T 1541, k. 4, p. 645b28 seq.; T 1542, k. 5, p. 712c17 seq.


For the Madhyamaka method, which uses and abuses reduction to absurdity (prasaṅga), the tetralemma (catuṣkoti) and fivefold argumentation, see J. May, Candrakīrti, p. 16, 51 (n. 7), 66 (n. 68), 183 (n. 597), 221 (n. 761).

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