Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “true omniscience belongs to the buddha” 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. True omniscience belongs to the Buddha

Note: This subject has already been discussed above, p. 146–161F.

Question. – All beings seek wisdom (prajñā). Why is the Buddha the only one to attain sarvajñatā?

Answer. – Since the Buddha is foremost (agra) of all beings, he is the only one to obtain sarvajñatā.

[Pasādasutta.] – Thus the Buddha said: “Of all beings without legs, with two legs, with four legs, with many legs, with a body or without a body, conscious, unconscious, neither conscious nor unconscious, etc., the Buddha is the foremost of all.”[1]

Just as Mount Sumeru is foremost among the mountains, just as fire (tejas), of all the four great elements (mahābhūta) has the power to illuminate and to burn, so, of all beings, the Buddha is foremost. This is why he obtains sarvajñatā.

Question. – Why is the Buddha alone the foremost of beings?

Answer. – As I have just said, because he possesses sarvajñatā. But I must repeat myself here.

The Buddha, who assures both his own good (svahita) and the good of others (parahita), is the foremost of beings.

Thus, the sun (āditya) is the foremost of all lights (prabhā); the noble cakravartin king is the foremost of all humans; the blue lotus (nīlotpala) is the foremost of the lotuses; the jasmine (sumanā) is the foremost of all flowers growing on land; the ox-head sandalwood (gośīrṣa candana) is the foremost of all perfumed wood; the wish-fulfilling pearl (cintāmaṇi) is the foremost of jewels (maṇi); the morality of the saints (āryaśīla) is the foremost of moralities; the indestructible deliverance (abhedyavimukti) is the foremost of the deliverances (vimukti); the liberations (vimokṣa) are the foremost of the purities (viśuddhi); the consideration of emptiness (śūnyatānupaśyana) is the foremost of all considerations (anupaśyanā);[2] nirvāṇa is foremost of all dharmas.[3]

Thus there are numberless primacies of all kinds, and as the Buddha also is the foremost of all beings, he is the only one to obtain sarvajñatā.

Furthermore, from his first production of the mind of bodhi (prathamacittotpāda), the Buddha is adorned with great vows (mahāpraṇidhāna) and, in order to save all beings in decline, he has practiced all the good paths (kuśalamārga) in a complete and exhaustive way. There are no merits that he has not accumulated or sufferings that he has not undergone. He has gathered into himself all the qualities (guṇa) of the Buddhas. For these many and numberless reasons, the Buddha alone is the foremost of all beings.

Question. – But all the Buddhas of the three times and the ten directions have the same qualities. Why do you say that the Buddha alone is foremost?

Answer. – I said that, among beings other than the Buddhas, the Buddha [260b] alone is supreme. The Buddhas have equal and identical qualities.[4]

Footnotes and references:


Beginning of the Pasādasutta of the Anguttara, II, p. 34 (Tseng-yi-a-han, T 125, k. 12, p. 602a1–3) often reproduced in other suttas (Anguttara, III, p. 35; V, p. 21; Itivuttaka, p. 87):

Yāvatā bhikkhave sattā apadā dipadā vā catuppadā vā bahuppadā vā rūpino vā arūpino vā saññino vā asaññino vā nevasaññināsaññino vā Tathāgato tesam aggam akkhāyati arahaṃ sammāsambuddho.

The corresponding Sanskrit formula is in Divyāvadāba, p. 154, and Avadānaśataka, I, p. 49, 329:

Ye kecit sattvā vā dvipadā vā [catuṣpadā vā] bahupadā vā rūpino vā arūpino vāsaṃjñino vā asaṃjñiono vā naivasaṃjñino nāsaṃjñinas Tathāgato ‘rhan samyaksaṃbuddhas teṣāṃ sattvānām agra ākhyāyate.


Adopting the variant kouan.


Similar lists of ‘statements of primacy’ (agraprajñapti) in Majjhima, III, p. 6–7; Saṃyutta, III, p. 156; Anguttara, III, p. 364–365; V, p. 21–22.


Adopting the variant teng-yi.