Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “‘position’ and ‘position of salvation’” 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. ‘Position’ and ‘Position of Salvation’

Question. – In the system of the śrāvakas, why do they speak of samyaktvaniyāma ‘position of salvation’, whereas in the system of the bodhisattvas they speak only of niyāma ‘position’?[1]

Answer. – If the latter system spoke of samyaktvaniyāma, it would not be wrong (doṣa) either. Why? If it was a matter of a bodhisattva attribute, the latter would lead to salvation (samyaktva). But in the śrāvaka system, they speak only of ‘niyāma’ and not of ‘niyāma of the śrāvaka’. This is why [we specify] by saying samyaktvaniyāma, ‘position of salvation’.

Furthermore, the śrāvakas do not possess the mind of great loving-kindness (mahāmaitrī) and great compassion (mahākaruṇā). Their wisdom (prajñā) not being sharp (tīkṣṇa), they have no feeling of disgust (nirvedacitta) [for the world]; they especially seek out dharmas and multiply wrong views (mityādṛṣṭi), doubts (vicikitsā) and regrets (vipratisāra). The bodhisattva-mahāsattva, however, full of loving-kindness and compassion for all, seeks especially to free beings from the sufferings of old age (jarā), sickness (vyādhi) and death (maraṇa); he does not try to imagine or increase futile proliferation (prapañca). Like the wealthy man (śṛeṣṭhin) who dearly loves his only son: when this son gets sick, his father looks for only the best remedies (bhaiṣajya) capable of curing the sickness; he does not seek to distinguish the names of the remedies and, as soon as he has found them, he mixes them and administers them.

Thus in order to consider the twelve-membered (dvādaśanidāna) [pratītyasamutpāda] the bodhisattvas start from the effects (phala); they do not start from the causes (hetu) in order to consider it. [The śrāvakas] assess according to the cause, whereas the bodhisattvas who are romantics (tṛṣṇābahula) assess according to the effect.[2] In the śrāvakas, the cause is

[262c] niyāma: this is why they are in the position of salvation (samyaktvaniyāma); in the bodhisattvas where the position of perdition (mithyātvaniyāma)[3] is minimal (tanu), we speak only of bodhisattvaniyāma.

Footnotes and references:


The objection is valid if one considers the text of the Pañcaviṃśati translated by Kumārajīva, but in the translation made by Hiuan-tsang, often there is the expression bodhisattvasamyaktvanyāma (T 220, vol. VII, k. 402, p. 7c26; k. 404, p. 19a20–21; k. 408, p. 43c28).

The answer is simple: When the śrāvaka enters the darśanamārga, he is destined for samyaktva, viz., destruction of rāga, dveṣa and moha, or nirvāṇa. When the bodhisattva enters into his darśanamārga, he is assured of some day attaining the complete omniscience of the Buddhas consisting of the knowledge of all aspects (savākārajñatā). The niyāma of the śrāvakas is a ‘position of salvation’; that of the bodhisatttvas is a ‘position of future Buddha’; therefore it is simply said ‘bodhisattvaniyāma’ or else ‘dharmaniyāma’).


The śrāvakas preoccupied with their personal salvation are rationalists by the stopping of pratītyasamutpāda; the bodhisattvas who aim above all for the benefit of others are the romantics.


The sources distinguish three categories of beings: 1) samyaktvaniyatarāśi, those who have netered into the path and will quickly reach nirvāṇa; 2) mithyātvaniyatarāśi, those who, having committed grave wrongdoings, will certainly go to the evil <1795> destinies and, havoing come out of them, will pass over I into the third rāśi; 3) aniyatarāśi, those who do not belong to either the first or the second rāśi and can enter into either of them. Cf. Dīgha, III, p. 217; Tseng-yi a-han, T 125, k.13, p. 614b23–24; k. 27, p. 698c; kathāvatthu, p. 611; nettippakaraṇa, p. 96; Lalitavistara, p. 400, l. 2–3; Mahāvastu, III, p. 318, l. 5; Mahāvyut., no. 1737–39.