Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “preparatory path (prayogamarga) in the shravaka system” 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.

Appendix 6 - The preparatory path (prayogamārga) in the Śrāvaka system

Note: This appendix was extracted from Chapter XLII part 9.1 (Position of Bodhisattva):

“6. Furthermore, the fact of being established on the summits (mūrdhāvasthāna) and not falling from them is called bodhisattva-dharmaniyāma”.

In the śrāvaka system, the preparatory path (prayogamārga) consists of the practice of the four wholesome roots favorable to penetration of the four noble Truths (nirvedhabhāgīyakuśalamūla):

  1. heats (ūṣmagata),
  2. summits or heads (mūrdhan),
  3. convictions (kṣānti),
  4. supreme worldly dharmas (laukikāgradharma).

The ascetic is able to strip away the first two. The summits (mūrdhan) are the highest of the unfixed (cala) roots of good, i.e., from which one may still regress. Or else, one regresses from the summits (mūrdhabhyaḥ pāta) or one is established on the summits (mūrdhāvasthāna) in order to pass over them by penetrating into the convictions (kṣānti).

The Kośabhāṣya, p. 343–344, explains it thus:

Ūṣmabhyo mūrdhāna utpadyate… yādṛśā ūṣmāṇaś cauḥsatyālambanāḥ ṣoḍaśākārāś ca. utkṛṣṭataratvāt nāmāntaraṃ calakuśalamūrdhatvāt mūrdhānaḥ. ebhyo ḥi pāto ‘tikramo vā. –


From the heats arise the summits. Like the heats, they have as object the four Truths of which they take the sixteen aspects. As a result of their superiority they receive another name and, as they are the summit of the unfixed roots of good, they are called summits. One can fall from these summits or one can also pass over them.

The Prajñāpāramitāsūtra takes inspiration from this system to elaborate a bodhisattva Path. In his progress towards entering into possession (prāpti) of anutpattikadharmakṣānti, the bodhisattva can attain certain summits close to this kṣānti, but he may regress from them if he speculates about the nature and characteristics of dharmas: these are non-existent, without arising or ceasing, are not to be wished for. Only the niyāta “determined, predestined” bodhisattva is sheltered from regressing from the summits.