Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “qualities of the sixth superknowledge (asravakshaya-jnana)” 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.

I. Qualities of the sixth superknowledge (āsravakṣaya-jñāna)

In the Tsan-p’ou-sa p’in (Bodhisattvastutiparivarta) [above, p. 328–333F], the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra spoke of the ‘bodhisattva possessing five abhijñās’ (bodhisattvāḥ pañcābhijñāḥ). Why does it speak here of the ‘bodhisattva wishing to become established in the six abhijñās’ (bodhisattvaḥ ṣaḍabhijñatāyāṃ sthātukāmaḥ)?

Answer. – The [first] five Abhijñās are possessed by the bodhisattva, but here the six abhijñās in which the bodhisattva wants to be established are possessed by the Buddha. If the bodhisattva possessed the six abhijñās, he would be a Tathāgata.

Question. – However, in the Wang-cheng p’in (Upapadaparivarta),[1] the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra will say: “There are bodhisattvas established in the six abhijñās who go [from buddhafield] to buddhafield” (santi bodhisattvā mahāsattvaāḥ ṣaṇṇām abhijñānāṃ lābhino ye buddhakṣetreṇa buddhakṣetraṃ saṃkrāmanti).[2] Why then do you say that the bodhisattvas possess only five abhijñās?

Answer. – The sixth abhijñā, or knowledge of the destruction of the impurities (āsravakṣayajñāna), is of two kinds: i) simultaneous elimination of the impurities (āsrava) and their traces (vāsanā); ii) elimination of the impurities but not of the traces. The traces not being eliminated, we say that the bodhisattvas ‘possess’ five abhijñās; the traces being eliminated, we say that they ‘are [264b] established’ in the six abhijñās.[3]

Question. – How can the bodhisattva whose impurities are eliminated (kṣīṇāsrava) be reborn and assume a birth (upapatti)? Any taking of birth (upapattiparigraha) results from the flow of desires (tṛṣṇāpravāha). Just as rice (dhyāya), even though it is planted in good soil, does not germinate when moisture is lacking, so the saints (āryapudgala), once liberated from the husk of desire (tṛṣṇātuṣa), although still in possession of defiled actions (sāsravakarman), causes and conditions of birth (upapattihetupratyaya), cannot return to existence.

Answer. – As I have said earlier (p. 1801F), the bodhisattva reaches dharmaniyāma and becomes established in the avaivartikabhūmi. When his last fleshly body (paścima māṃsakāya) has disappeared, he obtains a body born of the fundamental element (dharmadhātujakāya). Although he has cut the passions (kleśa), he still retains their residues (vāsanā) and because of them, he takes on a body born of the fundamental element, not a birth in the threefold world (traidhātuka).

Question. – Among the arhats as well the passions are cut while the traces are not. Why are they not reborn?

Answer. – [Contrary to the bodhisattva], the arhats have neither great loving-kindness (mahāmaitrī) nor great compassion (mahākaruṇā), and they have not made the earlier vow (pūrvapraṇidhāna) to save all beings. Having realized the culminating point of reality (bhūtakoṭiṃ sākṣātkṛtvā), they abandon saṃsāra [definitively].

Furthermore, I said previously (p. 1817F) that there are two kinds of destructions of the impurities (āsravakṣaya). Here it is not a question of a bodhisattva possessing the abhijñā of the destruction of the impurities but of a bodhisattva ‘wishing to become established in the six abhijñās’ and, to this end, to practice the perfection of wisdom.

On the meaning (artha) of the six abhijñās, see what the Buddha will say in the following chapters.[4] Above (p. 328–333F), in the Tsan-p’ou p’in chapter (Bodhisattvavastutiparivarta), I have also explained the meaning of the five abhijñās of the bodhisattva.

Footnotes and references:


Chap. IV of the Pañcaviṃśati, T 223, k. 2, p.225a21–229c4.


Pañcaviṃśati, p. 63, l. 7–9; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 271, l. 4–6.


For a bodhisattva to be truly established in the six abhijñās in the example of the Buddha, it is necessary that all his impurities (āsrava) be destroyed, not just the afflictive emotions (kleśa) that make up the āsrava proper, but also the traces (vāsanā) that are the result of them.


See especially Pañcaviṃśati, p. 83, l. 7 – 88, l. 16; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 301, l. 11 – 306, l. 9.