Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “preliminary note on distinguishing the movements of mind of all beings” 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.

Preliminary note on distinguishing the movements of mind of all beings

Like all the abhijñās, the third abhijñā or knowledge of others’ minds (cetaḥparyāyajñāna = paracittajñāna) concerns the thoughts of beings occupying the same ‘level’ as that in which the abhijñā has been obtained or a lower level. Thus, if he so wishes, an ascetic in the fourth dhyāna can examine the minds of beings in kāmadhātu and the four dhyānas, but not of formless beings. He knows only the minds of present beings but not those of future or past beings. Furthermore, an ascetic of dull faculties (mṛdvindriya) cannot take hold of the minds of a being of sharp faculties (tīkṣnendriya) abiding on the same level as himself. Finally, a worldly person (pṛthaghana) cannot know the minds of a śrāvaka, a śrāvaka is ignorant of those of a pratyekabuddha, and a prateykabuddha knows nothing of those of a Buddha. Thus, effective though it may be, an abhijñā is restricted to one realm and does not attain the totality of beings.

However, in order to fulfill his ideal and assure the benefit and happiness of all creatures, the bodhisattva must know beforehand the minds of all the beings of the threefold world, past, future and present. This is why he aspires to a paracittajñāna higher than that of the third abhijñā. He understands, so the Prajñāpāramitā tells us, how to distinguish the “movements of mind of all beings” (sarvasattvacittacaritavispandita).

Although the text does not say it explicitly, this universal awareness, in space as well as in time, is the prerogative of the Buddhas and the great bodhisattvas of the tenth bhūmi and is only an aspect of omniscience par excellence, i.e., sarvākārajñatā.

But, someone will say, “the world of beings is infinite” (anantaḥ sattvalokaḥ) and, infinity being without beginning or end, will never be known to the very end, from A to Z. But that is just a specious objection which the Traité, once again, will refute victoriously.