Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “the movements of mind are cognized by an infallible liberation” 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. The movements of mind are cognized by an infallible liberation

Question. – By what knowledge (jñāna) can one cognize the minds and mental events of all beings?

Answer. – The Buddhas possess an unhindered liberation (asaṅgavimokṣa)[1] and, having entered into this liberation, they cognize the minds and mental events of all beings. The great bodhisattvas, having a ‘semblance’ of unhindered liberation,[2] can also cognize the minds and mental events of all beings.

Thus the beginning (ādikarmika) bodhisattvas would like to obtain this unhindered liberation of the great bodhisattvas and this unhindered liberation of the Buddhas and, by means of this unhindered liberation, cognize the minds and mental events of all beings. The great bodhisattvas would like to obtain the unhindered liberation of the Buddhas.

This is why [the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra], although it has already (p. 1824F) spoken of the abhijñā of knowing the minds of others (paracittajña) speaks again of the bodhisattva who, “wanting to cognize the movements of mind of all beings, should practice the perfection of wisdom”.

Question. – When ‘movements of mind’ (cittacaritavispandita) are spoken of here, either the mind[3] has gone (gata) or the mind has not yet gone (agata).

If it has gone, “one is without mind (acetana), like a dead man.”[4]

If the mind has not gone, how would one cognize it? Actually, the Buddha said: “It is in dependence on the mind (manas) [as antecedent organ] and on the dharma as object (ālambana) that the mental consciousness (manovijñāna)[5] arises.” If the mind (manas) has not gone, there is no meeting (saṃgati) between the manas-organ and the dharma-object].[6]

Answer. – You should know that the mind does not leave (na gacchati) and does not stay (na tiṣṭhati). Actually, it is said in the Prajñāpāramitā: “All dharmas are without the nature of coming (āgati) and going (gati).”[7] Then why do you speak here of a mind having an arrival and a departure?

[Paramārthaśūnyatāsūtra]. – It is said that “all dharmas, when they arise, do not come from anywhere, and when they perish, do not go anywhere.”[8] To claim that they have an arrival and a departure is to fall into the belief in permanence (śāśvatadṛṣṭi). Dharmas have no fixed nature (niyatalakṣaṇa).

Consequently, it is only from the meeting (saṃgati) between the six internal organs (adhyātmendriya) and the six external objects (bāhyaviṣaya) that the six consciousnesses (vijñāna) arise together with the six sensations (vedanā), the six concepts (saṃjñā) and the six volitions (saṃskāra).[9] Therefore, the mind being like a magic show (māyā), one can “cognize the minds and mental events of all beings”, but there is no subject that cognizes (jānaka) nor any subject that sees (paśyaka).[10]

It is said in the T’an-mo-ho-yen p’in (Mahāyānastutiparivarta): “If the minds and mental events of all beings existed essentially and in reality (tattvatas) and were not false, the Buddha could not know the minds and mental events of all beings. But because the minds and mental events of all beings are essentially and really false, without coming (āgati) or going (gati), the Buddha knows the minds and mental events of all beings.”[11]

To take an example: if the bhikṣu is greedy (adhyavasita), he does not receive offerings (pūjā), but if he has no ulterior motive, he lacks for nothing. It is the same for the mind (citta). If it imagines (vikalpayati) and grasps at characteristics (nimittāny udgṛhṇāti), it does not find the truth and, not finding the truth, it cannot penetrate or know the minds and mental events of all beings. On the other hand, if it does not grasp at characteristics and does not imagine anything, it finds the truth and, finding the truth, it penetrates and knows the minds and mental events of all beings without encountering any obstacles.

Footnotes and references:


Wou-ngai-kiai-t’ouo, ‘unhindered liberation or deliverance’ probably renders an original Sanskrit asaṅgavimokṣa or apratihatavimokṣa. It belongs to the Buddhas and great bodhisattvas who, thanks to it, cognize the past and the future. See above, p. 328F, 1355F, 1357F, 1595F, 1652F, 1663F. Compare acintyavimokṣa (Tib. rnam par thar pa bsaṃ gyis mi khyab pa) of the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa, transl., p. 250=158.


A ‘semblance’ of an unhindered liberation, i.e., a liberation similar to that of the Buddhas assuring a complete dominance over objects.


By mind, here we should understand the manas (in Chinese, yi) also called mana-indriya, mana-āyatana, mano-dhātu, organ and support of the mental consciousness (manovijñāna).


Conforming to a canonical topic (Tchong a han, T 26, k. 58, p. 789a4–5; Saṃyutta, III, p. 143, l. 4–5; Tsa a han, T 99, k. 21, p. 150b9–10) cited in Sanskrit in Kośabhāṣya, p. 73, 243:

Āyur ūṣmātha vijñānaṃ yadā kāyaṃ jahaty amī |
apaviddhas tadā śete yathā kāṣṭham acetanaḥ ||

“When life, heat and consciousness leave the body, it lies there abandoned, like a piece of wood, without intellection.


Majjhima, I, p. 112; III, p. 281; Saṃyutta, II, p. 72, 73, 74, 75; Mahāniddesa, II, p. 276: Manañ ca paṭicca dhamme ca uppajjati manoviññāṇaṃ.

The puntuation in Taisho should be corrected: the period should be placed after yi che cheng.


According to the Sarvāstivādin interpretation: the mental consciousness (manovijñāna) is the result of two conditions (pratyaya): 1) an immediately preceding condition (samanantarapratyaya) that serves a point of support (āśraya), namely, the manas, and by manas is meant that one of the six consciousnesses that has just passed (ṣaṇṇām ananantarātītaṃ vijñānaṃ yad dhi tan manaḥ);

2) an object condition (ālambanapratyaya), namely, the six things (dharma).

The result is that if the manas has gone (nirgata), i.e., has left the body, the body is without intellection like a piece of wood. If, on the other hand, the manas has not yet gone, the manovijñāna that should immediately follow it cannot arise. Thus there is no meeting (saṃgati) between organ, object of consciousness and vijñāna, and the process of consciousness is blocked. See Kośa, I, p. 31–32, 95; III, p. 85.


Cf. Pañcaviṃśati, ed. Dutt, p. 239, l. 12–15 (T 223, k. 6, p. 264b22–26; T 220, vol. VII, k. 419, p. 102c25–103a1); Śatasāhasrikā, ed. Ghosa, p. 1586, l. 4–8 (T220, vol. V, k. 58 p. 39b16–20): Yad api Subhūtir evam āha. nāpi tasya mahāyānasya āgatir dṛśyate nāpi gatir na sthānaṃ dṛśyata iti. evam etat Subhūte tasya mahāyānasyāgatir na dṛśyate nāpi gatir na sthānaṃ dṛśyate. tat kasya hetoḥ. acalā hi Subhūte darvadharmās te na kvacid gacchanti na kutaścid āgacchanti na kvacit tiṣṭhanti. – Subhūti said: “In this Mahāyāna, neither coming nor going nor staying is noticed.” That is good, O Subhūti: in this Mahāyāna, no coming nor going nor staying are noticed. Why? Immobile, O Subhūti, are all dharmas; they do not go anywhere, they do not come from anywhere, and they do not stay anywhere.


This Paramārthaśūnyatāsūtra, the original Sanskrit text of which will be found below (p. 2135F), states that the five skandhas – and consequently all conditioned dharmas – do not come from anywhere and do not go anywhere: Cakṣur bhikṣava utpadyamānaṃ na kutaścid āgacchati, nirudhyamāmanaṃ ca na kvacit saṃnicayaṃ gacchati.


Cf. Majjhima, I, p. 293: Yā ca vedanā yā ca saññā yañ ca viññāṇaṃ ime dhammā saṃsaṭṭhā no visaṃsaṭṭhā, na ca labbhā imesaṃ dhammānaṃ vinibbhujitvā vinibbhujitvā nānākaraṇaṃ paññāpetuṃ. Yaṃ hi vedeti taṃ sañjānāti, yaṃ sañjānāti taṃ vijānāti. – All sensations, notions and consciousnesses are things associated and non-dissociated; it is impossible to separate them one from another and to show their differences, for whatever one feels, that one conceives, and whatever one conceives, that one cognizes.


In other words, knowing the movements of mind of all beings does not consist of detailing them one by one, but of penetrating their true nature (dharmatā), characterless like a magic show. Only the Buddhas and the great bodhisattvas possess such an overall view.


The Mahāyānastutiparivarta, abbreviated to Stutiparivarta, is the XLIVth chapter of the Pañcaviṃśati (T 223, k. 12, p. 311c5–313a25). There it says (p. 311c28–29) that the Prajñāpāramitā is a perfection without going because all dharmas are without coming (agamanapāramiteyaṃ Bhagavan sarvadharmāgamanatām upādāya).

This total immobility is also applied to citta and the caitasika dharmas. In the Pañcaviṃśati, ed. Dutt, p. 116, l. 5–7, Subhūti asks the Buddha: Kena kāraṇena, Bhagavan, bodhisattvasya mahāsattvasya cittaṃ nāvalīyate na saṃlīyate. The Lord replies: Tathāhi, subhūte, bodhisattvo mahāsattvaś cittacaitasikān dharmān nopalabhate na samanupaśyati.

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