Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “knowledge of the shravakas” 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.

Note: This subject has been discussed already, p. 1067–1068F.

Answer. – 1. Considering the true nature of dharmas under its general characteristic (sāmānyalakṣaṇa) and its specific characteristics (svalakṣaṇa) is the knowledge of the śrāvakas.[1]

[Susīmasutta.] – Thus it is said in a sūtra: “First one must use the analytical knowledge of the dharmas (dharmapravicayajñāna?) and then apply the knowledge concerning nirvāṇa (nirvāṇe jñānam).”[2] The analytical knowledge of dharmas concerns the specific characteristics (svalakṣaṇa); the knowledge of nirvāṇa concerns the general characteristic (sāmānyalakṣaṇa).

2. Furthermore, the śrāvakas know the dharmas that are, respectively, deliverance (mokṣa) or bondage (bandhana); progression (pravṛtti) or regression (nivṛtti); production (utpāda) or cessation (nirodha); benefit (āsvāda) or defect (ādīnava); in the opposite sense (pratiloma) or in the natural sense (anuloma); the near shore (apāra) or the opposite shore (pāra);[3] of mundane order (laukika) or supramundane order (lokottara), and other knowledges of the same type analyzing dharmas grouped into twos. They are called knowledges of the śrāvaka.

3. There are also threefold knowledges: the knowledges bearing upon the five aggregates of attachment (upādānaskandha) concerning their origin (samudaya), their breaking up (vikṣepa) and their disappearance (astaṃgama) or concerning their benefits (āsvāda), their faults (ādīnava) and their deliverance (niḥsaraṇa);[4] the knowledges associated with the three gates of deliverance (vimokṣamukhasaṃpraykta) and other knowledges analyzing the dharmas grouped into threes.

4. There are also fourfold knowledges: the knowledges consisting of the four foundations of mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna); – the knowledges of phenomena (dharmajñāna), the subsequent knowledge (anvayajñāna), the knowledge of another’s mind (paracittajñāna) and conventional knowledge (saṃvṛtijñāna); – the knowledges of suffering (duḥkha), its origin (samudaya) its cssation (nirodha) and the path to its cessation (mārga);[5] – the knowledges of impurity (aśuci), impermanence (anitya), suffering (duḥkha) and non-self (anātman);[6] – the knowledges of impermanence (anitya), suffering (duḥkha), emptiness (śūnya) and non-self (anātman);[7] the knowledge of phenomena (dharmajñāna), the subsequent knowledge (anvyajñāna), the knowledge of the destruction of the impurities (āsravakṣayajñāna) and the knowledge of their non-reoccurrence (anutpādajñāna) and other knowledges of the same type analyzing dharmas grouped by fours.[8]

5. Finally, from the knowledge of duḥkhe dharmajñānakṣānti[9] up to the knowledges of śūnyatāśūnyatāsamādhi, ānimittānimittasamādhi and apraṇihitāpraṇihitasamādhi,[10] all the knowledges included in that interval are all śrāvaka knowledges. In summary, this is disgust for the world.

[266c] Thinking of nirvāṇa, rejecting the threefold world (traidhātuka), cutting the conflicting emotions (kleśaprahāṇa), obtaining the supreme dharma (agradharma), i.e., nirvāṇa: all of that is called the knowledge of the śrāvaka.

Furthermore, it is said in the Pan-jo-po-lo-mi-yi p’in (Prajñāpāramitāparivarta):[11] “The knowledge of the bodhisattva and the knowledge of the śrāvaka are one and the same knowledge, the difference being that the śrāvakas do not have skillful means (upāya), are not [clothed] in the great armor (na mahāsaṃnāhasasaṃnnaddha), (see Appendix 2) have neither great loving-kindness (mahāmaitrī) nor great compassion (mahākaruṇā), do not seek all the attributes of the Buddha, do not seek the knowledge of all the aspects (sarvākārajñatā) or omniscience (sarvadharmajñatā). They are disgusted only with old age (jarā), sickness (vyādhi) and death (maraṇa), cut the bonds of thirst (tṛṣṇābandhana) and go straightway to nirvāṇa: this is the difference.

Footnotes and references:


To be more precise and as has been said above (p. 1745F), the śrāvakas know the general characteristics of conditioned dharmas, impermanence, suffering, emptiness and non-self, but they know only a restricted number of specific characteristics, solidity of earth, etc.


Susīmasutta of Saṃyutta, II, p. 124 (Tsa a han, T 99, k. 14, p. 97b6, already cited omn p. 1383F: Pubbe kho Susīma dhammaṭṭhitiñānaṃ pacchā nibbāṇe ñanan ti.

But the ‘analytical knowledge’ spoken of here in the Traité does not quite give the dhammaṭṭhitiñāṇa of the Pāli, which W. Geiger, in his translation of Saṃyutta, II, p. 172, translates as “das Wissen von der Gegsetzmässigkeit”. In his Pāli Dhamma, p. 12 he explains: Das Wissen von der Kausalität wird hier bestimmt als eine Vorstufe des Wissens vom Nirvāṇa.


Time-honored expressions designating saṃsāra and nirvāṇa respectively.


Compare the Arahasutta of Saṃyutta, III, p. 161: Yato ca kho bhikkhave bhikkhu imesaṃ pañcannaṃ upādānakkhandhānaṃ samudgayañca atthagamañca assāsañca ādīnavañca nissaraṇañca yathābhūtaṃ viditvā anupādā vimutto hoti. See also Saṃyutta, III, p. 28, l. 26–29.


Four knowledges concerned with the four āryasatyas respectively.


Knowledges counteracting the four viparyāsas.


Knowledges bearing upon the four ākāras of the truth of suffering.


All these other knowledges have been defined in chap. XXXVIII, p. 1465–1486F.


First moment of the darśanamārga.


Concentrations by means of which one wards off the dangers of the absorptions having as their objects emptiness (śūnyatā), signlessness (ānimitta) and wishlessness (apranihita): cf. p. 1094F; Kośa, VIII, p. 187–190.


Unidentified chapter and citation.

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