Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “outstanding qualities of the bodhisattva” 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.

Question. – For what reasons does the knowledge of the bodhisattva outshine that of the śrāvaka and pratyekabuddha?

Answer. – As is said in the Pen-cheng king (Jātakasūtra), the bodhisattva has accumulated the knowledges for innumerable incalculable kalpas (aprameyāsaṃkhyeyakalpa). For innumerable kalpas, there is no suffering that he has not undergone, no deed that he has not accomplished.

In search of the Dharma, he has gone into the fire;[1] he has thrown himself down [from the top of a mountain];[2] his skin was flayed;[3] with one of his bones as pen, his blood as ink and his skin as paper, he transcribed a sūtra.[4] It was out of love for the Dharma that he suffered these enormous torments.

In order to acquire knowledge, from lifetime to lifetime he venerated his teachers, looking upon them as Buddhas. He recited, studied and penetrated all the existing sūtras.[5] For innumerable incalculable kalpas he ceaselessly reflected and thought. He investigated everything, beautiful and ugly, profound and superficial, good and bad, pure and impure, eternal and transitory, existent and non-existent, etc. He meditated, analyzed and questioned. In view of knowledge, he venerated the Buddhas, bodhisattvas and śrāvakas. He heard the Dharma, questioned, trusted, reflected properly and acted in conformity with the Dharma.

Completely fulfilling such causes and conditions of knowledge, how could he not outshine the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas?

Finally, the wisdom (prajñā) of the bodhisattva is assisted and adorned by the first five perfections (pāramitā). He possesses the power of skillful means (upāyabala); he has thoughts of loving-kindness (maitrī) and compassion (karuṇā) for all beings; he is not obstructed by wrong views (mithyādṛṣṭi); he dwells in the ten levels (bhūmi); his knowledge (jñāna) is profound (gambhīra) and his strength (prabhāva) is great. For these great reasons, he outshines the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas; for these great reasons, the lesser ones disappear by themselves. The arhats and pratyekabuddhas do not have these prerogatives. This is why the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra says here: “The bodhisattva who wants to outshine the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas should practice the perfection of wisdom.”

Footnotes and references:


Avadāna of Dharmagaveṣin or Subhāṣitagaveṣin: cf. p. 690F, note.


Jātaka of the ṛṣi who threw himself down at the feet of the Buddha Kauṇḍinya from the summit of a high mountain (cf. p. 751F); story to be compared with the story of the young brāhmin in search of a stanza (p. 689F, note).


Jātaka of the flayed nāga (cf. p. 853–855F).


Jātaka of Dharmarakta or Dharmarata (cf. p. 975–976F; below, k. 49, p. 412a).


Adopting the variant kiai-t’o.