Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “timsamatta-sutta (or, lohita-sutra)” 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.

The Tiṃsamattā-sutta (or, Lohita-sūtra)

Thus forty bhikṣus from the land of Po-li[1] who observed fully the twelve pure practices (dhūtaguṇa) came to the Buddha who taught them the practice of disgust (nirveda, saṃvega).

The Buddha asked them: The five rivers, Heng-k’ie (Gaṅgā), Lan-meou-na (Yamunā), Sa-lo-yeou (Sarayū), A-tche-lo-p’o-t’i (Aciravati) and Mo-hi (Mahī) arise and empty into the great ocean (mahāsamudra).[2] Is the mass of water contained in this ocean great or small?

The bhikṣus answered: It is very great.

The Buddha continued: In the course of a single kalpa, during his animal existences, a single man has been cut up and flayed. In yet other circumstances when he committed a wrong-doing, his hands and feet have been cut off and his head has been has been cut off. Well then! His blood (lohita) that has been spilled surpasses the amount of water in the ocean. [266b]

Likewise, the blood that he has spilled during his lifetimes (ātmalābha) in the course of great kalpas infinite in number (anantamahākalpa) is incalculable, and it is the same for the tears (aśru) that he has wept and the mothers’ milk (mātṛstana) that he has sucked.[3]

The bones (asthi) that a single man leaves during a single kalpa surpasses in height the great mountain Pi-feou-lo (Vaipulya). – [A note in the K’i-tan says: This is an Indian mountain and as the natives see it constantly, it is easy to believe it.][4] Thus, the man undergoes the sufferings of saṃsāra during innumerable kalpas.

Having heard this discourse, the bhikṣus were disgusted with the world and obtained bodhi. Furthermore, learning that the beings of the ten directions are infinite in number, they felt joy, busied themselves in not destroying life (prāṇātipāta) and won infinite merit (anantapuṇya).

For these reasons, the beings of all the universes should pay homage (pūja) to the bodhisattva who produces the mind of bodhi for the first time (prathamacittotpādika). Why? Because, in order to save the beings of universes infinite in number, he himself uses infinite qualities (anantaguṇa). As they present such benefits, they are called ‘infinite’.

This is why the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra says here that the bodhisattva ‘knows the movements of mind of all beings completely’. Thus, when the sun illumines a continent (dvīpaka), it goes everywhere simultaneously and there is no place that is not illumined.

Notes on the Tiṃsamattā-sutta or Lohita-sūtra:

Sūtra entitled Tiṃsamattā ‘The thirty’ in the Pāli Saṃyutta, II, p. 187–189, and Lohita ‘The blood’ in the Chinese Sanskrit sources: Tsa a han, T 99, no. 937, k. 33, p. 240b–c; Pie-yi tsa a han, T 100, no. 330, k. 16, p. 485c–486a; Tseng-yi a han, T 125, k, 49, p. 814b11–21. The Pāli locates this sūtra at Rājagṛha in the Veṇuvana; the Sanskrit, sometimes at Vaiśālī on the Markaṭahradatīra in the Kūṭagāraśāla, sometimes at Śrāvastī in the Jetavana.

Here are a few translations of extracts from the Pāli text (Saṃyutta, II, p. 187–198):

One day the Blessed One was staying at Rājagaha in the Bamboo Forest.

Then some monks from Pāva, thirty in number, all dwelling in the forest, living on alms, clothed in rags, wearing the three robes only but still victims of the fetters, came to where the Blessed One was. Having come near him and having saluted the Blessed One, they sat down at one side.

The Blessed One had this thought: These monks from Pāva, thirty in number, all dwelling in the forest… are still victims of the fetters. What if I preached the Dharma to them in such a way that even here on their very seats, their minds could be liberated from the impurities by means of detachment?

The Blessed One said: Of unknown beginning, O monks, is this saṃsāra: the very beginning is unknown of beings who, obstructed by ignorance and fettered by desire, run around and wander (from birth to birth).

What do you think, O monks? Which is greater: the blood that has been spilled and spread about by you when your heads have been cut off while you were running around and wandering (in saṃsāra) for so long, or the water in the four great oceans?

– Lord, as we understand the Dharma preached by the Blessed One, it is the blood spilled out and spread around when our heads have been cut off while we were running around and wandering (in saṃsāra) for so long and not the water in the four great oceans.

– Good, good, O monks! You understand well, O monks, the Dharma preached by me…

Thus spoke the Blessed One. With joyful minds, the monks were pleased with what the Buddha had said. When this statement had been made, the minds of the thirty monks from Pāvā were freed from the impurities by means of detachment.

Footnotes and references:


The Chinese translations mentioned at the beginning of the previous note speak of forty bhikṣus from the village of Po-li-ye or forty Po-li-chö-kia bhikṣus; the Pāli version speaks of thirty Pāveyyakā bhikṣus (variant Pāṭhyyaka). The commentary to Saṃyutta (II, p. 159) explains Pāveyyakā as Pāveyyadesavāsino “inhabitant of the region of Pāvā”. Pāvā (in Sanskrit, Pāpā) is the actual Kasia, situated 56 kilometers east of Gorakhpur. At the time of the Buddha, this city was the Malla capital. The early sources (Dīgha, II, p. 165; Sanskrit Mahāparinirvāṇa, p. 252, 432, etc.) distinguish the Mallas of Pāpā (in Sanskrit, Pāpīyaka or Pāpeya, in Pāli, Pāpeyyeka) from the Mallas of Kuśinagari (in Sanskrit, Kauśināgara, in Pāli, Kosināraka). The Pāṭheyyakas played an important part at the time of the Buddhas funeral rituals and in the council of Vaiśalī (cf. Vinaya, I, p. 253).


The other versions of the sūtra do not mention these five rivers.


Here and in the following paragraph, the Traité inserts into its Lohitasūtra three comparisons borrowed from other sūtras of the Saṃyukta.

1) The comparison of the tears is taken from the Assu-suttanta of Saṃyutta, II, p. 179–180 (T 99, no. 938, k. 33, p. 240c250241a17; T 100, no. 331, k. 16, p. 486a18–b23): Etad eva bhikkhave bahutaraṃ yaṃ vo iminā dīghena addhunā … paggharitaṃ na tveva catūsu mahāsamuddesu udakam. – Transl.: More abundant than the water of the four great seas are the tears that you have wept, during the very long time that you have wandered in saṃsāra, moaning and crying at being united with what you do not like and bing separated from what you like.

2. The comparison of the mothers’ milk is taken from the Kśīra-suttanta in Saṃyutta, II, p. 180–181 (T 99, no. 939, k. 33, p. 241a18–b8; T 100, no. 332, k. 16, p. 486b24–c6): Etad eva bhikkhave kappaṃ bahutaraṃ yaṃ vo iminā dīghena addhunāna tveva catūsu mahāsamuddesu udakam. – Transl.: More plentiful than the water of the four great seas is the maternal milk that you have sucked during the very long time that you were wandering in saṃsāra.

3) The compassion of the bone piles is taken from the Puggala-suttanta of Daṃyutta, II, p. 185–186 (T 99, no. 947, k. 34, p. 242a28–b15; T 100, no. 340, k. 16, p. 487b17–c3): Ekapuggalassa bhikkhave kappaṃ sandhāvato saṃsarato siyā … sace saṃhārako assa saṃbhatañ ca na vinesseyya. – Transl.: From a single man wandering in saṃsāra for a kalpa there would come bone skeletons, a pile of bones, a mass of bones as high as mount Vaipulya, supposing there were someone to gather up these bones and the pile would not be destroyed.

As we have seen above (p. 457F), the author of the Traité likes to construct composite sūtras.


Edition of the Chinese Canon printed under the K’i-tan (Tartars), beginning in 1059 and included, in 1068, 579 volumes. See P. Demiéville, Sur les editions imprimées du Canon chinois, BEFEO, XXIV, 1924, p. 207–212.

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