Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “great armour (mahasamnaha)” 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.

Appendix 2 - The great armour (mahāsaṃnaha)

Note: This appendix is extract from Chapter XLIII part 1.2 (order of the superknowledges; a. order generally accepted by the canonical sūtras):

“Furthermore, it is said in the Prajñāpāramitāparivarta: ‘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 mahāsaṃnāha-sasaṃnnaddha), 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)...’”

The texts of the Greater Vehicle often speak of bodhisattva mahāsaṃnaha-saṃnaddha (in Tibetan, go cha chen po bsgos pa), i.e., ‘clothed in the great armour’. This is mentioned in Pañcavimśati, ed. Ditt, p. 175, l. 6; Kumārajīva renders the expression by ta-che-tchouang-yen or ta-tchouang-yen, ‘adorned by great vows’ or ‘greatly adorned’, whereas Hiuan-tsang (T 220, vol. VII, p. 62a12) translates it as pei-ta-kong-tö-k’ai, ’clothed in the great armour of the qualities’.

The Prajñāpāramitā (Pañcaviṃśati, p. 175, l. 3 – 179, l. 21; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 1298, l. 12 – 1313, l. 18) dedicates an entire section to the Great Armor. The bodhisattva, it explains, puts on the great armor when he decides to fulfill the six pāramitās, not for a limited number of beings but for all beings without exception (sarvasattvānāṃ kṛtena), and this for the purpose of introducing them into the perfections and leading them to supreme compete enlightenment. He practices the six perfections without objectifying them or seizing them (ṣaṭ pāramitā na nimittīkaroti nopalabhate).

The Abhisamayālaṃkāra, I, v. 43, condenses this section into the following stanza:

Dānāsau ṣaḍvidhe teṣāṃ pratyekaṃ saṃgrahena yā |
saṃnāhapratipattiḥ sā ṣadbhiḥ ṣaṭkair yathoditā ||

“The action [consisting of] putting on the armor is represented by six sextads, the six [pāramitās], generosity, etc., combined one with the others respectively.”

The saṃnāhapratipatti thus consists of six sextads [combinations of generosity with the other five pāramitās, of morality with the other five pāramitās, etc.]: which makes a total of thirty-six aspects.

For the “great armor” see also Āloka, p. 84–85.