Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “visheshacinti-brahma-paripriccha-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.

It is said in the Ming-wang king (Jālinīprabhasūtra): The sthāvira[1] Śāriputra said to the Buddha: O Bhagavat, those who are able to understand the words of these bodhisattvas gain great merit (bahuṃ puṇyaskandhaṃ prasunvante). Why? If those who succeed merely in hearing the name (nāman) of these bodhisattvas already derive great benefit, what can be said of those who also understand their words?

O Bhagavat, if a man were to plant a tree (vṛkṣa) without stamping down the ground around it and this tree produced roots (mūla), a trunk (skandha), branches (śākhā), leaves (parṇa), and even gave fruit (phala), that would be a rare thing (durlabha). Well, the activity (caryālakṣaṇa) of these bodhisattvas is just as extraordinary. Indeed, without relying on any dharma whatsoever, they manifest births (jāti) and deaths (maraṇa) in the buddhafields (buddhakṣetra) and there, as if at play, they display at will the talents of their eloquence (pratibhāna) and their wisdom (prajñā). Then, hearing these great sages displaying this talent of eloquence playfully and at will, who would not produce the mind of supreme complete enligtenment (anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhicitta)?

At that time there was in the assembly the bodhisattva P’ou-houa (Samantapuṣpa).[2] He said to Śāriputra: The Buddha has said that the sthavira [Śāriputra] is the foremost of the sages (prajñāvatām agryaḥ) among all the disciples (śrāvaka). Today, O sthāvira, have you not discovered (upagata) the dharmadhātu,[3] the fundamental element of the dharma? Then why not use your great wisdom to discourse on this dharma as you will?

Śāriputra. – The disciples of the Buddha (buddhaśrāvaka) only speak of its domain (yathāviṣayam).

Samantapuṣpa. – Does the dharmadhātu have a domain?

Śāriputra. – No. [267b]

Samantapuṣpa. – If the dharmadhātu has no domain, how can you claim, O sthāvira, to speak according to this domain?

Śāriputra. – I speak of it according to the degree it has been understood (adhigata) by me.

Samantapuṣpa. – O sthāvira, have you understood that the dharmadhātu is without measure (apramāṇa)?

Śāriputra. – Yes.

Samantapuṣpa. – Then why did you just say: “I speak to the measure that it has been understood by me”? If the dharmadhātu such as it is understood by you is immeasurable, the words [spoken about it] are also immeasurable. The dharmadhātu is immeasurable and is not measurable.

Śāriputra. – The dharmadhātu is ungraspable (anadhigamyalakṣaṇa).

Samantapuṣpa. – If the dharmadhātu is ungraspable, do you find deliverance (vimukti) outside the dharmadhātu?

Śāriputra. – No.

Samantapuṣpa. – Why?

Śāriputra. – Because the dharmadhātu is inseparable (avyatirikta) from it.

Samantapuṣpa. – Is the knowledge of the saints (āryajñāna) that you understand like the dharmadhātu?

Śāriputra. – As for me, I want to hear the Dharma; this is not the time to preach.

Samantapuṣpa. – All dharmas being fixed (niyata) in the dharmadhātu, is there something to hear (śrotavya) or something to say (vaktavya)?

Śāriputra. – No.

Samantapuṣpa. – Then why did you just say: “I want to hear the Dharma; this is not the time to preach”?

Śāriputra. – Nevertheless, the Buddha said: “Two people gain immeasurable merit: i) the one who preaches carefully; ii) the one who listens attentively.”

Samantapuṣpa. – When you enter into the absorption of cessation (nirodhasamāpatti),[4] can you hear the Dharma?

Śāriputra. – O son of noble family (kulaputra), in the absorption of cessation one does not hear the Dharma.

Samantapuṣpa. – Do you think that all the dharmas are eternally ceased (nityaniruddha)?

Śāriputra. – Yes, I think so.

Samantapuṣpa. – The dharmadhātu being eternally ceased, it is impossible to hear the Dharma. Why? Because all the dharmas are eternally ceased.

Śāriputra. – Without coming out of concentration (samādhi), can you preach the Dharma?

Samantapuṣpa. – There is no dharma that is not concentrated (samāhita).

Śāriputra. – If that is so, all worldly people (pṛthagjana) are also concentrated.

Samantapuṣpa. – Of course, all worldly people are concentrated.

Śāriputra. – In what concentration are all worldly people concentrated?

Samantapuṣpa. – It is in the unshakeable concentration of the dharmadhātu (akṣobhyadharmadhātusamādhi)[5] that all worldly people are concentrated.

Śāriputra. – If that is so, there is no difference (viśeṣa) between worldly people (pṛthagjana) and saints (ārya).[6]

Samantapuṣpa. –I do not accept that there is a difference between worldly people and saints. Why? Because among saints, there is no dharma that is ceased (niruddha) and, among worldly people, there is no dharma that is produced (utpanna). Neither of them escape the sameness (samatā) of the dharmadhātu.

Śāriputra. – O son of noble family (kulaputra), what is the sameness of the dharmadhātu?

Samantapuṣpa. – It is what was cognized (jñatā) and seen (dṛṣṭa) by you, O sthavira, when you attained bodhi. Did you then produce the attributes of the saint (āryadharma)?

Śāriputra. – No.

Samantapuṣpa. – Did you destroy the attributes of the worldly person (pṛthagjanadharma)?

Śāriputra. – No.

Samantapuṣpa. – Did you acquire the attributes of the saint?

Śāriputra. – No.

Samantapuṣpa. – Did you see and cognize the attributes of the worldly person? [267c]

Śāriputra. – No.

Samantapuṣpa. – O sthavira, what then did you cognize and see in order to acquire the bodhi of the saints?

Śāriputra. – The way of existence (tathatā) of the worldly person, the way of existence of the bhikṣu who has just attained deliverance (vimukti), the way of existence of the bhikṣu entered into nirvāṇa without residue (nirupadhiśeṣanirvāṇa). This way of existence is a single way of existence; it does not involve any differentiation.

Samantapuṣpa. – O Śāriputra, it is the way of existence characteristic of the dharmadhātu, the unshakeable way of existence (akṣobhyatathatā and, by this way of existence, one will know the way of existence of all dharmas.[7]

Then Śāriputra said to the Buddha: Bhagavat, there is no object (vastu) that the great mass of fire (agniskandha) does not consume. It is the same for the words spoken by those individuals who affirm that all dharmas enter into the dharmadhātu.

Notes on the Viśeṣacinti-brahma-paripṛcchā-sūtra:

In Tibetan, gnas brtan corresponding to the Sanskrit sthavira which Kumārajīva renders equally as houei-ming or k’i-nien. In the Sanskrit texts, the names of the disciples are usually preceded by the adjective āyuṣmat (in Chinese tch’ang-tche, kiu-cheou; in Tibetan, tshe daṅ ldan pa) the translation of which Kumārajīva and even Hiuan-tsang most frequently omit. All these epithets of respect have the sense almost of the Greek ‘presbyter’, elder, worthy of consideration. Another honorific appellation of Buddhist and Jain monks is bhadanta (in Chinese, tsuan-tche; in Tibetan, bstun pa).

Footnotes and references:


On this sūtra frequently cited under different names by the Traité, see above, p. 1268–1269F, note. The passage cited here occurs in T 585, k. 2, p. 10c23 – 11b25; T 586, k. 2, p. 42c9 – 43b2; T 587, k. 3, p. 74a2–c7; Tib. Trip., no. 827, vol. 33, p. 198–199, fol. 50b7 – 52b3.


In Tibetan, Kun-tu me-tog.


In Tibetan, chos kyi dbyiṅs.


The saṃjñāveditanirodhasamāpatti, the concentration of the cessation of concept and feeling, which by definition has no object: cf. p. 1299F, 1307F.


In Tibetan, chos kyi dbyiṅs ḥkhrugs paḥi tiṅ ṅe ḥdzin.


The identity of worldly people and the saints is one of the favorite themes of the Mahāyānasūtras: cf. Vimalakīrtinirdeśa, transl., p. 143, note 5; 156–157; 235; Śūraṃgamasamādhi, transl. p. 184.


In the Tibetan version, Samantapuṣpa says to Śāriputra: de bzhin ñid de ni ma log pa de bśin ñid daṅ | gzhan ma yin pa de bzhin ñid daṅ | mi ḥgyur ba de bzhin ñid daṅ | mi ḥkhrugs pa de bzhin ñid de | btsun pa Śariḥi bu de bśin ñid chos thams cad kyi de bśin ñid rjes su rig par byaḥo |

This way of being (tathatā) is the way of being without mistake (aviparyāsatathatā), the infallible way of being (ananyatathatā), the immutable way of being (avipariṇamatathatā), the unshakeable way of being (akṣobhyatathatā). O bhadanta Śāriputra, the way of being of all dharmas should be known by this way of being.

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