Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “superiority of the bodhisattva over the other disciples” 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.

III. Superiority of the Bodhisattva over the other disciples

After the Buddhas come the bodhisattvas, and after the bodhisattvas come the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas. However, here [the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra] speaks of the “bodhisattva who wishes to surpass the [270a] generosity, etc., of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas.” What is there to be astonished at [in the fact that the bodhisattva surpasses the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas who are hierarchically lower than he is]?

Answer. – It is not a matter here of comparing the merits (puṇya) of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas – generosity (dāna), morality (śīla), etc. – with the qualities of the bodhisattva. The bodhisattva surpasses them only by means of a mind of sympathetic joy (anumodhanācitta); what more could be said (kaḥ punarvādaḥ) when he himself is practicing the qualities [that he is admiring in others]?

The śrāvaka and pratyekabuddha adepts are diligent and struggle to practice the qualities; the bodhisattva, on the other hand, is silent, but by his sympathetic joy (anumodanā) and the strength of his wisdom (prajñābala), his merits surpass those of the former. He is like a foreman (śilpin) who uses only his knowledge and goes away after having given instructions, whereas the unskilled workman wearies himself using the axe (kuṭhāra); at the end of the day, when the work is examined and the wages are paid, the foreman gets three times as much as the workman. In the same way also, in wartime, the soldiers risk death but it is the general (senānī) who wins the victory.

Question. – Since the mind of sympathetic joy surpasses generosity (dāna) and morality (śīla), why do you speak only of the superiority of the bodhisattva’s mind of [without mentioning others’ sympathetic joy]?

Answer. – Worldly people in whom the afflictive emotions (kleśa) cover over the mind and who have not eliminated egotism (ahaṃkāra) are attached to the happiness of this world (laukikasukha); how then would they surpass the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas?

In the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas, the strong (tīkṣna) surpass the weak (mṛdu), but all remain at the śrāvaka stage (śrāvakabhūmi). This is why, [for them] there is no question [of the mind of sympathetic joy].[1]

Question. -The qualities (guṇa) and attributes (dharma) of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas are very numerous. Why does the Prajñāpāramitā mention only six here, [generosity, morality, etc.]?

Among the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddjas, the strong (tīkṣna) surpass the weak (mṛdu), but all are at the stage of śrāvaka (śrāvakabhūmi). This is why there is no question [in them] of the thought of sympathetic joy.[2]

Answer. – All the attributes of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas are contained (saṃgṛhīta) within those six.

1. To speak of generosity (dāna) already presupposes the qualities (guṇa) faith (śraddhā), erudition (śruta), etc. Why? Because it is necessary to have heard in order to believe and it is necessary to have believed in order to give. This generosity is of two types: material generosity (āmiṣadāna) and generosity of the Dharma (dharmadāna).

2. Morality (śīla) contains three kinds of morality: morality of discipline (saṃvaraśīla), morality of meditation (dhyānaśīla) and pure morality (anāsravaśīla).

3. Concentration contains the concentrations of meditation (dhyāna), absorption (samāpatti) and liberation (vimokṣa).

4. Wisdom (prajñā) contains the wisdom resulting from hearing (śrutamayī), the wisdom resulting from reflecting (cintāmayī) and the wisdom resulting from meditation (bhāvanāmayī).

5. Deliverance (vimukti) contains two kinds of deliverance: impure (sāsrava) and pure (anāsrava).

6. The knowledge and the vision of deliverance (vimuktijñānadarśana) contains the knowledge of the destruction of the impurities (kṣayajñāna). When one knows that the impurities are destroyed, one attains deliverance (vimukti) with respect to the threefold world and one knows and sees this clearly. I have already spoken about the auxiliaries of enlightenment (bodhipākṣika dharma) and the dharmas of the noble Path (āryamārga).

Finally, as for the qualities of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas not turned toward nirvāṇa, the sūtra does not say here that [the bodhisattva] surpasses them because these qualities are too slim (tanu).

Question. – ‘Surpassing’ (abhibhavitum) means to take away by force. But here the bodhisattva is not struggling against the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas. Why is it said that he ‘surpasses’ them?

Answer. – He surpasses them only in the sense that, by means of his wisdom (prajñā), his skillful means (upāya) and the strength of his mind (cittabala), he obtains an increase of merit (puṇyabāhulya) on a given point. Thus, in respect to a given flower (puṣpa), a person grasps only the color and the fragrance (gandha) whereas the bee (ali) grasps the juice (rasa) and makes honey (madhu) out of it. In the same way also, in order to draw water (vāri), if the vessel (bhājana) is big, one gets a lot; if it is small, one gets only a little. By means of these comparisons (upāma), we can know that, by means of a mind of sympathetic joy (anumodanācitta) associated with profound and keen wisdom (gambhīratīvraprajñā), the bodhisattva surpasses (abhibhavati) all the qualities (guṇa), generosity (dāna), etc., of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas.

[The bodhisattvas surpass them] in six things (dharma). For the first, [270b] generosity (dāna), see my explanations on the perfection of generosity (chapter XX, [p. 692–769F) where I defined this attribute of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas. [For the second], morality (śīla), see the chapter explaining the perfection of morality (Chapter XXIII, p. 853–864F) where I defined this attribute of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas. [For the other four], concentrations (samādhi), wisdom (prajñā), deliverance (vimukti), the knowledge and vision of deliverance (vimuktijñānadarśana), see my explanations on the recollection of the Buddha (chapter XXXVI, p. 1349–1359F) where I defined these attributes of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas.

Footnotes and references:

1.

Usually worldly people and śrāvakas do not take delight in the qualities of others, the former because they are exclusively preoccupied with the happiness of this world, the latter because they seek their own personal salvation without being concerned about others. The śrāvakas excel in the degree of their spiritual faculties (indriya), weak among some, strong among others, but they all remain at the stage of śrāvaka, caring little about the qualities of others.

2.

Usually, worldly people and śrāvakas do not take delight in the qualities of others, the former because they are preoccupied with worldly enjoyments exclusively, the latter because they seek their own personal salvation without caring for others. The ṣrāvakas excel by the degree of their spiritual faculties (indriya), weak in some, strong in others, but they all remain at the śrāvaka stage, caring little about the qualities of others.