Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the essence of the perfections resides in the mind” 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.

I. The essence of the perfections resides in the mind

Previously (chapters XVII-XXX), the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra has spoken of the six perfections (pāramitā). Why return to them here?

Answer. –Above it spoke about their general characteristics (sāmānyalakṣaṇa): here it wants to talk about their specific characteristics (svalakṣaṇa). Above it spoke about their causes and conditions (hetupratyaya); here it will talk about their fruits of retribution (vipākaphala).

Question. – That is not so. Above it spoke about the six perfections in their extension and fullness; here it is talking about ‘minor generosity’ and so on up to ‘minor wisdom’; these minor perfections are similar to but not identical with the six perfections treated above.

Answer. – Nothing of the sort! It is a matter of the same perfections. Why? Because the essence (artha) of the six perfections resides in the mind (citta) and not in the greater or lesser quantity of the things. Whether the bodhisattva practices them to a greater or a lesser extent, they are always the same perfections.

Thus the Hien-kie king (Bhadrakalpikasūtra) talks about eighty-four thousand perfections (pāramitā),[1] and the present sūtra also says: “There is a mundane (laukikī) perfection of generosity (dānapāramitā) and a supramundane (lokottara) perfection of generosity, and so on up to the perfection of wisdom (prajñāpāramitā), it too being mundane or supramundane.”[2]

Footnotes and references:


The Hien-kie king which the Traité will cite later (k. 62, p. 498a17) under the title Hien-kie-san-mei (Bhadrakalpikasamādhi) was translated into Chinese at Tch’ang-ngan by Dharmarakṣa, under the title of Hien-kie king (T 425) and others as well; according to the K’ai-yuan (T 2154, k. 2, p. 494c12), this translation was made on the 21st day of the 7th moon of the first year of the yong-k’ang period (August 22, 300). It also exists in a Tibetan version entitled Bskal pa bzaṅ po pa (Tib. Trip., vol. 27, no. 762). In this text the names of the thousand Buddhas of the fortunate period appear (T 425, k. 6, p. 46a–50a) to which F. Weller has dedicated an important work: Tausend Buddhanamen des Bhadrakalpa nach einer fünfsprachigen Polyglotte, Leipzig, 1928.

The Hien-kie king, as the Traité names it, mentions the 84,000 pāramitās (T 425, k. 6, p. 44c25). See also the Fo ming king, T 441, k. 21, p. 270c25.


Pañcaviṃśati, p. 263, l. 20–21:

Asti dānapmaramitā laukikī, asti lokottarā |
evaṃ śīlapāramitā yāvad asti prajñāpāramitā laukikī, asti lokottara |

The beginning of a passage from chapter XXVI where the six pāramitās are defined in their mundane and supramundane aspects: cf. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 263, l. 20–266, l. 19; T 223, k. 7, p. 272b1–272c6; T 220, vol. VII, k. 498, p. 534a3–535b8.