Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “prajna and generosity” 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.

II. Prajñā and generosity

Question. – Why does the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra say that “in order to practice the perfection of generosity, one must exert oneself in the perfection of wisdom”?

Answer. – Generosity is of two kinds: i) pure (viśuddha); ii) impure (aviśuddha).[1]

1. Impure generosity

Impure generosity is:[2]

1. Giving from pride (abhimāna, mānastambha), thinking: If destitute people (dīna) give, why should I not give?

2. Giving from jealousy (īrṣyā), thinking: My rival (pratyarthika) has acquired a reputation and has surpassed me by giving. Now I should give more generously still in order to surpass him.

3. Giving from love for reward (vipākachanda), thinking: By giving a little bit, my reward will be ten million times better: therefore I give.

4. Giving for the glory (kīrtyartham), thinking: Now that I like to give, I am esteemed by people and loved by the crowd.

5. Giving in order to win over people (puruṣasaṃgrahaṇārtham), thinking: The person to whom I am giving now will certainly take refuge in me.

Practicing generosity with many fetters (saṃyojana) of this type is impure generosity.

2. Pure generosity

Pure generosity does not have these mean tricks.

1. Guided only by pure intention, he thinks about the fruit of ripening (vipākaphala) as a result of causes and conditions; he has consideration and pity for the beneficiary (pratigrāhaka) and does not seek for actual profit; he aims only for the benefit (anuśaṃsa) of future lifetimes.

2. Furthermore, there is a pure generosity that does not seek the advantages of future lifetimes but which favors access to nirvāṇa by way of mind cultivation (cittabhāvanā) alone.

3. Finally, there is a pure generosity that, out of great compassion for beings, seeks neither personal benefit (svārtha) nor the accelerated acquisition of nirvāṇa but strives only for supreme complete enlightenment (anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi).

This is pure generosity, and it is in the spirit of the prajñāpāramitā that it is possible to practice it. And so the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra says that “in order to practice the perfection of generosity, it is necessary to practice the perfection of wisdom.”

Moreover, by means of the power of prajñāpāramitā, any feeling of attachment (abhiniveśacitta) to dharmas is rejected. Why should the feeling of self (ātmacitta) then not be rejected? Having rejected the feeling of self, one regards one’s body, one’s spouse, one’s son, as a blade of grass and, without the least consideration, one renounces them completely. This is why the Prajñāpāramitā says that “in order to practice the perfection of generosity, it is necessary to practice the perfection of wisdom.”

It is the same for the other perfections, morality, patience, exertion and trance, for they are maintained by the spirit of the prajñāpāramitā.

Footnotes and references:


Cf. p. 664F.


For impure generosity, see references above, p. 664F, n. 1 and also Saṅgītisūtra and its commentary, transl. Kusum Mittal and V. Stache-Rosen, Dogmatische Begriffsreihen im älteren Buddhismus, II, Berlin, 1968, p. 188–189.

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