Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the perfections are causes and conditions of the thirty-two marks” 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.

IV. The perfections are causes and conditions of the thirty-two marks

Question. – The thirty-two marks are fruits of ripening (vipākaphala) of generosity (dāna), etc., but the prajñāpāramitā is non-existent (asat) and like space (ākāśasama). How can one say that it is necessary to practice the prajñāpāramitā in order to obtain the major and minor marks?

Answer. – The thirty-two marks are of two kinds:

  1. complete (saṃpanna, pariniṣpanna), as in the Buddha;
  2. incomplete, as in the noble cakravartin kings, in Nanda, etc.

Although the prajñāpāramitā is associated with generosity, it completes the major and minor marks as is the case in the Buddhas. Among other people who practice only generosity [without the inspiration of the prajñāpāramitā], the marks are incomplete.[1]

Question. – How do generosity, etc., bring about the thirty-two marks?

Answer. – When the dānapati gives, the recipient (pratigrāhaka) obtains five things: color (varṇa), strength (bala), etc.,[2] and profits from them; the donor (dāyaka) himself is marked with the sign of the wheel (cakra) on his hands and feet, as has been fully described (p. 668F) in regard to the dānapāramitā.

It is the same for the other perfections, morality (śīla), patience (kṣānti), etc.: each of them favors the thirty-two marks. [273c]

What are these thirty-two marks? The mark consisting of having the soles of the feet well-planted (supratiṣṭhitapādata). For the rest of them (p. 272–279F), refer to the Ts’an-p’ou-sa p’in (Bodhisattvastutiparivarta).

Question. – For what reasons (hetupratyaya) does one get the mark consisting of having the sole of the foot well-planted?

Answer. –

[Mark no. 1]. – From lifetime to lifetime, the Buddha mindfully (smṛtimat) and firmly (sthāmavat) kept morality (śīla) and did not allow others to break it. For this karmic cause and condition, he obtained the first mark. This first mark means that he himself is unshakeable (acala) in the Dharma. Had he become a noble cakravartin king, nobody in his kingdom could have attacked him.

[Mark no. 2]. – In accord with justice (saha dharmeṇa), he nourished and protected the populace, the wandering mendicants (parivrājaka), the śramaṇas, etc. For this karmic cause and condition, he obtained the mark consisting of having thousand-spoked wheels [on the soles of his feet] (adhastāt pādatalayoś cakre jāte sahasrāre). This mark lets him turn the wheel of the Dharma (dharmacakra). Had he become a noble cakravartin king, he would have turned the jewel of the wheel (cakratna).

[Mark no. 3]. – He abstained from killing living beings (prāṇātipāta). For this karmic cause and condition, he obtained the mark of having long fingers (dīrghāṅguli).

[Mark no. 4]. – He abstained from theft (adattādāna). For this cause and condition, he obtained the mark of having a broad heel (āyatapādapārṣṇi).

[Mark no. 5]. – By means of the four ways of winning people (saṃgrahavastu), he captivated people. For this cause and condition, he obtained the mark of having webbed hands and feet (jālāṅgulihastapāda).

[Mark no. 6]. – He offered his teachers (mahāmātra, guru) robes (vastra), food (annapāna) and fine beds (śayanāsana). For this karmic cause and condition, he obtained the mark of having soft and delicate hands and feet (mṛdutaruṇapāṇipāda).

[Marks nos. 7, 13, 12]. – He developed the cultivation of merits (puṇyabhāvanā). For this karmic cause and condition, he obtained the marks of having a high instep (utsaṅgacaraṇa), single hairs arising from each of his pores (ekaikaromakūpebhya ekaikāni romāṇi jātāni) and hair standing up (ūrdhvāgraroma).

[Mark no. 8]. – In accord with the Dharma, he bequeathed all that he could contribute to the welfare and harmony and quickly taught it to people. This is why he obtained the mark of the marvelous ankles (jaṅghā) like those of Aiṇeya, king of the antelopes (mṛgarāja).

[Marks no. 9, 11]. – In accord with the Dharma, he gave pure things without troubling his beneficiary. This is why he obtained the mark of having arms that, when he was standing, reached his knees (sthitānavanatājānupralambabāhu), and the mark of having a broad body like the banyan tree (nyagrodhaparimaṇḍala).

[Mark no. 10]. – He always cultivated the sense of modesty and honor (hrīrapatrāpya), avoided lust (kāmamithyādāra) and practiced generosity by giving away houses (gṛha), garments (vastra), rugs (praticchādana), etc. This is why he obtained the mark of having his secret organs contained in a sheath (kośagatavastiguhya) like a stallion (ājāneya).

[Marks no. 14, 15]. – He cultivated the concentration of loving-kindness (maitrīsamādhi), purity of faith (śraddhaviśuddhi), mental activity (saṃtānabāhulya)[3] and distributed excellent alms-food (annāpāna), garments. (cīvara) and coverlets (śayanāsana). This is why he obtained the marks of having a golden color (suvarṇavarṇa) and a brilliance of an arm’s-width (vyāmaprabhā).[4]

[Mark no. 16]. – He always liked to consult, venerate and gather reverend and holy individuals (satpuruṣa). This is why he has obtained the mark of having a fine soft skin (sūkṣmacchavi).

[Marks no. 19, 18, 21]. – In order to settle matters in accord with the Dharma, he himself did not administer but delegated his powers of governing. This is why he obtained the marks of having the front part of his body like that of a lion (siṃhapūrvārdhakāya), his armpits rounded (citāntarāṃsa) and his shoulders perfectly round (susaṃvṛttasklandha).

[Mark no. 20]. – He respected his teachers (mahāmātra, guru), came to them and accompanied them. This is why he obtained the mark of having a great straight body (bṛhadṛjukāya).

[Mark no. 17]. – His gifts were perfect (saṃpanna) and copious (paripūrṇa). This is why he obtained the mark of having the seven parts of his body rounded (saptosada).

[Mark no. 25]. – There was no restriction in any of his gifts. This is why he obtained the mark of having a square jaw [like that of a lion] (siṃhahanu).

[Marks no. 22, 23]. – He abstained from malicious gossip (paiśunyavāda). This is why he obtained the mark of having forty teeth (catvāriṃśaddanta), the mark of having joined teeth (aviraladanta) and the secret mark of the teeth.

[Mark no. 24]. – He always cultivated loving-kindness (maitrī) and good thoughts (manasikāra). This is why he obtained the mark of having incomparably white teeth (śukladanta).

[Mark no. 27]. – He abstained from falsehood (mṛṣāvāda). This is why he obtained the mark of having a wide thin tongue (prabhūtatanujihvā).

[Mark no. 26]. – He gave excellent food without troubling his recipient (pratigrāhaka). This is why he obtained the mark of having the best of flavors (rasarasāgra).

[Mark no. 28]. – He abstained from harmful words (pāruṣyavāda). This is [274a] why he obtained the mark of having a brahmical voice (brahmasvara).

[Marks no. 29, 30]. – He contemplated beings with a good mind (kuśalacitta) and a kindly regard (priyadarśana). This is why he obtained the marks of having deep blue eyes (abhinīlanetra) and eyelashes like a cow (gopakṣmanetra).

[Mark no. 31]. – He honored venerable individuals, he himself maintained discipline (śīla) and taught it to people. This is why he obtained the mark of having a fleshy protuberance on his head (uṣṇīṣaśīrṣa).

[Mark no. 32]. – He praised those who ought to be praised. This is why he obtained the mark of having a tuft of white hair (ūrṇā bhruvor madhye jātā).

According to the śrāvaka system, those are the karmic causes and conditions for the thirty-two marks and they are also the karmic causes and conditions for the thirty-two marks in the Mahāyāna.

Note on the actions that produce the marks:

For the actions that produce the marks, there are two theories which are not contradictory:

1. A scholastic Abhidharma theory:

Elaborated by the Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāśikas. The bodhisattva accomplishes these acts in Jambudvīpa; as a male; in the presence of the Buddha; thinking about the Buddhas; stemming from reflection; at the time of the hundred cosmic ages following the three incalculable periods of his career. Each of the marks arises from one hundred merits and, according to the most valid explanation, these hundred merits consist of fifty volitions (cetanā) produced in the bodhisattva when he thinks about the Buddha, an another fifty when he too wishes to become Buddha.

This theory is explained in Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 177, p. 887b–892a; Kośa, IV, p. 223–227; Kośavyākhyā, p. 430–431; Nyāyānusāra, T 1562, k. 44, p. 590b–591a. The Kośakārikā, IV, 109–110a (Kośabhāṣya, p.266) summarizes this in two and a quarter lines:

Jambudvīpa pumān eva saṃmukhaṃ buddhacetanaḥ |
cintāmayaṃ kalpaśate śeṣa ākṣipate hi tat ||
ekaikaṃ puṇyaśatajam.

The Traité has fully and faithfully set forth this theory above (p. 246–255F), but has also refuted it in detail (p. 283–297F).

2. The marks as fruits of accomplishment of various actions:

A less complicated but certainly older theory presents the marks as fruits of accomplishment of various actions (vicitrakarmābhisaṃskāraphala). The choice of these actions is subjective and largely imaginary. That is why the lists drawn up in the course of time show many differences. Here are some:

Lakkhaṇasuttanta of Dīgha, III, p. 145–177.

Commentary of the Arthaviniścayasūtra, ed. N. H. Samtani, The Arthaviniścayasūtra and its Commentary, Patna, 1971, p. 285–307.

Lalitavistara, p. 429, l. 3–433, l. 2.

A passage of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, revised to conform to the Abhisamyālaṃkāra, ed, and transl. by E. Conze, The Buddha’s lakṣaṇa in the Prajñāpāramitā, in Journal of the Oriental Institute (Baroda), XIV, 1965, p. 225–229; The Large Sūtra on Perfect Wisdom, Berkeley, 1975, p. 659, l. 35–661, l. 27.

Abhisamayālaṃkāra, p. 918, l. 25–919, l. 20.

Bodhisattvabhūmi, p. 377, l. 20–380, l. 23, which claims to be representative of the Lakṣaṇasūtra (of the Dīrghāgama).

Almost all the virtues appear in the actions producing the marks of which the Traité gives us the list here. This is a list coming from the śrāvaka system, but not claiming to be representative of one or another canonical source. Above (p. 668–670F), the Traité shows how the virtue of generosity is foremost in the making of each of the thirty-two marks.

Footnotes and references:

1.

The marks of the Bodhisattva prevail over those of a cakravartin in seven points: cf. p. 279–280F.

2.

Citation from Anguttara, III, p. 42; see above, p. 218F and 668F.

3.

According to the Mahāvyut., no. 9429, the characters sin-to translate saṃtānabāhulya.

4.

Adopting the variant tchang-kouang in place of ta-kouang. For this mark, see p. 454–456F.