Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “being born into the family of the bodhisattvas” 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. Being born into the family of the Bodhisattvas

“The family of the bodhisattvas”.[1] – If someone produces a very profound mind of profound great compassion (mahākaruṇācitta) towards beings, he takes birth in the bodhisattva family. In the same way when one is born into a royal family, no one dares to despise you; furthermore, you fear neither hunger nor thirst (kṣutpipāsā), cold nor heat (śītoṣṇa), etc. It is the same for the one who enters into the assurance (niyāma) of bodhisattva and is born into the family of the bodhisattvas: because he is the child of the Buddha, devas, nāgas, yakṣas, satpuruṣas, etc., do not dare to scorn him but increase their veneration (arcanā); he does not fear the bad destinies (durgati) or the lower places among gods or men; he is not afraid that the śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas or heretical masters (upadeśācārya) will come to destroy his resolution (āśaya).

Furthermore, from his first production of the mind of bodhi (prathamacittotpāda), the bodhisattva makes the following vow (praṇidhāna): “Starting from today onward, I will not follow any bad thought (akuśalacitta); I wish only to save all beings and to attain supreme complete enlightenment (anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhi).”

Furthermore, the bodhisattva who knows that the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of dharmas is unborn (anutpāda) and unceasing (anirodha) acquires the conviction that dharmas do not arise (anutpattikadharmakṣānti); henceforth he is definitively settled in the position of the bodhisattva (bodhisattvaniyāma).

[Viśeṣacintibrahmaparipṛcchā].[2] – Thus the Buddha[3] said in the Tche-sin king (Viśeṣacintisūtra): “When I saw the Buddha Ting-kouang (Dīpaṃkara), I obtained the conviction that dharmas do not arise and I completely fulfilled (paryapūram) the six perfections (pāramitā). Prior to that moment, I did not really possess generosity, discipline, etc.”[4]

Furthermore, the bodhisattva has the following thought: “Suppose that kalpas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges (gaṅgānadīvālukopamakalpa) were only one day and one night, that thirty of these days were a month, that twelve of these months were a year, that the number of these years were more than a hundred thousand myriads of hundreds of thousands of kalpas and that finally there appeared a single Buddha in whose presence a bodhisattva would offer his homage (pūjā), observe morality (śīla) and accumulate qualities (guṇa). Suppose, moreover, that such Buddhas, in number as many as the sands of the Ganges [followed one another] and that afterwards only this bodhisattva receives the prediction (vyākaraṇa) of someday becoming buddha, well then, the mind of this bodhisattva would show neither laziness (kausīdya) nor discouragement (laya) nor weariness (nirveda), and he would fulfill all the practices of his estate completely.”

Furthermore, the bodhisattva experiences loving-kindness (maitrī) and compassion (karuṇā) toward beings predestined to perdition (mithyātvaniyata) and guilty of the five misdeeds of immediate retribution (ānantarya) and toward people who have broken the roots of good (kuśalamūla), and he introduces them into the right path without waiting for their gratitude (kṛtyajñatā).

Furthermore, from his first production of the mind of bodhi (prathamacittotpāda), the bodhisattva is no longer enveloped by or ruined by the conflicting emotions (kleśa).

Furthermore, although he contemplates the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of dharmas, the bodhisattva no longer experiences any attachment (abhiniveśa) towards this consideration. [275b]

Furthermore, the bodhisattva always spontaneously (svarasena) offers words of truth (satyavacana) and, even in his sleep (svapna), tells no lies (mṛṣāvāda).

Furthermore, for the bodhisattva, all the visible forms (rūpa) that he sees are visions of the Buddha, but by the power of the concentration of recollection of the Buddhas (buddhānusmṛtisamādhi), he is not attached to these visions.

Furthermore, seeing all beings wandering in the sufferings of saṃsāra, the bodhisattva is not attached to any happiness and forms only the following aspiration (praṇidhāna): “When will all beings and myself be saved?”

Furthermore, the bodhisattva is not attached to precious objects and rejoices only in the Three Jewels (triratna).

Furthermore, the bodhisattva has always cut through lust (rāga) until he no longer has either the memory (smṛti) of it or the notion (saṃjñā) of it; how could it have any reality for him?

Furthermore, beings who see the bodhisattva attain the concentration of loving-kindness (maitrīsamādhi) immediately. Furthermore, the bodhisattva has reduced all teachings into ‘the teachings of the Buddha’ and the various classifications (nānāviśeṣa) such as ‘teachings of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas’ or ‘teachings of the tīrthikas’ no longer exist for him.

Finally, having analyzed all the teachings, the bodhisattva feels neither the notion of true teachings (dharmasaṃjñā) nor the notion of false teachings (adharmasaṃjñā) towards them.[5]

These are the innumerable reasons why “he is born into the family of the bodhisattvas”.

Question. – From his first production of the mind of bodhi (prathamācittotpāda), the bodhisattva has already been born into the family of the bodhisattvas. The why does the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra here speak about the bodhisattva who, wishing to be born into the family of the bodhisattvas, must practice the perfection of wisdom?

Answer. – The family of the bodhisattvas (bodhisattvakūla) is of two kinds: i) the family with regression (savivartana) and the family without regression (avaivartika); ii) the nominal family and the real family; iii) the pure family and the mixed family; iv) the family strong in faith (śraddhāsāratā) and the family without strength. It is the ‘family without regressions’ and so on up to the ‘family strong in faith’ that the bodhisattva wishes to obtain. This is the sense in which the Prajñāpāramitā here says that “the bodhisattva who wishes to be born into the family of the bodhisattvas must practice the prajñāpāramitā”.

Footnotes and references:


Just as there are two kinds of avaivartika bodhisattvas (cf. p. 1804F). so there are two kinds of birth in the family of the bodhisattvas: the first is when the practitioner produces the thought of bodhi for the first time and thus enters the first bhūmi of his career; the second birth, the definitive one, is when the bodhisattva attains anutpattikadharmakṣānti and thus enters into the eighth bhūmi. It is this second birth that the Sūtra has in mind here.


For this sūtra which the Traité cites under different titles, see p. 1268–1269F, note.


Adopting the version fo in place of ts’ien.


Viśeṣacintin, T 586, k. 2, p. 46a22; T 587, k. 3, p. 78a13. The future Śākyamuni, at the end of the second asaṃkhyeyakalpa of his career, while he was still the brahmacārin Sumedha, Megha or Sumati, met the buddha Dīpaṃkara and from him received the prediction: see above, p. 248F, n. 2.


See Kolopamasūtra of the Majjhima, I, p. 135, already cited above, p. 64F and to which the Traité will refer again, k. 31, p. 290c22; 295b29; k. 85, p. 657a2.