Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “comparison of the boddhisattva and the buddha with the moon” 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.

Appendix 1 - Comparison of the Boddhisattva and the Buddha with the moon

Note: This appendix is extracted from Chapter XLV part 3.3 (Bodhisattva body and Buddha body):

“To the beings whom he converts, the bodhisattva shows a Buddha body comparable to the moon of the fourteenth day: brilliant as it is, it is not like the moon of the fifteenth day”.

Above, (p. 393F), the Traité noted that the bodhisattvas differ slightly from the Buddhas: they are like the fourteenth day moon (caturdaśḥicandra) (caturdaśīcandra ?) of which one wonders if it is really full (paripūrṇa); the Buddhas, on the other hand, are like the fifteenth day moon (pañcadaśīcandra) which is incontestably full. Later (k. 94, p. 719b), the Traité explains that the fourteenth day moon does not yet raise the tide, whereas the fifteenth day moon does raise it.

However, in the Mahāyānasūtras, sometimes it is the Buddha and sometimes the Bodhisattva who is compared to the fifteenth day moon.

It is said in Kāśyapapariparta, §88:

Tad yathāpi nāma Kāśyapanavacandro namaskṛyate sā ceva pūrṇacandro na tathā namaskuryate |
evam eva Kāśyapa ye mama śraddhadhaṃti te balavaṃtataraṃ boddhisatvaṃ dmamskartavya |
na tathāgataḥ tat kasya heo bodhisatvanirjātā hi tathāgataḥ

(text not corrected). –

O Kāśyapa, just as one venerates the new moon rather than the full moon, so those who believe in the self must venerate the Bodhisattva more than the Tathāgata. And why? Because the Tathāgatas derive their origin from the Bodhisattva.

No matter that the Buddhas are superior to the Bodhisattva, as the fifteenth day moon is more important than the fourteenth day moon.

In this regard, a particularly interesting passage from the Gayāśīrṣasūtra (T 464, p. 482b; T 65, p. 485a; T 466, p. 488a; T 467, p. 490c) should be noted:

“[In the bodhisattva’s career], what are the four minds (citta)?

1) The first [production of the mind of bodhi (prathamacittotpāda);
2) the mind of the path of the practices (caryāmārgacitta);
3) the mind of the irreversible bodhisattva (avaivartikacitta);
4) the mind of the bodhisattva separated from buddhahood by one single lifetime (ekajātipratibaddhacitta)…

The prathamacittotpāda is like the new moon (navacandra); the caryāmmargacitta is like the fifteenth day moon (variant: like the moon of the fifth or seventh day of the month); the avaivartikacitta is like the moon of the tenth day; the ekajātipratibaddhacitta is like the moon of the fourteenth day; the wisdom (prajñā) of the Tathāgata is like the moon of the fifteenth day. By the prathamacittotpāda, the bodhisattva transcends the śrāvaka stage; by the caryāmārgacitta he transcends the pratyekabuddha stage; by the avaivartikacitta, he transcends the unstable bhūmis (aniyatabhūmi, i.e., the first seven bhūmis); by the ekajātipratibaddhacitta he is established in the stable bhūmi (niyatabhūmi, i.e., the tenth bhūmi).”