Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “benefits of the presence of the buddhas” 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.

III.1: Benefits of the presence of the Buddhas

Question. – The bodhisattva must convert beings. Why does he want always to meet the Buddhas?

Answer. – Some bodhisattvas have not entered into the certainty of the bodhisattva (bodhisattvaniyāma) and have not received the special prediction (vyākaraṇaviśeṣa) reserved for the non-regressing (avaivartika) bodhisattvas.[1] This is why, if they wander away from the Buddhas, they destroy their roots of good (kuśalamūla), fall into the afflictive emotions (kleśa) and, unable to save themselves, how could they save others? They are like a sailor who, in a storm, tries to save the others but himself falls into the water. A little bit of boiling water poured onto a great frozen pool melts only a little place and soon itself changes into ice. It is the same for a bodhisattva who, not yet having entered into the certainty (dharmaniyāma), would stray from the Buddhas. Equipped with limited qualities (alpaguṇa), lacking power in skillful means (upāyabala), he wants to convert beings but, even though rendering small services, he himself takes a tumble. This is why a beginning (ādikarmika) bodhisattva cannot stray from the Buddhas.

Question. – If that is so, why is he not advised him to stay away from the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas? The śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas would also be able to render service to the bodhisattva.

Answer. – The bodhisattva has the great mind (mahācitta) [of bodhi]. Although they have the benefit (upakāra) of nirvāṇa, the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas do not have omniscience (sarvajñā) and consequently cannot guide the bodhisattva. By their knowledge of all the aspects (sarvākārajñatā), the Buddhas alone can guide the bodhisattva.

Thus when an elephant gets stuck in the mud, no animal other than an elephant can pull him out. It is the same for the bodhisattva; if he engages in a bad path (amārga), only the Buddhas can put him back onto the great Path. This is why the Prajñāpāramitā speaks of the bodhisattva here ‘never wishing to be separated from the Buddhas.”

Moreover, the bodhisattva has the following thought: “Not having the Buddha eye (buddhacakṣus), I am no different from a blind man (andha). If I am not guided by the Buddhas, I will be committed to dead-ends. But if people hear the Buddha dharma, finding themselves abroad, they will be ignorant of the time for conversion (paripacana) and the exact number of rules of conduct (pratipatti).”

Moreover, the bodhisattva who sees the Buddhas acquires all kinds of benefits (nānāvidhopakāra). When he sees them with his eyes, his mind is purified and when he hears their words, he is pleased with the Dharma and acquires great wisdom (mahāprajñā). Acting in accordance with the Dharma, he finds liberation (vimukti). Since meeting with the Buddhas brings him these immense benefits, why would he not ardently seek to see the Buddhas?

The new-born baby (bāla) cannot be separated from its mother. The traveler (pānthaka) cannot be separated from his gear; in times of great heat, he does not avoid the cold wind or icy water; in times of great cold, he does not flee from fire; in order to cross deep water, he does not leave his boat behind. The sick person does not renounce good medicine. The bodhisattva has many more good reasons not to wander away from the Buddhas. Why? Father, mother, relatives, friends, humans, gods, etc., are far from equaling the Buddhas in kind deeds. It is [276a] thanks to the kind deeds of the Buddhas that the bodhisattvas escape from the places of suffering and are established in the lands of the Blessed Ones.

For these reasons, the bodhisattva never strays away from the Buddhas.

Question. – Conditioned dharmas (saṃskṛtadharma) are deceivers (visaṃvādaka), unreal and do not merit belief. How then can one hope never to stray away from the Buddhas?

Answer. – In order to become Buddha, it is necessary that merit (puṇya) and wisdom (prajñā) be fulfilled (saṃpanna), and a fortiori not to become separated from the Buddhas.

As a result of sins (āpatti) accumulated during innumerable kalpas, beings do not come to realize their aspirations (praṇidhaṇa). If they gain in merit, their wisdom is slender (tanu), and if they cultivate wisdom, their merit is slender: this is why their aspirations are not realized.

The bodhisattva who seeks the bodhi of the Buddhas must cultivate two patiences (kṣānti): i) patience in regard to beings (sattvakṣānti); ii) patience in regard to things (dharmakṣānti).[2] Cultivating patience toward beings, he experiences the feelings of loving-kindness (maitrī) and compassion (karuṇā) for all beings, he destroys the sins committed during numberless kalpas and he gains immense merit (puṇya). Cultivating patience toward things, he destroys the ignorance (avidyā) relating to things and acquires immense wisdom (prajñā). Once these two cultivations are joined, how could his wishes not be realized? This is why, from lifetime to lifetime, the bodhisattva does not stray away from the Buddhas.

Moreover, the bodhisattva is always happy to recollect the Buddha. When he leaves one body to take up another, he always gets to meet the Buddhas.

Thus a being who has cultivated lust (rāgacarita) and whose mind is weighed down takes on the body of a lustful bird, such as a peacock (mayūra) or a duck (cakravāka), etc. A being who has cultivated hatred (dveṣa) is inevitably reborn among the poisonous species such as wicked dragons (nāga), rākṣasas, centipedes (śatapadin), venomous snakes (āśīviṣa), etc. The bodhisattva himself has no ambition for the fate of a noble cakravartin king or human or divine happiness: he recollects only the Buddhas; this is why he assumes the forms to which he attaches the greatest weight.

Finally, the bodhisattva always practices the concentration of the recollection of the Buddhas (buddhānusmṛtisamādhi) splendidly;[3] this is why, wherever he is reborn, he always meets the Buddhas.

[Pratyutpannabuddhasaṃmukhāvasthitasamādhisūtra].- Thus it is said in the Pan-tcheou san-mei (Pratyutpannasamādhi): “The ‘By what karmic cause and condition does one get to be reborn in that field (kṣetra)?’ – The Buddha answered: “Son of good family (kulaputra), by always practicing the concentration of recollecting the Buddha and ceaselessly thinking about it, one gets to be born in my field.”[4]

Footnotes and references:


This is a matter of the anutpattikadharmakṣāntilabdhasaṃmukhavyākaraṇa, the prediction conferred in the presence of and for the benefit of a bodhisattva of the eighth bhūmi who has obtained the conviction that dharmas do not arise.


Cf. p. 865F.


Distinct from the simple commemoration of the Buddha (p. 1340–1361F), this samādhi of the ‘commemoration of the Buddhas’ according to the Mahāyāna is to ‘commemorate all the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three times present in innumerable buddha-fields’: see above, p. 409–415F.


Pan-tsheou-san-mei king, T 418, k. 1, p. 905b8–14. This sūtra is known by four Chinese translations (T 416–419) and one Tibetan translation (Tib. Trip., vol. 32, no. 801). In China at the end of the 4th century, it contributed to the development of the cult of Amita. On this subject, see P. Demiéville, La Yogācārabhūmi de Saṅgharakṣa, BEFEO, XLIV, 1954, p. 353–355, 431–432.