Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “establishing in the six perfections” 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. Establishing in the six perfections

Question. – What are the reasons for the order (anukrama) adopted here [by the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra]?

Answer. – The good (hita) is of three kinds: i) the good of the present life (ihatra), ii) the good of the future life (amutra) and iii) absolute good (atyantahita). Again, there are three kinds of happiness (sukha): i) the happiness of the present life, ii) the happiness of the future life and iii) supramundane happiness (lokottarasukha). In the previous section, the sūtra spoke of the good and the happiness of the present life; here it speaks of the good and the happiness of the future life and supramundane (lokottara) good and happiness: this is why it makes sure “that beings are established in the six perfections.”

The fondness for beings of the bodhisattva surpasses the fondness of parents for their children; feelings of loving-kindness and compassion (maitrīkaruṇācitta) penetrate him even into the marrow of his bones (asthimajjā). First he fills beings with food and drink (annapāna) and drives away the torments of hunger and thirst (kṣutpipāsā); then he adorns their bodies with garments (vastra) and makes them feel comfortable. But the good feelings of the bodhisattva are not fully satisfied.

Then he has the following thought: “Beings have already obtained happiness in the present life, but I am still thinking that they should obtain happiness in the future life. If I teach them the six worldly perfections (laukikapāramitā), they will enjoy happiness among humans (manuṣya) and gods (deva), but later they will return to wander in saṃsāra. Therefore I still must teach them the six supramundane perfections (lokottarapāramitā) so that they can obtain unconditioned eternal bliss (asaṃskṛtanityadukha). Moreover, I have already adorned their bodies with garments (vastra), flowers (puṣpa), perfumes (gandha), etc.; now I will adorn their minds with qualities (guṇa). If they possess the three kinds of adornments (alaṃkāra), they will be complete (saṃpanna) and faultless (nirdoṣa), namely: i) garments (vastra), the seven jewels (saptaratna),[1] etc.; ii) merits (puṇya); iii) the dharmas of the Path (mārgadharma).”

As the bodhisattva wishes to array beings with this triple adornment, [the Prajñāpāramitā] first spoke [in the preceding section] of the fruits of retribution of the qualities (guṇānāṃ vipākaphalāni); here it speaks of the causes and conditions of these qualities (guṇānāṃ hetupratyayāḥ).

Furthermore, as I previously said (p. 1944F), although they receive great gifts, beings cannot completely profit from them as a result of their sins (āpatti).

[Pretasūtra]. – Thus the Ngo-kouei king (Pretasūtra) says: “Even if they are given food, [the pretas] are unable to eat it, for it is changed for them into glowing embers or into some impure thing.”[2]

Finally, the bodhisattva does not give anything whatsoever (na kiṃcit tyajati), but he uses skillful means (upāya) so that beings obtain clothing, food and other benefits. This is why the bodhisattva teaches them to practice meritorious actions (puṇyakarman), each before collecting himself what he has done himself. The bodhisattva knows well that [the mechanism] of causes and conditions cannot be violated and that beings must first receive his teachings in order that they [themselves] collect the fruits. This is why, according to the order (anukrama) adopted here, he teaches beings to become established in the six perfections.

Footnotes and references:


See p. 598F, n. 2.


The preta eaters of charcoal (aṅgārabhakṣa) appear in the list of 36 categories of pretas in the Smṛtyupasthānasūtra, T 721, k. 16, p. 92b16.