Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “one single root to be planted in the field of the buddhas (buddhakshetra)” 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. One single root to be planted in the Field of the Buddhas (buddhakṣetra)

Roots of good (kuśalamūla). – There are three roots of good:[1]

  1. absence of desire (alobha);
  2. absence of hatred (adveśa);
  3. absence of delusion (amoha).

All the good dharmas derive their birth (utpāda) and their increase (vṛddhi) from the three roots of good, just as plants, trees, grasses and bushes derive their arising and growth from their roots. This is why they are called ‘roots of good’.

Here by ‘roots of good’ the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra means [not the roots of good themselves] but rather things to be offered (pūjopakaraṇa) which are the roots of good for causes and conditions, e.g., flowers (puṣpa), perfumes (gandha). lamps (dīpa) or also spiritual offerings (dharmapūjā) such as the observance of morality (śīlasamādāna), the recitation of sūtras (sūtrodgrahaṇa), etc. [Here, actually, the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra] is metaphorically designating the effect by the cause (kārye kāraṇopacāraḥ).[2] Why is that? Perfumes and flowers are morally indeterminate (aniyata); they must be offered with a good intention (kuśalacitta) to really be roots of good. [In itself] the gift (dāna) is not meritorious (puṇya): it [282b] is only when it destroys avarice (mātsarya) and opens the door to the good dharmas that it is a root of good and qualifies as meritorious. Thus, the needle (sūci) guides the thread (sūtra) and sews the garment, but the sewing is not the needle.

[Here the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra is speaking about] a “single root of good”, one flower, one perfume, one lamp, one ceremony, one recitation of a sūtra, one observance of morality, one trance (dhyāna), one wisdom (prajñā), etc. Taken one by one, these material offerings (pūjā) and these spiritual offerings (dharmapūjā) are planted (avaropita) in the Buddha field.

The ‘field of the Buddhas’ (buddhakṣetra) is the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three times. Whether it is a matter of one Buddha present in the world, one statue (pratimā), one relic (śarīra) or simply one recollection (anusmṛti) of a Buddha, one is planting it (avaropayati) in the sense that one’s mind is being firmly attached to it.

Question. – The sūtras mention many fields of merit (puṇyakṣetra);[3] why is it a question here of planting in the field of the Buddhas only?

Answer. – Although there are many fields of merit, the Buddha is the foremost field of merit because he has the ten powers (bala), the four fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya), the eighteen special attributes (āveṇikadharma) and innumerable Buddha attributes of the same type. That is why it is a matter here of planting only in “the field of the Buddhas”. It is true that the Jewel of the Dharma is the Buddha’s teacher (buddhācārya), but if the Buddha did not preach the Dharma, this Jewel would be unused. In the same way, although there are good medicines (bhaiṣajya), if there are no good physicians (vaidya) to prescribe them, they would be unused. This is why, although the Jewel of the Dharma is superior, we always mention the [Jewel of the] Buddha (buddharatna) first and a fortiori, [only third], the Jewel of the Community (saṃgharatna).[4]

Moreover, the field of the Buddhas produces immense fruits of retribution (vipākaphala) whereas the fruits produced by the other fields, immense though they are, are indeed inferior. This is why the field of the Buddhas is placed first.

Footnotes and references:


Dīgha, III, p. 214; Majjhima, I, p. 47; Anguttara, I, p. 203: Tīṇi kusalamūlāni: alobho kusalamūlaṃ, adoso kusalamūlaṃ, amoho kusalamūlaṃ. – Nidānasaṃyukta, p. 189: Trīni kuśalamūlāni | alobhaḥ kuśalamūlam | adveṣo ‘mohaḥ kuśalamūlam |


Other examples of upacāra, above, p. 1932F, n. 1.


References in Śūraṃgamasamādhisūtra, transl. p. 231–233, note.


Respective value of the Three Jewels, in the order: Buddha, Dharma, Saṃgha, of which the first and the third constitute puṇyakṣetras.

Theoretically the Dharma is superior to the Buddha. Shortly after his enlightenment, Śākyamuni began to search for a teacher to venerate, respect and serve, but not finding one anywhere, he decided to take as teacher the Dharma that he had discovered (cf. Gārava sutta, Saṃyutta, I, p. 138–140; Saṃyukta, T 99, no. 1188, k. 44, p. 321c18–322a7; T 100, no. 101, k. 5, p. 410a3–b8; Traité, p. 586F). If the Buddha appears at the head of the Three Jewels, it is because he is the physician (vaidya), the Dharma is the medicine (bhaiṣajya) and the Saṃgha, the patient (upasthāyaka), as has been said above (p. 1393F, n. 1). Although it effects the cure, the medicine is lower than the physician, for without the latter, it would neither be prescribed nor applied.

There remains to be known in which buddhakṣetra one should plant preferentially. Here the sūtras differ: according to the Majjhima, III, p. 254, l. 27–29, gifts should be made first of all to the Buddha, but the latter on several occasions (Anguttara, III, p. 286, l. 7–9) has given the Saṃgha of disciples as the buddhakṣetra par excellence (anuttara). Hence divergences among the Buddhist sects, described above p. 1400F, n. 1.

A related problem is the taking of refuge (śaraṇagamana) in the Three Jewels; cf. L. de La Vallée Poussin, Documents d’Abhidharma, MCB, I, 1931–32, p. 64–109.