Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “conventional nature of the desire for praise (varna)” 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. Conventional nature of the desire for praise (varṇa)

Question. – Considering the absolute emptiness (atyantaśūnatā) of dharmas and inwardly being free of egoism (ahaṃkmara), the bodhisattva has already destroyed all pride (mānastambha); why would he still want the Buddhas to praise him? Besides, it is the rule among bodhisattvas to pay homage to the Buddhas; why would he expect the Buddhas to pay homage to him in return?

Answer. – The Buddhist system has two gates (mukha): i) the gate of absolute meaning (parāmārtha); ii) the gate of conventional meaning. Conventionally, the bodhisattva wants the Buddhas to praise him, but when he is praised by the Buddhas, he does not see [in himself] any substantial self (ātman) and does not grasp any nature of existence (na sattvanimuttam udgṛhṇāti). It is purely a manner of speaking (lokaprajñati), therefore, that the sūtra expresses itself thus.

Are you wondering why the bodhisattva “would expect in return that the Buddhas would pay homage (pūjā) to him?” In a subsequent chapter,[1] the bodhisattva praised by the Buddhas is the bodhisattva “completely non-regressing in his course towards supreme complete enlightenment” (atyantāvinivartanīyo ’nuttarāyāḥ samyaksaṃbodheḥ). In the present case, this bodhisattva wishes to know with certainty (niyatam) if he is or is not non-regressing. This is why he seeks the ‘praise’ (varṇa) of the Buddhas but does not seek their ‘homage’ (pūjā).

Footnotes and references:

1.

Chapter LV of the Pañcaviṃśati (T 223, k. 16, p. 339a8–341b6) entitled Pou t’ouei p’in (Avinivartanīyaparivarta).