Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “although non-existent, the bodhisattva merits special praises” 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. Although non-existent, the Bodhisattva merits special praises

Question. – “The Buddhas born into the threefold world are detached from the world”[1] and for them there is neither ‘me’ (ātman) nor ‘mine’ (ātmīya). They consider that the heretics (tīrthika) and bad people on the one hand and the great bodhisattvas and arhats on the other hand are equal and no different. Why then do they praise the bodhisattva?

Answer. – Although the Buddhas are without egotism (ahaṃkāra), without aversion (pratigha) or affection (anunaya), although their minds are detached from all the dharmas, they have pity on beings and guide them all by means of feelings of great loving-kindness (mahāmaitrī) and great compassion (mahākaruṇā). This is why they distinguish honest men and praise them. They also want to destroy the evil Māras.

What the Buddhas wish by praising [the bodhisattva] is that innumerable beings should love the bodhisattva, respect him, honor him, and then all attain the bodhi of the Buddhas. This is why the Buddhas praise the bodhisattva.

Question. How do they praise him?

Answer. – The Buddhas who preach the Dharma in the great assembly and want people to penetrate into the very profound Dharma (atigambhīradharma) praise the bodhisattvas such as, for example, Sa-t’o po-louen (Sadāprarudita),[2] etc.

Moreover, the Buddhas who praise the bodhisattva express themselves in this way.[3]

1) The bodhisattva is able to contemplate the absolute emptiness (atyantaśūnyatā) of dharmas and can also have great loving-kindness and great compassion for beings.

He is able to practice patience in regard to beings and also to not see beings.

Although he practices patience towards things (dharmakṣānti), he experiences no attachment (abhiniveśa) for all these things.

Although he sees the events of past lifetimes (pūrvanivāsa), he does not fall into the wrong view of the earlier time (pūrvānta).

Although he sees beings enter into nirvāṇa without residue of conditioning (nirupadhiśeṣanirvāṇa), he does not fall into the wrong view of the later time (aparānta).[4] While knowing that nirvāṇa is the peerless (anuttara) true dharma, he still accomplishes good bodily, vocal and mental actions (kāyavāṅmanaskarman).

While traveling through saṃsāra, he resolutely (adhyāśayena) loves nirvāṇa.

While abiding in the three gates of deliverance (vimokṣamukha) and contemplating nirvāṇa, he does not violate his earlier vows (pūrvapraṇidhāna) or his good practices (kuśalacaryā). The many extraordinary qualities are very difficult to find.

2) Furthermore, when the bodhisattva has not yet obtained the acquiescence that dharmas do not arise (anutpādakṣānti) or the five superknowledges (abhijñā), his fleshly body of birth-death (saṃsāramāṃsakāya or cyutyupapādasāṃaskāya) has feelings of great loving-kindness (mahāmaitri) and great compassion (mahākaruṇā) [283b] for beings, and he distributes completely his most precious inner (adhyātmika) and outer (bāhya) goods: his outer goods, such as his dearly loved wife and children, five objects of enjoyment (pañcakāmaguṇa) of great value, pacified lands, etc.; his inner goods, such as his body (kāya), flesh (māṃsa), skin (tvac), bones (asthi), blood (lohita), head (śiras), eyes (nayana), marrow (majjan), skull (mastaka), ears (śrota), nose (nāsā), hands (pāṇi), feet (pāda), etc. Such things are very rare (durlabha). This is why the Buddhas praise the virtues of this bodhisattva.

3) When the bodhisattva has entered into his position assured of attaining enlightenment (dharmaniyāma) and possesses the superknowledges (abhijñā), he devotes himself to the austerities (duṣkaracaryā) without ever getting tired of the difficulties. In this bodhisattva, the body of birth (janmakāya), the fleshly eye (māṃsacakṣus) and the aptitudes (abhiprāya) are very extensive. He has feelings of great compassion (mahākaruṇā) and he loves the bodhi of the Buddhas. Such feats are very extraordinary (adhbhuta).

4) Furthermore, when the bodhisattva is endowed with the purity of morality (śīlaśuddhisaṃpanna), he no longer distinguishes between morality (śīla) and immorality (dauḥśīlya).[5] In the face of dharmas absolutely without birth (atyantānutpanna) and always empty (sadāśūnya), his dharmakṣānti and his exertion (vīrya) are unceasing. He has neither attraction nor aversion. [To his eyes] exertion (vīrya) and laziness (kausīdya) are of the same nature (ekalakṣaṇa) and no different.[6] For immense (paramāṇa) infinite (ananta) and incalculable (asaṃkhyeya) kalpas, he has practiced exertion diligently and, in general, he takes up and practices the most profound concentrations (gambhīrasamādhi), but without being attached to them, for concentrations (samādhi) and distraction (vikṣepa) are no different.[7] Without leaving concentration, he creates for himself (nirmimīte) an immense body that fills the ten directions completely, preaches the Dharma and saves people.

5) Applying profound wisdom (gambhīraprajñā), he considers all dharmas as anutpanna-aniruddha “unborn and undestroyed”, not anutpanna-aniruddha, both anutpanna-aniruddha and non-anutpanna-aniruddha, neither anutpanna-aniruddha and non-anutpanna-aniruddha;[8] beyond all speech (sarvavādasamatikrānta); inalterable, indestructible ungraspable; realm of the saints (āryāṇāṃ gocaraḥ) and pure like nirvāṇa. But the bodhisattva is no longer attached to these considerations and [thus] his mind does not weaken (nāvalīyate). By this wisdom he is able to assure his own good (svahita). It is this bodhisattva that the Buddhas praise.

6) Furthermore, when the bodhisattva[9] has not obtained the prediction (vyākaraṇa), has not obtained the conviction that dharmas do not arise (anutpattikadharmakṣānti), has not met the Buddhas and has not seen the saints (bhadrārya), he is able, by means of right thought (samyaksaṃkalpa) to contemplate the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of dharmas and, while contemplating this true nature, his mind is not attached to it. The Buddhas of the ten directions together praise this bodhisattva.

7) Furthermore, when he hears speak of the very profound (gambhīra) immense (apramāṇa) infinite (ananta) and inconceivable (acintya) Buddha attributes, even though he has not yet himself obtained wisdom, the bodhisattva can believe strongly in these attributes without feeling any doubt (vicikitsā). If Māra, changed into buddha, came to create doubt in him, the mind of the bodhisattva would show neither high nor low (anūnānadhika). This bodhisattva is praised buy the Buddhas.

8) There are also bodhisattvas who, from their first production of the mind of bodhi (bodhicittotpāda), immediately become buddhas.[10] The Buddha praises them for they have great power of exertion (mahāviryabala).

Thus, when the [future] Buddha Śākyamuni and the bodhisattva Maitreya simultaneously produced the mind of bodhi (cittotpāda), the Buddha Śākyamuni, by the power of is exertion, crossed over nine kalpas [over the hundred that he normally would have had to course through].[11]

[283c] 9) Finally, there are bodhisattvas who are endowed with bodhisattva attributes, namely, the ten bhūmis, the six perfections (pāramitā), the ten powers (bala), the four fearlessnesses (vaiśāradya), the four unhindered knowledges (pratisaṃvid), the eighteen special attributes (āveṇikadharma) and innumerable pure Buddha attributes.[12] However, for beings, they remain in saṃsāra for a long time and, without taking up supreme complete enlightenment (anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi), they save beings widely. (see also Appendix 1) The Buddhas praise these bodhisattvas. Who are they? They are, for example, Wen-chou-che-li (Mañjuśrī), P’i-mo-lo-kie (Vimalakīrti), Kouan-che-yin (Avalokiteśvara), Ta-che-tche (Mahāsthāmaprāpta), Pien-ki (Samantabhadra). These leaders among the bodhisattvas appear in the threefold world (traidhātuka), create for themselves innumerable bodies by transformation, enter into saṃsāra and convert beings. From such exploits (adbhuta) comes the entire very profound prajñāpāramitā.

This is why the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra says here: “The bodhisattva who wishes to obtain the praises of the Buddhas must practice the perfection of wisdom.”

Footnotes and references:


Compare Saṃyutta, III, p. 140;Anguttara, II, p. 39: Tathāgato [loke jāto] loke saṃvaddho lokaṃ abhibhuyya viharati anupalitto lokena.


References above, p. 1353F, n. 1.


Explanation dedicated to the “double life” of bodhisattvas: the practice of the pāramitās by the method of non-abiding: asthānayogena (Pañcaviṃśati, p. 18, l. 7–15; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 56, l. 1–9); the path of the twofold practice of skillful means and the truth (Avataṃsaka, T 279, k. 56, p. 296v22–297c3); the “deviations” (agati) of the bodhisattva (Vimalakīrtinirdeśa, transl. p. 285–289.


The wrong views of earlier time and later time, i.e., relating to the past and the future, have already been condemned by the canonical texts where it is said that the learned noble disciple (śrutavān āryaśravaka) does not concern himself with them. Whereas the Pāli sutta (Saṃyutta, II, p. 26–27) asks a question to which it replies in the negative: Netaṃ ṭhānṃ vijjati, the Sanskrit sūtra (Nidānasaṃyukta, p. 150–151) and its Chinese version (T 99, k. 12, p. 84b17–c1) expresses itself directly in the negative form:

Sa na pūrvÌtaṃ pratisarati | kin nv aham abhūvam atīte ’dhvani | aho svin nāham atīte ’dhvani | ka nv aham abhūvam atīte ’dhvani | kathaṃ nv aham abhūvam atīte ’dhvani | Aparāntaṃ vā na partisarati | ko nu anāgate ’dhvani | kathaṃ nu bhaviṣyāmy anāgate ’dhvani |

This [noble learned disciple] does not care about previous time by asking: What was I in the past? Or else, was I not in the past? Who was I in the past? How was I in the past?

He does not care about later time by asking: What will I be in the future? Or else, will I not be in the future? Who will I be in the future? How will I be in the future?


See above, p. 770F and 861F.


See above, p. 981F


See preceding note.


In the muddle of the Chinese negations, we seem to recognize here one of the teralemmas (catuṣkoṭi) of which the Madhyamika logic is fond (see above, p. 155F). On this mode of argumentation (A, non-A, A and non-A, neither A nor non-A), see J. May, Candrakīrti, p. 16; S. Schayer, Ausgewälte Kapitel aus der Prassanapadā, Cracow, 1931, p. xxxv-xxvi.


It is a matter here of a bodhisattva who has not yet reached the eighth bhūmi.


These are upapdyaparinirvāyin bodhisattvas who attain saṃbodhi at the moment when they produce the mind of bodhi. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 66, l. 4–7 defines them as follows: Santi bodhisattvā mahāsattvā ye prathamacittotpādenaivānuttarāṃ samyaksaṃbodhim abhisaṃbudhyante, dharmacakraṃ pravrtayanty aprameyāṇām asaṃkhyeyānāṃ sattvānāṃ cārthaṃ kṛtvā nirupadhiśeṣe nirvāṇadhātau parinirvānti, teṣāṃ parinirvṛtānāṃ kalpaṃ vā kalpāvaśeṣaṃ vā saddharmas tiṣṭhati. ity upapadyaparinirvāyī.

They correspond to the upapadyaparinirvāyin anāgāmins of the early Buddhism who attain nirvāṇa on taking rebirth (see Kośa, iii, p. 38).


The simultaneous cittotpāda of the future Buddha and Maitreya has already been told above. For parallel sources, see p. 252F, n. 2 and also Kośabhāṣya, p. 267, l.11–17. For the nine kalpas skipped (pratyudāvartita) by Śākyamuni, see p. 252F, n. 1. The question of ‘skipping’ has been treated by J. May in detail, Hōbōgirin, IV, p. 353–360, see under chōjō.


Note that the balas, vaśitas, vaiśāradyas and āveṇikadharmas of the bodhisattvas are not the same as those of the Buddhas: cf. Mahāvyut., chaps. XXVI to XXIX. Here it is a matter of the bodhisattva of the tenth bhūmi.

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