Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “magical powers of multiplication and displacement” 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. Magical powers of multiplication and displacement

The bodhisattva who has acquired the power of transformation of bodies (kāyanirmāṇabala) creates for himself bodies as numerous as the sands of the Ganges of the ten directions and goes simultaneously to universes of the ten directions also as numerous as the sands of the Ganges.

Question. – A sūtra says: “In one single fingersnap, there are sixty moments” (acchaṭāmātreṇa ṣaṣṭiḥ kṣāṇā atikrāmanti).[1] It is already incredible that in a single instant the bodhisattva is able to go to universes of a single direction as numerous as the sands of the Ganges; what can be said then if he goes to universes of the ten directions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges? In such a short time, the destinations are truly too numerous!

Answer. – A sūtra says: “There are five incomprehensible (acintya) things, namely: i) the number of beings; ii) the retribution of action (karmavipāka); iii) the power of a person in meditation (dhyāyabala); iv) the power of the nāgas; v) the power of the Buddha. Of these five incomprehensible things, the power of the Buddha is the most incomprehensible.[2]

The bodhisattva in profound concentrations (gambhīrasamādhi) produces incomprehensible superknowledges (acintyābhijñā) and by means of them, in a single moment, goes everywhere in the Buddha universes of the ten directions.

As has been said (p. 329–330F, 1819–1820F) in regard to the four magical powers of movement (gamanaṛddhi), only the Buddhas and bodhisattvas have the magical powers (ṛddhiabhijñā) of moving at the speed of thought (manojavā gati). As soon as the chick of the bird with golden wings (garuḍa) comes out of its shell, it goes from Sumeru to Sumeru. It is the same with the bodhisattvas; by the power of their conviction of the non-arising of things (anutpādakṣānti) they have destroyed the passions (kleśa) and broken the egg-shell of ignorance (avidyā). From then on, in a single instant, they create innumerable bodies for themselves and go in the ten directions.

Furthermore, for the bodhisattva, all the sins (āpatti) committed during innumerable lifetimes are completely erased and, by the power of wisdom (prajñābala), he is able to transform things: to make huge that which is small and to make small that which is huge. He is able to reduce a thousand myriads of immense kalpas into a single day and to extend a single day into the space of a thousand myriads of kalpas. This bodhisattva is the master of the world (lokasvāmin) and his wishes are sovereign. What wish would not be fulfilled? Thus [284a] it is said in the P’i-mo-lo-kie king (Vimalakīrtisūtra): “The bodhisattva makes seven nights last for a kalpa”.[3]

This is why the bodhisattva, mounted on the power of the superknowledges (abhijñābalarūḍha) is able to leap quickly in the universes of the ten directions.

Footnotes and references:


The Ābhidharmikas hesitate between 60, 64 or 65 moments:

Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 136, p. 701b14: In the time that a strong man snaps his fingers, there are 64 kṣaṇa.

Kośabhāṣya, p. 176, l. 13–14: Balavatpuruṣācchaṭāmātreṇa pañcaṣaṣṭih kṣaṇā atikrāmantity Ābhidhārmikāḥ..

Nyāyānusāra, T 1562, k. 32, p.521c13–14: 65 kṣaṇa.

Madh. vṛtti, p. 547: Balavatpuruṣāddhaṭāmātreṇa pañcaṣaṣṭiḥ kṣaṇā atikrāmantīti pāṭhāt.


See references above, p. 1639F, n. 1.


Vimalakīrtinirdeśa, trasl. p. 254.

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