Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “range of voice of the buddhas and bodhisattvas” 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. Range of voice of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

The bodhisattva who has acquired the six superknowledges (abhijñā) has developed the mark (lakṣaṇa) of the brahmic voice (brahmasvara) which, going beyond the trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu, reaches the universes of the ten directions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges.

Question. – If that is so, how does his voice differ from that of the Buddha?

Answer. – The voice of the bodhisattva is measured by the number of sand grains of the Ganges, whereas the range of the voice of the Buddha is unlimited (maryādā).

[Tathāgatācintyaguhyanirdeśa]. – Thus it is said in the Mi-tsi king (Guhyakasūtra): “In order to experience the Buddha’s voice, Maudgalyāyana went very far in the direction of the west, but he still heard the Buddha’s voice as if they were face to face.”[1]

Question. – So be it! But when the Buddha was dwelling in the kingdoms (rāṣṭra) and the towns (nigama) to preach the Dharma and convert the people, the inhabitants of Jambudvīpa who were not nearby did not hear him. How do we know that? Because many came from distant regions to listen to the Dharma.

Answer. – The voice of the Buddha is of two kinds: i) the voice hidden in the mouth (mukhagūḍhaghoṣa);[2] ii) the unhidden (nirgūḍhaghoṣa) voice. It has just been a matter of the hidden voice; as for the unhidden voice, one must come near the Buddha to hear it.

Also, there are two kinds of disciples: i) the supramundane (lokottarikārya) saints; ii) mundane ordinary people (laukikapṛthagjana). The supramundane saints such as Maudgalyāyana, etc., are able to hear the subtle hidden voice; ordinary people hear [the unhidden voice] to the extent that they come near the Buddha.

Furthermore, the bodhisattvas who have entered into the position of salvation (samyaktvaniyāmāvakrānta), who have abandoned the body of birth and death (saṃsārakāya or cyutyupapādakāya) and have acquired the true body of the fundamental element (dharmadhātukāya), these bodhisattvas, I say, see the innumerable Buddha bodies of the ten directions and their brilliant rays (raśmi); they also succeed in hearing the sixty kinds of sounds (ṣaṣṭyaṅgasvara),[3] distant and immense, uttered by the Buddhas.

[284b] Although the great bodhisattvas are not endowed with sounds like those of the Buddhas, nevertheless they have their share (aṃśa, bhāga) in these sounds of the Buddhas.

Footnotes and references:


Passage cited in full above, p. 560–561F.


Adopting the variant mi-k’eou.


These are the sixty qualities of the voice of the Buddhas listed in the Mahāvyut., no. 445–504, and the Sūtrālaṃkāra, p. 79–81. See also Ekottara, T 125, k. 47, p. 805a2 (64 kinds); Lalitavistara, p. 286 (incomplete list); Pañcaviṃśati p. 234, l. 10, (ṣaṣṭyaṅgopetaḥ svaraḥ); Avataṃsaka, T 279, k. 29, p. 158c2; k. 50, [p. 266c19; Ratnakuṭa, T 310, k. 10, p. 55c20–56a5; k. 85, p. 486c23; k. 101, p. 566a4–5; Tathāgataguhyasūtra, T 312, k. 7, p. 719c7–720c16 (64 kinds). – For other lists of vocal qualities, see Hōbōgirin, p. 134 under Bonnon.

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