Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “limits to the salvific action of the buddhas” 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. Limits to the salvific action of the Buddhas

Thus, the Buddhas and the great bodhisattvas are strong enough that they can save all beings, but, since beings do not possess wisdom and do not fulfill the required cause and conditions, they cannot be saved.

Let us take, for example, the water in the great ocean (mahāsamudrodaka): if all beings drew water from it, it would never run dry; but all beings do not use it. Thus beings in the preta category, because of their own sins (āpatti), are unable to see the water and, even when they do see it, it dries up or changes into molten copper,[1] or it becomes pus (pūya) and blood (śoṇita). It is the same with the Buddhas: having great loving-kindness and great compassion, using an immense and infinite wisdom (prajñā), they are able to satisfy all beings, but the latter, because of their sins, do not meet the Buddhas and, even if they do meet them, they are no different from the rest of the people who are angry with the Buddha or who denigrate him. This is why they do not see the power (anubhāva) of the Buddhas or their magical power (ṛddhibala) and, even if they do meet the Buddhas, they derive no benefit (hita) from it.

Moreover, two causes (hetu), two conditions (pratyaya) are necessary to produce right view (samyagdṛṣṭi), namely, an inner cause (adhyātma) and an outer condition (bahirdhā). The Buddha who is the outer cause-and-condition is perfect (saṃpanna): he possesses thirty-two major marks (lakṣaṇa), eighty minor marks (anuvyañjana), immense rays (raśmi) adorning his body, many magical powers (ṛddhibala) and many articulated sounds (svaraghoṣa); he preaches the Dharma (dharmaṃ deśayati) as required (yatheccham) and cuts through all doubts (sarvasaṃśayān samucchedayati). Only beings, who are the inner cause-and-condition, are not perfect. Not having previously planted the roots of good (kuśalamūla) required to see the Buddha, they have neither faith in nor respect for him; they have neither exertion (vīrya) nor morality (śīla), having weak faculties (mṛdvindriya), they are deeply attached to worldly happiness (lokasukha) and, consequently, derive no benefit [from meeting the Buddha]. This is not the fault (doṣa) of the Buddha.

The Buddha converts beings (sattvān paripācayati) and the divine tools that he uses are perfect. When the sun rises (sūrya), beings who have an eye (cakṣuṣmat) see it, whereas blind people (andha) do not see it. On the other hand, assuming that there is an eye but there is no sun, there is nothing to see. Thus the fault is not with the sun. It is the same with the Buddha-light.

Footnotes and references:


Adopting the variant yang-t’ong.

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