Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the emptinesses (shunyata) in the great prajnaparamita-sutras” 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.

IV. The emptinesses (śūnyatā) in the great Prajñāpāramitā-sūtras

Dharmas do not truly exist (na vastutsat, na dravysat); they are but names (nāmamātra) or designations (prajñapti). They are without self (anātman), without ‘mine’ (anātmiya), without self nature (niḥsvabhāva), without mark (animitta), without arising (anutpāda) and without cessation (anirodha). As thought-constructions, they are infinite in number, but the definitions given to them are just wrong views (mithyadṛṣṭi). Emptiness (śūnyatā), the outlet for all wrong views (sarvadṛṣṭīnāṃ niḥsaraṇam), is the means (upāya) to destroy them, but it has no reality either: it is, if you like, a predicate, but a predicate that does not apply to anything, an attribute without a subject.

There are as many emptinesses as there are dharmas to be destroyed. To speak of the emptiness of all dharmas (sarvadharmaśūnyatā) is too general an assertion and is not too convincing; to enumerate all the emptinesses would be impossible and frightening to the mind: therefore a choice must be made. Borrowing a middle way here again, the great Wisdom Sūtras – Aṣṭadaśa-, Pañcaviṃśati- and Śatasāhasrikā – set their hearts on the eighteen emptinesses to which they dedicate an entire section, but without ever subjecting themselves to listing them fully in any connection whatsoever. According to the subject to be treated, they present partial lists of two, seven, fourteen or sixteen emptinesses. Here I [Lamotte] will limit myself to mentioning briefly some partial lists and later will study the list of eighteen emptinesses in more detail.

A. Some partial lists

1. Lists of two emptinesses

The twofold emptiness of beings (sattva) and of things (dharma), the showpiece of the Mahāyāna, is the one most frequently mentioned.

Sometimes presented together: 1. anavarāgra., 2. atyanta.

Sources: Aṣṭādaśa, II, p. 35, 23; T 220, VII, k. 530, p. 720b13–14. – Pañcaviṃśati, T 221, k. 18, p. 125c13–14; T 223, k. 24, p. 392b19–20; T 220, VII, k. 468, p. 369c10.

2. List of seven emptinesses

1. prakṛti-śūnyatā.
2. svalakṣaṇa-śūnyatā.
3. sarvadharma-śūnyatā.
4. anupalambha-śūnyatā.
5. abhāva-śūnyatā.
6. svabhāva-śūnyatā.
7. abhāva-śūnyatā.

Sources: Pañcaviṃśati, T 222, k. 1, p. 153b21; k. 8, p. 199b25; T 223, k. 1, p. 222c29 (complete list); T 220, VII, k. 480, p. 435b16. – Śata, p. 138, 1–3.

3. List of fourteen emptinesses

1. adhyātma-śūnyatā.
2. bahirdā-śūnyatā.
3. adyātmabahirdhā-śūnyatā.
4. mahā-śūnyatā.
5. śūnyatā-śūnyatā.
6. paramartha-śūnyatā.
7. saṃskṛta-śūnyatā.
8. saṃskṛta-śūnyatā.
9. atyanta-śūnyatā.
10. anavarāgra-śūnyatā.
11. anavakāra-śūnyatā.
12. prakṛti-śūnyatā.
13. lakṣaṇa-śūnyatā.
14. sarvadharma-śūnyatā.

Sources: Aṣṭādaśa, I, p. 132, 14; T 220, VII, k. 523, p. 682b6–16. – Pañcaviṃśati, T 221, k. 15, p. 108b9–14; T 223, k. 20, p. 367b24–27; k. 25, p. 403c25; T 220, VII, k. 459, p. 320b21–c1.

4. List of sixteen emptinesses

1. adhyātma-śūnyatā.
2. bahirdhā-śūnyatā.
3. adhyātmabahirdhā-śūnyatā.
4. mahā-śūnyatā.
5. śūnyatā-śūnyatā.
6. paramārtha-śūnyatā.
7. saṃskṛta-śūnyatā.
8. asaṃskṛṭa-śūnyatā.
9. atyanta-śūnyatā.
10. anavarāgra-śūnyatā.
11. anavakāra-śūnyatā.
12. prakṛti-śūnyatā.
13. lakṣaṇa-śūnyatā.
14. sarvadharma-śūnyatā.
15. abhāva-śūnyatā.
16. abhāvasvabhāva-śūnyatā.

Sources: Aṣṭadaśa, T 220, VII, k. 510, p. 604a17; k. 512, p. 616a23. – Madhyāntavibhāgabhāṣya., ed. Nagao, p. 24, 15–21 (complete listing); Madhyāntavibhāgatīkā, ed. Yamaguchi, p. 52 seq.. This list is perhaps the prototype of the following in which it is often incorporated, but without being confused with it.

B. Related lists of eighteen and four emptinesses

Like the other great Wisdom Sūtras, the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā proposes a developed list of eighteen śūnyatās, followed by a condensed list of four śūnyatās.

To bring a measure of order to such a tangled subject, I [Lamotte] will give a few lexicographical indications, establish a synopsis of the Sanskrit and the Tibetan text, present a translation and finally give a comparative table of the various versions.

1. Lexicographical indications

These are taken from the original Sanskrit text, the Tibetan version and the Chinese translations made by Dh (Dharmarakṣa: T 222); Mo (Mokṣala: T 221); Ku (Kumārajīva: T 223) and Ht (Hiuan-tsang: T 220, VII).

(Eighteen emptinesses)

1. Emptiness of internal [dharmas]: adhyātmaśūnyatā, naṅ stoṅ pa ñid, nei k’ong.

2. Emptiness of external [dharmas]: bahirdhāśūnyatā, phyi stoṅ pa ñid, wai k’ong.

3. Emptiness of internal-external [dharmas]: adhyātmabahirdhāśūnyatā, phyi naṅ stoṅ pa ñid, nei wai k’ong.

4. Emptiness of emptinesses: śūnyatāśūnyatā, stoṅpa ñid stoṅ pa ñid, k’ong k’ong.

5. Great emptiness: mahāśūnyatā, chen po stoṅ pa ñid, ta k’ong.

6. Emptiness of the absolute: paramārthaśūnyatā, don dam pa stoṅ pa ñid, tchen miao k’ong (Dh), tsouei k’ong (Mo), Ti yi yi k’ong (Ku), cheng yi k’ong (Ht).

7. Emptimes of the conditioned: saṃskṛtaśūnyatā, ḥdus byas stoṅ pa ñid, yeou wei k’ong.

8. Emptiness of the unconditioned: asaṃskṛtaśūnyatā, ḥdus ma byas stoṅ pa ñid, wou wie k’ong.

9. Absolute emptiness: atyantaśūnyatā, mthaḥ las ḥdas pa stoṅ pa ñid, kieou king k’ong (Dh), tche king k’ong (Mo), pi king k’ong (Ku, Ht).

10. Emptiness [of dharmas] without end or beginning: anavarāgraśūnyatā, thog ma daṅ tha ma med pa stoṅ pa ñid, wou tsi k’ong (Ht).

Variant – Emptiness [of dharmas] without beginning: anagraśūnyatā, wou che k’ong (Ku).

11. Emptiness of non-dispersed [dharmas]: anavakāraśūnyatā, dor ba med pa stoṅ pa ñid.

Variants – 1) Emptiness of dispersed [dharmas] (avakāraśūnyatā): san k’ong (Ku). – 2) Emptiness of dispersed and non-dispersed dharmas (avakārānavakāraśūnyatā): san wou san k’ong, sometimes subdivided into sa k’ong and wou pien yi k’ong (Ht).

12. Emptiness of essences: prakṛtiśūnyatā, raṅ bzhin stoṅ pa ñid, pen tsing k’ong (Dh), sing k’ong (Mo, Ku), pen sing k’ong (Ht).

13. Emptiness of all dharmas: sarvadharmaśūnyatā, chos thams cad stoṅ pa ñid, yi ts’ie fa k’ong or tchou fa k’ong.

14. Emptiness of specific characteristics: svalakṣaṇaśūnyatā, raṅ gi mtshan ñid stoṅ pa ñid, tseu jan siang k’ong (Dh), tseu sinag k’ong (Mo, Ku).

Variants – Emptiness of specific and general characteristics (svasāmānyalakṣaṇaśūnyatā): tseu kong k’ong, sometimes subdivided into tseu siang k’ong and tseu kong siang k’ong (Ht).

15. Emptiness consisting of non-perception: anupalambhaśūnyatā, mi dmigs pa stoṅ pa ñid, pou k’o tö k’ong.

16. Emptiness of non-existence (abhāvaśūnyatā, dṅos po med pa stoṅ pa ñid, wou so weou k’ong (Dh), wou k’ong (Mo), wou fa k’ong (Ku), wou sing k’ong (Ht).

17. Emptiness of existence: svabhāvaśūnyatā, ṅo bo ñid stoṅ pa ñid, tseu jan k’ong (Dh), yeou k’ong (Mo), yeou fa k’ong (Ku), tseu sing k’ong (Ht).

18. Emptiness of non-existence and of existence: abhāvasvabhāvaśūnyatā, dṅos po med paḥi ṅo bo ñid stoṅ pa ñid, wou so yeou tseu jan k’ong (Dh), wou fa yeou fa k’ong (Ku), wou sing tseu sing k’ong (Ht).

(Four emptinesses)

1a. Existence is empty of existence: bhāvo bhāvena śūnyaḥ, dṅos po ni dṅos pos stoṅ ṅo, fa fa siang k’ong (Ku), yeou sing yeou yeou sing k’ong (Ht).

2a. Non-existence is empty of non-existence: abhāvo ‘bhāvena śūnyaḥ, dṅos po med pa ni dṅos po med pas stoṅ ṅo, wou fa wou fa siang k’ong (Ku), wou sing yeou wou sing k’ong (Ht).

3a. Existence in itself is empty of existence in itself: svahāvaḥ svabhāvena śūnyaḥ, raṅ bzhin ni raṅ bzhin gyis stoṅ ṅo, tseu fa tseu fa k’ong (Ku), tseu sing yeou tseu sing k’ong (Ht).

4a. Other existence is empty of other existence: parabhāvaḥ parabhāvena śūnyaḥ, gzhan gyi dṅos po ni gśan gyi dṅos pos stoṅ ṅo, t’a fa t’a fa siang k’ong (Ku), t’a sing yeou t’a sing k’ong (Ht).

The order adopted here is not always respected and it may be that some emptinesses are omitted and others adopted. The oldest Chinese translations, those of Dharmarakṣa and Mokṣala, are still tentative and lack consequence in the choice of equivalences.

2. Tibetan-Sanskrit synopsis

The section of the Pañcaviṃśati dedicated to the emptinesses gives two lists: one developed list of eighteen emptinesses and one condensed list of only four. The section consists of four parts:

a. the wording of the eighteen emptinesses of the developed list.

b. the definition of the first sixteen emptinesses on the list.

c. the wording of the four emptinesses of the condensed list.

d. the definition of the four emptinesses.

To state eighteen emptinesses and to define only sixteen is an inconsistency which some Chinese translations, particularly those of Kumārajīva and Hiuan-tsang, have tried to remedy (see table below, p. 2041F). The Sanskrit editions at our disposal are not very satisfactory and so I [Lamotte] present here a synopsis of the Tibetan version (Tib. Trip., no, 731, vol. 18, p. 130, fol. 224b1–227a1) and of a Sanskrit text restored according to the Tibetan version with the aid of the editions of the Pañcaviṃśati by N. Dutt (p. 195, 10–198, 10) and the Śatasāhasrikā by P. Ghosa, p. 1407, 4–1412, 6.

a. Wording of the eighteen emptinesses

(Tibetan)

rab ḥbyor gzhan nyaṅ chub sems dpaḥ sems dpaḥ
chen poḥi theg pa chen po ni | ḥdi lta ste |

1. naṅ stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
2. phyi stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
3. phyi naṅstoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
4. stoṅ pa ñid stoṅpaṅid daṅ |
5. chen po stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
6. don dam pa stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
7. ḥdus byas stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
8. ḥdus ma byas stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
9. mthaḥ las ḥdas pa stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
10. thog ma daṅ tha ma med pa stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
11. dor ba med pa stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
12. raṅ bzhin stoṅ pa ñid daṅ
13. chos thams cad stoṅ pa ñid daṅ
14. raṅ gi mtshan ñid stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
15. mi dmigs pa stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
16. dṅos pa med pa stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
17. ṅo bo ñid stoṅ pa ñid daṅ |
18. dṅos pa med paḥi ṅo bo ñid stoṅ pa ñid de |

(Sanskrit)

punar aparaṃ subhūte bodhisattvasya
mahāsattvasya mahāyānam. yad uta

1. adhyātmaśūnyatā,
2. bahirdhāśūnyatā,
3. adhyātmabahirdhāśūnyatā,
4. śūnyatāśūnyatā,
5. mahāśūnyatā,
6. paramārthaśūnyatā,
7. saṃskṛtaśūnyatā,
8. asaṃskṛtaśūnayatā,
9. atyantaśūnyatā,
10. atyantaśūnyatā,
11. anavakāraśūnyatā,
12. prakṛtiśūntaā,
13. sarvadharmaśūnyatā,
14. svalakṣaṇaśūnyatā,
15. anupalambhaśūnyatā,
16. abhāvaśūnyatā,
17. svabhāvaśūnyatā,
18. abhāvasvabhāvaśūnyatā.

b. Definition of the first sixteen emptinesses 

(Tibetan)

1. de la naṅ stoṅ pa ñid gaṅ…stoṅ pa ñid do |
2. de la phyi stoṅ pa ñid gaṅ ze na…

(Sanskrit)

1. tatra katamādhyātmaśūnyatā … ucyate ’dhyātmaśūnyatā.
2. tatra katamā bahirdhāśūnyatā…
iyam ucyate bahirdhāśūnyatā.

c. Wording of the four emptinesses

(Tibetan)

| rab ḥbyor gzhan yaṅ

1. dṅos pa ni sṅos pos stoṅ ṅo |
2. | dṅos po med pa ni dṅos po med
3. | raṅ bzhin ni raṅ bzhin gyis stoṅ ṅo |
4. | gzhan gyi dṅos po ni gzhan gyi dṅos pos stoṅ ṅo |

(Sanskrit)

punar aparaṃ subhūte

1. bhāvo bhāvena śūnyaḥ,
2. abhāvo ‘bhāvena śūnyaḥ, pas stoṅ no |
3. svabhāvaḥ svabhāvena śūnyaḥ,
4. parabhāvaḥ parabhāvena śūnyaḥ.

d. Definition of the four emptinesses

(p. 2036F, Tibetan and Sanskrit)

3. Translation from the French

a. Wording of the eighteen emptinesses

Furthermore, O Subhūti, the Great Vehicle of the bodhisattva-mahāsattva is:

1. the emptiness of internal dharmas,
2. the emptiness of external dharmas,
3. the emptiness of external and internal dharmas,
4. the emptiness of emptiness,
5. great emptiness,
6. the emptiness of the absolute,
7. the emptiness of the conditioned,
8. the emptiness of the unconditioned,
9. absolute emptiness,
10. the emptiness of dharmas without end or beginning,
11. the emptiness of non-dispersion,
12. the emptiness of essence,
13. the emptiness of all dharmas,
14. the emptiness of specific characteristics,
15. the emptiness of non-perception,
16. the emptiness of non-existence,
17. the emptiness of existence,
18. the emptiness of non-existence and of existence.

b. Definition of the first sixteen emptinesses

1. What is the emptiness of internal dharmas? Internal dharmas are the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. Now the eye is empty of eye because it is neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is its essence. The ear, nose, tongue, body and mind are empty of ear, nose, tongue, body and mind respectively because they are neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is their essence. That is called: emptiness of internal dharmas.

2. What is the emptiness of external dharmas? External dharmas are color, sound, smell, taste, tangible and dharmas. And yet color is empty of color because it is neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is its essence. Likewise, sound, smell, taste, tangible and dharma. Why? Because such is its essence. That is called: emptiness of external dharmas.

3. What is the emptiness of internal and external dharmas? The six inner bases and the six outer bases of consciousness are called internal and external dharmas. And yet the internal dharmas are empty of external dharmas because they are neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is their essence. The external dharmas are empty of internal dharmas. Why? Because such is their essence. That is called: emptiness of internal and external dharmas.

4. What is the emptiness of emptiness? This emptiness of dharmas is empty of emptiness [itself] because it is neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is its essence. That is called: emptiness of emptiness.

5. What is great emptiness? The region of the east is empty of the region of the east, the region of the south is empty of the region of the south, the region of the west is empty of the region of the west, the region of the north is empty of the region of the north, the region of the nadir is empty of the region of the nadir, the region of the zenith is empty of the region of the zenith, the intermediary regions are empty of the intermediary regions because the regions are neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is their nature. That is called: great emptiness.

6. What is the emptiness of the absolute? Here the absolute is nirvāṇa, and this nirvāṇa is empty of nirvāṇa because it is neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is its essence. That is called: emptiness of the absolute.

7. What is the emptiness of the conditioned? The conditioned is the world of desire, the world of form and the formless world. And yet the world of desire is empty of the world of desire, the world of form is empty of the world of form, the formless world is empty of the formless world because they are neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is their essence. That is called: emptiness of the conditioned.

8. What is the emptiness of the unconditioned? The unconditioned is that which has neither production nor destruction, neither modification nor duration: That is the unconditioned. Now the unconditioned is empty of the unconditioned because it is neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is its essence. That is called: emptiness of the unconditioned.

9. What is absolute emptiness? That which has no limit is absolute. The absolute is empty of the absolute because it is neither eternal, nor transitory. Why? Because such is its essence. That is called: absolute emptiness.

10. What is the emptiness [of dharmas] without end or beginning? [The Dharma] whose beginning or end are not perceived has neither going nor coming. And yet a dharma without end or beginning is empty of this absence of end and beginning because it is neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is its essence. That is called: emptiness of dharmas without end or beginning.

11. What is the emptiness of non-dispersal? That where there is no dispersion. Now non-dispersal is empty of non-dispersal because it is neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is its essence. That is called: emptiness of non-dispersal.

12. What is the emptiness of essence? The essence of all conditioned or non-conditioned dharmas is not created by the hearers, is not created by the pratyekabuddhas, is not created by the bodhisattva-mahāsattvas, is not created by the holy, completely and perfectly enlightened Buddhas. The essence is empty of essence because it is neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is its essence. That is called: emptiness of essence.

13. What is the emptiness of all dharmas? All dharmas is form, sensation, concept, formations and consciousness; eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind; color, sound, smell, taste, contact and dharmas; eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness and mental consciousness; eye contact, ear contact, nose contact, tongue contact, body contact and mind contact; sensation due to eye contact, sensation due to ear contact, sensation due to nose contact, sensation due to tongue contact, sensation due to body contact, sensation due to mind contact; form dharmas and formless dharmas; conditioned dharmas and unconditioned dharmas: those are called ‘all dharmas’. Now all dharmas are empty of all dharmas because they are neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is their essence. That is called: emptiness of all dharmas.

14. What is the emptiness of specific characteristic? Form has, as its characteristics, to be broken up; sensation, to be experienced; concept, the grasping [of characteristics]; formations, the fact of conditioning; consciousness, the fact of apprehending. Whether it is a matter of the characteristic of conditioned dharmas or unconditioned dharmas, all these dharmas are each empty of their own characteristic because they are neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is their essence. That is called: emptiness of specific characteristics.

15. What is the emptiness of non-perception? It is that where neither the past nor the future nor the duration of the present are perceived. Non-perception is empty of non-perception because it is neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is its essence. That is called: emptiness of non-perception.

16. What is the emptiness of non-existence and of existence? There is no nature that is a combination [of existence and non-existence] since all dharmas are produced in dependence [on causes and conditions]. This [alleged] combination is empty of combination because it is neither eternal nor transitory. Why? Because such is its essence. That is called: emptiness of non-existence and self existence.

c. Wording of the four emptinesses

Furthermore, O Subhūti:

1. existence is empty of existence;

2. non-existence is empty of non-existence;

3. existence in itself (or self existence) is empty of existence in itself (or self existence);

4. other existence is empty of other existence.

d. Definition of the four emptinesses

1. What is existence? By existence is meant the five aggregates. But the five aggregates are empty of the five aggregates. Therefore existence is empty of existence.

2. Why is non-existence empty of non-existence? By non-existence is meant the non-conditioned. But this non-conditioned is empty of non-conditioned. Therefore non-existence is empty of non-existence.

3. Why is self existence empty of self existence? By self existence is meant the true essence. But the emptiness [of this true essence] is not created by the knowledge nor by the vision [of the saints]. That is called emptiness of self existence.

4. What is the emptiness of other existence? Whether the Tathāgatas appear or the Tathāgatas do not appear, this stability of dharmas, the fundamental element, the certainty of dharmas (read: dharmaniyāmatā in place of dharmanyāmatā), the way of existing, the true manner of being, the unchanged manner of being, the utmost point of truth, remains stable. As a result, the fact that these dharmas are empty [of intervention] of another is called emptiness of other existence. Such, O Subhūti, is the great Vehicle of the bodhisattva-mahāsattvas.

Comments of the Traité (T 1509, k. 46, p. 396a)

Question. – After each of the eighteen emptinesses, the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra repeats itself and says: Akūṭasthāvināśitāṃ upādāya “because they are neither eternal nor transitory”. What does this phrase mean?

Answer. – The person who does not practice these emptinesses inevitably falls into one of the following two extremes (antadvaya), i.e., eternalism (śāśvata) or nihilism (uccheda)…The yogin tormented by existence resorts to the emptinesses (śūnyatā) in order to destroy existence. Next, he venerates emptiness, but whoever clings (abhiniviśate) to emptiness falls into nihilism (uccheda). This is why practicing emptiness so as to destroy existence but not clinging to emptiness is to avoid the two extremes and follow the middle way (madhyamā pratipad). The eighteen emptinesses, inspired by a mind of great compassion (mahākaruṇācitta), serve to save beings. This is why the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra, after each of them, repeats: Akuṭasthāvināśitām upādāya. That is the Mahāyāna, and those who stray from it are madmen who talk too much…

Question. – The eighteen emptinesses already contain all the emptinesses. Why then does the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra add four more?

Answer. – It is true that all the emptinesses are contained in the eighteen emptinesses, but the Buddhas have two ways of preaching the Dharma: either they first condense and later develop, or else they first develop and then condense. In the first case, it is to explain the meaning; in the second case, it is to facilitate memorization. Here the Buddha begins by speaking at length (vistareṇa) about the eighteen emptinesses; then he summarizes them (saṃkṣepena) into the four emptinesses.

4. Comparative table of recensions

The combined lists of the eighteen and the four emptinesses, lists published in the great Prajñāpāramitāsūtras, has come down to us in various Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese recensions. There are numerous divergences among them as the following comparative table shows. Hiuan-tsang has tried to eliminate them. His translation of the Aṣṭādaśa states and defines sixteen emptinesses; that of the Pañcaviṃśati, eighteen, and that of the Śata, twenty.

•• Table is omitted from this English translation••

Conclusion:

Thus, according to the Traité in its section dedicated to emptiness, the Pañcaviṃśati sets up two lists of śūnyatā having exactly the same import: one developed list of eighteen and one condensed list of four.

Using the same material, the Yogācāra-Mādhyamika-Svātantrika school established a list of twenty śūnyatas forming a gradation amongst themselves and each occurring in turn in the career of the bodhisattva. These new insights appear for the first time in the Abhisamayālaṃkāra (I, v. 47) said to be ‘by Maitreyanātha’ (about 350 A.D.), commented on at length by Haribhadra (about 750 A.D.) in his Abhisamayālaṃkārāloka (ed. U. Wogihara, p. 95, 5–96, 29) and are taken up again in the great Vijñānavādin śāstras such as the Mahāyānasaṃgraha, the Madhyāntavibhāga and the Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi.

The twenty śūnyatās are put into relationhip with the tenfold dharmadhātu or tathatā, sarvatraga, etc., serving as antidote to as many ignorances (pṛthagjanatva), etc. – Cf. Mahāyānasaṃgraha, tr. É. Lamotte, p. 196–199; Madhyāntavibhāgabhāṣya, ed. G. M. Nagao, p. 34–36; Madhyāntavibhāgaṭīkā, ed. Yamaguchi, p. 87–107; Siddhi, p. 639–657; 658–660 (where the vocabulary should be corrected).

Cultivation of the twenty śūnyatās and the tenfold dharmadhātu occurs in all the stages of the bodhisattva career: cf. Āloka, p. 95, 5–96, 29; tr. E Obermiller, Analysis of the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, p. 126–143; notes of E. Conze, The Large Sūtra on Perfect Wisdom, p. 144–148:

1. In the Adhimukticaryābhūmi, level of the practice of adhesion: adhyātma, bahirdhā and adhyātmabahirdhāśūnyatā.

2. In the prayogamārga, preparatory path: śūnyatāśūnyatā.

3. On the first bhūmi: mahāśūnyatā.

4. On the second bhūmi: paramārthaśūnyatā.

5. On the third bhūmi: saṃskṛtaśūnayatā.

6. On the fourth bhūmi: asaṃskṛtaśūnyatā.

7. On the fifth bhūmi: atyantaśūnyatā.

8. On the sixth bhūmi: anavarāgraśūnyatā.

9. On the seventh bhūmi: anavakāraśūnyatā.

10. On the eighth bhūmi: prakṛti and sarvadharmaśūnyatā.

11. On the ninth bhūmi: lakṣaṇa and anupalambhaśūnyatā.

12. On the tenth bhūmi: abhāva (1) and bhāvaśūnyatā.

13. On the Buddhabhūmi: abhāva (2), svabhāva and parabhāvaśūnyatā.

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