Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “comparison of asamskrita in buddhist literature” 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.

Appendix 1 - Comparison of asaṃskṛta in Buddhist literature

Note: This Appendix is extracted from a footnote of the Chapter XLVIII (Emptiness of the absolute or of nirvāṇa):

The Traité intercedes here in the controversy between the Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāṣika and the Sautrāntika concerning the asaṃskṛta of which nirvāṇa is a part. It has been discussed in detail by L. de La Vallée Poussin, Documents d’Abhidharma, BEFEO, XXX, 1930, p. 1–28, 247–298, but it should be summarized briefly.

According to scripture, unlike conditioned dharmas (saṃskṛta), form, etc., the asaṃskṛta has neither production (utpāda), disappearance (vyaya) nor duration-modification (sthityanyathātva): cf. Aṅguttara, I, p. 192; Kathāvatthu, p. 61; Nidānasaṃyukta, p. 139; Pañcaviṃśati, p. 168; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 1262.

1) According to Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāṣika:

The Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāṣikas posit three asaṃskṛtas: space (ākaśa) and the two cessations (nirodha), the cessation due to knowledge (pratisaṃkhyānirodha) and the cessation not due to knowledge (apratisaṃkhyānirodha): cf. Kośa, I, p. 8.

Ākāśa has as its nature the non-hindering of form (rūpānāvaraṇasvabhāva) and giving way to it: Kośa, I, p. 8.

Pratisaṃkhyānirodha, or nirvāṇa properly called, is disjunction from the impure dharmas (sāsravair dharmair visaṃyogaḥ), a disjunction of which one takes possession by means of a certain knowledge (prajñāviśeṣa): the pratisaṃkhyāna, the understanding of the four Buddhist truths (āryasatyānāṃ pratisaṃkhyānam): cf. Kośa, I, p. 9.

Apratisaṃkhyānirodha is also a cessation, but is different from the preceding disjunction (visaṃyogād anyaḥ). It is an absolute obstacle to the production of future dharmas (anāgatānāṃ dharmāṇām utpādasyātyantavighnabhūta). It is obtained, not by understanding of the Buddhist truths, but by the insufficiency of causes for birth (pratyayavaikalya): cf. Kośa, I, p. 10.

The Sarvāstivādins consider the three asaṃskṛtas to be real and claim that there really (asti) exists a dharma to be inwardly realized by the saints (āryaiḥ pratyātmavedyaḥ), a real and distinct entity, good and eternal (nityaṃ kuśalaṃ dravyāntaram) called pratisaṃkhyānirodha or nirvāṇa: cf. Kośabhāṣya, p. 92, 2–3.

2) According to the Sautrāntika:

The Sautrāntikas and, in particular, Vasubandhu define the asaṃskṛtas in quite another way:

Ākāśa is merely the absence of the tangible (spraṣṭavyābhāvamātra). Thus people who do not come across any obstacle in the dark say that there is space: cf. Kośa, II, p. 279.

Pratisaṃkhyānirodha or nirvāṇa is the cessation of the passions and already produced births (utpannānuśayajanmanirodha) and the absence of production of any other passions and other births (anyasyānutpāda), and this by the power of understanding the truths (pratisaṃkhyābalena): cf. Kośa, II, p. 279; Kośabhāṣya, p. 92, 5–6.

Apratisaṃkhyānirodha, independently of the understanding of the truths and by virtue of the insufficiency of the causes of birth, is the absence of production of any dharma (vinaiva pratisaṃkhyayā pratyayavaikalyād anutpādaḥ): cf. Kośa, II, p. 279; Kośabhāṣya, p. 92, 7.

Having thus defined the asaṃskṛtas in terms of absence, the Sautrāntikas deny any reality to them: Sarva evāsaṃskṛtam adravyam: Kośabhāṣya, p. 92, 3–4.

3) According to Prajñāpāramitā:

For the Prajñāpāramitā, all dharmas, conditioned or unconditioned, are empty of their respective characteristics and consequently escape any predication; they are thus neither to be grasped (parigraha) nor to be abandoned (utsarga): Yac ca saṃskṛtānāṃ dharmāṇāṃ lakṣaṇaṃ yac cāsaṃskṛtānāṃ dharmāṇāṃ lakṣaṇaṃ evena lakṣaṇena sarva ete dharmāḥ śūnyāḥ (above, p. 2035F)

According to the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 234, 21–236, 7, ākāśa does not lend itself to any qualification; it is not grasped (na labhyate nopalabhyate); it is neither object nor non-object of speech (na pravyāhāro nāpravyāhārāḥ).

The Aṣṭasāhasrikā, p. 50–51, the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 134–135 and the Śatasāh., p. 615 seq., praise the wandering ascetic Śreṇika who, taught by the Buddha and trusting in his word, neither welcomed nor rejected any dharma: “He did not even think of nirvāṇa, basing himself on the fact that no dharma can be either taken nor abandoned. Why? Because the non-taking, the non-rejecting of dharmas is the perfection of wisdom” (sa nirvāṇenāpi na manyate sarvadharmāparigrahānutsargatām upādāyam tat kasya hetoḥ? yaḥ sarvadharmāṇām aparigraho ’nutsargaḥ sā prajñāpāramitā).