Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “samriddhi-sutra” 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.

It is said in a sūtra: “The eye (cakṣus) is empty (śūnya), without ‘me’ (anātman) or ‘mine’ (anātmīya). Why? Because that is its essence (prakṛtir asyaiṣā). The ear (śrotra), nose (ghrāṇa), tongue (jihvā), body (kāya) and mind (manas), color (rūpa), [sound (śabda), smell (gandha), taste (rasa), touch (spraṣṭavya)] and dharmas are also like that.”

Notes on the Samṛddhisūtra:

Samṛddhisūtra of Saṃyukta (T 99, no. 232, k. 9, p. 56b21–c1), to be compared, as C. Akanuma, Comparative Catalogue of Chinese Āgamas and Pāli Nikāyas, p. 223, would have it, with the Suññasutta of Samyutta, IV, p. 54. Consisting of well-known stock phrases, the Sanskrit Samṛddhisūtra is easily restored to the original on the basis of the Chinese translation.

Translation of the Sanskrit:

Here is what I have heard. Once the Blessed One was dwelling at Śrāvastī, in the Jeta forest, in the garden of Anāthapiṇḍada. Then a monk named Samṛddhi went to find the Blessed One and having approached him, he bowed to the feet of the Blessed One and sat down at one side. Having seated himself, he said to the Blessed One: It is said, O Lord: “The world is empty.” In what way, O Lord, is it said that the world is empty? Thus questioned, the Blessed One said to Samṛddhi: The eye is empty, it is empty of permanence and unchangeability; it is empty of ‘mine’. Why? Because that is its essence. The visible, the eye consciousness and also this sensation, unpleasant, pleasant or neither unpleasant nor pleasant, which arises from the contact of the eye as condition, that also is empty, empty of permanence and unchangeability, is empty of ‘mine’. Why? Because that is its essence. It is the same for the ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. This is why it is said that the world is empty. Thus spoke the Blessed One; the monk Samṛddhi rejoiced at the words of the Blessed One and went away.

– The Samṛddhisūtra is cited in the Catuḥśatakaṭikā by Candrakīrti, chap. IX, Nityārthapratiṣedho nāma navamaṃ prakaraṇam (note provided by J. May).

Sanskrit: Catuḥśatikā by Ārya Deva, ed. by H. Shastri. Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. III, no. 8.

Tibetan: Tib. Trip, 98, 5266, 235.3.7.

J. May comments: Three citations without references. The first is related to Samṛddhi by the Sanskrit text, to Subhuti (= rab ḥbyor) by the Tibetan version. The second is exactly Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, p. 195, 13–14; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 1410, 11–12. The third is a phrase current of common usage.

– Comparison between the Sanskrit Samṛddhisūtra (S) and the Pāli Suññasutta (P).

In Samṛddhisūtra, the interlocutor of the Buddha is Samṛddhi; in Suññasutta, it is Ānanda.

The Pāli sources, in Suññasutta, look for the proof of the non-existence of the ātman (cf. Mahāniddesa, II, p. 439; Cullaniddesa, p. 279; Kathāvatthu, p. 67; Visuddhimagga, ed. H. C. Warren, p. 561). In contrast, the Traité and Candrakīrti resort to Samṛddhisūtra to prove prakṛtiśūnyatā. The textual differences between Suññasutta and Samṛddhisūtra explain this twofold interpretation.

The short formula suññaṃ attena vā attaniyena vā which appears in Suññasutta is very frequent: cf. Majjhima, I, p. 297; II, p. 263; Saṃyutta, IV, p. 296; Paṭisambhidā, II, p. 36; Kathāvatthu, p. 579.

Samṛddhisūtra subsitutues for it a longer phrase, in three points: śāśvatenāviparināmadharmeṇa śūnyam ātmīyena śūnyam, in the Chinese translation of the Saṃyukta, but in six points according to the ṭīkā of Candrakīrti: śūnyam ātmanā ātmīyena ca nityena dhruveṇa śāśvatenāvipariṇāmadharmeṇa ‘empty of me, empty of mine, eternity, solidity, perpetuity and umcangeability.’ This formula of six points is not unknown to the Pāli sources (Paṭisambhidā, I, p. 109; II, p. 178; Mahāniddesa, I, p. 222; Cullaniddesa, p. 279; Visuddhimagga, p. 561) which word it as follows: suññaṃ attena vā attaniyena vā niccena vā dhuvena vā sasstena vā avipariṇāmadhammena vā.

According to the Cullaniddesa, p. 278–280, and the Visuddhimagga, p. 561–562, emptiness may be taken under two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve or forty-two aspects. The Paṭisambhidā, II, p. 178, adds that suññasuññaṃ ‘the emptiness of emptiness’ is precisely the emptiness in six points just discussed. According to the Commentary of the Paṭisambhidā, III, p. 632, the emptiness formed by emptiness which is stated by another accessory word is suññasuññaṃ (suññasaṅkhātaṃ suññaṃ, na aññena upapadena visesitan ti suññaṃ suññaṃ).

The phrase tat kasya hetoḥ, prakṛtir asyaiṣā which appears in the Samṛddhisūtra does not occur in the correspondent Suññasutta, but appears frequently in the Mahāyāna sūtras. It plays the role of refrain in the definitions of the sixteen, eighteen or twenty śūnyatā proposed by the long Prajñāpāramitā sūtras: cf. Aṣṭādaśasāhasrikā (Tib.Trip., XIX, no. 732, p. 260, fol. 135a8–137b5: T 220, vol. VII, k. 488, p. 480b6–481a1); Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, p. 195, 12–197, 20; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 1407, 10–1411, 14. I [Lamotte] would like to think that the phrase in question has been introduced into the Samṛddhisūtra of the Saṃyuktāgama by a Mahāyānist interpolator. The canonical Tripiṭaka was often the victim of similar manipulations.