Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “preliminary note” 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.

Conditions and Causes: Preliminary note

This section, dedicated to questions of causality, deals with the four conditions (pratyaya) and the six causes (hetu). They are worded in the following way in Sanskrit and Tibetan, and in Chinese by Kumarārajīva) (K) and in Chinese by Hiuan-tsang (H):

The four conditions (pratyaya):

  1. Causal condition, hetupratyaya, rguḥi rkyen, yin yuan (K), yin yuan (H).
  2. Immediately preceding condition, samanantarapratyaya, mtshuṅs pa de ma thag paḥi, ts’eu ti yuan (K), teng wou kien yuan (H).
  3. Object condition, ālambanapratyaya, dmigs paḥi rkyen, yuan yuan (K), so yuan yuan (H).
  4. Dominant condition, adhipatipratyaya, bdag poḥi rkyen, tseng chang yuan (K), tseng chang yuan (H).

The six causes (hetu):

  1. Associated cause, saṃprayuktahetu, mtshuṅs par ldan paḥi rgyu, siang ying yin (K), siang ying yin (H).
  2. Simultaneous cause, sahabhūhetu, lhan cig ḥbyuṅ baḥi rgyu, kong cheng yin (K), kiu yeou yin (H).
  3. Homogeneous cause, sabhāgahetu, skal ba mñam paḥi rgyu, tseu tchong yin (K), t’ong lei yin (H).
  4. Universal or pervasive cause, sarvatragahetu, kun tu ḥgro baḥi rgyu, pien yin (K), pien hing yin (H).
  5. Ripening cause or cause of maturation, vipākahetu, rnam par smin paḥi rgyu, pao yin (K), yi chou yin (H).
  6. Enabling cause, kāraṇahetu, byed paḥi rgyu, wou tchang yin (K) (avighnakāraṇa), neng tso yin (H).

The Buddhist doctrine is primarily a doctrine of causality and the Buddha Śākyamuni, throughout his career, never stopped teaching his disciples the dependent origination of the phenomena of existence (pratītyasmautpāda), the production that conditions the appearance and disappearance of dharmas. His homily inevitably begins with the phrase: This being, that is; from the production of this, that is produced (asmin satidaṃ bhavaty asyotpādād idaṃ utpadyate), and: This not being, that is not; by the cessation of this, that ceases (asminn asatīdaṃ na bhavaty asya nirodhād idaṃ nirudhyāte): cf. Catuṣpariṣat, p. 102, 358–360; Śālistamba, ed. N. A. Sastri, p. 2; Avadānaśataka, II, p. 105–106: Arthaviniścaya, ed. N. H. Samtani, p. 5; Mahāvastu, II, p. 285, III, p. 448; and for the Pāli sources, Vin. I, p. 1; Majjhima, III, p. 63; Saṃyutta, II, p. 1, 25, etc.

The Buddhist credo quite rightly continues with a single stanza infinitely reproduced on Indian, Serindian and Chinese monuments and images:

Ye dhammā hetuppabhavā tesaṃ hetuṃ tathāgato āha |
tesañ ca yo nirodho evaṃvādī mahāsamaṇo ||

“The Tathāgata, the great ascetic, has told the cause of phenomena coming from causes, and he has also told their abolition.”

But in the present section, it is more precisely a matter of the system of the four conditions and |or the six causes intervening in the functioning of causality. Does this system already occur in the canonical sūtras or, if not, which school elaborated it? Does the Madhyamaka accept or reject it? Do the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras mention it and, if so, in what sense? Finally, how did the Traité understand it?