Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the system in the canonical 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.

Conditions note (1): The system in the canonical sūtras

In the early texts the words ‘condition’ (pratyaya) and ‘cause’ (hetu) seem to be equivalent. The Kośavyākhyā, p. 188, makes the following comment: “What is the difference between hetu and pratyaya? There is none. The Blessed One said: dvau hetū dvau pratyayau samyagdṛṣṭer utpādāya. katamau dvau. parataś ca ghoṣo ’dhyātmaṃ ca yoniśo manaskāra iti. “There are two causes, two conditions for the arising of right view. What are these two? The speech of another and, inwardly, right reflection’ (cf. Majjima, I, p. 294, l. 1–3; Anguttara, I, p.87, l. 32–34). The words hetu, pratyaya, nidāna, kāraṇa, nimitta, liṅga, upaniṣad are synonymous.”

But, asks the Mahāvibhāṣā, why is it that the Jñānaprasthāna of Kātyāyanīputra, after having spoken of the four pratyayas, still lists six hetus? Here is its answer (T 1545, k. 16, p. 79a26–c5):

“The six hetus are not spoken of in the sūtras; the sūtras speak only of the existence of the four pratyayas, namely, hetupratyaya up to adhipatipratyaya. Here, in order to distinguish the hetus from the pratyayas, [the Jñānaprasthāna] speaks of six hetus.

“Question. – Do the hetus contain the pratyayas and do the pratyayas contain the hetus? – Answer: They are contained mutually according to thir use. Some say that the first five hetus are the hetupratyaya and that the kāraṇahetu is the other three pratyayas. Others say that the pratyayas contain the hetus, but that the hetus do not contain [all] the pratyayas: thus the first five hetus are the hetupratyaya; the kāraṇahetu is the adhipatipratyaya, but the samanantarapratyaya and the ālambanapratyaya are not contained in the hetus.

“Others say that that it was also a question of the hetus in the sūtras and, particularly, in the Ekottarāgama, of the group of six (ṣaṭkanipāta), but in time, this text has disappeared (antarhita); however, the Sthāvira Kātyāyanīputra, by the power of his knowledge resulting from an aspiration (praṇidhijñāna), saw this sūtra passage where it was a matter of the six hetus and [as a result] he compiled and wrote his Abhidharma. That is why, in this Abhidharma, he distinguishes the six hetus. Formerly the Ekottarāgamasūtra listed dharmas from 1 to 100 (ekottarikāgama ā śatād dharmanirdeśa āsit); now it goes only from 1 to 10 (idāniṃ tv ā daśakād dṛśyanta iti), and the rest have disappeared. Moreover, in the groups 1 to 10, much has disappeared and not much remains. The Sthāvira Śānakavāsin, a great arhat, was a disciple contemporaneous with the Sthāvira Ānanda. At that time, this Venerable was a faithful transmitter of the Bhagavat’s teachings, but, by the time of the nirvāna of the arhat, 77,000 jātakas and sūtras, 10,000 śāstras had already disappeared. If so many sūtras and śāstras disappeared under one scholar, what has not happened from that day until today when hundreds, thousands, of scholars have followed one after the other? How can the number of sūtras and śāstras that have been lost be known? This is why, some say, the six hetus are mentioned in the sūtras.

“Other teachers (ācārya) say: Although there is no sūtra where the six hetus are treated in order (anukrameṇa) and fully (saṃpūrṇam), these hetus are mentioned separately (vikīrṇam) in various places in the sūtras:

1. A sūtra says: iyam ucyate darśanamūlikā śraddhā ‘vetyajñānasaṃprayuktā ‘It is what is called faith having seeing as root, ASSOCIATED with the knowledge [subsequent] to penetration’. Sūtras of this kind have dealt with the saṃprayuktakahetu.

2. A sūtra says: cakṣuh pratitya rūpāṇi cotpadyate cakṣurvijñānam. trayāṇāṃ saṃgatiḥ sparśaḥ. taiḥ saha jatā vedanā saṃjñā cetanā ca ‘As a result of the eye and visibles, there arises the visual consciousness; the meeting of the three is contact; there ARISE WITH them sensation, concept and volition’ (cf. Majjhima, I, p. 111, l. 35037, p. 281, l. 18–29; Saṃyutta, II, p. 72, l. 4–5; IV, p. 32, l. 31–32; p. 86, l. 18–19; p. 90, l. 15–16). Sutras of this kind have dealt with sahabhūhetu.

3. A sūtra says: samanvāgato ‘yaṃ pudgalaḥ kuśalair api dharmair akuśalair api. asya khalu pudgalasya kuśala dharmā antarhitā akuśalaā dharmāḥ saṃmukhībhūtāḥ. asti cāsyanusahagataṃ kuśalamūlamasamucchinnaṃ yato ‘sya kuśalabhaviṣyati ‘This man is endowed with good and bad dharmas, but within him the good dharmas are disappearing and the bad dharmas are appearing. But there is still within him a persistent root of good which is not cut and, from this root of good, there will grow ANOTHER root of good: thus, in the future, this man will be pure’ (cf. Anguttara, III, p. 404, l. 12–20; Madhyama, T 26, k. 27, p. 601a22–27). Sūtras of this kind have dealt with the sabhāgahetu.

4. A sūtra asys: mithyādṛṣṭeh puruṣapudgalasya yac ca kāyakarma yac ca vākkarma yac ca manaskarma yaḥ praṇidhih ye ca taddṛṣṭer anvayāḥ saṃskārāḥ sarve ’py ete dharmā aniṣṭatvāya saṃvartante ‘kāntatvāyapriyatvāyāmanāpatvāya. [tat kasya hetoḥ. dṛṣṭir hy asya yad uta mithyādṛṣṭiḥ] ‘For the man who has a wrong view, every physical act, every vocal act, every mental act, every resolution and all the formations connected with this view: ALL these dharmas end up in delusion, unhappiness, affliction, disagreement. [Why? Because he has a guilty view, namely, wrong view]. – Cf. Anguttara, V, p. 212, l. 20–29; Saṃyukta, T 99, k. 28, p. 204a25–28. Sūtras of this kind have dealt with the sarvatragahetu.

5. A sūtra says: asthānam etad anavakaśo yat kāyaduścaritasya vāgduścaritasya manoduścaritasyeṣṭaḥ kānto manāpo vipāka nirvarteta. sthānaṃ ca kaly etad vidyate yad aniṣṭo ‘kānto ‘manāpo vipāko nirvarteta ‘It is impossible, it is unrealizable that a physical, vocal or mental misdeed will result in an agreeable, nice, pleasant, RETRIBUTION, but it is certainly possible that there will result from it a disagreeable, lowly, unpleasant retribution’ (cf. Majjhima, III, p. 66, l. 9–28; Anguttara, I, p. 28, l. 23–24; madhyama, T 26, k. 47, p. 724b8–10). Sūtras of this kind have dealt with the vipākahetu.

6. A sūtra says: dvau hetū dvau pratayau samyagdṛṣṭer utpādāya: parataś ca ghoṣo ’dhyātmaṃ ca yoniśo manaskāraḥ ‘There are two causes, two conditions for the ARISING of right view: the speech of another and, inwardly, right reflection’ (cf. Majjhima, I, l. 1–3; Anguttara, I, p. 87, l. 32–34; Madhyama, T 26, k. 58, p. 791a1–2; Ekottara, T 125, k. 7, p. 578a5–6). Sūtras of this kind have dealt with the kāraṇahetu.

“Therefore the six HETUS have been spoken by the Buddha, and, by basing himself on these sūtras, the Sthāvira [Kātyāyanīputra] composed this [Jñānaprasthāna]-śāstra.”

The present passage of the Mahāvibhāṣā will in part be repeated by Saṃghabhadra in his Nyāyānusāra, T 1562, k. 15, p. 416b5–417a9, and by Yaśomitra in his Kośavyākhyā, p. 188, l. 13–189, l. 13.

In Buddhism there are several systems of causality. The earliest and best known is that of the twelve-membered conditioned origination (dvādśāṅgapratītyasamutpāda) in which twelve conditions (pratyaya or nidāna) are involved. Taught by the Buddha at Benares and many other places, it is universally accepted by all Buddhists.

Here it is not a question of this system, but of another theory where at first four pratyayas (hetupratyaya, etc,) are involved, to which later six hetus (saṃprayuktakahetu, etc.) were added. According to some scholars, the field of action of the four pratyayas coincides exactly with that of the six hetus and the six hetus are equivalent to the four pratyayas; according to others, the action of the pratyayas greatly exceeds that of the hetus.

This system was not accepted by all the schools, and so its partisans tried to establish its canonicity by showing that the sūtras of the Tripiṭaka dealt with it.

They claim that the four pratyayas, taken as a group, were “spoken in the sūtras”: this is what is affirmed by the Mahāvibhāṣā in the passage I [Lamotte] have just translated, by the Kośa (II, p. 209) and even by the Traité in the pages that follow. Unfortunately, despite all the research carried out in the Sūtrapiṭaka, the passage in question has not been found and, until proof of the contrary, it must be accepted that the early scriptures were still unaware of these four pratyayas.

In regard to the six hetus, it is useful to establish a distinction among the hetus taken in isolation and the hetus as a group.

According to some scholars, the group of six hetus appeared early in some sūtras that today have disappeared. In vain would one look for them in the old texts, but the Sarvāstivādin teacher Kātyāyanīputra was aware of them by the magical power of his praṇidhijñāna and he mentioned them in his Jñānaprasthāna which he compiled three hundred years after the Parinirvāṇa at Tāmasavanavihāra, a Sarvāstivādin monastery of the Cīnabhukti district in northwestern India (cf. Hiuan-tsang, Si-yu-ki, T 2087, k. 4, p. 889c). – Without recourse to such a dangerous hypothesis, other scholars frankly recognized that there is no sūtra dealing with the six hetus “in order and complete”.

The problem is quite different if it is a matter of the six hetus taken in isolation. The sūtras that allude to such and such a hetu in particular are not missing. The Mahāvibhāṣā mentions a certain number of them for us. In this sense, the hetus as well as the pratyayas are canonical, but the system that groups together four pratyayas and six hetus is not: it is a theory of the Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāṣika school. Proof of this is that other schools do not recognize it and in turn have proposed other systems: the Śāriputrābhidharma has drawn up a list of 10 pratyayas (T 1548, k. 25, p. 679b5–7); the Theravādin Abhidhamma lists 24 (cf. Nyanatiloka, Guide through the Abhidhammpitaka, 1938, p. 87–109); Buddhistisches Wörterbuch, 1952, p. 145–152).

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