Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the system in the great prajnaparamitasutras” 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 (4): The system in the Great Prajñāpāramitāsūtras

If these sūtras were to mention the four pratyayas, that would prove their dependence on the Sarvāstivāda and would throw some light on the origin of an immense literature which, despite its prolixity, carefully conceals its sources.

On this point we come up against a serious problem of authenticity, for some versions of the Great Sūtras pass over the four conditions in silence whereas others that mention them fall into two groups, one group that rejects them and one that accepts them.

a. Versions silent about the four pratyayas.

The Sanskrit text of the ‘corrected’ Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā and the two earliest Chinese translations of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, that of Dharmarakṣa made in 286AD and that of Mokṣala made in 291AD, say nothing about the four pratyayas in the place where they should have spoken of them, i.e., after the statement of the eighteen śūnyatās.

Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, ed. N. Dutt, p. 24, l. 17.

Kouang tsan king, T 222, k. 1, p. 150a3.

Fang kouang pan jo king, T 221, k. 1, p. 3b1.

b. Versions rejecting the existence of the four pratyayas. They may be found in the collection of the Ta pan jo po lo mi to king, Chinese translation made by Hiuan-tsang between 660 and 663AD:

Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, T 220, book VII, k. 402, p. 8c11–13: “The bodhisattva-mahāsattva who wishes to understand (avaboddhum) that the hetupratyaya, the samanantarapratyaya, the ālambanapratyaya and the adhipatipratyaya do not exist (na vidyante) and are not perceived (nopalabhyante) in all dharmas should practice the perfection of wisdom.”

Aṣṭādaśasāhasrikā, T 220, book VII, k. 479, p. 430c7–8: [The bodhisattva-mahāsattva who wishes to understand the sixteen śūṇyatās] and the ālambanaśūṇyatā, the adhipatiśūnyatā, the samanantaraśūnyatā (read teng wou kien k’ong), etc., should practice the perfection of wisdom.

c. Versions that adopt the four pratyayas.

They simply say that the bodhisattva wishing to understand the four pratyayas should practice the perfection of wisdom.

Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, Chinese translation by Kumārajīva, T 223, k. 1, p. 219c12–14.

Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā, Tibetan translation, Tib. Trip., vol. 18, no. 731, p. 53fol. 32b6–7: Śa ra dva tiḥi bu gzhan yaṅ byaṅ chub sems dpaḥ sems dpaḥ chen po dmigs pa daṅ | dbaṅ daṅ | de ma thag pa daṅ rgyuḥi rken khoṅ du chud par.. ḥdod pas śes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa la bslab par byaḥo |

Sanskrit text of the Śatasāhasrikā, ed. P. Ghosa, p. 80, l. 4–6: Punar paraṃ Śaradvatīputrālambanāmateyasamantarahetupratyayatā avaboddhukāmena …This wording obviously should be corrected as follows: Punaraparaṃ Śāradvatiputra hetusamanantarālambanādhipatipratyayān avaboddhukāmena… .

Śatasāhasrikā, Chinese translation by Hiuan-tsang, T 220, book V, k. 3, p. 13c2–5.

– Perhaps the passage on the four pratyayas did not appear in the original version of the Pañcaviṃśati: the adversaries as well as the partisans of this theory could have introduced it into the text, the former in order to reject it, the latter in order to adopt it, at least from the saṃvṛti point of view.