Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the four conditions (pratyaya) and the six causes (hetu)” 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.

I. The four conditions (pratyaya) and the six causes (hetu)

All conditioned dharmas (saṃskṛtadharma) are the result of four conditions (pratyaya): 1) the causal condition (hetupratyaya); 2) the immediately preceding condition (samanantarapratyaya); 3) the object condition (ālambanapratyaya); 4) the dominant condition (adhipatipratyaya).

1) The causal condition (hetupratyaya), [is five causes (hetu)]:

a. the associated cause (saṃprayuktakahetu),

b. the simultaneous cause (sahabhūhetu),

c. the homogeneous cause (sabhāgahetu),

d. the universal cause (sarvatragahetu),

e. the ripening cause (vipākahetu).[1]

These five causes (hetu) are causal condition (hetupratyaya).[2]

Furthermore, all conditioned dharmas (saṃskṛtadharma) are also called causal condition (hetupratyaya).

2) The immediately preceding condition (samanantarapratyaya). – If one accepts the last mind and the last mental events (caramāś cittacaittāḥ), past (atīta) as well as present (pratyutpanna), of the arhat [at the moment of nirvāṇa], all the other minds-and-mental-events, past or present, play the role of antecedent [with respect to the minds-and-mental-events that follow them] and are called immediately preceding condition.[3]

3–4) The object condition (ālambanapratyaya) is the dominant condition (adhipatipratyaya). – It is all the dharmas.[4]

The bodhisattva who wants to cognize the specific characteristics (svalakṣaṇa) and the general characteristics (sāmānyalakṣaṇa) of the four conditions should practice the perfection of wisdom.

Footnotes and references:


By vipākahetu we should understand either the cause of ripening (vipākasya hetuḥ) or the cause which is ripening (vipāka eva hetuḥ): both interpretations are correct: cf. Kośa, II, p. 271–272.


The sixth cause, the kāraṇahetu, which does not present an obstacle to the arising of other dharmas, is not part of the hetupratyaya: cf. Kośa II, p. 246.


The flow of the mind is never interrupted except in exceptional cases such as the unconscious absorption (asaṃjñisamāpatti) and the absorption of cessation (nirodhasamāpatti). Usually the mind-and-mental-events that arise (utpanna) are the condition as equal (sama) and immediate (anantara) antecedent of the minds-and-mental-events that follow them. An exception is made for the last mind and the last mental events of the arhat at the moment of his nirvāṇa: these cannot constitute an immediately preceding condition “because no mind and no mental events arise after them” (anyacittāsaṃbandhanāt): cf. Mahāvibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 10, p. 50a22–25; Kośa, II, p. 305.


All dharmas indiscriminately, even if they are not grasped by the consciousness, are capable of being object of this consciousness because its nature remains the same, just as fuel is fuel even when it is not burning.

– Insofar as it does not present an obstacle to the arising of other dharmas, any dharma is dominant condition of other dharmas, except for itself: cf. Kośa, II, p. 306–308.

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