Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “objections against the efficacy of the conditions” 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.

II. Objections against the efficacy of the conditions

Objector.[1] – According to the perfection of wisdom (prajñāpāramitā), the four conditions (pratyaya) do not exist (nopalabhyante). Why?

1) Rejection of hetupratyaya

It is illogical (na yujyate) that the effect (phala) pre-exists in the cause (hetu) and it is also illogical that it does not pre-exist in it.[2]

If the effect pre-existed in the cause, there would not be any cause [since it already exists].

If it did not pre-exist in the cause, of what use would this cause be [since it does not occur there]?

If it did pre-exist without having pre-existed there, it would also result from a non-cause, by chance (ahetuka).

Furthermore, it is necessary to see the effect arise from the cause in order to be able to speak about cause; but if the effect is not there in advance, how can one speak of cause?

Furthermore, if the effect arises from a cause (hetor jāyate), this effect depends on a cause (hetum apekṣate). But this cause is not independent (asvatantra) and in turn, depends on other causes. If the cause is not independent, how could one say that the effect depends solely on that cause?

For these many reasons, we know that there is no causal condition (hetupratyaya).

2) Rejection of the samanantarapratyaya

Once gone (atīta), the minds-and-mental-events (cittacaitasikadharma) are all destroyed (niruddha) and have no further activity (kāritra); then how could they constitute an immediately preceding condition (samanantarapratyaya)? The mind presently existing (pratyutpanna) thus has no antecedent.[3]

Perhaps you would like to call upon the future (anāgata) to guarantee the [296c] continuity of the mind (cittakrama)? But as this future does not yet exist, how would it assure this continuity?

For such reasons, there is no immediately preceding condition (samanantarapratyaya).

3) Rejection of the object condition.

All [mental] dharmas are without specific characteristic (animitta) and without object (anālambana); why then speak of object condition (ālambanapratyaya)?[4]

4) Rejection of the dominant condition

All dharmas are equal, being without dependence (anādhīna) or support (anāśraya); why then speak of dominant condition (adhipratyaya)?[5]

As these four conditions do not exist, how can the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra say here that “in order to understand the four conditions, it is necessary to practice the perfection of wisdom”?

Footnotes and references:


This objector is a Mādhyamika who is going to reason in a manner very close to that of Nāgārjuna in his Madh. Kārikā.


The objector claims here to be following a version of the Prajñāpāramitā where the four pratyayas are rejected, whereas the Traité is referring to a version where they are accepted: see above, p. 2169F.

Compare Madh. Kārikā, XX, v. 1–4 (p. 391–393):

Hetoś ca pratyayānāṃ ca sāmagryā jāyate yadi |
phalam asti ca sāmagryāṃ sāmagryā jāyate katham ||

hetoś ca pratyayānāṃ ca sāmagryā jāyate yadi |
phalaṃ nāsti ca sāmagryāṃ sāmagryā jāyate katham ||

hetoś ca pratyayānāṃ ca sāmagryāṃ asti cet phalaṃ |
gṛhyeta nanu sāmagryāṃ sāmagryaṃ ca na gṛhyate ||

hetoś ca pratyayānāṃ ca sāmagryāṃ nāsti cet phalam |
hetavaḥ pratyayāś ca syur ahetupratyayaiḥ samāḥ ||

Transl. – If the fruit that arises from the complex of the cause and conditions already occurs in this complex, why would it need to arise from the complex?

If the fruit that arises from the complex of cause and conditions does not occur in this complex, how could it arise from this complex?

If the fruit occurred in the complex of cause and conditions, it should certainly be taken hold of in this complex. Now it is not held there.

If the fruit did not occur in the complex of cause and conditions, causes and fruits would be equivalent to non-causes, to non-conditions.


Compare Madh. Kārikā, I, v. 9 (p. 85):

Anupanneṣu dharmeṣu nirodho nopapadyate |
nānantaram ato yuktaṃ niruddhe pratyayaś ca kaḥ ||

Paraphrase. – As long as the dharma-effects have not arisen, the prior cessation of the cause is impossible. Assuming that this cessation had taken place, what could be the condition of the effect? Thus the immediately preceding condition is unacceptable.


Compare Madh. Kārikā, I, v. 8 (p. 84):

Anālambana evāyaṃ san dharma uoadiśyate |
athānālambane dharme kutā ālambanaṃ punaḥ ||

Paraphrase. – You are teaching that this dharma (= cittacaitta) exists previously without object. But if this dharma is fundamentally without object, how could it ever be comprised of one?


Madh. Kārikā, I, v. 10 (p. 86) is expressed differently:

Bhāvānāṃ niḥsvabhāvānāṃ na sattā vidyate yataḥ |
satidam asmin bhavatīty etan naivopapadyate ||

Paraphrase. – Since there is no existence for essences without inherent nature, the sovereignty or predominance of one dharma over another, a dominance expressed by saying: “This being, that is”, is logically untenable.

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