Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “tathata, dharmadhatu and bhutakoti in the canoncial 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.

III. Tathatā, dharmadhātu and bhūtakoṭi in the canoncial sūtras

Question. – In the system of the śrāvakas, why do they not speak of the tathatā, dharmadhātu and bhūtakoṭi, whereas they are often spoken of in many places in the Mahāyāna system?

Answer. – There are some places in the system of the śrāvakas where they are also spoken of, but these places are rather rare.

[1) Bhikṣusūtra]

That is to say: this being, that is (yad utāsmin satīdaṃ bhavati), by the production of this, that is produced (asyotpādād idam utpadyte). That is to say: the formations have ignorance as condition (yad idam avidyāpratyayāḥ saṃskārāḥ), consciousness has the formations as condition (saṃskārapratyayaṃ vijñānam), and so on up to old-age-and-death (jarāmaraṇa) which is followed by grief (śoka), lamentation (parideva), suffering (duḥkha), sadness (daurmanasya) and torment (upāyāsa).[1]

This not being, that is not (asminn asatidaṃ na bhavati); by the cessation of this, that ceases (asya nirodhād idaṃ nirudhyate). That is to say: the cessation of ignorance results in the cessation of the formations (yad utāvidyānirodhāt saṃskāranirodhaḥ), by the cessation of the formations consciousness ceases (saṃskāranirodhād vijñānanirodhaḥ), and so on up to the cessation of old-age-and-death (jarāmaraṇa), by means of which grief (śoka), lamentation (parideva), suffering (duḥkha), sadness (daurmanasya) and torment (upāyāsa) cease.

– This law of production and cessation (utpādanirodhadharma), whether there is a Buddha or there is not a Buddha, is eternal. This is the place where it is a question of the tathatā).[2]

[2) Śāriputrasiṃhanādasūtra]

Question. – In the passages [of the Bhikṣusūtra and the Śāriputrasiṃhanādasūtra which you have just cited], it speaks only of tathatā and dharmadhātu. Where then is it a question of bhūtakoṭi?

Answer. – As there were reasons to mention these two things, [namely, the tathatā and the dharmadhātu], these two sūtras cited here spoke of them.[3] But since there was no reason to mention the bhūtakoṭi, they did not speak of it.

Question. – But the bhūtakoṭi is nirvāṇa, and it is with nirvāṇa in mind that the Buddha preached the holy twelve-membered texts (dvādaśāṅgadharmapravacana). Why then do you claim that there was no reason to speak [about the bhūtakoṭi]?

Answer. – There are all kinds of names (nānāvidha nāman) to designate nirvāṇa: sometimes it is called detachment (virāga), sometimes perfection (praṇīta), sometimes deliverance (niḥsaraṇa).[4] These synonyms serve to designate the bhūtakoṭi. If [the sūtras cited here] did not use the latter term, we say it is because there was no reason to do so.

Footnotes and references:


Note that śokaparidevaduḥkhadauramanasya is not one of the aṅgas of the twelvefold chain.


The Bhikṣusūtra us not the only canonical sūtra where tathatā occurs. The author could have mentioned the Paccayasuttanta of the Saṃyutta, II, p. 26, l. 5.


The punctuation of the Taishō should be corrected; the period should be placed after chouo.


On the synonyms for nirvāṇa, see L. de La Vallée Poussin, Nirvāṇa, p. 150–154.