Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “ninefold classification of dharmas” 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.

Ninefold classification of dharmas

Furthermore, taken individually (pratyekam), dharmas are ninefold (nanavidha):

1) They have existence (bhava).

2) Each has its own attribution. Thus the eye (cakṣus) and the ear (śrotra) are equally derived from the four great elements (caturmahābhautika), but the eye alone can see whereas the ear does not have the power to see. Or again, fire (tejas) has heat (uṣṇatva) for attribution, but it cannot moisten.

3) Each has its own power (bala). Thus fire has heat (uṣṇatva) for power, and water has moistness (drava) for power.

4) They each have their own causes (hetu).

5) They each have their own object (ālambana).

6) They each have their own effect (phala).

7) They each have their own essence (prakṛti).

8) They each have their own limits (paryanta).

9) They each have their own opening up (udghāṭana) and preparations (prayoga).

When the dharmas arise, their existence and their other attributes make up nine things in all.

Knowing that these dharmas each have their existence and their full complement of attributes is the lower worldly tathatā (avaratathatā). – Knowing that these nine things finally end up in change (vipariṇāma) and ruin (parikṣaya) is the middling tathatā (madhyā tathatā). – Just as the body that comes from impurities (aśuci), even though it is bathed (dhauta) and adorned (alaṃkṛta), finally returns to impurity,[1] so dharmas are neither existent (sat) nor non-existent (asat), neither produced (utpanna) nor annihilated (niruddha). The absolute purity (atyantaśuddhi) that destroys all consideration about the dharmas (dharmaparīkṣā) is the higher tathatā (agrā tathatā).

Some say: In these nine things, there is a dharma called tathatā, just as there is solidity (khakkhaṭatva) in earth (pṛthivī), moistness (dravatva) in water (ap-), warmth (tejas) in fire, movement (īraṇa) in wind (vāyu), and consciousness (vijñāna) in mind (citta). Dharmas of this kind are called tathatā.

[Paccayasutta].[2] – Thus it is said in a sūtra: Whether there are Buddhas or there are no Buddhas (utpādād vā tathāgatānām anutpādād vā tathāgatānām), the tathatā, dharmatā, dharmasthitā remain in the world eternally, that is to say, the formations have ignorance as condition (yad idam avidyāpratyayāḥ saṃskārāḥ): that is the eternal tathatā, the primordial Law.

The dharmadhātu is the essence (prakṛti or svabhāva) in the nine things.

Footnotes and references:


Compare the canonical topic mentioned above, p. 1154F, n. 1.


Extract from the Pratītyasūtra of the Nidānasaṃyukta, p. 148 (Tsa a han, T 99, no. 296, k. 12, p. 84b12–c10) having as correspondent the Paccayasuttanta of the Saṃyutta, II, p. 25, l. 18–20:

Utpādād vā tathāgatānām anutpadād vā sthitā eveyaṃ dharmatā dharmasthitaye dhātuḥ.

Uppādā vā tathāgatānam anuppādā vā tathāgatānaṃ ṭhitā vo sā dhātu dhammaṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā idappaccayatā.

Sūtra already cited, p. 157F as n.; 2087F, n. 4.