Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “mastering the fire element (tejas)” 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. Mastering the fire element (tejas)

Some say that the fire element (tejas) is the greatest. Why? Because it has [300a] no odor (gandha) or taste (rasa) and because if water greatly overflows its banks, fire can destroy it. The power of fire is so great that it can burn the ten thousand things and illuminate all the shadows (andhakāra). From that, we know that fire is very great. This is why the Buddha says here that the bodhisattva who wishes to extinguish the great fire by his breath (mukhavāta) should practice the perfection of wisdom.

Question. – But it is thanks to the wind (vāta) that fire is finally kindled (jvalibhavati); how then do [wind and fire] mutually destroy each other?

Answer. – Although they are mutual causes, they destroy each other in time.

Question. – So be it. But fire is immense (apramāṇa), whereas the bodhisattva’s breath (mukhavāta) is very small (atyalpa); how can it destroy fire?

Answer. – Thanks to his dhyānas and absorptions (samāpatti), the bodhisattva who is cultivating the Prajñāpāramitā attains a magical superknowledge (ṛddhyabhijñā) thanks to which he can change (pariṇam-) his body and make it bigger. The breath from his mouth (mukhavāta) equally increases and can extinguish the fire.

Moreover, thanks to magical power (ṛddhibala), a small wind is able to destroy, just as a small thunderbolt (vajra) is able to break up a big mountain. This is why, in view of this magical power, gods and men all submit.

Furthermore, because fire devastates vast spaces, the bodhisattva has compassion (anukampate) for beings and destroys the fire by his magical power.

Finally, establishing a trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu is very difficult, but by his merits (puṇya) and his wisdom (prajñā), the bodhisattva is able to govern it.