Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “honoring all the buddhas by means of a single offering” 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.

Part 6 - Honoring all the buddhas by means of a single offering

Sūtra (cf. Pañcviṃśati, p. 28, l. 11–15; Śatasāhastikā, p. 82, l. 16–85, l. 10). – The bodhisattva-mahāsattva must practice the perfection of wisdom if he wishes, by means of one and the same morsel of food, to satisfy all the Buddhas and their disciples present in each of the ten directions in universes as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. The bodhisattva-mahasattva must practice the perfection of wisdom if he wishes, by means of one and the same object (garment, flower, perfume, necklace, powder, unguent, incense, lamp, banner, parasol, etc.) to honor all the Buddhas and their disciples (Yāvanto daśasu dikṣu gaṅgānadivālukopameṣu lokadhātuṣu buddhā bhagavantaḥ saśrāvakasaṃghās tān sarvān ekenā piṇḍapātena pratipādayitukāmena bodhisattvena mahāsattvena prajñāpāramitāyāṃ śikṣitavyam. Yāvanto buddhā bhagantaḥ saśrāvakasaṃghās tān sarvān ekavastrapuṣpagandhahāracūrṇavilepanadhūpadīpadhvajapatākacchattreṇa pūjayitukāmena bodhisattvena mahāsattvena prajñāpāramitāyāṃ śikṣitavyam).

Śāstra. –

Question. – To offer one and the same morsel of food (ekapiṇḍapāta) to a single Buddha and his monks is already difficult (duṣkara); to say nothing of the bodhisattva offering this morsel to Buddhas and their saṃghas in each of the ten directions, as numerous as the sands of the Ganges?[1]

Answer. – The merit of the offering (pūjāpuṇya) resides in the intention (citta) and not in the thing offered. It is with a great intention that the bodhisattva offers this single morsel to all the Buddhas and all their saṃghas of the ten [300c] directions. Whether they are far (dūre) or near (sāntike) is unimportant. This is why all the Buddhas see (paśyanti) this offering and accept it (pratighṛṇanti).

Question. – All these Buddhas have omniscience (sarvajñāna) and consequently see the offering and accept it; but the monks themselves do not have omniscience; how could they see it and accept it?

Answer. – The monks neither see it nor know it, and yet the donor (dāyaka) of the offering gains merit (puṇya). Thus, when a man sends a messenger to carry an offering to another, even if this other person does not receive it, the man gains the offering of the gift. Also, in the concentration of loving-kindness (maitrīsamādhi), even though nothing is given to the beings [who are the object],[2] the yogin [who is practicing it] gains an immense merit.

Furthermore, the bodhisattvas are endowed with immense and unchanging qualities (apramāṇākṣaraguṇasaṃpanna); when they offer a single morsel (piṇḍapāta) to all the Buddhas and their saṃghas of the ten directions, the latter are satisfied and yet the morsel is not used up, like a plentiful (udbhida) spring the output of which does not dry up.[3] Thus, when Mañjuśrī offered a bowl of little cakes (modaka) to 84,000 monks, all of them were satisfied but the cakes were not used up.

Moreover, here the bodhisattva offers only one single bowl of food to all the Buddhas of the ten directions and, after having eaten it, the Buddhas are satisfied and go away. In contrast, the pretas, although each of them receives a mouthful of food, come back thousands of myriads of times [to get more].

Finally, the bodhisattva who cultivates the Prajñāpāramitā acquires immense gates of dhyānas and absorptions (apramāṇadhyānasamāpattimukha), immense gates of wisdom and skillful means (apramāṇaprajñopāyamukha): that is why there is nothing he is unable to do. Since the Prajñāpāramitā encounters no obstacle (anāvaraṇa), the mind (citta) and activity (kriyā) of the bodhisattva as well encounter no obstacles. This bodhisattva is able to honor the Buddhas and their saṃghas as numerous in each of the ten directions as the sands of a thousand myriads of Ganges; a fortiori, he is able to honor those of a single Ganges.

It is the same [when the bodhisattva wants to honor all the Buddhas and their saṃghas by offering them only a single thing]: a garment (vastra), flower (puṣpa), perfume (gandha), necklace (hāra), powser (cūrṇa), unguent (vilepana), incense (dhūpa), lamp (dīpa), banner (dhvajapatāka), parasol (chattra), etc.

Footnotes and references:

1.

In other words, to satisfy one Buddha and his saṃgha by a single ball of rice is already difficult. It is still more difficult to satisfy, with this single morsel, an incalculable number of Buddhas and saṃghas.

2.

See above, p. 1240F.

3.

Compare Vimalakīrtinirdeśa, French transl, p. 326–329 and appendix, p. 430–437. During a holy feast, Vimalakīrti satisfied an immense crowd with a bowl of food coming from the Sarvagandhasughandhā universe. The whole crowd was satisfied and yet the food was not exhausted (sarvāvatī sā parṣat tṛptā na ca tad bhijanaṃ kṣiyate). And so a person who was present commented that even if all the beings of innumerable trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātus, during one kalpa or a hundred kalpas, ate this food and took mouthfuls as big as Sumeru, this food would not diminish.

The donor’s intention had conferred this power on the food