Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “fulfilling the perfections skillfully” 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 9 - Fulfilling the perfections skillfully

Sūtra (cf. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 25, l. 18–27, l. 2: Śatasāhasrikā, p. 91, l. 21–93, l. 1). – Moreover, Śāriputra, when the bodhisattva-mahāsattva gives while practicing the perfection of wisdom, he fulfills completely the perfection of generosity, the perfection of morality, the perfection of patience, the perfection of exertion, the perfection of meditation and the perfection of wisdom. – Śāriputra said to the Buddha: By what skillful means, O Lord, does the bodhisattva-mahāsattva who is making a gift fulfill completely the perfection of generosity, etc., up to the perfection of wisdom? – The Lord replied to Śāriputra: By not grasping the giver, the receiver or the thing given, the bodhisattva-mahāsattva completely fulfills the perfection of generosity. By not committing either wrong deeds or good actions, the bodhisattva fulfills completely the perfection of morality. By not disturbing his mind, the bodhisattva fulfills completely the perfection of patience. By not relaxing his physical and mental energy, the bodhisattva fulfills completely the perfection of exertion. By having neither distraction nor the act of attention, the bodhisattva fulfills completely the perfection of meditation. By understanding all dharmas by means of the method that grasps none of them, the bodhisattva fulfills completely the perfection of wisdom (Punar aparaṃ Śāriputra, bodhisattvo mahāsattvaḥ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caran, dānaṃ dadan, upāyakauśalena dānapāramitāṃ śīlapāramitāṃ kṣāntipāramitāṃ viryapāramitāṃ dhyānapāramitāṃ prajñāpāramitāṃ paripūrayati. – Athāyuṣmān Śāriputro bhagantam etad avocat: Kenopāyakauśalena bhagavan bodhisattvo mahāsattvo dānaṃ dadan dānapāramitāṃ yāvat prajñāpāramitāṃ paripūrayati. – Bhagavān āha: Anupalambhena dāyakasya grāhakasya deyasya ca dānapāramitā paripūritā bhavati; āpattiyanāpattyanadhyāpattitaḥ śīlapāramitā paripūritā bhavati; cittasyākṣobhaṇataḥ kṣāntipāramitā paripūritā bhavati; kāyikacaitasikavīryāsaṃsanato vīryapāramitā paripūritā bhavati; avikṣepāsaṃkalpanato dhyānapāramitā bhavati; sarvadharmaprajānanānupalambha-yogena prajñāpāramitā paripūritā bhavati).

Śāstra. –

The meaning of this paripūri ‘the act of completetly fulfilling’ has been fully explained above.[1] Now we will speak about upāyakauśala (or upāyakauśalya), skillful means.[2] [In regard to the perfection of generosity], this skillful means is not to grasp (anupalambha) three things: [the donor (dāyaka), the thing given (deya) and the recipient (pratigrāhaka)].

Question. – But in order to realize this non-grasping (anupalambha), skillful means has nothing to eliminate or nothing to do. Suppressing the three things, as here, [i.e., giver, thing given and receiver] is to fall necessarily into the view of nihilism (uccheda).[3]

Answer. – There are two kinds of non-grasping (anupalambha): i) not grasping that which exists (upalabdhasyānupalambha); ii) not grasping that which does not exist (anupalabhasyānupa-lambha).

Not grasping that which does exist is to fall into the view of nihilism (uccheda). Not grasping that which does not exist is to put skillful means (upāyakauśala) to work and not falling into the view of nihilism. Without skillful means, the donor, [in his gift], clings (udgṛhnāti) to these three characteristics (nimitta), [i.e., the giver, the gift and the receiver]. But if he has recourse in the emptiness (śūnyatā) of these three things, he grasps the absence of characteristics (ānimitta). He who possesses skillful means from the very beginning (mūlata eva) does not see the three characteristics of generosity. This is why using skillful means (upāyakauśala) is not to fall [into the extreme views] of existence and non-existence (bhavavibhavadṛṣṭi).

Moreover, eliminating the afflictive emotions (kleśasaṃvartana) on the occasion of a gift is called skillful means.

Moreover, giving while producing a mind of great compassion toward all beings (mahākaruṇācitta) is called skillful means.

The fact of applying (pariṇāmanā) the meritorious gifts practiced during numberless past (atīta) and future (anāgata) lifetimes to supreme and perfect enlightenment (anuttarā saṃyaksaṃbodhi) is also called skillful means.

[302b] Finally, the fact of commemorating (anusmaraṇa) the merits (puṇya) acquired by the Buddhas and their disciples (śrāvaka) in the ten directions (daśadiś) and the three times (tryadhvan), the fact of being pleased with their gifts and applying them (pariṇāmanā) to supreme and complete enlightenment is also called skillful means.[4]

These are the many potentialities constituting skillful means [in regard to the perfection of generosity]. [Mutatis mutandis, it is the same for skillful means in regard to the other five pāramitās] including prajñāpāramitā.

Footnotes and references:


The paripūri of the six pāramitās is the object of chapters XVII to XXX.


Here Kumārajīva translates upāyakauśalya (in Tibetan, thabs la mkhas pa) as houei fang pien, whereas the most frequently used translation is chan k’iao fang pien.


An extreme view condemned by the Buddha: see above, p. 2007–2008F, and Kośa, V, p. 40.


See chapter XLIV.