Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “attaining the qualities of all the buddhas” 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 10 - Attaining the qualities of all the Buddhas

Sūtra (cf. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 29, l. 4–5; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 93, l. 1–3). – Furthermore, Śāriputra, the bodhisattva-mahāsattva who wishes to attain the qualities of the blessed Buddhas, past, future and present, must practice the perfection of wisdom (Punar aparaṃ Śāriputra bodhisattvena mahāsattvenātītānāgatapratyutpannānāṃ buddhānāṃ bhagavatāṃ guṇām anuprāptukāmena prajñāpāramitāyāṃ śikṣitavyam).

Śāstra. –

Question. – The qualities of the past Buddhas have already disappeared; the qualities of the future Buddhas do not yet exist, and the qualities of the present Buddhas are not perceptible (nopalabhyante): therefore the qualities of the Buddhas of the three times (tryadhvan) do not exist. Then why does the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra speak here of the bodhisattva who, wishing to acquire the qualities of the Buddhas of the three times, should practice the perfection of wisdom?

Answer. – The sūtra does not speak of the bodhisattva wanting to acquire the qualities of all the Buddhas of the three times, but of the bodhisattva wanting to acquire for himself qualities that are not fewer than those of one Buddha of the three times. How is that? In all the Buddhas, the qualities are [numerically] equal, neither more nor less numerous.[1]

Question. – If that is true, how can one say in regard to the buddha Amita that his lifespan (āyuspramāṇa) is limitless (aparimita), that his brilliance (prabhā) covers thousands of myriads of koṭis of yojanas[2] and that he has saved beings of innumerable kalpas?

Answer. – The buddhafields (buddhakṣetra) are diverse (nānāvidha): there are those that are pure (pariśuddha), those that are impure (apariśuddha) and those that are mixed (miśra).[3]

[Trayastriṃśeṣu deveṣu buddhārohaṇaparivarta].[4] – Thus it is said in the San-che-san-t’ien-p’in sūtra (Trāyastriṃśadevaparivarta): At that time, the Buddha had gone to spend the rainy season among the Trāyastriṃśa gods (tatra khalu varṣāvāsaṃ bhagavān upagatas trāyastriṃśeṣu deveṣu), and when the time of dismissal [pravāraṇa] had come (atha tadaiva pravāraṇāyāṃ pratyurpasthitāyām),[5] the four assemblies (catasraḥ parṣadaḥ) remaining on earth and not having seen the Buddha for a long time, were distressed and sad. They sent Mou-lien (Maudgalyāyana) [to the Buddha] and Maudgalyāyana said to the Buddha: Lord, why do you neglect all these people and stay with the gods?

Then the Buddha said to Maudgalyāyana: Look at this universe with its three thousand continents (trisāhasra lokadhātu). By the power of the Buddha, Maudgalyāyana looked at the universe in question and he saw there some Buddhas who were preaching the Dharma to the great assembly, other Buddhas seated in meditation, yet others begging their food; in these many ways they were accomplishing their Buddha-work (buddhakārya).

Then Maudgalyāyana prostrated with a fivefold bow (pañcāṅgapraṇāma);[6] Sumeru, king of the mountains, shook with great trembling and all the gods were seized by great fear.

Maudgalayāyana burst into tears and bowing his head, said to the Buddha: In their great compassion (mahākaruṇā) the Buddhas do not abandon anyone: by working with these many transformations (nirmāṇa), they save beings.

The Buddha said to Maudgalyāyana: What you see is nothing at all. Beyond what you see, in the east (pūrvasyāṃ diśi) there is a universe the ground of which is made only of gold (suvarṇamaya): the disciples of the Buddha who lives there are all arhats and their six superknowledges (abhijñā) are without obstacle. – Beyond that region of the east, there is a universe the ground of which is made only of silver (rūpyamaya): the disciples of the Buddha there all practice (śikṣante) the bodhi of the pratyekabuddhas. – Beyond this region of the east there is a universe the ground of which is made only of the seven jewels [302c] (saptaratna); on that ground there is always an immense brilliance (apramāṇaprabhā): the disciples created there by the Buddha are all bodhisattvas who have all attained the gates of dhāraṇī and samādhi and abide in the non-regressing stage (avaivartukabhūmi). You should know, O Maudgalyāyana, that all those Buddhas are myself. Thus, among all these numberless universes (lokadhātu) in the eastern direction, equal in number to the sands of the Ganges (gaṅgānadīvālukopama), there are some that are beautiful (śubha) and some that are ugly (aśubha): in all of them, it is I myself who carry out the work of Buddha. And it is the same in the universe of the south (dakṣiṇasyāṃ diṣi), of the west (paścimāyāṃ diśi), and the north (uttarasyām diśi), in the four intermediate directions (catasrṣu vikiṣu), in the direction of the zenith (upariṣṭād diśi) and in the direction of the nadir (adhastād diśi).

- This is why it should be known that the Buddha Śākyamuni has pure universes (pariśuddhalokdhātu) also, like [the Sukhāvati] of Amita, and that the buddha Amita, as well as his pure universes, has also impure universes (apariśuddha), like [the Sahāloka] of Buddha Śākyamuni.

The great compassion (mahākaruṇā) of the Buddhas ‘penetrates as far as the marrow of their bones’ (asthimajjām āhatya tiṣṭhati):[7] Indifferent to the beauty or the ugliness of the universes, they conform (anuvartante) [to the needs] of the beings to be saved and train them (vinayanti), like a tender loving mother trains her son: should he fall into a pit of excrement, she rushes to pull him out without any regard for the annoyance.

Raising with a single hair (ekena vālena) the hundred koṭis of Sumerus in the Trisāhasramahāsmahasralokadhātu already is difficult.

Footnotes and references:


The qualities or attributes of the Buddhas have been the subject of chapters XXXIX to XLII: they are the same in all the Buddhas, but the latter differ in certain points. The Kośabhāṣyā, p. 415, l. 14–17, comments: Tribiḥ kāraṇaiḥ sāmyaṃ sarvabuddhānānām | sarvapuṇyajñānasaṃbhāra-samudāgamataḥ dharmakāyapariniṣpattitaḥ arthacaryayā ca lokasya | āyurjātigotrapramāṇakṛtas tu bheda bhavati | – All the Buddhas are alike in three aspects: in that they have accumulated the entire accumulation of merit and wisdom; in that they realize the same dharmakāya; in that they give the same service to beings. But they differ in their lifespan, in caste, in clan and in the size of their body.


Small Sukhāvatīvyūha, ed. U. Wogihara, 1931, p. 200. §8–9 (T 366, p. 347a25–29): Tat kiṃ manyase śāriputra kena kāraṇena sa tathāgato ‘mitāyur nāmocyate | tasya khalu punaḥ śāriputra tathāgatasya teṣāṃ ca manuṣyāṇām aparimitam āyuḥpramāṇam | tena kāraṇena sa tathāgato ‘mitāyur nāmocyate | tasya ca śāriputra tathāgatasya daśa kalpā anuttarāṃ samyaksaṃbodhim abhisaṃbuddhasya || tat kiṃ manyase śāriputra kena kāraṇena sa tathāgato ‘mitābho nāmocyate | tasye khalu punaḥ śāriputra tathāgatasyābhāpratithatā sarvabuddhakṣetreṣu |


See below (k. 93, p. 711c18) and Yogācārabhūmi, T 1579, k. 79, p. 736c21.


T 815, k. 3, p. 795b20–c27; T 816, k. 3, p. 811b22–812a2. – A Mahāyānasūtra relating the ascent of the Buddha to the Trāyastriṃśa heaven to preach the Dharma there to his mother; this is an episode of the Miracle of Sāṃkāsya which has been mentioned above (p. 634–635F, 1765–1767F, n.).

This sūtra is known by two Chinese translations:

1) Fo cheng t’ao li t’ien wei mou chouo fa king (T815), also called Fo cheng t’ao li t’ien p’in king, the title used here by the Traité. This translation was made by Dharmarakṣa at Tch’ang-ngan during the first year of the T’ai-che pperiod (265–266). Cf. Li, T 2034, k. 6, p. 62c16–17; K’ai, T 2154, k. 2, p. 494a19–20.

2) Tao chen tsou wou ki pien houa king (T816), also called Tao chen tsou king. This translation was made by the Parthian śramaṇa Ngan Fa-kin who worked at Lo-yang from 281 to 306.


Cf. Divyāvadana, p. 91, l. 12–13.


A bow made with arms, knees, head, chest (vakṣas) and gaze: see Monier-Willimas, p. 578a.


A time-honored expression: a violent passion like the love of parents for their son (putrapreman), cuts in turn the skin (chavi), the hide (carman), the flesh (māṃsa), the muscles (snāyu), the bone (asthi) and ‘having cut the bone, penetrates into the marrow and stays there’. In Pāli, aṭṭhiṃ chetvā aṭuthimiñjaṃ āhacca tiṭṭhati: cf. Vin. I, p. 83, l. 4; Saṃyutta, II, p. 238, l. 16; Anguttara, IV, p. 129, l. 15.

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