Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “understanding tathata, dharmata and anutpadakoti” 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 2 - Understanding tathatā, dharmatā and anutpādakoṭi

Sūtra (cf. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 29, l. 6–8; Śatasāharikā, p. 94, l. 13–19). – The bodhisattva-mahāsattva must practice the perfection of wisdom if he wishes to understand all dharmas, past, present and future, their dharma-nature and their intrinsic non-arising (Bodhisattvena mahāsattvena sarvadharmāṇāṃ atītānagatapratyutpannānāṃ tathatāṃ dharmāṇām anutpādakoṭim anuboddhukāmena prajñāpāramitāyāṃ śikṣitavyam).

Śāstra. –

Question. – Above, tathatā, the ‘manner of existence’, has already been spoken of; why talk about it again here?

Answer. – Above, we talked simply of the tathatā of all dharmas; here we are speaking about the tathatā of the three times (tryadhvan). – Above, we spoke briefly (saṃkṣepeṇa); here we will speak at length (vistareṇa). – Above, we spoke of just [the tathatā];[1] here we are speaking of three things [tathatā, dharmatā and anutpādakoṭi].

The dharmatā ‘dharma-nature’ is the dharmadhātu ‘fundamental [303a] element’; the anutpādakoṭi ‘intrinsic non-arising’ is the bhūtakoṭi ‘limit of truth’.

The tathatā of past (atīta) dharmas is the dharmatā of past dharmas, and it is the same for future (anāgata) and present (pratyutpanna) dharmas.

Furthermore, the tathatā of past dharmas is the tathatā of future and present dharmas; the tathatā of present dharmas is the tathatā of past and present dharmas. Why? Because the nature of tathatā is beyond identity (ekatva) and diversity (nānātva).

Furthermore, as I have said above (p. 2196F), there are two kinds of tathatā: the worldly (laukikī) tathatā and the supraworldly (lokottara) tathatā. In terms of the worldly tathatā, the three times are each different; in terms of the supraworldly tathatā, the three times are the same.

As for the dharmatā, there are action-dharmas (karman) and result-dharmas (kṛta), causes-conditions (hetupratyaya) and fruits of retribution (vipākaphala), in the same way that fire (tejas) has heat (uṣṇatva) as its nature and water (ap-) has moistness (dravatva) as its nature. The causes-conditions and the fruits of retribution of these dharmas are distinguished. Each has its specific nature (svalakṣaṇa) as has been said (p. 1524–1527F) in regard to the power [of knowledge] concerning the possible and the impossible (sthānāsthānajñānabala): that is the worldly (laukikī) dharmatā. – But if one examines and considers the nature of things, one enters into the system of non-arising (anutpāda) and one does not depart from it: this is called anutpādakoṭi ‘intrinsic non-arising’.

Objection [of the Sarvāstivādin]. – But in this dharmatā it is possible to discern the existence of the three times. The anutpādakoṭi is future (anāgata) dharmas. How is there still the past (atīta) and the present (pratyutpanna)? The Abhidharma gives the answer: “Dharmas having-arising (utpattika) are the past and the present; dharmas without-arising (anutpattika) are the future and unconditioned (asaṃskṛta) dharmas.” That being so, why would you want the past and the present to be without-arising?

Answer. – In many ways previously I have refuted the existence of dharma-having-birth: all dharmas are unborn (anutpannāḥ sarvadharmāḥ). Why would the future be the only one to be without-birth? Above (p. 76–79F), in interpreting the phrase “at one time”, I refuted the existence of the three times (tryadvan). The three times have only one characteristic, namely, the absence of nature (ekalakṣaṇaṃ yadutālakṣaṇam); that is their nature of non-arising (anutpādalakṣaṇa).

Moreover, the anutpāda is called nirvāṇa because nirvāṇa does not arise and does not cease. From beginning to end, nirvāṇa is absolutely without rebirth (apaunarbhavika) and all dharmas are nirvāṇa.

This is why the Buddha speaks here of their anutpādakoṭi, ‘their intrinsic non-arising’.

Footnotes and references:


Above, it was a matter of the tathatā, the dharmadhātu and the bhūtakoṭi, but it was to identify all three with nirvāna.