Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “acquiring a great entourage” 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. Acquiring a great entourage

The bodhisattva wishes to acquire a great entourage (mahāparivāra). Holy individuals (āryapudgala) such as Cho-li-fou (Śāriputra), Mou-k’ien-lien (Maudgalyāyana), Mo-ho-kia-chö (Mahākāśyapa), Siu-p’ou-t’i (Subhūti), Kia-tchan-yen (Kātyāyana), Fou-leou-na (Pūrṇa),[1] A-ni-lou-teou (Aniruddha), etc., and also the non-regressing bodhisattvas (avaivartika), separated from buddhahood by only one lifetime (ekajātipratibaddha), such as Mi-lo (Maitreya), Wen-chou-che-li (Mañjuśrī), P’o-t’o-p’o-lo (Bhadrapāla), are called the great entourage (mahāparivāra) of Śākyamuni.[2]

Furthermore, the Buddha has two kinds of bodies: i) a body born of the fundamental element (dharmadhātujakāya); ii) a body in accord with the world (lokānuvartakakāya).[3] The worldly body (laukikakāya) had the already-mentioned entourage. As for the body born of the fundamental element, it had as assistants (upasthāyakāya) innumerable (aprameya) and incalculable (asaṃkhyeya) bodhisattvas separated from buddhahood by only one single existence (ekajātipratibaddha). Why?

[Gaṇḍavyūhasūtra]. – It is said in the Pou-k’o-sseu-yi-kiai-t’o king (Acintyavimokṣasūtra)[4] that when he was born, the Buddha was the head of 84,000 bodhisattvas separated from buddhahood by only one existence (ekajātipratibaddha) and that these bodhisattvas were born in his entourage like dark clouds encircling the moon.

[Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra]. (see notes) – It is said in the Fa-houa king (Puṇḍarīkasūtra) that the bodhisattvas who arose from the earth each had a close entourage (abhyantaraparivāra), a great entourage (mahāparivāra).

Notes on the Bodhisattvas of the Sahā universe:

Saddharmapuṇḍarīka, beginning of chapter XIV, Bodhisattvapṛthivīvivarasamudgama, p. 297–298, of which, the translation by Burnouf follows: [This passage does not appear in the Gilgit manuscripts, ed. S. Watanabe, chap. XIV, Bodhisattvapṛthivīsamudgamana, the first pages of which have not been found]. –

Atha khalv anyalokadhātvāgatānāṃ bodhisattvānāṃ mahāsattvānām aṣṭau Gaṅgānadivālukāsamā bodhisattvā mahāsattvās tasmin samaya tataḥ parṣanmaṇḍalād … ya itaḥ Sahāyā lokadhātor dharaṇīvivvarebhyaḥ samunmajjante sma |

Transl. –

Then bodhisattva-mahāsattvas, as numerous as the sands of eight Ganges, making up a part of those bodhisattvas who had come from other universes, arose in that moment in the midst of the assembly. Joining their palms together in respect, facing the Bhagavat and having worshipped him, they addressed him thus: If the Bhagavat will allow us, we too would explain this teaching of the Dharma in the Sahā universe when the Tathāgata has entered complete nirvāṇa. May we be able to teach it, worship it, write it! May we be able to dedicate our efforts to this teaching of the Dharma! May the Bhagavat grant us also this teaching of the Dharma! Then the Bhagavat said to these bodhisattvas: What is the use, O sons of good family, of making you responsible for this duty? In this Sahā universe, I have millions of bodhisattvas, in number equal to the sands of sixty Ganges, who serve as the retinue of one single bodhisattva. Now there are millions of bodhisattvas of this latter kind, in number equal to that of the sands of sixty Ganges, who, when I have entered full nirvāṇa at the end of time, in the last period, will have this explanation of the Dharma, who will preach it, who will explain it.

Hardly had the Bhagavat pronounced these words than the Sahā universe split open on all sides, was covered with cracks, and in the middle of these cracks there appeared hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭi of bodhisattvas whose bodies were golden in color, endowed with the thirty-two signs marking the Great Man, who, having been under this great earth in the space situated below, came into the Sahā universe; indeed, as soon as they had heard the words pronounced by the Bhagavat, they issued from the bosom of the earth. Each of these bodhisattvas had a retinue of millions of bodhisattvas, in number equal to that of the sands of sixty Ganges, forming behind them a troop, a huge troop of which he was the preceptor. These bodhisattva-mahāsattvas, followed thus by these troops, these huge troops, troops of which they were the preceptors and which were seen in hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭi in number equal to that of the sands of sixty Ganges, had come together from the cracks in the earth to appear in this Sahā universe.

Footnotes and references:




This is indeed a mixed (miśra) entourage consisting of śrāvakas and bodhisattvas.

In bygone days long past, Bhadrapāla at the head of five hundred monks had insulted the bodhisattva Sadāparibhūta who was none other than Śākyamuni in one of his earlier rebirths. As a result of this offense, he had to undergo incalculable periods of terrible punishments. He was converted by hearing the Lotus sūtra and became an irreversible bodhisattva (cf. Saddharmapuṇḍ, chap. XIX, p. 375–384). He appears at the head of the twenty-two major bodhisattvas who were present at the preaching of the Prajñāpāramitā; he was then an old man of the Vaiśya caste and lived in Rājagṛha (see above, p. 428–429F). He plays a principal part in the Pratyutpannasamādhisūtra, also entitled Bhadrapālasūtra. As the Traité has related above (p. 425–426F), it was he who explained the subjectivity and emptiness of dharmas to the three brothers who, in dreams, had had sexual relations with the courtesans Āmrapāli, Sumanā and Utpalavarṇā (cf. T 416, k. 1, p. 876a; T 417, p. 899a; T 418, k. 1, p. 905a–b; T 419, p. 922a–b, as well as the comments of P. Demiéville, La Yogācārabhūmi de Saṃgharakṣa, BEFEO, XLIV (1954), p. 355 and 431).


A body already noted, p. 1780–1781F, 1805F, 1818F, 1908F


The Traité refers to the Gaṇḍavyūha sometimes under the title Pou-k’o-sseu-yi king = Acintyasūtra (Chinese transl, p. 94b, 317a, 419a), sometimes under that of Pou-k’o-sseu-yi kiai-t’o king = Acintyavimokṣasūtra (transl. p. 303b, 308b, 576c, 754b, 756b).

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