Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “purifying great offerings” 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.

V. Purifying great offerings

The bodhisattva wishes ‘to purify great offerings (dakṣiṇā)’. (see notes)

Some say: The bodhisattva collects much merit (puṇya) but does not eliminate his afflictive emotions (kleśa); [that is why], by accepting the pious offerings (dakṣiṇā) of people, he does not purify them (na pariśodhayati). – But the Buddha has said that for the bodhisattva who is practicing the perfection of wisdom, all dharmas are empty (śūnya) and non-existent (anupalbdha) and all the more so the fetters (saṃyojana). Once having entered into the fundamental element (dharmadhātu), the bodhisattva does not realize the limit of the truth (bhūtakoṭiṃ na sākṣātkaroti): this is why he is able to purify the gifts [made to him].

Furthermore, the bodhisattva has very great (vipula) merits: from the first production of the mind of bodhi (prathamacittotpāda) he wants to take the place of each being in particular to undergo all the sufferings [in that being’s place]. He wants to give all his merits to all beings and only after that to find the bodhi of the Buddhas (abhisaṃbodhi) for himself. But not being able to realize such a task alone, he will end up becoming Buddha and saving all beings.

Furthermore, the altruistic wishes (praṇidhāna) of the bodhisattva are beyond calculation (asaṃkhyeya). As the world of beings (loka), the tathatā, the dharmadhātu, the bhūtakoṭi, the ākāśa, etc., last for a long time (cirasthitika), so the intention of the bodhisattva to remain in the world for the benefit of beings (sattvānāṃ hitāya) is of long duration as well and knows no limits (paryanta):[1] If such a man cannot purify the merits of the offerings [made to him], who then can? A father and a mother, however heavy their fetters (saṃyojana), dedicate their entire lives so that their son may be very fortunate; how then could the bodhisattva, who has no fetters and who for an infinite number of lifetimes dedicates himself (anantajanmasu) to the welfare of beings, be unable to purify the offerings?

Finally, if a bodhisattva endowed only with compassion (karuṇācitta) but without wisdom (prajñā) is already so beneficial, what can be said of the bodhisattva cultivating the perfection of wisdom?

Question. – But how can the bodhisattva who has no more fetters still take on rebirths in the world?

Answer. – I have already answered that above (p. 1826F). The bodhisattva who has obtained the acquiescence that dharmas do not arise (anutpattikadharmakṣānti), who has obtained a body born of the fundamental element (dharmadhātujakāya), who manifests by metamorphosis in different places is able to save beings (sattvatāraṇāya) and adorn the universes (lokadhātupariśodhanāya). As a result of these merits (puṇya), even before becoming Buddha, he can purify the offerings (dakṣiṇā).

Notes regarding the purification of offerings:

Kumārajīva translates pariśodhayitum by the characters tsing-pao ‘purifying-rewarding’. The bodhisattva purifies the offerings made to him by accepting them and consuming them: thus he increases the merit (puṇya) of the donor. The merit of the gift is of two kinds: i) the merit produced by abandonment (tyāgānvaya), merit resulting from the mere fact of abandoning; ii) the merit produced by enjoyment (paribhogānvaya), merit resulting from the enjoyment by the person who receives, of the object given (cf. Kośabhāṣyā, p. 272, l. 5–6: Dvividhaṃ hi puṇyaṃ tyāgānvayaṃ tyāgād eva yad upapadyate, paribhogānvayaṃ ca deyadharmaparibhogād yad utpadyate).

For reasons explained in the Pāli Vinaya, II, p. 125, and Anguttara, IV, p. 344–345, the saṅgha may avoid or refuse the offerings of a layperson and ‘turn the begging-bowl upside down’ (pattaṃ nikkujjati). Such a refusal, although it does not entirely destroy the merit of the gift, does not ‘purify’ it: a gift made remains made (kṛta), but if the beneficiary does not accept it and does not consume it, it is not ‘accumulated’ (upacita). Accepting a gift is to ‘purify’ it (pariśodhana) and increase the merit of the donor.

The bodhisattva wants to accept the great offerings (dakṣiṇā) made to him not out of personal interest but to increase the merit of his benefactors.

Footnotes and references:


Thus, when Mañjuśrī was king Ākāśa, in the presence of the Tathāgata Meghasvara, he applied his mind to perfect enlightenment and formulated the following vow:

Nāhaṃ tvaritarūpeṇa bodhiṃ prāptum ihotsahe |
parāntakoṭiṃ sthāsyāmi satvasyaikasya kāraṇāt ||

“I am in no haste to attain enlightenment and I will remain here until the end while there remains a single being to be saved” (Ratnakūṭa, T 310, k. 59, p. 346a9–10, cited in Śikṣāsamuccaya, p. 14, l. 7–8; compare Bodhicaryāvatāra, III, v. 21.