Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “punyakriyavastu consisting of meditation” 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. Puṇyakriyāvastu consisting of meditation

Although the sūtra says that the meditation of loving-kindness (maitrābhāvanā) is the meritorious action consisting of meditation (bhāvānāmayī puṇyakriyā), it also says that any impure meditation (sāsravabhāvanā) able to produce a fruit of retribution usually is called meritorious action consisting of [305b] meditation.[1]

Since the desire realm (kāmaloka) abounds in hatred (dveṣa) and distraction (vikṣepa), first of all we speak of the mind of loving-kindness (maitrācitta) as the sphere of meritorious action consisting of meditation (bhāvanāmayī puṇyakriyā). Metaphorically (upacāratas), loving-kindness is a wish (praṇidhāna) for the happiness of beings (sattvasukha); then it sees them really enjoying this happiness.[2]

It is a dharma associated with the mind (cittasaṃprayukta) that is called loving-kindness (maitrādharma). This dharma belongs to the realm of subtle form (rūpadhātvavacara), or it belongs to no realm (anavacara): this, then, is the true maitrī, the metaphorical (aupacārika) maitrī itself belongs to the desire realm (kāmadhātvavacara).

Maitrī always accompanies the mind (cittānuparivartin) and arises following the mind (cittasyānuja). It is without shape (asaṃsthāna) and without resistance (apratigha). It grasps objects (dharmān ālambanīkaroti). It is not an action (karman) but, associated with action (karmasaṃprayukta), it accompanies action (karmānucārin) and arises with it (karmasahaja). It is not the fruit of retribution of an earlier action (pūrvakarmavipākaphala). It is developed by acquisition (pratilambhabhāvita) and developed by practice (niṣevaṇabhāvita). It is to be realized physically (kāyena sākṣīkartavya) and to be realized by wisdom (prajñāyā sākṣīkartavya). Sometimes in it thinking (manasikāra) is cut, sometimes not: when one has transcended the desires (rāga) of the realm of form (rūpadhātu), it is cut.

Maitrī may be with initial inquiry and with investigation (savitarkasavicāra), without initial inquiry but with investigation (avitarkasavicāra), without initial inquiry and without investigation (avitarkāvicāra).[3] Sometimes it involves joy (prīti), sometimes not;[4] sometimes it involves the breath (āśvāsa-praśvasa) and sometimes not.[5] It occurs in worldly people (pṛthagjana) and in the saints (ārya). Sometimes it is associated with a pleasant feeling (sukhavedanā-saṃprayukta) and sometimes with a neither pleasant nor unpleasant feeling (aduḥkhāsukhavedanā-saṃprayukta). It has as its object (ālambate) first an arbitrary characteristic (adhimuktilakṣaṇa), then, as object, a reality (tattvārtha).[6]

Practiced in the four root dhyānas (mauladhyāna) and beyond, maitrī rests on the four dhyānas (caturdhyānāśrita). Those who attain it are stable and strong.

Maitrī may be called ‘fondness’ (anunaya): free of malice (vyāpāda) and dispute (raṇa), it is called ‘fondness’. Because it bears upon (ālambate) beings infinite in number (apramāṇasattva), it is called an ‘immeasurable’ (apramāṇa). Because it encourages beings and frees them of desire (kāma),[7] it is called ‘continence’ (brahmacarya).

For other explanations of the mind of loving-kindness (maitrācitta), see what has been said above (p. 1246–1255F) in regard to the four apramāṇas.

Question. – In regard to the meritorious action consisting of meditation (bhāvanāmaya-puṇyakriyā), why does the Buddha mention only the mind of loving-kindness and nothing about the other [three] immeasurables, i.e., compassion, joy and equanimity?

Answer. – The mind of loving-kindness produces greater merit than all the other immeasurables.[8] The mind of compassion (karuṇācitta), being discontent (arati), loses merit. The mind of joy (muditācitta) thinks of its own merit and consequently its merit is not deep (gambhīra). The mind of equanimity (upekṣacitta) is a rejection (utsarga) and consequently its merit also is slight.

Moreover, the Buddha said that the mind of loving-kindness has five advantages (anuśaṃsa), but said nothing about the three other immeasurables. What are these five advantages? – i) The knife (śastra) does not wound the benevolent man; ii) poison (viṣa) does not harm him; iii) fire (agni) does not burn him; iv) water (udaka) does not engulf him; v) in angry and wicked beings he sees only happy dispositions (sumanas).[9] This is not the case with the other three immeasurables.

This is why [the Buddha] said that meritorious action consisting of meditation (bhāvanāmayapuṇyakriyā) is maitrī. The other immeasurables follow; these are the impure meditations (sāsravabhāvanā) producing a fruit of retribution (vipākaphala).

Footnotes and references:


The Itivuttaka, p. 19, says that all material meritorious actions (opadhikāni puññakiriyavatthūni) are worth only a sixteenth that of loving-kindness (mettā), of deliverance of mind (cetovimutti). As we have seen above (p. 1246–1255), loving-kindness is the first of the four immeasurables (apramāṇa), also called brahmavihāras, and the meditation that takes them as object is the most fruitful of all. Any meditation whatsoever, even if still impure, i.e., blemished by error and passions, when it is cultivated or multiplied, gives its fruit of retribution and leads to happiness in the present life, to the conquest of knowledge and vision, to mindfulness and attentiveness. Dīgha, III, p. 222, l. 17–24 and Anguttara, II, p. 44, are categorical on this point: Samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulikatā diṭṭhadhammasukhavihārāya …ñāṇadassanapaṭilābhāya … satisampajaññāya … āsavānaṃ khayāy samvattati.


See p. 1254–1255F.


Vitarka and vicāra are eliminated in the second dhyāna (p. 1030F).


Prīti and sukha, present in the second dhyāna, are eliminated in the third dhyāna (p. 1030F).


In the ascetic who has attained the fourth dhyāna, the inbreath and outbreath are eliminated: Dīgha, III, p. 266; Saṃyutta, IV, p. 217; Anguttara, IV, p. 409 (Catutthajjhānam samāpannassa assāsapassāsā niruddhā honti).


The apramānas of which maitrī is part are an arbitrary judgment (adhimuktimanasikāra); only objective judgment (tattvamanasikāra) cuts the passions: cf. Kośa, VIII, p. 200–201.


Strictly speaking, maitrī does not destroy desire, but it avoids it: see p. 1242F, n. 1.


The mind of loving-kindness has the advantage over the other three apramāṇas of producing a brahmic merit (brāhmapuṇya); the ascetic who attains it is happy for a kalpa in the Brahmā heavens: see Kośa, IV, p. 2450–251,


In the words of the sūtras, the concentration of loving-kindness brings five, eight, eleven advantages (anuśaṃsa): cf. p. 792F, 1266F, n. 1, and below, p. 2362F.