Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “preliminary note (1)” 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.

The five ‘eyes’ find their use in visualization of the present, past and future Buddhas. The visualization is not an appearance but rather a representation by means of which the ascetic makes these Buddhas visible.

While Śākyamuni was alive, many were the contemporaries who ‘came to see the Blessed One’ (bhagavataṃ darśanāyopasaṃkrāntāḥ) and to contemplate his physical marks. The Teacher allowed himself to be examined by the experts and the hermit Asita (Traité, p. 1344F, 1915F), by the indiscreet curiosity of Satyaka Nirgranthīputra (Traité, p. 1665F) and by the brāhmaṇas Ambaṭṭha, Brahmāyu and Sela (Traité, p. 275F, 1667F). After the death of the Blessed One, Ānanda – and he was blamed for this – had no hesitation in uncovering the Buddha’s body and showing it to the women of Kuśinagara who soiled it with their tears (Traité, p. 96F).

The appearance of a Buddha is rare, as rare as the flowering of the banana tree: fortunate are those that see the Blessed One ‘adorned with the thirty-two marks of the great man, on whose limbs shine the eighty-four secondary marks, with a halo an arm’s-span in width, splendid as a thousand suns, like a mountain of jewels moving in all captivating ways’. This stock phrase is repeated thirty-two times in the Avadānaśataka.

There is nothing supernatural in these encounters: it is with their human eyes that the Indians of Jambudvīpa, during the lifetime of the Omniscient One, contemplated him who opened the gates to the deathless for them. After his entry into parinirvāṇa, “gods and men did not see him any longer” (Dīgha, I, p. 46). – “Just as the flame blown out by the wind is calmed down, goes beyond being seen, so the Sage, shedding the psychophysical aggregates of existence, enters into peacefulness, being beyond being seen” (Suttanipāta, v. 1074).

And so, if the Teacher allowed himself to be looked at while he was in this world, it was out of loving-kindness and compassion for beings to whom the sight would be useful. The contemplation of the Buddha’s body never constituted a ritual, and when Buddhists practice the commemoration of the Buddha (buddhānusmṛti), they think about his spiritual qualities, the five anāsravaskandha, rather than his physical attributes. The Traité has explained this subject above (p. 1349F).

The Dharma is the single refuge which Śākyamuni left for his disciples, and he passed on the depth of his mind when, tired of the regular attendance of his disciple Vakkali, he sent him away, saying: “It is enough, Vakkali, for you to see my body of decay; he who sees the Dharma sees me and he who sees me sees the Dharma” (cf. Traité, p. 1546F, n.). The true body of the Buddha is a teaching body.