Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “preliminary note (3)” 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 Pañcaviṃśati, the two oldest Chinese versions of which (T 221 and T 222) are dated respectively at 291 and 286 AD, present two ‘explanations’ – if this word is appropriate here – of the vision of the Buddhas, the one by using, purely theoretically, the divyacakṣus, the other, in dreams (svapna).

1. “The bodhisattva who wishes to see, by the divyacakṣus, all the Buddhas of the present, should practice the Prajñāpāramitā”. This seeing assumes a subject (the bodhisattva), an instrument (the divyacakṣus), an object (the Buddhas of the present), but is valid only if it is realized in the view of the Prajñāpāramitā according to which the bodhisattva, the divyacakṣus, the Buddhas and the Prajñāpāramitā itself are not perceived (nopalabhyate), that is to say, are not existent.

a. What we call Prajñāpāramitā, what we call bodhisattva, are only words (nāmamātra), and this word exists neither inwardly nor outwardly nor in between (nādhyātmaṃ na bahirdhā nobhayam antareṇopalabhyate); this word is only a designation, a thing by designation, existing out of designation (prajñaptimātraṃ prajñaptidharmaḥ prajñaptisat): cf. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 99 (or T 223, p. 230c): Śatasāhasrikā, p. 325.

b. The bodhisattva who practices the Prajñāpāramitā does not accept (nabhinivekṣyate) any of the five ‘eyes’ including the divyacakṣus: cf. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 106 (or T 223, p. 231b24); Śatasāhasrikā, p. 380.

c. The bodhisattva who practices the Prajñāpāramitā does not see (na samanupaśyati) either the Prajñāpāramitā or the bodhisattva or the Buddha or the words that express them: cf. Śatasāhasrikā, p. 378, l. 1–4; Pañcaviṃśati, p. 105, l. 1–3.

As well, the Prajñāpāramitā is the Buddha and is not different from him; and the Buddhas, past, future and present are Prajñāpāramitā: cf. Pañcaviṃśati,T 223, p. 293b19–21.

Consequently, the seeing of the Buddhas where there is neither subject nor instrument nor object is a non-seeing (adarśana).

This is how the bodhisattva who is practicing the prajñapāramitā penetrates deeply into the true nature of things, and this nature [which is none other than the absence of any nature] is neither defiled nor purified (bodhisattvena prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caratā dharmalakṣaṇāṃ (variant: dharmāṇāṃ dharmalakṣaṇaṃ) supratividdhaṃ bhavati, yac ca dharmāṇāṃ lakṣaṇaṃ tan na saṃkliśyate na vyavadāyate): cf. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 105, l. 12 (or T 223, p. 231b13–14); Śatasāhasrikā, p. 378, l. 18.

2. A son or daughter of good family, physically and mentally healthy, has no bad dreams (svapna). In dreams, he sees the Buddhas adorned with the major and minor marks, surrounded by the saṃgha of bhikṣus, and preaching the Dharma. He hears them explain the teaching of the six perfections, etc. He sees the bodhi tree, the bodhisattvas approaching it to realize saṃbodhi and who, becoming Buddha, turn the Wheel of the Dharma. He sees the hundreds of thousands of billions of koṭis of bodhisattvas explain how it is necessary to seek omniscience, convert beings and purify the Buddha fields. He sees the innumerable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of Buddhas in the ten directions and he learns their names, the names of their regions and their kṣetras. He is present at their parinirvāṇa and sees their innumerable stūpas made of the seven jewels. The son or daughter of good family who sees these good dreams “sleeps happily and awakens happily”: cf. Pañcaviṃśati, T 223, p. 289c25–290a13.

In this passage the Pañcaviṃśati does not have the divyacakṣus occur, but it recognizes that simple lay people, well-disposed, are able to see the Buddhas in dreams. That would be by another mode of seeing. But what is the value of it? A conversation between Śāriputra and Subhūti, recorded in the Pañcaviṃśati (T 223, p. 347a) gives us an embryonic answer. There is no difference between the state of awake and the state of sleep. Nevertheless, an act performed (kṛta) in sleep is not accumulated (upacita), i.e., attributable; it is necessary to wait for the conceptualizing (saṃkalpa) that follows the dream for it to be accumulated, for without conditions (pratyaya), action (karman) is not born. Nonetheless, the Buddha has said that all dharmas are like dreams (svapnopama) and consequently are not born.

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