Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “seeing and hearing all the buddhas” 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.

What is seen by the divine eye (divyacakṣus) does not go beyond one trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu.[1] But here, by the power of the Prajñāpāramitā, the bodhisattva sees all the Buddhas in each of the ten directions in universes as many as the sands of the Ganges. Why? Because in the view of the Prajñāpāramitā, nothing is near (samipe), nothing is far (dūre), and there is no obstacle (pratigha) to seeing.

Question. – However, in the Pan-tcheou king (Pratyutpannasūtra = Pratyutpannabuddha-saṃmukhāvasthitasamādhisūtra (‘Sūtra of the concentration during which the Buddhas of the present are face-to-face’), it is said: “By the power of the Pratyutpannasamādhi, the ascetic, even without having acquired the divyacakṣus, is able to see all the Buddhas of the present in the ten directions.”[2] On the other hand, here [in the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra], by means of the divyacakṣus, the bodhisattva sees all the Buddhas of the tendirections. What are the differences between these two visions?

Answer. – 1) The divyacakṣus is non-defiled-indeterminate (anivṛtyāvyākṛta).[3]

2) The Pratyutpannasamādhi is obtained by a person freed of desire (vītarāga) as well as by a person not freed of desire (avitarāga), whereas the divyacakṣus is obtained only by someone freed of desire.[4]

3) The Pratyutpannasamādhi is a vision resulting from constant meditation (nityabhāvanā), the constant practice (nityaniṣevaṇa) of subjective conceptualizing (saṃkalpa).[5] The divyacakṣus, obtained by the practice of the superknowledges (abhijñā) is an eye consisting of pure derived matter of the four great elements of the form realm (rūpadhātoś caturmahābhūtāny upādāya rūpaprasāda),[6] and this eye enjoys complete luminosity at all four points of the horizon (caturdiśa). That is the difference.

4) The technique (adhikāra) of the divyacakṣus is easy (sulabha): thus, when the sun has risen, seeing forms (rūpa) is not hard (kṛccha). On the other hand, the technique of the [Pratyutpanna]-samādhi is difficult: thus when one lights a lamp (dīpa) in the dark of night, seeing colors (rūpa) is not easy.[7]

It is the same for the divine ear (divyaśrotra).

Footnotes and references:


The range of the divyacakṣus varies with the qualities of those who hold it. – Kośabhāṣya, p. 429, l. 17–430, l. 3: Śrāvakapratyekabuddhabuddhās tv anabhisaṃskāreṇa sāhasradvisāhasratrisāhasrakān lokadhātūn yathāsaṃkhyaṃ paśyanti | adhisaṃskāreṇa tu śrāvako ’pi dvisāhasraṃ lokadhātuṃ divyena cakṣuṣā paśyati | trisāhasraṃ khaḍgaviṣāṇakalpaḥ | buddhas tu bhagavān asaṃkhyeyān lokadhātūn paśyati yāvad ececchati.

– Transl. – If they do not make an effort, the śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas and the Buddha see, with the divine eye, one sāhasra universe, one dvisāhasra universe, one trisāhasra universe, respectively. But if they make an effort, the śrāvakas see, with the divine eye, one dvisāhasra universe, and the pratyekabuddhas, one trisāhasra universe. As for the Blessed Buddha, he sees as many innumerable universes as he wishes.


Pratyutpannasamādhisūtra, T 418, k. 1, p. 905a23–27: It is not with the divine eye (divyacakṣus) that the bodhisattva-mahāsattva sees [the Buddhas of the present, Amita, etc], nor with the divine ear (divyaśrotra) that he hears them, nor by the bases of miraculous power (ṛddhibala) that he goes to their Buddha fields (buddhakṣetra). Nor does he see the Buddha by dying here and being reborn over there in the buddhakṣetra: on the contrary, it is seated here in one place that he sees the Buddha Amita, hears the sūtras preached by him and recollects them all. Coming out of samādhi, he still possesses them and preaches them to people.

Other Chinese versions: T 417, p. 899a18–20; T 419, p. 922a22–27.


The divyacakṣus and the divyaśrotra are part of the six abhijñās (cf. p. 1809F and foll.). As prajñā associated with the visual consciousness and the auditory consciousness respectively, these two abhijñās are morally indeterminate, neither good nor bad. See Kośabhāṣya, p. 423, l. 11: Divyacakṣuḥśrotrābhijñe avyākṛte, te punaś cakṣuḥśrotravijñānasaṃprayuktaprajñe.


By its access to the dhyānas of rūpadhātu, vitarāga is free of the passions of kāmadhātu; avītarāga is the opposite. The pratyutpannasamādhi is within the range of all, lay and monastic, whether or not they are free of desire; the divyacakṣus is reserved for dhyāyins only, detached from kāmadhātu.


The Sanskrit word saṃkalpa [French: imagination] (conceptualizing) appears frequently in the Madhyamakakārikās and their commentary, the Prasannapadā (p. 122, l. 6; 143, l. 11; 350, l. 8; 451, l. 11); in his translation of the Madhyamakaśāstra, Kumārajīva always renders saṃkalpa by the pariphrasis yi-siang-fen-pie (T 1564, k. 2, p. 13a22–23; k. 3, p. 23a25; k. 3, p. 28b24; k. 4, p. 31a13). The equivalence has already been noted by H. Nakamura, Bukkyōgo Daijiten, I, p. 134a.

Pratyutpannasamādhi is pure autosuggestion, but practice is not useless nevertheless (see above, p. 1927–1928F, note).


The divyaskaṣus is not imaginary: it is an organ made of a pure matter (rūpaprasāda) derived from the four great elements present in the dhyānas. See Kośa, VII, p. 123, or Kośabhāṣya, p. 429.


The first five abhijñās, of which divyacakṣus is part, rely upon the four dhyānas, i.e., are obtained by an ascetic in dhyāna (Kośa, VII, p. 101). As the Traité has noted above (p. 1827F), in the second dhyāna the divyacakṣus is easy to obtain for the visual consciousness (cakṣurvijñāna) being absent there, the mind is concentrated (samāhita) and free of distractions. – The practice of the Pratyutpannasamādhi is more complicated. In order to attain it, the practitioner must fulfill, during a period of three months of probation, four series of four conditions each (T 417, p. 899c9–12; T 418, k. 1, p. 906a13–28). Then, the moment having come, he enters into concentration proper: “Whether he is a monk (śramaṇa) or a lay person (avadātavasana), he thinks constantly of the field (kṣetra) of the buddha Amita in the western direction and of the Buddha of that direction, but without forgetting the rules of moral conduct (śikṣāpada). He thinks this way with full attention (ekacittena) either for a day and a night, or for seven days and seven nights. At the end of the seven days, he sees the buddha Amita. Awakened [from the samādhi], he sees him no longer. It is like in dream visions (svapnadarśana) where the sleeper does not know if they are daytime or night-time dreams, internal or external, where there are no shadows (tamas) to prevent seeing, no obstacles (pratigha) to prevent seeing” (T 418, k. 1, p. 905a14–20). – In the corresponding passage of T 417, p. 899a9–16, mention is also made of the Buddhas of the present.

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