Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “penetrating the mind of 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.

Note: The preceding lines were about abhijñā no. 5, the cyutupapādajñāna, also called divyacakṣus, and abhijñā no. 2, the divyaśrotra. Now it is a question of abhijñā no. 3, the cetaḥparyāyajñāna, also called paracittajñāna, ‘awareness of the mind of another’. The canonical definitions of these three abhijñās have been cited and translated above, p. 1809–1814F. By virtue of the paracittajñāna, the ascetic, ‘by means of his mind, is aware precisely of the minds of others, of other men’ (parasattvānāṃ parapudgalānāṃ cetasaiva cittaṃ yathābhūtaṃ prajānati).

Question. – If even a man of weak faculties (mṛdvindriya) belonging to a higher stage (uttarabhūmi) does not know the mind (citta) of a man with strong faculties (tīkṣṇendriya) belonging to a lower stage (avarabhūmi), if even a bodhisattva is unable to know the mind of a single Buddha (see notes), how then (kaḥ punarvādaḥ) could the bodhisattva ‘penetrate the mind of all the Buddhas of the ten directions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges’?

Answer. – The magical power (ṛddhibala) of the Buddha helps the bodhisattva [to know the mind of all the Buddhas]. As the sūtra says: “Of all beings, there is not one that knows the mind of the Buddha; but if the Buddha, by means of his power, helps one to know it, even insects (kṛmi) can know it.”[1] This is why the Buddha helps the bodhisattvas to know the mind of the Buddhas with his magical power. [306b]

Moreover, the Prajñāpāramitā has as nature the absence of obstacles (anāvaraṇalakṣaṇa). The coarse (audārika) and the subtle (sūkṣma), the profound (gambhīra) and the superficial, the fool (bāla) and the sage (ārya), all are undifferentiated (nirviśiṣṭa). The suchness (tathatā) of the mind of the Buddhas and the suchness of the mind of the bodhisattva are one and the same suchness; they are not different. By following this suchness, the bodhisattva is able to penetrate the mind of all the Buddhas.

Finally, as for these marvelous extraordinary things (āścaryādbhutadharma), it is by not knowing them that one knows them.[2] This is why the Prajñāpāramitā says here that the bodhisattva wishing to obtain that should practice the perfection of wisdom.

Notes on the limits of the awareness of another’s mind:

The limits of the awareness of another’s mind are clearly defined in Kośa, VII, p. 7 = Kośabhāṣya, p. 393, l. 9–12.

1) The paracittajñāna of a lower dhyāna (avaradhyānabhūmika) does not know the mind of a higher dhyāna (uttaradhyānabhūmika).

2) The paracittajñāna of a being of weak faculties (mṛdvindriya), namely of the śraddhāvimukta and the samayavimukta, does not know the mind of a saint of strong faculties (tīkṣṇendriya), namely of the dṛṣṭiprāpta and the asamayavimukta.

3) The paracittajñāna of a lower saint does not know the mind of a higher saint, in the order, anāgamin, arhat, prateykabuddha, Buddha.

4) When the mind of another is [past or future (atītānāgata), the paracittajñāna does not know it, for this jñāna has as object the present minds and mental events (vartamānacittacaitta-viṣayatvāt).

– Here the objector invokes the limits of the paracittajñāna in order to deny that a bodhisattva knows the mind of the innumerable Buddhas of the present.

Footnotes and references:


Cf. Saṃghabheda, I, p. 196, l. 19–25; Divyāvadāna, p. 77, l. 14–16; 161, l. 23–25; 466, l. 10–13: Dharmatā khalu yasmin samaya buddhā bhagavanto laukikaṃ cittam utpādayanti tadā kuntapipīlikā api prāṇinas tasmin samaye bhagavataś cetasā cittam ājānati; prāgeva śakrabrahmādayo devāḥ; yasmins tu samaya lokottaraṃ cittam utpādayanti tasmin samaye mahāśrāvakā api bhagavtaś cetasā cittaṃ nājānati; kaḥ punar vādaṃ śakrabrahmādayo devā; kuta eva kuntapipīlikā api prāṇinaḥ.

Transl. – It is the rule that at the moment when the Blessed Buddhas produce a worldly mind, even the kuntapipīlika insects know the mind of the Blessed One with their own mind, and a fortiori, the gods Śakra, Brahmā, etc. But when the Buddhas produce a supraworldly mind, even the great disciples cannot know the mind of the Blessed One with their own mind; then what can be said of the kuntapipīlika insects? – In Pāli, kuntapipīlika is kunthakipillaka: these are ants.


Se Pañjika cited above, p. 2021F: Tattvaṃ prajñayā vivecyamānaṃ sarvadharmānupalambha-lakṣaṇam avasitam. – Transl. – The Absolute, discerned by wisdom, comes down to the non-perception of any dharma whatsoever.

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