Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the navanga” 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.

Preliminary note (1): The navāṅga

Throughout their history, the Theravādins have maintained the division of the scriptures into nine aṅgas, cited in Pāli in the following order: 1) sutta, 2) geyya, 3) veyyākaraṇa, 4) gāthā, 5) udāna, 6) itivuttaka, 7) jātaka, 8) abbhutadhamma, 9) vedalla.

The canonical and paracanonical texts list these aṅgas without trying to define them:

Vinaya, III, p. 8.

Majjhima, I, p. 133–134; Anguttara, II,p. 7, 103, 178; III, p. 86, 88, 177, 361, 362; IV, p. 113; Mahāniddesa, I, p. 143; Cullaniddesa, p. 192.

Puggalapaññatti, p. 43, 62.

Milindapañha, p. 344, l. 3 (navaṅgasāsana).

As we have seen, the other Buddhist schools preferred the list of twelve members: the Dvādaśānga (in Chinese che eul pou king or che eul fen kiao); and the Sanskrit-Chinese sources exceptionally mention the Navāṅga (kieou pou king or kieou fen kiao) also.

1. The Navāṅga are mentioned in some rare canonical sūtras translated into Chinese: Parinirvāṇa, T 7, k. 1, p. 194b8; Saṃgīti, T 12, k. 1, p. 227b26–27; Aṅgulimāla, T 120, k. 2, p. 524a28; Itivṛttaka, T 765, k. 5, 684a3–4: k. 7, p. 607c17–18.

2. The Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya, like the Pāli Vinaya, counts only nine aṅgas: T 1425, k. 1, p. 227b12–13; k. 7, p. 281c18–20; k. 16, p. 356c10–13.

In the Mahāyānist sūtras and śāstras, the Navāṅga is the exception, except when it is a matter of contrasting the Hīnayānist Navāṅga with the Mahāyānist Dvādaśāṅga.

3. The Saddharmapuṇḍarīka proposes a navāṅga (p. 46, l. 1) different from the Pāli classification, which consists of (p. 45, l. 7–8): 1) sūtra, 2) gāthā, 3) itivṛttaka, 4) jātaka, 5) adbhuta, 6) nidāna, 7) aupamya, 8) geya, 9) upadeśa.

The Chinese versions faithfully translate these passages (cf. T 262, k. 1, p. 7c25–27 and p. 8a6; T 264, k. 1, p. 140c16–18 and 26), but a few pages later, refer to the Dvādaśāṅga (cf. T 262, k. 4, p. 34b3; T 264, k. 4, p. 168c12).

4. Two Mahāyānist treatises, traditionally attributed to Nāgārjuna and both translated by Kumārajīva, the Upadeśa (T 1509) and the Daśabhūmikavibhāṣā (T 1521) disagree on the number of the aṅgas: the Upadeśa counts twelve, the Vibhāṣā, nine (T 1521, k. 2, p. 29b3; k. 3, p. 35b16; k. 6, p. 50b17; k. 9, p. 69b26–28).

5. For the Mahāyānist Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, the Navāṅga represents the Hīnayānist Buddhism which is but the semi-speech of the Buddha (T 374, k. 3, p. 383c6–9; k. 5, pl. 391a9; k. 7, p. 404a5; T 375, k. 3, p. 623b25–27; k. 5, p. 63a14; k. 7, p. 644c9), whereas the Dvādaśāṅga is supposed to contain the entirety of the Buddha’s speech held by the Mahāyāna (T 374, k. 15, p. 451b15–18; T 375, k. 14, p. 693b16–19).

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