Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “explanations on the angas” 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 (3): Explanations on the aṅgas

The early sources were limited to citing the nine or twelve aṅgas; they were careful not to define them, undoubtedly because they had only a very vague notion of them. Starting from the 2nd century of our era, the scholars attempted to explain the aṅgas, but their interpretations lack coherence and their hesitations betray their embarrassment. On this subject see the masterly work of E. Mayeda, A History of the Formation of Original Buddhist Texts. 1964.

In regard to the twelve aṅgas, the commentaries furnished by the following works are taken into account:

1. Abhidharmamahāvibhāṣāśāstra, T 1545, k. 126, p. 659c8–660b7.

2. Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtropadeśa,T 1509, k. 33, p.306c16–308b17; this passage will be translated in the following pages.

3. Satyasiddhiśāstra, T 1646, k. 1, p. 244c11–245b6.

4. Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, T 374, k. 15, p. 451b18–452a17.

5. Udānasūtra,T 212, k. 6, p. 643c.

6. Yogācārabhūmiśāstra, T 1579, k. 25, p. 418b23– 419a3; k. 81, p. 753a10–b21.

7. Hien yang cheng kiao louen,T 1602, k. 6, p. 508c15– 509a24; k. 12, p. 538b22–539a1.

8. Mahāyanābhidharmasamuccaya, T 1605, k. 6, p. 686a18–b24.

9. Mahāyānābhidharmasamuccayavyākhyā, T 1606, k. 11, p. 743b5–744a12.

10. Abhidharmanyāyānusāra, T 1562, k. 44, p. 595a1–b5.

The explanations furnished in the 5th century by Buddhaghosa and his school on the nine aṅgas of the Pāli traditions are later than these commentaries. They occur in the form of a stock phrase in the Pāli Commentaries of the Vinaya, I, p. 28–29, of the Dīgha, I, p. 23–24, of the Majjhima, II, p. 106, and in the Atthasālinī, p. 26.

As D. J. Kalupahana comments (Encyclopedia of Buddhism, ed. Malalasekera, I, p. 619), the real meaning of the division into nine and twelve aṅgas was almost entirely lost at the time when the Buddhist scholiasts of late date were trying to explain it. At that time, quite a few Buddhist texts were circulating among the public and found their way into the libraries of the Saṃghārāma. Lacking a better explanation, the early commentators believed or wanted to find in the Navāṅga or the Dvādaśāṅga if not references at least allusions to works recognized by their schools. Hence the rather forced comparisons which appear to guarantee the antiquity and authenticity of the entire literary output.

The Mahāvibhāṣā of the Kaśmir arhats (T 1545) was undoubtedly the first to engage on this path. It was followed by the Traité which was inspired in part by it, with the difference, however, that the Vibhāṣā was interested only in the Hīnayānist production whereas the Traité wanted to authenticate the entirety of the Mahāyānist literature.

Here are the twelve aṅgas according to the various recensions of the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā: the first column is borrowed from the original Sanskrit, ed. Dutt, p. 31, l.5–6; the second column from the Tibetan version, Tib. Trip., vol. 18, no. 731, p. 55, fol. 37b3–4; the third from the Chinese translation of Kumārajīva, T 223, k. 1, p. 220b25–28; the fourth from the Chinese translation of Hiuan-tsang, T 220 (vol. VII), k. 402, p. 9c26–28i

1 (Sanskrit) sūtra,
(Tibetan) mdo,
(Kumārajīva) sieou to lo,
(Hiuan-tsang) k’i king.

2 (Sanskrit) geya,
(Tibetan) dbyaṅs kyis bsñad pa,
(Kumārajīva) k’i ye,
(Hiuan-tsang) ying song.

3 (Sanskrit) vyākaraṇa,
(Tibetan) luṇ bstan pa,
(Kumārajīva) cheou ki,
(Hiuan-tsang) cheou ki.

4 (Sanskrit) gāthā,
(Tibetan) tshigs su bcad pa,
(Kumārajīva) k’ie t’o,
(Hiuan-tsang) fong song.

5 (Sanskrit) udāna,
(Tibetan) ched du brjod pa,
(Kumārajīva) yeou t’o na,
(Hiuan-tsang) tseu chou.

6 (Sanskrit) nidāna,
(Tibetan) gleṅ gzi,
(Kumārajīva) yin yuan,
(Hiuan-tsang) yin yuan.

7 (Sanskrit) avadāna,
(Tibetan) rtogs pa brjod pa,
(Kumārajīva) apo t’o na,
(Hiuan-tsang) p’i yu.

8 (Sanskrit) ityuktaka or itivṛttaka,
(Tibetan) – or ḥdi ltar ḥdas pa,
(Kumārajīva) jou che yu king or yi mou (tchou) to kia,
(Hiuan-tsang) – or pen che.

9 (Sanskrit) jātaka,
(Tibetan) skyes paḥi rabs,
(Kumārajīva) pen cheng,
(Hiuan-tsang) pen cheng.

10 (Sanskrit) vaipulya,
(Tibetan) śin tu rgyas pa,
(Kumārajīva) kouang king or p’i fo lio,
(Hiuan-tsang) fang kouang.

11 (Sanskrit) adbhutadharma,
(Tibetan) rmad du byuṅ baḥi chos,
(Kumārajīva) wei ts’ewng yeou king,
(Hiuan-tsang) hi fa.

12 (Sanskrit) upadeśa,
(Tibetan) gtan la dbab par bstan pa,
(Kumārajīva) louen yi or yeou po t’i chö (K),
(Hiuan-tsang) louen yi.