Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “sutra” 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.

Among these texts, those that correctly (sūcanatas) express the meaning are called sūtra. These are:

  1. the four Āgamas,
  2. the Mahāyānasūtras,
  3. the 250 rules (śikṣāpada).

And, apart from the Tripiṭaka, there are also texts that are called sūtras.

Note on the word sūtra:

Cf. Mahāyāna Sūtrālaṃkāra, p. 54: āśrayato lakṣaṇato dharmād arthāc ca sūcanāt sūtram. – Sūtra is thus called because it gives information on place, nature, doctrine and meaning.

Notes on the classification of sūtra texts:

Cf. later, k. 100, p. 756b22–c1:

“The words coming from the mouth of the Buddha and reproduced in writing are of two groups: the Tripiṭaka which is the doctrine of the śrāvakas, and the Mahāyānasūtras which are the doctrine of the Greater Vehicle. When the Buddha was in this world, the name Tripiṭaka did not exist; there were only bhikṣus who were specialists in the sūtras (sūtradhara), specialists in the discipline (vinayadhara) or specialists in catechesis (mātṛkādhara). ‘Sūtra’ is the name of the sacred texts found in the four Āgamas (āgamacatuṣṭaya) and the name of the sacred texts found in the Mahāyāna. The sūtras are of two groups: the sūtras contained in the four Āgamas and the Mahāyānsūtras called Great Sūtras. To penetrate into these two groups is to penetrate into the Greater and Lesser Vehicles also. The 250 precepts (śikṣāpada) and similar texts are called ‘sūtra’.”

– The Traité recognizes as canonical and calls ‘sūtra’ the texts contained in the four Āgamas or the Āgamacatuṣṭaya of which the Sarvāstivādin sources speak (cf. Dīvyāvadāna, p. 17, l. 22; 333, l. 8), the Mahāyānasūtras rejected by the Hīnyāna sects and some disciplinary texts such as ‘the 250 precepts’ making up the first three song of the Sarvāstivādin Vinaya (T 1435): cf. above, p. 104F, n. 2. Buddhaghosa will likewise place the Suttavibhaṅga of the Vinayapiṭaka among the suttas.