Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “final comments” 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.

Twelve-membered speech of the Buddha: Final comments

[The passage of the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra commented on here spoke of the bodhisattva wishing to hear the twelve-membered speech of the Buddha,”whether or not this speech has been heard by the śrāvakas” (yac ca śrāvakaiḥ śrutaṃ vā na śrutaṃ vā). Actually there is the speech of the Buddha not heard by the śrāvakas.]

Speech not heard by the śrāvakas: –

1) Sometimes, the Buddha preached the Dharna only to bodhisattvas and there were no śrāvakas there to hear.

2) Transforming himself by the power of his superknowledges (abhijñābala), the Buddha often went to universes accessible to one person only (ekāyanalokadhātu)[1] and preached the Dharma there.

3) The Buddha preached the Dharma to the gods of the desire realm (kāmadeva) and to the gods of the form realm (rūpadeva) (see notes below), and as there are no śrāvakas there, the latter did not hear him.

Question. – But there are arhats endowed with the six superknowledges (abhijñā) and when the Buddha preaches, even if they are not there, they can hear him with the divine ear (divyaśrotra) and see him with the divine eye (divyacakṣus). If they really know things of the past by means of the memory of their earlier existences (pūrvanivāsānasmṛti), how then would they not have heard the Buddha?

Answer. – The power of the abhijñās of the śrāvakas does not extend that far: that is why they do not hear him.

[Gaṇḍavyūha].[2] – Moreover, when the Buddha preached the Pou’k’o-sseu- yi-kiai-t’o king (Acintyavimokṣasūtra) to the great bodhisattvas, Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana who were at the Buddha’s left and right, could not hear because they had not planted the causes and conditions necessary to hear Mahāyāna things. Thus the ascetic in dhyāna who has entered into the absorptions (samāpatti) of the spheres of totality (kṛtsnāyatana) can cause all the waters (ap-) to change into fire (tejas),[3] but other people cannot see this.

- [The Prajñāpāramitāsūtra] also speaks about the bodhisattva] “wishing to receive-retain (dhārayitum) entirely the [speech of the Buddha].” ‘To receive’ is to be present respectfully; ‘to retain’ is to remain for a long time without losing.[4]

Notes on the kāmadhātu and rūpadhātu heavens:

The Buddhas have access to the kāmadhātu and rūpadhātu heavens. They go there by means of magic (ṛddhi) in the time it takes for a strong man to extend his bent arm or to bend his stretched arm (tadyathā balavān puruṣaḥ saṃkuñcitaṃ vā bāhuṃ prasārayet prasāritaṃ vā saṃkuñcayet).

During the seventh year of his public life, Śākyamuni went to spend the rains season in the Trāyastriṃśa heaven, one of the six classes of Kāmadevas (cf. p. 2229F, n. 2).

The Buddha Śikhin, leaving the Aruṇavati palace, appeared (pātur ahosi) in the Brahmaloka: Saṃyutta, I, p. 155.

The Buddha Śākyamuni, desiring to meet Baka brahmā who was harboring heretical views, left the city of Ukkaṭṭhā (in Kosala) where he was and came to the Brahmaloka: Majjhima, I, p. 326.

It is stated in the Saṃyutta, V, p. 282, that the Buddha went to the Brahmaloka either in a spiritual body (manomayena kāyena) or with a body formed out of the four great elements (cātumahābhūtikena kāyena).

Footnotes and references:


Doubtful translation: see Edgerton, Hybrid Dictionary, p. 154, s.v. ekāyana.


According to the Gaṇḍavyūha, also called Acintyavimokṣa, the Buddha who was in the Jetavana in Śrāvastī together with an immense crowd of bodhisattvas and śrāvakas, entered into the siṃhavijṛmbhitasamādhi and accomplished a whole series of wonders (vikurvita). Only the bodhisattvas saw it; the śrāvakas, Śāriputra, Maudagalyāyana, etc., who at the time were at the side of and behind the Blessed One, saw nothing. Indeed, that which is in the range of sight of the bodhisattvas is not within the range of sight of the śrāvakas.

Gaṇḍavyūha, ed. Suzuki, p. 19: Te [śrāvakās] tatraiva Jetavane saṃnipatitāḥ saṃniṣaṇṇā Bhagavataḥ purato vāmadakṣiṇapṛṣṭhato Bhagavato ‘bhimukhaṃ saṃniṣaññā na tāni Jetavane buddhavikurvitāny adrākṣuh… || tat kasya hetor | abhijātabodhisattvacakṣuṣpathavijñeyaṃ hi taṃ na śrāvakacakṣuṣpathavijñeyaṃ | tena te mahāśrāvakās tatraiva Jetavane sthitās tathāgatavikurvitāni buddhādhiṣṭhānāni buddhakṣetraparśuddhiṃ bodhisattvasaṃnipāttaṃ na paśyanti ||

Chinese versions: T 278, k. 44, p. 679c; T 279, k. 60, p. 322b–323a; T 293, k. 2, p. 666a.


This is explained fully in the Acintyavimokṣasūtra.


This alinea is obviously a Chinese gloss.

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