Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the procession to bodhi” 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.

“The Buddha goes to the foot of the bodhi tree surrounded and honored by many thousands of myriads of koṭi of devas, from the Cāturmahārājakāyikas to the Akaniṣṭhas”: this is a constant rule (dharmatā) among the Buddhas.

The Buddha Bhagavat goes to the foot of the bodhi tree in order to destroy two kinds of Māras, the ‘fetter’ Māra (saṃyojanamāra) and the lord-god Māra (īśvaradevaputramāra), and also to realize omniscience (sarvajñatā). Why would the crowd of devas not honor him, not accompany him?

Besides, from existence to existence, the devas have always helped and protected the Bodhisattva: already when he was leaving home, the devas made the palace people and the palace women sleep stupidly, and they held their hands over the hoofs of the horse [Kaṇṭhaka] when he leaped over the ramparts; now the devas make sure that they accompany the Bodhisattva to the foot of the bodhi tree.

Question. – Why does the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra not say that innumerable people (aprameyamanuṣya), kṣatriyas, brāhmaṇas, etc., accompany the Buddha, but speak only of the devas?

Answer. – The Buddha was alone in the deep forest when he began to look for the bodhi tree. But the forest is not a place frequented by people. This is why the sūtra does not speak of people.

Moreover, men do not have the divine eye (divyacakṣus) or the knowledge of another’s mind (paracittajñāna) and consequently did not know that the Buddha was about to attain saṃbodhi. This is why the sūtra does not speak of men.

Moreover, the devas are higher than men. This is why the sūtra speaks only of devas.

Moreover, the Buddhas always love solitary places (viviktasthāna),[1] and as the devas hide themselves and do not show themselves, they do not disturb his solitude. This is why the sūtra speaks only of the presence of the devas.

Finally, seeing that the five bhikṣus[2] had gone away and abandoned him, the Bodhisattva went alone to the foot of the tree. This is why he made the wish (praṇidhāna) [to be accompanied by the devas].

Footnotes and references:


The Blessed One was a solitary person and a lover of solitude: Bhagavā pavibitto pavivekassa ca vannavādī (Majjhima, II, p. 6, 8). Often he expressed the wish to retreat for a fortnight in solitude and no one was to approach him except to bring him food: Icchā’ ahaṃ bhikkahve aḍḍhamāsaṃ paṭisalliyituṃ namhi kenaci upasaṅkamitabho aññatra ekena piṇḍapātanīhārakena (Saṃyutta, V, p. 12, 320). All the Tathāgatas had the same preference: Suññāgāre kho tathāgatā abhiramanti (Vinaya, II, p. 158).


The Five of the fortunate group, Ājñāta-Kauṇḍinya, etc., who had been present at the mortifications of the future Buddha and who had left him when he took some food: cf. Majjhima, I, p. 247.