Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “becoming buddha and preaching the dharma the same day” 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.

I. Becoming buddha and preaching the dharma the same day

In unfortunate ages (kalpakaṣāya),[1] among beings of wrong views (mithyādṛṣṭika), in order to eliminate the wrong views of beings, some bodhisattvas devoted themselves zealously to very austere practices (duṣkaracaryā). Thus, in the Uruvilvā forest, the Buddha Śākyamuni ate only one grain of sesame (tila), one grain of rice (taṇḍula).[2] The heretics (tīrthika) said: “Even though he practiced austerities, our former teacher could not follow them for more than six years”,[3] and other men said: “The Buddha is undergoing today the painful retribution (duḥkhavipāka) of bad actions (akuśalakarman) of his former lives.”[4] There are some bodhisattvas who believe that the Buddha really suffered those pains; that is why they say to themselves: “When I go forth, may I realize abhisaṃbodhi on that same day.”

Moerover, there are some bodhisattvas who go forth (abhiniṣkramanti) during fortunate times. Thus Ta-t’ong-houei (Mahābhijñājñāna), in search of abhisaṃbodhi, sat cross-legged (paryaṅkam ābhujya) for ten lesser kalpas (antarakalpa) until he attained abhisaṃbodhi.[5] Learning this, some bodhisattvas say to themselves: “May I attain abhisaṃbodhi on the same day that I go forth.”

There are some bodhisattvas who, after having realized abhisaṃbodhi, do not immediately turn the Wheel of Dharma (na sadyo dharmacakraṃ pravartayanti).

a. Thus, for twelve years after he had attained abhisaṃbodhi, the Buddha Jan-teng (Dīpaṃkara) only emitted light rays (raśmi) and, as there was no one to understand him, did not preach the Dharma.[6]

b. Also, the Buddha Siu-chan-to (Suśānta) who was about to become buddha but had no-one to receive his teachings, created a fictive buddha (nirmitabuddha) who, for a whole kalpa, preached the Dharma and saved beings, whereas Suśānta himself had already entered parinirvāṇa.[7]

c. Also, the Buddha Śākyamuni, having become buddha, waited 57 days before preaching the Dharma.[8]

Learning this, some bodhisattvas say to themselves: “May I turn [311b] the Wheel of Dharma immediately when I become buddha.”

Footnotes and references:


In his translation of the Lotus (T 262), Kumārajīva renders the expression kalpakaṣāya of the Sad. puṇḍ., p. 43, l. 4; 65. l. 13, by Ngo che. The kalpakaṣāya is one of the five corruptions (Kośa, III, p. 193).


On the fast and mortifications of Śākyamuni at Uruvilvā, see p. 12F, n. 1.


This was the thought of the Fortunate Five: cf. Majjhima, I, p. 247; Saṃghabheda, I, p. 108, etc.


The nine torments endured by the Buddha set a doctrinal problem which have been fully discussed above, p. 507–514F. We may add to the references given in the note on p. 509F the Mūlasarv. Vin., Gilgit Manuscripts, III, part I, p. 211–218. According to the Hīnayānists, by these torments and illnesses the Buddha expiated the wrong-doings of his former existences. For the Mahāyānists and the Traité (p. 517F, 1512F), these were apparent faults and fictitious torments simulated by the Buddha for the benfit of others.


Sa. Puṇḍarīka, p. 160: Atha khalu bhikṣavo daśānām antarakalpānām atyayena sa bhagavān Mahābhijñājñānābhibhūs tathāgato ‘rhan samayaksaṃbodho ‘nuttarāṃ samyaksaṃbodhim abhisaṃbuddhaḥ.

Compare Gilgit recension, ed. S. Watanabe, p. 76, and the Kashgar recension, ed. H. Toda, I, p. 28.


Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 98, p. 506a24 seq.: The bodily brilliance (prabhā) of the tathāgata arhat samyaksaṃbuddha Dīpaṃkara shone and illumined the city of Dīpavati. Its perimeter was one yojana. For twelve years there was no difference between day and night. – Ibid., k. 183, p. 916b19–20: The buddha Dīpaṃkara turned the wheel of Dharma in the city of Dīpavatī on Mount Ho-li-to-lo (?).

It follows that, for the twelve years following his enlightenment, Dīpaṃkara did his buddha-work by emitting an especially brilliant light. Then, when he had found listeners capable of understanding, he turned the Wheel of Dharma during a first sermon.


The Buddha Suśānta has already been mentioned above (p. 418F). The Pañcaviṃḷsati speaks of him twice:

T 223, k. 21, p. 374c26–29: Once there was a buddha called Suśānta. In order to save bodhisattvas, he created a buddha by emanation (nirmāṇa), then himself entered into parinirvāṇa. For half a kalpa, this fictive buddha (nirmitabuddha) did the work of a buddha and, after having made the prediction (vyākaraṇa), enterd into parinirvāṇa. All the beings in the world said that the Buddha was really parinirvanized, but, O Subhūti, fictive beings are really without birth or cessation.

T 223, k. 23, p. 390c4–6: The Buddha Suśānta attained anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi and, for the followers of the three Vehicles, he turned the Wheel of Dharma. As there was nobody to receive the prediction (vyākaraṇa) of Bodhisattva, Suśānta created a buddha by emanation, abandoned his life and entered into nirvāṇa without residue.


See above, p. 419F, n. 1.

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