Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “eliminating the three poisons from the kshetra” 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. Eliminating the three poisons from the kṣetra

Question. – If the universe [in question here] is free of the three poisons (triviṣa) as well as the name (śabda) of these poisons, why is the Buddha born there?

Answer. – Desire (rāga), hatred (dveṣa) and delusion (moha) are called the three roots of evil (akuśalamūla):[1] these are the [312c] dharmas that have the realm of desire (kāmadhātvavacara) as their domain. When the Buddha speaks of desire, hatred and delusion, it is a question of [the roots of evil] belonging to the desire realm, but when he speaks of afflicted ignorance (kliṣṭāvidyā), the latter penetrates all three realms.[2]

There are buddha-fields that contain only (kevalam) men of desire: for these beings the bodhisattva [here] wishes that, at the time when he becomes Buddha, “in his universe there will be neither the three poisons (triviṣa) nor even the name of the three poisons (triviṣaśabda).” But there are also pure buddha-fields (pariśuddhabuddhakṣetra) that contain only non-regressing bodhisattvas (avaivartika) with body born from the fundamental element (dharmadhātujakāya); they no longer have any passions (kleśa) but retain only the traces (vāsanā);[3] for them the bodhisattva wishes that “even the name of the triple poison will be absent in his universe.”

Some say: When the bodhisattva formulates the vow to save all beings, beings are really not all saved. Similarly here, when he wishes that in his universe there would not be the name of the three poisons, it is clear that the three poisons will still be found there and will not be exhausted. Indeed, if there were no more triple poison, of what use would the Buddhas still be? If on earth there were no more great shadows (tamas) we would not need the light of the sun. As it is said in a sūtra:


Finally, there are universes (lokadhātu) where beings, analyzing dharmas, say: “This is good (kuśala), that is not good (akuśala); this is bondage (bandhana), that is deliverance (mokṣa), etc.;[4] and they indulge in futile chatter (prapañca) about nirvāṇa of unique nature (ekalakṣaṇa-nirvāṇa). This is why the bodhisattva hopes [here] that, in his universe, “beings do not produce the three poisons”, knowing full well that the true nature of the three poisons (triviṣadharmatā) is nirvāṇa.[5]

Footnotes and references:


Dīgha, III, p. 214; Anguttara, I, p. 201: Tīṇi akusalamūlāni. Lobho akusalamūlaṃ, doso akusalamūlaṃ, moho akusalamūlaṃ.


Afflicted ignorance (kliṣṭāvidyā) is present in the triple world: it is not moha, the root of evil but, more precisely, saṃmoha, confusion, in regard to the truths: cf. Kośa, V, p. 71.


As we have seen above, p. 1760F seq., the traces of the passions (kleśavāsanā) persist in the arhat and even in the avaivartika bodhisattvas of the eighth bhūmi; only the Buddha has eliminated them.


On these dualistic conceptions formally condemned by the Madhyamaka, see chap. VIII of the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa, French transl., p. 301–318; the distinction between bandhana and mokṣa is criticized, p. 306 at top of page.


The three poisons, rāga, dveṣa and moha are no longer to be rejected but rather to be taken, for they are themselves deliverances: Vimalakīrtinirdeśa, French transl., p. 156, 264, 274, 286, 289, 310.