Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “final note” 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.

Part 5 - Conclusion (2): Final Note

Question. – In the preceding chapters (chap. XLII–LII), the bodhisattva wants to acquire various qualities (guṇa) and formulates the wish (praṇidhāna) for them. All these things are to be realized by a group of various practices (nānācaryāsāmagrī); why then does the Prajñāpāramitā-sūtra, [in place of detailing these practices], only recommend that he practice the prajñāpāramitā?

Answer. – 1) The sūtra in question is called Prajñāpāramitā and the Buddha wants to explain it. This is why he praises the prajñāpāramitā chapter by chapter (parivarta).

2) Moreover, the prajñāpāramitā is the mother of the Buddhas (buddhamātṛ). The task (yatna, śrama) of the mother is greater than that of the father. This is why the Buddha considers prajñā as his mother (see Appendix 6), and the Pratyutpannasamādhi as his father. This samādhi can only concentrate the distracted mind (vikṣiptacitta) in such a way that prajñā is produced, but it cannot see the true nature of things (dharmāṇāṃ dharmatā). The Prajñāpāramitā can see dharmas completely and discern their true nature; there is nothing that it cannot penetrate, nothing that it cannot realize; its qualities (guṇa) are so great that it is called mother. Also, although the yogin who cultivates the six perfections (pāramitā) and a group of many qualities is able to realize all his wishes, the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra says only that “he must practice the prajñāpāramitā”.

3) Furthermore, as will be said in a following chapter: “Without the Prajñāpāramitā, the other five pāramitās are not called perfections”.[1] Even by [314b] cultivating all the practices (caryā) one does not completely fulfill (paripṛ) the wishes: it is like colored drawings which, without glue (gavyadṛdha), are not usable. If even in the course of beginningless (anādikālika-saṃsāra) saṃsāra, beings who cultivate generosity (dāna), morality (śīla), patience (kṣānti), exertion (vīrya) dhyāna and wisdom (prajñā) obtain the mundane fruits of retribution (laukika vipākaphala), these again will revert to nothing. Why? Because prajñāpāramitā is missing in them. But now, it is with the help of the Buddhas (buddhopakāra) and with prajñāpāramitā that these beings cultivate these six things [generosity, morality, etc.], and this is why these are called perfections (pāramitā) and bring about (sādhayanti) abhisaṃbodhi so that the succession of the Buddhas (buddhaprabandha) will be uninterrupted (asamucchinna).

4) Moreover, when the bodhisattva cultivates the prajñāpāramitā, he sees that all the dharmas are empty (śūnya) and that this emptiness itself is empty; from then on he abolishes all seeing (darśana) and obtains the unhindered (anāvaraṇa) prajñāpāramitā. Then, by the power of his great compassion (mahākaruṇā) and skillful means (upāya), he comes back to accomplish meritorious actions (puṇyakarman) and because of these very pure actions (pariśuddhakarman), there is no wish that he cannot fulfill. The other merits (anyapuṇya) which themselves lack prajñāpāramitā do not possess this unhindered prajñāpāramitā. How then could one say that in order to realize his wishes, it is enough for him to practice the virtue of generosity (dānapāramitā), etc.?

5) Finally, when the first five perfections – [generosity, morality, patience, exertion and dhyāna] – are separated from wisdom (prajñā), they do not have the name of perfections (pāramitā). The first five perfections are like blind men (andha); the prajñāpāramitā is like seeing (cakṣus). The first five perfections are like an unbaked clay pot (aparipakva ghaṭa); the prajñāpāramitā is like a baked clay pot (paripakva ghaṭa).[2] The first five perfections are like a bird (pakṣin) without its two wings (pakṣa); the prajñāpāramitā is like a bird with its wings.[3]

For these many reasons, the Prajñāpāramitā is able to realize great things. This is why it is said that in order to acquire the qualities (guṇa) and [realize] one’s wishes (praṇidhāna), it is necessary to practice the perfection of wisdom.

Footnotes and references:


Tchao-ming p’in, chapter XL of the Pañcaviṃśati where it is said (T 223, k. 11, p. 302b24–302c3; T 220, book VII, k. 505, p. 576c23–577a3): O Kauśika, the prajñāpāramitā of the bodhisattvas surpasses the dāna-, śīla-, kṣānti-, vīrya- and dhyāna-pāramitās. Just as those blind from birth (jātyandhapuurṣa), be they a hundred, a thousand or a hundred thousand, cannot travel on the road or enter a city without a guide, so, O Kauśika, the first five pāramitās, if they are separated from the prajñāpāramitā, are like blind people without a guide, and cannot travel the Path or obtain omniscience. O Kauśika, if the first five pāramitās find the prajñāpāramitā as guide, then they really have an ‘eye’ and, guided by the prajñāpāramitā, they have the right to be called ‘perfections’.

Compare Aṣṭasāhasrikā, p. 384: Yadā punaḥ Kauśika dānaṃ śīlaṃ kṣāntir vīryaṃ dhyānaṃ ca prajñāpāramitāparigṛhītaṃ bhavati tadā pāramitānāmadheyaṃ pāramitāśabdaṃ labhate tadā hy āsaṃ cakṣuḥpratilambho bhavati pañcānāṃ pāramitānāṃ sarvajñatāmārgāvatārāya sarvajñatānuprāptaye.


The example of a baked clay pot and an unbaked clay pot, already used by the Traité, p. 1875F, is taken from the P’i-yu p’in (Aupamyaparivarta), chapter LI of the Pañcaviṃśati (T 223, k. 15, p. 330a; T 220, book VII, k. 444, p. 2141a–b.

Compare Aṣṭasāh., p. 586: Tadyathāpi nāma Subhūte strī vā puruṣo vā ’paripakvena ghaṭenodaka parivahed veditavyam etat Subhūte nāyaṃ ghaṭaś ciram anuvartasyate …. Kasya hetoḥ | yathāpi nāma suparipakvatvād ghaṭasya |

Transl. – Thus, O Subhūti, if a woman or a man takes water in an unbaked clay pot, you must know, O Subhūti, that this pot will not last long, that soon it will break and dissolve. Why? Because this pot has not undergone firing and so it will be reduced to a simple earthen residue.

Thus, O Subhūti, if a woman or a man takes water in a well-baked pot, from a stream, a river, a pool, a well or any other reservoir of water, you must know that, when it is carried, the pot will arrive home in good condition and without being damaged. Why? Because this pot has been well fired.


Example used above, p. 1930F.