Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the four bodhisattva stages or practices” 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.

Note (1). The four Bodhisattva stages or practices

1. Four stages are to be traversed during which the bodhisattva becomes successively:

1) Prathamacittotpādika (tch’ou fa yi) or Mahāyānasaṃprasthita (fa ts’iu ta tch’eng): Bs. who produces the mind of Bodhi for the first time and sets out on the Greater Vehicle.

2) Ṣaṭpāramitācaryāpratipanna (hing pa lo mi): Bs. devoted the practice of the six perfections.

3) Avinivartanīya (pou t’ouei tchouan or a wei yue tche): Bs. non-regressing up to bodhi.

4) Ekajātipratibaddha (yi cheng pou tch’ou or yi cheng so hi): Bs. separated by only one lifetime from buddhahood.

This classification first appeared in the Aṣṭasāhasrikā, probably the oldest of the P.P. sūtras; from there it passed into the large P.P. sūtras (Aṣṭadaśa, Pañcaviṃśati, Śata) and was repeated with some supplementary explanations in some Mahāyānasūtras.

Aṣṭasāhasrikā, ed. U. Wogihara, p. 831. – T VIII, no. 224, p. 465a24–25. –T VIII, no. 225, p. 501a3–10. – T VIII, no. 227,p. 575a19–21. – T VII, no. 220, p. 849a26–29; 914c1–4. – T VIII, no. 228, p. 650b2–7.

Aṣṭadaśa, T VII, no. 220, p. 666b9–12. Pañcaviṃśati, T VIII, no. 221, p. 101c21–24. – T VIII, no. 223, p. 358c10–13. – T VII, no. 220, p. 302a6–10.

Śatasāh., T VI, no. 220, p. 752c27–753a2.

Mahāsamnipāta, T XIII, no. 397, p. 67a4–13.

Wen chou che li wen p’ou sa chou king, T XIV, no. 458, p. 435b20–c4.

Wen chou che li wen p’ou t’i king, T XIV, no. 464, p. 482b10–15.

Gayāśīrṣa, T XIV, no. 465, p. 485a4–b8. – T XIV, no. 466, p. 487c26–488b4. – T XIV, no. 467, p. 490c1–491a13.

The Traité has mentioned it above, p. 1795–98F.

2. The four practices (caryā) of the bodhisattva:

1) Prakṛticaryā, the natural qualities and virtues of the Bs.

2) Praṇidhānacaryā, the production of the mind of bodhi.

3) Anulomacaryā, conduct in conformity with vow.

4) Anivartanacaryā, assured and non-regressing conduct up to bodhi.

These four bodhisasattvacaryās are proposed by the Mahāvastu, a work derived from the branch of the Mahāsāṃghikas called the Lokottaravādins of Madhyadeśa. The practices concerned are listed in vol. I, p. 1, l. 3–4; p. 46, l. 6–7; p. 63, l. 11–14 and in full detail, from p. 46, l. 8 to p. 63, l. 14.

This classification is different from and independent of the preceding one but, like it, is modeled on the scheme of the śrāvaka’s career, the adept of the Lesser Vehicle who, after being instructed by the Buddha and after a long period of effort, enters into the path of nirvāṇa, successively conquers the fruits of srotaāpanna, sakṛdāgāmin and anāgāmin and finally accedes to arhathood. There is, thus, a parallelism between the career of the śrāvaka and that of the bodhisattva, with the essential difference that the former pursues his own benefit (svārtha) above all, whereas the latter assures both his own benefit and that of others (parārtha).