Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the unshakeable ground (acala)” 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.

Bhūmi 8: the unshakeable ground (acalā)

1. Sūtra.

Punar aparaṃ subhūte bodhisattvena mahāsattvenāṣṭamyāṃ bhūmau vartamānena pañca dharmāḥ paripūrayaitavyāḥ. katame pañca. yaduta sarvasattvacittānupraveśaḥ || yad bodhisattva ekacittena sarvasattvānāṃ cittacaitasikāni pratijānāti |

Furthermore, O Subhūti, the bodhisattva-mahāsattva in the eighth bhūmi (acalā) must completely fulfill five dharmas What are these five?

1) Penetrating the minds of all beings. – In a single moment of mind, the bodhisattva reveals the minds and mental events of all beings.

Śāstra (p. 418a12). – The bodhisattva in the eighth ground reveals the ways of mind of all beings: he reveals the agitated, reflective or profound minds.

By this knowledge, he distinguishes the beings who will never fulfill the causes and conditions for finding salvation (trāṇa); those who will be saved after innumerable incalculable periods (asaṃkhyeyakalpa); those who will be saved after one, two and up to ten kalpas; those who will be saved after one or two lifetimes or even in the course of the present lifetime; those who will be saved at this very instant; those who are ripe for salvation (paripakva) and those who are not; those who will be saved by the Vehicle of the śrāvakas or those who will be saved by that of the pratyekabuddhas.

The bodhisattva is like a good physician (vaidya) who, on examining the sick person, knows whether his cure is far off or near at hand, or if he incurable.

2. Sūtra.

Abhijñāvikrīḍanatā || yābhir abhijñābhir vikrīḍan buddhakṣetrād buddhakṣetraṃ saṃkrāmati buddhadarśanāya | na cāsya buddhakṣetrasaṃjñā bhavati |

Playing with the superknowledges. – Playing with these superknowledges, the bodhisattva passes from buddha-field to buddha-field to see the buddhas, but he has no notion of buddha-field.

Śāstra (p. 418a26). – Previously, the bodhisattva already possessed the superknowledges (abhijñā), but now that he plays supremely with them, he can go to immense and infinite universes (lokadhātu).

When the bodhisattva was in the seventh ground, sometimes he wanted to attain nirvāṇa. Now, for several reasons and because the Buddhas of the ten directions escort him and protect him, he changes his mind and wants to save beings. Skillful in the superknowledges, he goes at will (yatheccham) and spontaneously (svatas) to immense and infinite universes without encountering any obstacles. He sees the buddha-fields, but he does not grasp the mark of buddha-field (buddhakṣetranimittaṃ nodgṛhṇāti).

3. Sūtra.

Buddhakṣetradarśanatā || yad ekasminn eva buddhakṣetre sthitvāparimāṇāni buddhakṣetrāni paśyati | na cāsya buddhakṣetrasaṃjñā bhavati |

Seeing the buddha-fields. –Staying in his own buddha-field, the bodhisattva sees the immense buddha-fields but has no notion of buddha-field.

Śāstra (p. 418a25). – There are bodhisattvas who, by the power of their superknowledges (abhijñābala), fly in the ten directions looking at the pure universes (pariśuddhalokadhātu) and grasping their marks (nimitta) in order to adorn their own field.

There are bodhisattvas whom a Buddha conducts through the ten directions in order to show them the pure universes; they grasp the marks of these pure fields and make the vow (praṇidhāna) to reproduce them. Thus the Buddha Che-tseu-tsai-wang (Lokeśvara) guided the bhikṣu Fa-tseu (Dharmākara) across the ten directions and showed him the pure universes.[1] Sometimes there are bodhisattvas who, remaining in their own original field (maulakṣetra) use the divine eye (divyacakṣus) and see the pure universes in the ten directions; at first they grasp their pure marks, then, conceiving a mind of detachment (asaṅgacitta), they return to indifference (upekṣa).

4. Sūtra.

Teṣāṃ buddhakṣetrāṇāṃ yathādṛṣṭānāṃ svakṣetrapariniṣpādanatā || yad bodhisattva īśvaracakravartibhūmau sthitas trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātuṃ saṃkrāmati svakṣetraṃ ca pariniṣpādayati |

Constructing his own field on the model of the buddha-fields previously seen. – The bodhisattva in the level of the cakravartin king goes everywhere in the trisāhasramahāsāhasra-lokadhātu and constructs his own field.

Śāstra (p. 418b3). – As has previously been said (p. 1923F), the eighth ground (acalā-bhūmi) is called the level of the cakravartin. Just as the precious wheel (ratnackara) of the cakravartin king goes everywhere without encountering any obstacle (āvaraṇa) or hindrance (nīvaraṇa) or enemy (amitra), so the bodhisattva in this [eighth] ground can cause the Jewel of the Dharma (dharmaratna) to rain down and fulfill the wishes of beings without anything obstructing him.

He is also able to grasp the marks (nimitta) of the pure fields that he has seen and build (pariniṣpādayati) his own field on their model.

5. Sūtra.

Buddhakāyayathābhūtapratyavekṣaṇatā || yā dharmakāyayathābhūtapratyavekṣaṇatā |

ime pañca dharmāḥ paripūrayitavyāḥ ||

Seeing the body of the Buddhas in conformity with reality. – It is seeing in conformity with the reality of the dharmakāya.

Those are the five dharmas to be completely fulfilled.

Śāstra (p. 418b7). – The bodhisattva sees the bodies of the Buddhas like a magic show (māyā), like a metamorphosis (nirmāṇa). This body is not part (na saṃgṛhīta) of the five skandhas (pañcaskandha), the twelve bases of consciousness (dvādaśāyatana), the eighteen elements (aṣṭādaśadhātu); his dimensions, his various colors [are purely subjective]: they are adjusted to the visions which beings have as a result of actions of their previous lives (pūrvajanmakarman).

In the present passage, the Buddha himself says that ”seeing the Buddha is seeing the dharmakāya”.[2]

1. Sūtra.

Punar aparaṃ subūte bodhisattvena mahāsattvenāṣṭamyāṃ bhūmau vartamānena pañca dharmāḥ paripūrayitavyāḥ | yaduta indriyaparāparajñānatā || yā daśasu buddhabaleṣu sthitvā sarvasattvānām indriyaparāparajñānatā |

Furthermore, O Subhūti, the bodhisattva-mahāsattva in the eighth ground (acalā-bhūmi) should completely fulfill five dharmas, namely: knowing the extent of the spiritual faculties. – Established in the ten powers of the Buddha, the bodhisattva knows the faculties of all beings, superior or inferior.

Śāstra (p. 418b12). – As has been said in regard to the ten powers (1541–1545F), the bodhisattva knows first the functioning of the minds (cittapravṛtti) of all beings: he knows those who are of weak faculties (mṛdvindriya), those who are of keen faculties (tikṣṇendriya), those in whom generosity (dāna) predominates and those in whom wisdom (prajñā) predominates. Basing himself on these predominances, he saves beings.

2. Sūtra.

Buddhakṣetrapariśodhanatā || yā sattvacittapariśodhanatā |

Purifying the buddha-field. – This is purifying the minds of beings.

Śāstra (p. 418b14). – There are two ways of purifying: i) the bodhisattva purifies himself; ii) he purifies the minds of beings to make them follow the pure Path (pariśuddhamārga). By means of this twofold purification of others and himself, the bodhisattva can purify his buddha-field as he wishes (yatheccham).

3. Sūtra.

Māyopamasamādher samāpādanam || yatra samādhau sthitvā bodhisattvaḥ sarvāḥ kriyāḥ karoti | na cāsya cittaṃ kvacid dharme pravartate |

Concentrating oneself in the magic-like concentration. – Staying in this concentration, the bodhisattva accomplishes all activities, but his mind bears upon none.

Sāstra (p. 418b17). – The magician (māyākara) to some extent fills the universe with magical fictive objects: armies consisting of the four elements (caturaṅgabala), palaces and cities, food and drink, singing and dancing, killings and calamities, etc.

In the same way also, the bodhisattva established in this concentration fills the universes of the ten directions with his metamorphoses: first he makes gifts (dāna) and satisfies beings; then he preaches the Dharma (dharmaṃ deśayti), makes conversions (paripācayati) and destroys the three bad destinies (durgati); finally he establishes beings in the Three Vehicles (yānatrāya): in all these beneficent acitivities, not a single one fails.

The mind of the bodhisattva remains motionless (acala) and he no longer grasps objects of the mind (cittanimittāni nodgṛhṇāti).

4. Sūtra.

Abhīkṣṇaḥ samādhiḥ || yo bodhisattvasya vipakajaḥ samādhiḥ |

Perpetual concentration. – In the bodhisattva, it is the concentration resulting from retribution.

Śāstra (p. 418b24). – Having obtained the concentration like a magic show (māyopamasamādhi), the bodhisattva accomplishes all his activities [by means of effort] and with its help. Now it is a matter of the [innate] concentration resulting from retribution (vipākaja) at the moment of passing into a [new] existence (bhavasaṃkrānti).[3] In the same way that a person sees visibles (rūpa) without having recourse to the power of the mind, so the bodhisattva who is established in this [innate] concentration saves beings. It easily surpasses the concentration like a magic show, for it spontaneously (svatas) accomplishes its role without any help. Thus, among those who seek for wealth, some obtain it thanks to some help, but others obtain it spontaneously.

5. Sūtra.

Yathā yathā sattvānāṃ kuśalamūlapariniṣpattir bhavati tathā tathātmabhāvaṃ parigṛhṇāti || yad bodhisattvo yathā yathā sattvānāṃ kuśalamūlapariniṣpattir bhavati tathā tathā saṃcintyātmabhāvaṃ parigṛhṇāti sattvāṃś ca paripācayati || ime subhūte bodhisattvena mahāsattvenāṣṭamyāṃ bhūmau vartamānena pañca dharmāḥ paripūrayitavyāḥ |

According to such and such a degree of achievement that the roots of good of beings have, the bodhisattva assumes such and such a form of existence. – According to whether the roots of good of beings have such and such a degree of achievement, the bodhisattva knowingly assumes such and such a form of existence and ripens beings.

These, O Subhūti, are the five dharmas which the bodhisattva-mahāsattva residing in the eighth ground (acalā-bhūmi) must fulfill completely.

Śāstra (p. 318b29). – The bodhisattva has thus acquired the two kinds of concentration (samādhi) and the two kinds of superknowledge (abhijñā): those that are acquired by practice (bhāvanāpratilambhika) and those that are acquired by retribution (vipākapratilambhika). He knows that henceforth he will assume a [new] form of existence (ātmabhāva) with such a body, such a voice, such nidāna, by such a path and by such means (upāya). He will even go so far as to assume an animal form of existence in order to convert and save beings.

Footnotes and references:


An allusion to the wanderings of the bhikṣu Dharmākara, the future Amitābha, whom the buddha Lokeśvara led through the ten directions to show him the pure lands: this is the subject of the Sukhāvatīvyuḥas; see above, p. 601F, n. 1.


In Saṃyutta, III, p. 120, the Buddha says to Vakkali: Alaṃ Vakkali kiṃ te iminā pūtikāyrna diṭṭhena. Yo kho Vakkali dhammaṃ passati so maṃ passati; yo maṃ passati so dhammaṃ passati. – What would be the use of seeing this body of rottenness? He who sees the Dharma, sees me; he who see me, sees the Dharma.

There are many analogous texts in the Āgamas and especially in Ekottara; cf. Hōbōgirin, II, p. 176–177, s.v. Busshin.


This is the place to distinguish the samādhis acquired by effort (prāyogika) in the course of the present existence from the innate samādhis (upapattipratilambhika) inherited from earlier existences as fruits of retribution (vipākaja).

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