Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “the ground of good wisdom (sadhumati)” 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 9: the ground of good wisdom (sādhumatī)

1. Sūtra.

Punar aparaṃ subhūte bodhisattvena mahāsattvena navamyāṃ bhūmau vartamānena dvādaśadharmāḥ paripūrayitavyāḥ. Katame dvādaśa

Furthermore, O Subhūti, the bodhisattva-mahāsattva in the ninth ground (sādhumatī-bhūmi) must completetly fulfill twelve dharmas. What are these twelve? In universes infinite in number, the bodhisattva takes hold of the class of beings capable of being converted (vineyabhāga). – In the innumerable universes of the ten directions, the bodhisattva liberates (vimocayati) the beings capable of being saved in accord with the Buddha’s teachings.

Śāstra (p. 418c4). – In the innumerable incalculable universes (lokadhātu) of the ten directions there are beings in the six destinies (ṣaḍgati); the bodhisattva [of the ninth ground] ripens (paripācayati) those who are capable of being saved and saves them.

There are three kinds of universes (lokadhātu): the pure (pariśuddha), the impure (apariśuddha) and the mixed ones (miśra) Of the beings living in these three types of universe, some have the privilege of being able to be saved; it is those that the bodhisattva takes hold of. One lights a lamp (dīpa) for those who have eyes and not for blind people (andha); in the same way, the bodhisattva [ripens only] those who already fulfill the causes and conditions [of salvation] or who are beginning to fulfill them.

Furrthermore, a trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu [containing a billion universes of four continents (cāturdvīpaka)[1]] constitutes one single lokadhātu. These universes arise and disappear at the same time.

Lokadhātus of the same type present in the ten directions, in number equal to the sands of the Ganges, form one single buddhalokadhātu.

Buddhalokadhātus of the same type, in number equal to that of the sands of the Ganges, form an ocean (samudra) of buddhalokadhātus.

Oceans of buddhalokadhātus of the same type, present in the ten directions in number equal to that of the sands of the Ganges, form a seed (bīja) of buddhalokadhātus.

Seeds of the same type, innumerable in the ten directions, form a buddhakṣetra.

In all these lokadhātus, the bodhisattva “takes hold of a class of beings”, the class of those who are to be saved by a Buddha.

2. Sūtra.

Praṇidhānaparigrahaḥ || ṣaṇṇāṃ pāramitānāṃ paripūrṇatvāt |

All obtain according their wishes. – Because of the fullness of the perfections of the bodhisattva.

Śāstra (p. 418c16). –Merits (puṇya) and wisdom (prajñā) are complete (paripūrṇa) in this bodhisattva; this is why there is no aspiration (praṇidhāna) that he does not realize. Learning that in immense and infinite universes there are masses of beings to be saved, one is afraid of not succeeding in doing so. This is why the sūtra here is speaking of the success in aspirations (praṇidhānasamṛddhi). [The bodhisattva is assured of success] since, as the Buddha says here the bodhisattva “fulfills the six perfections completely” (ṣaṇṇāṃ pāramitānāṃ paripūrṇatvāt). The first five perfections represent the fulfillment of merits (puṇyaparipūri); wisdom (prajñā) represents the fulfillment of wisdom (prajñāparipūri).

3. Sūtra.

Devanāgakṣagandharvarutajñānam || yaduta niruktipratisaṃvidā |

The knowledge of the languages spoken by the devas, nāgas, yakṣas and gandharvas. – This is by virtue of the unhindered modes of expression.

4. Sūtra.

Pratibhānanirdeśajñānam[2] || yaduta pratibhānapratisaṃvidā |

The talent of eloquence. – This is by virtue of the unhindered knowledge of eloquence.

Śāstra (p. 418c21). – I have spoken above of the fulfillment of merits (puṇyaparipūri), the fulfillment of wisdom (prajñāparipūri) and success in aspirations (praṇidhānasamṛddhi). Knowing foreign languages is precisely one of the bodhisattva’s wishes.

Furthermore, the bodhisattva whose knowledge of former abodes (pūrvanivāsajñāna)[3] is very pure knows the languages of all the places he has taken rebirth in. Furthermore, possessing the knowledge resulting from resolution (praṇidhijñāna), he knows the nomenclature (nāmavidhāna?) and deliberately makes up all kinds of words (akṣara) and expressions (vāc).

Furthermore, the bodhisattva who has obtained the concentration explaining the language of beings (sattvābhilapanirmocanasamādhi) penetrates all languages without hindrance.

Finally, the bodhisattva has himself obtained the four unhindered knowledges (pratisaṃvid) or he practices the four unhindered knowledges of the Buddha. This is why he knows the languages (abhilāpa) and the sounds (śabda) of beings.

5. Sūtra.

Garbhāvakrāntisampat[4] || iha bodhisattvaḥ sarvāsu jātiṣūpapāduka upapadyate |

The excellence of the descent into the womb. – In all his births, the Bodhisattva is born apparitionally.

Śāstra (p. 418c28). – According to some, the Bodhisattva mounted on a white elephant (śvetahastyabhirūḍha), surrounded (parivṛta), venerated (satkṛta), respected (gurukṛta), esteemed (mānita) and served (pūjita) by innumerable Tuṣita gods, penetrated along with them into the belly of his mother (mātṛkukṣi).

According to others, the Bodhisattva’s mother, possessing the concentration like a magic show (māyopamasamādhi) caused her belly to expand inordinately; all the bodhisattvas of the trisāhasramahāsāhasradlokadhātu, the devas, nāgas and asuras were able to enter into it and come out. In this belly there is a palace and a platform. [The deities] set a bed (khaṭvā) there, hung banners (patākā), spread it with flowers and burned incense; all this was the result of the meritorious actions (puṇyakarman) of the Bodhisattva. Next the Bodhisattva comes down and takes his place there and, by the power of his concentration (samādhi), enters into the womb while staying as previously in the heaven of the Tuṣita gods.

6. Sūtra.

Janmasampat || jātamātra eva bodhisattvo ’prameyānantalokadhātūn avabhāsena sphurati | na tu nimitāny udgṛhṇati |

The excellence of the birth. – As soon as he is born, the Bodhisattva illumines immense and infinite universes with his brilliance but does not grasp the marks.

Śāstra (p. 419a7). – When the Bodhisattva is about to be born, the devas, nāgas and asuras adorn the trisāhasramahāsmahasralokadhātu. Then lotus seats made of the seven jewels (saptaratnamaya padmāsana) arise spontaneously (svatas). From the belly of the mother (mātṛkukṣi) come forth innumerable bodhisattvas first who go to sit on the lotuses: they join their palms, make praises and wait. The bodhisattvas and also the devas, nāgas, asuras, ṛṣis, āryas and noble ladies join their palms and wholeheartedly wish to see the birth of the Bodhisattva.

Next, the Bodhisattva comes out of the right side of his mother like the full moon emerging from the clouds. He emits a great brilliance that lights up immense universes. At the same moment, a great voice is heard in the universes of the ten directions that proclaims: “In that place, the Bodhisattva is in his last lifetime (caramabhavika).”

Sometimes there are bodhisattvas who arise apparitionally (upapāduka) on the lotuses.

In regard to the four wombs (yoni),[5] the Bodhisattva is born from the chorion (jarāyuja) or he is of apparitional birth (upapāduka). In regard to the four castes of men (jāti), the Bodhisattva is born either into the kṣatriya caste or in that of the brāhmaṇa, for these two castes are honored by men.

7. Sūtra.

Kulasampat || yad bodhisattvaḥ kṣatriyakuleṣu brāhmaṇakuleṣu vā pratyājāyate |

The excellence of the family. – The Bodhisattva takes birth into a kṣatriya family or a brāhmaṇa family.

Śāstra (p. 419a17). –Brāhmaṇa families have wisdom (prajñā); kṣatriya families have power (bala). The brāhmaṇa favors the future life (paraloka); the kṣatriya favors the present life (ihaloka): both families are useful in the world; this is why the Bodhisattva is born among them.

There is also the worthy family of the Dharma (dharmakula), that of the non-regressing adepts (avaivartika).[6]

Taking birth in these families is the excellence of the family.

8. Sūtra.

Gotrasampat || yad bodhisattvo yasmād gotrāt pūrvakā bodhisattvā abhūvaṃs tatra gotre pratyajāyate |

The excellence of the clan. – The Bodhisattva is born into the clan coming from the Bodhisattvas of the past.

Śāstra (p. 419a21). – When the Bodhisattva is still in the Tuṣita heaven, he examines (vilokayati) the world, asking himself which clan is the most noble in order to welcome a being; this is the clan in which he takes birth. Thus, among the last seven Buddhas, the first three were born into the Kauṇḍinya clan, the following three into the Kāśyapa clan and the Buddha Śākyamuni into the Gautama clan.

Furthermore, the Bodhisattva who begins with the strength of high aspiration (adhyāśayadṛḍhatā)[7] [is born] into the clan of the Buddhas (buddhagotra). For the others, acquiring the conviction that dharmas do not arise (anutpattikadharmakṣāntipratilābdha) would be the “clan of the Buddha” for it is then that the Bodhisattva acquires a partial influx of the knowledge of all the aspects (sarvākārajñatā). Compare this stage with the gotrabhūmi in the śrāvaka system.

9. Sūtra.

Parivārasampat || yad bodhisattvo mahāsattvo bodhisattvaparivāra eva bhavati |

Excellence of the entourage. – The Bodhisattva-mahāsattva has an entourage consisting only of bodhisattvas.

Śāstra (p. 419a28). – [Those who surround the bodhisattva of the ninth ground (sādhumatī-bhūmi)] are wise men, good men who, from lifetime to lifetime have accumulated merit. In the present passage, the Buddha himself says that the entourage is composed solely of bodhisattvas. Thus, it is said in the Pou-k’o-sseu-yi king [Acintyasūtra, or Gaṇḍavyūha) that Kiu-p’i-ye (Gopiyā or Gopā) was a great bodhisattva.[8] The whole entourage is in the level of the non-regressing bodhisattvas (avaivartikabhūmi). These bodhisattvas, by the magical power (vikurvaṇabala) of the concentration of means (upāyabala), change into men (puruṣa) or women (strī) and together form the entourage of the bodhisattva of the ninth ground]. They are like the treasurer-jewel (gṛhapatiratna)[9] of a cakravartin king: he is a yakṣa or an asura, but he takes the form of a man in order to workwith men.[10]

10. Sūtra.

Abhiniṣkaramaṇasampat || yad bodisattvaḥ pravrajyāsaṃaye ’nekaiḥ sattvakoṭiniyutaśatasahasraiḥ sārdham abhiniṣkrāmati grhāt | te ca sattvā niyatā bhavanti triṣu yāneṣu |

Excellence of departure. – The bodhisattva leaving the world goes forth from home with innumerable hundreds of thousands of millions of beings, and these beings are predestined to the Three Vehicles.

Śāstra (p. 419b4). – Thus one night in his palace, the Bodhisattva Śākyamuni saw that his courtesans were like corpses. The devas and the asuras of the ten directions, bearing banners (patāka) and flowers (puṣpa) came to offer them to him and, bearing themselves respectfully on meeting him, escorted him outside.

Then Tch’ö-ni (Chaṇdaka), despite the orders he had previously received from king Tsing-fan (Śuddhodana), acceded to the wishes of the Bodhisattva and brought him his horse [Kaṇṭhaka].

The four kings, messengers of the gods (devadūta), held the horse’s hoofs in their hands while it leaped over the ramparts and left he city.

It is to destroy the passions (kleśa) and Māra in person that the Bodhisattva, before all the beings, in this way demonstrated his dislike for the householder life, for, if an individual as meritorious and noble as he is abandons his home, what should ordinary people not do?

Episodes (nidāna) of this kind illustrate “the excellence of the departure” (abhiniṣkramaṇa-sampad).

11. Sūtra.

Bodhivṛkṣavyūhasampat || yad bodhivṛkṣasya mūlaṃ sauvarnaṃ bhavati saptaratnamayāni skandhaśākhāpattrāni yeṣāṃ skandhaśākhāpattrāṇām avabhāso daśasu dikṣv asaṃkhyeyān trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātūn sphurati |

The excellence of the splendor of the tree of enlightenment. – The root of the tree of enlightenment is of gold; its trunk, branches and leaves are made of the seven jewels; the brilliance of the trunk, branches and leaves illumines, in each of the ten directions, incalculable trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātus.

Śāstra (p. 419b11). – For the ornamentation of the tree of enlightenment see above (p. 2321–2322F). In the present passage, the Buddha himself says that the root of this tree is made of gold; its trunk, branches and leaves are made of the seven jewels, and the brilliance of the trunk, branches and leaves illumines innumerable incalculable Buddha universes in each of the ten directions.

Some Buddhas adorn the Buddha tree with the seven jewels of the Bodhisattva, but sometimes this is not the case. Why? Because the magical power (ṛddhibala) of the Buddhas is inconceivable (acintya): it is for beings that they manifest all kinds of splendors (vyūha).

12. Sūtra.

Sarvaguṇaparpūrisampat || yo bodhisattvasya sattvaparipākaś ca buddhakṣetra-pariśuddhiś ca | ime subhūte bodhisattvena mahāsattvena navamyāṃ bhūmau vartamānena dvādaśadharmāḥ paripūrayitvyāḥ |

Excellence in the complete accomplishment of all the qualities. – In the Bodhisattva, this is the ripening of beings and the complete purification of the Buddha-field.

These, O Subhūti, are the twelve dharmas which the Bodhisattva-mahāsattva in the ninth ground must fulfill completely.

Śāstra (p. 419b17). – In the seventh ground, the bodhisattva destroys all the passions (kleśa)[11] [and thus assures his own interest]: that is the “excellence of one’s own interest” (svārthasampad); in the eighth and ninth ground, he assures the interest of others (parārtha) insofar as he “ripens beings and purifies completely his buddha-field”. In respect to the depth and breadth of the two interests thus assured, the Bodhisattva “excels in the accomplishment of all the qualities” (sarvaguṇaparipūri).

The arhats and pratyekabuddhas assure their own interest greatly but neglect the interest of others; therefore they are not complete. The devas and the minor bodhisattvas[12] are useful to others but have not destroyed their own passions: therefore they too are not complete. [The great Bodhisattvas alone have] “fulfilled completely all the qualities.”

Footnotes and references:


See Kośa, III, p. 170.


Article omitted in the Chinese version, but appearing in the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 217, l. 14. The pratisaṃvids alluded to here are defined above, p. 1616–1624F.


Cf. p. 1555F.


The eight saṃpads of the bodhisattva of the ninth ground are fully described in the biographies of the Buddha, especially in the Lalitavistara. Two biographies in archaic Chinese, the Sieou hing pen k’i king (T 184) and the Tchong pen k’i king (T 196), used but little up to now, have recently been translated into Dutch by E. Zürcher, Het leven can de Boeddha vertaald uit vroegste Chinese overlevering, 1978. These texts show much of linguistic and historical interest. They inform us about the hybrid language, semi-scholarly, semi-popular, used at the time of the later Han by the Buddhist propaganda in China, and we learn what the first missionaries thought was proper to reveal of the life of the Buddha to people foreign not only in mind but in speech. For this language, see also E. Zürcher, Late Han Vernacular Elements in the Earliest Buddhist Translations, 1977, p. 177–203.


Beings are born from an egg (aṇḍa), chorion (jarāya), exudation (saṃsveda) or are of apparitional birth (upapāduka): Dīgha, III, p. 230; Majjhima, I, p. 73, etc.


The bodhisattvas of the eighth ground.


As we have seen, high aspiration (adhyāśaya) is the first of ten preparations (parikarma) to be fulfilled in the first bhūmi.


Sudhana, son of a notable man who had produced the mind of anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi, wanted to know how to attain it definitively, so he traveled through various Indian lands and consulted a large number of sages. At Kapilavasti he met Gopā, a daughter of the śākyas, who gave him some precious information about the practices of the bodhisattva. This meeting is mentioned in the Gaṇḍavyūha, ed. D. T. Suzuki, p. 390 (= Avataṃsaka,T 279, k. 75, p. 406c7–10): Atha khalu Sudhanaḥ śreṣṭidāraka yena Gopā śākyakanyā tenopasaṃkramya Gopāyāḥ śākyakanyāyāḥ kramatalayoh śarīrena praṇipatotthāya purataḥ prāñjaliḥ sthitvevam āha | mayārye ‘nuttarāyām samyaksaṃbodhau cittam utpāditaṃ na ca jānāmi katham bodhisattvāḥ saṃsāre saṃsaranti saṃsāradosaiś ca na lipyante |

Gopā (Gopī, Gopikā) knew Śākyamuni when the latter was still living at home and was indulging in pleasure. According to some sources, notably the Traité (above, p. 1003F), she was one of Śākyamuni’s wives. After her death, she was reborn in the Trāyastriṃśa heaven where she was known by the name of the devaputra Gopaka. It was in this form that she appears in the Śūraṃgamasamādhisūtra, French transl., p. 172–178. To Dṛḍhamati, who asks her why she has changed her woman’s body, she answers that the distinctions between the sexes is purely imaginary, all dharmas being of one taste and without duality. The precise teachings that she gave Sudhana on the ten qualities of the bodhisattva are evidence that she herself was a great bodhisattva of the ninth ground. Having shed her body of flesh, she was clothed with a body born of the fundamental element (dharmathātuja kāya), free of marks and particularly of sexual characteristics. But for the good of beings and out of skillful means (upāya), this great bodhisattva appears under the most varied of forms.


The gṛhapatiratna, rendered here by the characters kiu-che-pao, is the sixth of the seven jewels of a cakravartin king (Dīgha, II, p. 173–177; Majjhima, II, p. 134; III, p. 172–176; Mahāvastu, II, p. 158, l. 16). This was not strictly speaking a ‘householder’ but a treasurer, as certain Chinese translations suggest: tien-tsang-pao (t 125, p. 552a18), cheou-tsang-tche-pao (T 125, p. 788a12, tchou-tsang-pao (T 125, p. 807a4). Dīgha, II, p. 176 and Majjhima, III, p. 175 attribute to him supernatural powers: Tassa kammavipākajaṃ dibbaṃ cakkhu pātubhavati yena nidhiṃ passati sassāmikam pi assāmikam pi. – There appears in him a divine eye by which he finds the treasures which may or may not have a possessor.


Thus, a number of devas, maruts and nāgas were in the service of Aśoka and obeyed his orders: cf. Mahāvaṃsa, V, v. 24–33.


The kleśavivarta mentioned above, p. 2427F.


Those of the first six bhūmis.