Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This is the English translation of the Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (“the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) by Nagarjuna (c. 2nd century A.D.). The book, in the form of an encyclopedia on Buddhism, is a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita (“the perfection of wisdom in five thousand lines”). Volume I describes the conditions...

Introduction to fourth volume

Volume I of the Traité described the conditions of time, place and individuals under which the Perfection of Wisdom was revealed. Volume II stated the spirit in which the bodhisattva should practice the virtues of his state. Volume III described the new concepts, in contrast to the old Abhidharma, in regard to that which concerns the practices auxiliary to enlightenment (bodhipakṣikadharma) and the attributes of the Buddhas. Here in volume IV, the Great Sūtra of the Perfection of Wisdom and the Traité which comments on it, tackle a new section which could be entitled ‘the Ideal of the Bodhisattva’. It is concerned with the desires or aspirations of the bodhisattva which can be realized only by the practice (śikṣā) of Prajñāpāramitā. Here we will touch upon the very heart of the Middle Way (madhyamaka) as it was conceived by the first Mahāyānasūtras.

At the time of his ordination, the Bodhisattva ‘produced the mind of Bodhi’ (bodhicittam utpādayati) by forming the intention of some day arriving at supreme perfect enlightenment (anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi) to save the infinite world of beings, to free them from the suffering of saṃsāra and establish them in the supreme knowledge of omniscience (anuttara sarvajñāna). Thus his objective is twofold: to acquire supreme wisdom himself and, at the same time, to assure the welfare and happiness of all beings.

In order to attain this end, the bodhisattva must travel a long career which, after a stage of preparation, extends over ten successive stages designated by the name ‘levels’ (bhūmi). It is only in the tenth level, that of Cloud of Dharma (dharmamegha), that he will accede to anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi, to the omniscience (sarvajñatā) belonging to the Buddhas involving the knowledge of things in all their aspects (sarvakārajñatā) and leading to the destruction of the disturbing emotions (kleśa) and their residues or ‘traces’ (vāsanā).

Having reached Buddhahood, the bodhisattva would be led straightaway to entering complete nirvāṇa (parinirvāṇa), without any residual conditioning, where he would be able to do nothing more for gods or for men. Realizing his own good, he would be sacrificing the second part of his ideal, that of working for the good and happiness of an infinite number of beings. This is why, relegating his access to anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi, he urgently seeks to acquire wisdom similar to but slightly inferior to that of the Buddhas, which allows him to remain for a long time in saṃsāra in order to dedicate himself to salvific activity by many and varied skillful means. Whereas the wisdom of the Buddhas is perfect omniscience (sarvajñatā) bearing upon all the aspects of things (sarvākārajñatā) and eliminating the disturbing emotions (kleśa) as well as their traces (vāsanā), the wisdom sought by the beginning bodhisattva is improperly called omniscience: it is concerned with the general characteristics of things without discerning all the particular aspects; it cuts the base of the passions and assures deliverance (vimukti), but leaves the traces of the passions intact, and it is as a result of the latter that the bodhisattva, abandoning his fleshly body (māṃsakāya), takes on a body arisen from the fundamental element (dharmadhātujakāya) and appears in the most varied forms in innumerable universes of the ten directions in order to ‘ripen’ beings (sattvaparipācana).

Of all the wishes that the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra attributes to the bodhisattva, that of beneficial wisdom is incontestably the main one. Exactly what does it consist of and at what stage of his career does the bodhisattva take possession of it?

It is, in its most complete form, the anutpattikadharmakṣānti, a cryptic expression the exact meaning of which has long escaped western exegesis. This kṣānti is the conviction, the certitude, that dharmas do not arise, that things deprived of birth and, as a result, of destruction, are not subject to becoming. By means of this kṣānti, the bodhisattva penetrates the single nature of dharmas, namely, absence of natures (alakṣaṇa), the true nature of dharmas (dharmatā, bhūtalakṣaṇa) “unborn and unceasing, neither defiled nor purified, neither existent nor non-existent, neither accepted nor rejected, always pacified, completely pure, like space, undefinable, inexpressible; it is the disappearance of all paths of speech, it goes beyond the domain of all minds and mental events; it is like nirvāṇa: this is the Dharma of the Buddhas” (Traité, p. 1501F).            

The practitioner definitively acquires this kṣānti in the eighth level, the Unmoveable Stage (acalā). That is where he takes up the assured position of bodhisattva (bodhisattvaniyāma). Certain of his future buddhahood, for three more levels he will pursue his salvific activity, but spontaneously and effortlessly (anābhogena), for his mind will no longer be disturbed by objects or concepts. Quite rightly, the sūtra considers entry into niyāma (niyāmāvakrānti) as the great conquest of the bodhisattva: this position where wisdom (prajñā) and skillful means (upāyakauśalya) are perfectly balanced is the beginning of supreme perfect enlightenment (anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi) which makes the Buddhas (cf. p. 1787–88F). However, the zeal of the bodhisattva is insatiable and, although above all he seeks this state of perfection, he still makes other wishes. The seven chapters translated in the present volume include no less than twenty-four of these (see Table of Contents). All are not solely of Mahāyānist invention. Some are repeated from the old canons, such as the wish to become established in the six abhijñās (p. 1809F), to possess a body endowed with the marks (p. 1905F), to hold extensive magical powers (p. 1982F), or even to assure the continuity of the Buddha universes (p. 1988F). Others, by adapting them, take up the doctrines already formulated by the Hināyānist schools during the five centuries following the parinirvāṇa of the Buddha. But in this area, the problem of the influences is especially delicate for it cannot be decided whether the Mahāyāna borrowed from the śrāvakas or vice versa. Whatever it may be, there are numerous points in common between the old schools and the teachings of the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra. Some postcanonical biographies, some Vinayas, had already established a distinction between the disturbing emotions (kleśa) and the traces (vāsanā) of disturbing emotions which the Buddhas have eliminated but which still persist in the saints (p. 1756F). The Mahāsāṃghika canon includes a basket of magical spells (mantrapiṭaka), distant beginnings of the dhāraṇi of the Mahāyāna (p. 1862F) and the Dharmaguptakas used the magical syllabary of the Arapacana for didactic ends (p. 1868F). The Mahāsāṃghikas, Andhakas, Uttarapāthakas and Vātsīputrīyas accepted the existence of a sixth destiny, that of the asuras (p. 1956F). The Vibhajyavādins and the Mahāsāṃghikas believed in the possibility of preaching the Dharma by means of a single sound (p. 1380F, 1985F). The Prajñaptivādins had drawn up a list of ten emptinesses which will appear, partially at least, in the list of eighteen emptinesses presented by the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra (p. 2013F).

All considered, the wishes that the bodhisattva attempts to realize by practicing the Prajñāpāramitā make up a not quite coherent mixture of original ideas and borrowed pieces. It is incumbent on the Traité to put some order into this important section of the sūtra.

* * *

In my [Lamotte] introduction to volume III of the Traité (p. viiiF-xlivF), I have dedicated a few pages to the author of this work. A learned monk, he knew the canonical scriptures thoroughly and specialized in the study of the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma (Ṣaṭpādābhidharma and Mahāvibhāṣā); later, having become aware of the Mahāyānasūtras, in particular the Prajñā sūtras and the philosophical treatises composed by the first Mādhyamikas (Nāgārjuna, Āryadeva and Rāhulabhadra), he became converted to the Mahāyāna without, however, renouncing his monastic role or even leaving his monastery. He then composed a long commentary on a great sūtra of the Perfection of Wisdom, the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā.

He noted that the doctrines of this sūtra in no way contradicted the canonical sūtras of the Tripiṭaka and were limited to explaining them. This made him very happy because, since his entry into religion, he held the sūtras as the very expression of the infallible word of the Buddha. This is why, in his commentary, he calls upon endlessly it to show the complete orthodoxy of the Mahāyāna Prajñā.

On the other hand, he had to recognize that the sūtra teachings, for the most part, were incompatible with the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma and, more particularly, with Kātyāyanīputra’s Jñānaprasthāna. We may guess that for him this was a disillusionment for he knew this system thoroughly and appreciated the clarity and coherence of its scholasticism. By comparison, the explanatory techniques adopted by the Mahāyāna sūtras presented a very sorry appearance: their disorder, their disjointedness, their interminable enumerations and their incessant repetitions which end up by tiring the best disposed reader. But the author of the Traité had been won over to their doctrines and he found himself faced with the difficult and unrewarding task of commenting on a sūtra the ideas of which he accepted but the didactic methods of which he reproved. Having specialized in the study of the Ṣaṭpāda and the Vibhāṣā, he decided to teach the doctrines of the Prajñā according to the explanatory techniques customary in the Abhidharmas. But bound to the text on which he was commenting, he was prevented from presenting it as a coherent and structured synthesis in the manner of a Madhyamakaśāstra or an Abhisamayālaṃkāra. Tackling each subject in the order in which the sūtra presented them, he tried to schematize them in the old way and, each time the subject was approached, he contrasted this pattern with the corresponding Sarvāstivādin pattern.

The present volume abounds in antitheses of this kind: to the four roots of good ‘favorable to penetration’ (nirvedhabhāgīya kuśalamūla) practiced by the śrāvaka in the course of the prayogamārga, there is the corresponding four preparatory practices required of the bodhisattva before his accession to the eighth bhūmi (p. 1795–98F); to the predestination to salvation (samyaktvaniyāma) of the śrāvaka, there is the predestination to Dharma (dharmaniyāma) of the bodhisattva; before their respective predestinations, both risk mūrdhabhyaḥ pāta, or ‘falling back from the summits’ (p. 1790–93F); by an act of taking pleasure (anumodanā) in a good action, the bodhisattva gains merit infinitely superior to that of the śrāvaka who performs this good action (p. 1880F); the advised practice of the four foundations of mindfulness (smṛtyupasthāna) leads favorably to meditation on the first three emptinesses (p.2047–55F).

We cannot avoid the impression that by writing his Traité, the author, an Abhidharmika who has gone over to the Mahāyāna, had set himself the main goal of converting the Sarvāstivādins.

* * *

Here, as in the preceding volumes, the Traité revives the world of the gods and men who moved around Śākyamuni from his first appearance on earth: king Ajātaśatru (p. 1767F), the brāhmaṇa Ākrośaka-Bhāradvāja (p. 1762), the recluse Asita (p. 1915), the emperor Aśoka in his previous lifetime (p. 1934F), Bakkula (p. 1984F), Bāvari (p. 1906F), the vaiśya Bindu (p. 1938F), Brahmā Devarāja (p. 2079F), the brāhmiṇa Ciñcā (p. 1764F), Cūdapanthaka (p. 1865), Devadtta (p. 1767F), the buddha Dīpaṃkara (p. 1775, 17777, 1921, 1931F), Gavāmpati (p. 1761F), the buddha Kāśyapa (p. 1778F), the śramaṇa Koṭīviṃśa (p. 1894F), Lo p’in tcheou, perhaps Losaka-tiṣya (p. 1944F), Madhuvāsiṣṭha (p. 1761F), Mahākāśyapa (p. 1761F), the demon Māra (p. 1776, 1825, 1937F), Maudgalyāyana (p. 1944, 1985F), the buddha Nāgavaṃśāgra (p. 1907F), Nanda (p. 1760, 1905, 1910F), the Pāpīyaka bhikṣus (p. 1837F), Pilindavatsa (p. 1761F), king Prasenajit (p. 1774F), Rādha (p. 2108, 2143F), Rāhu, king of the asuras (p. 2091F0, Rāhula (p. 1767F), Śakra Devendra (p. 2090F), Śāriputra (p. 1746, 1760, 1849, 1944F), the parivrājaka Śreṇika (p. 2141–42F), king Śuddhodana (p. 1826, 1915F), the bhikṣu Sumana or Karṇasumana (p. 1894–95F), Sumati alias Sumedha or Megha (p. 1775, n. 1; 1931F), Sundarī (p. 1764F), Sunetra (p. 2092F), the bhikṣu Uttara (p. 1778F), the brahmaṇa from Verañja (p. 1767F), the buddha Vipśyin (p. 1894, 1895F).

Among the rare bodhisattva appearing in the present volume, we may mention Samantapuṣpa (p. 1849–52F), Vimalakīrti (p. 1852F), Mañjuśrī (p. 1907F), Sadāprarudita (p. 1977F) and, mentioned together, Mañjuśrī, Vimalakīrti, Avalokiteśvara, Mahāsthāmaprāpta and Samantabhadra (p. 1982F).

* * *

Volume IV makes use of the same sources as the preceding volumes: the canonical Sūtrapiṭaka, the Mahāyānasūtras and especially the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra (Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā), the Abhidharmas of the various schools and the śāstras of the first Mādhyamika masters.

1. The canonical sūtras known by the author solely in their Sanskrit version, that of the Āgamacatuṣṭaya and the Kṣudrakapiṭaka, contain the teachings of the last Buddha Śākyamuni and, in this capacity, enjoy incontestable authority recognized by all Buddhists, whatever their Vehicle. It is to them that the author resorts preferentially in order to support his arguments. His work literally swarms with canonical logia and frequently cites whole sūtras, with greater or lesser accuracy.

Canonical sūtras cited by their titles. – Arthavargīyāṇi sūtrāṇi (p. 1749,2143–44F), Daśabala (p. 2116F), Dharmapada (p. 1943F), Jātaka (. 1853F), Kātyāyana (p. 2109F), Kolopama (p. 2094, 2143F), Mahāśūnyatā (p. 2094, 2143F), Pārāyaṇa (p. 2143F), Preta (p. 1950F), Rādha (p. 2143F), Saptasūryodaya cited Saptasūryopama (p. 2091–92F).

Canonical sūtras mentioned without title. – Acchariyā adbhutadhammā (p. 1992F), Akkosa (p. 1762F, n. 1). Ākāvaka (p. 1765F, n. 1), Anamatagga nakha (p. 2142F, n. 1), Assu (p. 1837F, n. 3, no. 1; 2099F, n. 1), Dīghanakha (p. 2142F, n. 1), Kevaddha (p. 2079F, n. 2), Khīra (p. 1837F, n. 3), no. 2; 2099F, n, 2), Laṭukikopama (p. 1899, n. 2, Mūla (p. 2074F, n. 3), Paramārthaśūnyatā (p. 1831F, n. 2; 2135F, n. 2), Pasāda (p. 1753F, n. 1; 2075F, n. 2), Paṭhavī, called Mṛdgulika in Sanskrit (p. 2100F, n. 1), Pheṇa (p. 2053–54F, n. 3; 2062F, n. 1), Puṇṇamā (p. 2107F, n. 3), Sabba, called Hastatāḍopama in Sanskrit (p. 1748F, n. 2), Saṃgīti (p. 1946F, n. 1), Samṛddhi called Suña in Pāli (p. 2112F, n. 1), Satta (p. 2108F, n. 1; 2143F, n. 2), Sīha (p. 1960F, n. 1), Śreṇikaparivrājaka called Kutūhasālā in Pāli (p. 2141F, n. 1), Susīma (p. 1839, n. 3), Tiṃsamattā called Lohita in Sanskrit (p. 1835F, n. 4; 20998F, n. 2), Tiṇakaṭṭha (p. 2099F, n. 4); Verañja (p. 1767F).

2. A convinced and professed Mahāyānist, the author of the Traité could not help but recognize the authenticity of the Mahāyānasūtras. There is frequent reference to them in his commentary. Nevertheless, even to his eyes, they do not enjoy the same credibility as the sūtras of the Tripiṭaka. The latter came from the very mouth (kaṇṭhokta) of the Buddha during the forty-five years of his public ministry and were heard and collected by his immediate disciples: they were facts historically witnessed. The sūtras of the Mahāyāna, however, come from a meeting in samādhi between one or several clairvoyants and the Buddhas of the three times and ten directions; having come out of samādhi, the clairvoyant records, most often in writing, the conversations he held with the Buddhas, but he knows perfectly well that the Buddhas come from nowhere and that he himself has gone nowhere, that the visions and things heard bestowed on him took place in his mind and that this mind itself does not exist, With a candor for which we will be grateful, the author will insist later (p. 1927–1930F) on the purely subjective nature of the appearance of Buddhas. Canonical sūtras and Mahāyānasūtras also differ in that the former, more or less, have only a didactic value whereas the latter present themselves from the very beginning as great magical spells (mahāvidyā) assuring their readers spiritual and material benefits (cf. 1862–1863F).

In the present volume, the author cites long extracts from the Mahāprajñāpāramitāsūtra, in this case the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā in order to expand his commentary and, in general, mentions the title of the chapter (parivarta = p’in) from which the extract is taken: cf. p. 1759F, n. 1; 1793F, n.2; 1800F, n. 3; 1807F, n. 1 and 2; 1817F, n. 1 and 2; 1818F; 1831F, n. 1; 1832F, n. 2; 1880F, n. 2; 1892F, n. 2; 1904F, n. 1; 1910F; 1975F, n. 1; 2046F, n. 3; 2060F, n. 1; 2102F, n. 1; 2146F, n. 2.

Other Mahāyānasūtras cited by their titles. – Bhadrakalpika (p. 1892F), Daśabhūmika, the Chinese title of which is borrowed from Dharmarakṣa’s translation (p. 1897F), Pratyutpannabuddhasaṃmukhāvasthitasamādhi cited as Pratyutpannasamādhi (p. 1927Fl; see also p. 1789F, n. 1), Ratnakūṭa (p. 1843F), Saddharmapuṇḍarīka (p. 1957F), Śūraṃgamasamādhi cited as Śūraṃgamasūtra (p. 1907F), Tathāgatācintyaguhyanirdeśa cited as Guhyakasūtra (p. 1985F), Vimalakīrtinirdeśa cited as Vimalakīrtisūtra (p. 1852F, 1942F, 1984F), Viśeṣacintibrahmaparipṛcchā cited as Jālanīprabhasūtra (p. 1848F), Viśeṣasūtra (p. 1921F).

3. As we have seen in the Introduction to volume III of the Traité (p. xix-xxii), the author had specialized in the study of the Sarvāstivādin scholasticism but, nevertheless, did not approve of it. However, although he energetically debated against the doctrines of Kātyāyanīputra and his disciples on many points (cf. p. 283F seq., 614F, 1383F, 1697F, 1905F), he did not entirely reject the Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma. In the present volume, he calls five times on the authority of an “Abhidharma” not otherwise specified and of which he quotes long extracts. In the five cases, it is a question of the Abhidharmaprakaraṇapāda (cf. p. 1750F, n. 2: 1752F, n. 1; 1870F, n. 3; 2083F, n. 1). This work consists of eight chapters, the first four of which were the work of the bodhisattva Vasumitra and the last four that of the Kaśmir arhats (p. 111–112F). For E. Frauwallner (Abhidharma-Studien, WZKSO, VIII, 1964, p. 92–99), it would be the most recent and the best constructed pāda of the Ṣaṭpādābhidharma of the Sarvāstivādins, but earlier than the Jñānaprasthāna of Kātyāyanīputra. Be that as it may, the Prakaraṇapāda always enjoyed a special esteem. It is the most frequently cited Abhidharma in the Saṃgītiparyāya (cf. Taisho Index, no. 15, p. 213c), the Mahāvibhāṣā (Taisho Index, no. 14, p. 313c), the Kośa and the Nyāyānusāra (Taisho Index, no. 16, p. 174b; Kośa Index, p. 242 under Prakaraṇa).

4. In the chapter dedicated to the eighteen emptinesses, the author is inspired mainly by Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamakaśāstra. He even introduces into his prose two Mūlamadhyamakakārikās without informing the reader of his borrowing (p. 2095F, n. 1). In several places, his argumentation closely follows that of Nāgārjuna (cf. p. 2057F, n. 1; 2058F, n. 1; 2062F, n. 1; 2063F note; 2075 note; 2076F n. 1; 2084F, n. 2; 2107F, n. 2; 2119F, n. 1).

* * *

It would be rather naïve to accept that all the texts attributed by the Indian, Chinese and Tibetan traditions to Nāgārjuna come from one and the same hand, the well-known author of the Madhyamakaśāstra. This would be to forget that, in the matter of literary attribution, India is open only to the wealthy and that the worry of the old writers was not to keep their rights of authorship but to dissimulate modestly behind great names. In volume III (p. xxxix-xlF, 1370–1375F, note), I [Lamotte] expressed the opinion that the author of the Traité is not the Nāgārjuna of the Madhyamakaśāstra and that he was significantly later than the first Mādhyamika scholars, Nāgārjuna, Āryadeva and Rāhulabhadra. Without wishing to repeat myself [Lamotte], I would only comment that the Traité which calls upon a good thirty voluminous Mahāyānasūtras (cf. volume III, p. xxxivF-xxxviiF) cannot be placed at the very origins of the Buddhist Madhyamaka, that the Traité itself cites a mass of Nāgārjuniam kārikās and reproduces in full (p. 1060–1065F) the Prajñāpmaramitāstotra by Rāhulabhadra and therefore is later than them.

There remains Āryadeva. On p. 1370F, without mentioning a particular work, the Traité presents a chapter entitled P’o-wo-p’in ‘Chapter on the Refutation of the Self’. To what work should it be attributed? To a Prajñāpārāmitāsūtra? But no chapter in the Tables Comparatives des versions des Prajñāpāramitā prepared by Professor Hikata in his edition of the Suvikrāntavikrāmiparipṛcchā bears this name. Could it be a chapter of the Mūladmadhyamakakārikā of Nāgārjuna? De Jong (Asia Major, XVII, 1972, p. 109): “It is certainly possible that P’o-wo-p’in refers to the eighteenth chapter of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā.” Alas, this eighteenth chapter bears the title Ātmaparīkṣā ‘Examination of the Self’. I [Lamotte] accept and still believe that the P’o-wo-p’in in question designates the chapter of the Catuḥśataka by Āryadeva entitled P’o-wo-p’in in the two Chinese versions (T 1570, k. 1, p. 182c18; T 1571, k. 2, p. 194a27), Bdag dgag par bsgom pa bstan pa in the Tibetan version (Tib. Trip., vol. 95, no. 5246, p. 137–1–5). According to the Chinese versions, the Sanskrit title would have been Ātmapariṣedhaprakaraṇam ‘Chapter on the Refutation of the Self’.

A new piece of information may now be added to the file. From a letter dated May 14, 1976, two young Danish scholars, C. Lindtner and P. Sorensen inform me [Lamotte] that they have discovered two stanzas of the Āryadeva’s Catuḥśataka in my [Lamotte] French translation of the Traité, p. 69F and 1686F.

1. On page 69F (cf. T 1509, k. 1, p. 64b11–18), the writer expresses himself as follows:

In the Tchong-louen (Madhyamakaśāstra) some stanzas say:

If there were something non-empty
There would have to be something empty.
But if the non-empty does not exist,
How would the empty exist?

The fools who see non-emptiness
Then also see emptiness.
Not having positive views (dṛṣṭi) or negative views (adṛṣṭi),
That is truly nirvāṇa.

Non-duality, the door to bliss,
The destruction of wrong views,
The realm traveled by all the Buddhas
That is what is called Non-self.

Only the first two stanzas are taken from the Madhyamakaśāstra. The first is Madhyamakakārikā XIII, 7 (Madh. vṛtti, p. 245):

Yady aśūnyaṃ bhavet kiṃcit
syāc śūnyam iti kiṃcana |
na kiṃcid asty aśūnyaṃ ca
kutaḥ śūnyaṃ bhaviṣyati ||

The second may be compared to the Madhyamakakārikā V, 8 (Madh, vṛtti, p. 135):

Astitvaṃ ye tu paśyanti
nāstitvaṃ cālpabuddhayaḥ |
bhāvānaṃ te na paśyanti
draṣṭavyopaśamaṃ śivam ||

“People of little intelligence who see the existence or also the non-existence of essences do not see the blessed peacefulness of the visible [peacefulness consisting of the cessation of knowledge and of the object to be known]”.

The third stanza cited does not come from the Madhyamakaśāstra but from Āryadeva’s Catuḥśataka, chap. XII, stanza 13 (ed. P. L. Vaidya, no. 288, p. 99; ed. V. Bhattacharya, no. 288, p. 151):

Advitīyaṃ śivadvāraṃ
kudṛṣṭīnāṃ bhayaṃkaram |
viṣayaḥ sarvabuddhānām
iti nairātmyam ucyate ||

“Non-duality, gateway to bliss, the scare-crow for wrong views, the domain of all the Buddhas: that is what is called Non-self”.

2. Having affirmed that the anātman (or the nairātmya) involves the rejection of all dharmas, the Traité, p.1686F (cf. T 1509, k. 26, p. 254a10–12) continues with the following citation:

This is what is said:

If a person knows the nairātmya well
He is thus advised
Not to be happy by hearing about existent things
Not to be sad by hearing about non-existent things.

This citation is borrowed from Āryadeva’s Catuḥśataka, chapter XII, stanza 17. Its original Sanskrit title has not come down to us, but the stanza is known by its Chinese translations (T 1570, p. 184b8–9; T 1571, k. 6, p. 220b14–15) and its Tibetan translation, much more faithful (ed. P. L. Vaidya, no. 292, p. 100; ed. V. Bhattacharya, no. 292, p. 156):

de ñid du bdag sñam du |
de ltar gaṅs gnas pa ||
de ni yod pas ga la dgaḥ |
med pas ḥjigs par ga la ḥgyur ||

V. Bhattacharya (l. c.) restores the Sanskrit as follows:

Tattvato nairātmyam iti
yasyaivaṃ vartate matiḥ |
tasya bhāvāt kutaḥ prītir
abhāvena kuto bhayam ||

“He who considers the non-self to be real, how could he experience joy in the face of existence, fear in the face of non-existence?”

Thus the discovery of Lindtner and Sorenson adds to and confirms our earlier conclusions. The author who cites Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamakaśāstra, Aryadeva’s Catuḥśataka and Rāhula’s Stotra postdates the first line of great Maādhyamika scholars and cannot be identified with any of them. Indeed, he is considerably later than them for, by referring to a mass of Mahāyāna sūtras, he is from an epoch where the Madhyamaka had already undergone a long elaboration.

If, as its translator Kumārajīva would have it, the author of the Traité went under the name of Nāgārjuna, this was not the Nāgārjuna of the Madhyamakaśāstra, but one of the many other ‘Nāgārjunas’ known to the literary tradition. On this subject, see the comments of G. Tucci, in East and West, vol. 22 (1972), p. 366–367.

* * *

Professor Jacques May of the Université de Lausanne, a great specialist of the Madhyamaka, has dedicated an entire week of his precious time to rereading with me the translation of chapter XLVIII which deals with the eighteen emptinesses, and Professor Robert Shih of the Université de Louvain has made valuable suggestions in regard to the same chapter. My former pupil, Marcel Van Velthem, graduate in philology and eastern history, has spontaneously offered to help me in correcting the proofs and his assistance has been very efficient. I give my heartiest thanks to these friends, as devoted as they are wise.

For more than fifteen years, I benefited from the care and favors of the Fondation Universitaire de Belgique. After having subsidized most of my earlier publications, it has generously intervened in the fresh printings of the present volume. The debt of gratitude that I owe to the members of this great institution and to its distinguished Secretary General, Marcel Grosjean is great indeed.

My gratitude also goes to Emmanuel Peeters, director of the Imprimerie Orientaliste of Louvain whose judicious advice considerably facilitated the execution of the present work.

                                                                                                Étienne Lamotte

                                                                                                Louvain, August 15, 1976.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: