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The Treatise on the Great Virtue of Wisdom, Volume II


Chapter XXIX - The Virtue of Wisdom

Sūtra: The Bodhisattva must fulfill the virtue of wisdom by not adhering to any system (prajñāpāramitā paripūrnayitavyā sarvadharmānabhiniveśam[1] upādāya).

Śāstra. – Question. – What is prajñāpāramitā?

Answer. – From the first production of the mind of Bodhi (prathamacittotpāda), the bodhisattvas seek the knowledge of all the aspects (sarvākārajñāna), in the course of which they understand the true nature of dharmas: this wisdom is the prajñāpāramitā.

Question. – If that is so, this wisdom should not be called virtue (pāramitā). Why? Because it does not reach the end (na pāram ita)[2]of wisdom.

Answer. – Only the wisdom obtained by the Buddha is the true wisdom; but, as a result of this virtue, the efforts of the bodhisattva are also called virtue, for the effect (kārya) is included in the cause (kāraṇā). Inasmuch as this virtue resides in the mind of the Buddha, it changes its name and is called the knowledge of all the aspects (sarvākārajñāna );[3] but when the bodhisattva, practicing this wisdom, seeks to attain the other shore (pāra), it is called virtue (pāramitā). As the Bodhisattva has already attained the other shore, his wisdom is called knowledge of all the aspects. [Page 439]

Question. – The Buddha, who has destroyed all the passions (kleśa) and impregnation's (vāsanā) and whose eye of wisdom (prajñācakṣus) is pure, can truly understand the true nature of dharmas and this true nature is prajñāpāramitā; but the bodhisattva has not destroyed the impurities (akṣīṇāsrava) and his eye of wisdom is impure; how can he understand the true nature of dharmas?

Answer. – This will be fully explained in the following chapters; here a summary (saṃkṣepokti) must be sufficient. Suppose [two] men walk into the sea; the first just begins to go in whereas the second already touches the bottom. Despite the difference of depth, both are said to have ‘gone into the sea’. It is [190b] the same for the Buddha and the bodhisattva: the Buddha has attained the depth [of wisdom); the bodhisattva, who has not destroyed the impregnation's of passions (kleśavāsanā) and whose power is weak, cannot penetrate [into wisdom) deeply. We will see this in the following chapters.

When a person lights a lamp in a dark room, it lights up the objects that all become visible. If a big lamp is also brought, the illumination is increased and it is noticed that the darkness dissipated by this new big lamp still remained with the first lamp. The first lamp, which co-existed with a certain amount of darkness, illumined the objects, however, [up to a certain point] because, if this first lamp had chased away all the darkness, the second lamp would be useless.[4] It is the same for the wisdom of the Buddha and the bodhisattvas. The wisdom of the bodhisattva which co-exists with the impregnations of passions is, however, able to understand the true nature of dharmas: it is like the first lamp that lights up the objects [slightly]. The wisdom of the Buddhas that has eliminated the impregnations of the passions also understands the true nature of dharmas: it is like the second lamp that illuminates twofold.

Question. – What is the true nature of dharmas? [Page 440]

Answer. – Each being defines this true nature of dharmas and considers their own definition to be true. But here the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) is indestructible (avikāra), eternally subsisting, unchangeable and without creator. In a following chapter, the Buddha says to Subhuti: “The bodhisattva sees all dharmas a being neither eternal nor transitory, neither painful nor happy, neither with self nor without self, neither existent nor non-existent, etc.”[5] abstaining from these views is the bodhisattva’s prajñāpāramitā. This subject avoids all views, destroys all speech (abhilāpa), expels all functioning of the mind (hittapravṛtti). From the very beginning, dharmas are unborn (anutpanna), unceasing (aniruddha), like nirvāṇa (nirvāṇasama) and all their natures are of the same type: this is the true nature of dharmas. The stanzas of the Tsan pan jo po lo mi (Prajñāpāramitāstotra)[6] say:

    The Prajñāpāramitā,
    The true Dharma, free of error (aviparita).
    Mind, concept, view are expelled,
    The elements of speech have been destroyed.

    Immeasurable, free of any defect,
    Mind pure, always unified:
    This is how the venerable one
    Sees Prajñā.[7]

    Immaculate like space,
    Free of speech and designation:
    To see Prajñā in this way
    Is also to see the Buddha.[8]

    Seeing the Buddha, the Prajñā and nirvāṇa
    According to the rules,
    These three things are identical;
    There is no difference among these realities.[9]

    Of Buddhas and bodhisattvas
    Who carry out the benefit of all beings, [Page 442]
    Prajñā is the mother:
    She gives birth to them and nourishes them.[10] [190c]

    The Buddha is the father of beings
    Prajñā is the mother of the Buddha.
    Thus, the Prajñā is the grandmother
    Of all beings.[11]

    The Prajñā is a unique dharma
    To which the Buddha applies all kinds of names;
    According to the capacities of beings
    He applies different sounds.[12]

    For the person who has grasped the Prajñā
    Speech and thoughts vanish,
    Like the morning dew evaporates
    All at once at day break.[13] [Page 443]

    The Prajñā has this wonderful power
    Of stimulating two types of people,
    The ignorant by means of fear,
    The wise by means of joy.[14]

    The person who possesses the Prajñā
    Is the king of Prajñā.
    He is not attached to Prajñā
    And even less to the other dharmas.[15]

    Prajñā comes from nowhere
    Prajñā goes nowhere.
    The sage looks for it everywhere
    But does not find it.[16]

    The person who sees Prajñā
    Finds deliverance. [Page 444]
    The person who does not see Prajñā
    Also finds deliverance.[17]

    The Prajñā is astounding,
    Very profound and glorious.
    Like a magical object,
    It is seen without being visible.[18]

    The Buddhas, the bodhisattvas
    The śrāvakas and the pratyekabuddhas
    All derive from the Prajñā
    Their liberation and their nirvāṇa.[19]

    Their language is conventional:
    Having pity for all beings,
    They speak of dharmas in metaphors;
    Speaking [about the Prajñā), they say nothing.[20] [Page 445]

    The Prajñāpāramitā
    Is like the flame of a great fire:
    Ungraspable from any direction,
    Without holding or not holding.

    Escaping from any grasp,
    It is called ungraspable.
    The taking of it when it is ungraspable
    Is what the grasping of it consists of.

    The Prajñā is unchangeable
    And surpasses any speech.
    It occurs unceasingly.
    Who can praise its qualities?[21]

    Although the Prajñā cannot be praised
    I can praise it now.
    Even without having escaped from this land of death, [191a]
    I have already found the way out (niḥsaraṇa).[22] [Page 446]

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- Footnotes:

In place of sarvadharmānabhiniveśam there is, in the Pañcaviṃśati, p. 18: prajñādauṣprajñānupalabditām; in the Śatasāhasrikā, p. 56: sarvadharmānupalabdhitām.

Pāramitā, derived from the adjective parama, simply means superiority. The etymology pāram ita “that which goes to the other shore” or pāra-mita “that which attains the other shore” is purely fantasy. For the etymology of the word, see Kośa, IV, p. 231; Madh. avatāra, p. 30 (tr. Muséon, 1907, p. 277); Saṃdhinirmocana, IX, par. 13; Sūtrālaṃkāra, XVI, p. 101; Saṃgraha, p. 186; Siddhi, p. 628; T 1606, k. 11, p. 747c21. – F. W. Thomas,JRAS, 1904, p. 547.

For sarvākārajñāna, see above, p. 640F.

On this argument, see also Mjjh., III, p. 147 (cf. Tchong a han, T 26, k. 19, p. 550b12): Seyyathāpi puriso sambahulānitelappadīpāni ekaṃ gharaṃ paveseyya, tesaṃ gharaṃ pavesesitānaṃ accinānattaṃ hi kho pañnnāyetha, no ca ābhānānattam: “It is like when a man brings several oil lamps into a house; a difference is recognized in the flame of these lamps brought into the house, but not a difference in the brightness.”

Pañcaviṃśatī, p. 257: Bodhisattvo mahāsattvaḥ prajñāpāramitāyāṃ caran rūpaṃ na nityam ity upaparīṣate nānityam iti na sukham iti na duḥkhamiti nātmeti nānātmeti na śāntam iti nāśāntam iti na śūnyam iti nāśūnyam itina nimittam iti nānimittam iti na praṇihitam iti nāpraṇihitam ity upaparīṣate, na vivktam iti nāviviktam ity upaparīkṣate.

The Prajñāpāramitāstotra serves as preface to several Prajñās: Pañcaviṃśati, ed. N. Dutt, p. 1–3; Aṣṭasāhasrikā, ed. R. Mitra, Bibl. Ind., p. 1–3 (see also R, Mitra, Sanskrit Buddhist Lit. of Nepal, p. 190–192); Suvikrāntavikrāmi, ed. T. Matsumotso, Die P.P. Literatur, Stuttgart, 1932, appendix, p. 1–4. But it is found only in the Sanskrit manuscripts of these Prajñās and not in the Chinese versions or the corresponding Tibetan versions.

This stotra, consisting of about twenty ślokas, is the work of Rāhulabhadra. Actually, Haraprasād Shāstrī in 1907 found a Nepali manuscript of the stotra bearing the comment: kṛtir iyaṃ Rāhulabhadrasya (cf. J. Proc. Asiatic Soc. Bengal. VI, no. 8, 1910, p. 425 seq._. On the other hand, in his Tchong kouan louen chou (T 1824, k. 10, p. 168c4–5), says: “The stanzas of the Prajñāpāramitāstotra found in the 18th scroll of Nāgārjuna’s Ta tche tou louen are the work of the dharmācārya Lo ho (Rāhula)”; cf. H. Ui, Indo-Tetsugaku-Kenkiu, I, 1934, p. 431 seq.; Matsumoto, Die P.P. Literatur, p. 54.

Rāhulabhadra, alias Saraha, appears in the lists of magicians (siddha); for the Tibetan tradition, he was the teacher of Nāgārjuna; for the Chinese sources, he was his disciple: cf. G. Tucci, Animadversiones indicae, J. Proc. Asiatic Soc. Bengal. XXVI, 1930, p. 141.

The Sanskrit text of the stotra corresponding to the stanzas of the Mppś are found in the notes that follow.

Nirvikalpa namas tubhyaṃ
prajñāpāramite ‘mite,
yā tvaṃ sarvānavadyāṅgi
nirvadayair nirīkṣyaso.

“Homage to thee, O inconceivable, immense Prajñāpāramitā! With irreproachable members, you are contemplated by the irreproachable ones.”

Ākāśam iva nirlepāṃ
niṣprapañcaṃ nirakṣarām,
yas tvāṃ paśyati bhāvena
sa paśyati tathāgatam.

“Immaculate like space, free of speech and designation; he who sees you in truth

sees the Tathāgata.”

Tava cāruaguṇādhyāya
buddhasya ca jagadguroḥ,
na paśyanty antaraṃ santaś
canracadtikayor iva.

“Between you who are so rich in holy qualities and the Buddha, the teacher of the world, honest people see no more difference than between the moon and the light of the moon.”

Sarveṣām api vīrāṇāṃ
parārthe niyatātmanām,
poṣikā janayitrī cha
mātā tvam asi vatsalā.

“Of all the heroes who have dedicated themselves to the good of others, you are the nourisher, the generator and the tender mother.”

Yad buddhā lokaguravaḥ
putrās tava kṛpālavaḥ,
tena tvam asi kalyāṇi

“Since the Buddhas, the compassionate teachers of the world, are your own sons, you are, thus, O virtuous one, the grandmother of all beings.”

Vineyaṃ janam āsāsya
tatra tatra tathāgataiḥ,
bahurūpā tvam evaikā
sānānmamabhir īḍyase.

“Singular although multiform, you are invoked everywhere under various names by the Tathāgatas, in the presence of beings to be converted.”

Prabhāṃ prāpyeva dīptāṃśor
tvāṃ prāpya pralayaṃ yānti
doṣa vādāh ca vādinām.

“Like dew-drops in contact (with starlight) at the blazing rays, the faults and opinions of the theoreticians dissolve at your touch.”

Tvam eva trāsajananī
bālānāṃ bhīmadarśanā,
āśvāsajananī cāsi
viduṣāṃ saumyadarśanā.

“In your terrifying aspect, you give rise to fear among fools; in your friendly aspect, you give rise to faith in the wise.”

Yasya tvayy apy abhiṣvaṅgas
tvannāthasya na vidyate,
tasyāmba katham anyatra
rāgadveṣau bhaviṣyataḥ.

“If he who is clasped to you is not recognized as your husband, how, O mother, would he experience love or hate for another object?”

Nāgacchasi kutaścit tvaṃ
na ca kvacana gacchasi,
sthāneṣu api ca sarveṣu
vidvadbhir nopalabhyase.

“You do not come from anywhere and you do not go anywhere; in whatever place there may be, you are not seen by the wise.”

Tvām eva badhyate paśyann
apaśyann api badhyate,
tvām eva mucyate paśyann
apaśyann api mudhyate.

“The person who sees you is fettered, the person who does not see you is also fettered; the person who sees you is liberated, the person who does not see you is also liberated.”

Aho vismayanīyāsi
gambhīrāsi yaśasvinī,
sudurbodhḥasi māyeva
dṛiśyase na ca dṛiśyase.

“Oh! You are astounding, you are profound and glorious; you are very difficult to cognize; like a magic show, you are seen and you are not seen.”

Buddhaiḥ pratyekabuddhaiśca
śrāvakasiś ca niṣevitā,
mārgas tvam eko mokṣasya
nāsty anya iti niścayaḥ.

“You are cultivated by the Buddhas, pratyekabuddhas and śrāvakas. You are the single path to salvation; there is no other: it is certain.”

Vyavahāraṃ puraskṛtya
prajñaptyasthaṃ śarīriṇām,
kṛpayā lokanāthais tvam
ucyuase ca na cocyase.

“Having recourse to ordinary language to make (embodied) beings understand, the Teachers of the world, out of compassion, speak about you and say nothing.”

Śaktas kas tvām iha statuṃ
nirmittāṃ nirañjanām,
sarvavāgviṣayātītā yā
tvaṃ kvacid aniḥśrtā.

“Who here is able to praise you, you who are without characteristic or nature? You surpass all praise, you who have no support anywhere.”

Saty evam api saṃcṛtyā
vākpathair vayam īdṛiśaiḥ,
tvām astutyām api atutvā
tuṣṭūṣantaḥ sunirvṛtāḥ.

“But, since there is conventional language, we are pleased and reassured to have praised you verbally, you who surpass all praise.”