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Prajnaparamita


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Prajnaparamita (prajva, supreme knowledge, and paramita, fullness) is an essential mahayana rite, which a bodhisattva must observe. The Prajvaparamita Sutra, a book of the Mahayana Buddhists, elucidates this. There is also a Mahayana Buddhist goddess of this name. It is essential for a bodhisattva to attain this knowledge. There are six paramitas in Mahayana buddhism: charity, character, tolerance, heroism, meditation and wisdom. According to Hinayana Buddhism, there are ten paramitas: charity, character, abstention from all work, wisdom, heroism, forgiveness, truth, meditation, amity and refection. According to Mahayana Buddhism, attainment of the first five paramitas leads one to punyasambhar or virtue, and when this virtue is refined with wisdom one attains supreme knowledge. Through this knowledge a bodhisattva attains buddhatva.

Of the six paramitas, charity enjoins upon a bodhisattva to give away everything for the greater good of all living beings. This enables him to renounce all attachments to wealth. Character means that a bodhisattva must keep himself away physically, orally and mentally from all evil deeds. This enables him to acquire self-restraint. Forgiveness teaches a bodhisattva to overlook the sins of others, their bad behaviour and insults etc. This prevents mental aberration and loss of goals. Heroism means that a bodhisattva feels encouraged to bear the burden of distress of all living beings of the world. Through meditation a bodhisattva attains concentration of mind to reach his objective. Through wisdom, a bodhisattva perceives the real truth and lack of truth in the world. This is how living beings are relieved of their unbearable burden of pain. Both Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhists lay special emphasis on prajnaparamita. Different books discuss this subject at length.

Prajnaparamita Sutra or Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra was written in Sanskrit in the first century BC. The writer has not been unidentified. Its shlokas are written in the form of a dialogue composed of questions and answers. Its main speaker is the Buddha and his two disciples, Sariputra and Subhuti, ask him questions. This text explains mainly the Mahayana philosophy. The philosophy of Nirvana propounded by the famous philosopher Nagarjun is based on this text. The book was translated into Chinese in 159 AD. [Rebatapriya Barua]