Ornament of Abhidharma

1. Introduction

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1. Introduction

Preliminary points

The great master Vasubandhu was born nearly a thousand years after the parinirvāṇa of the Sugata and became the one eye of all the Sage’s instructions by mastering the ocean of Buddhist and non-Buddhist textual systems and by penetrating all states of awareness without exception. Lord Buddha revealed his prediction in the Root Tantra of Mañjuśrī:

After that, the preeminent master will be

a brahman in the south

declared foremost in grammar

and the main exponent of the Buddha’s teachings.104 [2]

This great master composed the Treasury of Abhidharma (Abhidharmakośa) by accurately summarizing the meaning of the Seven Divisions of Abhidharma, such as [Kātyāyanīputra’s] Attainment of Knowledge (Jñānaprasthāna) as well as the Great Treatise on Differentiation (Mahāvibhāṣā). In it he explained the system of the Kāśmīri Vaibhāṣikas, not by adopting the scripture and logic of their system of analysis but by adding supplementary refutations.

This treatise has three sections: entering the explanation, formulating the explanation, and conclusion.


From those three, the first {has two parts}: expression of reverence and pledge to explain.


I pay homage to that Master who has completely destroyed all darkness


and delivers reincarnating beings from the mire of saṃsāra

according to their purpose, and I will explain

this treatise called the Treasury of Abhidharma. (1:1)

“I pay homage . . .” and so on {105} is ascertained in three, according to relevance: purpose, summary, and word meaning.


The purpose {or significance} of the expression of reverence is to first pay homage to Lord Buddha through describing his qualities. {It has two parts: (1)} temporary {and (2) ultimate} purpose. {The first} has three parts: to understand the greatness of the Master, to increase merit, and to conform with the conduct of pure beings. The ultimate purpose is to obtain liberation.

Again, through praising Lord Buddha, [Vasubandhu] generates understanding of the greatness of the Master; by paying homage, his merit is increased; due to both, he conforms with pure conduct. By understanding the Buddha’s greatness, [Vasubandhu] generates respect for him and serially engages in studying, contemplating, and meditating upon his instructions. Through enhancing his merit, he brings the composition to completion. In conforming with pure conduct, he studies treatises on his instructions and ultimately obtains nirvāṇa, since the purpose of all beings is to attain liberation. Vasubandhu’s Autocommentary (Abhidharmakośabhāṣyaṃ) mentions:

With the desire to compose a treatise, and in order to make known the greatness of our Master, I first composed a homage that describes his qualities.106

Yaśomitra’s Subcommentary (Vyākhyā) declares:

Composing the homage is to increase merit.107


Since the instruction to follow the conduct of pure beings is supreme, engage in the pure conduct of revering, praising, and paying homage to the divine being you genuinely esteem.108



What is the purpose of recognizing his greatness? It is to develop respect for him. Developing respect and paying respect support listening to his instruction. In respectfully listening to those instructions, you sequentially develop the wisdoms of hearing, contemplation, and meditation, and with their development you abandon affliction and obtain nirvāṇa, which pacifies all suffering, thus fulfilling your [3] purpose.109


If you respect Lord Buddha’s speech, this implicitly establishes respect for treatises that depend on his speech.


This treatise explains the meaning of the words of the Buddha’s speech.


{This also has three parts:} purpose, summary, and word meaning.


{This has two types: (1) The author’s own purpose} is to bring his composition to completion because pure beings do not reject the burden of their pledge. It is said:

For the sake of others, those with altruism

do not slacken their effort even to save their own lives.

Pure beings, who carry a heavy burden,

never foresake those on the path of misery.110

{(2) The purpose of others:111 By teaching this work, which is characterized as a “treatise,” others recognize the gateway to liberation.}


This verse teaches both the initial homage praising Lord Buddha and the pledge to explain his speech.


{This has two types:



Who” is a general term. {There are four causes for a general term engaging a specific term: (1) context, (2) might, (3) possession, and (4) linkage to a predicate. Here,} since it is linked to the predicate “has completely destroyed all darkness” (1:1a) and so on, it is understood to mean the Buddha. For example, the statement “From among the brahmans, summon the one with light skin who wears a white lower garment” refers to the brahman Devaśarmā alone. As Yaśomitra explains:

Because of this, the Autocommentary explains: “ ‘Who’ is stated from the perspective of Lord Buddha.”112

Master Pūrṇavardhana declares that this occurs in the context of explaining Abhidharma. Since in his explanation no one other than the Buddha is praised, indeed he explains it to be both (1) a generic term that refers to a specific instance due to context, and (2) a generic term that refers to a specific instance due to possession, as in the statement “Bring me the cow possessing a calf.”113 However, if it were composed without a predicate, such as in the statement “Summon Sendhapa,” it would not explicitly refer to a particular instance due to context; therefore here it is a generic term that refers to a particular instance by linkage to a predicate.


This has two parts: praise and homage.


This has three parts: one’s own purpose, the excellence of others’ purpose, and excellent means of benefiting others.


This has two parts: abandonment and realization.


All” is the twelve bases because a sūtra discloses:

Brahman, “all” refers to all twelve bases.114

Because darkness (andhakāra) acts as an impediment to seeing reality, (1) 37afflictive obscurations and (2) knowledge obscurations are like darkness. The first refers to states such as attachment {although pratyekabuddha and śrāvaka arhats are free of afflicted confusion}. The second, in accordance with the Mahāyāna, is asserted to be the conception to which the subject and object appear dualistically.115 [4] Śrāvaka schools do not assert this to be an obscuration because they assert that [dualistic appearance] exists even for buddhas. The Proof of External Objects says:

One is called a yogin due to knowing remote

and subtle objects and so on. But one who does not realize

the detailed classification [of phenomena]

is not liberated from both aspects.116


Knowledge liberated from both aspects

is called “all-cognizant in every aspect.”

Its activity is truly amazing,

for it has the nature of apprehending [reality].117

Therefore unafflicted unknowing (ajñāna) is a knowledge obscuration.118 It says in the Autocommentary:

Thus they [the Śrāvaka schools] have unafflicted unknowing [or nescience] of a buddha’s qualities, extremely remote regions, extremely remote times, and limitless classifications of objects.119

{Question: What does this mean?

Reply: This is understood through reasoning that refutes extreme positions, since all objects of knowledge must be either conditioned or unconditioned, conditioned phenomena (saṃskṛta) must be either uncontaminated or contaminated, and unconditioned phenomena (asaṃskṛta) and uncontaminated conditioned phenomena do not act to blind us but act as antidotes [to ignorance]. Therefore they are not darkness since they neither act as darkness nor possess the characteristics of darkness.

Contaminated phenomena have two types: (1) afflicted conditioned phenomena are darkness through and through, and (2) unafflicted conditioned phenomena are contaminated virtue and unobscured-neutral phenomena 38(akliṣṭāvyākṛta) specifically derived from, say, the four causal states of unknowing.120}

With respect to not knowing a buddha’s qualities {a sūtra} remarks:

The Master said to Venerable Śāriputra:

“Do you comprehend the Tathāgata’s aggregate of ethics?”121

{Śāriputra} said, “No!”122

“Not knowing remote regions” is like Maudgalyāyana not knowing his mother was reborn in the hell of Avīci.123 “Not knowing remote times” is like Ārya Śāriputra not knowing that the householder Śrījāta124 had previously created karma conducive to the state of liberation. “Limitless classifications of objects” is the classifications of elements (dhātu), reincarnating beings, birth locations, birth types, and so on, and the difficulty of comprehending them in detail is not knowing them. For example, it is like not knowing the cause of the various colors of the eye in a peacock’s feather. As Venerable Rāhula declared:

Though there is just one eye in a peacock’s feather,

every aspect of its cause

cannot be known without omniscience.

They are known through the power of omniscience.125

Therefore these four types of unknowing are determined to be knowledge obscurations {which are unafflicted darkness.

Etymology: Since it obscures like the blindness of a blind person, it is darkness. The Autocommentary says:

Unknowing is taught to be darkness because it acts as an impediment to seeing reality.126

It says in Elucidating the Collection of Aphorisms:

How is the world impeded

from seeing things just as they are?

Darkness as well as ignorance

impede the seeing of reality.127


Master Pūrṇavardhana explains:

Its synonyms are [5] unknowing, ignorance, confusion, and so on.128

Although there are other objects to be abandoned, darkness alone is mentioned because it is the main object to be abandoned and because it directly excludes perfect transcendent wisdom.


Darkness is destroyed by means of buddhas completely destroying and abandoning all knowledge obscurations and their imprints, never to rearise since they attain transcendent wisdom as the antidote to darkness.} “Completely destroyed” (sarvahata) refers to states that due to finding their antidote never rearise. This demonstrates a special abandonment distinct from that of śrāvakas and so on, because although śrāvakas possess the mere abandonment of the obscuration of afflicted {darkness}, it is possible their realizations degenerate {since they do not abandon imprints}.129 Moreover they do not abandon unafflicted knowledge obscurations in every aspect. {Therefore the Autocommentary declares:

Because pratyekabuddhas and śrāvakas are free from afflicted confusion, they are said to destroy the darkness enveloping all objects. They do not do so completely because they have unafflicted unknowing of a buddha’s qualities, of objects and times that are extremely remote, and of the limitless classifications of objects.130

These have been explained.}

Objection: Therefore śrāvakas and so on do not end suffering; as a sūtra declares:

Monks, if I did not actually and thoroughly know just one phenomenon [that should be known], I would not say I have ended suffering.131

Another passage says:


If I neither thoroughly knew nor abandoned just one phenomenon [that should be abandoned], I would not say I have ended suffering.132

Reply: That is not so because they abandon the very nature of afflictive obscurations and they abandon knowledge obscurations by means of separating themselves from longing desire; as a sūtra proclaims:

Monks, abandon whatever is an object of attachment and longing for the eye. Thus you are to abandon that eye.133

Indeed śrāvakas and so on do abandon obscurations, though they do not abandon them completely. But this passage expresses the case of absolute nonarising, and such obscurations will always recur for śrāvakas and so on. Thus the complete destruction of all knowledge obscurations explicitly reveals consummate abandonment and implicitly reveals consummate transcendent wisdom because it demonstrates the destruction of all impediments to realizing all objects of knowledge. It does not confuse objects to be abandoned with antidotes, and the antidote is the transcendent wisdom comprehending diversity and reality. {Further, though Mahāyānists assert four or five types of transcendent wisdom, this school asserts only two: the comprehension of reality and the comprehension of diversity.}

Objection: In this context Master Pūrṇavardhana explains:

The term “all” (1:1a) teaches abandonment, and the term “completely” (1:1a) teaches consummate wisdom.134

Reply: That is [6] incorrect because they are not terms that convey these meanings, and [through them] such meanings are not even implicitly understood. Moreover, consummate abandonment and realization are consummate states for one’s own purpose.135


That which is called saṃsāra is cyclic existence, since it is the state of cycling in the three realms, or coursing in birth and death in the three realms with neither beginning nor end. It is like a mire since beings sink into it and become completely stuck, crossing it is difficult, and you must rely on others 41to traverse it. As such, it is the mire (paṅka) of saṃsāra because reincarnating beings are completely stuck there through the moist viscidity of clinging and so on, its surface is disturbed by view and doubt, and you must cross it in reliance on a buddha who delivers (ujjahāra) reincarnating beings (jagat) sunk in saṃsāra to liberation from it.


Question: How is {the purpose of others} accomplished?

Reply: The Master teaches according to the purpose (yathārtha) of others, since he teaches just that path of liberation which they require. {Since the Master possesses altruism, he raises his hand to teach the pure Dharma with the enlightened activity of speech, correctly teaching the meaning of the four noble truths just as they are, and leading disciples from saṃsāra according to their capacity, for this is not achieved by any other means.

Objection: Since saṃsāra and reincarnating beings are not distinct states, it is untenable that saṃsāra is a source term for reincarnating beings.136

Reply: There is no error since he leads specific fortunate reincarnating beings from the general class of saṃsāric beings.} Here the Autocommentary declares:

It is neither by the might of supernatural power nor by bestowing the state of purity.137

Some say that reincarnating beings are led from saṃsāra by the might of the supernatural power of Viṣṇu or by the might of the great Īśvara bestowing the state of purity. Again, some distinguish the terms “supernatural power,” “bestowing the state of purity,” and “might,” saying “might” is potency, and by the potency of gems and medicine and so on, infectious diseases are eliminated and so forth, and reincarnating beings are led from saṃsāra.

Reply: Such assertions are rejected because without teaching the perfect path, there is no way to lead reincarnating beings from saṃsāra, as the Collection of Aphorisms reveals:

I will teach you

the path severing the ache of clinging.

You should practice it since

it was taught by the Tathāgata.138


Elucidating the Collection of Aphorisms remarks:

Sages do not wash away misdeeds with water

nor remove the suffering of reincarnating beings with their hands,

since their realization cannot be transferred to others.

They liberate by teaching the peace of reality.139

Also Ārya Nāgārjuna says:

By altruistically extending the hand of the teaching,

the seeds of liberation are created

in sentient beings, who are led

from lower rebirths and cyclic existence.140 [7]


Thus I pay homage (namaskṛtya) to that Master {who possesses three} excellent qualities: the purpose of self, the purpose of others {and associated means}. This is the homage.


The Autocommentary states:

“Paying homage” is bowing your head.141

This signifies respect through the three doors.} Therefore Master Pūrṇavardhana writes:

This stanza explains that the Bhagavan, his teachings, and his students excel others’ teachers, their teachings, and their students because he possesses the excellences of abandonment and realization, his teachings are the means for crossing saṃsāra, and his students have crossed the mire of saṃsāra.142


That is taught by explaining the three: by whom, what, and in what way.



Question: What does he do} after paying obeisance in that way?

Reply: He then says, “I will explain the treatise called the Treasury of Abhidharma.” This is his pledge to explain the treatise, where he will explain abhidharma and treasury. But first the term “treatise” refers to śāstra, where [the Sanskṛit] śās143 means “to restrain” and trayati means “to protect.” It is so called because a treatise restrains afflictions and conceptuality, and it protects from lower rebirth and cyclic existence. Āryadeva states:

A treatise possesses the qualities of restraining and protecting,

for it restrains all enemy afflictions without exception

and protects from lower rebirths and cyclic existence.

These two don’t exist in other systems.144

Explaining “Abhidharma” and “Treasury”


Abhidharma is stainless wisdom and its complements.

To obtain it there is that wisdom and those treatises.

It is called the Treasury of Abhidharma either because their meaning

enters this treatise as its meaning, or those are its source. (1:2)

In response to this question, “Abhidharma . . .” and so on is stated in order to explain the meaning of the title. {There are four parts: nature of Abhidharma, classification of Abhidharma, the number of aggregates as complements of Abhidharma, and the etymology of Abhidharma.


Abhidharma is the wisdom correctly differentiating [or discerning] phenomena plus its complements.


The classification of Abhidharma has two parts: classification in two and classification in three.


Abhidharma has two types: ultimate and symbolic.



This is the stainless (amala) {uncontaminated} wisdom (prajñā) {of the three paths of seeing, meditation, and no more learning} that perfectly differentiates phenomena, plus its complements (anucara) of four or five aggregates. “Stain” (mala) here refers to the contaminants. Therefore uncontaminated wisdom arises in the retinue of the three paths of seeing, meditation, and no more learning, and that which is complemented is ultimate Abhidharma.


This has two types:


The complements {included in “its complements” (1:2a) arise indivisibly in a single collection. Therefore} if these three paths arise in dependence on the six absorption levels,146 they have five [8] aggregates because (1) the form aggregate is uncontaminated vows; (2) the feeling aggregate is mental satisfaction (saumanasya) of the actual basis of the first and second absorptions, pleasure of the third absorption, or equanimity that is access concentration to the first absorption, the special actual basis of the first absorption, and the actual basis of the fourth absorption. Also they have (3–5) the aggregates of discernment, formation, and consciousness.

The latter two paths147 have four aggregates when supported by the first three formless-realm levels because they have no form aggregate but they do have the other four, such as feeling. The Abhidharmakośa mentions, “They belong to the levels of unrestricted access concentration, special absorption, and the four absorptions” (6:20bc) and “These belong to the same level as the supreme mundane state” (6:27d). Therefore there is no support for the path of seeing in the formless realm because the path of seeing observes desire-realm truths and a formless being is unable to observe them. The Abhidharmakośa declares, “The path of seeing does not exist in higher realms” (6:55b). Therefore the path of seeing is supported only in the desire realm. Likewise, if a being does not obtain the mind of absorption, the mind of the formless realm is not obtained. If obtained, that being meditates on the path supported by just that level because the Abhidharmakośa mentions, “Those paths of absorption are easy. Paths dependent on other levels 45are difficult” (6:66ab). Therefore it is easy to develop the path supported by the union of calm abiding and insight once its branches are established. {In this context consciousness is taught to be a complementary state in wisdom’s retinue. But this is not how principal and retinue states are determined for minds and mental factors in general because here what is principal depends on what differentiates phenomena [i.e., wisdom]. For example, though a king is the chief of men, when it comes to writing letters, the scribe is chief.} Moreover, if the uncontaminated wisdom of the path of seeing has complements, it definitely has five aggregates only. Support indicates that those paths arise in the nature of the concentrations of the absorptions and formless-realm levels that support them, and this is not like a juniper branch supporting a gong.


This also has two types. To obtain (prāpta) ultimate Abhidharma, there is (1) that contaminated wisdom and its complements derived from its causes — birth, hearing, contemplation, and meditation — and (2) those treatises (śāstra) {that incorporate Abhidharma and} express just that subject matter. {Here the names of the result and the subject matter are applied respectively to its cause and the treatise expressing it.148


Regarding the number of aggregates as complements,} wisdom obtained at birth is wisdom {that arises from obtaining birth in a particular realm. It is superior natural wisdom not reliant on hearing [or study] and so on in that life,} which exists in the retinue of all consciousnesses on all levels in the three realms. It has no form among its complements because it is not a level of equipoise.150 The three wisdoms derived from hearing and so on exist in the retinue of mental consciousness but not sensory consciousness because the three wisdoms are derived from preparation, and sense consciousness does not arise in that way. [9]

Some say: Wisdom derived from hearing even exists in the retinue of auditory consciousness.

Reply: That is illogical because such wisdom takes names as its object, but ear consciousness {which would need to possess a common focal object with wisdom} does not take names as its object. If it did, it would absurdly follow {that it would take the phenomena base (dharmāyatana) as its object and} 46be a conception to which sound universals and object universals appear.151 Wisdom derived from hearing exists in the desire and form realms but not higher, because it exists in the retinue of mental consciousness that complements auditory consciousness. Therefore sound, and ear consciousness, do not exist in the formless realm, and there is no conversation between beings there. Since this wisdom is not equipoise, it has no form among its complements.

The wisdom derived from contemplation {occurs only in the retinue of mental consciousness, since it must grasp the relationship between name and meaning, and it} views internal states.152 If it views internal states in higher realms {and effort is intentionally made}, it transforms into wisdom derived from meditation, since higher realms exist on the level of equipoise. Therefore contemplation only exists in the desire realm, and it has no form among its complements.

The wisdom derived from meditation does not exist in the retinue of the desire-realm mind because the desire-realm mind is not a level of equipoise, and wisdom derived from meditation is a level of equipoise. The Autocommentary states:

There are three types of attention in the desire realm: those derived from hearing and contemplation and that obtained from birth. In the form realm there are three: those derived from hearing and meditation and that obtained from birth. There are none derived from contemplation because whenever effort is intentionally exerted, a form-realm being enters concentration directed at those objects alone. In the formless realm there are wisdom derived from meditation and wisdom obtained from birth.153

Also Master Pūrṇavardhana explains:

Because the desire realm is not a level of equipoise, there is no wisdom of meditation there.154

Ārya Asaṅga mentions in Yogācāra Levels:

For what reason are absorption, liberation, concentration, and meditative attainment alone called “levels of equipoise,” yet 47single-pointed [mind] of the desire realm is not equipoise? It is because the absorptions and so on are actually established by a clear conscience, supreme joy, joy, pliancy, and pleasure, yet [mental] activity in the desire realm is not like that. However, it is not that there is no mindfulness of perfect Dharma in the desire realm.155

Again he clarifies:

Minds and mental factors of the desire realm are not equipoise since they lack pliancy. The single-pointed mind exists there, but minds and mental factors are not conjoined with pliancy.156 [10]

{Therefore it occurs in the retinue of mental consciousness alone, and it is by nature contaminated.} If it has a retinue, then wisdom derived from meditation occurring in the form realm has a complement of five aggregates because the Abhidharmakośa proclaims, “The last two are complements of the mind.” (4:17d) Therefore among its complements, absorption vows are material form. The wisdom derived from meditation in the formless realm has four aggregates because form is not among its complements. {Wisdom obtained at birth adheres to the meaning of the treatises through one having studied them [in past lives], and the wisdoms derived from hearing, contemplation, and meditation occur in turn from wisdom obtained at birth. Further, uncontaminated wisdom derived from meditation arises from contaminated wisdom. The order of these wisdoms is determined in this way.}

Such issues are analyzed cogently in the tenets of the Vaibhāṣikas, but Sautrāntikas and Yogācāras assert only four aggregates as complements because they do not accept form as a complement of contaminated or uncontaminated wisdom.

{Some say:} For treatises there is no system of principal and retinue {since they are not concomitant, though they have arising and so on.157

Kāśmīri Vaibhāṣikas say:} They do not possess such a system because they are included in the aggregate of formation alone.

{Some say: Though they are not concomitant, still the collection of nouns, predicated phrases, and letters are principal, and their characteristics, such as arising, are their retinue.

Sautrāntikas assert:} In accordance with the assertion that a treatise is characterized as an auditory phenomenon,158 its retinue — arising and so 48on — is form included in the aggregate of formation. Therefore it is included in two aggregates.159

Some say: The Attainment of Knowledge (Jñānaprasthana) is the principal text, and the six treatises such as the Aggregate of Dharma (Dharmaskandha) are its retinue {since they are its branches.160


Resultant Abhidharma is uncontaminated wisdom. Causal Abhidharma is the four wisdoms, such as wisdom attained at birth. Textual Abhidharma is the treatises {making three}. The first is ultimate Abhidharma. For the others, either the name of the result is applied to the cause or the name of the subject matter is applied to the words expressing it because Master Dignāga reveals:

Two perfect wisdoms do not exist,

for transcendent wisdom belongs to the Tathāgata.

It is a term applied to texts and paths,

since their purpose is to establish wisdom.161


Question: Why is it called Abhidharma?

Reply: It is dharma (1) since dharma refers to the Sanskrit root dhṛ, “to hold.” It is abhi since (2) abhimukha is the way to actualize; (3) abhikṣaṇa is to repeatedly actualize; (4) abhibhūya is to actually prevail; (5) abhisamaya is to actually realize. They are respectively: (1) that which holds its nature as a real or abstract entity; (2) that which is the way to actualize nirvāṇa [11] by revealing the noble truths and states conducive to enlightenment that are the gateway to liberation; (3) that which repeatedly confirms whether specific phenomena are form or not form, demonstrable or undemonstrable, and so on through analysis; (4) that which actually prevails over opponents when engaged in debate and so on; (5) that which actually realizes the meaning of the sūtras. The Ornament of the Mahāyāna Sūtras proclaims:

Because it actualizes, acts repeatedly,

surpasses, and realizes, it is Abhidharma.162


It is an actual treasury because the precious meaning of the Seven Divisions 49of Abhidharma and the Great Treatise on Differentiation correctly enters (anupraveśa) this treatise as its meaning (arthata), just as the place where a sword is put is its sheath. Or, alternately, since those Seven Divisions of Abhidharma and the Great Treatise on Differentiation are the source (āśraya) of this treatise, it is called the Treasury of Abhidharma because it is wealth derived from the Abhidharma. It is like saying that the place from which a sword is extracted is its sheath, or that the jewels extracted from a treasury are my treasure.

To explain the need for Abhidharma and its initial teacher, the Autocommentary remarks:

Again, why is Abhidharma taught, and who first taught it, for the master to pay such respect when explaining the Treasury of Abhidharma?163

{Question: It would be illogical to study or compose a commentary to resolve the meaning of a treatise not taught by a distinguished teacher who inspired conviction or one composed without any need. Therefore what need prompted its composition and which inspirational teacher first proclaimed it?

Reply:} When first composing this treatise, the need for explaining Abhidharma and also the master who explained it were expressed because learned scholars neither study nor explain a treatise of an undistinguished teacher or one which lacks a purpose. Therefore the meaning of the Autocommentary is that it asks: “What need is there to explain Abhidharma and what distinguished teacher explained it, for Master Vasubandhu to pay respect to and to delight in explaining the Treasury of Abhidharma?” In answer to that, the Abhidharmakośa responds, “Fully differentiating phenomena” (1:3a) and so on.

It has three parts: purpose, summary, and word meaning.


This also has three parts: refuting others’ systems, our logic, and eliminating dispute.


Kumāralāta writes:


As long as the need

for a treatise is not expressed

to all or to some,

who will apprehend it?164

Therefore you enter the study of a treatise after valid realization of its need arises from reading the preface indicating its necessity.

Reply: That is not so because you may see that such words misconstrue the meaning, or you may be incapable of understanding the words of a distinguished being. However, it is impossible without reliance [12] on such a being.165


Master Śāntarakṣita explains:

A treatise should not be composed when there is no need for it, such as a treatise on the teeth of crows! However, it is logical to compose a treatise to refute misconceptions, like one on the science of healing. When composing a treatise, a statement indicating its need should be added to eliminate misconceptions potentially preventing others from studying it.166

Master Dharmottara comments:

A statement indicating need and so on is composed to disabuse others who have developed strong doubt about the value of such a treatise and so on, so that they may enter the study of that treatise. In general such statements may lack significance by themselves, but it would be illogical for the author of a treatise to formulate such a statement for a treatise that lacked significance.167

Master Śaṅkarānanda explains:

It is to ornament the text through a special formulation [of words].168

The statement indicating need and so on should be seen as entirely noncontradictory in these three systems.



Objection: It is untenable to assert that this statement eliminates misconception because (1) it consists of mere words lacking a formal argument, (2) a statement is not needed for that purpose since due to it doubt may also arise, and (3) the treatise does not require ornamentation because the homage and the pledge to compose the treatise already perform that function. If they do not suffice in ornamenting it, then adding this statement would not ornament it, for they are not different. How then could a single statement have numerous results?

Reply: (1) It is logical to compose a treatise when it possesses the four factors of need and so forth,169 (2) an appreciation of the need for a treatise and so on mostly derives from reading this statement and not the treatise itself, and (3) the homage and the pledge to compose ornament the treatise and so does the statement indicating need. And as with the flame of a butter lamp and so forth, many results may arise from a single cause.


This teaches that the four factors of need and so on exist in the body of the treatise. It has two parts: the nature of a treatise, which is yet to be explained, and the etymology, which has already been explained. In terms of the measure of a treatise, Venerable Avalokitavrata proclaimed:

Nouns reveal mere rudimentary meaning from the assembly of many letters. Predicated phrases reveal complex meaning from the assembly of words. Statements rely on the assembly of phrases. Chapters rely on the assembly of statements. Treatises rely on the assembly of chapters.170 [13]

The factors of need and relationship that exist in this treatise have three categories: nature, definite number, and analysis of whether they are the same or different.


(1) The topic of this treatise is contaminated and uncontaminated phenomena. (2) The need is to expound the wisdom that differentiates them. (3) The deeper need171 is to attain nirvāṇa, which pacifies suffering and its cause. (4) The relationship here is the relation between the phenomena that are the subject matter and the treatise that expresses them. Again, Tibetan masters 52explain that the relationship describes how accomplishing the deeper need relies on the need, and how accomplishing the need relies on the treatise.

Similarly, the four factors of need, relationship, and so on that exist in the text itself — and the four factors of need, relationship, and so forth that exist within the statement indicating need, relationship, and so on [of the preface] — must be un

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