Nagarjuna: The Accumulations for Enlightenment Bodhisambharaka




1. Now, in the presence of the Buddhas, I fold my hands and bow
my head. I intend to explain according to tradition a Buddha’s
accumulations for enlightenment.
How is it possible to explain without omission the
accumulations for enlightenment? [For] the Buddhas are the
only ones who individually obtain infinite enlightenment!

The body of a Buddha has infinite qualities. The [two]
accumulations for enlightenment constitute the basis.
Therefore the accumulations for enlightenment have no final
limit either.

I can only explain a small part of these [two accumulations].

I praise the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas. All the
Bodhisattvas and the rest I revere successively to the

Since [Prajnaparamita] is the mother of Bodhisattvas it is also
the mother of Buddhas. Prajnaparamita is the foremost
collection for enlightenment.

Prajnaparamita is the mother of Bodhisattvas, skill in means
is their father, and compassion is their daughter.7.
Generosity, morality, patience, energy, dhyana and the [other
paramitas] beyond these five are all due to prajna—
Prajnaparamita comprises them all.

Great compassion penetrates into the marrow of the bone. It
is the support of all living beings. Like [the love of a] father for
his only son, the tenderness [of a Buddha] is all- pervasive.

If one thinks of the Buddha’s virtues and listens to [accounts
of] the miracles of the Buddha, [this creates] love, joy, a
feeling [of happiness], and purity. This is called great joy.

A Bodhisattva must not desert or abandon living beings. He
should always care for them to the best of his ability.

From the very beginning [of the path], in accord with the
strength available, a Bodhisattva ought to be skilled in ways
of converting people so that they may enter the Mahay ana.

One may convert beings [as numerous as] the grains of sand
in the Ganges so that they obtain sainthood, but to convert
one [single person] to Mahayana— that creates greater merit!

Some are instructed according to the Sravakayana and the
Pratyekabuddhayana. Because of their limited powers they
are not suitable for conversion [to the Mahayana].

Those who are not fit for conversion to the Sravakayana, the
Pratyekabuddhayana, or the Mahayana must be assigned
meritorious tasks.

If people are [utterly] unfit to receive conversion [conducive
to] heaven and liberation, then [a Bodhisattva] must attract
them through advantages in this world, in accordance with the
power available.

Toward people who cannot possibly be induced to conversion
a Bodhisattva should generate great compassion. He must
never discard them!

Attracting with gifts, teaching the Dharma, listening to the
teaching of the Dharma, and also practicing acts of benefit to
others — these are skillful means for attracting [others].

While benefitting living beings without tiring and without
carelessness, [a Bodhisattva] expresses his aspiration for
enlightenment: To benefit others is to benefit oneself!

By entering the profound foundation of dharmas, exempt and
separate from conceptual constructs, entirely without effort,
all matters are spontaneously abandoned.

Profit, reputation, honors, and pleasure are four things one
should not be attached to. Nor should one become embroiled
in their opposites. This is called [worldly] renunciation.

As long as he has not obtained the Irreversible [Stage], a
Bodhisattva should perform these actions for the sake of
enlightenment as zealously as if his headdress were on fire.

All the Bodhisattvas who seek enlightenment display energy
without rest, for they shoulder a heavy burden.

If he has not yet produced great compassion and patience,
although he may have attained the Irreversible [Stage], a
Bodhisattva can become like a mortal by being careless.

If he enters the Sravaka and Pratyekabuddha levels, he
becomes a mortal, because the roots of the knowledge of
deliverance of the Bodhisattvas are cut off.

Even if he fell into hell a Bodhisattva would not be afraid, but
the level of the Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas horrifies him.

While falling into hell creates no absolute barrier to
enlightenment, it is an absolute barrier to fall into the lands of
the Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas.

It is said that people who love life are afraid to have their head
cut off. In just the same way, the lands of the Sravakas and
Pratyekabuddhas ought to evoke similar fear.

[To accept all reality as non- arising means seeing everything
as] unborn, undestroyed, neither unborn nor undestroyed,
neither both nor neither, neither empty nor non- empty.

When one does not swerve from the Middle View with regard
to any phenomenon whatsoever, there is acceptance [of] non-
arising, because all ideas are eliminated.

As soon as you have obtained this conviction, at that very
moment you receive the prediction [that you will become a
Buddha]. You certainly will become a Buddha once you have
attained the Irreversible [Stage].

Until a Bodhisattva attains the stage of Presence, he should
strengthen his samadhi and ought not to become careless.

The [sixth stage], the Stage of Presence of a [future] Buddha,
is steadfast concentration. This is the father of a Bodhisattva
[and] great compassion is his mother.

Prajnaparamita is his mother and [skill in] means is his father.
The term ‘parents of the Bodhisattva’ is employed because the
latter generates and the former sustains.

A small quantity of merit cannot bring about enlightenment.
One brings it about by collecting a quantity of merit the size of
a hundred Sumerus.

Though [a Bodhisattva’s] merit be slight, it must be skillful. He
must produce a support for all living beings, [thinking:]

“ll the actions I perform shall always be for the benefit of
living beings!” Who can measure the merit of an intention
such as this?

Not to cherish one’s own family or one’s body, life, or riches,
not to covet pleasures and power or the world of Brahma and
the other gods;

Not to covet nirvana, but to act to benefit living beings — just
this is to care for living beings. Who can measure such merit?

To save and protect a world lacking support and protection
from suffering and pain — who can measure the merit of
forming such intentions?

To possess the Prajnaparamita for one or several months, as
when briefly milking a cow — who can measure the merit?

To recite to oneself and to teach others the profound
scriptures praised by the Buddha, and to explain the various
meanings: This is called a mass of merit.

By causing innumerable beings to turn their minds to
enlightenment the store of merit will wax ever greater, so that
one will obtain the Immovable Stage.

To follow [the Buddha], to turn the victorious Dharmacakra
turned by the Buddha, and to calm and quench bad impulse:
This is a Bodhisattva’s store of merit.

Bearing the great suffering of hell (and a little extra suffering
as well), so as to benefit and bring pleasure to living beings —
this will place enlightenment close at hand.

Initiating action not for oneself but only to benefit and please
living beings, motivated by compassion — this will place
enlightenment close at hand.

Wisdom without conceptualization, zeal without sloth,
unstinting generosity — this places enlightenment close at

Being independent, by thoughts not obsessed, having perfect
morality, complete and unstained, accepting [that things] are
unborn — this places enlightenment close at hand.

In front of the fully enlightened Buddhas who are present in
the ten regions, I entirely confess my sins.

If the Buddhas who have attained enlightenment in the
universe of the ten directions are reluctant to expound their
teaching, I entreat them to turn the Dharmacakra!

If the fully enlightened Buddhas present in the universe of the
ten directions desire to give up life [in samsara], I bow my
head and request them to remain.

The merit of generosity and good morals, of [good] thoughts
and actions produced by living beings by means of body,
speech, and mind —

We all rejoice in [such] merit, accumulated by holy men and
common people of the past, present, and future.

If only I could gather all the merit I have and pass it on to
living beings so that they might obtain full enlightenment!

In this way I repent, exhort [the Buddha to preach], request
[the Buddha to remain], and dedicate [my merit] to
enlightenment. One must know: [Thus will I be] like the

Express remorse for unwholesome acts, request the Buddhas
[to abide in samsara], rejoice in merit, and transfer it to
enlightenment, as the Jinas have stated.

Do so every third hour, day and night, joining palms, with the
right kneecap touching the ground and the upper garment
arranged on one shoulder.

If the merit [thus] created in one hour had outward form,
[realms amounting to] many thousands [of times the] number
of grains of sand in the Ganges still could not contain it.

Once [a Bodhisattva] has first produced the thought [of
enlightenment: bodhicitta], he ought to show respect and
kindness towards all the minor Bodhisattvas as if they were
his teacher or parents.

Even if a Bodhisattva has committed a wrong he should not
talk about it, much less tell an untruth. Speak only the truth.

If a man expresses the vow to become a Buddha, wish that he
not fall back, show [him the merit of the Buddha], fire his zeal,
and awaken joy.

If he has not yet unravelled the very profound Sutras, he must
not say that they are not the Buddha’s words. If he makes
such statements, he will reap great suffering in return.

If all wrongs, including the five anantarya, were to be added
together and compared with these two wrongs, they would not
amount to a fraction [of them].

Develop carefully the three doors to liberation: sunyata, the
markless, and the wishless.

Since dharmas lack own- being, they are empty (sunya). Being
empty, how can they have marks? All marks being
extinguished, how can the wise wish [for anything]?

While [the Bodhisattva] is cultivating and contemplating these
[three and] traversing the path to nirvana, he must not think
that the Buddhakaya does not exist. Do not relax your efforts
on this score!

As for nirvana, he will not realize it at once, but must produce
this thought: We must ripen the Prajnaparamita.

A master archer releases his arrows so that each of them is
aimed one at the other; each supporting the one before it, they
do not fall. The great Bodhisattva is like that.

Carefully he aims the arrow of the mind at the door to
liberation called ’empty’. The arrows of [skill in means] act
together to support it, so that [his prajna] is not allowed to fall
into nirvana.

Let us not desert living beings! In order to benefit living
beings, first generate this attitude and then come to possess
the practice of the doors to liberation.

There are living beings whose attachments persist a long
time, and who cultivate misconceptions and [wrong] notions.
All this is due to delusion.

Those who are addicted to [wrong] notions [and]
misconceptions can abandon them by proclaiming the
Dharma. First one focuses the mind on reality, and then one
comes to possess the practice of the doors to liberation.

Bodhisattvas benefit living beings, yet they see no living
beings! A difficult point indeed; an exquisite point! One
cannot grasp it.

Even if a Bodhisattva is predestined, he must practice the
doors to liberation. Since the original vow is not yet fulfilled,
[the Bodhisattva] does not realize nirvana.

If he has not yet attained his predestination, being [only]
concerned with skillful means, the original vow is not yet
fulfilled. So again he does not realize nirvana.

[A Bodhisattva has] extreme distaste for samsara but still
turns toward samsara. He has faith and joy in nirvana, yet
turns his back on nirvana.

Fear the klesas but do not be exhausted by the klesas;
accumulate good karma in order to suppress the suppressing

A Bodhisattva has a passionate nature; he does not yet have a
nirvana nature. [So only when] the klesas are not yet burned
away [can he] produce the seed of enlightenment.

A Bodhisattva predicts [the destiny of] other beings. This
prediction has as necessary condition a Tathagata’s merit and
skill, enabling them to reach the farther shore.

A [Bodhisattva should] propagate and establish all the
sastras, techniques, sciences, and arts for the use and benefit
of all humanity.

According to the stages of transmigration and caste in the
world of potential converts, a Bodhisattva proceeds there as
he wishes; by virtue of his vows he accepts rebirth.

When faced with various evil matters and people’s flattery or
deception, put on strong armor. Do not be disgusted [by
samsara] and do not be afraid [of seeking enlightenment].

Bodhisattvas with a completely pure mind do not flatter or
deceive. They reveal all [their] sins and evils, but conceal and
store [their] good deeds [without boasting].

Pure [in] the karma of body and speech and also [in] the
karma of mind, [a Bodhisattva] cultivates all the moral rules,
allowing no shortcoming or diminution.

[A Bodhisattva must] peacefully dwell in mindfulness. He
selects an object and contemplates in solitude, employing
mindfulness to safeguard himself, [so that his] mind becomes
a mind without attachment.

If discursive thoughts arise, he must determine whether they
are wholesome or unwholesome, abandoning the
unwholesome and increasing the wholesome.

If his mind is disturbed by objects, he should concentrate his
mindfulness, lead his mind back to the object, and (if it
wavers) cause it to remain still.

Do not relax or fall into clinging, but cultivate strenuousness.
If a Bodhisattva cannot uphold his samadhi, he must
constantly strive [to do so].

[Those who are about to] ascend the Sravakayana or the
Pratyekabuddhayana, merely acting for [their, or its] own
benefit, must not abandon firm energy —

Then what of the great Bodhisattva! As his own savior and the
savior of others, should he not put forth ten thousand million
times the zeal?

For half an hour one may practice various [meditations] and
for another follow different procedures, but this is not the way
to practice samadhi! Let the mind be fixed on one object!

There should be no affection for the body and no regret for
one’s life. Even if one wants to protect this body, still in the
end it will prove subject to decay and misery by nature.

Be altogether unattached to gain, honors, and fame. Act
vigorously to fulfill the vow [to liberate oneself and others], as
if your head [or] clothes were on fire.

Determined to produce the highest good, a Bodhisattva
cannot wait till tomorrow. Tomorrow is far away. How can one
preserve a transient existence?

[A Bodhisattva must] peacefully dwell in mindfulness [with
utter equanimity]. If he [had] to eat the flesh of his favorite
son, he would eat without being either attracted or repelled.

The purpose of renouncing worldly life, and how to determine
whether what we have done or left undone must be done or
not — this is explained in the Dasadharmakasutra.

See that compound things are impermanent, and that there is
no I or mine. Aware of all the deeds of Mara, abandon them!

Produce zeal and cultivate the [five] powers, the [five]
strengths, the [seven] branches of enlightenment, the [four]
bases of miraculous power, the [four] restraints, the
[eightfold] path, and the four applications of mindfulness.

A mind can be a place for the continuous birth of good things,
happiness, and merit, but it can also be a root of evil. Reflect
on this carefully!

Regarding positive dharmas, watch daily how they increase
and how they diminish.

If one sees others gain in profit, support, respect, and fame,
one’s mind should not react with even the slightest bit of envy
or jealousy.

Live without desiring the objects [of the senses], as if dull-
witted, blind, dumb, and deaf. At the right moment the lion’s
roar frightens the tirthika deer.

In welcoming and taking leave, honor those to be respected.
In all matters of Dharma, be kind and helpful.

By saving and liberating those who suffer annihilation, one
prospers and is not destroyed. [By] cultivating the sciences
and crafts well, one trains oneself and instructs others.

Regarding particularly good dharmas, keep to them
strenuously. Practice the four foundations of propitiation and
make donations of clothing, drink, and food.

Do not rebuff those who beg for alms. Reconcile all your
kindred. Do not turn against your followers. Make donations of
dwellings and property.

Give parents, relatives, and friends their due; accord them the
treatment due the supreme Lord.

Speak kindly even to a slave and care for him. Show him great
respect, make medicine available, and heal all diseases.

[Those whose] head is [adorned with an usnisa due to] the
good karma of prior actions, [whose] voice is fine, smooth,
beautiful, and wonderful, [whose] voice [i. e., brahmasvara, is
due to] good karma and the right way of mind, will [never] fail
to be respected, in the future as in the past.

Do not harm the followers of others. Look at living beings with
a compassionate eye and without a jealous spirit, as if they
were relatives and friends.

One must always do as one has promised. Acting according
to one’s words wins the confidence of others.

Support the Dharma and be wary of the idle. Make precious
nets of gold and cast them over the caityas.

If one wants to seek out a fair maid, one should give her
ornaments. But in addition to giving her jewels, one must also
discourse [to her] on the qualities of the Buddha.

Cast statues of the Buddha sitting upright on exquisite lotus
blossoms. Practice the six dharmas [with] joy and pleasure.

Those who are honorable are not to be dishonored. Do not
criticize the Dharma spoken by the Buddha or by those who
discourse on the Dharma, even to [save your] life.

Distribute gold and jewels to the teachers and to the caityas of
the teachers. If you [find that you] forget what you learn,
concentrate so as not to be confused.

When one has not yet fully thought out one’s actions, one
must neither panic nor just imitate [the actions] of others. Do
not believe in the gods, nagas, or yaksas of the tirthikas.

One’s mind should be like a vajra, capable of penetrating all
dharmas, or like a mountain, unperturbed in all situations.

Enjoy expressions transcending the world. Take no pleasure
in transactions of the world. Keep all the virtues in yourself
and help others to keep them too.

Develop the five spheres of liberation, contemplate the ten
notions of impurity, and reflect upon the eight thoughts of a
great Being.

Clearly develop the five superknowledges: the eye of the
gods/ the hearing of the gods, the ability to perform
miraculous transformations, the ability to read the minds of
others, and remembrance of past lives.

The four bases of power form the root: will, mind, energy, and
deliberation. The four infinite foundations are love,
compassion, joy, and equanimity.

Look upon the four elements as a poisonous snake, the six
bases as an empty village, the five skandhas as a murderer.

Revere the Dharma and the teachers of the Dharma, and put
aside any animosity toward the Dharma. The teacher must not
clench his hand; those who listen must not be annoyed.

Preach the Dharma to others without rudeness and without
expectations, with only a compassionate heart and a devoted
and respectful mind.

Be insatiable for learning and commit to memory what you
have learned. Do not be deceitful toward respected holy
personages, but give pleasure to the teacher.

[When] investigating other teachings, do not let your heart
cherish reverence. Do not study or recite worldly texts on
account of the difficulty of the [Buddhist] treatises.

Do not, on account of anger, slander any of the Bodhisattvas.
When one has not yet grasped and learned the Dharma one
must not cause calumny.

Abandon pride and abide by the four noble principles. Do not
despise others; do not be self- important either.

Whether an offense is real or fictitious, do not inform others of
it. Take no notice of the faults of others; just be aware of your
own faults.

The Buddha and the Buddhadharma should not be objects of
speculation or doubt. Although the Dharma is very difficult to
believe in, one must have faith in it.

Even if [a Bodhisattva] dies by stating the truth, or is deprived
of [his exalted status as] cakravartin king or Indra, he must
state the truth and nothing else.

[Even if you are] hit, insulted, threatened, flogged, or tied up
by someone, bear him no resentment. Future and present
[evils] are all due to one’s own bad karma.

Respect, love, and support your parents greatly; serve your
instructor and revere the teacher.

It is an error for the Bodhisattva to discourse on the very
profound Dharma [i. e., the Mahayana] to those who believe in
the Sravakayana and the Pratyekabuddhayana.

If people believe in the profound Mahayana and one still
advocates the Sravakayana and Pratyekabuddhayana, this
also is an error for the Bodhisattva.

Many people come [to the monastery] out of interest in the
Dharma. If they are careless, one should not offer them
discourses, but should care for evildoers and establish non-
believers in the Mahayana.

[A Bodhisattva] must abandon these four errors. The virtues
of a purified man should be recited and learned, practiced and

[The four Bodhisattvamargas are] equanimity, balanced
discourse [on the Dharma], being well- established in
impartiality, and being the same toward all living beings.

[The four kinds of Bodhisattvas] act for the Dharma, not for
profit; for merit, not for reputation. [They] wish to save living
beings from suffering, wanting no pleasure for themselves.

[If a Bodhisattva] sincerely seeks to have his actions mature,
he must make the [three] meritorious practices arise. He must
also mature living beings and reject his own affairs.

[The Bodhisattva] should approach four kinds of good friends:
the teacher, the Buddha, those who offer encouragement to
ascetics, and monks.

Those who rely on worldly knowledge, who especially crave
worldly goods, who believe in the Pratyekabuddhayana, or inj
fiie Sravakayana;

Seek instead what are known as the four great treasuries:

The superworldly Buddha, study of the [six] paramitas, a mind
that looks upon the teacher without impediments, [and] being
happy to dwell in empty places.

Like earth, water, fire, wind, and space, entirely and
everywhere, [Bodhisattvas] benefit living beings equally.

Consider the very meaning of the Buddha’s words and
unremittingly produce the dharanis. Do not hinder in any way
those who are studying the Dharma.

Those who are to be disciplined in the nine bases of
quarreling [must] put aside the [twenty] minor matters without
exception. The eight kinds of sloth must also be extinguished.

Harbor no improper affection, [for] unreasonable desire is not
in accord with one’s [true] wishes. Those who are disunited
should be united, without asking whether they are friends.

A sage does not base his actions on sunyata by apprehending
sunyata. If one [absolutely] must apprehend sunyata, this
error amounts to the fault of belief in a personal substance.

Sweep the dust, smear [cow dung], make decorations, and
perform worship of the caityas with many kinds of drum
music and offerings such as incense, dressing the hair in a
knot, and so forth.

Make various lamp- wheels, worship the caityas, and donate
parasols, leather sandals, riding horses, carriages, chariots,
and so forth.

[A Bodhisattva] should take special delight in the Dharma and
enjoy an intellectual belief in the Buddha’s attainments. He
should gladly supply and serve the Sangha and take pleasure
in listening to the Holy Dharma.

Unborn in the past, not remaining in the present, and not
arrived in the future — look upon all dharmas thus.

Be gracious to living beings without seeking a reward from
them. Bear [their] troubles alone, without grasping after
pleasure for yourself.

Even if one is worthy of [rebirth in heaven as] the result of
great merit, one’s heart should not be uplifted or elated. Even
if one is in great need like a hungry ghost, one should be
neither downcast nor sad.

Those who are fully disciplined must be paid full respect.
Those who are not yet disciplined should enter the discipline,
and must not be objects of contempt.

Those whose good conduct is perfect should be respected. If
[they] violate good conduct, they should return to its practice.
Those whose wisdom is perfect [should be] approached as
friends. Those who are dull should be established in wisdom.

The suffering of samsara is manifold: birth, old age, death,
and bad rebirth. But do not fear such perils! Conquer Mara
and bad understanding.

Gather all the virtues in all the Buddha fields. Make lofty vows,
so that all may attain them.

Never appropriate dharmas, but always give them up. To do
this is to accept the burden, taking on responsibility for the
sake of all living beings.

One who correctly examines all dharmas sees that there is no
I and no mine. Still he does not abandon great compassion
and great kindness.

One must surpass all worship in order to worship the Buddha
Bhagavat. Of what nature is this worship? It is known as
Dharma worship.

If one grasps the Bodhisattvapitaka and obtains the various
dharanis while penetrating the profound foundation of [all]
dharmas, that is Dharma worship.

Hold to the main thing, without preferring this or that
articulation. Enter the profound path of the Dharma with joy,
not showing heedlessness.

When ascetics and householders have collected these
accumulations for great aeons numerous as the sands of the
Ganges, they shall attain perfect enlightenment!

Our good fortune is solely due to this translation of this wonderful text by Chris Lindtner