Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “story of nanda (the half-brother of the buddha)” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Appendix 1 - The story of Nanda (the half-brother of the Buddha)

Examples of saints who, having eliminated their dominant affliction, still keep the outer gestures. The Saṃgraha, p. 300, mentions the case of Maudgalyāyana, who had been a monkey for 500 existences and who, having become arhat, still leaped about like a monkey whenever he heard music. The same text also speaks about a pratyekabuddha who, having been a courtesan for numerous existences, continued to put on makeup (cf. Chavannes, Contes, I, p. 393; the story of the bhikṣu who flirted before dying). See also the story of the inattentive listeners in the Dhammapadaṭṭha, III, p. 360–362 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, III, p. 127–129). The Mppś, which will give more examples later (k. 26, p. 251b; k. 27, p. 260c), is content to mention here the case of Śāriputra, of Pilindavatsa and of Nanda. Since it does not develop the latter, we will summarize it briefly:

Nanda, the half-brother of the Buddha, was affianced to Janapadakalyānī (or married to Sundarī), when the Buddha, by a stratagem, met him at Nyagrodhārāma, near Kapilavastu, and had him forcibly ordained by Ānanda. The memory of his wife continued to haunt Nanda who tried to escape from the monastery. His attempt failed miserably. To cure him of this love, the Buddha transported him to the Trāyastriṃśa gods and showed him the celestial maidens incomparably more beautiful than Janapadakalyāyanī; he promised him one of these maidens if he would undertake to remain in the monastery for the rest of his life. Nanda agreed willingly. The Buddha returned with him to the Jetavāna and told the whole story to the disciples: Nanda was obliged to endure the sarcasm of his colleagues. He succeeded in renouncing his love and quickly became arhat. In the course of an earlier lifetime when he had been a donkey, Nanda had been kept harnessed up by his master, the merchant Kappata, who had promised him a female donkey as reward.

The story of Nanda is one of the best-known of the “Golden Legends” in Buddhism. The artists of Andhra who have depicted it at Nāgārjunikoṇḍa and at Amarāvatī – probably Nāgārjuna’s homeland – had a marked preference for it. – It is easy to reconstruct it in its entirety by comparing the different sources where it is recorded in full or in part:

Pāli sources: Vinaya, I, p. 82; Udāna, III, p. 21–24 (tr. Seidenstücker, p. 34–38; Nidānakathā, p. 91 (tr. Rh. D., Buddhist Birth Stories, p. 128); Saṃgāmāvacarajātaka, in Jātaka, II, p. 92–94; Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 96–105 (tr. Burlingame, Buddhist Legends, I, p. 217–223); Theragātha, v. 157–158 (tr. Rh. D., Brethren, p. 126–127); Manoratha, I, p. 315–318.

Sanskrit sources: Saundarānanda by Aśvaghoṣa, ed. and tr. E. H. Jehnston, Oxford-London, 1928–1932; Avadānakalpalatā, no. X: Sundarīmanadāvadāna, I, p. 308–351.

Chinese sources: P’ou yao king, T 186, k. 8, p. 536b–c; Fo pen hing tsi king, T 190, k. 56, p. 911b–914b (tr. Beal, Romantic Legend, p. 369–378); Tsa pao tsang king, T 203 (no. 96), k. 24, p.739b–740a; Che kia p’ou, T 2040, k. 2, p. 59c–61b (which repeats the P’ou yao king).

Tokharian sources: Sieg and Soegling, Tocharische Sprachreste, no. 89–143, p. 51–74.

Iconographical: Gandhāra: Foucher, Art Gréco-bouddhique, I, p. 464–473, fig. 234–238. – Amarāvatī: Burgess, The Buddhist Stūpas of Amarāvatī and Jaggayyapeṭa, pl. XLI, 5; A. Foucher, Les sculptures d’Amarāvatī, RAA, V, 1928, p. 22, pl XI, 1; A. K. Coomaraswamy, Rūpam, nos. 38–39 (April-July, 1929), p. 73, fig. 5. – Nāgārjunikoṇḍa: J. Ph. Vogel: The Man in the Well and some other subjects illustrated at N., RAA, XI, 1937, p. 115–118, pl. XXXIV-XXXV. – Ajaṇtā, cave XVI.

Nanda was known for his beauty; he had a golden-colored body, possessed thirty marks of the Great Man, and his height was only four fingers less than that of the Buddha. These benefits were the reward for his earlier merits. See below, k. 4, p. 92a.