Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “complaint of rahula to 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 2 - The complaint of Rāhula to the Buddha

This story is drawn from the Sarvāstivādin Vinaya, Che song liu, T 1435, k. 61, p. 463c–464a: The Buddha was dwelling at Śrāvastī. A vaiśya invited the Buddha and the saṃgha to dine at this house the next day. The Buddha accepted by remaining silent. The vaiśya, having understood that the Buddha had accepted, was silent, arose, prostrated at the feet of the Buddha and returned home. During the night, he prepared all sorts of food. Early the next morning, he arranged the seats and sent a messenger to the Buddha to say: “The meal is ready. The Sage knows the time.” The saṃgha with their robes and begging bowls (pātracīvaram ādāya) entered the home of the vaiśya, but the Buddha remained at the monastery (vihāra) to take his meal. The vaiśya, seeing the saṃgha well-seated, proceeded with the ablutions, placed abundant and excellent morsels before the elders (sthavira), but to the recently ordained monks (navabhikṣu) and novices (śrāmaṇera) he distributed only rice (śāli) cooked for 16 days, a nasty sesame soup (hou ma = tila) and cooked vegetables. Having given the vaiśyas and the saṃgha abundant and excellent dishes, he proceeded to the [second] ablutions, took a low seat and sat down in the midst of the saṃgha to hear the Dharma. When the sthāvira Śāriputra had preached the sermon, he arose and went away. At that time, Rāhula was still a novice. Having eaten, he went to the Buddha, prostrated at his feet and sat down at one side. Buddhas have the custom of asking, after the bhikṣus have had their meal, whether the food was sufficient. And so the Buddha asked Rāhula: “Was the saṃgha’s meal sufficient?” Rāhula replied: “For those who had it, it was enough; for the others, it was not enough.” The Buddha asked: “Why do you say that?” Rahula answered: “Before the vaiśyas and the elders they placed abundant and excellent morsels, but to the recently ordained monks and the novices they gave only rice cooked for sixteen days, a nasty sesame soup and boiled vegetables.” At that time, Rāhula was thin and weak. The Buddha, knowing that, asked Rāhula: “Why are you so thin and weak?” Rāhula answered with this stanza:

He who eats oil (taila) gains strength;
He who eats butter (ghṛta) gains fine color;
He who eats sesame and bad vegetables has neither color nor strength.
The Buddha, god among gods, ought to know that.

The Buddha, who knew it, asked Rāhula: “In this community, who is the elder?” Rāhula replied: “It is the upādhyāya Śāriputra.” The Buddha said: “The bhikṣu Śāriputra does not have the right to eat [better than the others].” When the āyuṣmat Śāriputra heard that the Buddha had said that he did not have the right to eat, he vomited up his food and went away. Until the end of his life, he refused every invitation to dine and every gift to the saṃgha. He accepted only food that he begged. The prominent people and the vaiśyas nevertheless wished to offer meals to the community. Wanting to have Śāriputra amongst them, they said to the Buddha: “We would like the Buddha to order Śāriputra to accept our invitations again.” The Buddha answered them: “Do not ask that Śāriputra accept your invitations again. Śāriputra has a [stubborn] nature. He keeps what he has accepted and abandons what he has rejected. Śāriputra will not go to your house. The stubborn nature that he has now, he had formerly. Listen: Many generations ago, the king of the realm was bitten by a poisonous snake. A master who could cure venomous bites performed the chö k’ie lo (cāgala) conjuration and forced the venomous snake to come; having previously prepared a large fire, he said to the snake: “Do you prefer to enter the fire or to swallow your venom?” The poisonous snake thought thus: “Since my saliva is exhausted, what use is my life to me? This is why, in regard to your proposal that I take back what I have spit out, I will not swallow it back, I prefer to die in the fire.” Having thought thus, it threw itself into the fire. – The Buddha said to the assembled people: “That snake is now Śāriputra. In his past lives, this man kept what he had accepted and abandoned what he had rejected. Now he does the same.”

The same story occurs in the Wen fen liu, Mahīśāsaka Vinaya, T 1421, k. 29, but in two separate sections. The complaint of Rāhula to the Buddha is told on p. 179b–c, whereas the apologue of the snake that threw itself into the fire is on p. 173c. The latter has been translated in Chavannes, Contes, II, p. 349–350.

The Visavantajātaka of the Pāli collection (Jātaka no. 69, I, p. 310) also mentions the apologue of the snake as proof of Śāriputra’s stubbornness, but the introduction is quite different: Some people had brought wheat cakes to the monastery and when the monks who were assembled there had eaten some, it was proposed to keep the remainder for those who were absent. And so it was done. But a young colleague of Śāriputra who came late did not receive his share because Śāriputra had eaten it. In his confusion, Śāriputra swore never to eat wheat cakes again (ito patthāya piṭṭakhādaniyaṃ na khādissāmi). To give an example of Śāriputra’s stubbornness, the Buddha then told the story of the snake, the Pāli text of which follows: Atīte Bārāṇasiyaṃ Brahmadatto rajjaṃ… mā kañci viheṭhehīti vissajjesi.

(This appendix belongs to chapter IV part 1)