Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “miracles of generosity accomplished by the buddha in his past existences” 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 6 - Miracles of generosity accomplished by the Buddha in his past existences

Similar enumerations, below, k. 12, p. 146b3, 150b2; k. 17, p. 180a23. By borrowing these jātakas from the “Golden Legends” from Northwestern India, the Mppś shows its acquaintance with southern Buddhism. The first four miracles cited here are commemorated in the “four great stūpas of northern India” mentioned by Fa hien, T 2085, p. 858c11 (tr. Legge, p. 32). The Chinese pilgrims who passed through Uḍḍiyāna and Gandhāra – Fa hien about the year 400, Dong yun about 520, Hiuan tsang about 630 – did not fail to visit them; their location has been precisely determined by archeologists (cf. Foucher, Art Gréco-bouddhique, I, p. 8–9).

(i) The “gift of the body”:

Will be retold by the Mppś, k. 16, p. 170b26–28: Seeing a tigress about to devour her babies, he gave her the gift of his body. From other sources, mainly the Suveṇaprabhāsa, we know that the Bodhisattva was called Mahāsattva, son of Mahāratha, king of the Pañcalas. His brothers were Mahāprāṇada and Mahādeva.

Sanskrit sources: Suvarṇaprabhāsa, ch. 18: Vyāgrīparivarta (ed. Hokei Odzumi, p. 185–213; ed. Nobel, p. 201–240; Jātakamālā, ch. 1: Vyāghrījātaka (ed. Kern, p. 2–8); Avadānakalpalatā, ch. 51, v. 28–59 (ed. Chandra Das, II, p. 53–61).

Chinese sources: Lieou tou tsi king, T 1532 (no. 4), k. 1, p. 32b (tr. Chavannes, Contes, I, p. 15–17); P’ou sa pen hing king (T 155, k. 3, p. 119a25; Pen cheng man louen, T 160 (no, 1), k. 1, p. 332b–333b; P’ou sa t’eou sseu ngo hou k’i t’a yin yuan king, T 172, vol. III, p. 424b–428a; Hien yu king T 202 (no. 2), k. 1, p. 352b–353b (tr. Schmidt, Der Weise und der Thor, p. 21–26); Kin kouang ming king (T 665 (no. 26), k. 10, p. 450–456; King liu yi suang (T 2121, k. 31, p. 162).

The stūpa of the “gift of the body”, on Banj peak in the south-east of Mahaban, was visited by Fa hien, T 2085, p. 858b9 (tr. Legge, pg. 32), by Song yun, T 2092, k. 5., p. 1020b7 (tr. Chavannes, Voyage de Song Yun, BEFEO, III, p. 411), and by Hiuan tsang, T 2087, p. 885c14–20 (tr. Beal, I, p. 145–146; Watters, I, p. 253).

Iconography: Mathurā, J. Ph. Vogel, La sculpture de Mathurā, Paris, 1930, p. 62 and pl. XX. – Central Asia, A. Grünwedel, Altbuddhistische Kultstätten, Berlin 1912, fig. 446. 447; A. von Le Coq – E.Waldschmidt, Budd. Spätantike. VI, 24–25. – Formosa, G. Ecke – P. Demiéville, Twin Pagodas of Zayton, Cambridge, Mass., 1935, pl 41.

(ii) The “gift of flesh”:

Will be fully told below, k. 4, p. 87c–88.

(iii) The “gift of the head”:

King Candraprabha of Bhadraśilā (according to other sources, King Mahāprahāsa of Vāraṇasī) is renowned for his generosity. The brahmin Raudrākṣa comes to ask him for his head. The ministers Mahācandra and Mahīdhara offer him a head made of precious substances; the brahmin does not accept; the king attaches his hair to a tree and cuts his head off himself to give it to the brahmin. – The Chinese pilgrims locate the scene near Takṣaśilā, the name of which, says Chavannes, must have given rise to the legend by a false etymology: Takṣaśira = ‘cut-off head’, in place of Takṣaśilā = ‘cut-off rock’. – At any rate, the future Buddha renewed the gift of his head during a thousand successive births.

Sanskrit sources: Divyāvadāna, ch. 22, p. 314–328; Avadānakalpalatā, ch. 5, (vol. I, p. 154–175).

Chinese sources: Lieou tou tsi king, T 152 (no. 5), k. 1, p. 2b–c (tr. Chavannes, Contes, I, p. 17–19(; P’ou sa pen yuan king, (T 153 (no. 5), k. 2, p. 62c–64c; Ta fang pien fo pao ngen king T 156, k. 5, p. 149b–150b; Yue kouang p’ou sa king, T 166, vol. III, p. 406–408 (corresponds to Divyāvadāna); Hien yu king, T 202 (no. 31), k. 6, p. 387b–390b (cf. Schmidt, Der Weise und der Thor, p. 174–183); P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 114, p. 593a26; King liu yi siang, T 2121, K. 25, p. 137a–c. The stūpa of “the gift of the head” at Takṣaśilā near Shah-Dheri, was visited by Fa hien, T 2085, p. 858b7–8 (tr. Legge, p. 32) and by Hiuan tsang, T 2087, k. 3, p. 884c21–23 (tr. Beal, I, p. 138: Watters, I, p. 244).

(iv) The “gift of the eyes”:

King Śibi gives his eyes to Śakra who transformed himself into a vulture (or a brahmin). The gift is rewarded and he soon recovers his sight.

Pāli sources: Śibijātaka, no. 499 (Jātaka, IV, p. 401–412); Cariyāpiṭaka, I, 8, p. 77–78 (tr. Law, p. 99–100); Milinda, p. 119 sq. (tr. Rh. D., p. 179).

Sanskrit sources: Avadānaśataka, I, p. 182–186 (tr. Feer, p. 124–127); Jātakamalā, chap. 2: Śibijātaka, p. 6–14 (tr. Speyer, p. 8–19).

Chinese sources: Siuan tsi po yuan king, T 200 (no. 33), k. 4, p. 218a–c; Hien yu king, T 202 (no. 32), k. 6, p. 390b–392c (cf. Scmidt, Der Weise und der Thor, p. 288–300). The stūpa of “the gift of the eyes” at Puṣkarmavati near Carsadda was visited by Fa hien, T 2085, p. 858b4–5 (tr. Legge, p. 31) and by Hiuan tsang, T 2087, k. 2, p. 881z23–24 (tr. Beal, I, p. 110; Watters, I, p.215).

(v) The “gift of marrow”:

When he was king Utpala, the Bodhisattva wrote a text of the Dharma with one of his broken bones as pen, his marrow as ink and his skin as parchment. This episode is told in the Kien yu king, T 202, k. 1, p. 351b (cf. Schmidt, Der Weise und der Thor, p. 15; P. E. Foucuax, Grammaire de la langue tibétaine, Paris, 1858, p. 211–212); P’ou sa pen jing king, T 155, k. 3, p. 119b16. The scene occurred at the Monastery of the Lentils (masūrasaṃghārāma) at Gumbatai, near Tursak, in Buner, and was visited by Song Yun, T 2092, k. 5, p. 1020b11–14 (tr. Chavannes, BEFEO, III, p. 412) and by Hiuan tsang, T 2087, k. 3, p. 883a12–13 (tr. Beal, I p. 124; Watters, I, p. 233–234). This episode is also told in the Mppś, k. 16, p. 178c and k. 49, p. 412a, but the hero is the brahmin Ngai fa (Dharmarakta) or Lo fa (Dharmarata); besides, he writes the stanza “with his skin as parchment and his blood as ink”; there is no mention of marrow. Thus it is possible that the Mppś, speaking of the “gift of marrow” was not thinking of this episode.

In the “gift of marrow”, I [Lamotte] rather see an allusion to the jātaka where prince Candraprabha “broke one of his bones and pushed out the marrow to cure a sick man.” This deed is told by the Mppś below, k. 12, p. 146b. It is also known to the Ratnakūta where the prince, like the ṛṣi mentioned above is called Utpala (cf. Ta pao tsi king, T310, k. 111, p. 631a; Maitreyaparipṛcchā, T 349, p. 188c; King liu yi siang, T 2121, k. 10, p. 55b).

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