Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “eleven rules for the cow-herder (gopalaka)” 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 7 - Eleven rules for the cow-herder (gopālaka)

The craft of cow-herding and in particular the eleven rules to be observed for the well-being of herds have been described in almost identical terms by many texts. The documents can be classified into two groups: the Mahāgopālakasutta and the Gopalalāvadāna.

1) The Mahāgopālakasutta:

The Mahāgopālakasutta is attested by two Pāli editions and four Chinese versions:

(i) Majjhima, I, p. 220–224 (tr. Chalmers, I, p. 157–159; Neumann, I, p. 514–523.
(ii) Aṅguttara,V, p. 347–353 (tr. Woodward, V, p. 224–227; Nyanatiloka, V, p. 514–518).
(iii) Chinese Saṃyukta: Tsa a an, T 99 (no. 1248), k. 47, p. 342.
(iv) Chinese Ekottara: Tseng yi a han,T 125, k. 46, p. 794.
(v) A single sūtra transl. by Kumārajiva under the title Fang nieou king, T 123, p. 546.
(vi) A single sūtra transl. by Hiuan tsang under the title Yuan k’i king, T 124, p. 547.

2) The Gopālakāvadāna:

The Gopālakāvadāna, development of the preceding sūtra which has come down to us in Sanskrit fragments and two Chinese collections:

(vii) Kalpanāmaṇḍitikā, ed. Lüders, p. 177–178
(viii) Ta tchouang yen louen king, T 201 (no, 61), k. 11, p. 316b–319a (tr. Huber, Sūtrālaṃkāra, p.308–313).
(ix) Ta tche tou louen, T 1509, k. 2, p. 73b–74c.

The translation of the eleven rules of the ox-herder present some difficulties. S. Lévi has compared the Pāli text with the Chinese versions no. iii, iv and viii (Aśvaghoṣa, Le Sūtrālaṃkāra et ses sources, JA, July-Sept., 1908, p. 140–144). The comparison of all these sources would take us too long, but here below we will give the Sanskrit and Pāli text of the eleven rules.

Note: the following extract is copied from chapter IV part 14.

How many rules for the cow-herder (gopālaka) should be kept so that his herd (gogaṇa) prospers, how many rules should he neglect for his herd to decrease and lose its prosperity? The Buddha answered: If he observes eleven rules, the cow-herder is able to make his herd prosper. What are these eleven rules?

  1. He knows their colors.
  2. He knows the distinctive marks.
  3. He knows how to brush them.
  4. He knows how to heal their wounds.
  5. He knows how to make smoke for them.
  6. He knows the good paths.
  7. He knows what the herd needs.
  8. He knows the fords.
  9. He knows the good pastures.
  10. He knows how to milk them.
  11. He knows how to pay respect to the leaders of the herd.

The cow-herder who observes these eleven rules can make his herd prosper. In the same way, the bhikṣu who knows eleven rules can make his good dharmas progress.

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