Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “buddha’s frequent sojourns in rajagriha and shravasti” 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.

Part 4 - The buddha’s frequent sojourns in Rājagṛha and Śrāvastī

Question. – We have understood the meaning of Gṛdhrakūṭaparvata. Why does the Buddha dwell at Rājagṛha? The custom of the Buddhas is to show their loving-kindness (maitrī) towards all. It is like the sun (sūrya) that illuminates everything (dravya); there is nothing that does not receive its light. But there are great cities like:

Ngeou tche ni (Ujjayinī),[1]

Fou leou na po t’an (Pūrṇavardhana), (see Appendix 1)

A hi tch’ö to lo (Ahicchatra), (see Appendix 2)

Fou kia lo p’o yo (Puṣkarāvatī).[2]

All these great cities are populous and wealthy and nevertheless the Buddha did not reside there.[3] Why did he stay [so] often in the cities of Wang chö (Rājagṛha)[4] and Chö p’o t’i (Śrāvastī)[5]? Although he stayed sometimes at Po lo nai (Vārāṇasī),[6] at Kia p’i lo po (Kapilavastu),[7] at Tchan p’o (Campā),[8] at So tch’e to (Sāketa),[9] at Kin chan pi (Kauśambī),[10] at Kieou leou (Kuru),[11] etc., nevertheless he stayed most often at Rājagṛha and Śrāvastī. How do we know that he stayed especially in these two places? We see that the Buddhist sūtras are mostly located at these two cities and rarely in another.[12]

Answer. – 1. Although the great loving-kindness (mahāmaitrī) of the Buddha [77a] reaches all equally, the great cities like Ujjayinī, etc., are frontier-countries (pratyantajanapada). That is why the Buddha does not reside there.[13]

2. Moreover, criminals (mleccha) are numerous there and, as their roots of good are not ripe (aparipakvakuśalamūla), [the Buddha does not reside amongst them]. Thus some stanzas say:

The sun’s rays shine equally [on all];
The mature flowers bloom at once,
But the flowers not yet in bloom
Do not necessarily open up.

In the same way, when the Buddha
Preaches the Dharma [to all] with the same feelings (samacitta) to all,
The roots of good that are already ripe blossom at once,
Those that are not so do not open up.

This is why the Bhagavat
Resides amongst those who show the three following qualities:
Keen knowledge (tīkṣṇajñāna), ripe roots of good (paripakvakuśalamūla),
Reduced fetters (saṃyojana) and reduced afflictions (kleśa).

3. Furthermore, it is out of gratitude that the Buddha frequently resides at Rājagṛha and Śrāvastī.

Question. – Why is it out of gratitude that he often stays in these two cities?

Answer. – The kingdom of Kiao sa lo (Kośala) is the native land of the Buddha. This is why the Buddha one day replied to king P’in p’o so lo (Bimbasāra) with these stanzas:[14]

There is a wondrous country
Situated on the borders of the Himavat;
Opulent and rich in various treasures,
It is called Kośala.

Being of the solar clan and Śākya family,
I was born in that place.
Filled with disgust with old age, sickness and death,
I have left home to search for Buddhahood.

4. Moreover, the leader of Kośala, king Pu sseu ni (Prasenajit), lived in the great city of Śrāvastī, and the Buddha, in his quality of king of Dharma (dharmarāja) also lived in that city, for the two leaders should live in the same place.

5. Furthermore, Kośala is the country of the birth-body (janmakāya) of the Buddha, and it is out of gratitude that the Buddha often lives in Śrāvastī.

Question. – If it is out of gratitude that he often lives in Śrāvastī, why does he not often live also in Kapilavastu, which is closer to his birth-pace?

Answer. – Among the Buddhas, clinging (bandhana) has been extinguished; there are not even traces (vāsanā) of it left. When he goes to visit his parents (bandhu), he feels no emotion (nāsti nānātvasaṃjñā).[15] On the other hand, the majority of his Śākya disciples have not eliminated their desire (avitārāga) and, when they go home to their relatives, they feel attachment (saṅgacitta).

Question. – Why then does he not protect his disciples who are natives of Śrāvastī [from these emotions] but, on the contrary, often stays in Śrāvastī?

Answer. – a. The disciples [native] to Kapilavastu were numerous. When the Buddha returned for the first time to his own country, the [three] Kāśyapa brothers as well as the thousand bhikṣus who originally had followed the brahmanical rule and practiced austerities in the mountains, had a sad appearance. King (Śuddhodana), the Buddha’s father, seeing them, found that these monks were not looking bright enough. Then the Bhagavat made a choice among the Śākya dignitaries and they were joined to the other less vigorous monks. Their families sent a message to restrain them from becoming monastics. (see notes on return of the Buddha) Some of them, well-disposed, tasted the joy of the Path; others found no joy in it. [Thus] these Śākya monks [from Kapilavastu] were not authorized to return to their [77b] native land, but this was not the case for the disciples originally from Śrāvastī. This is why the Buddha often resided in Śrāvastī but seldom in Kapilavastu.

b. Moreover, according to the rules of the anchorites (pravrajitadharma), it is forbidden to have access to one’s relatives, for attachment to relatives (bandhaṅga) is like a fire (tejas) or a snake (sarpa). If the disciples of the brāhmins staying at home (gṛhasthabrāhmaṇa) are unable to dwell in their native land during their training (śikṣā), what then can be said of the śrāmaṇas who have gone forth from their home (pravrajitaśramaṇa)?

c. Furthermore, Kapilavastu is not as big as Śrāvastī, which has 90,000 households.[16] If the Buddha stayed there only seldom, he could not have saved many people. This is why he stayed there often.

d. Furthermore, in Kapilavastu, the Buddha’s native land, the inhabitants had practiced (caryā) for a long time, their roots of good were ripe (paripakvakuśalamūla) and their wisdom keen (tīkṣṇaprajñā). The Buddha stayed there only a short time to preach the Dharma. He did not have to stay there long and, once his work of salvation was done, he went away. But at Śrāvastī, some inhabitants had just started to practice, others had practiced for a long time; among some, the roots of good were ripe, among others they were not; some had sharp faculties (tīkṣṇendriya), others did not. Many of them, by the study of treatises of all kinds, had crushed their minds while trying to sharpen them and had entered into the stream of all kinds of wrong views (nānāmithyādṛṣṭijāla); they had served all kinds of teachers (ācārya) and venerated all kinds of gods (deva). People of mixed practice (miśracaryā) were numerous [amongst them]. This is why the Buddha stayed among them for a long time.

If a physician (vaidya) who is caring for an ulcer (gaṇḍa, visphoṭa) determines that the ulcer is already ripe (paripakva), he breaks it open, extracts the pus (pūya) and, having given a medication (bhaiṣajya), he goes away. If the ulcer is not yet ripe, he stays for a long time to smear it with ointment (añjana). The Buddha acts in the same way. If his disciples have roots of good that are ripe, he converts them by means of his Dharma, then he goes elsewhere. But if the disciples whom he must save have unripe roots of good, he must remain with them for a long time. If the Buddha appears in the world (prādurbhavati), it is precisely to save beings and lead them to the element of nirvāṇa (nirvāṇadhātu), to safety (yogakṣema) and to the blissful abodes (sukhavihāra). This is why he frequently resides in Śrāvastī and rarely in Kapilavastu.

e. The Buddha attained supreme perfect enlightenment (anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi) and took on (samanvāgata) the dharmakāya in the kingdom of Mo k’ie t’o (Magadha) on the banks of the river Ni lien cha (Nairañjanā) in the village of Wou leou louo (Uruvilvā). This is why he frequently resides in Rājagṛha.

Footnotes and references:


Ujjayinī, in Pāli Ujjenī, in Greek Ozene (Ptolemy, VII, i, v. 63; Periple of the Erythrean Sea, v. 48), capital of Avanti, situated at 77 degress E and 23 degrees N (Rh. D., Buddhist India, p. 40; CAGI, p. 560). Native city of several disciples of the Buddha, it was visited by Hiuan tsang (Beal, II, p. 270; Watters, Travels, II, p. 250).


Puṣkārāvatī (Prāng, Cārsadda and Rājar), capital of Gandhāra, on the left bank of the Swāt river. This is the Poukelaītis, Peukelaotis or Peukolaītis of the Greeeks (cf. P. Chantraine, in Arrien, L’Inde, p. 24, n. 1). For the geography of Gandhāra, refer to A. Foucher, Sur la géographie ancienne du G., BEFEO, I, 1901, p. 322; Notes sur l’itinéraire de Hiuan tsang en Afghanistan, in Études Asiatiques, 1923, I, p. 236; De Kāpiśī a Pushkaravatī, BSOS, VI, 2, p. 341. – Puṣkarāvatī had a coinage representing, on the obverse side, the goddess of the city with the inscription Pakhalavadi devada; on the reverse side, the Indian bull with the inscription TAYPOC, Uṣabhe. The goddess bears a mural crown and holds a lotus in her right hand (cf. CHI, p. 557 and pl. VI, 10). – Her temple was outside the city near the western gate and, according to Hiuan tsang, her image worked miracles. See Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 2, p. 881a (tr. Beal, I, P. 109; Watters, I, p. 214). – The Greek kings who succeeded at Puṣkāravatī identified her with Artemis, for coins of the Artemis type (Indian bull) were struck by Artemidor and Peukolaos. – Hiuan tsang (l. c.) venerated a great stūpa north of the city (according to Foucher, the mound of Bālā-Hissar), built by Aśoka on the place where the Buddha gave the gift of his eyes.


According to Dīgha, II, p. 146, the six great cities at the time of the Buddha were Campā, Rājagṛha, Śrāvastī, Sāketa, Kauśambī and Vārāṇasī. According to the Mppś, the Buddha stayed mainly in eight cities, especially in Rājagṛha and Śrāvastī.


Rājagṛha, capital of Magadha (Bihar), the present Rajgir south of Patna. Its location has been definitively identified and excavated by Marshall, AR Arch. Survey, 1905–1906, 1925–1926. See B. C. Law, Rājagṛha in Ancient Literature, M. Arch. Survey, no. 58, Delhi, 1938. – The Buddha stayed there during the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 17th and 20th varṣa of his ministry (Buddhavaṃsa Comm., p. 3).


Śrāvastī, capital of Kośala (Aoude), the present village of Saheth-Maheth in U.P. Cf. Marshall, Excavations at Sahet-Mahet, AR Arch. Surv., 1907–1908, p. 82; 1910–1911, p. 3; B. C. Law, Śrāvastī in Indian Literature, M. Arch. Surv., no. 50, Dalhi, 1935. – For the 45 varśas of his ministry, the Buddha spent 25 at Śrāvasti (See below, k. 9, p. 125c; Buddhavaṃsa Comm., p. 3).


Vārāṇasī or Kāśi, on the central Ganges, the actual Benares. – It was at Benares in the Deer Park that the Buddha preached his first sermon, the Dharmacakrapravartanasūtra. He returned there several times afterwards (cf. Vinaya, I, p. 189, 216, 289; Saṃyutta, I, p. 105; V, p. 406; Aṅguttara, I, p. 110, 279; III, p. 392, 300). There he converted Yasa and many outstanding people (Vinaya, I, p. 15).


Kapilavastu, in Nepal, principal city of the Śākya clan. Its location has been discovered near the village of Paderia, two miles north of Bhavanpur. Cf. P. C. Mukherji, Antiquities in the Tarai, Nepal: the region of Kapilavastu, AR Arch Surv., 1901; V. A. Smith, Kapilavastu, in ERE, VII, p. 659. – The Buddha was born in the Lumbinī park (Rumindeī) east of the city; he stayed there until his departure for enlightenment. He returned during the first year of his ministry and made a large number of conversions (Ken pen chou… p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 9, p. 143 sq; Rockhill, Life, p. 51 sq.; Feer, Extraits, p. 50 sq.; Nidānakathā, p. 87 sq.). He returned again to pacify the conflict between Śakya and Koliya concerning the Rohinī river (Dhammapadaṭṭha, III, p. 254), and during the punitive expedition of Viḍūḍabha (Jātaka, IV, p. 144 sq.).


Campā, capital of Aṅga (Bengal), the location of which is probably marked today by the two villages, Campānagara and Campāpura, near Bhagalpur (CAGI, p. 3). The Buddha visited there several times (Vinaya, I, p. 312; Saṃyutta, I, p. 195; Aṅguttara, IV, p. 59, 168; V, p. 151, 189).


Sāketa, a city in Kośala, near Ayodhyā with which it may be confused. Its site has been identified with the ruins of Sukān Koy on the Sai, in the district of Unao of the present province of Aoude (Malasekera, II, p. 1086, It is the Sageda of Ptolemy (VII, 1, 71).


Kauśāmbī, capital of the Vatsas, today Kosam on the Jumna, 50 km. from Allahabad. It had several parks, Kukkuṭa and Ghositārāma, where the Buddha frequently stayed.


Kuru is a country rather than a city. It is one of the sixteen Mahājanapadas listed in Dīgha, II, p. 200; Aṅguttara, I, p. 213, etc. The country corresponds to the district of Thānasar, capital of Indraprastha, near the present city of Delhi (CAGI,p. 379). In one of its villages, Kalmāṣadamya, the Buddha preached some of his most important sermons, such as the Mahānidāna and the Mahāsatipatthānasutta.


Woodward, Kindred Sayings. V, p. XVIII, has determined that among all the sūtras of the four Nikāyas, 871 were given at Śrāvastī, 9 in the Dīgha, 73 in the Majjhima, 736 in the Saṃyutta, 54 in the Aṅguttara.


Buddhist texts frequently express their distrust towards the frontier lands. Cf. Kāraṇaprajñapti in LAV., Cosmologie, p. 335: “Why is the Bodhisattva not born among the barbarian thieves of the frontiers? The people of the frontiers lack manners and doctrine: there would have been no common ground between the Bodhisattva and them.” To live in a border-land is one of the conditions making it difficult (akṣaṇa) to practice the Buddhadharma (Dīgha, III, p.263–265; Aṅguttara, IV, p. 225–227).


These stanzas are taken from the story of the first meeting between king Bimbasāra and the future Buddha when he was still a wandering monk. The oldest Pāli sources do not know this episode (cf. Thomas, Life, p. 69), but it is related in Pabbajāsutta of the Suttanipāta, III, i, v. 405–424 (tr. Fausboll, SBE, X, p. 67; Chalmers, p. 100); Nidānakathā, p. 66; Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 85 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, I, p. 195); Mahāvastu, II, p. 198–200; Lalitavistara, ch. XVI, p. 237–243 (tr. Foucaux, p. 205–209); Buddhacarita, ch. X (tr. Johnson, p. 141–148); Fang kouang ta chouang yen king, T 187 (no. 16), k. 7, p. 578c–580a; Fo pen hing tsi king, T 190, k. 23, p. 758 (tr. Beal, Romantic Legend, p. 178–183); Tchong hiu mo ho ti king, T 191, k. 5, p. 947c–948a; Fo so hing tsan, T 192 (no. 10), k. 3, p. 19–20; Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 4, p. 118b–119a (cf. Rockhill, Life, p. 27).

The stanzas cited here depart somewhat from the old tradition attested by the complete agreement between the Suttanipāta and the Mahāvastu:

Suttanipāta, v. 422–423: Ujū janapado rāja… na kāme abhipatthayaṃ.

Mahāvastu, II, p. 199: Nijajanapada rāja… na kāmām abhiprārthaye.

“At the side of the Himavat, O king, there live a people endowed with wealth and energy, the inhabitants of Kośala. They are of the solar race in lineage, Śākya by birth. From this family I have gone forth, having no attraction for the sense pleasures.”

The corresponding stanzas of the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya are in T 1450,k. 4, p. 118c–119a3.


This absence of emotion is one of the eighteen special attributes (āveṇikadharma) of the Buddha.


See also below, k. 9, p. 125c. According to Buddhaghosa, Śrāvastī had 57,000 homes (Samantapāsādikā, III, p. 614) and its population was 18 ‘crores’ (Suttanipāta Comm., I, p. 371).