Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “buddha’s preferences for rajagriha” 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 5 - Buddha’s preferences for Rājagṛha

Question. – Now we know the reasons why the Buddha often stayed in Rājagṛha and Śrāvastī. But of these two cities, why did he reside more often in Śrāvastī?

Answer. – 1. It is out of gratitude for the benefits of his native land that he stayed in Śrāvastī frequently. All beings think about their birthplace. A stanza says:

All the teachers who teach (upadeśācarya)
Are attached to the system that they know.
In the same way, every person loves his homeland.
Even having gone forth from home (pravrajita), they still want it.

It is to repay the benefits of the country of his dharmakāya that the Buddha often stays at Rājagṛha. A stanza says:

[77c] The Buddhas of the past and the future
And the Buddhas of the present
Honor (pūjayanti) their dharmakāya
And pay homage (vandana) to it and venerate (gurukāra) it.

Since the dharmakāya prevails over the body of birth (janmakāya), it is at Rājagṛha that the Buddha resides more often.

2. Furthermore, [the Buddha stays more often at Rājagṛha] because the Tso chan (caityas) and the Tsing chö (vihāras) are more numerous there than elsewhere.

Thus Rājagṛha has five vihāras:

i. Tchou yuan (Veṇuvana),[1] (also see appendix 4)

ii. Sa to pan na k’ieou ho (Saptaparṇaguhā),[2]

iii. Yin t’o che lo k’ieou a (Indraśilaguhā), (also see appendix 5)

iv. P’i p’o lo po nou (Vaibhāravana),

v. Sa po chou houen tche kia po p’o lo (Sarpaśuṇḍaikaprāgbhāra).[3]

The Veṇuvana is located on the flat plain.

There are not as many vihāras in the other places:

a) At Śrāvastī there is a stopping-place called Tche houan tsing chö (Jetavanavihāra).[4] There is another called Mo k’ie lo mou t’ang (Mṛgāramātṛprāsāda).[5] But there is no third stopping-place.

b) In the region of P’o lo nai sseu (Vārānasī), there is only one stopping-place, the vihāra of Lou lin (Mṛgadāva) called Li che p’an t’o na (Ṛṣipatana). (also see appendix 6)

c) At P’i ye li (Vaiśālī) there are two stopping-places: the first is called Mo ho p’an (Mahāvana) and the second Mi heou tch’e ngan (Markaṭahradatīra).[6]

d) At Kieou chan mi (Kauśambī) there is a stopping-place called K’iu che lo yuan (Ghoṣilārama).[7]

In all these regions, there was either a stopping-place having a vihāra or an empty (śūnya) forest. But Rājagṛha had many vihāras suitable for meditators (dhyāyin), and since these stopping-places were in safe (yogakṣema) areas, the Buddha stayed there frequently.

3. Furthermore, at Rājagṛha there were six heretic teachers, Fou na lo (Pūraṇa), who claimed to be omniscient (sarvajñā) and were rivals of the Buddha.[8] There were also the brahmacārins Tch’ang chao (Dīrghanakha), P’o ts’o sing (Vatsagotra), Kiu kia na ta (Kokanada), etc., all the great heretical teachers (tīrthikamahopadeśācārya).[9] Finally, there was the āyuṣmat Che li k’ou to (Śrīgupta).[10] T’i p’o ta to (Devadatta), A chö che (Ajātaśatru),[11] etc., who wished to harm the Buddha, did not believe in the Buddhadharma and were filled with jealousy (īrṣyā). [78a]

Since these individuals were at Rājagṛha, the Buddha often stayed there. In this way, near a place where poisonous herbs (viṣatṛṇa) grow, there must be a medicinal herb (oṣadhi). Some stanzas say:

If the lion (siṃha),
King of all the wild beasts,
Roars out against small insects (prāṇika),
He is laughed at by all.

If it is against the tigers (vyāghra), wolves
And other ferocious beasts
That he roars so powerfully,
He is valued by the experts.

The teaching masters are like the ferocious tigers,
But, in their midst, [the Buddha] fears nothing.
These great sages have seen much, heard much (bahuśruta),
But amongst them [the Buddha] is foremost.

Since these great sages (mahāpaṇḍita) and great learned one (bahuśruta) live at Rājagṛha, the Buddha often stays there..

4. Furthermore, king P’in p’o so lo (Bimbasāra) had gone to K’ie ye sseu chö (Gayaśīrṣa) to see the Buddha and his followers, the 1000 Kie fa (Jaṭilas) who [had become] arhats. Then the Buddha preached to the king who attained the state of Siu t’o houan (srotaāpanna, entry into the stream). After that, the king invited the Buddha in these words: “I would like the Buddha and his community (saṃgha) to come to my city of Rājagṛha and accept, for their lifetime, the clothing (cīvara), leather (carman), food (āhāra), beds and seats (śayanāsana) and medicines (bhaiṣajya) that I will furnish for them.” The Buddha accepted his invitation and that is why he frequently resides at Rājagṛha.[12]

5. Furthermore, of the four directions (diś) in Yen feou t’i (Jambudvīpa), the east (pūrvā dik) is the foremost because the sun rises there; next are the south (dakṣinā dik), west (paścimā dik) and north (uttarā dik). In the west, the country of Magadha is the most powerful. In the country of Magadha, the city of Rājagṛha is the most powerful: it contains 120,000 households. After the Buddha’s nirvāṇa, king A chö che (Ajātaśatru), whose lineage had weakened, abandoned the great city of Rājagṛha and built a small city one yojana in size nearby called Po lo li fou to lo (Pāṭaliputra). (also see Appendix 7) If the latter prevails over all the other cities, what then should be said of Rājagṛha?

6. Furthermore, at Rājagṛha there are many intelligent people (medhāvin) learned and wise, which is not the case in the other lands.

7. Furthermore, some men, before attaining the Path, wait for the time, the place and the wished-for individual. The Buddha knows in advance that Che t’o houan yin (Śakradevendra) and 80,000 devas should attain the Path at Magadha in the Rock Cave (śailaguhā).[13] That is why he often stayed at Rājagṛha.

8. Furthermore, this land is wealthy; when one begs for one’s food, one obtains it easily. This is not the case in the other lands. This wealth is the result of three causes:

i. King Bimbasāra had given orders that food always be provided near his palace for 1000 bhikṣus.[14]

ii. Chou t’i k’ie (Jyotiṣka), born among humans, nevertheless possessed the wealth of a god.[15]

iii. A po lo lo (Apalāla), king of the nāgas, was converted because of a good thought (kuśalacitta) and became a disciple of the Buddha. To prevent famines (durbhikṣa), he caused an unceasing beneficial rain to fall. That is why this country is wealthy. (also see appendix 8)

[78b] Thus, after the nirvāṇa of the Buddha, the sthavira Mo ho kia chö (Mahākāśyapa), wishing to gather together the scriptures, looked for a wealthy country where begging would be fruitful and where the scriptures could be quickly collected. After reflecting, he thought of Rājagṛha where, under the order of king Bimbasāra, food was always prepared for 1000 bhikṣus. True, the king was dead, but this custom had not been abolished. At Rāhagṛha food was easy to find and the scriptures could easily be collected there.[16] In other countries, this was not always the case: “When the alms-round is made, the heretics (tīrthika) would come to engage in debates; if one debated with them, the gathering of the scriptures would suffer; if one did not engage in debate with them, they would say: ‘These śramanas are not good for us.’ ” For all these considerations, Mahākāśyapa chose 1000 great arhats and went to the Gṛdhrakūṭaparvata to compile the basket (piṭaka) of the texts there. For these three reasons, we know that begging was successful in the land of Magadha.

On the other hand, in the Āgamas and in the Vinaya, it is said that at P’i ye li (Vaiśālī), there are often famines (durbhikṣa).[17] Similarly, the Hiang nan t’o p’o nan t’o long wang hiong king (Nandopanandāgarājadamanasūtra)[18] says that at Chö p’o t’i (Śrāvastī) also there were famines. There were frequent famines in the other contries as well. But this is not the case for Magadha. This is why we know that Magadha is wealthy and that begging there is successful.

9. Finally, between two mountains, Rājagṛha is a well-protected retreat. In the other lands, the monasteries (vihāra) are on level ground; numerous crowds enter, leave and come and go as they please. These are not well-protected retreats. In the mountains of Rājagṛha there are many vihāras; contemplatives (dhyāyin) and āryas who all love sheltered retreats settle there in great numbers. The Buddha, chief of contemplatives and āryas, frequently resides at Rājagṛha.

These are the various reasons why he often stays at Rājagṛha.

Footnotes and references:


Actually Rājagṛha had many other stopping places. Besides those cited here, the Sītavana, the Ambavana of Jīvaka, the Pipphaliguhā, the Udumbarikārāma, the Moranivāpa with its Paribbājakārāma, the Tapodārāma, the Laṭṭhivana, the Maddakucchi, the Supatiṭṭhacetiya, the Pāsāṇakadetiya, the Sumagadhā pool (See Malasekera, s.v.).


The Vaibhāra was one of the five mountains surrounding Rājagṛha. At its foot was the Cave of Seven Leaves, Saptaparṇaguhā, in Pāli Sattapaṇṇiguha, where the first Council was held. The Sanskrit reading Saptaparṇaguhā is attested by the Mahāvastu, I, p. 70, l. 15.


Sarpaśuṇḍikaprāgbhāra is a conjectural form. Only the Pāli reading is attested: Sappasoṇḍikapabbāra. The Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 252), k. 9, p. 60c, translated Che t’eou yen (142 and 5; 181 and 7; 46 and 29) or ‘Slope of the Serpent’s Head’. It is a large cave located in the Śitavana near Rājagṛha (Dīgha, II, p. 116; Saṃyutta, IV, p. 40). According to Buddhaghosa (Sārattha, II, p. 368) it was called thus because it resembled the hood of a snake (sappaphaṇasadisatāya evaṃ laddhanāmaṃ pabbhāraṃ).


The Jetavana was offered to the Buddha by Anāthapiṇḍada who had first bought it from its owned, Jeta, for the price of its surface covered in pieces of gold. The story of the gift is in the Vinaya, II, p. 158 sq. (tr. Rh. D. – Oldenberg, III, p. 187–188); Wou fen liu. T 1421. k. 25, p. 167b; Sseu fen liu, T 1428, k. 50, p. 939b–c; Che song liu, T 1435, k. 34;, p. 244c; Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 8, p. 139c; Nidānakathā, p. 92–93. – It is represented at Sāncī (north toraṇa, left abutment), at Bhārhut (Cunningham, Bhārhut, pl. LVII), at Gandhāra (Foucher, Art Gréco-bouddhique, I, fig. 239). – The Buddha stayed there for nineteen varṣas (Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 3) and, when the Mṛgāramātṛprāsāda was built, he stayed at Jetavana and at Mṛgāramātṛptāsāda alternately, spending the day at one and the night at the other (Suttanipāta Comm., I, p. 336). – The Jetavana was visited by Fa hien (tr. Giles, p. 31 sq.) and Hiuan tsang (Watters, Travels, I, p. 382) who found it in ruins. – On the actual state of the site, see P. Vogel, Excavations at Sahet-Mahet, AR Arch. Surv., 1907–1908, p. 81 sq.


The monastery of Mṛgāramātṛprāsāda was built in the Pūrvārāma, east of Śrāvastī by Viśākhā, daughter-in law of Mṛgāra but her ‘mother’ in the Buddhadharma.


Vaiśālī is the present-day Resarch on the Gandaki, in the district of Muzafferpur in Tirhut (Cf. V. Smith, JRAS, 1907, p. 267; J. Marshall, AR Arch. Surv., 1903–1904). Its main monastery was the Kūṭāgāraśālā ‘Hall of the Belvedere”, described at length in Sumaṅgala, I, p. 310; Papañca, II, p. 267. But whereas the Pāli textx locate it in the Mahāvana “Large Forest”. The Sanskrit texts place it on the Markaṭahradatīra “Shore of the Monkey Pool”. Thus, when a Pāli sutta beings with the phrase: Bhagavā Vesāliyaṃ mahāvane kūṭāgārasālāyaṃ, the corresponding Sanskrit sūtra (known by the Chinese Āgama) begins with Bhagavān Vaiśālīm upaniṣritya vihārati markaṭaheadatīre kūṭāgāraśālāyām. (Compare, e.g., Pāli Saṃyutta, I, p. 29, with the Sanskrit Saṃyukta in T 99 (no. 1274), k. 48, p. 359a, and T 100 (no. 272), k. 14, p. 290c, and T 100 (no. 34), k. 2, p. 384b). The same indication Markaṭahradatīre is also found in the post-canonical texts: Mahāvastu, I, p. 300;Divyāvadāna, p. 136, 200; Avadānaśataka, I, p. 8, 279. – However that may be, the Mppś says nothing here about the Kūṭāgāraśāla and mentions only the stops in the Mahāvana, the great forest extending from Vaiśālī to the Himālaya (Sumaṅgala, I, p. 309) and in the Markaṭahradatīra. This pool is thus called because it had been dug out by the Buddha for the monkeys. Hiuan tsang, who visited it (Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 7, p. 908b; tr. Beal, II, p. 68; Watters, II, p. 65) tells us that to the south of the pool there is a stūpa commemorating the offering of honey to the Buddha by a monkey. This episode is told in the Tchong a han, T 26 (no. 32), k. 8, p. 471a; Ken pen chouo… yao che, T 1448, k. 18; Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 12, p. 163c; Mo ho seng k’i liu, T 1425, k. 29, p. 464a; Hien yu king, T 202 (no. 54), k. 12, p. 420c–430c (cf. I. J Schmidt, Der Weise und der Thor, chap. XL, p. 347); A. Schiefner, Tibetische Lebensbeschreibung, p. 302. It is represented at Sanchī (Fergusson, Tree and Serpent Worship, pl. X, XII, XXVI), at Bhārhut (Cunningham, Bhārhut, pl. XV and XXX), at Gandhāra (Foucher, Art Gréco-bouddhique, p. 1, p. 513, f. 254), and in Nepalese miniatures (Id., Iconographie bouddhique, pl. VII, X).

The Mppś also fails to mention the Ambalālivana given to the Buddha by the well-known courtesan, very close to Vaiṣālī (cf. Vinaya, I, p. 231–233; Fa hien, tr. Legge, p. 72; Hiuan tsang, tr. Beal, II, p. 68; Watters, II, p. 69).


Ghoṣila (in Pāli Ghosaka) and the 500 ascetics of the Himavat whom he maintained had gone to Śrāvastī to invite the Buddha. When the latter accepted their invitation, they built dwellings at Kauśāmbī to receive him and his monks. The construction of Ghoṣila was called Ghoṣilārāma, in Pāli, Ghositārārma. Cf. Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 207–208 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, I, p. 280); Papañca, II, p. 390.


For Pūraṇa and the heretic teachers, cf. B. C. Law, Six heretical Teachers in BS, III, p. 73–88; Barua, History of Pre-Buddhist Philosophy, Calcutta.


Dīrganakha has already been mentioned. – The conversion of Vatsagotra is recounted in detail in the three Vacchagottasuttas in the Majjhima (no. 71–73), I, p. 481–497. The last two may be found in the Chinese Saṃyukta, Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 962 and 964), k. 34, p. 245b sq. In the Saṃyukta, all these sūtras are located at Rājagṛha, in the Kalandakavenuvana, which confirms the assertion of the Mppś according to which Vatsagotra lived in Rājagṛha. On the other hand, in the Pāli Majjhima, the related suttas on the same individual are located respectively at Vaiśalī, Śrāvastī and Rājagṛha. – Kokanada is a parivrājaka who debated with Ānanda on the eternity of the world and the other reserved points. A Kokanadasūtra has been discovered in central Asia by Grünwedel, published by R. Pischel, Bruchstücke des Sanskritkanons des Buddhisten aus Idykutsari TP, SPAW, XXV, 1904, p, 820. Very close, the Chinese version of Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 967), k.34, p. 248b (cf. S. Lévi, Le Saṃtyuktāgama sanscrit et les feuillets de Grünwedel, TP, 1904,p. 297–309). The corresponding Pāli sutta is in Aṅguttara, V, p. 196.


Śrīgupta, brother-in-law of Jyotiṣka and disciple of Pūraṇa. To avenge his teacher who had been ridiculed by Jyotiṣka, he invited the Buddha and his monks to dine, prepared poisoned food, had a ditch dug filled with hidden fire and threw his wife, Jyotiṣka’s sister, into a dungeon. Disregarding the warnings of the devas, the Buddha accepted this invitation. Under his feet, the fire-filled ditch was changed into a pool covered with lotuses. Śrīgupta freed his wife and asked her to intercede for him with the Buddha, then he came himself and asked for pardon. The Buddha reassured him and ordered the monks to chant the saṃprakyāta which renders poisonous food harmless. Śrīgupta is well known to the Sanskrit and Chinese sources: Avadānakalpalatā, ch. VIII, (T i, p. 258–270); Tseng yi ahan T 125, k. 41, p. 773c; Ta tchouang yen louen king, T 201 (no. 67), k. 13, p. 327c–333a (tr. Huber, Sūtrālaṃkāra, p. 361–386); Tö hou tchang tchö king, T 545, vol. XIV, p. 840 sq. (Tibetan correspondent: Dpal sbas, Mdo XVI, 17; Csoma-Feer, p. 262; OKC, no. 883); Che song liu, T 1435, k. 61, p. 464b: Ken pen chouo… mou tö kia, T 1452, analyzed fully by S. Lévi, Le Sūtrālaṃkāra et ses sources, JA, July-Aug. 1908, p. 154–158; Hiuan tsang (tr. Beal, II, p. 151; Watters, II p. 150); Yi tsing (tr. Takakusu, p. 39). – In the Pāli sources, Sirigotta is a lay devotee, filled with devotion to the Buddha and scorned by the Nirgrantha. It is his friend Garahadinna who offers to the Buddha the poisoned food described above; cf. Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 434–447 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, II, p. 92–99); Milinda, p. 350.


The traps laid for the Buddha by Devadatta and Ajātaśatru are well known. It suffices here to refer to the handbooks: Kern, Histoire, I, p. 186; Manual, p. 38; Thomas, Life of Buddha, p. 132; T. W. Rhys-Davids, Devadatta, in ERE, IV, p. 675–677.


For Bimbasāra’s invitation, see above.


This is the Indraśailaguhā; see above.


See above.


For the story of Jyotiṣka and a description of this wealth, refer to the Dhammapadaṭṭha, p. 207–221 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, III, p. 319–331); Divyāvadāna, XIX, p. 262–290 (tr. H. Zimmer, Karma, ein buddhistischer Legendenkranz, München, 1925, p. 105–174); Fo wou po ti tseu, T 199 (n0. 17), p. 195; Chou t’i k’ie king, T 540, vol. XIV, p. 825; Ta pan nie p’an king, T 375, k. 28, p. 789a; Rockhill, Life, p. 65–70, 94–95.


Cf. Vinaya, II, p. 285: Atha kho therānaṃ bhikkūnaṃ… upgaccheyyun ti. – The same deliberation in the other Vinayas, cf. Przyluski, Concile, p. 140, 172, 20294, 226.


Famines at Vaiśālī are mentioned in the Vinaya, IV, p. 23; Mahīśasaka Vinaya, Wou fen liu, T 1421, k. 22, p. 152b. But the city of Rājagṛha was not free of them as far as is known: Vinaya, II, p. 175; Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 20, p. 202c.


A short sūtra, the Pāli original of which is reproduced in its entirety by Buddhaghosa in his Visuddhimagga, II, p.398–401 (title in Jātaka, V, p. 126, l. 22), translated into Chinese by the Scythian Tche k’ien, under the title Long wang hiong ti king, T 597, vol. XV, p. 131, and into Tibetan under the name Kluḥi rgyal po dgaḥ bo ñer dgaḥ ḥdul baḥi mdo, Mdo XXX, 21 (Csoma-Feer, p. 289; OKC, no. 755, p. 228). The Buddha along with 500 bhikṣus went to the Trāyastriṃśa heaven which overhangs the palace of the nāga king, Nandopananda. Angry, the latter wrapped himself seven times around Mount Meru to hide it from the Buddha’s sight. Rāṣtrapāla and Bhādrika proposed to the Buddha to overcome him, but it was Maudgalyāyana who was charged with this task. A terrible struggle ensued. The nāga finally took to flight but, pursued and being brought back by Maudgalyāyana, he changed himself into a young brahmin who took refuge in the Buddha. – The conversion of Nandopananda, which bears a striking resemblance to that of the dragon Apalāla, is told or simply mentioned in Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 28, p. 703b sq.; Saddharmapuṇḍarīka, p. 4, l. 11; Dīvyāvadāna, p. 307, 329, 395; Legend of Aśoka (in Przyluski, Aśoka, p. 257). – Below, the Mppś, k. 32, p. 300a–b, has Nanda and Upananda, two brothers, who want to destroy Śrāvastī.

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