Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “apalala (king of the nagas) and alala (protector of magadha)” 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 8 - Apalāla (king of the nāgas) and Alāla (protector of Magadha)

Note: this appendix was extracted from a note at Chapter V part 5.

Evidently this (Apalāla) is the serpent Alāla, protector of Magadha. The story of his conversion is told in the P’ou sa pen hing king, T 155, k. 2, p. 116a–119a, and summarized in Hôbôgirin, Aharara, p. 10, in the following words: The pool of Yeou lien, near Rājagṛha, is the home of a dragon named Sundara which destroyed the crops in the Magadha. A brahmin subdued it by means his magic and the population rewarded him with gifts, but when the Buddha was about to establish Rajāgṛha, his beneficent activity sufficed to repress the activity of the dragon and the people stopped offering gifts to the brahmin. Irritated, he vowed to become a dragon along with his wife and two children; to be assured of the realization of this vow, he acquired the merit of offering a meal to the Buddha’s four great disciples. Then he took the place of the dragon Sundara and began to ravage the crops, of which he left only the straw, hence his name Palāla ‘Without straw’; his wife, changed into a dragon, received the name Pi cheou ni, and one of his sons, the name K’i chan ni. King Ajātaśatru asked the Buddha for help; aided by Vajrapāni, who split the mountain with his thunderbolt, the Buddha subjugated the dragon, his wife and children, and all the dragons and demonic creators of illnesses were saved in the neighboring kingdom of Vaiśālī.

– A somewhat different story, but also located in Magadha, is told in a commentary on the Ekottarāgama, the Fen pie kong tö louen, T 1507, k. 5, p. 559): The brahmin Fan che, who had taken birth in the form of the dragon Apalāla and ravaged the crops in Magadha, was transported to the north-west of India: the Mppś, below at k. 9, p. 126b, tells us that the Buddha went to north-western India to the land of Yue tche and there subjugated the king of the dragons, Apalāla. A large number of texts tell this legend of the north-west of India: Ken pen chouo… yao che, T 1448, k. 9, p. 40b (tr. in Przysluski, ibid., p. 510): In northern India, the dragon Apalāla, vanquished by the Buddha aided by the yakṣa Vajrapāṇi, was converted along with his wife and children. [The Buddha predicted that one hundred years after his nirvāṇa, the disciple Madhyāntika would convert the poisonous dragon Huruta in Kaṣmir].

– Several texts allude to this episode: Divyāvadāna, p. 348, 385; Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 604), k. 23, p. 165b22; Legend of Aśoka in T 2942, k. 1, p. 102b and T 2043, k. 2, p. 135b.

Hiuan tsang locates in a pool near the sources of the Śubhavastu (Swāt) the place where the Buddha, with the aid of Vajrapāṇi’s thunderbolt, tamed the dragon Apālala, the reincarnation of the brahmin Gāṅgi. However, in order to assure his livelihood, the Buddha permitted him to raise a storm every twelve years (Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 3, 882b–c; tr. Beal, I, p. 122; Watters, I, p. 229).

Other dragons, also tamed by the Buddha, are possibly identical with Apalāla; for example, the dragon Aravāla that ravaged Kaśmir and was tamed by Madhyāntika (Samantapasādikā, I, p. 65; Mahāvaṃsa, XII, v. 9–20, tr. Geiger, p. 82; Chan kien p’i p’ cha liu, T 1462, k. 2, p. 685a, tr. by Przyluski, N.-O. de l’Inde, p. 562), and the dragon Ho lo (53 and 10; 122 and 14), [probably Aravāla], converted by the Buddha (Hien kie king, T 425, k. 4, p. 30b). For the monuments, see Foucher, Art Gréco-bouddhique, I, p. 544–553.