Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “explanation of the word bhikshu” 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 3 - Explanation of the word Bhikṣu

[79c] What is a bhikṣu? The bhikṣu is a mendicant.

1. He is called bhikṣu because of his pure means of livelihood (pariṣuddhājīva). Thus it is said in a sūtra:

Note: also see notes on the Śucimukhī-sūtra.

Śāriputra entered the city to beg his food; when he had obtained it, he sat down against a wall (kuḍyaṃ niśrāya nyaṣidat) to eat. Then a brahmacariṇī named Tsing mou (Śucimukhī) came to see Śāriputra and asked him:

– O Śramaṇa, are you eating?

– I am eating.

– Śramaṇa, are you eating with your face down (adhomukho bhuñjasi)?

– No, sister, he answered.

– Are you eating with your face up in the air (ūrdhvamukho bhuñjasi)?

– No.

– Are you eating with your face turned in the four cardinal directions (diṅmukho buñjasi)?

– No.

– Then are you eating with your face turned in the four intermediate direction of the horizon (vidiśāmukho bhuñjasi)?

– No, not that.

Then Śucimukhī said to him:

– There are four ways to eat. I have asked you and you answer in the negative. I don’t understand. You must explain.

Śāriputra said to her:

– There are monks (pravrājita) who compound medicinal herbs (oṣadhi), plant grain and cultivate trees, etc. Those who follow these impure means of livelihood (aśuddhājīva) ‘eat with their face down’. – There are monks who observe the stars (nakṣatra), the sun and the moon (sūryacandramas), the wind and the rain (vāyuvarṣa), the clouds and the clear sky (megavidyut), the thunder and lightning. Those who follow these impure ways of livelihood ‘eat with their face up in the air’. – There are monks who flatter important people, carry their messages in the four directions of the horizon and solicit their favor with specious words. Those who follow these impure ways of livelihood ‘eat with their face turned in the four cardinal directions.’ – There are monks who study all kinds of magical spells (mantra), curses, charms, etc. Those who follow these impure ways of livelihood ‘eat with their face turned in the four intermediate directions of the horizon’. As for me, I do not want any of these four impure ways of getting my food; I follow this pure way of livelihood (pariṣuddhājīva) which consists of begging my food (piṇḍapāta).

Then, hearing him speak of this pure food conforming with the Dharma (pariśudda dhārmika āhāra), Śucimukhī rejoiced and had faith (śraddhā). Śāriputra attained the [80a] state of srotaāpanna for having preached the Dharma.”

Therefore one is called bhikṣu in accordance with this pure means of livelihood which consists of begging one’s food.

2. Furthermore, bhi means to cut (bhid) and kṣu means afflictions (kṣud = kleśa). The person who has cut the afflictions is called bhikṣu.[1]

3. Furthermore, the [monk] who has gone forth from home (pravrajita) is called bhikṣu. It is like the eastern (Hou), Chinese (Han) and Tibetan slaves who each have their name.

4. Furthermore, the one who says, from ordination (upasaṃpad) onward: “I, the bhikṣu so-and-so, will observe the precepts (śīla) for my whole life.”[2]

5. Furthermore, bhi means to frighten (bhī) and kṣu means ability (kṣam). The one who has the power to frighten Māra and his followers [is called bhikṣu]. When the monk goes forth from home (pravrajita), shaves his head, puts on the saffron robe (kāṣāya) and receives the precepts (śīla), Māra is frightened because he thinks: “This man will definitely enter into nirvāṇa in time.” It is as the Buddha said: “The man who shaves his head, puts on the saffron robe (kāṣāya) and resolves (ekacittena) to accept the precepts, will know how gradually to cut the bonds (bandhana) and decrease suffering: he will enter into nirvāṇa.”

Footnotes and references:

1.

Bhinnakleśatvād bhikṣuḥ is a traditional etymology; cf. the commentaries of the Vibhaṅga, p. 328, the Vimānavatthu, p. 29, 214, and the Petavatthu, p. 51; Mahāyutpatti, no. 8753; Kośa, IV, p. 97. – More detailed, the Mahāniddesa, p. 70, which proposes: sattannaṃ dhammānaṃ bhinnattā bhikkhu.

2.

This is the monk who has received the usual ordination by the fourfold action of public declaration (jñapticaturthakakarmaṇopasaṃpanno bhikṣuḥ). Cf. Che song liu, T 1435, k. 1, p. 2b9 ( = Mahāvyutpatti, no. 8754). – The ñatticatutthakamma is described in the Vinaya, I, p. 56, 317 sq.; II, p. 89; III, p. 156; IV, p. 152.

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