Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “pancamatra bhikshusahasra (section of five thousand arhats)” 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 - Pañcamātra Bhikṣusahasra (section of five thousand arhats)

Sūtra: [The assembly] was very numerous; a section of five thousand [men].

Śāstra: What is meant by very numerous? We call a [sum] which increases and rarely decreases very numerous. In a numerous assembly, if a group is taken out, there is a ‘section’. [80b] Here in an assembly of ten thousand bhikṣus, a section of five thousand men is taken. Hence the expression ‘section of five thousand men’.


Sūtra: All were arhats.

Śāstra: What does arhat mean?

1. Ara means enemy (ari) and hat means to kill (han). He who has destroyed all these enemies that are called the afflictions (kleśa) is called an arhat.

2. Furthermore, the arhats who have destroyed all the impurities (kṣīṇāsrava) deserve (arhanti) veneration (pūja) by the gods and men of all the universes (loka).

3. Finally, a designates negation and rahat designates birth. He who will never again be reborn in future generations is called arhat.


Sūtra: They have destroyed the impurities.

Śāstra: They are called kṣīṇāsrava because they have completely eliminated the three impurities (āsrava) of the threefold world.


Sūtra: They were free of the afflictions.

Śāstra: They are called niṣkleśa because they have destroyed all the fetters (saṃyojana), the attachments (upādāna), the bonds (bandhana), the obstacles (nīvaraṇa), wrong views (dṛṣṭi) and the envelopment of desire (paryavasthāna).


Sūtra: Their mind was completely liberated as well as their wisdom.

Śāstra: Question. – Why are they suvimuktacitta and suvimuktaprajña?

Answer. – 1. The heretics (tīrthika) who have renounced pleasure (virakta) acquire liberation of mind (cetovimukti) on one single point and by a single path, but they are not freed from all the obstacles (āvaraṇa). This is why the arhats alone are called suvimuktacitta and suvimuktaprajña.

2. Furthermore, the arhats have acquired liberation of mind (cetovimukti) by a twofold path: the path of seeing the truths (satyadarśanamārga) and the path of meditation (bhāvanāmārga); this is why they are called suvimuktacitta. As for the Śaikṣas, while they have acquired deliverance of mind, they are not yet completely liberated because they still retain a residue of the fetters (saṃyojana).

3. Furthermore, the dharmas auxiliary to the path (mārgapākṣikadharma) are not complete in the heretics (tīrthika). They seek the path by cultivating one single quality (guna) or two qualities but they are unable to find the path. According to them, the person who is seeking purity (viśuddha) by alms-giving (dāna) alone or by sacrificing to the gods (devayajña) can escape from grief (daurmanasya) and be reborn in a land of eternal bliss (nityasukha). Others speak about an eightfold path (mārga) to go to purity: 1. individual insight (svāvabodha), 2. tradition (śruti), 3. study of the texts (sūtrādhyāyana), 4. fear of inner suffering (ādhyātmikaduḥkhabhaya), 5. fear of suffering inflicted by great beings (mahāsattvaduḥkhabhaya), 6. fear of suffering inflicted by the gods (devaduḥkhabhaya), 7. the acquisition of a good teacher (ācāryalābha), 8. generosity practiced on a grand scale (mahādāna). They say that only the eighth method [namely, generosity] merits the name of the path of purity (viśuddhimārga).

Finally, some heretics consider only alms-giving (dāna) and discipline (śīla) as pure; others, alms-giving and dhyāna; yet others, alms-giving and the pursuit of wisdom (prajñāparyeṣaṇa). All these paths are incomplete. The person who calls the absence of any quality or just a few qualities purity (viśuddhi) will be able to attain liberation of mind (cetovimukti) to a certain degree but he will not be completely liberated (suvimukta), for in him the path of nirvāṇa is not complete (paripūrṇa).

[80c] A stanza says:

The man who lacks qualities will be unable to cross
The ocean of birth, old age, sickness and death.
The man endowed with a few qualities will not be able to do more.
The Path of good practices has been proclaimed by the Buddha.

Here the Siu po t’o fan tche king (Subhadrabrahmacārisūtra)[1] is cited: “The brahmacārin Subhadra, 120 years old and possessing the superknowledges (abhijñā), was on the shore of lake A na po ta to (Anavatapta).[2] During the night in a dream he saw everybody without eyes, with bodies naked and deep in shadow; the sun had disappeared, the earth destroyed, the ocean dried up and Sumeru toppled over by wind-storms. He woke up frightened and said to himself: ‘What does this mean? My life has reached its end since the teachers of heaven and earth are about to fall.’ Perplexed, he could not understand why he had had this bad dream. Formerly, he had a goddess friend (kalyāṇamitradevatā).[3] She came down from the sky and said to Subhadra: ‘Fear not; there is an omniscient one (sarvajñā) called Buddha who, during the last watch of the night, will enter into nirvāṇa without residue (nirupadhiśeṣanirvāṇa); the dream which you have had is not about you at all.’[4]

The next day, Subhadra went to the forest of Kiu yi na kie (Kuśinagara). He met Ānanda and said to him: ‘I have heard that your teacher teaches a new path to nirvāṇa and today, during the [last] watch of the night, he is going to undergo cessation (nirodha). I feel some doubts (kāṅkṣā) and I would like to see the Buddha so that he can dispel them.’

Ānanda replied: ‘The Bhagavat is on the point of death. If you question him, you will tire him out.’

Subhadra repeated his request three times, but Ānanda answered him in the same way each time.

The Buddha heard this conversation from a distance and he ordered Ānanda: ‘Let the brahmacārin Subhadra come here and question me freely. That will be my last talk. He will become my disciple shortly.’

Then Subhadra, admitted into the presence of the Buddha, exchanged friendly salutations (saṃmodanīṃ kathāṃ vyatisārya) and sat down to one side (ekānte nyausīdat). He said to himself: ‘Some heretics who have renounced desires (anunaya) and wealth (dhama) and have gone forth from home (pravrajita) have not found the Path (mārga), Only the śramaṇa Gautama has found it.’ Having had this thought, he spoke to the Buddha: ‘In the territory of Yen feou t’i (Jambudvīpa). six teachers claim each to be omniscient (sarvajñā). Is this statement correct?’

The Bhagavat answered with these stanzas:[5]

I was nineteen years old
When I left home to seek the Path of the Buddhas.
Since I left home
More than fifty years have passed.

[81a] In pure morality, dhyāna and wisdom
Heretics have no share in these.
Having not the slightest share,
How then would they be omniscient?

In a system where the eightfold noble path (āryāṣṭāṅgika mārga) does not occur, the first, second, third and fourth fruits (phala) are missing; in a system where the eightfold noble path is found, the first, second, third and fourth fruits are present. O Subhadra, in my doctrine, there is the eightfold noble path and consequently the first, second, third and fourth fruits are present. The other systems, those of the heretics (tīrthika), are all void (śūnya): they contain neither the Path nor the fruits nor the [true] śramaṇas, nor the [true] brāhmaṇas. Therefore in my great assembly there is the true lion’s roar (siṃhanāda).[6]

Having heard this doctrine (dharma), the brahmacārin Subhadra immediately attained the state of arhat. He said to himself: ‘I must not enter nirvāṇa after the Buddha.’ Having had this thought, he sat down opposite the Buddha with crossed legs (paryaṅkam ābhujya) and then, by means of his miraculous power (ṛddhibala), he emitted fire from his body which consumed it entirely. Thus he attained his cessation (nirodha).”[7]

This is why the Buddha said: “Without qualities (guṇa), or with a few rare qualities, the auxiliary dharmas to the Path (mārgapākṣikadharma) are not complete (paripūrṇa); one cannot find salvation.” The Buddha has said: “When all the qualities are complete, one is able to save disciples.” In the same way, a lesser physician (vaidya) who has only one or two kinds of medicine (bhaiṣajya) at his disposal is unable to cure serious sicknesses (guruvyādhi), whereas a great physician who has all the medicines can cure all the sicknesses.

Question, – If it is by elimination of all the afflictions (kleśa) of the threefold world (traidhātuka) that the mind finds liberation (vimukti), why did the Buddha say that the mind finds its deliverance by elimination of grasping (tṛṣṇā)?[8]

Answer. – a. Grasping (tṛṣṇā) is capable of fettering the mind because of its great power. This is why the Buddha spoke about it without saying anything about the other afflictions (kleśa). When grasping is cut, the other afflictions are also cut by the same fact.

b. Moreover, when it is said: “The king has arrived”, we know that he is necessarily accompanied by his retinue (parivāra).[9] It is the same for grasping. Or again, when the head (śiras) is seized, the rest of the body follows. It is the same for grasping. When it is cut, we know that all the other afflictions are also cut.

c. Finally, all the fetters (saṃyojana) depend (apekṣante) on craving (tṛṣṇā) or on wrong view (dṛṣṭi). The afflictions (kleśa) that depend on grasping fetter (āvṛṇvanti) the mind (citta); those that depend on wrong view fetter wisdom (prajñā). And so, when grasping is eliminated, all the fetters dependent on it are also eliminated and one attains deliverance of mind (cetovimukti); when ignorance (avidyā) is eliminated, all the fetters dependent on wrong view are eliminated and one attains deliverance of wisdom (prajñāvimukti).

4. Furthermore, these five thousand arhats are irreversible (aparihāṇadharman) and have attained the knowledge relative to non-production of dharmas (anutpāda jñāna); this is why it is said that their mind is completely liberated as well as their wisdom (suvimuktacitta, suvimuktaprajñā), for they do not regress.[10] The arhats susceptible of regression (parihaṇadharman) obtain [only] an occasional liberation (samayavimukti); thus K’iu t’i kia (Godhika), etc., although they attained liberation, were not completely liberated (suvimukti), as a result of the possibility of regression (parihāṇadharma).[11]



Sūtra: Their minds were tamed.

Śāstra: 1. Their minds remain even (sama) and indifferent (ananya) to marks of [81b] respect (arcanā) and worship (pūjā), as well as to hatred, curses and blows. Whether precious jewels or paving stones are thrown at them, they consider them as absolutely the same. Whether their hands and feet are cut with a knife or their body anointed with sandalwood (candana), it is the same and indifferent to them.[13]

2. Furthermore, their minds are tamed because they have cut passion (rāga), hatred (dveṣa), pride (abhimāna) and delusion (moha) at the root.

3. Finally, these arhats do not like what is pleasant, do not hate what is hateful, are not deceived by what leads to error. They are watchful over their six sense organs. This is why their minds are tamed. A stanza says:

The man who watches over the six sense organs
Is like a well-trained (ājāneya) horse.
This true sage
Is honored by the gods.

On the other hand, fools (bāla) do not know how to watch over the sense organs. Not having cut wrong views (dṛṣṭi) inspired by passion (rāga), hatred (dveṣa) and delusion (moha), they are untamed like a bad horse. That is why the arhats are called ājāneya.



Sūtra: They were great ‘nāgā’.


Śāstra: 1. Mahat means great, na indicates negation and agha means sin. The Arhats are said to be “without sin” because they have cut through the passions (kleśa).

2. Furthermore, Nāga means snake or elephant. Among the innumerable other arhats, these five thousand arhats are extremely powerful; this is why they are compared to a snake and an elephant. In the water, the snake is very strong; on earth, the elephant is very strong. – A great elephant (gajapati), well trained, can destroy a great army (senā): it marches right up to it and does not turn back; it does not fear weapons (āyudha), does not turn back before water or fire; it does not swerve, it never turns back; when death comes, it does not avoid it. In the same way, the arhats who cultivate the dhyānas and wisdom (prajñā) are able to destroy Māra’s army and the fetters (saṃyojana), their enemies. Whether one insults them or strikes them, they feel no anger or hatred. They have no fear and do not dread the fire and water of old age (jarā) and death (maraṇa). – The great nāga, coming out of the ocean and mounted on a great cloud (megha), covers (praticchādayati) space (ākāśa). Emitting a great lightning bolt (vidyut) that lights up heaven and earth, he lets fall an abundant rain (varṣa) that waters everything. In the same way, the arhats coming out of the ocean of dhyāna and wisdom (prajñā), mounted on the cloud of loving-kindness (maitrī) and compassion (karuṇā), water the beings who can be saved. Manifesting great light (āloka) and all kinds of emanations (pariṇāma), they proclaim the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of dharmas and rain down on the minds of their disciples so that the latter can bring forth the roots of good (kuśalamūla).


Sūtra: They were accomplished (so tso = kṛtya) and complete (yi pan = kṛta).

Śāstra: Question – What is meant by kṛtya and what is meant by kṛta?

Answer. – 1. They are kṛtya because they have obtained the good dharmas [81c] (kuśaladharma) such as faith (śraddhā), discipline (śīla), equanimity (upekṣā), concentration (samādhi), etc. – They are kṛta because they have obtained the good dharmas, such as wisdom (prajñā), energy (vīrya), the deliverances (vimokṣa), etc. – Having these two types of [good] dharmas in full, they are called kṛtakṛtya.

2. Furthermore, the afflictions (kleśa) are of two kinds: 1) those that depend on craving (tṛṣṇāpekṣa), 2) those that depend on wrong views (dṛṣṭapekṣa). The arhats are kṛtya because they have cut the afflictions that depend on craving; they are kṛta because they have cut the afflictions depending on wrong views.

3. Furthermore, they are kṛtya because the see clearly the material dharmas (rūpidharma); they are kṛta because they see clearly the non-material dharmas (ārūpyadharma). It is the same for the other pairs of dharmas: visible (sanidarśana) and invisible (anidarśana), offering resistance (sapratigha) and not offering resistance (apratigha), etc.

4. Furthermore, they are kṛtya because they have cut the bad (akuśala) and the morally undefined (avyākṛta) dharmas; they are kṛta because they meditate on the good dharmas (kuśaladharmamanasikāra).

5. Furthermore, they are kṛtya because they are endowed (samanvāgata) with the wisdom that comes from hearing (śrutamayī prajñā) and the wisdom that comes from contemplating (cintamayī prajñā); they are kṛta because they are endowed with the wisdom that comes from meditation (bhāvanamayī prajñā).[15] It is the same for all triads of drams.

6. Furthermore, they are kṛtya because they have attained [the four nirvedhabhāgiyas called] heat (uṣmagata), peak (mūrdhan), acquiescence or patience (kṣānti) and the highest of worldly dharmas (laukikāgradharma); they are kṛta because they have attained the acquiescence or patience producing right knowledge of suffering (duḥkhe dharmakśānti) and the other pure roots of good (anāsrava kuśalamūla).

7. They are kṛtya because they have attained the path of seeing the truths (satyadarśanamārga); they are kṛta because they have attained the path of meditation (bhāvanāmārga).

8. They are kṛtya because they have acquired the path of the aspirants (śaikṣamārga); they are kṛta because they have acquired the path of the masters (aśaikṣamārga).

9. They are kṛtya because they have obtained liberation of mind (cetovimukti); they are kṛta because they have obtained liberation of wisdom (prajñāvimukti).

10. They are kṛtya because of destruction of all the impurities (sarvāsravakṣaya); they are kṛta because they have attained total liberation.

11. They are kṛtya because they have destroyed all the fetters (saṃyojana); they are kṛta because they have obtained definitive deliverance (samayavimukti).

12. They are kṛtya because they have assured their own personal interest (svakārtha); they are kṛta because they have assured the interest of others (parārtha).

These are the meanings of the epithet kṛtakṛtya.


Sūtra: They had set down the burden but were capable of carrying it.

Śāstra: The five aggregates (skandha) are heavy (dauṣṭhūla) and bothersome (sadāviheṭhaka); that is why they are called burden (bhāra). Thus the Buddha said: “What is the burden? The five skandhas are the burden.”[16] The arhats are said to be apahṛtabhāra because they have set down this burden.

The arhats are also bhārasaha, able to bear the burden:

1. In the Buddhadharma, two burdens of qualities must be borne: that of the interest of oneself (svakārtha) and that of the interests of others (parārtha). The interest of oneself is destruction of all the impurities (sarvāsravakṣaya), [82a] definitive deliverance (vimukti) and other similar qualities (guṇa). The interest of others is faith (śraddhā), discipline (śīla), equanimity (upekṣā), concentration (samādhi), wisdom (prajñā) and other similar qualities. The arhats are called bhārasaha because they are capable of bearing their own burden and that of others.

2. Furthermore, just as a vigorous ox (go-) can carry heavy loads, so these arhats who have acquired the faculties (indriya), the powers (bala), an awakening (avabodha) and a path (mārga) that is free of defilements (anāsrava) can bear the heavy load of the Buddhadharma. This is why they are called bhārasaha.


Sūtra: They have assured their personal interest.

Śāstra: What is meant by personal interest (svakārtha) and personal disadvantage?

1. Personal interest is the practice of the good dharmas (kuśaladharmacaryā). Personal disadvantage is the opposite, irreligion (adharma).

2. Furthermore, faith (śraddhā), discipline (śīla), equanimity (upekṣā), concentration (samādhi), wisdom (prajñā) and the other qualities (guṇa) surpass all wealth (dhana), win present, future and eternal happiness (ihaparatranityasukha), and lead to the city of immortality (amṛtanagara). For these three reasons, they are called personal interest. Thus it is said in the Sin p’in (Śraddhāvarga):[17]

The person who acquires faith and wisdom
Possesses the foremost of treasures.
All the other wealth of the world
Is not equal to this treasure of the Dharma.

3. Furthermore, the attainment of present happiness (ihasukha), future happiness (paratrasukha) and the eternal happiness of nirvāṇa (nirvāṇanityasukha) is called personal interest. The rest is personal disadvantage. A stanza says:

The world knows all kinds of strange doctrines on the path,
It behaves just like [stray] cattle.
It is necessary to seek the right knowledge and doctrine of the path
In order to escape from old age and death and enter into nirvāṇa.

4. Finally, the noble eightfold path (āryāṣṭāṅgika mārga) and the fruit of the religious life (śrāmaṇyaphala) are called the personal interest of the arhats. As these five thousand arhats have obtained the Path and its fruit and enjoy this twofold personal benefit, they are described as anuprāptasvakārtha.


Sūtra: They had completely broken the fetters of existence.

Śāstra: There are three types of existence (bhava): existence [in the world] of desire (kāmabhava), existence in the world of form (rūpabhava) and existence in the formless world (ārūpyabhava). By virtue of actions belonging to the domain of the realm of desire (kāmadhātvacarakarman), one will be reborn later in this realm to undergo the retribution of these actions (karmavipāka): this is what is called kāmabhava, existence [in the world] of desire. [Mutatis mutandis], it is the same for the rūpa- and ārūpyabhava. That is what is understood by existence.

The arhats have broken the fetters (parikṣīṇabhavasaṃyojana) [of this existence]. These fetters (saṃyojana) are nine in number: attraction (anunaya), aversion (pratigha), pride (māna), ignorance (avidyā), doubt (vicikitsā), wrong view (dṛṣṭi), unjustified esteem (parāmarśa), avarice (mātsarya) and envy (īrṣya).[18] These saṃyojanas encompass all of existence and this existence encompasses all the saṃyojanas. Hence the expression parikṣīṇabhavasaṃyojana.

Question. – The fetters have indeed been broken in the arhats for they have eliminated all the afflictions (kleśa), but their existence (bhava) cannot be cut. [82b] Indeed as long as they are not nirvanized, they are still furnished with the five aggregates (skandha), the twelve bases of consciousness (āyatana) and the eighteen elements of existence (dhātu).

Answer. – This is not a difficulty, for by mentioning the result [the suppression of existence] here, we mean to speak of the cause [the suppression of the fetters].

Although the Buddha said: “By giving food, the generous patron (dānapati) gives five things: life (āyus-), color (varṇa), strength (bala), pleasure (sukha) and intelligence (pratibhāna),[19] food does not necessarily give these five things: there are well-nourished people who die, others who are insufficiently nourished who nevertheless live. [Usually] food is the cause of the five benefits given; this is why the Buddha said that by giving food, five things are given. A stanza says:

By withdrawing all food, death is certain.
But even if one eats, death is always possible.
This is why the Buddha has said:
By giving food, five things are given.

Thus also a man can eat “five pounds of gold”: although gold is not edible, by means of its power of purchase, it is the cause of food. This is why one says “eating gold”.

The Buddha also said that women are defilers of morality (śīlamala). Actually, women are not the defilers of morality; rather, they are the cause (hetu) of defiling of morality and this is why it is said that they are the defilers of morality.

If a man falls from on high, even before he has reached the ground, it is said that he is dead. Although he may not be dead [at the moment when he falls], we know that he will die; that is why it is said that he is dead.

In the same way when the arhats have broken their fetters (saṃyojana), we know that their existence (bhava) also will necessarily be broken. That is why it is said that they have completely broken the fetters of existence (parikṣīṇabhavasaṃyojana).


Sūtra: They were completely delivered by means of complete knowledge.

Śāstra. – Compare the brahmacārin Mo kien t’i (Mākandika). His disciples were carrying his corpse (kuṇapa) on a litter (khaṭvā) through the city (nagara). While they were walking (haṭṭa) through the crowd, they proclaimed: “Those who see the body of Mākandika with their eyes will all obtain the path of purity (viśuddhimārga), all the more so those who will venerate (vandanti) and honor (pūjayanti) it.” Many people believed their words.[20] Having heard of this, the bhikṣus addressed the Buddha: “Bhagavat, what is this about?” The Buddha replied with these stanzas:

To seek for purity in the contemplation of an abject individual
Is neither knowledge nor the true path.
When the fetters and afflictions fill the mind,
How could one find the pure path in one single glance?

If one glance sufficed to attain the path,
Of what use would wisdom and the treasury of the qualities be?
It is wisdom and the qualities that lead to purity;
To seek for purity by one glance is not reasonable.

This is why it is said that the arhats are completely liberated by perfect knowledge (samyagājñā).

Footnotes and references:


The conversion of Subhadra, to which the Mppś will return later (k. 26, p. 250a) is told in full in a series of texts: Dīgha, II, p. 148–153 (tr. Rh. D., P. 164–169; Franke, p. 239–242); Chinese versions of the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra: T 1 (no. 2), k. 4, p. 25a–b; T 5, k. 2, p. 171c–172a; T 6, k. 2, p. 187b–c; T 7, k. 2, p. 203b–204b; Ta pan nie p’an king, T 375, k. 36, p. 850c sq.; Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 979), k. 35, p. 253c–254c; Tsen yi a han, T 125, k. 37, p. 752; Ken pen chouo… tsa cho, T 1451, k. 38, p. 396 (cf. Rockhill, Life. p. 138); Avadānaśataka, I, p. 227–240 (tr. Feer, p. 151–159); Siuan tsi po yuan king, T 200 (no. 37), k. 4, p. 220c–221b; Hiuan tsang, Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 6, p. 903c (tr. Beal, II, p. 35–36; Watters, II, p. 30–34); Dhammapadaṭṭha, III, p. 375–378 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, III, p. 130).


In most sources, Subhadra is a citizen of Kuśinagara; the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya (T 1451, k. 38, p. 396a) has him living on the shore of Lake Mandākini; according to the Mppś and the Tibetische Lebensbeschreibung (tr. Schieffner, p. 291), he lived in the north near Lake Anavatapta.


In a previous existence when Subadhra was the bhikṣu Aśoka, this deity friend already had informed him of the imminent nirvāṇa of the Buddha Kāśyapa (cf. Avadānaśataka, I, p. 238).


In the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, T 1451, k. 38, p. 396a, it is a fig tree that warned Subhadra: At that time, there was in Kuśinagara a decrepit heretic parivrājaka called Subhadra, 120 years old. The citizens of Kuśinagara respected him, venerated him and paid homage to him as to an arhat. Not far away, there was a large lotus lake called Man t’o tche eul (Mandākinī) on the shore of which there grew a Wou t’an po tree (Uḍumbara or Ficus glomerata). Once, at the time when the Bodhisattva was dwelling among the Tuṣita gods and had descended into his mother’s womb in the form of a white elephant, that tree began to produce a flower bud. When he came into the world, the flower bud took on a more and more brilliant color. When he was an adolescent, it began to open up. When he was filled with disgust for old age, sickness and death and withdrew into the mountainous forests, it grew a little and took the shape of a crow’s beak. When he devoted himself to asceticism, it seemed to wither. When he gave up asceticism, it came back to life. When he took nourishment, it recovered its former form. When he attained supreme enlightenment, it expanded. When the god Brahmā invited the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Dharma at Benares, the fig tree and its flower shone brilliantly and its marvelous perfume filled all the neighborhood. When the Buddha in his compassion had saved all the beings capable of being saved and had retired to Kuśinagara where he lay down for the last time, the fig tree and its flower died, to the great terror of the spectators. Then Subhadra, seeing this transformation, had this thought: “There must be a misfortune at Kuśinagara.” At that moment, the protector goddess of the land (rāṣṭrapāla) caused it to thunder and proclaimed to the people: “Today, in the middle of the night, the Tathāgata will enter into nirupadhiśeṣanirvāṇa.”


Here for comparison are the Pāli redaction (Dīgha, II, p. 1521) and the Sanskrit (Avadānaśataka, I, p. 231) of these famous stanzas:

Dīgha: Ekānatiṃso vayasā Subhadda…. ito bahiddhā samano pi n’atthi.

Avadānaśataka: Ekānnatriṃśatho vayasā Subhadra… ito bahir vai śramaṇi ’sti nānyaḥ.

The only main difference between these two redactions is the variant pradeśavakta in the place of padesavattī. – These stanzas have tried the sagacity of the translators:

Rhys Davids, Dialogues, II, p. 167: But twenty-nine was I when I renounced the world, Subhadda, seeking after Good. For fifty years and one year more, Subhadda, since I went out, a pilgrim have I been, through the wide realm of System and of Law. – Outside of that, there is no samaṇa.

Kern, Histoire du Bouddhisme dans l’Inde, p. 232: J’étais âgé de vingt-neuf ans, Subhadra, lorsque je devins moine, recherchant la sainteté. Il y a plus de cinquante ans. Subhadra, depuis que je suis devenu moine, me mouvant sur le terrain de la règle légale, en dehors duquel il n’y a pas d’ascète.

Franke, Dīghanikāya in Auswahl überzetzt, p. 240: Ich ward Asket mit neunundzwanzig Jahren, Subhadra, um den Heilsweg zu erfahren, und mehr als fünfzig Jahre sind verstrichen, seit ich, Subhadra, bin dem Heim entwichen. Wer meines Wegs ein Stück durchmass als Wandrer, heisst Samaṇa allein mit Recht. Kein andrer!

Of these three translations, that of Kern has the merit of conforming closest to the interpretation of Buddhaghosa in Sumaṅgala, II, p. 590. The Buddha left home (pravrajita) at twenty-nine years of age. This date is given by the Pāli and Sanskrit stanzas cited above and confirmed by T 1, p. 25b; T 7, p. 204a; T 26, k. 56, p. 776b; T 99, p. 254b; T 125, p. 752b; T 1451, P. 396c. On the other hand, in the Mppś, the Buddha left home at the age of nineteen years. This is perhaps a simple lapsus, but I [Lamotte] do not feel myself authorized to correct the text, since at least three sources fix the departure from home at nineteen years of age: Lieou tou tsi king, T 152, k. 7, p. 41c; Sieou hing pen k’i king, T 184, k. 2, p.467c; T’ai tseu jouei ying pen k’i king, T 185, k. 1, p. 475b. The last two of these even fix the exact date of departure, the 7th day of the 4th month of the 19th year of the Buddha.


Compare Dīgha, II, p. 151 and Avadānaśataka, I, p. 232–233.

Dīgha: Yasmiṃ kho Subadda dhammavinaye… pi tattha samaṇo na upalabbhati.

Yasmiñ ca kho Subadda dhammavinaye… tattha samaṇi upalabbhati.

Imasmiṃ kho Subhada dhammavinaye… idha atiyo samaṇo, idha catuttho samaṇo.

Suññā parappavādā samaṇeḥi aññe,… loko arahantehi assa.

Avadānaśataka: Yasya Subhadra dharmavinaye… śramaṇas tatra nopalabhyate.

Yasmiṃs tu Subhadra dharmavinaye… caturtaḥ śramaṇas tatropalabhyate.

Asmiṃs tu Subhadra dharmavinaye… santtīto bahiḥ śramaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā.

Śūnyāḥ parapravādāḥ śramṇair… samyak siṃhanādaṃ nadāmi.

The Mppś, which ends the homily by saying: “It is thus that in my great assembly, one can truly utter the lion’s roar”, is closer to the Sanskrit version where this finale occurs than to the Pāli where it is absent. Apart from this phrase, the three texts agree perfectly.


The Mahāparinibbānasutta (Dīgha, II, p. 153) merely says that after the Buddha’s homily, Subhadra was admitted directly into the order instead of having to wait the four months of probation imposed on members of a heretical sect, and attained arhathood. But the majority of sources tell us, along with the Mppś, that Subhadra, not wanting to survive the Buddha, entered nirvāṇa along with him. This detail is given by the four Chinese versions of the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra (T 1, p. 25b; T 5, p. 172b; T 6, p. 187c; T 7, p. 204b), by the Saṃyuktāgama (T 99, p. 254b–c), the Ekottarāgama (T 125, p. 753c). the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya (T 1451, p. 397a; Rockhill, Life, p. 138), the Avadānaśataka, I, p. 234, and by Hiuan tsang.


Cf. Saṃyutta, I, p. 39–49: taṇhāya vippahānena nibbānam iti vuccati, taṇhāya vippahānena sabbaṃ chindati bandhanam. Cf. Tsa a han, T 99, k. 36, p. 264b12.


Cf. Atthasālinī,p. 67: Yathā rājā āgato ti vutte… āgato ti paññāyati: “When it is said ‘The king has come’, it is clear that he has not come alone, but that he has come with his retinue.”


Of the six types of arhat distinguished by scholastic Buddhism (Kośa, VI, p. 251; Puggalapaññatti, p. 12), five, the parihāṇadarmas, etc., have only fortuitous deliverance (sāmayiki vimukti) in view of being continually kept. Only the sixth, the akopyadharma, possesses an unshakeable (akopyā) deliverance of mind independent of the circumstances (asāmayikī). The first five are susceptible of falling from deliverance; the sixth is definitively liberated. The five thousand arhats forming the Buddha’s entourage here are the unshakeable ones; this is because their mind is completely delivered (suvimuktacitta). On the other hand, Godhika, of whom we are about to speak, risked falling from deliverance.


Godhika made futile efforts to attain arhathood. He obtained only occasional deliverance of mind (sāmayikī vimukti) from which he fell six different times, In his disgust, he committed suicide, obtained the state of arhat at the moment of death, and thus attained nirvāṇa. Cf. Saṃyutta, I, p. 120–122 where the expression sāmādhikā cetovimutti which occurs several times should be corrected to sāmayikā cetovimutti]; Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 431–433 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, II, p. 90–91); Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 1091), k. p. 286a–b; Y 100 (no. 30), k. 2, p. 382c–383a; P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 60, p. 312b; Kośa, VI, p. 262.


As will appear from the explanations which follow, ājāneya (from the root ā + jan) is given here linked with the root ā + jñā. This is also the explanation of Buddhaghosa and the Pāli commentators, cf. Jātaka, I, p. 181; Dhammapadaṭṭha, IV, p. 4.


See Hôbôgirin, Byôdô, p. 272.


According to the Dhammapadaṭṭha, mahānāga means kuñjarasaṃkhātā mahāhatthine.


The first prajñā has as its object the name (nāman); the second, the name and the thing (artha); the third, the thing alone. Those who possess them can be compared to three men who are crossing a river: the one who cannot swim does not abandon the swimming apparatus for even moment; the one who can swim a little sometimes holds onto it, sometimes lets go of it; the one who can swim crosses without any support. – For these three prajñās, cf. Dīgha, III, p. 219; Vibhaṅga, p. 324–325; Visuddhimagga, p. 439; P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 42, p. 217c; Kośa, VI, p. 143.


Bhāraḥ katamaḥ? pañcopādānaskandāḥ; phrase taken from the Sūtra on the burden and the bearer of the burden (Bhāra or Bhārahārasūtra), of which there are several versions: Pāli version in Saṃyutta, III, p. 25–26; Sanskrit versions in Kośa, IX, p. 256; Kośavyākhyā, p. 706, Tattvasaṃgraha, I, p. 130 (cf. S. Schayer, Kamalaśīlas Kritik des Pudgalavāda, RO, VIII, 1932, p. 88); Chinese translations in Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 73), k. 3, p. 19a–b; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 17, p. 631a–632a. – This sūtra is frequently quoted: Sūtrālamkāra, XVIII, 103, p. 159; Visuddhimagga, II, p. 479, 512; Nyāyavārtitikā (Bibl. Ind.), p. 342. – European interpretations: L. de La Vallée Poussin, JRAS, 1901, p. 308; JA, 1902, p. 266; Opinions, p. 83 sq.; Nirvāṇa, p. 36; Minayeff, Recherches, p. 225; E. Hardy, JTAS, 1901, p. 573; Keith, Buddhist Philosophy, p. 82; S. Schayer, Ausgewählte Kapitel aus des Prasannapadā, Crakow, 1932, p. X.


The Śraddhāvarga is one of the chapters of the Dharmapada. The stanza cited here is missing in the Pāli Dhammapada but occurs in the Sanskrit Udānavarga, X, 9, p. 116: yo jīvaloke labhate śraddhāṃ… asyetare dhanam. This also occurs in the Tibetan Udānavarga, X, 9, p. 36: mkhas gaṅ ḥtsho baḥi ḥjig rten na …

de yi nor gzhan phal bar zad.


See Kośa, V, p. 81–84.


Aṅguttara, III, p.42: Bhojanaṃ bhikkhave dadamāno dāyako paṭiggāhakānaṃ pañca ṭhānāni deti. Katamāni pañca? Āyuṃ deti, vaṇṇaṃ deti, sukhaṃ deti, balaṃ deti, paṭibhānaṃ deti. – Chinese version in Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 24, p. 681a–b; Che che hou wou fou pao king, T 132, vol. II, p. 854c.


The Aṅguttara, III, p. 276–277, gives a list of religious orders contemporaneous with the Buddha: Ājivika, Nigaṇtha, Muṇḍasāvaka, Jaṭilaka, Paribhājala, Māgaṇḍika, Tedaṇḍika, Avirrhala, Gotamaka and Devadhammika. T. W. Rhys-Davids has studied this list and has succeeded in identifying most of these congregations (Dialogues of the Buddha, I, p. 220–221; Buddhist India, p. 145). With regard to the Māgaṇḍikas, he says: “This name is probably derived from the name of the founder of a corporate body. But all their records have perished and we know nothing of them otherwise.” The present passage of the Mppś tells us that these Māgaṇḍikas, one of whom are known, are the disciples of the brahmacārin Māgandika who promenaded the corpse of their teacher and promised salvation to those who contemplated it.

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