Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “deity of the bodhi tree (bodhivrikshadevata)” 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 2 - The deity of the Bodhi tree (bodhivṛkṣadevatā)

In the P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 125, p. 655b, the deity of the Bodhi tree (bodhivṛkṣadevatā) is called Ti yu (Satyavāc?); she seduced king Puṣyamitra who was persecuting Buddhism. – In the Lalitavistara, p. 278, the bodhivṛkṣadevatās are four in number: Veṇu, Valgu, Sumanas and Ojāpati. In the same place, there is a detailed description of the bodhi tree.

The anecdote telling how Śuddhodana, deceived by Māra who announced the death of his son to him has a parallel in a passage from the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, of which the following is a translation:

Ken pen chouo… p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 5, p. 124b–c:

When Māra pāpimat was conquered by the Buddha, his bow flew from his hands and his banner fell to the ground; his palace was completely destroyed. King Māra, vexed and disappointed, disappeared along with 36 koṭis of warriors. He went to Kapilavastu and said to the crowd: “The bodhisattva Śākyamuni who was practicing asceticism (duṣkaracarya) and who was sitting on the diamond seat (vajrāsana) on a pile of grass, has just died.”

Hearing these words, king Śuddhodana, along with his household, ministers and officials, were thrown into consternation as if they had been burned in a fire. The inhabitants and the three great queens (devī), Gopikā, etc., remembering the qualities of the Bodhisattva, sank down to the ground lamenting; their faces were washed and they were slowly brought back to life. They wept ceaselessly. The servants and slaves encouraged and massaged them, but their sadness was without limit. Then the deity Pure Faith (Śuddhaśraddhā), seeing that Māra had lied and knowing the Bodhisattva had attained enlightenment, was very joyous and declared everywhere: “You must know that Śākyamuni is not dead but has attained anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhi.”

Then king Śuddhodana, his entourage and all the citizens of Kapilavastu, hearing this news, leapt with joy. Yaśodharā, learning that the Bhagavat, the Bodhisattva, had attained supreme knowledge, joyfully gave birth to a son. King Droṇodana also had a son. At that moment there was a lunar eclipse; king Śuddhodana, seeing this stroke of good fortune, felt great joy. He ordered the city to remove all rubble, to wash the ground with sandalwood (candana) perfumed water, to place incense-burners at the crossroads and to burn precious perfumes, to hang multicolored banners in the streets and to spread fresh flowers on the ground. He set up free clinics at the four gates of the city and in the streets. At the eastern gate, gifts were gathered together; śramaṇas, brāhmaṇas., tīrthikas, brahmacarins, as well as the poor, the orphans and the needy came to beg, and all kinds of gifts were given to them. It was the same at the southern, western and northern gates and the city streets. The king joined his ministers to give a name to Yaśodara’s son. The servants of the harem first wished to give him the name of the king, but as the moon was hidden by Rāhu at the birth of this child, it was fitting to call him Rāhula. In his turn, king Droṇodana, for his own son, gave the same gifts as above. He gathered his relatives to give a name for his child and asked them by what name they should call it. His relatives replied: “On the day of his birth, the citizens of Kapilavastu rejoiced (ānanda); therefore he should be called Ānanda.”

Comparison of this passage from the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya with the information of the Mppś poses a series of interesting questions regarding the parents and the date of birth of Ānanda and Rāhula.

We must give up trying to know who is the father of Ānanda. Three names are suggested:

– 1) Amṛtodana in the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya (T 1450, k. 2, p. 105a), the Dulwa (Rockhill, Life, P. 13, 32), the Che eul yeou king (T 195, p. 146c), the Sumaṅgala, II, p. 492 and the Manoratha, I, p. 292.

– 2) Droṇodana in the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya (T 1450, k. 5, p. 124b–c) and the Mppś (T1509, k. 3, p. 83c).

– 3) Śuklodana in the Mahāvastu, III, p. 176.14.

According to the Mppś and the passage of the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya translated in the present note, Ānanda was born on the day that Śākyamuni attained enlightenment. – On the other hand, we see Ānanda participating in the test of skill in the arts (Śilpasaṃdarśana) when Śākyamuni was still an adolescent; cf. Lalitavistara, p. 152; Fo pen hing rsi king, T 190, k. 13, p. 710b. – According to some late sources, such as the Burmese biography (Bigandet, p. 43), Ānanda was born on the same day as the Buddha (cf. Kern, Histoire, I, p. 28; Manual, p. 14); however he is not included in the list of coaetanei of the Buddha given by the Nidānakathā, p. 54.

According to the Nidānakathā, p. 60, Rāhula was born on the day that Śākyamuni, his father, left home, and the future Buddha went to kiss him before leaving (ibid., p. 62). But it is generally agreed that Yaśodara conceived Rāhula a short time before the departure of the Buddha (Mahāvastu, II, p. 159; Rockhill, Life, p. 24), but gave birth to him six years later on the day that the Buddha attained enlightenment. Cf. Tsa pao tsang king, T 203 (no. 27), k. 10, p. 496b (tr. Chavannes, Contes, III, p. 136); Ken pen chouo … p’o seng che, T 1450, k. 5, p. 124c; Rockhill, Life, p. 32; Ta tche tou louen, T 1509, k. 17, p. 182b.