Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the bhikshu kshanti” 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 5 - The story of the bhikṣu Kṣānti

Note: this appendix is extracted from Chapter VIII part 4.3:

When people come to insult him, strike him, beat him, slash him, tear off his skin, cut him to pieces and take his life, his mind feels no hatred (dveṣa). Thus, when king Kia li (Kali) cut off his hands (hasta), feet (pāda), ears (karṇa) and nose (nāsā), the bhikṣu Tchan (Kṣānti) kept a strong mind (dṛḍhacitta) without emotion (acala).

The Mppś tells the story of the bhikṣu Kṣānti in the following way: In a great forest, Kṣāntiṛṣi was cultivating patience (kṣānti) and practicing loving-kindness (maitrī). One day, king Kali along with his courtesans entered the forest to walk about and disport himself. Having finished his meal, the king stopped to sleep a little. The courtesans, walking about in the blossoming forest, saw the ṛṣi, paid their respects to him (vandana) and sat down at his side. Then the ṛṣi praised patience and loving-kindness; his words were so fine that the women could not get enough of listening to him and stayed with him for a long time. King Kali woke up and, not seeing is courtesans, seized his sword (asipaṭṭa) and followed their footsteps. When he found them around the ṛṣi, his lustful jealousy overflowed; with furious eyes, brandishing his sword, he asked the ṛṣi: “What are you doing there”? The ṛṣi replied: “I am here to practice patience and cultivate loving-kindness.” The king said: “I am going to put you to the test. With my sword, I will cut off your ears (karṇa), your nose (nāsā) and your hands (hasta) and feet (pāda). If you do not get angry, I will know that you are cultivating patience.” The ṛṣi answered: “Do as you wish.” Then the king drew his sword and cut off his ears, his nose, then his hands and feet and asked him: “Is your mind disturbed?” The ṛṣi answered: “I cultivate patience and loving-kindness; my mind is not disturbed.” The king said: “There lies your body without any strength; you say that you are not disturbed, but who would believe you?” Then the ṛṣi made this oath: “If I am truly cultivating loving-kindness and patience, may my blood (śoṇita) become milk (kṣīra).” At once his blood changed into milk; the king, astounded, departed with his courtesans. But then, in the forest, a nāga-king (nāgarāja), taking the side of the ṛṣi, caused lightning and thunder and the king, struck by lightning, perished and did not return to his palace.

This anecdote is often told to illustrate the patience of the Bodhisattva (represented here by the bhikṣu Kṣānti) and the wickedness of Devadatta (here, the evil king).

Pāli sources: Khantivādajātaka, no. 313 (III, p. 39–43); Jātaka, I, p. 45; III, p. 178; VI, p. 257; Dhammapaddaṭṭha, I, p. 149 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, I, p. 241); Khuddakapātha Comm., p. 149; Buddhavaṃsa Comm., p. 51; Visuddhimagga, I, p. 302.

Sanskrit sources: Mahāvastu, III, p. 357–361; Jātakamāla (no. 28), p. 181–192 (tr. Speyer, p. 153–168); Avadānakalpalatā (no. 38), I, p. 932–941; Vajracchedikā, v. 14, p. 31; Kośa, IV, p. 229.

Chinese sources: Lieou tou tsi king, T 152 (no. 44), k. 5, p. 25 (tr. Chavannes, Contes, I, p. 161–154; Seng k’ie lo tch’a so tsi king, T 194, k. 1, p. 119a; Ta tchouang yen louen king, T 201 (no. 63). k. 11, p. 320a; T 201 (no. 65), k. 12, p. 325c (tr. Huber, Sūtrālaṃkāra, p. 325, 352); Hien yu king, T 202 (no. 12), k. 2, p. 359c–360b (cf. Schmidt, Der Weise und der Thor, p. 60–63); Kin kang pan jo po lo mi king, Y 235, p. 750b; Ta pan nie p’an king, T 374, k. 31, p. 551a–b, Ta fang teng ta tsi king, T 397, k. 50, p. 330b; A yu wang tchouan, T 2042, k. 5, p. 119b; Hiuan tsang, Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 3, p. 882b (tr. Beal, I, p. 121; Watters, I, p. 227); King liu siang, T 2121, k. 8, p. 40b–c.

Khotanese sources: Translation of the Vajracchedikā, Hoernle, Remains, p. 282.

Iconography: Sarnath: AR Arch. Surv. 1907–1908; Central Asia: Le Coq-Waldschmidt, Spätantike, VI, 11–12; Formosa: Ecke-Demiéville, Twin Pagodas of Zayton, pl. 41 above.

In Lüders, Bhārhut und die buddh. Literatur, p. 119–121, there is a comparison between the Pāli text of the Jātaka and the Sanskrit text of the Mahāvastu.

The sources enumerated here differ in details. The Bodhisattva tortured by the king is called Kṣāntivādin (in the Mahāvastu, Kṣāntivāda), Kṣāntiṛṣi or Kṣānti. He was born, under the name of Kuṇḍaka, into a rich family from Kāsi or Benares (Pāli Jātaka) or into a brahmin family in the city of Fou tan na (Pūtana) in southern India (T 374, p. 551a). The Mahāvastu, III, p. 357, has him coming miraculously from Uttarakuru into the garden (udyāna) of king Kalabha of Benares in the Kāśi region (Kṣāntivādo ṛṣi Uttarakurudvīpāto ṛddhīye āgatvā tahiṃ udyānabhūmīyāṃ āsati); but it is possible that udyāna, ‘garden’ should be corrected to Uḍḍiyāna, four or five li east of Moung kie li (Maṅgalapura or Manglaor (Si yu ki, k. 3, p. 882b).

– The cruel king who tortured Kṣānti is usually called Kali. The reading Kaliṅgarāja found in the Vajracchedikā in Sanskrit is a faulty correction that the Chinese translators have not accepted. Apart from Kali, the reading Kalābu is also found (Pāli sources, T 194, p. 119a; T 374, p. 551a) and Kalabha (Mahāvastu). This king reigned in Benares in the Kāṣi region (Vārāṇasīye, Kāśijanapade). According to some sources, he himself tortured Kṣānti; according to others (especially all the Pāli sources), he was mutilated by his servants. The sage had excited the anger of the king by preaching the Dharma to his women or also, according to T 152, p. 25, and T 194, p. 119a, by refusing to show him the direction taken by a deer. In the Mahāvastu, as soon as they were cut off, the limbs secreted milk. The Pāli Jātaka and the Jātakamālā state that Kṣānti died of his wounds and went to heaven (samadhirūdha divam); as for Kali, the earth swallowed him up and he fell into Avīci hell.