Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “tongue and cryptorchidie of the buddha” 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 - The tongue and cryptorchidie of the Buddha

Note: this appendix is extracted from Chapter VIII part 4.6.

On this subject, the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra will make the following comments later (k. 26, p. 251c):

“The Buddha showed the mark of his tongue and his cryptorchidie. Some people had doubts about these two characteristics of the Buddha’s body; they should have been able to attain the Path but because of these doubts, they did not. That is why the Buddha showed them these two marks. He put out his tongue and it covered his whole face: although his tongue was large, it went back easily into his mouth. Some people, seeing the Buddha put out his tongue, may have felt contempt because putting out one’s tongue is the mark of a small child. But when they saw him put his tongue back in and preach the Dharma without any difficulty, they felt respect and cried out at the wonder. Some people had doubts about the cryptorchidie of the Buddha, an invisible mark; then the Bhagavat created a marvelous elephant or a wondrous stallion and, showing them, he declared: ‘My cryptorchidie is an invisible mark quite like that.’ Some even say that the Buddha took out his sex organs and showed them to someone to suppress his doubts. Teachers (upadeśācārya) say that [by this action] the Buddha shows his great compassion for, if a man sees the Buddha’s cryptorchidie, he can accumulate roots of merit (kuśakamūla) and produce the mind of anuttarasamyaksaṃbodhi.”

We know in fact that several times the Buddha exhibited his sex organs and showed his tongue to the brahmins, experts in marks, who had come to examine him. Ambaṭṭha, Brahmāyu and Sela were successively favored with this sight. The episode is always told in the same words in the Pāli sources whereas the Chinese versions introduce some modifications.

Ambaṭṭhasutta in Dīgha, I, p. 106; Tch’ang a han, T 1, k. 13, p. 87c; Fo k’ai kiai fan tche a p’o king, T 20, p. 263b (in the latter text, the Buddha just puts out his tongue).

Brahmāyusutta in Majjhima, II, p. 143; Tchong a han, T 26, k. 41, p. 688b; Fan mo yu king, T 76, p. 885b.

Selasutta in Suttanipāta, III, no. 7; Majjhima, II, no. 92 (same as preceding).

The story is always the same: The brahmin comes to see if Gautama has the thirty-two marks of a Buddha. He easily determines the superhuman marks on the body of the Śākyan with two exceptions: the abnormal arrangement of the sex organ (kosohita vatthaguhya, literally, the part to be hidden by clothing enclosed in a sheath, and the hugeness of the tongue, pahūtajivhatā). Then the Buddha thought:

“This brahmin does indeed see in me the thirty-two marks of the Great Man except for two. He hesitates about these two, he doubts and does not have conviction or certainty (kaṅkhati vicikicchati nādhimucchati na sampasīdati), namely, the abnormal arrangement of my sex organ and the huge size of my tongue.”

Then the Bhagavat created in his own image a magical apparition (tathārūpaṃ iddhābhisaṃkhāraṃ abhisaṃkhāsi) so that the brahmin saw his sex organ enclosed in a sheath. Then the Bhagavat, putting out his tongue, touched and patted (anumasi paṭimasi) his two ears (kaṇṇasota), his two nostrils (nāsikasoti) amd covered his whole forehead with his tongue (kevalam pi nalāṭamaṇḍalaṃ jivhāya chādesi).

Such an exhibition shocked Menander deeply: in the Milindapaṅha (p. 167 sq.), he asks Nagasena how the Buddha was able “to show his cryptorchidie (kosohita vaṭṭhaguhya) to the brahmin Sela in the midst of the four assemblies, in the presence of gods and men.” Nagasena answers that the Bhagavat did not show his secret parts but rather showed a magical phantom (na Bhagavā guhyaṃ dassesi, iddhiyā pana chāyaṃ dassesi). And by adding modesty, Buddhaghosa, in Sumaṅgala, I, p. 276, thinks it is proper to add that the apparition thus created was fully clothed in his undergarment (nivāsananivattha), girdled with a belt (kāyabandhanabaddha), covered with a robe (cīvarapārūta), and that it consisted solely of spectral substance (chāyārūpakamatta).

But we ask in vain with Rhys Davids (Dialogues of the Buddha, I, p. 131, n. 1) how Ambaṭṭha and others could have seen the Buddha’s cryptorchidie in a fully clothed phantom. This is why it may be preferable to accept the explanation proposed here in the Mppś and believe that the Buddha created a magical elephant or stallion, saying to his disciples “My sex organ is like that.”