Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “vows and actions of bhikshu nanda in previous lives” 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 10 - The vows and actions of bhikṣu Nanda in previous lives

Note: this appendix is extracted from Chapter VIII part 5.

Nanda had given a bath to the Buddha Vipaśyin and wished to obtain pure beauty. On the stūpa of a pratyekabuddha he had painted a wall blue, and while drawing the image of the pratyekabuddha, he made the vow: “I wish to obtain the mark of the golden color always”. Finally, he built the steps on the stūpa of the Buddha Kāśyapa.

See below, Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra, k. 29, p. 273a:

“In a previous lifetime, Nanda had given a bath to the saṃgha and made the following vow: ‘I wish, from existence to existence, to be beautiful (abhirūpa) and graceful (prāsāhika).’ In the course of another lifetime, having found the stūpa of a pratyekabuddha, he drew the picture of this pratyekabuddha and made the following vow: ‘I wish that my body be adorned with the mark of the golden color from lifetime to lifetime.’”

Cf. Mahākarmavibhaṅga, p. 38: yathā āryasundaranandena kila Krakuhhande …. ca prāptā me suvarṇavarṇatā.

S. Lévi, who edited this text, found the final stanza in the Fo wou po ti tseu tseu chouo pen k’i king, T 199, p. 199b, also repeated in the Ken pen chouo … yao che, T 1448, k. 17, p. 87b:

“Nanda tells that at the time of the Buddha Vipaśyin, he had given a warm bath-house to the saṃgha (or: baths of warm perfumed water) while pronouncing the wish that he himself and the community be always pure and clean, stainless and without impediments, of irreproachable conduct, and with the color of the lotus. Next he was born among the gods, then among humans, always of marvelous beauty. Later, seeing the stūpa of a pratyekabuddha, he repaired it (or whitewashed it) and covered it with perfumed plaster and pronounced the vow: ‘I wish that my organs be always complete, that my body be golden in color.’ And he was reborn in Benares, the second son of king Kia t’o or Tchi wei ni; seeing the stūpa of the Buddha Kāśyapa, he hung a parasol over it. And the stanza of the Karmavibhaṅga is summarized: ‘For having bathed the community, for having plastered a stūpa with golden colored plaster, for having given a parasol to the stūpa, I have attained innumerable blessings’.”

S. Lévi refers again to the Fo pen hing tsi king, T 190, k. 57, p. 917, which he briefly summarizes:

“The first episode took place at the time of Vipaśyin, at Pāṇḍumatī where the king Pāṇḍu was reigning; later, at the time of the Buddha Kāśyapa, the king of Benares was called Ki li che (Kṛṣi). The second son of this king, giving a golden parasol to the stūpa of Kāśyapa, also made the vow of being reborn with a golden colored body.”

The Pāli Apadāna, I, p. 57, could also be cited, which does not agree with T 199. Nanda received his golden colored body from having given a robe to the Buddha Padumuttara: Padumuttarassa bhagavato lokajeṭṭhassa… hemavaṇṇo bhavissasi.

But the more detailed story occurs in the Mūlasarvativādin Vinaya, Ken pen chouo…tsa che, T 1451, k. 12, p. 260c–261c. In view of the repute received by the legend of Nanda since the discoveries at Nāgārjunikoṇḍa (see J. P. Vogel, RAA, vol. XI, 1937, p. 115–118), It seems useful to give the translation:

a) Actions performed by Nanda so as to have a golden-colored body:

Having conceived some doubt, the bhikṣus questioned the Great Teacher in order to dissipate them:

Bhadanta, what actions did the bhikṣu Nanda previously perform so as to have a golden-colored (suvarṇavarṇa) body, to be adorned with thirty marks (lakṣaṇa), to have a body only four inches shorter than the Bhagavat, and so that the Great Teacher, having compassion for a man so attached to pleasures that he drew him out of the ocean of saṃsāra and established him at once into definitive nirvāṇa (ātyantikanirvāṇa)? Please explain this to us.”

The Buddha said to the bhikṣus: That is due to the ripening of the fruit of actions previously accomplished by the bhikṣu Nanda, etc… And he spoke this stanza: ‘Actions do not perish even after hundreds [of millions] of kalpas. Meeting the favorable complex of conditions and time, they bear fruit for their creator (na praṇaśyanti karmāṇi kalpakoṭiśatair api, sāmagrīṃ prāpya kālaṃ ca phalanti khalu dehinām).’

Ninety-one kalpas ago, when the human life-span was 80,000 years, there appeared in the world the Buddha Vipaśyin, tathāgata, arhat, completely enlightened (samyaksaṃbuddha), endowed with the knowledges and the practices (vidyādharaṇasaṃpanna), thus-come (sugata), knower of the world (lokavid), without superior (anuttara), leader of those to be converted (puruṣadamyasārathi), teacher of gods and men (śāstā devamanuṣyāṇām), buddha, bhagavat. Accompanied by 62,000 bhikṣus, he traveled amongst men. He reached the city of Ts’in houei (Bandhumatī), a royal residence, went to the forest and dwelled there. This Bhagavat had a half-brother, very attached to pleasures, whom Vipaśyin, tathāgata, arhat, samyaksaṃbuddha, had drawn out of the ocean of saṃsāra and had made him leave the world (pravrajita) to place him happily in ultimate nirvāṇa. At that time, the king of the land was called Yeou ts’in (Bandhumati): he governed his people justly; his estates were prosperous, opulent, abundant, happy and peaceful; there were no quarrels, no discord, no troubles, no misdeeds, no sickness; the buffalo, the cattle, the rice and the sugarcane were plentiful. But the half-brother of the king was very carried away by pleasure. Hearing that the Buddha and his community were staying in the Bandumati forest, the king ordered the princes, his relatives, his servants, ministers and ladies of the harem to go as a retinue to the Buddha. Prostrating at the feet of the Buddha, they withdrew and sat down at one side. But the king’s brother, deep in his pleasures, did not want to go [with the others].

Then the ministers’ sons and other friends went to him and said:

“Good friend, don’t you know that the king, the princes, the whole court, ministers and people have gone to the Buddha Vipaśyin to pay their respects, and by hearing the precious Dharma, they have obtained excellent deliverance? The human condition is very rare, but now you have obtained it. Why do you want to give yourself up to your pleasures without wanting to free yourself?”

Hearing these reproaches, the king’s brother was filled with shame; bowing his head, he joined his companions and they went together. At that time, the bhikṣu who was the Buddha’s brother saw these friends who had gone together and asked them: “Gentlemen, why are you going with this man?” The friends gave the reason.

The bhikṣu said to them:

“I am the Buddha’s brother; once when I was living in the world (gṛhastu), I also was very attached to pleasures; fortunately, the Great Teacher [my brother] forced me to abandon them and made me find peace (kṣema) and ultimate nirvāṇa. There are still such fools as I was [at one time]. These kind friends who are leading him away with them are really doing him a great service. You can go to the great Teacher who has no equal. When you are near him, have deep faith.”

The companions came to the Buddha who, considering their faculties and their earnestness, preached the Dharma to them. [The king’s brother] arose from his seat and, throwing his upper garment over one shoulder (ekāṃsam uttarāsaṅgaṃ kṛtvā), he joined his palms to the Bhagavat (yena Bhagavāṃs tenāñjaliṃ praṇamya) and said:

“Bhagavat, I would like to invite the great teacher and his noble assembly to come tomorrow to take a bath in my pool.”

The Buddha accepted by way of silence, and the young man, having understood that the Buddha accepted, bowed down to the Buddha’s feet, took his leave and went away. Then he went to [his brother] the king, paid his respects and said:

“Great king, I have gone to the Buddha, I have heard the Dharma, I have faith and I feel disgust (saṃvegacitta) for pleasures. I have asked the Buddha and the saṃgha to come tomorrow to take a bath in the pool. The Tathāgata, the great Teacher, has kindly accepted. The Buddha is entitled to the respect of gods and men; it would be fitting if the king would have the streets cleaned and the city decorated.”

The king said to himself:

“The Buddha is going to come to the city; I should have it decorated. My brother’s taste for pleasure is incorrigible; it is truly extraordinary (adbhūta) that the Buddha should have subdued it.”

[Addressing himself to his brother], he said: “Good, you may go and prepare the things necessary for the bath (snānopakaraṇa); I will decorate the city in the best possible way.”

Very happy, the king’s brother took his leave and went away. The king then said to his ministers:

“Proclaim everywhere the following edict: Tomorrow the Bhagavat will be within our walls. All of you needy people and strangers must decorate the city, clean the streets and come before the Great Teacher with perfumes and flowers.”

The ministers obeyed and had the royal edict proclaimed everywhere. At once, in the entire city, the crowd began to remove the dirt, spread perfumes, burn aromatics, hang banners and strew flowers; the city was like the pleasure palace (nandanavana) of Śakra, king of the gods. However, the king’s brother had prepared hot water and perfumed oils, decorated the bath and set out beds. When the Buddha Vipaśyin was about to enter the city, the ministers, the crown prince, the queen, the palace people, the courtesans and the citizens went out to meet him, prostrated at his feet and returned to the city following him. Then the king’s brother led the Buddha into the bath filled with perfumed water. He saw that the Buddha’s body was golden in color, adorned with the 32 major marks and the 80 minor marks (anuvyañjana); at this sight, he felt great joy and deep faith. When the bath was finished and the Buddha had put on his garments again, he prostrated at the feet of the Bhagavat and made the following vow (praṇidhāna):

“I have had the great good fortune today of meeting an eminent field of merit (puṇyakṣetra) and rendering him a small service. In reward for this good action, I would like my body, in future lifetimes, to be golden in color like that of the Buddha. The Buddha has already drawn his own brother from the pleasures to which he had been attached and has placed him in safety and definitive nirvāṇa. I would also like later to be the brother of a Buddha and have a golden colored body; and if I delight in luxuries, I would like the Buddha to force me to come out of the deep river of impure desire and lead me to nirvāṇa and the safety of peace (kṣemapada).”

The Buddha added: Have no doubts, O bhikṣu. He who was then the pleasure-loving brother of king Bandhuma is the present bhikṣu Nanda. It is he who once invited the Buddha Vipaśyin to take a perfumed bath in his bath-house and who, with pure heart, wished for the reward I have said. Today he is the Buddha’s brother and has a body golden in color; as he delighted in pleasures, I have forced him to go forth, renounce desire and leave home to reach nirvāṇa and the safety of peace.

b) Actions performed by Nanda to have his body adorned with the thirty mahā-puruṣa-lakṣaṇa:

Then the bhikṣus, having another doubt, asked the Bhagavat:

“Bhadanta, what action did the bhikṣu Nanda once perform to have his body now adorned with the thirty mahāpuruṣalakṣaṇa?”

The Buddha said to the bhikṣus: That is the result of actions that he accomplished… (as above). Once in a village there was a rich śreṣṭhin who had many material goods, great wealth and vast and extensive possessions. He had a garden (udyāna) full of flowers and fruits, with springs and pools, woods and hills, able to serve as shelter for monks. At that time, there were pratyekabuddhas who appeared in the world and settled in retreats out of compassion for beings; there was no Buddha in the world; these pratyekabuddhas were the only field of merit (puṇyakṣetra) at the time. One day a venerable pratyekabuddha, traveling among men, came to the village and, looking about the area, stopped in the garden.

Seeing him, the gardener said:

“Sugata, rest here from your weariness!”

The venerable one settled in that place and during the night, entered into the concentration on fire (tejaḥprabhāsamādhi). Seeing this, the gardener said to himself:

“This Bhadanta has accomplished extraordinary things.”

Then in the middle of the night, he went to his master and said:

“Master, from now on you may rejoice. A Bhadanta has come to spend the night in your garden; he is endowed with marvelous powers and possesses the abhijñās; he emits great rays of light (raśmi) that light up the whole garden.”

At these words, the śreṣṭhin hastily went to the garden and, prostrating at the feet of the venerable one, said to him:

“Noble One, it is great happiness for me that you have come here to beg your food. Stay here in this garden; I will always give you your food.”

Seeing his enthusiasm, the pratyekabuddha accepted. He stayed in the garden where he penetrated the sublime concentrations and the bliss of deliverance (vimokṣasukha).

The he said to himself:

“My rotting body has wandered [for a long time] in saṃsāra; I have done what had to be done (kṛtakṛtya), I must now enter nirvāṇa and realize the unborn (anutpāda).”

Having this thought, he rose up into the sky, entered into the concentration of the brilliance of fire (tejaḥprabhāsamādhi) and manifested all the miracles (prātihārya); he sent forth great rays; in the upper part of his body he shone with reddish light; from the lower part of his body there flowed clear water. When he had rejected his body, he realized the unborn and nirvāṇa without residue (nirupadhiṣeṣanirvāṇa). Then the śreṣṭhin took his corpse, cremated it with aromatics and extinguished the funeral pyre with creamy milk. He gathered the ashes, placed them in a new urn, built a stūpa and hung it with parasols (chattra). Filled with respectful faith, he anointed [the stūpa] with thirty kinds of perfumed waters and made the vow (praṇidhāna) to seek the marks [of the Great Man].

The Buddha added: “Have no doubts, O bhikṣus. The śreṣṭhin is now Nanada. As a result of such faith and respect he has now acquired as reward the thirty marvelous marks.”

c) Actions performed by Nanda as the second son of king Kṛkin:

Then the bhikṣus had another doubt and asked the Bhagavat:

“Bhadanta, what action did the bhikṣu Nanda formerly perform in order that, in the case that he did not leave home (pravrajita) and reject pleasures, that he would definitely have played the part of a powerful cakravartin king?”

The Buddha said to the bhikṣus: This is the result of actions that he accomplished, etc… (as above) Once, during the good kalpa (bhadrakalpa) when the human lifespan was 20,000 years, the Buddha Kāśyapa appeared in the world. Endowed with ten appellations [tathāgata, arhat, etc.], he was staying in Vārāṇasī at Ṛṣipatana, in the Mṛgadāva. At that time, the king of the city, Ki li chi (Kṛkin) governed the people justly as a great king of Dharma. The king had three sons, the oldest, the second and the youngest. When the Buddha Kāśyapa had finished his ministry, he entered into nirvāṇa like a flame which has been extinguished. The king took the Buddha’s corpse, cremated it with aromatic sandalwood (candana), etc., and extinguished the funeral pyre with perfumed milk. He gathered the ashes (śarīra), placed them in a golden urn, erected a great stūpa made of four jewels, one yojana long and wide and one-half yojana in height. At the time of circumambulation, the king’s second son placed a parasol (chattra) on top.

The Buddha added: Have no doubts, O bhikṣus. He who was then the second son of the king is today Nanda. It was he who, out of respect, offered a parasol which he placed on the top of the stūpa. As a reward for this good action, for 2500 lifetimes he has been a powerful cakravartin king, reigning over one continent (dvīpaka) and in this actual lifetime, if he had not left home (pravrajita), he would also have been a powerful king with the wheel and would have acquired great sovereignty (aiśvarya).

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