Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “notes on the stanzas spoken by vaishravana in honor 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 13 - Notes on the stanzas spoken by Vaiśravaṇa in honor of the Buddha

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

In the Dīrghāgama, king Vaiśravaṇa addresses the following stanza to the Buddha:

I bow before the Buddhas, past, future and present;
I take refuge (śaraṇa) in the Buddha Śākyamuni.

The same passage of the Dīrghāgama will be cited later at k. 9, p. 126a:

In the Dīrghāgama, a sūtra says:

There was a king of the asuras, gauardian of the northern region; along with many hundreds of koṭis of asuras, he went to the Buddha during the last watch of the night and, having prostrated to the Buddha, he sat down at one side; emitting pure light, he illumined the entire Jetavana with a great light. Joining his palms together, he praised the Buddha with these two stanzas:

Great hero, I take refuge in you!
Buddha, the greatest among those who walk on two feet.
What you know by means of your wisdom-eye
The gods are unable to understand.

Whether they are past, future or present,
I bow before all the Buddhas.
Thus today taking refuge in the Buddha,
I also pay homage to the Buddhas of the three times.”

This passage is the beginning of the Āṭānāṭikasūtra of which two versions exist. The first has a proof: 1) the Sanskrit text found in central Asia and published by H. Hoffmann, Bruchstücke des Āṭānāṭikasūtra, Leipzig, 1939, p. 33; 2) the Chinese translation by Fa hien, entitled P’i cha men t’ien sang king, T 1245, p. 217a; 3) the Tibetan translation of the Bkaḥ ḥgyur, entitled Kun tu rgyu ba daṅ kun tu rgyu ba ma yin pa daṅ ḥtun paḥi mdo (cf. Csoma-Feer, p. 327). In this version, the sūtra takes place in Śrāvastī in the Jetavana, and Vaiśravaṇa addresses two stanzas to the Buddha. – The second version has as proof: 1) the Pāli Āṭānāṭiyasuttanata of the Dīghanikāya, III, p. 194; 2) the Tibetan translation of the Bhaḥ ḥgyur, entitled Lcaṅ lo can gyi pho braṅ gi mdo (cf. Csoma-Feer, p. 288). In this second version, the sūtra is located at Rājagṛha on Gṛdhrakūṭaparvata, and Vaiśravaṇa does not address any stanzas to the Buddha.

The extracts given here by the Mppś are taken from the first version. To be convinced of this, a glance at the Sanskrit text published by Hoffmann, l.c., p. 33 is sufficient:

evaṃ mayā śrutam. ekasamayaṃ bhagavāṃ śrāvastyāṃ vihārati sma jetavane … velāyāṃ gāthāṃ babhāse,
nam’astu te mahāvīra
tvāṃ cāhaṃśaraṇaṃ gataḥ

Instead of indicating the title of the sūtra, the Mppś, citing this passage twice, refers only to the collection, the Dīrghāgama. The Dīrghāgama which it uses is not the Pāli Dīghanikāya of the Theravādin-Vibhajjavādins since the Āṭānāṭikasuttanata found there does not contain the stanzas spoken by Vaiśravaṇa in honor of the Buddha. Neither is it the Dīrghāgama translated into Chinese about 412–413 by Buddhayaśas under the name Tch’ang a han (T 1) and which actually belongs to the Dharmaguptas (cf. the arguments of Watanabe, Przyluski and Waldschmidt, Bruchstücke buddh. Sūtras, Lepzig, 1932, p. 229); indeed, this collection does not contain the Āṭānāṭikasūtra.

We have noticed several times already that the Mppś, citing ‘the Vinaya’ without any more precision, almost always is referring to the Che song liu (T 1435), the Sarvāstivādin Vinaya. We may therefore assume that the Dīrghāgama which is being used here also belongs to the Sarvāstivādin school. The Sarvāstivādins had a collection of eighteen ‘great sūtras’ of which the sixth, the A t’cha na kien (in the Ts’in language: ‘Sūtra of the council of the demonic spirits’) is none other than the Āṭānāṭikasūtra (cf. Che song liu, T 1435, k. 24, p. 174b; translation in S. Lévi, Sur la récitation primitive des textes bouddhiques, JA, May-June 1915, p. 419). Four of these ‘great sūtras’ have been found at Chotscho in central Asia, in a small anthology of sūtras ed. by E. Waldschmidt, Bruchstücke buddh. Sūtras, Leipzig, 1932: these are the Mahānidāna, the Śakrapraśna, the Bimbasāra and the Mahāsamājasūtra. This anthology is indisputably of Sarvāstivādin provenance (cf. Waldschmidt, p. 228).

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