Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “teaching the radhasutta at mount makula” 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 1 - Teaching the Rādhasutta at mount Makula

Note: this appendix is extracted from chapter 10 part 12 where it is appended before a discourse starts between the Buddha and Rādha at mount Makula.

The Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra seems to attach great importance to the Rādhasūtras to which it often refers (see also k. 31, p. 282a18 and p. 295b28). Rādha appears in the 46 suttas of the Rādhasaṃyutta (Saṃyutta, III, p. 188–201) and in the sūtras no. 111–129 of the Tsa a han, T 99, k. 6, p. 37c–41b. But whereas the Rādhasuttas of the Saṃyutta take place at Sāvatthi, the Rādhasūtras of the Tsa a han are located, as here, on Mount Mo kiu lo (64 and 11; 64 and 5; 122 and 14). Two questions arise: Where is Mo kiu lo? Is there a connection between Mo kiu lo and Śrāvastī?

There is a Maṅkulapabbata in the Comm. of Buddhavaṃsa, p. 3, and a Makula or Maṅkulakārāma in the legend of Pūrna. The traditions relating to this individual are found in Majjhima, III, p. 267–270 (tr. Chalmers, II, p. 307–308); Saṃyutta, IV, p. 60–63 (tr. Woodward, Kindred Sayings, IV, p. 34–36); Tsa a han, T 99, no. 215, k. 8, p. 54b, and no, 311, k. 13, 89b–c; Divyāvadāna, p. 24–55 (tr. Burnouf, Introduction, p. 200–245); Ken pen chouo… yao che, T 1448, k. 1, p. 7c–17a; Theragāthā Comm., in Rh. D., Brethren, p. 70–71; Karmavibhaṅga, p. 63–64; Papañcasūdanī, V, p. 85–92; Sāratthappakāsinī, II, p. 374–379. – In T 99, p. 89b, Si fang chou lou na “Śroṇā of the west”; in T 1448, p. 12a, – Chou na po lo k’ie, “Śroṇāparāntaka”. He was born at Śūrpāraka [in Pāli, Suppāraka; – in T 1448, p. 7c, Chou po lo kia], at the time of the Greeks the major port of India on the sea of Oman (Périple of the Erythrean Sea, ed. H. Frisk, 52; Ptolemy, ed. L Renou, VII, i, v. 6). Honored by Aśoka with a rock edict (Hultsch, Inscr. of Aśoka, p. 118), but reduced today to the rank of a modest locality by the name of Sopāra in the district of Bombay. A Buddhist stūpa has been discovered here with relics enshrined in stone, silver and gold caskets, as well as a coin from king Andhra Gautamīputra Sātakarṇi.

Pūrṇa, having become a rich merchant, went to Śrāvastī with a large caravan; there he met the Buddha, was converted and entered the Order where he was distinguished by his zeal. One day he requested from the Buddha a short sermon that he could memorize so as to return to the Śroṇāparāntakas; this is when the Buddha preached the Punṇṇovādasutta (Majjhima, III, p. 267–270). Pūrṇa returned to his compatriots, the Śroṇāpārantakas. According to the Papañcasūdanī and the Sāratthappakmasinī (loc. cit.) he lived in Ambahattapabbata, then successively in Samuddagirivihāra, and Mātulagiri, and finally in Makula()rāma (variant Maṅkulalārāma). In this monastery, located “not too near and not too far from the mercantile city of Śūrpāraka” (cf. Papañca, V, p. 87: vāṇijagāmassa nātidūro nāccāsanno). Pūrṇa gathered around himself a large number of male and female disciples, and with the sandalwood which his brother had given him, he built a maṇḍalamāla “circular pavilion” (Papañca, II, p. 377), also called by the Divyāvadāna, p. 43, candanamāla prāsada, “monastery or palace with levels or a sandalwood pavilion” (see the explanations by S. Lévi in Karmavibhaṅga, p. 63 and 64 as note: this palace is represented on a miniature studied by Foucher, Iconographie bouddhique, pl. I, no. 6). The Buddha flew there with 500 arhats and stayed overnight. The Papañca and the Sārattha (loc. cit) tell us that on returning, he stopped near the river Narmadā (in Pāli, Nammadā, the present NerBuddha, which marks the boundary between Uttarapatha and Dakṣiṇāpatha); he was received by the king of the nāgas at whose request he left his foot-print on the bank. – In all likelihood, the Makulapabbata where Pūrṇa had built his monastery is identical with Mo kiu lo chan where the Tsa a han and the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra locate the Rādhasūtras.

But then why does the Saṃyutta locate the Rādhasuttas at Sāvatthi? Would it be out of a spirit of rivalry, in order to make Gangetic India the sole cradle of Buddhist texts and eliminate Aparānta (western India) from the map of holy places? The reason is simpler: Śrāvastī and the big ports of Aparānta were in close touch. Śrāvastī was separated from Sūrpāraka by a distance of 100 to 125 yojanas (cf. Divyāvadāna, p. 44; Dhammapadaṭṭha, II, p. 214) which could be traveled in one night (ekarattiparivāsena) if the performance of Bāhiva Dārucīriya (Udāna, I, 10, p. 7) is to be believed. We have seen that Pūrṇa, a native of Śūrpāraka, led his caravans to Śrāvastī; we know from the Divyāvadāna, p. 34, that the Śrāvastī merchants brought their wares to Śūrpāraka to load them onto the ships. The latter city was also an export and import port of western India. The Apadāna, II, p. 476 and Jātaka, III, p. 188 tell us that there was regular traffic between Śūrpāraka, Bharukaccha, the actual Broach) and the enigmatic Suvarṇa-bhūmi, the Chruse Chersonesos of the Greeks. The echo of the Rādhasūtras preached at Śūrpāraka would have been heard at Śrāvastī or vice versa.

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