Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “identification of makara, king of the fish (matsyaraja)” 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 3 - Identification of Makara, king of the fish (matsyarāja)

Note: this appendix is extract from the story of the five hundred merchants in Chapter XIII (quality 26).

This fish is called Mo kie (Makara) in the Hien yu king and the Tsa p’i yu king; timitimiṅgila on the Bhārhut medallion, the Mahāvastu and the Divyāvadāna (where the variant timiṅgila also occurs); timiṅgilagili (probably to be corrected as timiṅgilagila) in the Avadānakalpalatā; timiṅgala in the Apadāna.

The proper reading is that of the Avadānakalpalatā: timiṅgilagila, in Tibetan ña-mid mid-par byad-paḥi-ña ‘the fish-that-swallows a fish-swallower’.

Three kinds of fish must be distinguished:

i) The timi, described as follows in the Raghuvaṃśa, XIII, 10:

Sasattvam ādāya badīmukhāmbhaḥ saṃmīlayanto vivṛtānanatvāt |
amī śirbhis timayaḥ sarandhrair ūrdhvaṃ vitanvanti jalapravāhān ||

“See these sharks (timi) that suck in the water with the animals in it at the mouths of rivers; suddenly they shut their gullets and emit columns of water into the air through the holes in their heads.” (tr. L. Renou)

ii) The timiṅgila, in Tibetan ña-mid ‘swallower of tinmi’ Indeed, the Amarakośa, I, 10, 19, has:

timiṅgilas timiṃ girati: gṛ nigaraṇe.

iii) The timiṇgilagila, in Tibetan ña-mid mid par byed pa, ‘a swallower of timiṅgila’.

Thus there are three kinds of fish of different sizes, the smallest of which is swallowed by the middle one, and the middle one by the largest. This fits in perfectly with the Hindu concepts of life in the seas. Cf. Divyāvadāna, p. 230.

“In the great ocean, the living beings are divided into three size-ranges (skandha): in the first are the fish 100, 200 and 300 yojanas in length; in the second, those 800, 900, 1000 up to 1400 yojanas in length; in the third, those 1500, 1600 and up to 2100 yojanas in length. In the great ocean, these kinds of fish are always eating one another; those in the first size-range (bhūmi) are devoured by those in the second; those in the second are devoured by those in the third. There is a fish there called Timiṅgila [to be corrected to Timiṅgilagila] that, surpassing the third range, comes up to the surface. When it opens its mouth, a funnel of water is sucked into it violently; drawn in by this mass of water, fish of all kinds, turtles, sea horses, dolphins, whales, etc. pass from its mouth into its belly. When it moves, it is so huge that its head, even from afar, seems to be a mountain as high as the sky and its two eyes from afar are like two suns in the sky.”