Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “57 days between buddha’s enlightenment and his first sermon” 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 6 - The 57 days between Buddha’s enlightenment and his first sermon

Note: this appendix is extract from Chapter XIII (quality 27).

The present Buddha Śākyamuni, having become buddha, waited 57 days before preaching the Dharma. He said to himself: “My Dharma is profound, difficult to penetrate and difficult to understand. Beings attached to worldly things are unable to understand it.”

These 57 days that separated the enlightenment from the first sermon are problematic chronologically in the biography of the Buddha. The sources do not agree on the number of weeks that elapsed between these two events.

The Pāli Vinaya (vol. I) counts four weeks which the Buddha spent respectively:

  1. under the bodhirukkha (p. 1);
  2. under the ajapālanigrodha (p. 3);
  3. under the mucalinda (p. 3);
  4. under the rājāyatana (p. 3).

The Nidānakathā (p. 77–80) counts seven weeks that the Buddha spent respectively:

  1. at the mahābodhimaṇḍa;
  2. by the animisacetiya;
  3. by the ratanacaṅkamacetiya;
  4. by the ratanagharacetiya;
  5. under the ajapālanigrodha;
  6. with Mucalinda;
  7. under the rājāyatana.

– The Dīpavaṃsa, I, v. 29–30, has almost the same details: during the seventh week, the Buddha stayed in the Khīrapāla park.

The Mahāvastu (vol. III) also counts seven weeks. The Buddha passed the first two under the bodhidruma (p. 273 and 281); he spent the third in dīrgha caṅkrama (p. 281). During the last four, he stayed respectively in the dwelling of the nāga Kāla (p. 300), in the dwelling of the nāga Mucilinda (p. 300), under the ajapālanyagrodha (p. 301), in the Kṣīrikāvana at the Bahudevatā-caitya (p. 303). The Mahāvastu concludes by saying: “Thus the Bhagavat spent the seven-week retreat during 49 days.”

The Lalitavistara (p. 377, 379–381) locates the seven weeks as follows: The Buddha spent the first week seated on the bodhi-seat; he spent the second in dīrgha caṇkrama; during the third, he stayed on the bodhimaṇḍa; in the fourth, he accomplished the dahara caṅkrama. During the last three, he stayed successively with Mucilinda, under the ajapālanyagrodha, and finally under the tārāyaṇa tree. – Cf. Beal, Romantic Legend, p. 236 seq.

At the end of the seventh week, exactly 49 days after his enlightenment, at the invitation of Brahmā Buddha agreed to preach the Dharma. But according to the Mppś, the first sermon at Benares did not take place until the 57th day. Therefore eight days elapsed between Brahmā’s invitation and the sermon at Benares. From the Mahāvastu (III, p. 324–328) and the Lalitavistara, p. 406–407 (tr. Foucaux, p. 338–339), we know that this week was spent by the Buddha traveling from Gayā to Vārāṇasī. According to the Nidānakathā, p. 81, having remained a few more days at the bodhimaṇḍa, the Buddha resolved to be at Benares on the day of the full moon of the Āṣādha month (June-July). On the fourteenth, he arose early in the morning and traveled 18 yojanas so that he arrived the same day towards evening at Ṛṣipatana near Benares. That same evening, he preached the Dharmacakrapravartanasūtra.

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