Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “legend of mara and the buddha at the brahmin village shala” 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 4 - The legend of Māra and the Buddha at the brahmin village Śālā

Note: This Appendix relates to “Buddha’s journey to Śālā” extracted from Chapter XIV part 4.

In the Sanskrit and Chinese sources, this brahmin village is called Śālā; in the Pāli sources, Pañcasālā ‘the five sālā trees’; it was a place in Magadha (Saṃyutta). The Buddha came there during the visitors’ festival (pāhuṇakāni) during which the young boys and the young girls exchanged gifts. The villagers refused alms to the Buddha because they were possessed (anvāviṭṭha) by Māra pāpimat. The Mppś is the only slightly more expanded source that passes over the action of Māra in silence. The other texts refer to a twofold conversation between Māra and the Buddha, but their story is somewhat incoherent. The Pāli version of the Saṃyutta is evidently disordered and that of the Tsa a han is preferable. Here is how the order of events may be restored: When the Buddha was returning with an empty bowl, Māra went to find him and asked: “Has the monk received alms?”

The Buddha replied: “It is you, O Evil One, who has prevented people from giving alms”, and he added this stanza (Saṃyutta, I, p 114; Tsa a han, p. 288a):

Apuññaṃ pasavi Māro … na me pāpaṃ vipaccati.

“Māra has committed an evil deed, an offence against the Tathāgata: do you think, O Evil One, that your sin will not bear friut for you?”

Then Māra invited the Buddha to return to the village. The Dhammapadaṭṭha, III, p. 258, assumes that his intention was to ridicule (hassakeḷi) the Buddha, but the canonical sources are precise: Māra promises to force the inhabitants to give him alms: “Ahaṃ karissāmi yathā Bhagavā piṇḍaṃ lacchati.” What is the reason for this about-face? This is given by the Tseng yi a han. Māra hopes that the Buddha and his monks, overwhelmed by the gifts of the villagers, would become attached to these benefits and, no longer knowing how to deal with luxury, would always seek for more sensory pleasures.

But the Buddha, reading the intentions of the Evil One, refused by the following stanza (Saṃyutta, I, p. 114; Tsa a han, p. 288a):

Susukhaṃ vata jīvāma yeṣaṃ no … devā Ābhassarā yathā ti.

“In perfect joy we live, we who possess nothing. Joy will be our food like the radiant gods.”

The A tu wang tchouan (p. 119b) has a slightly different stanza:

“Those who rejoice without having an abundance have a calm, light, active body. If in regard to food and drink, one does not have desirous thoughts, one’s mind does not cease to be joyous, like the Ābhāsvara gods” (tr. Przyluski).

These stanzas are missing in the Tseng yi a han version (p. 772). The Buddha simply reproaches Māra for having prevented the villagers from giving him alms and recalls that a similar mishap had previously occurred in the Bhadrakalpa to the Buddha Krakucchanda who was depending on this city with his 40,000 disciples. Māra pledged the population to refuse to give them any alms. When his monks returned with their empty bowls, Krakucchanda asked them to spurn the four types of human food (kavaḍīkāra āhāra, sparśa, manaḥsaṃcetanā, vijñāna: cf. Kośa, III, p. 119) and seek only the five kinds of superhuman food (dhyāna, praṇidhāna, smṛti, vimokṣa, prīti). Māra then invited the monks to return to the village and, against their will, he overwhelmed them with alms.

Krakucchanda then addressed a sermon to his monks:

“Material benefits cause one to fall into the evil destinies and prevent one from attaining asaṃskṛta (or nirvāṇa)… The monks who are attached to gain do not realize the fivefold dharmakāya… One must prevent the arising of the notion of profit…”

Māra turned about and disappeared.