Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “eight causes for the trembling of the earth” 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 7 - Eight causes for the trembling of the earth

Note: This Appendix is extracted from Chapter XIV part 5.3:

“There are all kinds of causes for a greater trembling of the earth. Thus the Buddha said to Ānanda: ‘There are eight causes and eight conditions for a great trembling of the earth’”

The eight causes are the following: The earth trembles (1) when the waters on which it rests are stirred by the wind; (2) when a being endowed with supernatural power has come to the point of visualizing the earth as limited and the water as unlimited; (3) when a bodhisattva descends into his mother’s womb and leaves it at birth; (4) when a Tathāgata succeeds to the state of Buddha, (5 – 8) turns the wheel of Dharma, rejects the remainder of his life, enters into nirvāṇa.

These eight causes are listed in the following texts: Pāli sources: Dīgha, II, p. 107–109; Aṅguttara, IV, p. 312–313. – Sanskrit sources: Divyāvadana, p. 204–206. – Chinese sources: Versions of the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra (T 1, k. 2, p. 15c–16a; T 5, k. 1, p. 165a–b; T 6, k. 1, p. 180c; T 7, k. 1, p. 191c–192a); Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 36, p. 753c–754a.

Some sources have only three causes, namely, the first two and the last of the preceding list: Tchong a han, T 26, k. 9, p. 377b–478a; Ken pen chouo… tsa che, T 1451, k. 36, p. 389a. Some of the texts have been translated and compared by Przyluski, Le Parinirvāṇa et les funérailles du Buddha, p. 63–92.

The Lalitavistara points out that the tremblings of the earth were produced at the main events of the Buddha’s life: at conception (p. 52), at his birth (p. 85), at the moment of enlightenment (p. 352) and at his first sermon (p. 411). – Corresponding passages in the translation of Foucaux, p. 51, 79, 285, 342.