Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “sources for the story of the sick and abandoned monk” 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 10 - Sources for the story of the sick and abandoned monk

Note: This Appendix relates to the story of a sick bhikṣu extracted from Chapter XIV part 5.8. It shows how the sick are healed by the miraculous power of the Buddha.

In the Pāli text (Vinaya, I, p. 301–302) there is the story of the sick and abandoned monk whom the Buddha washed with his own hands:

Tena kho pano samayena aññatarassa bhikkhuno kucchivikārābādho hoti … Ānando pādato uccāretvā mañcake nipātesuṃ.

The same story occurs in many texts: Tseng yi a han T 125, k. 30, p. 766b–767b; Cheng king, T 154 (no. 26), k. 3, p. 89b–90a; P’ou sa pen cheng man louen, T 160 (no, 11), k. 4, p. 342b–c; Fa kiu p’i yu king, T 211, k. 2, p. 591b–c; Wou fen liu, T 1421, k. 20, p. 139c; Mo ho seng k’i liu, T 1425, k. 28, p. 455a–457b; Sseu fen liu, T 1428, k. 41, p. 861b–c; Che song liu, T 1435, k. 28, p. 205a–b; Hiuan tsang, Si yu ki, T 1087, K. 6, p. 899b (tr. Beal, II, p. 5; Watters, Travels, I, p. 387).

There are some differences among these stories:

a. The scene takes place at Śrāvastī in most of the sources, but in Rāgagṛha in T 125 and T 160 and in the kingdom of Hien t’i (154 and 8; 64 and 9) in T 211. Hiuan Tsang may have visited the stūpa commemorating this cure, either NE of Śrāvastī (according to the Si yu ki, l.c.) or NE of Rājagṛha (according to the Che che yao lan, T 2127, k. 2, p. 306a).

b. In T 125, the sick man calls to the Buddha for help and the Buddha hears his cry by means of his divine ear.

c. The Buddha cures the sick man, sometimes without the aid of anyone else (T 211, T 1421, T 1428, T 1435, T 2087), sometimes with the help of Ānanda (Pāli Vinaya; T 1425) or Śakra (T 160 and Mppś) or Vaiśramaṇa and Śakra (T125).

d. In three sources (T 154, T 211 and Mppś), the sickness and the abandonment of the monk is presented as the punishment for his evil conduct in past lifetimes.

e. All the Vinayas (Pāli Vinaya, T 1421, T 1425, T 1428, T 1435) add that the Buddha profited from the occasion by encouraging his monks to care for one another when they are sick; cf. Vinaya, I, p. 302: N’atthi te bhikkhave mātā n’atthi pitā … so gilānaṃ upaṭṭhaheyya.

“No longer, O monks, do you have a mother or father to care for you. If you do not care for one another, who will care for you? Whoever wishes to care for me must take care of sick people.”

f. The Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, which does not seem to have this story, nevertheless recommends that the image of the Buddha himself taking care of a sick person (T 1451, k. 17, p. 283b) be painted in the monastery infirmaries. The Mppś once more shows its nature of being a compilation. It borrows its story from the Sarvāstivādin Vinaya, (Che song liu, T 1435, k. 28, p. 205a–b). At the start, it repeats it almost word-for-word until it incorporates a digression into the story where it is a matter of the five reasons why the Buddha, staying in a vihāra, accepts an invitation from outside. Towards the end, it departs from its main source to mention the intervention of Śakra in the care given to the sick man (detail borrowed perhaps from Pen cheng man louen, T 160, or from Tseng yi a han, T 125) and to note that the sickness and the abandonment of the monk were punishments for his past actions (detail borrowed from the Cheng king, Y 154, or from the Fa kiu p’i yu king, T 211).