Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “samantarashmi arrives with gifts before shakyamuni” 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.

Act 10.1: Samantaraśmi arrives with gifts before Śākyamuni

Sūtra: With flowers (puṣpa), incense (dhūpa), garlands (mālya), powders (cūrṇa), perfumes, aromatics and unguents (vilepana), with robes (cīvara), flags (dhvaja) and banners (patākā), he went to the Buddha and, having approached him, bowed his head to the Buddha’s feet (bhagavataḥ pādau śīrasābhivandya) and stood to one side (ekānte ‘tiṣṭhat).

Śāstra: Question. – It should be said that “he saluted the Buddha”; why is it said that he ‘bowed his head to the Buddha’s feet”?

Answer. – 1) The head (śiras) is the noblest part of the human body, for it is the seat of the five feelings (ruci) and is on top (ūrdhvam); the feet (pāda) are the lowest part, for they tread an impure soil and are below (adhaḥ). This is why, by saluting the lowest part to the noblest part, the homage is doubled.

[131a] 2) Moreover, there are three salutes, lower (avara), medium (madhya) and higher (agra). The lower salute consists of joining the hands (añjalipāta); the medium salute, of kneeling (jānupāta); and the higher salute, of prostrating (śirasā praṇipatanam). Saluting [someone’s] feet with one’s head is the highest homage (pūjā) there is. This is why, in the Vinaya, the newer bhikṣus (navabhikṣu) take the feet of their superior in their two hands and bow their head to them (śirasābhivandanti).

Question. – There are four bodily positions (kāyeryāpatha); sitting (āsana), standing (sthāna), walking (gamana) and lying down (śayana). Why does the bodhisattva stand (tiṣṭhati) to one side (ekānte)?

Answer. – Since he has arrived [near the Buddha], he does not have to walk; since he wants [to pay] his repect (satkāra) and his homage (pūjā), he cannot lie down before him. That is very clear; have you finished questioning me? The sitting position is not very respectful, whereas the fact of standing up is a mark of respect (satkāra) and homage (pūjā).

Moreover, in the Buddhadharma, mendicant heretics (tīrthikaparivrājaka) and all lay people (avadātavasana) sit when they come to the Buddha. The heretics, belonging to a foreign (paradharma) sect, sit out of suspicion (avamāna) of the Buddha; the lay people sit in their quality of hosts (āgantuka). But the five assemblies, attached to the Buddha by body and spirit, remain standing near him. The arhats in possession of the Path (mārgaprāpta), such as Śāriputra, Maudgalyāyana, Subhūti, etc., have done what needed to be done (kṛtakṛtya); this is why they are permitted to sit down [before the Buddha]. The others, although they have obtained the threefold Path, are not permitted to sit down because their great work has not yet been completed and their fetters (bandhana) have not yet been cut. [The arhats] are like the king’s ministers (rājāmātya) who, because of their great qualities (guṇa), have the right to a seat. Even though there may be lay people (avadātavasana) amongst these bodhisattvas, they remain standing before the Buddha because they have come from far away to pay homage to him.