Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “journey of the buddha to southern india and kotikarna” 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 2 - The journey of the Buddha to southern India and Koṭikarṇa

Note: this appendix belongs to the story from Chapter XV part 9.2:

“Moreover, the Buddha Śākyamuni, born in Jambudvīpa, lived in Kapilavastu, but often traveled to the six great cities of eastern India. One day he flew to southern India to the home of the vaiśya Koṭikarṇa, whose veneration he received.”

The legend of Koṭikarṇa in the Vinayas has been studied by S. Lévi, Sur la récitation primitive des textes bouddhiques, JA, May-June, 1915, p. 401–417. The sources are Pāli Vinaya, I, p. 194 seq.; Udāna, p. 37 seq.; Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, T 1447, k. 1, p. 1048c–1053c (corresponding exactly to the Koṭikarṇāvadāna in the Divya, p. 1–24); Sarvāstivādin Vinaya, T 1435, k. 25, p. 178a–182a; Mahīśāsaka Vinaya, T 1421, k. 21, p. 144a; Dharmagupta Vinaya, T 1328, k. 39, p. 845b.

In all these sources, Koṭikarṇa is a disciple of Mahākātyāyana. Teacher and disciple lived in the kingdom of Avanti, capital Ujjayinī, on the Mālva plateau. In the Pāli Vinaya and the Udāna, the kingdom is called Avanti; in the Dharmagupta and Mahīśāsaka Vinayas, Aśpakāvati; in the Sarvāstivādin Vinaya, Aśmakāvanti; in the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, Aśma Aparānataka.

– Koṭikarṇa went to visit the Buddha who was staying at Śrāvastī in the Jetavana (or, according to the Dharmagupta Vinaya, at Rājagṛha on the Gṛḍhrakūtaparvata). He prostrated before the Buddha and sat down at one side. The Buddha welcomed him in the usual way. Ānanda prepared Koṭikarṇa’s bed in the Buddha’s cell. The Buddha came to his cell after midnight and Koṭikarṇa followed. At the request of the teacher, Koṭikarṇa recited the Arthavarga and the Buddha congratulated him. Koṭikarṇa informed the Buddha about the difficulties of observing the monastic precepts in remote countries; in southern countries and in Avanti, where monks were few, the Buddha allowed five monks to conduct ordination; he also permitted the constant use of baths and shoes.

Thus it is established from the texts that Koṭikarṇa once went from Avanti to Śrāvastī (or Rajāgṛha) to make the acquaintance of the Buddha. On the other hand, the sources do not say that the Buddha ever went to Avanti, or any other place to visit Koṭikarṇa. Nevertheless, the Mppś is explicit: “One day the Buddha flew to southern India to the home of the vaiśya Koṭikarṇa, who paid his respects to him.” But the Mppś is wrong. Let us see what the error consists of and let us try to explain it.

a) It is wrong that the Buddha ever went to Koṭikarṇa in Avanti, but it is true that he visited southern India. On the invitation of Pūrṇa and his brothers, he went to Śūrpāraka, capital of Śroṇāparānta (southern Konkan). The voyage is described in the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, T 1448, k. 3, p. 14b23–17a21; Divyāvadāna, p. 16–55 (tr. Burnouf, Introduction, p. 234–245); Papañca, V, p. 90–92; Marattha, II, p. 378–379. The Buddha flew there with five hundred arhats. On the way, he converted five hundred widows, five hundred ṛṣis and the sage Vakkalin. He landed in Śurpāraka in the sandalwood palace (candanmāla prāsada) which he changed into crystal. On returning, he converted the nāga kings Kṛṣṇa and Gautamaka and, according to the Pāli sources, he left the imprint of his foot on the bank of the Nammadā (actually the NerBuddha) river. From there, he went to the Marīcika heaven to convert Bhadrakanyā, Maudgalyāyana’s mother. Finally at the speed of thought, he returned to Śrāvastī to the Jetavana.

b) There is no doubt that the Mppś is alluding to this voyage when it says that the Buddha flew to southern India. But why does it say that the Buddha went to the home of Koṭikarṇa when the Buddha was received by Pūrṇa? Probably because Śūrpāraka, Pūrṇa’s city, is located in Śroṇāparānta and the surname of Koṭikarṇa is Śroṇa (in Pāli, Soṇa Koṭikaṇṇa). The Mppś is not alone in having brought together the name of the country and the surname of heroes, whereas in the other Vinayas which we have analyzed above, Koṭikarṇa is the disciple of Mahākātyāyana and a native of Avanti. The Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya, T 1425, k. 23, p. 415c, has it that he was a disciple of Pūrṇa and living at Chou na (Śroṇāparānta).