Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “journey of the buddha to the north-west of india” 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 3 - The journey of the Buddha to the north-west of India

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

“Finally, the Buddha flew to Ki pin ( Kapiśa?) on the mountain of the ṛṣi Revata; remaining in space, he subdued this ṛṣi,...”

The Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra briefly recalls only the more important incidents: the subjugation of the nāga Apalāla, the conversion of the rākṣasī, the miracle of the shadow, the conversion of Revata. – The cycle of Aśoka is hardly any more prolix; it mentions only four incidents:

Tsa a han, T 99, k. 23, p. 165b: “When the Buddha was about to enter into nirvāṇa, he converted the nāga-king Apalāla, the master-potter (kumbhakāra), the caṇḍala, the nāga Gopāli; then he went to the kingdom of Mathurā.”

Divyāvadāna, p. 348 (corrupt text): Yadā Bhagavān parinirvāṇakālasāmaye ’parlālanāgaṃ vinīya kumbhkārīṃ Caṇḍālīṃ Gopālīṃ cha teṣāṃ Mathurām anuprāptaḥ.

A yu wang tchouan, T 2042, k. 9, p. 102b, adds some geographical indications:

“Once, when the Buddha was in the kingdom of Ou tch’ang (Uḍḍiyāna), he subdued the nāga, A po po (Apalāla). In the kingdom of K’i pin (probably Kapiśa, and not Kaśmir as Przyluski, Aśoka, p. 245, would have it) he converted the fan tche (brahmacārin) teacher. In the kingdom of K’ien t’o wei (Gandhāra), he converted the tchen t’o lo (caṇḍāla). In the kingdom of Gandhāra, he subdued the ox-nāga (gonāga, i.e., Gopālanāga). Then he went to Mathūra.”

The voyage is told in detail in the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, Ken pen chouo… yao che, T 1448, k. 9, p. 40b6–41c1. The judicious comments of S. Lévi in Catalogue géographique des Yakṣa, JA, Jan.-Feb., 1914, passim should be added to the translation given by Przyluski, Le Nord-Ouest de l’Inde, JA, Nov.-Dec., 1914, p. 510–517.

With some goodwill, one may retrace the major stages of this journey by taking as an outline the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya and introducing into it the information provided by the Mppś, the Kouan fo san mei (T 643) and especially the Chinese pilgrims Fa hien (in Kao seng fa hien tchouan, T 2085), Song yun (in Lo yang k’ie lan ki, T 2092) and Hiuan tsang (in Si yu ki, T 2087 and Ta ts’eu ngen sseu san tsang fa che tchouan, T 2053), who visited north-west India in 399, 520 and 630 respectively. For greater objectivity, I [Lamotte] will refer to the sources directly and not the translations of Legge and Giles (for Fa hien), Chavannes (for Song yun), Sr. Julien, Beal and Watters (for Hiuan Tsang). Despite its late date, the Avadānakalpalatā, ch. 34–57 (ed. Mitra, II, p. 110–151) merits all the attention given to it by Demiéville in his study on Versions chinoises du Milindapañha, BEFEO, XXIV, 1924, p. 36–43. The splendid Greco-Buddhist discoveries of Foucher and the French archeological work in Afghanistan permit us to trace the Buddha’s footsteps on the maps they have prepared. Cf. A. Foucher, Notes sur la géographique ancienne du Gandhāra, BEFEO, I, 1901, p. 322–369; Notes sur l’itinéraire de Hiuan tsang en Afghanistan, Études asiatiques, Paris, 1925; De Kāpiśī a Puṣkaravatī, BSOS, VI, p. 341–348; J. Barthoux, Les Fouilles de Haḍḍa, Paris, 1933., p. 4: map of the Jelāl-Ābad district.

According to the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya (l.c.), after having crossed the Indus towards the west, the Buddha took eight stages to cross Uḍḍiyāna, the Lampāka, and arrived in the neighborhood of Peshawar.

1st stage.

In the kingdom of the Yue tche (Mppś, p. 126b), in Uḍḍiyāna (A yu wang tchouan, p. 102b), near the sources of the Swat (Si yu ki, p. 882b), he subdued the Nāga Apalāla. We have already studied the legends relating to this nāga and we have seen that except for the P’ou sa pen hing king, T 155, k. 2, p. 116b–c, which locates him in the pool of Yeou lien, near Rajāgṛha, the other sources locate him in the north-west.

The Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya (l.c.) gives a detailed account of the struggle between the Buddha and the nāga: Accompanied by Vajrapāṇi, the Buddha arrives at Apalāla’s palace. Furious, the nāga-king rises up in the air and rains down a deluge of hail and clods of earth. Having entered the meditation on loving-kindness, the Buddha changes the hailstones and the earthen clods into various perfumes. The nāga hastens to send weapons against him which are immediately changed into lotus flowers. Then Apalāla spreads a cloud of smoke which the Buddha counters with another cloud of perfume. On the Buddha’s order, Vajrapāṇi with his club destroys the mountain crest which crumbles and fills up the nāga’s lake. To prevent the latter from fleeing, the Buddha sends out flames everywhere. Apalāla takes refuge close to the Buddha where the earth is quiet and cool. Subdued, he takes refuge in the Three Jewels.

The taming of Apalāla is represented on the Gandhāran bas-reliefs (Foucher, Art Gréco-bouddhique, I, fig 270–275) and the Chinese pilgrims Fa hien (p. 858a), Song yun (p. 1020a) and Hiuan tsang (p. 882c) add further details: they note the place where the Buddha dried his kāṣāya wetted by the nāga, the rock where he left his foot-print, the spring where he chewed a willow twig which he planted and which immediately became a big tree.

2nd stage.

Conversions of the ṛṣi and the yakṣa in the villages of Tsiu lou (in Tib., Yul gñis grags su) and Kanthā, which must certainly be located on the upper Swāt.

3rd stage.

Sojourn in the rice-granary city which is none other than Mangalaor, in Sanskrit, Maṅgalapura, the Mong kie li of Hiuan tsang (p. 883b), capital of the Uḍḍiyāna kings. There, according to the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya and Hiuan tsang, the Buddha healed and converted the mother of king Uttarasena.

It seems that after this third stage, the Buddha, either walking or flying south-west, went directly to Lampāka (Lamghan) a district of Afghanistan located on the middle course of the Kubhā river, (Kābul). Its main cities are Nagarahāra (Jelāl-ābād) and Hadda (cf. J. Barthoux, Les fouilles de Haḍḍa, I and III, Paris, 1933). Its neighbor to the east is Gandhāra, cradle of Greco-Buddhist art, made famous by the works of Foucher; to the west, Kapiśa, capital Kāpiśī (Begram), illustrated by the French archeological works in Afghanistan (cf. J. Hackin, Recherches archéologiques a Begram, 2 vol., Paris, 1939; J. Hackin and J. Carl, Recherches archéologiques au Col de Khair khanah, Paris, 1936). Note that Lampāka, long a tributary of Kapiśa (cf. Hiuan tsang, Si yu ki, k. 2, p. 878b) is often confused with it in the texts.

4th stage.

City of Revata (Chin., Ki yi to, Tib., Dbaṅ ldan) where the Buddha converted the master potter (kumbakāra) as is told at length in the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya (l.c.). We have seen that the A yu sang tchouan locates the conversion of this brahmacārin teacher at K’i pin. Pryzluski, Legende d’Aśoka, p. 245, thinks that K’i pin means here the Kaśmir, but I [Lamotte] have good reason to think that is it rather Kapiśa-Lampāka. This is not impossible because if “it is certain that, in the translations of Buddhist texts prior to the year 600, Ki pin always corresponds, when we have a parallel Sanskrit text, to Kaśmir and not to Kapiśa-Lampaka, … theoretically it is not impossible that Ki pin may have originally meant Kapiśī,” (P. Pelliot, Tokharien et Koutchéen, JA, Jan.-Mar., 1934, p. 39 note). The Mppś tells us that here the ṛṣi Revata built a stūpa on a mountain, containing the hair and finger-nails of the Buddha and that, at the foot of this mountain, there was still at his time the vihāra called Revata.

Fa hien (p. 839a) found a stūpa 400 paces from the Cave of the Buddha’s Shadow built over the hair and finger-nails of the Buddha, located a half-yojana from Nagarahāra, Hiuan tsang (Si yu ki, p. 879a) found this same stūpa at the north-west side of the cave; it contained, he said, the Buddha’s hair and nails. Song yun (p. 1021c) also notes at Nagarahāra some famous relics containing the tooth and the hair of the Buddha. This can only be the stūpa built by Revata and the relics gathered by him after his conversion.

Therefore Revata’s stūpa and vihāra are near Nagarahāra and the mountain of K’i pin in question here is to be found in Kapiśa-Lampāka and not in Kaśmir

The monastery of Revata (in Chinese Li yue or Li po t’o) was well-known. In the legend of Aśoka (Divyāvadāna, p. 399; Tsa a han, T 99, k. 23, p. 169a–b; A yu wang tchouan, T 2042, k. 2, p. 105a; A yu wang king, t. 2043, k. 3, p. 139c), the great emperor, in a mystical trance, invited the faithful wise men dwelling in the pleasant city of Kaśmīra or the vihāras of Tāmasavana, Mahāvana and Revataka. The pleasant city of Kaśmīra, as the name indicates, is in Kaśmir; the Tāmasvana and the Mahāvana (Sounigrām) are in Uḍḍiyāna (cf. Hiuan tsang, Si yu ki, T 2097, k. 4, p. 889b; k. 3, p. 883a); as for Revataka, we locate it in Kapiśa. The latter enjoyed great veneration by the faithful. The Sūtrālaṃkāra (tr. Huber, p. 429) mentions the case of a poor man and a poor woman from K’i pin (Kapiśa) who went so far as to sell themselves in order to make offerings to the monks of the Revata monastery.

We may add that there are many ‘Revata’s’ in Buddhist hagiography; Malalasekara’s dictionary of proper names (II, p. 751–755) counts no less than a dozen and the list is not complete. There was, notably in a monastery of Kaśmir, a Revata or rather a Raivataka, who was the hero of an avadāna told in chap. 103 of the Avadānakalpalatā, ed. S.C. Das, II, p. 979:

Purā Raivatako nāma Kaśmīreṣu śucivrataḥ |
Bhikṣuḥ Śailavihāre ‘bhūt sarvabhūtadayāśraḥ

“Among the Kasmirians in the Craggy Monastery, there once was a monk with pure vows, named Raivataka, the compassionate support of all beings.”

The Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 125, p. 654c–655b, tells his misadventure at length: Once in the kingdom of Kia chö mi lo (Kaśmīra), there was a capital called Pi lo tch’a (Biratha). Not far from this city there was a monastery (saṃghārāma), the Che yai (Śailavihāra) where there lived a bhikṣu-arhat. One day, he was about to dye his robe when a man approached and asked if he had seen his calf. When the monk replied in the negative, the man examined the inoffensive dye-vat; fate, or rather the law of karma, had it that the man mistook the robe for a cow’s hide, the dye for its blood and the vat for the head of the cow. The bhikṣu was thrown into prison by the king and his pupils were not concerned about him. After many years, they came anyway to reclaim him from the king and to protest his innocence. When he was to be liberated, the bhikṣu had changed so much in appearance that nobody recognized him any; they had to shout aloud in the prison: “Where are you, O śramaṇa? By the royal favor you are free.” The bhikṣu leapt out of prison and flew up into the air. At this sight, the king felt remorse and apologized to the bhikṣu who affirmed that he had never felt any anger towards the king and recommended that his students not hold it against the king. A young śramaṇera who had not heard this advice, inwardly cursed the evil city that had imprisoned his master for so many years. An amanuṣya, divining his thoughts, caused a rain of earth to fall that completely destroyed the capital of Kaśmir.

[Chavannes, who was unaware of the above-mentioned sources, knew the story of the bhikṣu Revata from two tales incorporated in the Kieou tsa p’i yu king, T 206, no. 32, k. 1, p. 516a, and Tsa pao tsang king, T 203, no. 19, k. 2, p. 457b. He translated them in his Contes, I, p. 395; III, p. 15–17.]

5th stage.

The city of Green Reeds (Chin. Lou so; Tib. Gsiṅ ma can] where the Buddha converted a yakṣa and his family.

6th stage.

The city of ‘Shelter-heap(Sansk. Kūṭapāla) where the Buddha converted the cow-herder (gopāla) and the nāga-king Sou tchö. This passage from the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya is probably interpolated; it should read “where the Buddha converted the nāga-king Gopāla”. Other sources tell us that the Buddha left his shadow in the nāga’s cave; here is their content:

a. The Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya places the conversion of the nāga-king Gopāla at Kūṭipāla but does not mention the Cave of the Shadow.

b. Fa hien and Song yun describe the Cave of the Shadow at length which they locate at Nagarahāra but say nothing of the conversion of the nāga Gopāla.

c. Hiuan tsang places at Nagarahāra both the conversion of the nāga Gopāla and the Cave of the Buddha’s Shadow.

d. The Kouan fo san mei hai king locates at Nagarahāta the conversion of a nāga whose name it does not mention and that of five rākṣasī. It describes at length the circumstances that led to the Buddha leaving his shadow in the nāga’s cave.

e. The Mppś places the conversion of the female rākṣasī and the Cave of the Buddha’s Shadow in the west of the land of Yue tche.

No doubt the same legend lies hidden beneath the divergences of detail. Some citations from these sources will convince the reader:

Fa hien tchouan, T 2085, p. 859a3–7:

“If one follows the mountain chain to the south-west, half a yojana south of the city of Nagarahāra, there is a rock cave where the Buddha left his shadow. When one looks at it at from a distance of more than ten paces, it has the appearance of the true shape of the Buddha with his golden color (suvarṇavarṇa), his major marks (lakṣaṇa) and minor marks (anuvyañjana), his rays (raśmi) and his light (prabhā). The closer one gets, it becomes dimmer as if it were an illusion. When the kings of the neighboring regions sent their artists to make a copy of it, none of them succeeded. In this land there is a popular tradition that says that the thousand Buddhas must all leave their shadow there.”

[The difficulties always experienced by artists trying to reproduce the Buddha’s image are illustrated by a short tale told by the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, T 1442, k. 45, p. 874a–b; Divyāvadāna, p. 547 (tr. Burnouf, Introduction, p. 304; San pao kan ying yao lio you, T 2084, k. 1, p. 827–828: Rudrāyaṇa, king of Roruk, made a gift to Bimbisāra, king of Magadhā, of a marvelous breastplate. The latter, in return, wished to send him a portrait of the Buddha, but the painters entrusted with this work were unable to take their eyes off their divine model and their hands remained inactive. The Buddha then projected his shadow onto a cloth; the painter then traced the outline and added the colors.]

Song yun, Lo yang k’ie lan ki, T 2092, k. 3, p. 1021c–1022a (according to the corrections and translations of E. Chavannes, Voyage de Song yun, BEFEO, III, 1903, p. 428):

“I arrived in Nagarahāra where I saw the cave with the Buddha’s shadow; there is a door facing west; if one penetrates the mountain to a depth of fifteen paces and one looks from afar, then all the distinctive marks [of the Buddha] appear clearly; if one touches the place with one’s hand, there is nothing but the face of the rock; if one withdraws gradually, one begins to see the face appear again in a remarkable way; that is a very rare phenomenon in the world. In front of the cave there is a square rock on which is the imprint of one of the Buddha’s feet. One hundred paces south-west of the cave is the place where the Buddha washed his garments.”

A century later, Hiuan tsang also had the occasion to visit the cave, of which he gives ample detail. Cf. Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 2, p. 879a (tr. Beal, I, p. 93–95; Watters, I, p. 184) and Vie de Hiuan tsang, T 2053, k. 2, p. 229c–230a (tr. Beal, Life of Huien tseng, p. 61–62). He states that the Buddha’s shadow, seen clearly at earlier times, was no longer visible except on rare occasions and to certain individuals. The Vie tells under what dramatic circumstances he himself was privileged to see the shadow; it is a fine page of religious literature which may be read in Grousset’s Sur les traces du Buddha, Paris, 1929, p. 93–95.

According to Hiuan tsang, the cave had been inhabited formerly by the nāga Gopāla, a cow-herder who had been changed into a nāga in revenge. Converted by the Buddha, he had asked him for permission to remain in his cave always. Hiuan tsang confirms certain details already mentioned by his predecessors: like Fa hien, he is aware of the tradition according to which the thousand Buddhas of the good kalpa must leave their shadow in this cave; like Song yun, he saw the place near the cave where the Buddha left the imprint of his feet and washed his clothes. He also notes, close to the cave, the presence of other caves “which the other noble disciples of the Buddha had occupied as their places of meditation.” Now we know from the Kouan fo san mei hai king that the nāga king and his rākṣasīs had built five caves for the great disciples of the Buddha.

The Kouan fo san mei hai king, T 643, k. 2, p. 670b–681b (tr. J. Przyluski, Le Nord-Oest de l’Inde, p. 565–568), was translated by Buddhabhadra (died 429), perhaps a native of Nagarahāra (Bagchi, I, p. 341, n.3), thus in a good position to tell us the folklore of Lampāka. This very detailed work is perhaps the direct source of the Mppś.

Here is a brief summary of it:

“The Buddha came to the kingdom of Na kie ho lo (Nagarahāra), on the mountain of the old ṛṣi, in the flowering forest of Jambu, at the shore of a poisonous nāga’s pool, north of the source of blue lotuses, in the cave of the rakṣas, south of the mountain A na sseu (Anāśin). There was, at that time in the cave, five rākṣas who had been changed into female nāgas and were the mates of a poisonous nāga. They caused famine and epidemics in the land. Puṣpabhūti, king of Nagarahāra, invited the Buddha to rid his kingdom of this scourge. Accompanied by Ānanda and four great disciples, the Buddha went to the mountain of the old ṛṣi and, with the help of Vajrapāṇi and Maudgalyāyana, vanquished the nāga and the five rākṣasīs. At their request, he agreed to stay for a time in the rock cave of the rākṣasīs. When he wanted to leave, the nāga-king asked him to stay with him forever. ‘If you leave me, I will never see the Buddha again,’ he lamented. ‘I will commit bad deeds again and fall back into my evil ways.’ The Buddha consoled him: ‘I accept; I will stay in the cave for fifteen hundred years.’ Then the Buddha performed a series of miracles; he leaped up and his body entered into the rock. The nāgas all saw the Buddha who remained in the rock and whose brightness was seen outside. Without leaving the pool, they constantly saw the sun of the Buddha seated cross-legged inside the rock. When living beings saw him, it was by looking from a distance; from close up he was not visible… The shadow also preached the Dharma.” (tr. J. Przyluski).

Finally, we may note that Foucher has identified the Cave of the Shadow near the village of Tchhār Bagh. The Buddha and bodisattvas have also left their shadows in several other places, notably at Kauśāmbī and at Gayā (cf. Kern, Manual, p. 90–91). In this latter city, the shadow is represented on a sculpted post:

“A rock-hewn cell of the usual type, a stone bed inside shown in very low relief; on the right, two lay people richly clothed, approach with joined palms. Inside the cave, a small standing person had been painted, holding a monk’s staff.” (Coomarasawamy, La sculpture de Bodhgayā, p. 37 and pl. XLVII, 2).

7th stage.

The seventh stage brought the Buddha to the city of Nandivardhana. According to the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, the Buddha converted king Devabhūti and his family there, the seven sons of the caṇḍāli, the protector yakṣa of the lake, the nāgas Aśvaka and Punarvasu, for whom he left his shadow in a lake close to the city, and finally the two yakṣīs Nalikā and Naḍodayā.

S. Lévi, who has collected a series of references on the city of Nandivardhana (cf. Catalogue géographique des Yakṣa, p. 78), locates it between Jelāl-ābād and Peshawar. The A yu wang tchouan (T 2042, k. 1, p. 102b), for what it is worth, restricts the area of search, for it places the conversion of the caṇḍāli in Gandhāra. This event having occurred at Nandivardhana, the city of this name is somewhere between the western border of Gandhara and the city of Peshawar. It is likely that the Buddha, leaving Nagarahāra, crossed Lampāka in an easterly direction and entered Gandhara by the Khyber Pass (or more likely, by flying over the mountains) and arrived at Nandivardhana.

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