Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “legend of upagupta” 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.

Note: this appendix belongs to the story from Chapter XV part 9.6:

“Thus, five hundred years after the Buddha’s parinirvāṇa, there was a bhikṣu called Upagupta; he was an arhat with the six abhijñās; at that time he was the great teacher of Jambudvīpa”.

See the avadāna of Upagupta in the Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 640), k. 25, p. 177b; Divyāvadāna, p. 348 seq. (tr. Burnouf, Introduction, p. 336 seq.); A yu wang tchouan, T 2042, k. 3, p. 111b (tr. Przyluski, Aśoka, p. 308; A yu wang king, T 2043, k. 6, p. 149b.

– The Buddha foretold to Ānanda the birth of Upagupta five hundred years after the parinirvāṇa: Asyām Ānanda Mathurāyāṃ mama varṣaśataparinirvṛtasya …arhattvaṃ sākṣātkariṣyanti.

The Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra has Upagupta as a patriarch (ācārya), calling him the great teacher of Jambudvīpa. However, Upagupta appears in the list of the patriarchs only in the Sarvāstivādin sources (Aśokāvadāna, Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, Fou fa tsang yin yuen king) where he is in fourth place, after Mahākāśyapa, Ānanda and Śāṇavāsa-Madhyāntika (cf. Przyluski, Aśoka, p. 46–48). The Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya and the Ceylonese chronicles do not include him in the succession of teachers. We may note once again that the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra is inspired by the Sarvāstivādin and northern sources.

Upagupta was from the north; his monastery was at Mathurā (cf. Watters, Travels, I, p. 306–309; Tāranātha, p. 17) where his relics were preserved.

It was noted a long time ago that Upagupta’s role with regard to Aśoka in the Sanskrit sources is the same as that of Tissa Moggaliputta in the Pāli and Ceylonese sources. See LAV., Histoire, II, p. 137.