Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “legend of rahu and candima (god of the moon)” 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 8 - The Legend of Rāhu and Candima (god of the moon)

Note: this appendix is extracted from Chapter XV part 10.10:

“It is said that once Rāhu asurinda wanted to swallow Candima (god of the moon). The devaputra Candima, frightened, went at once to the Buddha and spoke this stanza...”.

Here the Mppś is quoting the Candimasutta, but its text differs both from the Chinese version of the Tsa a han, T 99, no. 583, k. 22, p. 155a–b) cf. T 100, no, 167, k. 9, p. 436a) and the Pāli version of the Saṃyutta, I, p. 50 (tr. Kindred Sayings, I, p. 71–72; Geiger, I, p. 80–81). To facilitate the comparison, here is the translation of Tsa a ham and the Pāli text of the Samyutta:

Tsa a han, T 99, k. 22, p. 155a: Thus have I heard. Once the Buddha was dwelling at Śrāvastī in the Jetavana, in the garden of Anāthapiṇḍada. At that time, Rāhu, king of the asuras, was blocking Candima, the devaputra.

Then full of terror, Candima devaputra came to the Buddha and having bowed his head to the Buddha’s feet, stood aside and spoke these stanzas of praise to the Buddha:

“Homage to you, great heroes
Who triumph over all your obstacles.
I am exposed to suffering,
That is why I take refuge [in you].

I, the devaputra Candima
Take refuge in the Sugata;
May the Buddha, who has compassion for the world
Liberate me from the asura.”

Then the Bhagavat replied with these stanzas:

“[The moon] chases away the shadows,
Its rays illumine space
Its brightness (vairocana) is pure
And its rays brilliant.
Rāhu conceals you in space:
Quickly release that which has the appearance of a flying hare (śaśāṃka).”

Rāhu, the asura,
Immediately released the moon and went away,
Body sweating
Terrified and ill at ease.
Spirit dimmed, mind troubled,
One might have said like a very sick man.

At that time, an asura named P’o tche (Vemacitra), seeing the asura Rāhu release the moon quickly and return, said the following stanza to him:

Asura Rāhu,
Why do you release the moon?
Body all asweat
You are like a very sick man.

The asura Rāhu answered with this stanza:

Gautama cursed me with a stanza.
If I did not release the moon immediately,
My head would break into seven pieces,
I would suffer the pain of near death.

The asura Vemacitra continued with this stanza:

That is extraordinary that the Buddha
Knows how to protect the world.
By speaking one stanza, he has forced
Rāhu to release the moon.

When the Buddha had finished this sūtra, Candima devaputra rejoiced at the words he had heard from the Buddha and, having bowed to him, he went away.

Saṃyutta, I, p. 50:

Sāvatthiyaṃ vihārati. Tena kho pana asamayena Candimā dvaputto Rāhunā asurindena gahito … no ce muñceyya Candimanti ||

The Tibetan Bkaḥ gyur contains two translations of this sūtra entitled ‘zha baḥi mdo’. The first is in Mdo XXVI, 28 (cf. Csoma-Feer, p. 281; OKC, no. 997, p. 384): it is from the Sanskrit and almost corresponds to the translation given by the Tsa a han above; L. Feer has made a French translation in Extraits, p. 411–413. The second is translated from the Pāli and occurs in Mdo XXX, 24 (cf. Csoma-Feer, p. 290; OKC, no. 738, p. 228).