Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “shariputra and maudgalyayana at sanjaya” 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.

Part 2 - Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana at Sañjaya

Note: see Appendix on the legend of Sañjaya.

At that time, the master of the oracles had a son whose name was Kiu liu t’o (Kolita)[1] and the name of the family was Ta mou k’ien lien (Mahāmaudgalyāyana). Śāriputra was his friend. Śāriputra was outstanding for his talents and his intelligence, Maudgalyāyana for his fearlessness and vivacity. These two children were equal in talent and wisdom and also in qualities and conduct. [They were inseparable]: when they went out, it was together; when they returned, it was together. When they were a little older, they made an agreement of eternal friendship. Then, both of them experiencing disgust for the world (lokasaṃvega), they left home (pravrajita) to practice the Path (mārga), became disciples of a brahmacarin and diligently sought entry into the Path (margadvāra). For a long time this had no result.

They questioned their teacher, Chan chö ye (Sañjaya) by name, who answered:

“I myself have spent long years seeking the Path and I do not even know whether the fruit of the path (mārgaphala) exists or not. I am not the man you need; I have found nothing.”

One day their master fell ill. Śāriputra stood at his head and Maudgalyāyana at his feet; the teacher gasped for breath and his life reached its end. Suddenly he smiled with pity. The two friends, with one accord, asked him why he smiled.

The teacher replied:

“The customs of the world (lokasaṃvṛti) are blind and affected by the emotions (anunaya). I see that the king of Kin ti (Suvarṇabhūmi) has just died and his main wife has thrown herself on the funeral pyre to join him; but for these two spouses, the retribution for actions (karmavipāka) is different and the places where they will be reborn (janmasthāna) will be different (viśiṣta).”

Then the two disciples put down their teacher’s words in writing in order to verify their accuracy [later]. Some time later, when a merchant from Suvarṇabhūmi came to Magadha, the two friends questioned him discretely; the things their teacher had said had actually occurred.[2] (also see Appendix 2)

They uttered a sigh of relief and said:

“Perhaps the master hid his secret because we were not worthy.”

The two friends exchanged the following oath:

“The first to find the Immortal (amṛta) must communicate its flavor (rasa) to his friend.”[3]

Footnotes and references:


Kolita is also the name of the village where he was born (Mahāvastu, III, p. 56; Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 88); it was located a half-yojana from Rājagṛha. The reading Kolika is found in the Fo pen hing tai king, T 190, k. 47, p. 874a5; and the Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 9, p. 924b17; Lin yuan “Forest garden” in the Ken pen chouo… tch’ou kia che, T 1444, k. 1, p. 1023c18.


If this story is correct, it proves that the practice of suttee, the widow offering her life in the flames of the funeral pyre consuming the corpse of her husband, was current in Suvarṇadvīpa at the time of the Buddha. This is of interest because, in all the Vedic literature and even in the sūtras, this cruel practice is rarely mentioned, and the epics of the Rāmayāna and the Mahābhārata mention it only exceptionally (cf. J. Jolly, Recht und Sitte, p. 67–69). The oldest and most important evidence is that of the classical writers: Aristotle, contemporary of Alexander the Great, cited by Strabo, XV, 1, 63; Cicero, De nat. deorum, V, 77–78; Valerius Maximus, II, 6, 14.

Also see the appendix on the location of Suvarṇabhūmi or Suvarṇadvīpa.


This covenant between the two friends is also noted in the other sources: cf. Vinaya, I, p. 39: yo paṭhamaṃ amataṃ adhigaccchati so ārocetu; Mahāvastu, III, p. 59: yo maṃ prathamataraṃ svākhyātaṃ dharmavinayaṇ … tena aparasya ākhyātavyaṃ.