Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “legend of shariputra and his teacher 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.

Appendix 1 - The legend of Śāriputra and his teacher Sañjaya

Note: this appendix appears before the story of “Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana at Sañjaya” in chapter XVI part 2.

The conversion of Śāriputra (= Upatiṣya and Maudgalyāyana (= Kolita) is well-known in Buddhism; in search of the Immortal, the two friends began first at the school of Sañjaya who was not slow in making them his disciples; one day on the outskirts of Rājagṛha, Śāriputra met the bhikṣu Aśvajit (= Upasena) who taught him one stanza, the Buddhist credo: ye dharmā hetuprabhāvāḥ; converted to this new faith, Śāriputra went immediately to find his friend Maudgalyāyana and they both went to the Buddha who preached his Dharma to them and conferred ordination on them.

– This tale has been the object of a twofold tradition: In the old tradition, Sañjaya is presented in an unfavorable light, as an obstinate heretic; in the more recent tradition, to which the Mppś adheres, Sañjaya appears as a precursor of the Buddha.

I. Old Tradition.

Pāli sources: Vinaya, I, p. 39–44 (tr. Oldenberg, I, p. 144–151); Apadāna, I, p. 24–25; Jātaka, I, p. 85; Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 90–95 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, I, p. 199–202); Suttanipāta Comm. I, p. 326 seq.

Sanskrit sources: Mahāvastu, III, p. 59–65.

Chinese sources: Wen fen liu, T 1421, k. 16, p. 110b–c; Sseu fen liu, T 1428, k. 33, p. 798c–799b; P’ou yao king, T 186, k. 8, p. 533c; Ta tchouang yen king, T 187, k. 12, p. 613c; Yin kouo king, T 189, k. 4, p. 652a; Fo pen hing tai king, T 190, k. 48, p. 875a seq. (tr. Beal, Romantic Legend, p. 27–331); Fo so hing tsan, T 192, k. 4, p. 33b (tr. E. H. Johnston The Buddha’s Mission, Acta Orientalia, XV, 1937, p. 21–23); Fo pen hing king, T 193, k. 4, p. 81b; Tchong pen k’i king, T 196, k. 1, p. 153b; Ta tai king, T 397, k. 19, p. 129a; Si yu ki, T 2087, k. 9, p. 924c–925a (tr. Beal, II, p. 177–179).

According to various sources, Sañjaya, Śāriputra’s and Maudgalyāyana’s preceptor, is none other than Sañjayī Vairaṭīputra (Mahāvastu, III, p. 59, l. 9), Sañjaya Belaṭṭhiputta in Pāli, one of the six well-known heretic masters. The agnostic doctrines which he professed (cf. Dīgha, I, p. 58) connect him closely with the Amarāvikkhepika, crafty sophists who, in debate, ‘thrash about like eels’ (Dīgha, I, p. 27). Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana soon surpassed their teacher and the latter entrusted some of his disciples to them (Dhammpadaṭṭha, I, p. 90). Informed about the Buddha by Aśvajit, Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana decided to embrace the new faith and invited their former teacher to follow them; but Sañjaya tried to hold them back (Vin. I, p. 42; Mahāvastu, III, p. 63; Fo pen hing tsi king, T 190, k. 49, p. 877b), or at least refused to accompany them on the pretext that a teacher such as he could no longer learn from anyone else (Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 94). Finding himself abandoned by Śāriputra, Maudgalyāyana and five hundred other disciples, Sañjaya became sick: “hot blood spurted forth from his mouth” (uṇhaṃ lohitaṃ mukhato uggacchi: Vi., I, p. 42; Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 95). The Fo pen hing tsi king (T 190, k. 48, p. 877b) adds that this spitting of blood cost him his life; but according to the Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 95, he recovered and those of the disciples who had abandoned him returned. Subsequently, he engaged in debate with the Buddha (Dīvyāvadāna, p. 145).

II. More Recent tradition.

It is represented by several late texts, such as the Mppś (k. II, p. 136b–c; k. 40, p. 350a; k. 42, p. 368b), the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya (T 1444, k. 2, p. 1026a–c; Rockhill, Life, p. 44–45) and also perhaps the Tch’ou fen chouo king, T 498, k. 2, p. 768a–b. Sañjaya, the teacher of Ś. and M., has nothing in common with the heretic of the same name. He did not belong to the clan of the Vairāṭi, but to a wealthy family of the Kauṇḍinya (cf. T 1444, k. 2, p. 1026b); far from professing agnostic views, he prepared the paths for Buddhism by preaching the religious life, non-harming (ahiṃsā), celibacy (brahmacarya) and nirvāṇa. Gravely ill, Sañjaya is cared for with great devotion by Ś. and M.; in front of them, he maintains that he has found the Path, but he announces to them the birth of the Buddha at Kapilavastu, recommends that they join him and enter his order. Ś. and M. conduct a splendid funeral for Sañjaya for they suspect him of having discovered the Holy Dharma but of having held it back for himself. It is then that they take an oath to communicate to each other the secret of the Immortal as soon as they have discovered it. It is long after the death of Sañjaya that Ś. will meet Aśvajit, who introduced the two friends to the Buddha.

In summary, in this new tradition, Sañjaya appears as the Buddha’s precursor, and we may wonder if the theme of precursor, foreign to early Buddhist hagiography, was not introduced at Kapiśa-Gandhāra and in Kaśmir by the invasions of the Greco-Bactrians, Śaka-Pāhlava and Yue-tche, with other stories – miracles or parables – which were current at the beginning of our era among circles devoted to oriental gnosis. For this subject, see the significant writing of Foucher, Art gréco-bouddhique, II, p. 561–566.

Here is the translation of the passage of the Mūlasarv. Vin. relating to Sañjaya. It is similar in all details to the story of the Mppś.

Ken pen chouo… tch’ou kia che, T 1444, k. 2, p. 1026 a–c: At that time there was a teacher called Chan che yi (Sañjaya). Upatiṣya (= Śāriputra) and Kolita (= Maudgalyāyana) went to him and asked: “Where is the master resting?” They were told: “The master is in his room.” Hearing this, they had this thought: “We have been here for a long time; we have not heard that he is resting.” Then Kolita [and his companion] thought again: “This man is resting; we should not wake him suddenly; let us wait near his bed and then we will see him.” Having said that, they hid behind a screen. Then Sañjaya woke from his sleep and his senses were calmed (viprasanendriya). The two friends, seeing him, approached and said: “Sir, do you have the Dharma-eye (dharmacakṣus)? What doctrine do you profess? What are your benefits (viśeṣa)? What brāhmic conduct (brahmacarya) do you practice? What fruition (phala) have you received?” He answered: “This is what I see and this is what I say: Avoid falsehood (mṛṣāvāda); do no harm to beings (sattveṣv avihiṃsā); do not be born (anutpāda), do not die (amaraṇa), do not fall (apatana) and do not disappear (anirodha); be reborn among the two [classes] of Brahmādevas.” The two friends asked him the meaning of these words. He answered: “To avoid falsehood is the religious life (pravrajyā); to do no harm is the root (mūla) of all the dharmas; the place where there is neither birth nor death, neither falling nor disappearance, etc., is nirvāṇa; to be reborn among the two [classes] of Brahmās is the brāhmic conduct (brahmacarya) practiced by the brāhmins: all seek this place.” Having heard these words, the two friends said to him: “O Venerable One, we would like to embrace this religious life and practice brāhmic conduct.” They entered the religious life under him and at once the news spread everywhere that Kolita and [his friend] had entered into religion with Sañjaya.

One day, Sañjaya, who possessed great wealth (lābhā), had this thought: “I used to belong to the Kiao tchou (Kauṇḍinya) family and still today, as a member of this family, I have great wealth. I should not forget these two virtuous companions. That would not be good on my part.” Having thought thus, Sañjaya, who had five hundred disciples under his direction, gave them to the two friends; each of them received two hundred and fifty pupils and they agreed to teach them the doctrine.

Then Sañjaya became sick. Upatiṣya said to Kolita: “The master is sick. Would you go and look for medicines or do you want to care for him?” Kolita answered: “You have wisdom (prajñā); you should care for him; I will go to find medicines.” Kolita left to look for herbs, roots, stems, flowers, etc.; he gave them to his teacher who ate them. But the illness grew worse.

One day, the master laughed softly. Upatiṣya said to him: “Great men cannot laugh without reason; but our teacher has just laughed; what is the reason?” The master replied: “It is just as you said: I need to laugh. In Kin tcheou (Suvarṇadvīpa), there was a king called Kin tchou (Suvarṇapati); he died and was going to be cremated; his grieving widow threw herself into the fire. People are fools (mūḍha) and let themselves be led by desire (kāma). This sickness of desire (rāgavyādhi) causes them to suffer.” Upatiṣya asked him in what year, what month and what day this event had taken place. Sañjaya specified the year, the month, the day and the hour. The two friends took note of this revelation.

Again they asked their teacher: “We have left the world (pravrajita) in order to cut transmigration (saṃsāra) and the master has welcomed us. We would like him to tell us if he has succeeded in cutting saṃsāra.” Sañjaya answered: “When I left the world, it was for the same purpose as you; but I have obtained nothing. However, during the poṣada of the fifteenth, a group of devas in the sky (ākāśa) spoke the following prediction: In the family of the Che (Śākya), a young prince (kumāra) has been born. In the region of the Himālaya, there is a river called Fen lou (Bhāgīrathī); on the bank of this river there is the hermitage of the ṛṣi Kia pi lo (Kapila). Brāhmins expert in divine signs and omens have predicted that the young prince would become a cakravartin king, but, if he leaves the world, he will become a Tathāgata, arhat, samyaksaṃbuddha renowned for his ten powers. You should enter into the religious life in his order and practice brahmacarya there. Do not rely on the nobility of your family; practice brahmacarya; tame your senses. With him you will find the marvelous fruition and escape saṃsāra.” Following this preamble, the teacher spoke this gāthā (cf. Sanskrit Udānavarga, I, 22, ed. Chakravarti, p. 4; Nettip. P. 146; Mahāvastu, III, p. 152, 153; Divya, p. 27, 100, 486; JA, Jan-Mar. 1932, p. 29):
Sarve kṣayāntā nicayāḥ patanātāḥ samucchrayāḥ,
saṃyogā viprayogātā maraṇāntaṃ hi jīvitam

“All that is compounded ends up in destruction; all elevations end up in falling; all unions end up in separation; life ends up in death.”

Shortly afterward, the teacher died and his disciples, having wrapped him with blue (nīla), yellow (pīta), red (lohita) and white (avadāta) wrappings, carried him into the forest where they proceeded to cremate him.

One day, a brāhmin from Suvarṇadvīpa named Kin fa (Suvarṇakeśa) came to Rājagṛha and met Upatiṣya. The latter asked him where he came from and he responded that he came from Suvarṇadvīpa. “Have you seen something wonderful there?” asked Upatiṣya. The brāhmin answered: “Nothing but this: when king Suvarṇadvīpa died and was cremated, his mourning widow followed him to the pyre.” Upatiṣya asked in what year, what month and what day [that had happened], and the brāhmin replied: “It was such and such a year, such and such a month and such and such a day.” Upatiṣya then examined the secret [which Saṇjaya had told him]: the words of the master were verified.

Then Kolita said to Upatiṣya: “Our teacher had discovered the Holy Dharma but he held it secret and did not reveal it to us. If the teacher had not realized the divine eye (divyacakṣus) and the divine ear (divyaśrota), he at least knew what was happening in foreign regions.” Kolita then said to himself: “Upatiṣya is intelligent (medhāvin) and wise (prajñāvat). He will have found the Holy Dharma with our teacher, but he has not communicated it to me.” Having had this thought, he said: “Let us take an oath that the first [of us] who finds the Holy Dharma will communicate it to the other.” Having taken this oath, they left together. At that time, the Bodhisattva was twenty-nine years old…