Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “location of suvarnabhumi or suvarnadvipa” 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 2 - The location of Suvarṇabhūmi or Suvarṇadvīpa

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

The Mppś reproduces here almost word-for-word the story in the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya (see below, p. 626F as note); but, while Kumārajīva, translator of the Mppś, locates the fact in Kin ti, “Land of Gold” (Suvarṇabhūmi), Yi tsing, translator of the Mūlasarvāstivādin Vinaya, locates it in Kin tcheou “Golden Island” (Suvarṇadvīpa). As it is a matter of the same story, we must conclude – and this is suspected – that Suvarṇabhūmi is synonymous with Suvarṇadvīpa. We know exactly what Yi tsing means by Suvarṇadvīpa: in two passages of his Ta t’ang si yu k’ieou fa kao seng tchouan, T 2066, k. 2, p. 11c, lines 5 and 7, lines 5 and 11, he identifies it as the land of Fo che (cf. Chavannes, Religieux éminents, p. 181 and 182; p. 186 and 187).

But at the time of Yi tsing (635–713), the state of Fo che or Che li fo che (Śrīvijaya), as evidenced by the three inscriptions in old Malay dating from 683 to 685 and found at Palembang, Djambi and Bangka, “extended its domination over Palembang (Sumatra), Bangka and the hinterland of Djambi, conquered Malayou (Djambi) about the same time and in 775 left evidence of its domination over the west coast of the Malay peninsula (Ligur)” (G. Coedès, A propos d’une nouvelle théorie sur le site de Śrīvijaya, J. Mal. Br. R.A.S., XIV, 1936, pt. 3, p. 1–9; États hindouisés, p. 102–105).

It must be left to the historians to explain why the Mūlasarv. Vin. and the Mppś insist on establishing a connection between Sañjaya, the preceptor of Ś. and M., and Suvarnadvīpa. We may recall that Yi tsing mentions the presence of the Mūlasarvāstivāda, in the 7th and 8th centuries, in the kingdoms of Śrīkṣetra and Śrīvijaya (cf. Coedès, États hindouisés, p. 94, 105, 109), and that the name of Sañjaya was made famous in the 8th century by the founder of the Javanese dynasty in Matarām (Id., ibid., p. 109 seq.).

However that may be, the Hindu writers have left only a vague idea of the location of Suvarṇabhūmi (see R. C. Majumdar, Suvarṇadvīpa, Dacca, 1937; V. Rangacharya, The Suvarṇabhūmi and Suvarṇadvīpa, Aiyangar Comm. Vol., p. 462–482). Gavāmpati, one of the heroes of the first council (cf. Treatise, I, p. 98–99F), before settling permanently in the vimāna of the Śirīṣa, went to the pratyantajanapada or frontier countries, i.e., Suvarṇabhūmi, by the Buddha’s order (Ken pen chouo… tsa che, T 1451, k. 5, p. 228a), and to believe the Karmavibhaṅga, p, 62, which claims that, in the Land of Gold, the saint Gavāmpati converted the population for a hundred leagues (Āryagavāmpatinā Suvarṇabhūmyāṃ yojanaśataṃ janapado ‘bhiprasāditaḥ).

Actually, according to the Burmese tradition:

“King Thiri-Matauka had been informed that, after the death of Gaudama, a Rahan named Gambawatti (Gavāmpati) had brought thirty-two teeth of the Buddha and placed them in a dzedi (caitya) on Mount Ind-Danou north-west of Thatum (in Pāli, capital of Burma, between the mouths of the Sittang and the Salouen).” (Bigandet, Gaudama, p. 371).

Even today, Gavāmpati, under the name Gavompade, is one of the favorite saints of the Mons and the Talaing sof Burma (cf. Duroiselle, cited in Przyluski. Concile, p. 241).

– After the third council at Pāṭaliputra, Soṇa (the Prakrit word for gold) and Uttara went to Suvarṇabhūmi, rid the land of the piśacas and converted many people there (cf. Dīpavaṃsa, VIII, v. 12; Mahāvaṃsa, XII, v. 6, 44 seq.; Samantapāsādikā, I, p. 64.

– In the first century of our era, Pomponius Mela (III, 70, Pliny the Elder (VI, 55, 80); the Périple of the Érythrean Sea (§ 56, 60, 63) and Josephus (Ant. Jud., VIII, 6, 4) were only vaguely aware of the Chrysé Chersonesos. “Whereas the Périple (§ 60) places at Kamara (Khabari of Ptolemy = Kāvari-paṭṭinam at the mouth of the Kaveri), at Podouke (Pondichery) and Sôpatma, the three great ports, close to one another, from which the big ships called kolandia (kola in Buddhist Sanskrit texts) set sail for Chryse, Ptolemy (VII, 1, 5) locates further north, near Chicacole, the port of departure (aphterion) of travelers destined for the Golden Chersonesos. It is at Tāmralipti (Tamluk at the mouths of the Ganges) that the Chinese pilgrims, Fa hien at the beginning of the 5th century and Yi-tsing at the end of the 7th century embarked in the return voyages from India to China. Without a doubt, it is also at Tamralipti that, at the time of the compilation of the Jātakas, the merchants [Saṃkha and Mahā Janaka] left Benares or Campā, in the Ganges valley, took to sea destined for Suvarṇabhūmi, the land of gold (Jātaka, IV, p. 15; VI, p. 34). Finally it is certain that the great ports of the western coast: Bharakaccha (Greek Barygaza, modern Broach), Śūrpāraka (Souppara, Sopara) were connected with the Golden Chersonesos” G. Coedès, États hindouisées,p. 35).

This is the case notably for the musician Sagga in his search for the beautiful Sussondi, who embarked at Barukaccha destined for Suvaṇṇabhūmi (Jātaka, III, p. 188). The merchants of the Mahākarmavibhaṅga” went down to the great ocean, sailed for the Land of Gold and other countries, visited the Archipelago and made their fortunes (p. 51: mahāsamudram avatīrya Suvarṇabhūmiprabhṛtīni deśāntarāṇi gatvā dvīpāntarāṇi ca paśyanti dravyopārjanaṃ ca kurvanti); or also “They visited the Land of Gold, the island of Ceylon, and the rest of the Archipelago” (p. 53: Suvarṇabhūmiṃ Siṃhaladvīpaṃ ca prabhṛtīnī ca dvīpāntarāṇi paśyanti). But the voyage is dangerous: when the sailors have traveled “seven hundred leagues in seven days”, it is not rare that the ships take on water everywhere and sink in mid-ocean.