Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “jataka of the the vase of miracles” 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.

Jātaka of the the vase of miracles

Thus, there was a man who constantly made offerings (pūjā) to a god; this man was poor (daridra); having made offerings wholeheartedly for twelve years, he asked for wealth and power.

The deva took compassion on him and, taking a visible form, came to ask him: “What do you want?”

The man answered: “I want wealth and power. I would like to get everything my mind desires.”

The deva gave him a vase (bhājana) called the Vase of miracles (bhadraghaṭa), saying: “The things that you need will come from this vase.”

Then the man was able to obtain, as he fancied, everything he wished for; when his desires were realized, he made a fine house, elephants, horses and chariots appear; the seven jewels (saptaratna) were given to him in abundance; he entertained gusts (atithi) without lacking anything.

His guests asked him: “Formerly you were poor; how does it happen that today you have such riches?”

He answered: “I have a heavenly vase; this vase can produce all sorts of things and that is how I am rich now.”

His guests continued: “Bring us this vase and show us how it produces things.”

He brought the vase and made it produce all kinds of things; in a fit of pride (abhimāna), this man danced on the upper part of the vase; the vase broke and everything [it had produced] disappeared in an instant.[1]

It is the same for the moral man: he has at his disposal marvelous pleasures and there is no wish (praṇidhi) that he does not realize; but if he violates the precepts, his pride puffs up, he becomes licentious and is like the man who broke his vase and lost all his treasures.

Notes on this Jātaka:

The Vase of miracles (bhadraghaṭa), also called the vase of abundance (pūrṇaghaṭa) is a theme of universal and Indian folklore. Like the Tree of desire and the Philosopher’s stone (see above, p. 758F), it is supposed to fulfill all the desires of its possessor: the Pāli Jātaka, II, p. 432, defines it as sabbakāmadada kumbha. As a result of their wondrous effects, certain doctrines or certain practices are compared to the Vase of miracles; this is the case mainly of bodhicitta (Gaṇḍavyūha, T 279, k. 78, p. 430a, cited in Śikṣāsamuccaya, p. 6; Pañjika,p. 23), the worship of the four great disciples, Mahākātyānana, etc. (T 1796, k. 8, p. 665a) and the Dharma of the Three Vehicles (T 411, k. 5, p. 748b;); cf. Hôbôgirin, p. 267.

The Vase of abundance is used in cult ceremonies (Atharvaveda, III, 12, 8), feasts and consecrations (ibid., XIX, 53, 3); the Jains place it among the eight amulets (aṣṭamaṅgala); the Buddhists use it to enhance their feasts and decorate their houses (Jātaka, I, p. 62; Dīpavaṃsa, VI, v. 65; Sumaṅgala, I, p. 140). The Vase of abundance has thus become one of the main decorative motifs of Buddhist and Indian art. Its form is essentially that “of a flower vase combining an inexhaustible spring of water with an eternal vegetation or with the tree of life”; it occurs on almost all the Buddhist monuments at Sanchi, Mathurā, Amarāvatī, Sarnāth, Anurādhapura, Deodarh, Borobudur, etc. (cf. A, Coomaraswamy, Yakṣas, II, 1931, p. 61–64, and pl. 28–33; Vogel, Mathurā, p. 28, and pl. 7a and b). The vase with the lotus or with spouting water is represented from the earliest times in all eastern art and later in western art (cf. Combaz, Inde et Orient, I, p. 174–177; II, pl. 119–122).

The Vase of miracles also occurs in fables (cf. Kathāsāritsāgara, Tawney, II, 2). The apologue related here by the Mppś has as its theme: “The vase of miracles broken by the frivolousness of its owner.” It is found, told in similar words and detail in Tchong king siuan tsa p’i yu, T 202, no. 4, k. 1, p. 532a–b (tr. Chavannes, Contes, II, p. 74–76). The Bhadraghaṭajātaka, no. 291 of the Pāli collection (II, p. 431–432), is a variation on the same theme: In one of his previous existences, the Bodhisattva was a rich merchant, father of a single son. After his death, because of his merits he was reborn in the form of Śakra, king of the gods. His son who was still alive spent all of his fortune and so Śakra gave him the gift of a miraculous vase, warning him to take care of it. But one day, in a fit of drunkenness, the son amused himself by throwing the vase up and catching it; the vase fell out of his hands and broke.

Another theme is that of the “Hidden Vase”, which is found in a tale of the King liu yi siang, T 2121, k. 44, p. 232c–233a (tr. Chavannes, Contes, III, p. 256–257). A man receives as a gift from a monk a miraculous vase that gives him everything he wishes. A king takes it away by force. The monk gives the man another vase that spouts forth stones and weapons that kill all the king’s men. The iniquitous king is forced to restore the vase to its lawful owner.

Footnotes and references:


In the Tchong king siuan tsa p’i yu (l.c.) the man began to dance with the vase and dropped it; in the Pāli Jātaka, he threw it up in the air and finally let it fall.