Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “better to die than to kill” 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 8 - Better to die than to kill

Question. – The taste for murder is easily eliminated in those who do not harm themselves [by not killing]; but if, [in order to avoid murder], one must expose oneself to torture (viheṭhana), violence (bādhana) and insults (abhibhavana), what should one do?

Answer. – One should estimate the relative importance [of the solutions with which one is faced]. Before sacrificing oneself, the person will pay attention (manasikṛ-) to the benefits of safeguarding morality or safeguarding one’s life, to the drawbacks (hāni) of violating morality or losing one’s life. Having [156a] reflected in this way, he will know that it is more important to safeguard morality than to save one’s life. If one is in a hurry to save one’s body, what advantage will one have? This body is a reservoir of old age (jarā), sickness (vyādhi) and death (maraṇa) and must necessarily perish. But if one sacrifices one’s body to preserve morality, the benefit [that one will derive from it] will be very great.  

Pursuing these thoughts (manasikāra), one thinks: “Before as after, I have sacrificed my life for innumerable existences, in the form of a brigand (caura) or an animal (tiryagyoni), following only the evil goal of enriching myself. Today, having succeeded in keeping pure morality (pariśuddhaśīla), I will not spare my body. I will renounce my life in order to keep morality. [By acting thus], I will surpass a hundred times, a thousand times, ten thousand times, those who violate their vows (vrata) in order to save their lives.” It is necessary to sacrifice one’s life thus resolutely to keep pure morality.

[The suicide of the Caṇḍala].