Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the suicide of the candala” 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.

Story of the suicide of the Caṇḍala

A certain srotāpanna had taken rebirth in an outcaste (caṇḍala) family. Time passed and he attained a man’s years. When he had to practice his family’s craft, he refused to kill living (prāṇa) beings.

His parents gave him a knife (śāstra) and closed him up in a room with a sheep (eḍaka), saying:

“If you do not kill this sheep, you will not be allowed to go out to see the light of day (read: je ming) and get food.”

The son thought and said to himself:

“If I kill this sheep, I would end up by practicing their trade. Even for my life, how could I commit such great crimes?”

Then he killed himself with the knife. When his parents opened the door to look in, the sheep was standing up in a corner of the room (ekāntena) and their son was dead. At the moment he died, he took rebirth among the gods. A person like that sacrifices his own life to safeguard pure morality, and this is the sense in which we speak of the morality of abstaining from murder.