Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “story of the joy of the merchants saved from shipwreck” 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 joy of the merchants saved from shipwreck

Some merchants (vaṇij-) who had gone to sea and gathered precious substances were about to set sail again when their ship was wrecked.

Their precious stones (maṇiratna) were lost; nevertheless they congratulated themselves and, raising their hands, they said:

“Happily have we sacrificed our treasures!”

The astonished crowd said to them:

“You have lost your riches (vitta) and, quite naked (nagna), have you found safety. Why do you rejoice saying: ‘Happily have we sacrificed our treasures!’ ”

They answered:

“Of all treasures, the life of a person is the foremost treasure. It is for life that people search for treasures, but they do not sacrifice their life for treasures.”

This is why the Buddha said that, of the ten bad paths of action, (daśākuśalakarmapatha), the sin of murder takes first place and, of the five precepts (śīla), that [which prohibits] murder also is in first place.[1]

The person who, in many ways, practices (bhāvayati) all the meritorious virtues but who does not have the morality of abstention, does not derive any benefit. [155c] Why? One can have wealth, nobility, rank, power and bravery; but without a long life (dīrghāyus), who could enjoy it? This is how we know that, of the sins (āpatti), the sin of murder is the most serious; of all the virtues (guṇa), abstention from murder is the foremost.

Footnotes and references:


The Buddha put murder at the top of the list of the ten akuśalakarmapatha (cf. Traité, I, p. 501F), and abstention from murder is the first obligation that he imposed on all his adepts, lay as well as monastic: prāṇātipātavirati is the first of the pañcaśīla and the daśaśīla.

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