Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “punishments for prohibited sexual activity” 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 2 - Punishments for prohibited sexual activity

[This sin] involves serious punishments: bad reputation, bad name, people’s hatred, few pleasures and many fears; one is afraid of being chastised and insulted. Since one is afraid of being discovered by the husband or the companions, one multiplies the lies (mṛṣāvāda). Blamed by the āryas, [prohibited sexual activity] is the sin of sins.

The libertine should say to himself: “My wife and the wife of another are equally women; there is no difference in body and in passions between the one and the other. Under these conditions, why should I have violent and anxious thoughts? The man who follows bad thoughts and profligacy destroys the happiness of the present existence (ihajanman) and future existences (aparajanman).” – [Note: Good name, good reputation, physical and mental well-being are obtained in the present lifetime; rebirth among the gods, acquisition of the Path and nirvāṇa are obtained in future lifetimes.] – Moreover, putting oneself in another’s place, the libertine controls his mind; he says to himself: “If that man [157a] took my wife, I would be angry; if I take his wife, why would he be any different from me? I shall master myself as I would like others to master themselves in what concerns me; this is why I will not commit [adultery].”

Moreover, as the Buddha said, the libertine will fall into Kien chou ti yu (Asipattraniraya)[1] where massive sufferings are prepared to welcome him. If he is reborn among men, the hall-ways of his home are disordered; dissolute women and people of damaged reputation are always encountered there. Illicit sexual relations are a calamity (upadrava) like a poisonous snake (āsīviṣa) or a great fire (mahāgni); if it is not quickly avoided, misfortune and suffering will ensue.

According to the Buddha, there are ten punishments for illicit sexual relations:[2]
1)     The deceived husband seeks revenge.
2)     The libertine has a badly kept wife who always quarrels (vivāda) with him.
3) The bad dharmas (akuśaladharma) increase from day to day and the good dharmas (kuśaladharma) diminish from day to day.
4)     He is unable to defend his life; his wife (bhāryā) and children (putra) are left alone.
5)     His wealth (dhana) is spent in one day.
6)     His business goes badly; he is always suspected by people.
7)     He is not loved by his relatives (jñāti), his neighbors (parivāra) and his friends (mitra).
8)     He plants the karmic causes and conditions (karmahetupratyaya) that produce disrupted homes.
9)     At the destruction of the body (kāyasya bheda) at the end of his life (jīvitaparyavasāna), he dies and falls into hell (niraya).
10)   If he is reborn as a woman, many men share her; if he is reborn as a man, his wife will be unchaste.

These are the various reasons for not committing [this sin]. And this is what is meant by renunciation of illicit sexual practices (kāmamithyācāravirati).

Footnotes and references:


Cf. Suttanipāta, v. 673:
Asipattavanaṃ pana tiṇhaṃ
taṃ pavisanti samacchidagattā;
jivhaṃ baḷisena gahetvā
ārajayātajayā vihananti.

“Next they go into the cutting forest the leaves of which are swords and their limbs are cut off. [The guardians] seize their tongue with a hook and rain blows upon it.”

In their dictionary, Rhys Davids-Stede present Asipatta as “a late feature in the descriptions of ‘Purgatory’ in Indian speculative theology.” Actually this hell is an integral part of the early Indian cosmography, whether Brāhmanical, Buddhist or Jain (cf. Kirfel, Kosmographie, p. 148, 151, 152, 156–158, 162, 165, 167–172 for Brāhmanism; p. 200, 204, for Buddhism; p. 326 for Jainism). As far as Buddhism is concerned, Asipattavana is mentioned in sources as early as the Suttanipāta, v. 673, and the Devadūtasutta (Majjhima, III, p. 185; Tchong ha han, T 26, no. 64, k. 12, p. 505b10; Teng yi a han, T 125, k. 24, p. 676a9). According to the latter sūtra, the great hell (mahāniraya) has four gates that each open onto four secondary hells: Gūthaniraya, Kukkulaniraya, Sumbalivana and Asipattavana. The latter is defined: Tassa vāteritāni pattāni hatthaṃ pi chindadanti pādaṃ pi chindanti hatthapādaṃ pi chindanti kaṇṇaṃ pi chindanti nāsaṃ pi chindanti kaṇṇanāsaṃ. So tattha dukkhā tippā kaṭukā vedanā vedati na ca tāva kālaṃ yāva na taṃ pāpaṃ kammaṃ byantihoti: “The leaves of this forest, agitated by the wind, cut the hands, feet, ears, nose and nostrils. The tortured criminal experiences painful feelings, sharp and bitter, but he does not die before having expiated his sin.” – In later cosmography, the Asipattavan is part of the sixteen utsāda situated, four by four, at the cardinal directions of the eight hells: cf. Kośa, III, p. 150–151; Przyluski, Aśoka, p. 132–136; below, k.16, p. 176c–177a.


Nandikasutta, in Feer, Extraits, p. 245–246; T 81, p. 899b19–23.

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