Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of kokalika’s mendacious accusations” 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 Kokālika’s mendacious accusations

This is how Kiu k’ie li (Kokālika), the disciple of T’i p’o t to (Devadatta), looked for the faults (ādīnava) of Chö li fou (Śāriputra) and Mou k’ien lien (Maudgalyāyana).

1. Kokālika proclaims the misconduct of the two disciples everywhere.

(see notes on first part)

One day, when the summer retreat (varśa) was over, these two men were traveling through the land[1] and were caught in a great rainstorm. Having come to the house of a potter (kumbhakāra),[2] they spent the night there. In this house, there already was a woman[3] who spent the nights there secretly, but the two disciples did not see her. During the night, this woman had a dream (svapna) and had an emission.[4] The next morning, she went to the water to bathe. Kokālika, who was there by chance, saw her. Kokālika knew how to distinguish traces of sexual emotions but without knowing exactly whether they had taken place in dream or not. Immediately he affirmed to his disciples that this woman had had sexual relations with a man the preceding night. He asked the woman: “Where did you sleep?” She replied: “I stay temporarily at the house of the potter.” He asked with whom, and she answered: “With two bhikṣus.” At that moment, the two disciples came out of the hut. Kokālika saw them, looked them over and declared that these two men were definitely impure. First, he felt jealous (īrṣya); then he went everywhere, in the cities and the villages, proclaiming what he had seen. He went up to the Ganges divulging this slander.

2. Intervention of the god Brahmā

(see notes on second part)

In the meantime, Fan T’ien wang (Brahmā devarāja) came to see the Buddha. But the Buddha had gone into his silent cell to practice meditation in solitude;[5] all the bhikṣus also had closed the doors to their cells and were practicing meditation; there was no way to rouse them. Brahmā then thought: “I have come to see the Buddha but he is in meditative stabilization (samādhi); I shall go away.” Thinking again, he said to himself: “The Buddha will come out of concetration soon; I will wait for him here.” He went to the cell of Kokālika, knocked on the door and said: “Kokālika! Hey, Kokālika! Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana have pure, sweet and gentle minds (viśuddhamṛdutaruṇacitta). Do not say anything bad against them for, during the Long Night (dīrgharātra) you will suffer.” – Kokālita asked him: “Who are you?” – He answered: “I am Brahmā devarāja.” – Kokālita said: “The Buddha said that you had attained the state of non-returner (anāgāmin). Why then have you returned here?” – King Brahmā thought and spoke the following stanza:

To want to measure the immeasurable Dharma,
When one is unable to grasp its nature (nimittagrahaṇa)!
The person who wants to measure the immeasurbale Dharma
Is only a stupid layman.

Having spoken this stanza, Brahmā went to the Buddha and [157c] told him what had happened. The Buddha said: “Good! Very good! You have spoken well.” And the Buddha repeated the stanza:[6]

To want to measure the immeasurable Dharma
When one is unable to grasp its nature!
The person who wants to measure the immeasurable Dharma
Is only a stupid layman.

Brahmā devarāja, after hearing the words of the Buddha, disappeared suddenly and returned to the heavens.

3. The obstinacy of Kokālika, his death and fall into hell.

(see notes on third part)

Then Kokālika went to the Buddha and, having bowed his head to the Buddha’s feet, he stood to one side (bhagavataḥ pādau śirasā vanditvaikānte ’sthāt). The Buddha said to Kokālika: “Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana have pure sweet and gentle minds (viṣuddhamṛdutaruṇacitta). Say nothing bad about them for, during the Long Night (dīrgharātra) you will suffer.” – Kokālika said to the Buddha: “I dare not disbelieve the Buddha’s word (buddhavacana); however, I know what I saw with my own eyes; I know perfectly well that these two men actually committed the sin.” Three times the Buddha reprimanded Kokālika in this way, and three times Kokālika did not believe him. Rising up from his seat (utthāyāsanāt), he went away.

When he went back to his cell, pustules (piḍakā) appeared on his body: the size of a grain of mustard seed (sarṣapa) at first, they grew bigger and bigger to the size of a bean (mudga), a jujube (kola), a mango (āmalaka). When they were as large as a bilva fruit, they exploded all together (prabhid-) like a blazing mass. With tears and cries, Kokālika died that very night and went to the Lien houa ti yu (Padmaniraya) hell.

During the night, a Brahmādeva went to the Buddha to say: “Kokālika has died.” Another Brahmādeva said: “He has fallen into the great Padmaniraya.”

When the night had passed, the Buddha asked the community (saṃgha) to assemble and said: “Do you want to know how long is the life (āyuḥpramāna) in the hell (niraya) where Kokālika has fallen?” – The bhikṣus answered: “We would joyfully learn it.” The Buddha answered: “If there were sixty measures (droṇa) of sesame seeds and a man came every hundred years and removed one sesame seed (tīla), these measures would be exhausted before the stay in the A feou t’o (Arbuda) hell would be ended. – Twenty stays in the Arbuda equal one stay in the Ni lo feou t’o (Nirarbuda) hell. – Twenty stays in the Nirarbuda hell equals one stay in the A lo lo (Aṭaṭa) hell. – Twenty stays in the Aṭaṭa hell equals one stay in the A p’o p’o (Hahava) hell. – Twenty stays in the Hahava hell equals one stay in the Hieou hieou (Huhuva) hell. –Twenty stays in the Huhuva hell equals one stay in the Ngeou po lo (Utpala) hell. – Twenty stays in the Utpala hell equal one stay in the Fen t’o li kia (Puṇḍarīka) hell. – Twenty stays in the Puṇḍarīka hell equals one stay in the Mo ho po t’eou mo (Mahāpadma) hell. Kokālika has fallen into the Mahāpadma hell.[7]

His great tongue (mahājihvā) has been stretched out and nailed [to the ground] with a hundred spikes; five hundred plows are plowing it.[8] Then the Buddha spoke these stanzas:

At man’s birth [158a]
An axe is put into his mouth
With which he cuts himself
When he speaks wrong words.[9]

When he praises that which deserves blame
When he blames that which deserves praise,
He accumulates sins by way of his mouth
And will never see happiness.[10]

If he is reborn in the Arbuda,
For thirty-six
And five more existences
He will undergo the poison of sufferings.[11]

With his mind fixed in wrong views
He struggles against the words of the saints.
Like a bamboo breaking up its own shape
As soon as it produces its fruit.

Note: The story of Kokālika has a sequel, told by the Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 12, p. 603b19 seq. in these words:

Then Maudgalyāyana said to the Bhagavat: “I would like to go to this hell to convert this man.”

The Bhagavat answered: “Maudgalyāyana, one should not go there.”

Again Maudgalyāyana said to the Bhagavat: “I would like to go to this hell to convert this man.”

Then the Bhagavat remained silent and did not oppose him. At once the venerable Maudgalyāyana, as quickly as a strong man bends his arm (seyyathāpi nāma balavā puriso bāhaṃ pasmareyya), left Śrāvastī and came to the great Padmaniraya. At that time, the bikṣu Kokālika was being burned and a hundred oxen were plowing his tongue.

Seated in the air with crossed legs (paryaṇka ābhujya), Maudgalyāyana snapped his fingers to speak to the bhikṣu who looked at him and said: “Who are you?”

Maudgalyāyana answered:

“Kokālika, I am a disciple of the buddha Śākyamuni; I am called Maudgalyāyana, of the Kolita family.”

Immediately, the bhikṣu, looking at Maudgalyāyana, spat this insult at him:

“Now that I have fallen into this bad destiny, at least could I not avoid your presence?”

Hardly had he said these words when a thousand oxen were working on his tongue. Seeing this, Maudgalyāyana became even more sorrowful and felt remorse. He disappeared and returned to Śrāvastī to the Bhagavat; having bowed his head down to he Buddha’s feet, he stood to one side.

Then Maudgalyāyana told this story to the Bhagavat who said to him:

“I told you that you should not go to see that wicked man.”

If by consciously (saṃcintya) nourishing defamatory suspicions in this way, one ends up by persuading oneself (niścaya), it is just the same as a lie. And the liar ends up by not trusting the words of the Buddha (buddhavacana); he will suffer the punishments we have spoken of. This is why one should not lie.

Notes on the main story of Kokālika:

For this Kokālika (in Pāli, Kokāliya) see above, Traité, I, p. 62F.

– According to Buddhaghosa (Suttanipāta Comm., II, p. 473: Sārattha, I, p. 216), this is Kokāliya-the-lesser, son of Kokāli-seṭṭhi and a resident of the monastery of Kokāli; he is different from Kokāliya-the-great, a brāhmin by origin and a disciple of Devadatta. The Chinese sources do not recognize this distinction, since they know only one Kokālika whom they make out to be the disciple of Devadatta.

In the following story, faithful to a process of compilation dear to itself (cf. Traité, I, p. 457F, n. 3), the Mppś has brought together several sūtras and avadānas about Kokālika, so as to present a complete story. I [Lamotte] have distinguished three parts to this story and have given distinct references for each of them.

Notes on the first part:

This first part, except for a few details, is found almost word for word in Tsa pao tsang king, T 203, no. 28, k. 3, p. 461a–b (summarized in Chavannes, Contes, III, p. 25); Tch’ou yao king, T 212, k. 10, p. 664b–665b; Pi nai ye, T 1464, k. 4, p. 868b–c.

On the other hand, it does not seem to be known to the Pāli sources (Jātaka, IV, p. 242 seq.; Dhammapadaṭṭha, IV, p. 91 seq.) which explains the origin of the conflict between Kokālika and the two holy disciples differently: Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana, in search of rest, had come to spend the rainy season with Kokālika who had promised not to reveal their presence to anyone. After the rains, when the elders were about to return, Kokālika at once informed the inhabitants and reproached them for their lack of hospitality. The citizens loaded the saints down with all kinds of gifts but the latter were not accepted, and Kokālika, who was hoping to receive some gift, was disappointed. The elders promised the inhabitants to visit them again, and when they departed, were accompanied by a great following of monks to whom the inhabitants paid great respect. The gifts were distributed among the monks and Kokālika did not get anything. He became insolent and the two great disciples left the place. The angry populace asked Kokālika to bring them back immediately or to go away himself. But the elders refused to come back and Kokālika, very annoyed, went to Śrāvastī to the Buddha where, notwithstanding the Buddha’s remonstrances, he began to speak ill of the two disciples (cf. Malalasekera, I, p. 674)

Notes on the second part:

The elements of the second portion are found in three small sūtras of Saṃyutta, I, p. 148–149 (Kokālika, Tissako and Tudubrahmā), the extreme disorder of which reveals the activity of awkward diascevasts. In the Chinese Saṃyukta, these three small sūtras are joined into one single story in which the lucidus ordo leaves nothing to be desired: cf. Tsa a han, T 99, no. 1193, k. 44, p. 323b–c; Pie tsa a han, T 100, no. 106, k. 5, p. 411b–c.

Notes on the third part:

This third part reproduces textually the Kokālikasutta of the Saṃyutta, I, p. 149–153 (tr. Rh, D., Kindred Sayings, I, p. 188–191; Geiger, I, p. 234–239); Aṅguttara, V, p. 170–174 (tr. Woodward, Gradual Sayings, V, p. 113–116); Suttanipāta, III, 10 (tr. Chalmers, p. 156–163; Hare, Woven Cadences, p. 97–102); Pāli Jātaka, IV, p. 242 seq.; Tsa a han, T 99, no. 1278, k. 48, p. 351b–352a; T 100, no. 276, k. 14, p. 470a–b; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 12, p. 603b–c.

Footnotes and references:


Rājagṛha and its environs (T 212 and T 1464).


An isolated and inhabited house: the potter’s kiln (T 203), a stone hut (T 1464) or a temple (chen sseu, or chen miao = caitya) in T 212.


A cowherd (gopālī) according to T 203, 212 and 1464.


T 212, p. 664b6, [in Latin] “emisit semen super terram”, mirum sane in femine, sed omnino consentaneum antiquis traditionibus buddhicorum. Etenim prohibitio emissionis seminalis (lingua sanscrita, śuraviṛṣṭi; lingua sinica, che tsing: 37 and 2; 119 and 8) a primo saṃghāvaṣeṣadharma, quae continetur in regula religiosorum (bhikṣuprātomokṣa), reassumitur a regula religiorum (bhikṣuṇīprātimokṣa) in CLXXV pātayantikadharma juxta recensionem Sarvāstivādinorum: cf. Che song liu, T 1435, k. 47, p. 344b27–28: Yā punar bhikṣuṇī saṃcintya śukraṃ visarjayet svapnāntarāt pātayantikā: “Si qua religiosa voluntarie semen emiseit, aliter ac in somno, erit pātayantikā.”


Cf. Saṃyutta, I, p. 148: tena kho pana samayena Bhagavā divāvihāragato hoti paṭisallīno.


Cf. Saṃyutta, I, p. 148, 149:

Appameyyaṃ paminanto
ko dha vikappaye.
appameyyaṃ pamāyinaṃ
nibutaṃ maññe akissavan ti.


These are the cold hells (śītaniraya). The Pāli sources (Saṃyutta, I, p. 152; Aṇguttara, V, p. 173; Suttanipāta, III, 10) list ten whereas the Mppś and the other Chinese sources (T 99, p. 351c; T 100, p. 470b) list only eight. Thus they reveal their affinity with the Sanskrit Sarvāstivādin school which knows only eight cold hells: cf. Divya, p. 67; Avadānaśatka, I, p. 4, l. 9; Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 172, p. 266a; Kośa, III, p. 154; Dharmasaṃgraha, ch. 122; Mahāvyutpatti, no. 4929–4936. – On the other hand, the cosmography o the Chinese Dīrghāgama (T 1, k. 19, p. 125c; T 23, k. 2, p. 286c; T 24, k. 4, p. 329a) knows ten cold hells, like the Pāli sources; this is easily explained because the Dīrghāgama belongs to the Dharmagupta school (cf. Watanabe in Hoernle, Remains, p. 18; Bagchi, Le canon bouddhique, I, p. 202–203; Przyluski, Concile, p. 354, seq.; F. Weller, Die Überlieferung des älteren buddhistischen Schrifttums, Asia Major, 1928, p. 180). According to corroborating accounts, (Dīpavaṃsa, V, v. 45, 47; Mahāvaṃsa, V, v. 6, 8; Kathāv. Comm., p. 3; Vasumitra, p. 16; Paramārtha, in P. Demiéville, L’origine des sectes, MCB, I, 1931, p. 23, 59–62; Bhavya in Walleser, Sekten, p. 81, Yi tsing, tr. Takakusu, p. 20), the Dharmaguptas descend in direct line, by the intermediary of the Mahīśāsaka, from the early Buddhism of the Sthaviras whose Pāli scriptures are supposed to represent the authentic traditions. The similarities between the Pāli scriptures and those of the Dharmagupta are thus naturally explained; this has already been noted for the Vinaya (cf. E. Waldschmidt, Bruchstücke des Bhikṣuṇī-Pratimokṣa des Sarvāstivādins, LLL1926, p. 187; Przysluski, Concile, p. 314–315.


Cf. T 125, k. 12, p. 603b25: “A hundred oxen were plowing his tongue”; and Suttanipāta, v. 673b–c: jihvaṃ balisena ahetvā, ārajayārajayā vihananti.


Saṃyutta,I, p. 149, 152; Aṅguttara, V, p. 171, 174; Suttanipāta, v. 657; Nettipakaraṇa, p. 132:

Purisassa hi jātassa
kuṭhārī jmayate mukhe,
yāya chindati attānaṃ
bālo dubbhāsitaṃ bhaṇaṃ.


Saṃyutta,I, p. 149, 152; Aṅguttara, II, p. 3; V, p. 171, 174; Suttanipāta, v. 658; Nettip., p. 139.

Yo nindiyaṃ pasaṃsati,
taṃ vā nindati yo pasaṃsiyo,
vicināti mukhena so kaliṃ,
kalinā tena sukhaṃ na vindati.


Saṃyutta, I, p. 149, 152; Aṅguttara, II, p. 3; V, p. 171, 174; Suttanipāta, v. 660; Nettip. P. 132.

Sataṃ sahassānaṃ Nirabbudānaṃ,
chattiṃsa ca pañca ca Abbudaṇi,
yaṃ ariya nirayaṃ upeti
vācaṃ manañ ca paṇidhāya pāpakam.

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