Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “sutra on the origin of heaven and earth” 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.

Appendix 1 - The sūtra on the origin of heaven and earth

Note: this appendix is extract from Chapter XXII part II.1.2.4 (the origin of the six fasting days):

“The T’ien ti pen k’i king ‘Sūtra on Cosmogony’, says: During the first phase of the cosmic period (kalpa), there was a son of a Fan t’ien wang (Brahmādevarāja) who was father of the demons and who practiced the asceticism of the brahmacārin. For twelve heavenly years, he spent the six days in carving up meat, drawing blood and offering them to the fire (agni); this is why the evil demons had a sudden renewal of power (sthāma) during these six days.”

By T’ien ti pen k’i king “Sūtra on the origin of heaven and earth”: the Mppś means the Buddhist Cosmogony, the original Sanskrit of which is lost, but which is known by four Chinese versions, one connected to the Tch’ang a han, under the name of Che ki king (T 1, k. 18–22, p. 114–149), the others transmitted separately under the name of Ta leou t’an king (t 23), K’i che king (T 24), K’i che yin pen king (T 25). Although the legend told here does not occur there, it concerns demons and gods (cf. T 1, k. 20, p. 135a–b).

Neither the Dīghanikāyan or the Dīrghāgama of the Sarvāstivādins contain this Cosmogony. If it did have it, the Mppś, according to its custom, would be referring to the Dīrghāgama and not, as it does here, to the Sūtra on Cosmogony, for our author prefers to give the title of the general collection (āgama) rather than that of the sūtra in which it is incorporated. Thus, quoting a passage of the Āṭānāṭikasūtra twice, it refers its reader simply to the Dīrghāgama (see Traité, I, p. 300F, 544F).

On the other hand, this Cosmogony has been incorporated into the Chinese Dīrghāgama, or Tch’ang a han (T 1), but this work is not of Sarvāstivādin provenance, and everything points to its Dharmagupta origin (see above, p. 811F, n. 1).