Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the exertion of the jackal” 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 exertion of the jackal

A jackal (sṛgāla) was living in a forest with the lions (siṃha) and tigers (vyāghra), looking for the prey left by these animals. Once when he was hungry and tired, in the middle of the night he jumped over the ramparts of the city and entered into a house. Not finding the meat he was looking for, he went to sleep in a hiding-place (rahasisthāna) and did not awaken until night had passed. Frightened and bewildered, he did not know what to do: to leave was to risk not being able to escape; to stay was to condemn [163a] himself to death. Finally he resolved to die and he lay down on the ground.

Some passers-by saw him; one of them said that he needed a jackal’s ear (karṇa) and cut off his ear; the jackal said to himself:

“Cutting off an ear is painful, but I am happy to save my life.”

Another man said that he needed a jackal’s tail (puccha), cut off his tail and went away; the jackal said to himself:

“Painful as it is to have my tail cut off, that is only a small thing.”

Finally, a third passer-by said that he needed a jackal’s tooth (danta); but the jackal said to himself:

“The enthusiasts are too many; if they want to take my head, my life is over.”

Immediately he got up and using the power of his wisdom, he jumped across an irrigation ditch and was able to save himself.

It is the same for the ascetic who wants to escape from suffering: when old age (jarā) comes, he tries to reassure himself; he does not become saddened and applies exertion; also in the case of sickness (vyādhi), as long as there is hope, he does not worry; when death (maraṇa) comes and he knows there is no more hope, he exerts himself and, arming himself with courage and zeal, he redoubles his energy; from the sphere of death, he will finally reach nirvāṇa.