Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the trick of the self-interested disciples” 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 trick of the self-interested disciples

There was a very virtuous venerable disciple. The people who claimed he was an arhat brought him masses of offerings. Later, he became sick and died. Fearing to lose the offerings [that were brought to him], his disciples took away his body during the night and arranged the coverings and pillows on his bed so that one would have said that the teacher was there lying on his bed.

To those who came to ask about the condition of the sick man, the disciples said:

“Don’t you see his bed-clothes and pillows on the bed?”

Without looking into the matter, the foolish people thought the teacher was sick and in bed, and went away after having made their offerings. This happened several times. There was, however, an intelligent man who came to enquire about him; the disciples gave him the same answer.

But this intelligent man replied:

“I didn’t ask you about the bed-clothes and the pillows on the bed; I asked you about the man.”

Taking away the covers, he looked for his teacher, but there was no one there. [Here too], outside of the six objects, there is no ātman. Similarly, there is no individual who cognizes (jñānin) or who sees (darhin).