Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “destruction of the forests of dandaka, kalinga, mejjha and matanga” 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 - Destruction of the forests of Daṇḍaka, Kāliṅga, Mejjha and Mātaṅga

Note: this appendix is extracted from Chapter XXIV part 2.4:

“This is how a ṛṣi who possessed the five supernatural powers (abhijñā) destroyed a whole country in the manner of an outcaste (caṇḍala) simply out of hatred, even though he practiced pure asceticism (viśuddayoga)”.

Reference is made to this event in a passage in the Upālisutta of the Majjhima, I, p. 378, reproduced textually in Milinda, p. 130:

“Have you heard, O householder, how the forest of Daṇḍaka, the forest of Kāliṅga, the forest of Mejjha and the forest of Mātaṅga have been deserted and emptied of inhabitants? – I have heard, O venerable one, that it was be the mental misdeed of ṛṣis.”

The Sanskrit version of this passage occurs in a fragment of the Upālisūtra found by S. Lévi in Kathmandu and published in JA 1925, p. 29–30 which has a development missing in the Pāli:

“Have you heard, O householder, by whom the forests of Daṇḍaka, of Kaliṅga and Mātaṅga have been completely emptied leaving only the spaces in the forests?”

Thereupon Upāli, the householder, remained silent.

Later, Upāli replied:

“I have heard, O Gautama, that the cause was the mental anger of the ṛṣis.”

– The Chinese translation of the Tchong a han, T 26, no. 133, p. 630a, closely follows this version.

Another Sanskrit version of this passage occurs in a citation from the Viṃśikā, ed. Lévi, p. 10. For the Tibetan version, see L. de La Vallée Poussin, Viṃśakakārikāprakaraṇa, Muséon, 1912, p. 64; and for the Chinese versions, T 1588, p. 69c; T 1589, p. 73b; T 1590, p. 77a.

Of the three royal kingdoms mentioned here, at least two are well known: Kaliṅga is actually Orissa; Daṇḍaka covered the entire region of the Vindhya from the Vidarbha to the Kaliṅga (cf. B. C. Law, India as described in early texts of Buddhism and Jainism, 1941, p. 106) The Majjhārañña of the Pāli version may be a faulty reading of the Sanskrit version: araṇyi śunyāni medhyībhūtani. It should not be forgotten that the Pāli texts have been revised according to a Sanskrit norm (cf. J. Bloch, L’Indo-Aryen, 1934, p. 8).

S. Lévi, Pour l’histoire du Rāmāyaṇa, JA, Jan-Feb. 1918, p. 97, has looked into the story of the destruction of the Daṇḍakāraṇya in the Rāmāyaṇa, VII, 81B; the ṛṣi Uśanas, furious at the violence used by the king Daṇḍa against his daughter, pronounced a curse, and the land, flourishing as it had been, was changed into a wild forest.

– But the destruction of the Daṇḍaka is well known in the Buddhist tradition:

1) The Pāli texts (Jātaka, III,p. 463; V, p. 133 seq., 267; Papañca, III, p. 60–65) tells the following: Kisavaccha, disciple of Sarabhaṅga, in search of solitude, was established in King Daṇḍaki’s park, near the city of Kumbhavatī in Kaliṅga. One day when King Daṇḍaki was leaving to suppress a revolt, he thought he could make himself lucky by spitting on Kisavaccha and throwing his tooth-pick at him. The gods were indignant, killed the king and destroyed the whole country. Only three people escaped death: the ṛṣi Kisavaccha, the leader of the army who had become his disciple, and a certain Rāma, originally from Benares, who was spared as a result of his filial piety. The forest that grew up in that desolated land was called Daṇḍakārañña.

2) The Mahāvastu, III, p. 363, tells another version which is of some interest: A pupil of the ṛṣi Kāśyapa, called Vatsa, surrounded by five hundred disciples, lived at Anuhimavat in a hermitage on the shore of the Ganges; they all possessed the five powers, practiced the four trances, had renounced desires, and were of noble conduct and great power. Then Vatsa, suffering from a wind sickness and unable to withstand the bitter cold at Anuhimavat, went away to the Dékhan, to the city of Govardhana. King Daṇḍaki, who reigned there, was an irreligious man and an impious king without the correct view, eager for pleasure, full of wrong ideas, ignoring his mother and father, with neither religious life nor chastity, cruel, pitiless and violent. Seeing the ṛṣi Vatsa, he buried this peaceful, harmless and innocent man in the earth.

But the prime minister of the kingdom, named Vighusta, pulled the still living ṛṣi from under the pile of earth, prostrated before him and begged for pardon:

“O venerable one, I do not approve the violence the king has done to you; I beg you to show your indulgence.”

The ṛṣi said to him:

“Go as far away as you can from this kingdom, O minister; in seven days I shall die and, after my death, there will be intense panic in this kingdom.”

Hearing the words of the ṛṣi Vatsa, the minister with his children, his wife, his entourage and all his relatives left the kingdom of Daṇḍaki and went to another kingdom. At the end of seven days, the ṛṣi Vatsa died and immediately after his death, there was a great upheaval of all the elements so that the entire kingdom was reduced to ashes in one night.

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