Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “culiamalunkya-sutta” 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.

The Cūḷamāluṅkya-sutta

A bhikṣu who was reflecting and meditating on these fourteen difficult questions had no success in penetrating them and became impatient.

Taking his robe and his begging bowl, he went to the Buddha and said:

“If the Buddha will explain these fourteen difficult questions for me and satisfy my mind, I will remain his disciple; if he does not succeed in explaining them to me, I will seek another path.”

The Buddha answered this fool (mohapuruṣa):

“At the beginning, did you have an agreement with me that if I explained these fourteen difficult questions, you would be my disciple?”

The bhikṣu said “No.”

The Buddha continued:

“Fool! How can you say today that, if I do not explain that, you will not be my disciple? I preach the Dharma to save people stricken by old age (jarā), sickness (vyādhi) and death (maraṇa). These fourteen difficult questions are subject for debate (vigrahasthāna); they are of no use to the Dharma and are only futile proliferation (prapañca). Why ask me these questions? If I answered, you would not understand; at the time of death, you would have understood nothing and you would not be liberated from birth, old age, sickness and death.

– A man has been struck by a poisoned arrow (saviṣaśalya); his relatives and his companions (jñātiparivāra) have called a physician (bhiṣaj-) to remove the arrow and apply an antidote.

The wounded man says [to the physician]:

“I will not let you take out the arrow until I know what is your clan (gotra), your name (nāman), your family (jāti), your village (grāma), your father and mother and your age (āyus); I want to know from which mountain the arrow came from, what kind of wood (kāṇḍa) and feathers (pattra), who made the arrow-head and what kind of iron; then I want to know if the bow (dhanus) is of mountain wood or animal horn; finally, I want to know where the antidote comes from and what is it name. After I have learned all these things, I will let you take out the arrow and apply the antidote.”

– The Buddha then asked the bhikṣu:

“Will this man be able to know all these things and only after that let the arrow be removed?”.

– The bhikṣu answered:

“The man will not succeed in knowing all that for, if he waited to know it all, he would be dead [before the operation].”

The Buddha continued:

“You are like him: the arrow of wrong views (mithyadṛṣṭiśalya) dipped in the poison of thirst (tṛṣṇāviṣa) has pierced your mind; I want to remove this arrow from you, my disciple; but you are unwilling to let me take it out, and you want to know if the world is eternal or non-eternal, finite or infinite, etc. You will not find what you are looking for, but you will lose the life of wisdom (prajñājīvita); you will die like an animal and fall into the shadows.”

Gradually the bhikṣu [170b] understood the words of the Buddha deeply and later attain arhathood.

Notes on the Cūḷamāluṅkya-sutta:

Cf. Cūlamāluṅkyasutta in Majjhima, I, p. 426–432 (tr. Chalmers, I, p. 304–307; Oldenberg, Bouddha, p. 311–312; Tchong a han, T 26, no. 221, k. 60, p. 804a–805c; Tsien yu king, T 94, p. 917b–918b.

As in Milinda, p. 144–145, the Buddha responded to Māluṅkyāputta by not answering him at all (sthāpamīya vyākaraṇam).