Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “pancavudha-jataka” 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.

In a former lifetime, the Buddha Śakyamuni was once a merchant chief; at the head of some merchants, he went into a mountainous and difficult region where a rākṣasa demon stopped him, saying:

“Stop! Do not move; I do not allow you to go on.”

The chief of the merchants struck him with his right fist, but his fist remained glued to the demon and could not be detached; then he struck him with his left fist but it, too, could not be disengaged; next, he kicked him with his right foot, but the foot remained stuck; he kicked him with his left foot, but the same thing happened; he butted him with his head, but his head was stuck also.

The demon asked him: “Now what are you going to do? Will you give in finally?”

The bodhisattva answered:

“Although the five parts [of my body] are fettered, never will my mind give in to you. I will fight you by the power of my exertion and never surrender to you.”

The demon, amused, said to himself: “This man’s courage is very great”, and speaking to the merchant, said: “The power of your exertion is great; you definitely will not give in; I will let you go.”

The ascetic acts in the same way [in order to conquer] the good dharmas (kuśaladharma). During the first, second and fourth quarters of the night, he recites the sūtras, practices meditation and seeks the true nature of dharmas. Not obstructed by fetters (saṃyojana), his body and mind are free of withdrawing: this is the nature of exertion.

Notes on the Pañcāvudha-jātaka:

In its version of the Pañcāvudhajātaka, the Mppś follows closely the version of Tsa pao tsang king, T 203 (no. 97), k. 8, p. 487b–c (tr. Chavannes, Contes, III, p. 98–99):

“Once there was a vast desert region between the kingdom of Kia che (Kāśi) and the kingdom of Pi t’i hi (Videha) where there lived a wicked demon called Cha tch’a lou (85 and 4; 30 and 2; 108 and 11 = Śleṣaloma, and not Ṣaḍaru as Chavannes suggests), who blocked the road so that nobody could pass. There was a merchant named Che tseu (Siṃha) who, leading five hundred merchants, wanted to go on this road.”

Then follows the story of the struggle between the demon and Siṃha: Siṃha shot his bow and arrows and his sword, which all pierced the demon’s belly; then he advanced to fight with his fists, but his hands, his feet and his head got stuck.

To the demon’s jibes, Siṃha replied with the gāthās:

“There remains only my exertion for what is good which will not stick to you; as long as this exertion does not leave me, the fight that I will put up will not end.”

The demon then let him go and set the five hundred merchants free. At that time Siṃha was the Buddha, and Cha tch’a lou was the demon of that desert region.

A more developed version, but without indication of place or of individuals, occurs in the Kieou tsa p’i yu king, T 206 (no. 1), k. 1, p. 510b–511a (tr. Chavannes, Contes, I, p. 347–351): the two enemies exchange a dialogue in verse, the yakṣa is converted and receives the five precepts. The version of the Mppś has passed into the King kiu yi siang, T 2121, k. 43, p. 225b, word for word.

Finally, the legend has been incorporated into the Pāli jātaka, Pañcāvudhajātaka (no. 55), I, p. 272–275, of which here is a brief summary: The bodhisattva was the son of king Brahmadatta; he was called Pañcavudha ‘Five-weapons’ because on the day of his birth, eight brāhmanas had predicted that he would owe his fame to his feats of arms. He studied at Takṣaśilā, in the kingdom of Gandhāra and, at the end of his studies, he took up a series of five weapons. Returning home, half-way between Takṣaśilā and Benares, in the middle of the jungle, he met the yakṣa Silesaloma ‘Sticky Hairs’. He fought with him and in succession launched his arrows (sara), his sword (khagga), his lance (kaṇaya) and his club (muggara); but all his weapons remained stuck in the yakṣa’s hair (lomesu allīyiṃsu). Pañcavudha then engaged him body to body; stuck to the yakṣa by his five weapons, the prince refused to surrender, and the yakṣa, marveling at the prince’s exertion, was converted and received the five precepts.

The bodhisattva, called Pañcāvudha here, is called Siṃha, ‘Lion’, in the Tsa pao tsang king. Actually, Siṃha is the surname given to the bodhisattva by the yakṣa who, in congratulating him, compared him to a man-lion: Māṇava, purisasīho tvaṃ!