Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the impostor bramacarin exposed by the bodhisattva” 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 impostor bramacārin exposed by the Bodhisattva

In a previous lifetime, the Bodhisattva Śākyamuni was crown prince of a great kingdom. His father, the king, had as teacher (guru) a brahmacārin who did not eat the five grains [i.e., abstained from all food].

Full of respect and faith, the people considered this to be a miracle (aścarya), but the prince said to himself:

“A man who has four limbs absolutely needs the five grains. If this man does not eat, it is surely to seduce men’s minds and it is not his real custom.”

His father and mother said to him:

“This zealous man does not touch the five grains; it is extraordinary (adbhuta). Why are you so foolish as not to respect him?”

The prince answered: “Be watchful: before long, this man will betray himself.”

Then the prince looked out for the place where the brahmacārin lived, went to the forest and asked a cow-herder (gopālaka) there:

“What does this man eat?”

The cow-herder replied:

“During the night, this man eats some butter and that permits him to stay alive.”

Having learned this, the prince returned to the palace and wanted to lead the brahmacārin to betray himself. He perfumed a blue lotus (nīlotpala) with all kinds of medicinal herbs (nānāvidhauṣadhi) and next morning, when the brahmacārin came to the palace and seated himself beside the king, the prince took the lotus and offered it to the brahmacārin.

The brahmacārin joyfully said to himself:

“The king, the queen, the greater and lesser people inside and outside all surround me with attention; only the prince shows neither respect nor trust; but today he is offering me this beautiful lotus; this is very good.”

Then he took the lotus and out of respect for the prince, he brought it to his nose and smelled it. The medicinal vapors contained in the lotus penetrated into his stomach; soon the medicines began to act within his stomach and the brahmacārin wanted to withdraw.

The prince said to him:

“Brahmacārin, you do not eat, why do you want to go to defecate?”

The brahmacārin was seized with nausea and suddenly vomited beside the king. In his vomit, the intact butter betrayed him; the king and the queen understood his deceit.

The prince then said:

“This man is a real brigand; to make a name for himself, he has deceived the entire kingdom.”

Thus, when he used ordinary wisdom (saṃvṛtaprajñā), the Bodhisattva was trying only to fulfill wisdom, suspend his kindness and compassion (maitrīkaruṇācitta) and does not fear people’s anger.