Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the upasaka tempted by a goddess” 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 upāsaka tempted by a goddess

An upasāka who was the head of a group of merchants earned his livelihood by making distant journeys. Once when he was traveling at night in the cold and the snow, his lost his companions and stopped in a rock cave. At that moment, the mountain goddess (giridevatā) changed into a woman and, approaching him in order to tempt him, spoke this stanza:

The white snow covers the mountain,
All the animals have gone away,
I am alone and without refuge,
I want only your sympathy.

The upāsaka covered his ears with his hands and answered with these stanzas: [181b]

Impudent and evil woman
Who speaks these impure words!
May you be carried away by water or burned by fire!
I do not want to hear your voice.

I have a wife, but I do not desire her.
How then would I commit a lustful deed [with you]?
The sense pleasures are not deep,
But the suffering and torment [that they bring] is very deep.

While one is enjoying pleasures, one is not satisfied;
When one is deprived of them, one feels great sadness;
When one does not have them, one wants to have them,
When one has them, one is tormented by them.

The joys of pleasure are rare,
The grief and pain they bring are abundant.
Because of them, men lose their lives
Like butterflies that dash into the lamp.

Hearing these stanzas, the mountain goddess released the man and led him back to his companions.

That man is wise who condemns the desires and is not attached to the five objects of desire, i.e., pleasant colors (rūpa), sounds (śabda), perfumes (gandha), tastes (rasa) and tangibles (spraṣṭavya). By seeking meditation (dhyāna), one should reject all of that.

Note on this story:

Story retold in King liu yi siang, T 2121, k. 37, p. 200b.