Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of udayana and the five hundred rishis” 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 Udayana and the five hundred ṛṣis

Out of attachment to female beauty (rūpasaṅga), king Yeou t’ien (Udayana) cut off the hands and feet of five hundred ṛṣis.

Notes on this story:

Episode borrowed from the Vibhāṣā (cf. P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 61, p. 314b–c; A p’i t’an p’i p’o cha, T 1546, k. 32, p. 237b) and repeated in King liu yi siang, T 2121, k. 39, p. 208b–c:

Once there was a king called Wou t’o yen na (Udayana) who, at the head of his household, went to Mount Chouei tsi (85; 157 and 6,”Traces of Water”, transcribed in T 1646, p, 237b1 as Yu tou po t’o (75 and 22; 80 and 4; 85 and 5, 170 and 5), probably Udrakapada, corresponding to Udakavana in the Pāli sources: [cf. Suttanipāta Comm. II, p. 514–515; Sārattha, II, p. 393].

He dismissed all the men, keeping only the women with whom he indulged in the five pleasures: he frolicked with them at will; there was fine music and the air was perfumed. The king ordered the women to dance naked. At that time, five hundred ṛṣis who had renounced the pleasures (vītarāga), riding on their abhijñā of miraculous power (ṛddhi) came by upon this scene. Some saw the beauty of the women, others heard the wonderful sounds, yet others breathed the delicious perfumes; they all lost their miraculous power and fell down on the mountain, unable to fly again, like birds with clipped wings. The king saw them and asked who they were.

They answered: “We are ṛṣis.”

The king asked:

“Have you attained the basic absorption (maulasamāpatti) called ‘place of neither unconsciousness nor non-unconsciousness’ (naivasṃjñāsaṃjñÂatana)?”

The ṛṣis replied that they had not obtained it. The king asked if they had attained the first dhyāna.

They replied:

“We had attained it once but now we have lost it.”

The king became angry and said to them:

“Men who have not renounced desire, why are you looking at the women in my palace? That is very unfitting!”

Immediately he took out his sword and cut off the hands and feet of the five hundred ṛṣis.

Udayana (in Pāli Udena) was about to renew this act of cruelty in yet other circumstances: One day he discovered that his palace ladies had given Ānanda five hundred costly robes; fortunately, Ānanda was able to explain that gifts made to the community were never lost, and the king, satisfied with this explanation, in turn gave five hundred robes; cf. Pāli Vinaya, II, p. 291 (r. Rh. D.-Oldenberg, III, p. 382–384); Dhamapadaṭṭha, I, p. 218–220 (tr. Burlingame, Legends, I, p. 287–288). – Another day, walking in his park Udakavana, (cf. at the beginning of this note, the mountain Udakapda, mentioned in the Vibhāṣā), Udaka saw that his women had given their robes to the bhikṣu Bhāradvāja. He questioned the monk about the good based on their generosity, but the monk remained silent. Angry, Udayana tried to have him eaten by red ants, but Piṇḍola vanished into the sky; cf. Suttanipāta Comm., II, p. 514–515; Sārattha, II, p. 393–395; Jātaka, IV, p. 375. – Compare also Yi tsou king, & 198, k. 1, p. 175c–176b.

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