Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the kimnari 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 the Kiṃnarī and the five hundred ṛṣis

Thus five hundred ṛṣis lived on the mountain. A tchen t’o lo niu (kiṃnari) was bathing in a pool in the Snow Mountains (Himavat) and when they heard her song, the ṛṣis lost their meditation (dhyāna): the rapture of their mind was so strong that they could not control it, as though a great wind were blowing in the trees in the forest.

[181c] Hearing this song of subtle beauty in sweet (mṛdu), tender (taruṇa) and pure (viśuddha) accents, they had a bad experience and were unable to control the violence of their minds. In the present lifetime, they lost their qualities (guṇa) and in the following lifetime, they fell into a bad destiny (durgati).

The sage considers that sound arises and ceases from moment to moment (kṣaṇakṣaṇam upannaniruddha), that the previous moment is not joined to the later moment and that there is no continuity (prabandha); knowing that, they do not have any attachment (abhinivesa) for sounds. If the music of the gods cannot trouble such a sage, how could the human voice succeed in doing so?

It is for all these reasons that desire for sounds (śabdakāmaguṇa) is condemned.

Notes for this story:

See also below, p. 1046F.