Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the shramanera who became a naga” 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 śrāmaṇera who became a nāga

Thus there was an arhat who always went to the palace of a nāga to eat. [One day], when the arhat had finished eating, he gave his bowl to a śrāmaṇera to wash it. Inside the bowl there were several grains of rice remaining; the śrāmaṇera smelled them and found them very strongly perfumed; he ate them and found their taste exquisite. He had recourse to a trick (upāya); he crept under the webbing of his teacher’s bed and when his teacher left, the entered the palace of the nāgas.

The nāga said [to the teacher]:

“This man has not yet obtained the Path; why have you brought him with you?”

The teacher answered: “I did not notice [that he came with me].”

The śrāmaṇera received some rice and ate it; moreover, he saw a nāgī whose body was of perfect beauty and with unequalled perfume and grace; his mind became passionately attached to her and he made this vow: “May I take the place of this nāga and live in this palace.” The nāga said [to the teacher]: “In the future, don’t bring this śrāmaṇera.”

When the śrāmaṇera returned, he applied himself one-pointedly (ekacittena) to practicing generosity (dāna) and observing discipline (śīla), only praying that he would become a nāga soon according to his vow. One day when he was circumambulating (pradakṣiṇā) the temple (caitya), some water appeared under his feet;[1] then he understood that he definitely was about to become a nāga; he went to the shore of a great lake at the place where his master had previously entered [to go to the nāga]; he covered his head with his kāṣāya and entered the water; he died immediately and changed into a great nāga; because his merits were great, he killed the other nāga and the whole lake became red with blood.

A little later before this had happened, his teacher and the entire community (saṃgha) had blamed him; but the śrāmaṇera had said:

“My resolve is fixed and the various marks [that I am about to have a nāga’s body] have already appeared.”

His teacher and the whole community had gone to the lake to see him [throw himself in].

Such is the reason that one is attached to smells.

Notes for this story:

The same story occurs in the Kieou tsa p’i yu king, T 206, no. 6, k. 1, p. 511c–512a (tr. Chavannes, Contes, I, p. 358–360); Tchong king siuan tsa p’i yu, T 208, no. 10, k. 1, p. 533c–534a (tr. Chavannes, Contes, II, p. 87–88); King liu yi siang, T 2121, k. 22, p. 121a–b.

Footnotes and references:


As Chavannes has noted, it was from the oozing of his hands that the śrāmaṇera of the Divyāvadāna, p.346, noticed that he was becoming a nāga.

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