Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of udraka, or immoderate attachment to concentration” 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 Udraka, or immoderate attachment to concentration

Thus, the ṛṣi Yu t’o lo k’ie (Udraka) who [possessed the five superknowledges (abhijñā), each day flew to the palace of the king where he took his meal. The king and queen, according to the custom of the land, greeted him by [placing their head at his feet (pādau śirasābhivandana). The queen having touched him with her hand, the ṛṣi lost his abhijñās. [Unable to fly,] he asked the king for a chariot and drove away. Returning home, he went into a forest and tried to retrieve his five abhijñās. The concentration returned, but as he was about to regain the abhijñās, a bird perched on a tree suddenly began to sing and distracted him. Udraka then left the forest and went to the shore of a lake is search of concentration; there too he heard some fish that were fighting and disturbing the water.

Not finding the concentration that he wanted, the ṛṣi became angry and said: “I would like to kill every last fish and every last bird”.

Long afterwards, by the power of meditation, he regained samāpatti and [after his death] he was reborn in the sphere of neither discrimination nor non-discrimination (naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana). When his life was over, he was reborn as a flying fox and he killed all the fish and birds that he encountered. Having committed innumerable crimes, he fell into the three unfortunate destinies (durgati). This [sad fate] was caused by his attachment to the dhyānas and samāpattis. It will be the same for heretics [immoderately attached to the dhyānas].

Note on this story:

This Udraka is certainly the Udraka Rāmaputra who taught Gautama the path of naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana; finding this teaching inadequate, the future Buddha abandoned it (cf. Majjhima, I, p. 165 seq.; 240 seq.; Jātaka, I, p. 66; Dhammapadaṭṭha, I, p. 85; Mahāvastu, II, p. 119, 200; Divyāvdāna, p. 392; Lalitavistara, p. 243–245;). However, when the Buddha attained enlightenment and decided to preach the Dharma, he first thought of teaching his former master whom he judged capable of understanding it; but a god informed him that Udraka was dead and had taken birth in the naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana (Vinaya, I, p. 7; Jātaka, I, p. 81; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 14, p. 618b; Wou fen liu, T 1421, k. 15, p. 104a; Sseu fen liu, T 1428, k. 32, p. 787b; Mahāvastu, III, p. 322; Lalitavistara, p. 403).

The story that the Mppś devotes to Udraka tells us that this ascetic took rebirth in the sphere of neither discrimination nor non-discrimination before falling into hell. The text of the Mppś is reproduced without any changes in the King liu yi sinag, T 2121, k. 39, p. 208b. A more detailed version of the same story occurs in the Vibhāṣā in 60 scrolls, T 1546, k. 32, p. 237b (reproduced in T 2121, k. 39, p. 208c–209a) and in the Vibhāṣā in 200 scrolls, T 1545, k. 61, p. 314c–315a.

Here is the translation of the latter source, by which the Mppś was probably inspired:

Once there was a ṛṣi named Mong Hi tseu (cf. Rosenberg, Vocabulary, p. 319: Udraka Rāmaputra); he was invited at meal-time by king Cheng kiun (Prasenajit) and, mounted on his power of abhijñā, he flew like a royal swan (rājahaṃsa) to the palace. The king himself received him, placed him on a golden bed, burned incense, threw flowers, served him with delicious foods with many courtesies. The meal finished, the ṛṣi put away his bowl, made his ablutions and, having blessed the king, returned flying through space.

One day the king wished to go abroad for state reasons; he thought:

“When I am gone, who will welcome the ṛṣi in my place? Having a violent nature, the ṛṣi will curse me (śāpayati) and make me lose my throne; or else he will take my life; or else again, he will kill my subjects.”

The king then spoke to his young wife:

“When I am gone, would you be able to entertain the ṛṣi in place of me?”

His wife replied that she could. The king insistently recommended his wife to honor the ṛṣi according to the usual rules and then went away to take care of the business of the kingdom.

The next day when meal-time approached, the ṛṣi, flying through the air, came to the palace; the king’s wife received him and placed him on the golden bed. The ṛṣi’s renunciation (vairāgya) was incomplete, and when he felt the woman’s gentle touch, he lost his abhijñās. He took his meal as usual, went on to perform his ablutions and pronounced the blessing; but when he tried to rise up into the air, he noticed that he could no longer fly.

The ṛṣi withdrew into the king’s garden trying to regain his former powers; but as he heard all kinds of n oises, cries of elephants, horses, etc., he reached no success. The ṛṣi knew that at Śrāvastī the people thought that, if a great ṛṣi trod on the ground, all should pay homage (pūjā) to him by taking hold of his feet (pādābhivandana).

Pretending to false claim, the ṛṣi said to the queen:

“Announce in the city that today a ṛṣi will go out of this city treading on the ground, and that everything necessary should be done.”

The queen obeyed this order and at this news all the citizens cleaned the cityof fragments of tiles and refuse, sprinkled and cleaned the city, hung rows of banners, burned incense, decorated it with flowers and played music: the setting and wealth equaled that of a city of the gods. Then the ṛṣi left the city on foot and, not far away, entered into a forest. He wanted to regain his powers, but when he heard the cries of the birds, he was distracted and did not succeed. Then he left the forest and came to the edge of a river; there too he heard the nāga fish jumping about, and his mind, being disturbed by all these sounds, he could not practice.

Then he climbed a mountain, saying to himself:

“If I have fallen from my good qualities, it is as a result of beings; since I have otherwise observed the precepts (śīla) and asceticism (duṣkaracaryā), I would like to become a winged fox: everything that goes in the water, on earth or in the air will not escape me.”

After he had made this vow (praṇidhāna), his wrath (viṣacitta) weakened a bit and, soon afterwards, he was able to eliminate the passions of the [first] eight levels; as a result he was reborn in the sphere of neither diescrimination nor non-discrimination (naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana) which is the absorption of the summit of existence (bhavāgra) and the door to the immortal (amṛtadvāra). For 80,000 kalpas he enjoyed the bliss of retreat; but when the retribution of his actions and his life-span (āyus) were exhausted, he was reborn here below in a hermitage (tapovana); he had the body of a fox and his two wings were each fifty yojanas wide; with this huge body, he tormented all classes of beings and nothing that moved in the air, in the water or on earth could escape him. When his life was over, he fell into Avīci hell where he suffered all these torments that are so difficult to escape.