Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the kindness of shankhacarya towards animals” 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 kindness of Śaṅkhācārya towards animals

Thus the Buddha Śākyamuni, in a previous lifetime, was a ṛṣi with a conch-shaped head-dress (śaṅkhaśikhā) named Chang chö li (Śaṅkhācārya). He was always practicing the fourth dhyāna: interrupting his respiration (ānāpāna), seated under a tree, he remained immobile. Seeing him in this posture, a bird mistook him for a piece of wood and laid her eggs (aṇḍa) in his top-knot (śikhā).

When the bodhisattva awoke from his dhyāna and noticed that he had birds’ eggs on his head, he said to himself:

“If I move, the mother will not come back, and if the mother does not [188b] return, the eggs will spoil.”

Therefore he went back into dhyāna and came out only when the nestlings were ready to fly away.

Notes to this story:

See above, Traité, I, p. 266, n. 2.