Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “parurasutta (story of vivadabala)” 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.

The Parūrasutta (story of Vivādabala)

Moreover, in P’i ye li (Vaiśālī) there was a brahmacārin named Louen li (Vivādabala?). The Li tch’ang (Licchavi) granted him a large sum of money to go to debate with the Buddha. Having accepted the engagement, he prepared five hundred arguments during the night and the next day, accompanied by the Licchavis, he went to the Buddha.

He asked the Buddha: “Is there one definitive Path (ātyantikamārga) or are there many?”

The Buddha replied: “There is but one definitive Path and not many.”

The brahmacārin continued:

“The Buddha speaks of only one single Path and yet the heretical teachers (tīrthika) each have their own definitive path; therefore there are many paths and not just one.”

The Buddha answered:

“Even though the heretics have many paths, not one of them is the true Path. Why? Because all these paths that are attached to wrong views (mithyādṛṣṭyabhiniviṣṭa) do not merit the name of definitive path.”

Again the Buddha asked the brahmacārin:

“[According to you,] did the brahmacārin Lou t’sou (Mṛgaśiras) (see Appendix 6) find the (true) Path?”

Vivādabala replied: “Mṛgaśiras is the foremost of all those who have found the Path.”

Now at that time, the venerable Mṛgaśiras, who had become a bhikṣu, was standing behind the Buddha and was fanning him.

Then the Buddha asked Vivādabala: “Do you not recognize this bhikṣu?”

The brahmacārin recognized [his friend] and, learning that he had become converted, bowed his head in shame.

Then the Buddha spoke these stanzas of the Yi p’in (Arthavarga):[1]

Each person speaks of an Absolute
And is passionately attached to it.
Each one accepts this and not that;
But none of that is the Absolute.[2]

These people enter into debate.
Discussing their reasons
They show their agreement and disagreement in turn
Vanquisher or vanquished, they feel sadness of joy.[3]

Conqueror, they fall into the pit of pride,
Conquered, they fall into the prison of sadness.
This is why those who are wise people
Do not follow these antagonisms.[4]

Vivādabala, you should know
That, for me and my disciples,
There is no mistake and no truth.
What are you searching for here?[5]

Do you want to confuse my teaching?
In the end, you will not have the possibility to do so.
The Omniscient One is difficult to conquer
[To attack him] is to go down to your own defeat.

[193c] Thus, in many places, in the sūtras of the śrāvakas, the Buddha taught the emptiness of dharmas.

Notes on the Parūra-sutta:

The individual here called Vivādabala “Power of argument” is none other than the parivrājaka Pasūra of the Pāli sources (cf. Suttanipāta, v. 824–834; Suttanipāta Comm., II, p. 538 seq).

According to the Suttanipāta Comm., he was a great debater who went from place to place, holding a jambu branch in his hand. He would set it down in the place he stopped and those who wanted to engage in debate with him were invited to pick it up. One day, at Śrāvastī, Śāriputra took up the challenge and picked up the branch. Accompanied by a great crowd, Pasūra went to him and the debate began: the parivrājaka was shamefully beaten. Later Pasūra entered the order under the direction of Lāludāyi. Having vanquished his teacher in a discussion, he returned to the heretics still keeping his monastic robes. In this outfit he went to debate with the Buddha himself. As soon as he arrived, the goddess who was protector of the garden, made him mute and it was impossible for him to reply to the Buddha’s questions. On this occasion the Teacher preached the Pasūrasutta, the stanzas of which are reproduced in the Suttanipāta in the Aṭṭhaka chapter.

The Yi tsou king, Chinese translation of the Arthavarga, introduces these stanzas by the following story (T 198, k. 1, p. 179c): The Buddha was dwelling at Śrāvastī towards the end of the retreat season, in the Jetavana, the garden of Anāthapiṇḍada. At that time, in the land of To cha (Vaiśālī), the sons of the gṛhapatis all praised a brahmacārin named Yong ts’e (Prasūra). They sent him to put objections to the Buddha and bring back victory; [to this end] they gave him five hundred kārṣāpaṇas. The brahmacārin studied five hundred objections, some of which were new, for three months and he claimed that nobody could beat him. At the end of the retreat season, the Buddha wished to go to the land of Vaiśālī with his bhikṣus. Traveling through all the villages and preaching the Dharma, he finally arrived at Vaiśālī at the shore of the Monkey Pool (markaṭahradatīta) in the hall of the belvedere (kūṭāgāraśalā). Learning that the Buddha and his bhikṣus had come to their land, five hundred sons of the gṛhapatis came together.

The brahmacārin declared: “The Buddha has come to our land; we must go to put our objections to him.”

So the brahmacārin at the head of the sons of the gṛhapatis went to the Buddha and, having exchanged greetings with him, sat down at one side. Some among the sons of the gṛhapatis paid homage to the Buddha with joined palms and silently approached his seat. Having carefully gazed at the Buddha’s majesty and magnitude, the brahmacārin did not dare to address him; inwardly seized with fear, he was unable to respond. Knowing which arguments the brahmacārin and the sons of the gṛhapatis set store by, the Buddha preached this sūtra of the Arthavarga, etc.

Footnotes and references:


On the identification Yi p’in = Arthavarga, see above, Traité, I, p. 40F as note. The Mppś has twice already quoted this old text, the first time under the title of Tchong yi king (Traité, I, p. 39F) and the second time under that of A t’a p’o k’i kin (Traité, I, p. 65F). The five stanzas cited here largely correspond to the ten stanzas of the Pūrasutta of the Pāli Aṭṭhakavagga (Suttanipāta), v. 824–834).


Cf. Suttanipāta, v. 824:

Idh’ eva suddhi” ti vādiyanti,
nāññesu dhammesu visuddhim āhu;
yaṃ nissitā, tattha subhaṃ vadānā
paccekasaccesu puthā niviṭṭhā.

“They say: ‘Here alone is purity’; and they recognize no purity in other systems. The system to which they adhere, strongly attached to specific truths, they declaim to be good.”


Ibid., v. 825:

Te vādakāmā parisaṃ vigayha
bākaṃ dahanti mithu aññamaññaṃ;
vadanti te aññasitā kathojjaṃ
pasaṃskmamā kusalā cadānā.

“Desirous of dispute, having forced a gathering, they accuse one another of being fools; attacking others, they engage in quarreling, desirous of praise and affirming themselves (alone) as capable.”


Ibid., v. 827a, c; 829a, c; 830 c, d:

Yam assa vādaṃ parihīnam āhu
paridevati socati hīnavādo,
Pasaṃsito vā pana tattha hoti
so hassati uṇṇamaticca tena.
Etam pi disvā na vivādayrtha,
na hi tena suddhiṃ kusalā vadanti.

“The person whose thesis is declared inferior is distressed and grieves at having lost. On the other hand, the person who was victorious in (the gathering) laughs and is proud. Having seen that, do not debate because the experts declare that purity does not come from that.”


Ibid., v. 833:

Visentikatvā pana ye caranti
diṭṭhīhi diṭṭhiṃ avirujjhhamānā,
tesu tvaṃ kiṃ labhetho, Pasūra,
yes’ īdha n’atthi param uggahītaṃ.

“But there are those who walk apart, without opposing their views to the views (of others). What benefit would you get from them, O Pasūra? For them, nothing in the world is taken as Absolute.”

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