Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the fool who swallowed pure salt” 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 fool who swallowed pure salt

A peasant was unfamiliar with salt. Seeing a nobleman put salt on his meat and vegetables before eating them, he asked why he did so. The nobleman replied that salt gave a good taste to food. The peasant thought that if salt gave a flavor to food, by itself it should be even better. So he took some pure salt, put it in his mouth and ate it.

But a nasty pain hurt his mouth and he asked the nobleman: “Why did you say that salt has a good flavor?”

The nobleman relied:

“Fool! You have to measure out the amount of salt and mix it with the food to give it a good taste. Why did you eat pure salt?”

In the same way, the ignorant person who hears speak of the door of liberation called emptiness (śūnyatāvimokṣamukha) does not develop the qualities (guṇa) but wants only to obtain emptiness: that is a wrong view that destroys all the roots of good (kuśalamūla). This is what should be understood by the ‘teaching on emptiness’.

Notes on this story:

This apologue occurs in Po yu king, T 209, k. 1, p. 543a (tr. Chavannes, Contes, II, p. 153).