Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “mahasutasoma-jataka (story of sutasoma and kalmashapada)” 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.

Mahāsutasoma-jātaka (story of Sutasoma and Kalmāṣapāda)

Summary: King Siu t’o siu mo (Sutasoma), for the sake of the great king Kie mo cha po t’o (Kalmāṣapāda) went so far as to offer his life, but did not violate the precepts.

There was once a king called Sutosoma, full of energy (vīryavat), observer of the precepts (śīladhara) and always faithful to his given word (satyavādin). One morning he mounted his chariot with his courtesans (gaṇikā) and entered a garden (ārmama) to walk about. When he left the gates of the city, a certain brahmin who had come to beg said to the king: “The king is very powerful (mahāprabhāva) and I am a poor man (daridra). May he have pity on me and give me something.” The king replied: “I agree. I value the teachings of saints (tathāgata) such as yourself; we will make mutual gifts to one another.” Having made this promise, the king entered his garden where he bathed and disported himself.

Then a two-winged king named ‘Gazelle’s Foot’ (Kalmāṣapāda) came swiftly and, from the midst of his courtesans, seized the king and flew away with him: one would have said it was the golden-winged bird (garuḍa) seizing a serpent (nāga) in mid-ocean. The women lamented and wept; in the garden, in the city, within and without, there was turmoil and consternation.

Kalmāṣapāda, carrying the king, traveled through space (ākāśa) and came to his home where he set Sutasoma down amidst the ninety-nine kings [whom he had already captured].[1] King Sutosoma began to weep. Kalmāṣapāda said to him: “Great kṣatriya king, why are you crying like a baby? Every man must die; everything composite must decay.” King Sutosoma replied: “I am not afraid of death, but I am afraid of not fulfilling my promises. From the time that I was born, I have never lied (mṛṣāvāda). This morning, as I was leaving the gates, a certain brahmin came to me to ask for alms and I promised to return to give him charity. I do not doubt impermanence (anityatā), but if I disappoint this [brahmin] in his expectation, I am committing a sin (āpatti) of deception. That is why I am weeping.” Kalmāṣapāda said to him: “Your wish will be satisfied. Since you are afraid to break your promise, I allow you to return [home]; you have seven days in which to give alms to the brahmin; after that time, you will return here. If you have not come back in that time, by the power of my wings, I will easily bring you back.”

King Sutosama was able to return to his native land and give alms to the brahmin as he wished. He set the crown prince (kumāra) on the throne. Calling his people together, he excused himself in these words: “I know that I have not settled everything; my governing was not [always] according to the Dharma. I recognize your loyalty. If I am not dead by tomorrow, I shall return directly.” Throughout the whole country, his people and his family struck their foreheads to the ground trying to keep him, saying: “We want the king to mind his country and to continue his kind protection. He should not worry about Kalmāṣapāda, king of the rākṣasas. We will build an iron castle (ayogṛha) surrounded by choice soldiers. No matter how powerful Kalmāṣapāda is, we are not afraid of him.” But Sutosoma, who disagreed, spoke this stanza:

Faithfulness to one’s word (satyavāda) is the foremost of the commandments;
The man of his word ascends the stairway to heaven.
The man of his word, no matter how small, is great;
The liar goes to hell.

I wish to keep my promise today.
Rather lose one’s life than break it.
My heart feels no regret. [89b]

Having reflected in this way, the king departed and returned to Kalmāṣapāda who, seeing him from afar, rejoiced and said to him: “You are a man of your word who does not break his promises. Every man seeks to save his own life. You had the chance to escape from death, but you came back to fulfill your promise. You are a great man (mahāpuruṣa).”

Then Sutosoma praised faithfulness to one’s word: “The one who keeps his word is a man; he who breaks it is not a man.” He praised truth (satyavāda) in every way and disparaged falsehood (mṛṣāvāda). Listening to him, Kalmāṣapāda developed pure faith (śraddhāviśuddhi) and said to king Sutosoma: “You have spoken well; in return I will release you; you are free. I grant you also the ninety-nine kings, [your co-prisoners]. May they return, each as he will, to their own countries.” When he had spoken thus, the hundred kings returned [to their homes].

It is in Jātakas such as this that the Bodhisattva fulfills the virtue of discipline.

Note on the Bodhisattva Sutosoma:

The Bodhisattva, called Sutosoma in most of the sources, is called P’ou ming (Samantaprabhāsa) in T 152 (p. 22b) and T 245 (p. 830a). Sutosoma belonged to a well-known family of the Kauravas (Jātaka, V, p. 457, Jātakamālā, p. 207) and resided at Indapatta (Jātaka, V, p. 457) a city located on the present site of Delhi.

Notes on Kalmāṣapāda:

The anthropophagous Kalmāṣapāda does not have a well-defined identity. In T 152, p. 22c, it is a king named A k’iun (170 and 5; 123 and 7).

– In the Pāli Jātaka, it is Brahmadatta, king of Vārāṇasī (Benares).

– In T 245, p. 830a, it is a young prince, son of the king of T’ien lo (Devala?)

– In T 202, p. 425a, it is the son of Brahmadatta, king of Benares and a lioness.

– In the Sanskrit sources (Jātakamālā, p. 209, Bhadrakalpāvadāna, chap. 34; , p. 250), he appears as the son of a king and a lioness and, as his father was called Sudāsa, he was named Saudāsa or Siṃhasaudāsa.

– He is more familiar under the name of Kalmāṣapāda, which certain Chinese sources translate as Po tsou (187 and 6; 157), Pan tsou (96 and 6; 157), i.e., ‘Speckled Foot’ (cf. T 202, p. 425b; T 245, p. 830a); according to the Hien yu king (T 202, p. 425b), this surname was given to him because, born of a lioness, he had feet marked with spots like a lion’s fur. In his Sumaṅgalavilāsinī, II, p. 483, Buddhaghosa proposes another explanation: When the anthropophagous king, banished by his subjects, took flight, an acacia spine pierced his foot, and this wound left a scar like a speckled piece of wood (tassa kira pāde … hutvā rūhi).

The village where this man-eater was tamed was called Kalmāṣadamya (in Pāli, Kammāsadamma). It is situated in the land of the Kurus, and the Buddha preached several important sūtras there. Cf. Dīgha, II, p. 55, 290; Majjhima, I, p. 55; II, p. 26; Saṃyutta, II, p. 92; Tch’ang a han, T 1, k. 10, p. 60a29; Tchong a han, T 26, k. 24, p. 578b; Divyāvadāna, p. 515, 516.

Sources for the story:

A well-known Jātaka where Sutosoma is none other than the Buddha, whereas Kalmāṣapāda is Aṅgulimāla:

Pāli sources: Mahāsutasomajātaka, Jātaka no. 537 (V, p. 456–511); Cariyāpiṭaka, III, 12, p. 100–101 (tr. Law, p. 124–125).

Sanskrit sources: Jātakamāla, no. 31, p. 207–224 (tr. Speyer, p. 291–313); Bhadrakalpācadāna, chap. 34 (tr. S. Oldenburg, On the Buddhist Jātakas, JRAS, 1893, p. 331–334); Laṅkāvatāra, p. 250–251, contains a summary: Bhūtapūrvam atīte ’dhvani rājabhūtāsāditavān māṃsahetoḥ.

Chinese sources: Lieou tou tsi king, T 152 (no. 41), k. 4, p. 22b–24b (tr. Chavannes, Contes, I, p. 143–154; Hien yu king, T 202 (no. 52), k. 11, p. 425–427 (cf. Schmidt, Der Weise und der Thor, p. 300–326); Kieou tsa p’i yu king, T 206 (no. 40), k. 2, p. 517 a–c (tr. Chavannes, Contes, I, p. 405–406); Jen wang pan jo po lo mi king, T 245, k. 2, p. 830; Chinese versions of the (T 670, k. 4, p. 513c; T 671, k. 8, p. 563a; T 672, k. 6, p. 623c); King liu yi siang, T 2121, k. 25, p. 139a–b.

Iconography: Enamelled brick at Pagan (Grünwedel, Buddhistische Studien, fig. 39); frieze at Aurangabad (A. Foucher, Une représentation du Sutosoma-jātaka sur une frise d’Aurangabad, ML, I, 261–271 and pl. XXI-XXII); Ajaṇtā (JA, Apr.-June, 1921, p. 213).

Study: R. Watanabe,The Story of Kalmāsapāda, JPTS, 1909, p. 236–310.

Footnotes and references:


In T 202 (p. 426a) and T 243 (p. 830b), it was 999 kings whom Kalmāṣapāda had captured.