Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “families of worms (krimi or kiki) inhibiting the human body” 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.

Appendix 6 - The families of worms (kṛmi or kiki) inhibiting the human body

Note: This appendix is extracted from a note from the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra Chapter XXXI:

“Eighty thousand types of worms (kṛmi-kula), innumerable sicknesses (vyādhi), hunger and thirst (kṣutpipāsā), cold and heat (śītoṣṇa) and weaknesses always torment the body”.

According to the Visuddhimagga, ed. Warren, p. 193–194, the body is inhabited by eighty families of worms (kiki-kula) located in the skin, hide, flesh, tendons, bones, marrow, and which feed there:

“There they are born, live, die and fill their greater and lesser needs: the body is their maternity ward, their hospital, their cemetery, their latrine ditch and even dies under their rage.”

According to the same text, p. 213, the stomach itself is occupied by thirty-two types of worms, round worms, ribbon worms, thread worms, etc., ever in turmoil: when the body is on a light diet, the worms jump around crying and strike against the heart region; when the body is fed, they rush to seize the mouthfuls of food.

– According to the Milindapañha, p. 100, these undesirable and undesired guests come into the body and multiply there by the power of bad actions.

The Mahāyāna texts go so far as to postulate the presence in the body of eighty-four thousand types of worms. The Udayanavatsarājaparipṛcchā, cited in the Śikṣāsamuccaya, p. 81, actually says: Aśitiṃ krimikulasahasrāṇi yāni tiṣṭhanti antare.

The wise person puts up with their presence. According to the Ratnakūṭa (T 310, k. 114, p. 645b4–6), the forest-dwelling monk (araṇyabhikṣu), when he is about to eat, has the following thought:

“In this body there are at present 80,000 types of worms. When the worms get this food, they will all be safe; now I am going to attract these worms with this food.”

– According to the Avataṃsaka (T 279, k. 21, p. 112c12–15: cf. T 278, k. 12, p. 476b12–15), at the time of the bodhisattva’s meal, he has the following thought:

“In my body there are 80,000 types of worms; they live in me; when my body is filled, they too are filled; when my body suffers from hunger, they too suffer from hunger. Now by taking this food and drink (pānabhojana), I hope that these beings may be replete. Therefore I am myself eating this food so as to make a gift to them; I do not desire the taste of it.”

But the great Bodhisattva, the ‘irreversible’ bodhisattva (avinivartanīya or avaivartika) does not have to formulate such intentions, for one of his numerous privileges is to be completely free of worms. In the Aṣṭasāhasrikā, p. 326, we read:

Yāni khalu punar anyeṣāṃ sattvānām aśītiḥ kurmikulasahasrāṇi kāye saṃbhavati tāni tasya kāye sarveṇa sarvathā sarvaṃ na saṃbhavanti. tat kasya hetoḥ. tathā hi tasya tāni kuśalamūlāni sarvalokābhyugatāni bhavanti:

“Moreover, these eighty thousand types of worms that are in the bodies of other beings are never found in his body. Why? Because for him these roots of good transcend the entire world.”

This privilege of the avaivartika is mentioned in all the versions of the Prajñā: cf. Pañcaviṃśati, T 223, k. 16, p. 339c27; Mahāprajñāpāramitā, T 220, k. 326, p. 666b4–5; k. 448, p. 261c26–28; k. 514, p. 627b13–14; k. 549, p. 826b10–11; k. 562, p. 901a16. Note also, that according to Taoist ideas, grain takes birth in the bodies of the worms which eat away at vitality. On this subject, see H. Maspero, Mélanges Posthumes, I, 1950, p. 98 seq.