Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “dakshinavibhangasutra” 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.

There was also Mo-ho-kiao-t’an-mi (Mahāgautamī) who offered upper and lower precious robes, golden in color to the Buddha. Knowing that the Saṃgha could use them, the Buddha said to Gautamī: “Give these upper and lower robes to the Saṃgha”.

This is why we know that [the gift] to the Buddha Jewel and [the gift] to the Saṃgha Jewel are equally meritorious.

The dānapati asked: “If the Saṃgha can direct and receive the gifts made to the Buddha, why did the Buddha not permit the Saṃgha to eat the food of the brahmin Bhāradvaja?”

The śrāmaṇeras answered: “It was in order to bring to light the great power (mahābala) of the Saṃgha. If [the brahmin] had not seen that this food, put into the water, had such great magical power (mahāṛddhibala), he would not have known how great is the power of the Saṃgha, but since the Saṃgha is able to accept things offered to the Buddha, we know that the power of the Saṃgha is great. Thus, when a master physician (bhaiṣajyaguru) wants to try out a poisoned drug (viṣauṣadhi), he gives it first to a chicken (kukkuṭa); then, when the chicken has died, he swallows the poison himself so that we know how great is the power (anubhāva) of the master physician. Know then, O dānapati:

The person who loves and honors the Buddha
Must also love and honor the Saṃgha
There can be no distinction
For both are equally ‘Jewels’.

Then, hearing these words spoken, the dānapati rejoiced and said: “From today on, I, so-and-so, will honor with an equal mind the young and the old who have entered into the ranks of the Saṃgha and I will avoid making distinctions.”

The śrāmaṇeras said: “Since you honor the best field of merit (anuttara buddhakṣetra) with faith, you will before long attain Bodhi. Why?”

The learned (bahuśruta), the virtuous (śīlavat).
The sages (prajñā) and the ecstatics (dhyāyin)
All enter into the ranks of the Saṃgha
Like the ten thousand rivers flowing into the sea.

Just as all the plants and the medicinal herbs
Grow on the Snowy Mountain (himālaya),
Just as the hundred grains and all the bushes
Grow on the earth,

So all good people [225c]
Are found in the ranks of the Saṃgha.

Notes on the Dakṣiṇāvibhaṅgasūtra:

Beginning of the Dakkhiṇāvibhaṅgasutta in Majjhima, III, p. 253:

Ekaṃ samayaṃ Bhagavā akkesu viharati Kapilavatthusmiṃ Nogrodhāra āme. Atha kho Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī navaṃ dussayugaṃ … saṃghe te dinne ahañ c’eva pūjito bhavissāmi saṃgho cati.


One day the Blessed One was at Kapilavastu among the Śākyas, in the Nyagrodha monastery. Then Mahāprajāptī, the Gautamī, carrying two new robes, went to the Blessed One and, having approached, she bowed down to the Blessed One and sat down to one side. Seated to the side, she said: “Venerable One, this new cloth has been cut up and stitched by me for the Blessed One: may the Blessed One have compassion for me and accept this.” Then the Blessed One said to Mahāprajāpatī the Gautamī: “Gautamī, give it to the Saṃgha, if you give it to the Saṃgha, I will be honored and the Saṃgha also.”

This is Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī, born to Devadaha, of the Śākya Añjana. Her brothers were Daṇḍapāṇi and Suprabuddha and her sister was Mahāmāyā, mother of the Buddha. The latter had died eight days after the birth and Mahāprajāpatī took the place of mother to the Buddha. Like her sister, she was the wife of Śuddhodana to whom she had born a son, the handsome Nanda. The Buddha accepted his aunt into the Buddhist order with her five hundred companions. Her entry into nirvāṇa, particularly glorious, has been noted above (p. 587–588F). According to some sources, Mahāprajāpatī presented only one robe to the Buddha, a yellow robe with gold thread (Tchong a han, T 26, k. 47, p. 721c23–722a4); a robe of tie, i.e., linen (Fen pie pou che, T 84, p. 903b23–c10); fine linen cloth, golden in color (Hien yu king, T 202, k. 12, p. 434a6–15); a vassikasāṭikā, i.e., a rain-cloak (Milindapañha, p. 240). On the other hand, the passage from the Majjhima cited at the beginning of the present note speaks of a pair of robes (dussayuga), and the Mahīśāsaka Vin. (T1421, k. 29, p. 185b17–23) also speaks of two new robes offered to the Buddha by Mahāprajāpatī.

The Buddha said to the latter:

“You may give them to the Saṃgha and you will obtain a great fruit of retribution. I too count among the Saṃgha.”

Finally, at his aunt’s insisting, the Buddha decided to share:

“I accept one robe and I give the other to the Saṃgha.”

This variation among the sources is probably explained away by scholastic reasons, for we have seen above (p. 1400F, n. 1) that the sects differed in opinion about the respective value of a gift to the Buddha and a gift to the Saṃgha, and the Buddha’s attitude to his aunt’s offering bears directly on this problem (cf. Kathāvatthu, p. 553, l. 29–31; Nyāyānusmara, T 1562, k. 38, p. 558c6–7, 19).

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