Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the two brothers who got rid of their gold” 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 story of the two brothers who got rid of their gold

Thus, there were two brothers, older and younger who, without companions, went on a voyage, each carrying ten pounds of gold. The older said to himself: “Why should I not kill my younger brother and take his gold? On this deserted path, nobody would know.” The younger, in turn, said to himself: “I should kill my older brother and take his gold.” The two brothers each had evil plans; their words and their looks differed.

But the two brothers came to themselves and felt remorse (kaukṛtya): “How would we be any different from demons (amanuṣya) and beasts (tiryagoni)? We are brothers born of the same parents and, for the sake of a little bit of gold, we are having such bad feelings for each other.”

Together they came to the shore of a deep lake. The older brother took his gold and threw it into the water. The younger brother said: “Good, good!” and, in his turn, threw his gold into the water. The older brother, too, said: “Good, good!”

The two brothers asked each other why they had said it was good and each answered the other: “Because of this gold, we had bad feelings and wanted to kill one another. Now that we are rid of our gold, we say that it is good and we both agree.”

This is why we know that it is always necessary to renounce one’s wealth, the cause of bad feelings. Why then not give it away when, by giving it, one gains great merit (mahāpuṇya)? Thus it is said:

Generosity is a precious treasure
It is also a good friend (kalyāṇamitra).
It is beneficial from one end to the other,
There is nobody who can destroy it.

Generosity is an umbrella of wondrous secrets: [227a]
It can keep off the rain of hunger and thirst.
Generosity is a solid vessel;
It can cross the ocean of poverty.

Avarice (mātsarya) is a calamity:
Because of it, one experiences sadness and fear.
Bathing it with the water of generosity
At once brings good fortune and happiness. 

The miser deprives himself of clothing and food;
At the end of his life he has neither joy nor happiness.
Although he is reputed to be rich,
He is no different from the poor person.

The miser’s home
Is like a burial mound or a tomb;
The beggars keep far away from it
And finally nobody comes near it.

This is why the miser
Is rejected by the sages.
Even if the breath of life is not exhausted
He is no different from a dead man.

The miser has neither merit nor wisdom:
He is not firmly resolved to give.
About to fall into the pit of death,
His love of saving changes into suffering and hate;
Only his tears will depart with him,
The fire of sadness and regret will burn his body.

The good donor is happy
And, after death, has no suffering.
The person who practices generosity,
His renown fills the ten directions.

He is loved by the sages,
Entering into their assemblies, he is not afraid.
When his life over he is reborn among the gods
And in time he will certainly gain nirvāṇa.

Condemning avarice (mātsarya) in many ways and praising generosity (dāna) is called ‘recollection of material generosity’ (āmiṣadānānusmṛti).

Note: The last two stanzas are to be compared with Anguttara, III, p. 40:

Dadaṃ piyo bhajanti naṃ bahū …devānaṃ sahavyagatā ramanti te.

Their Sanskrit correspondent is in the Sanskrit Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, p. 189–190:

Dadat priyo bhavati bhajanti taṃ janāḥ … devānāṃ svabhāvagatā ramanti te.

Transl.:

The donor is precious; people love him; he wins renown and his glory increases.
He enters the assembly undisturbed, for the man who is without miserliness is fearless.
This is why the wise give gifts, having effaced the stain of avarice and seeking happiness.
Established for a long time in the heavens, they enjoy themselves in the company of the gods.