Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the brahmin who unwittingly ate disgusting cakes” 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 brahmin who unwittingly ate disgusting cakes

There was a brahmin who practiced the rules of [alimentary] purity. Having to go to some unclean land on business, he thought: “How will I manage to avoid all this uncleanliness? It will be necessary for me to eat dry food and so I will be able to maintain my purity.”

He saw an old woman who was selling cakes of white marrow (meal, flour??) and said to her: “I have reason to stay here for about a hundred days. Make me these cakes regularly and bring them to me, I will pay you well.” Each day the old woman made the cakes and brought them to him. The brahmin liked their taste and was happy with this plentiful food.

At the beginning, the cakes made by the old woman were white, but later, little by little they lost their color (rūpa) and their taste. The brahmin asked the old woman what was the reason for this. She replied: “It is because the canker (gaṇḍa) is healed.” The brahmin asked her what she meant by this and the old woman answered: “At my house, a prostitute contracted a canker on her privy parts and we applied flour (saktu), ghee (ghṛta) and sweet herbs (yaṣṭimadhu) to it.[1] The canker ripened, the pus (puya) came out and mixed with the poultice. This happened every day and I made the cakes that I gave you with this: that is why they were so good. Now that the woman’s canker has healed, where am I going to find [the wherewithal to make them]?”

Having heard this, the brahmin struck his head with his fists, beat his breast, vomited and shouted: “How can I say how much I have violated the rules of [alimentary] purity? But now my business is settled.” Leaving all his affairs, he returned in haste to his native land.

It is the same for the yogin. He is attached to food and drink, is joyful and loves to eat. Seeing the beautiful colors of the food, its softness, its aroma and its taste, he does not think about the impurities (aśubha). Later when he has to undergo the painful retribution (duḥkhavipāka), how great will be his repentance (kaukṛtya)! If he can see the beginning and the end (pūrvāparānta) of food, he produces a mind of disgust (udvegacitta) and, eliminating the desire for food (āhāratṛṣṇā), he rejects the five[2] objects of enjoyment (pañcakāmaguṇa). Completely detached (virakta) from the happiness of the world of desire (kāmadhātu), he cuts through these five objects and is also free from the five fetters of lower rank (pañcāvarabhāgīyasaṃyojana).

Footnotes and references:


Mahāvyut., no. 5802.


Adopting the variant wou in place of sseu.

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