Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of shrivriddhi” 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.

Note: This appendix was extracted from Chapter XXXIX part 2.1 (The power of the possible and the impossible):

“On the other hand, the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas know very few things. Sometimes they want to convert beings unable to be converted, as was the case for the Cheou-lo (Asura?); sometimes they do not convert beings who ought to be converted, as was the case for Śrīvṛddhi who was not converted by Śāriputra”.

Cf. Kośabhāṣya, p. 412–413:

Sthaviraśāriputreṇa pravrajyāprekṣapuruṣapratyākhyānam:

“Sāriputra rejected a man who asked for the going-forth from home.”

The Kośavyākhyā, p. 644, tells the circumstances for this refusal:

Āryaśāripureṇa kila kasyacit pravrajyāprekṣasya puruṣasya …

mokṣabījam ahaṃ hy asya susūkṣmam upalakṣaye |
dhatupāṣāṇivare nilīnam iva kāñcanam ||

Transl. –

It is said that a man asked for admission into the monastic Order. The noble Śariputra looked for some root of good in him before producing the deliverance but, as he saw none, he refused him and did not allow him into the Order. The Buddha, however, found one and allowed him into the Order. The monks questioned the Buddha about this man and the Blessed One said: Here is an action done by this man which will be worth arhathood for him. Actually, actions do not ripen in the elements earth, water, fire or wind, but indeed in the aggregates, the elements and the bases of consciousness appropriated by him.

And the Buddha said:

“I definitely see in him a very small seed of deliverance, like a speck of gold caught in the interstices of a mineral.”

This story is told in full in the following collections:

a. P’ou-sa pen-cheng man louen, T 160, k. 4, p. 343c23–344b28. – On this work, see J. Brough, The Chinese Pseudo-Translation of Ārya-Śūtra’s Jātaka-Mālā, Asia Major, XI, 1964, p. 27–53.

b. Kalpanāmaṇḍikā, T 201, no. 57, k. 10, p. 311b24–312b13 (transl. E. Huber, Sūtrālaṃkāra d’Aśvaghoṣa, p. 283–287).

c. Hien yu king, T 202, no. 23, k. 4, p. 376b2–380a10.

The hero of the story was called Fou-tseng or Che-li-li-t’i (restored by P. Pelliot as Śrīvṛddhi). After having been refused by Śāriputra and some other disciples, he was finally admitted into the Order by the Buddha himself, the only one who found a minute seed of deliverance in him: in the past, when he had been attacked by a tiger, he had uttered the cry: Namo buddhāya.

It is perhaps of Śrīvṛddhi that the authors of the Vibhāṣā (T 1545, k. 102, p. 530c19–27) were thinking when they noted the following:

The Buddha and the venerable Śāriputra were walking somewhere and someone approached them. The Buddha asked Śāriputra: Can you see where this person was your friend? Then Śāriputra, passing from the first to the fourth dhyāna resorted to memories of his earlier abodes (pūrvanivāsānanusmṛti) in order to find this person, but saw nothing. Coming out of his samādhi, he said to the Buddha: The power of my concentration is unable to see him. The Buddha said to Śāriputra: Once in the past, during such and such a kalpa, this being was your friend, but the time is so distant that it is not within the range of śrāvakas or of pratyekabuddhas; this is why you cannot know him.