Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of cudapanthaka” 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 2.2 (The knowledge of the retribution of actions):

“The Buddha knows the individuals of weak faculties (mṛdvindriya) but who are not hindered by the fetters, for example Tcheou-li-pan-t’o-k’ie (Cūḍapanthaka). But there are people of weak faculties who are hindered by the fetters”.

He recognizes his own stupidity in the Anavataptagāthā (ed. Bechert, p. 163–166; transl. Hofinger, p. 249–250); Fo wou poi tseu, T 199, p. 197c16–198a3; Mūlasarv. Vinaya, T 1448, k. 17, p. 85b21–c12). His last life and his earlier existences are told in full in the Cūḍapanthakāvadāna in the Mūlasarv. Vinaya (Dīvyavadāna, p. 483–515; T 1442, k. 31–32, p. 794c26–803c21), a northern source in which H. Bechert (l.c.) has revealed a borrowing from the golden legend of the Jains.

Mahāpanthaka and Cūḍapanthāka were born from the union of a wealthy young girl in Rājagṛha and a slave. They were born at the side of a great highway which is why they were named Great Path and Lesser Path respectively. Raised by their grandparents, they embraced the Buddhist faith. Mahāpanthaka was the first to become a monastic and, shortly thereafter, welcomed his brother into the Order. Entrusted with his religious instruction, he gave him a very simple stanza to learn by heart: Pāpaṃ na kuryān manasā na vācā, etc., but Cūḍapanthaka was so dim-witted (duṣprajñā) that at the end of three months, he had not yet succeeded in memorizing it. Then he passed into the service of the ṣaḍvargīya monks, which did not make him any smarter. At the instigation of the latter, he requested a subject of study (svādhyāyanikā) from this elder brother, but Mahāpanthaka, judging that he would be cured only by scorn, grabbed him by the neck and threw him out of the monastery, Weeping, Cūḍapanthaka went to the Buddha and confided the reason for his tears: “I am neither a monk nor a lay-man; I am a great idiot (paramacūḍa), a great fool (paramadhandha).” The Buddha replied: “There is no fool but the one who thinks he is smart” (cf. Udānavarga, XXV, v. 22), gave him two lines to meditate on “I remove the dust, I remove the dirt” (rajo harāmi malaṃ haraṃi) and sent him to clean the monks’ shoes (upanāhān poñcchitum), an important detail which the Traité will mention below (k. 28, p. 268a6–7).

While he was busy with this simple task, Cūḍapanthaka discovered the mystery: To remove the dust is to suppress desire (rāga), hatred (dveṣa) and ignorance (moha). At once, all his passions were cut through and he attained arhathood.

To test his new qualities, the Buddha appointed him instructor (avavādaka) of the nuns. Those who thought him to be a fool were expecting the worst, but the new arhat accomplished such feats of magic and preached the Dharma with such eloquence that they were forced to change their minds. Swept along by his zeal, he kept his listeners until late in the night, a violation which the Buddha condemned by proclaiming the 22nd pācittiya (see Pāli Vinaya, IV, p. 54–55; Dharmaguptaka Vin. T 1428, k. 12, p. 647b9–648a17; Sarv. Vin., T 1435, k. 11, p. 80b2–81a11).

The Avadāna also mentions an episode concerning the future arhat. The day that Cūḍapanthaka became a monk, the famous physician Jīvaka invited the Buddha and the Saṃgha except for Cūḍapanthaka whom he deemed to be too stupid. The Buddha accepted the invitation, but noticing that the Saṃgha was not complete, he refused to partake of the meal. Jīvaka sent someone to look for Cūḍapanthaka in the monastery, but the latter created thirteen hundred fictive monks exactly like himself magically and by this trick made himself invisible. A formal order by the Buddha was necessary for him to consent finally to come to Jīvaka’s house.

Since Cūḍapanthaka had created fictive monks to confuse Jīvaka and since he had also triumphed over the distrust of the monks, the Buddha proclaimed him the foremost among those who create spiritual shapes and change minds (see also Anguttara, I, p. 24; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 3, p. 558a15–17; T 126, p. 831b29).

Besides the Cūḍapanthakāvadāna, which has just been summarized here, we should also mention the Mahākarmavibhaṅga (p. 43) which briefly tells the story of the arhat, and especially the Vibhāṣā (T 1545, k. 180, p. 902) which analyzes the story precisely and in detail.

The Pāli sources are in agreement with the northern sources, at least in regard to the last lifetime of Cūḍapanthaka. Among the main texts, we may mention the Theragāthā, v. 557–566; the Apadāna, I, p. 58; the commentaries of the Jātakas, I, p. 114–20, of the Anguttara, I, p. 209–220, and above all of the Dhammapda, I, p. 239–255 (transl. Burlingame, I, p. 299–310).