Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of vakkhali” 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 2.5 (The knowledge of the aspirations of beings):

“By aspiration (adhimukti) is meant trusting joy (prasāda), inclinations (ruci). [Beings] love faith (śraddhā), as did Po-kia-li (Vakkhali)”.

According to the Mūlasarv. Vinaya (T 1448, k. 4, p. 15b11–c3; Divyāvadāna, p. 49), Vakkhali, whose name means ‘Clothed in bark’, was a ṛṣi dwelling on Mount Musalaka, not far from Śūrpāraka in Aparānta. Having seen the Buddha from the top of this mountain, he felt great admiration for him and felt strongly drawn to him and, so as to join him more quickly, he threw himself into the void. The Buddha caught him by his magical power, taught him the Dharma and ordained him by the quick method. He declared Vakkhali to be the foremost of those who feel faith toward him (agro me śraddhādhimuktānām).

The same episode is told in the Pāli sources (Apadāna, II, p. 467, v. 26–33; Comm on Anguttara, I, p. 248–251; Comm. on Dhammapada, IV, p. 119), but these make Vakkhali to be a brāhmin native of Śrāvastī who, long after his ordination, threw himself from the top of Gṛdhrakūṭaparvata in despair of being deprived of seeing the Buddha.

The latter, wearied by the constant attendance of his disciple, had momentarily gone away from him saying:

“It is enough for you, O Vakkhali, to contemplate my rotting body: he who sees the Dharma sees me, and he who sees me sees the Dharma.”

Vakkhali having fallen gravely ill, the Buddha consented to visit him. Vakkhali confided to the Master that he had no twinges of conscience and that his only regret was the lack of enough strength to go himself to the Buddha. Beyond that, he was deeply convinced of the impermanent nature, painful and ever-changing, of the five aggregates of existence.

After the Buddha’s visit, Vakkhali had himself carried in a litter to the Black Rock on Mount Ṛṣigiri. The next day at dawn, he “took the knife” (satthaṃ āharesi) and killed himself. The Buddha revealed to the monks that Vakkhali had entered nirvāṇa.

Vakkhali’s suicide is told in the canonical sources: Saṃyutta, III, p. 119–124; Tsa a han, T 99, no. 1265, k. 346b7–347b13;Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 19, p. 642b29–643a22.