Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “permission for monks to wear fine robes (civara)” 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.

Appendix 8 - Permission for monks to wear fine robes (cīvara)

Note: This appendix is extracted from Chapter XLI part 1 (digression on a case brought against the Buddha):

Question. – If it is fitting for the Buddha’s bowl to be special, why should his robe (cīvara) be the same as those of the other Bhikṣus?

Answer. – But the clothing of the Buddha is also different from that of others. Thus, when the Buddha attained bodhi, he knew that Kāśyapa’s robe should be worn by the Buddha, and Kāśyapa’s robe was worth ten myriad ounces of gold. Next, Jīvaka offered the Buddha a chen-mo-ken cotton robe also worth ten myriad ounces of gold. The Buddha asked Ānanda to take this robe away, cut it up and make a cloak out of it. This being done, the Buddha put it on and this outfit differed from all the rest.

Question. – However, it was following this event that the Buddha said to the Bhikṣus: “Starting from today, provided that a Bhikṣu mindfully seeks nirvāṇa and turns his back on saṃsāra, I allow him, if he so wishes, to wear a robe worth ten myriad ounces of gold, and I also allow him to eat the food of a hundred flavors”. Therefore at the beginning his robe was different and it was only later that he allowed the Bhikṣus to wear one similar to his. His bowl was unique of its type and he never allowed the Bhikṣus to have a similar one.

In fact, it was after another event that the Buddha permitted his monks to wear fine robes offered to them by householders. This event is told in most of the Vinayas:

Sarvāstivādin Vinaya, T 1435, k. 27, p. 194b25–c11: Jīvaka, wearing a robe of chen-mo-ken (material not yet identified) worth a hundred thousand [kārṣāpanas], wished to offer it to the Buddha. Bowing down at the feet of the Buddha, he stood to one side and said to him:

“When I care for a king or a great minister, everyone favors me. Today, when I have cared for the Buddha, I would like the Bhagavat to grant me a favor.”

The Buddha said to Jīvaka:

“The Tathāgatas, arhat and samyaksaṃbuddha, are atikrāntavara [i.e., have unsurpassed favors, or, do not grant favors without knowing what it is about]”.

Jīvaka said to the Buddha: “It is something fitting (yad kalpati) that I beg you to grant me.”

The Buddha said to Jīvaka: “What favor are you asking?”

Jīvaka answered:

Bhadanta, here is a garment of chen-mo-ken worth a hundred thousand [kārṣāpanas]: I would like the Buddha to accept it out of compassion for me.”

In silence, the Buddha accepted it. Knowing that the Buddha accepted silently, Jīvaka gave to the Buddha the garment of chen-mo-ken worth a hundred thousand [kārṣāpanas], then, having bowed his head to the Buddha’s feet, he went away.

Because of this, the Buddha called the Saṃgha together and, having gathered the Saṃgha, he said to the bhikṣus:

“This very day Jīvaka has given me a garment of chen-mo-ken worth a hundred thousand [kārṣāpanas]. From today on, if someone gives a garment of this kind to a bhikṣu, he will be able to wear it as he wishes. From today on, if a bhikṣu wishes to wear rags gathered from the dust-heap (pāṃśukūla), I permit him; but if he wishes to wear [fine] robes received from the householders (gṛhapaticīvarāṇi), I permit that likewise.”

Other Vinayas (Pāli Vin., I, p. 280; Mahīśāsaka Vin., T 1431, k. 20, p. 134a28–b11; Dharmagupta Vin., T 1428, k. 40, p.854c2–21) which likewise tell this episode add several details: it was Pradyota, king of Avanti, who made the gift to Jīvaka of the precious garment, or rather two pieces of cloth coming from the land of the Sivi (Siveyyakam dussayugam). In Pāli (Vin. I, p. 280; III, p. 172) the rule stated by the Buddha was formulated as follows: Anujānāmi bhikkhave gahapaticīvaraṃ, yo icchati paṃsukūliko hotu, yo icchati gahapaticīvaraṃ sādiyatu.