Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “story of the bhikshu uttara” 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 XLII part 8.6 (Where the destruction of the traces is located):

Fourth (wrong) theory: Passions and traces are destroyed the night of the enlightenment.

Criticism of the fourth theory: Furthermore, the Śrāvakas say: “The Bodhisattva does not cut the fetters until after he has seated himself on the seat of enlightenment (bodhimaṇḍa)”. This is a serious error. Why? In your system, it is said that the Bodhisattva, after having traveled through the three asaṃkhyeyakalpas of his career, must travel through a further additional hundred kalpas. However, ever in possession of the knowledge of his former abodes, he remembers that at the time of the Buddha Kia-chö (Kāśyapa), he was the bhikṣu Yu-to-lo (Uttara) and was already practicing the attributes of the Buddhas.

This Uttara is none other than Śākyamuni himself in one of his earlier lifetimes where the Buddha Kāśyapa had made his prediction. Cf. Mūlasarv. Vin., in Gilgit Manuscripts, III, part 4, p. 47, l. 16–18 T 444, k. 2, p. 1030a5–7; Divyāvadāna, p. 347, l. 10–12, (the text of which is corrupt):

Bhagavatā Kāśyapena samyaksaṃbuddhenottaro nāma māṇavo vyākṛto bhaviṣyasi tvaṃ mānava varṣaśatāyuṣi prajāyāṃ Śākyamunir nāma tāthagato ‘rhan samyaksaṃbuddha iti. –

“The blessed perfectly and fully enlightened Kāśyapa made the prediction to a young Brāhman named Uttara: ‘Young man, when the life-span of creatures will be one hundred years, you, under the name of Śākyamuni, will be a tathāgata, saint, fully and completely enlightened’”.

Here is his story as the Traité will tell it (k. 38, p. 340c23–341a26):

Why did the buddha Śākyamuni, while he was still a Bodhisattva, have criticism and abuse in regard to the buddha Kāśyapa? I have already spoken about this affair above. The dharmakāya bodhisattvas transform themselves in many ways to save beings and sometimes adopt human shapes. They undergo hunger and thirst, cold and heat, old age and death; they have likes and dislikes, anger and joy; they praise and they blame: except for the grave wrong-doings, they commit all the others.

At that time, the bodhisattva Śākyamuni was the younger brother of the buddha Kāśyapa and was called Uttara. The older brother, whose wisdom was ripened, hated chatter; the younger, whose wisdom was incomplete, loved to debate. The people at that time considered the younger brother to be superior.

Later, the older brother left home and attained complete enlightenment; he was called Kāśyapa. The younger brother was the teacher of Kṛkin, king of Jambudvīpa. He had five hundred disciples. He taught the brāhmanical books to these brāhmins for the latter did not like the Buddhist doctrine.

There was at that time a master potter (kumbhakāra) named Nandapāla; he was a disciple of the buddha Kāśyapa; he was devoted to the fivefold discipline (pañcaśīla) and held the threefold path. He was the kalyānamitra of the chaplain Uttara for his mind was honest, pure and full of faith.

One day Uttara mounted a golden chariot drawn by four white horses and went out of the city with his disciples.

Nandapāla met Uttara on the way, and asked him: “Where are you coming from?”

Nandapāla replied

“Your older brother has attained anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi and I have just come from paying homage to him. You ought to go to see him with me. Let’s go to meet him.”

Uttara said to himself:

“If I go to the Buddha, my disciples will mistrust me and will say: ‘From the beginning, you have always been outstanding in your dialectic and your wisdom, and now you are going to pay homage out of family spirit. We certainly won’t follow you.’ ”

However, fearing to miss the chance to see the Buddha, Uttara settled himself in the wisdom bearing on the true nature of things (dharmāṇāṃ dharmatā) and entered into the wisdom using supreme skillful means (anuttaropāya) in order to save his disciples.

That is why, out of his mouth, he spoke an insult saying:

“How could this man with the shaved head (muṇḍaka) be able to attain saṃbodhi?”

Immediately, Nandapāla, his kalyānamitra, pretending to be angry, seized him by the head and wrestled him down, saying: “It’s of no use for you to resist.”

Then Uttara addressed his disciples, saying: “Things being as they are, I cannot resist.”

Upon this, teacher and disciples together went to the Buddha and, seeing his radiance (prabhālakṣaṇa), their minds were purified. Prostrating to the feet of the Buddha, they sat down to one side. The Buddha preached the Dharma to them as appropriate. Uttara attained innumerable dhāraṇīmukha, and all the samādhimukha opened up for him; the five hundred disciples produced the mind of anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi.

Uttara arose from his seat and said to the Buddha:

“I would like the Buddha to permit me to leave home and become a bhikṣu.”

The Buddha said to him: “That’s good. Come!”, and he became a śramaṇa,

Therefore it was out of skillful means (upāya) that Uttara hurled an insult, but it was not really true.

Space may be broken, water may be changed into fire and fire into water, but an ekajātipratibaddha bodhisattva cannot be angry with a worldly person, still less with a Buddha.

– Elsewhere Uttara māṇavaka is designated by the name Jyotipāla or Jyotiṣpāla, while Nandapāla, the potter, is also called Ghaṭīkāra. In any case, it is the same jātaka, well known to the canonical and postcanonical sources.

Sanskrit-Chinese sources: Madyamāgama, T 26, k. 12, p. 499a–503a; Mahāvastu, I, p. 317–335; Mūlasarv. Vin., T 1450, k. 11, p. 157a–b; Hing-k’i-hing king, T 197, k. 2, p. 172c–174b.

Pāli sources: Majjhima, II, p. 45–54; Buddhavaṃsa, XXV, v. 10 seq.; Jātaka, I, p. 43; Milindapañha, p. 221–224.

The village where the buddha Kāśyapa gave the prediction to Uttara, alias Jyotipāla, was called Veruḍiṅga in Sanskrit, Vebhaḷinga in Pāli, but was designated elsewhere as Mārakaraṇda. It was on the site of the presnt Sārnāth near Benares, and in the 7th century, Hiuan-tsang was still able to visit it. He was shown the exact spot on which the prediction had occurred (cf. Si-yu-ki, T 2087, k. 7, p. 905c14–18).

A bas-relief at Gandhāra shows Nandapāla (alias Ghāṭikāra) pulling his childhood froend Uttara (alias Jyoyipāla) by the hair to lead him to the buddha Kāśyapa (cf. A. Foucher, AgbG, II, p. 327, fig. 458 above).