Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “avadana of sumana (or sumanas, karnasumana)” 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.

The Avadāna of Sumana (or Sumanas, Karṇasumana)

Note: This first mention of Sumana or Karṇasumana is in Chapter XXXVI part 2.9 (logical order of the eight recollections):

“Ājñātakauṇḍinya, Śāriputra, Maudgalyāyana, Mahākāśyapa and even śrāmaṇeras of seven years, Sou-mo (Sumana), all obtained the pure dharmas (anāsravadharma), the faculties (indriya), the powers (bala), the factors of enlightenment (saṃbodhyaṅga) and the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa). Althought this pure nature is wondrous, all beings who receive the kindness of the Buddha obtain it. This is why recollection of the Buddha comes first”.

This extract is from Chapter XLV part 1.2 (the practice of the ‘minor’ perfections):

“Thus in a previous life, the bhikṣu Siu-man-eul (Karṇasumana) saw the stūpa of the Buddha Vipaśyin and gave the sumanā flower that he was wearing behind his ear to it. As a result of this, for ninety-one kalpas, he never fell into the bad destinies (durgati), he enjoyed happiness among gods and men, and in his last lifetime, he had, on his ear, a sumanā flower the perfume of which filled the whole house; this is why he was called Karṇasumana. Later, disenchanted with the world, he went forth from home and obtained the bodhi of the Arhats”.

Notes to the Avadāna of Sumana or Karṇasumana:

Sumana, also called Sumanas or Karṇasumana:

“The bhikṣu Karṇasumana, in a previous lifetime, saw the stūpa of the Buddha Vipaśyin and gave it the sumanā flower that he was wearing behind his ear. As a result of this, for eighty-one kalpas he enjoyed happiness among gods and men and, in his last lifetime, he had behind his ear a sumanā flower the perfume of which filled the whole house; this is why he was called Karṇasumana. Then, disgusted with the world, he went forth from home and obtained the Bodhi of the Arhats.”

For this legend and others connected to him, see the Anavataptagāthā, ed. Bechert, p. 109–115; transl. Hofinger, p. 205–207; Fo wou po ti tseu, T 199, p. 191b23–191c22; Mūlasarv. Vin., Gilgit Man., III, part 1, p. 180–181, and T 1448, k. 16, p. 79c1–29; Pāli Apadāna, p. 117; Theragāthā, p. 38, 46; Mahākarmavibhaṅga, p. 101; Avadānaśataka, II, p. 67–71 (200, k. 9, p. 245a3–b2); Commentary of the Dhammapada, IV, p. 120–137; Milindhapañha, p. 115, 291, 350.

When he was but seven years of age, Sumana was ordained by Aniruddha (Comment. on Dhammapda, IV, p. 136, l. 12). He may be identified, perhaps, with the Sumana who represented the monks from Pāvā at the second Council at Vaiśālī (Vinaya,II, p. 305; Dīpavaṃsa, IV, v. 51; Mahāvaṃsa, IV, v. 49, 59).