by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words
This page describes “levitation” 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 Buddha’s feet glide four inches above the ground”. If the Buddha were always flying, beings would suspect him of not being of the human race and would not take refuge (śaraṇa) in him. On the other hand, if the Buddha’s feet touched the ground, beings would find that he was no different from an ordinary being and would have no respect (gaurava) for him. This is why, while gliding four inches above the ground, the Buddha does not trample the ground but yet the traces of the wheel appear on the ground.
Question. – But the Buddha always emits a radiance one armspan in width (vyāmaprabhā), and his feet do not tread on the ground; why then would beings not honor him?
Answer. – For innumerable kalpas, beings have accumulated serious faults and so they have doubts about the Buddha. They say: “The Buddha is a master magician who deceives people with his tricks”, or also: “If his feet do not tread on the ground, it is because that is his nature (prakṛtir asyasiṣā); what is so wonderful about a bird flying?” There are beings who, as a result of the gravity of their faults, do not see the physical marks (lakṣaṇa) of the Buddha and simply say: “The Buddha is a very powerful śrāmaṇa.” Those who speak in this way are like very sick people who, on the point of dying, consider the remedies (bhaiṣajya) and good food as stinking (durgandha) and consequently do not pay [310b] any attention to them.
Footnotes and references:
This is the ‘usual’ light of the Buddha; cf. p. 277F, 455F.
Majjhima, I, p. 375, 381; Anguttara, II, p. 190, 193: Samaṇo Gotamo māyāvī, āvaṭṭaniṃ māyaṃ jānāti aññatithiyānaṃ sāvake āvaṭṭeti.
In the canonical scriptures, the heretics address the Buddha by calling him Samaṇo Gotama.