Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words

This page describes “arhathood of mahakashyapa” 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 4 - Arhathood of Mahākāśyapa

Note: This Appendix is extracted from a footnote of the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra Chapter LI:

When Mahākāśyapa saw the Buddha, he obtained the first fruit of the Path, then eight days later he became Arhat.

The main source is a passage of the Cīvrasutta of the Saṃyutta, II, p. 219–221, but it must be complemented by other sources, placed in brackets here.

Disgusted by lay life, Mahākāśyapa made himself an under-robe from pieces of cloth (paṭapilotokānaṃ saṃghāti). [Traité, p. 1399F: This robe was worth a thousand pieces of gold. Wanting to have a lowly beggar’s garment, he searched for rags but was unable to find any.] Like the arhats in this world, he cut his hair and his beard, put on the yellow robe and went forth from home into homelessness.

Having gone forth, half-way he saw the Blessed One seated near the Bahuputta-Cetiya, between Rājagṛha and Nālandā. Having seen him, he wanted to bow to him. [Kośavyākhyā, p. 374, l. 11–15: But, they say, all the statues of the gods that Mahākāśyapa bowed to broke into pieces due to his great power. Approaching the Blessed One, he did not bow to him out of fear of destroying his body. Knowing his intention, the Blessed One encouraged him, saying: “Kāśyapa, bow to the Tathāgata.” Then he bowed down to him.]

Kāśyapa prostrated to the feet of the Blessed One and said: “The Blessed One is my teacher; I am his disciple” (Satthā me Bhagavā, sāvako ham asmi). [Kośabhāṣyā, p. 212, l. 3 and 6: There are ten kinds of ordination (upasampad)…; the 4th, by recognizing the Blessed One as teacher, in the case of Mahākāśyapa (daśavidhā upasampad iti… śāṣṭur abhyupagamān mahākāśyapasya)].

The Blessed One encouraged Kāśyapa and, having encouraged him, he arose from his seat and went away. Then Kāśyapa said: “For seven days while I was imperfect, I enjoyed the food [offered] by the land; on the eighth day, perfect knowledge was produced in me.”

This comment confirms the assertion of the Traité in terms of which Kāśyapa, when he saw the Buddha, obtained the first fruit of the Path, then, eight days later, became arhat. Actually, by recognizing the Blessed One as teacher, he ‘entered into the stream of nirvāṇa’ (srotaāpanna) and this recognition constituted his ordination. Eight days later, perfect knowledge (ājñā) was produced in him and he became arhat.

Kaśyapa’s assertion which Bakkula will attribute to him (Majjhima, III, p. 127, l. 7–8) is worded in Pāli as follows: Sattāham eva kho ahaṃ, āvuso, sāṇo raṭṭhapiṇḍaṃ bhuñji, atha aṭṭhamiyaṃ aññā udapādi.

‘Enjoying the food of the land’ seems to be out of context, for the quest for food is the job of all monks, perfect as well as imperfect. Sāṇa, which I [Lamotte] have translated above as ‘imperfect’ is a rare word. According to the Commentary of the Saṃyutta, II, p. 199, l. 1, it means, etymologically, sa-iṇa, ‘in debt’; in the figurative sense, sa-kilesa, ‘with passions’. The commentary does not specify which ones, but as sāṇa is opposed here to aññā, the perfect knowledge of the saints, we could take it that it is all the passions to be abandoned by seeing the truths, or darśanaheyakleśa (cf. Kośa, V, p. 13).

The sāṇa would be something like a good worldly person (pṛthagjana) practicing the three śikṣā (high morality, high thought, high wisdom) in view of the destruction of the impurities (saikṣa). The expression saikṣa pṛthagjanakalyāṇaka is time-honored (Divya, p. 419, l. 17; 429, l. 17).

The Commentary of the Anguttara, I, p. 183, l. 8–10, has it that Kāśyapa had been worldly (puthujjana) during the seven days that preceded his coming to arhathood (sattadivasamattaṃ puthujjano hutvā aṭuthame aruṇe … arahattaṃ pāpuṇi).

Judging from the Chinese versions, the assertion made here by Kāśyapa was formulated differently in the Sanskrit Saṃyukta:

T 99, k. 41, p. 303c1–2: As for myself, for eight days, it was by practicing (śikṣ-) the Dharma that I received alms-food; on the ninth day, I produced [the fruit] of aśaikṣa.

T 100, k. 6, p. 418c14–15: As for myself, for eight days, as śaikṣa, I obtained the [first] three fruits [: fruits of srotaāpanna, sakṛdāgāmin and anāgāmin], and on the ninth day, I destroyed all the impurities (āsrava) and became arhat.

Compare Mahāvastu, III, p. 53, l. 7–9: Sa khalv aham, āyuṣmann Ānanda, bhagavatā iminā ovādena ovāditto aṣṭhāham evābhūsi śaikṣo sakaraṇiyo navame yevājñām ārāgaye. – And as for myself, O venerable Ānanda, encouraged by this exhortation of the Blessed One, for eight days I was yet a śaikṣa having still something to be done, and, on the ninth day exactly, I attained perfect knowledge].

– Here, in abridged form, is the rest of the Cīvarasutta of the SaÛṃutta, II, p. 221. It is Kāśyapa who is speaking:

Then the Blessed One, going off the path, sat down at the foot of a tree.

Then I folded into four and spread out my saṃghāṭi made of pieces of cloth, and I said to the Blessed One: “May the Lord sit here; this will make me happy for a long time!”

The Blessed One sat down on the indicated seat and said to me: “Your saṃghāṭi made of pieces of cloth, O Kāśyapa, is soft.” – “May the lord accept my saṃghāṭi out of pity for me!”

“Will you wear, O Kāśyapa, my worn out rags?” – “Yes, I will wear them, Lord.”

Then I gave to the Blessed One my saṃghāṭi made of pieces of cloth and I received in return the rags of hempen cloth, so worn-out, of the Blessed One.

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