Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “conversion of shaila (sela)” 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 5 - The conversion of Śaila (Sela)

Note: This Appendix is extracted from the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra chapter LII (hearing the name of the Buddhas):

Also, the brāhmaṇa Che-yi-lo (Śaila) first heard the name of ‘Buddha’ at the home of the jaṭila-brahmacārin Ki-ni-ye (Keṇiya); his mind was overjoyed; he went straight to the Buddha; he heard the Dharma and obtained bodhi.

The conversion of Śaila (in Pāli, Sela) is told, partially in the same words, by the Selasutta of the Suttanipāta, p. 102–112, and of the Majjhima, II, p. 146. – See also the Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 46, p. 798a25–799c16.

The jaṭila master Keṇiya was living at Āpaṇa, the capital of the Aṅguttarāpas in the land of Aṅga. He was a staunch brāhmaṇist but, coming to learn that the Buddha along with 1250 bhikṣus was traveling in the area, he went to see him and invited him to lunch on the following day. According to his custom, the Buddha accepted by remaining silent and Keṇiya went home to prepare the reception with his friends and family.

Keṇiya had as a friend in Āpaṇa the learned brāhmaṇa Sela who was a specialist in the Vedas and auxiliary sciences, an expert in interpreting physical signs and learned in mantras which he taught to 300 disciples. The same afternoon, as he was passing by his friend’s home and seeing him so busy, he asked what he was preparing for. Keṇiya answered: “The Buddha Bhagavat is in the neighborhood, in the Green Forest, and I have invited him and his saṃgha to have lunch with me.”

The same dialogue occurred between Sela and Keṇiya as between Sudatta and his brother-in-law. “Did you say the Buddha?” asked Sela. “Yes, I did say the Buddha”, answered Keṇiya. And Sela cried: “The word ‘buddha’ is indeed rare in the world.”

Again this time, the fact of having heard three times the word ‘buddha’ had no more effect on Sela than it had had on Sudatta. Nevertheless, curious, Sela together with his 300 students went to the Green Forest and respectfully greeted the Buddha. He had plenty of time to discover the thirty-two marks of the Great Man on the body of the Blessed One, including those of the tongue and cryptorchidia (see above, p. 274–276F, 1667F). They knew that anyone bearing the thirty-two marks is destined to become a cakravartin king or a fully and completely enlightened Buddha. Wanting to be sure that he was indeed in the presence of a Buddha, Sela praised Śākyamuni, for he knew from the very old brāhmaṇas that “if one praises them, those who are truly holy, fully and completely enlightened, will reveal themselves” (ye te bhavanti arahanto sammāsambuddhā, te sake vaṇṇe bhaññamāne attānaṃ pātukaronti).

The pious stratagem worked and, approving of the praises which Sela made in stanzas ringing with piety, Śākyamuni firmly and simply admitted himself to be Saṃbuddha and, since he was addressing a brāhmaṇa, Brahmabhūta.

Fully convinced, Sela and his disciples asked to be received into the order and on the spot they were given ordination. This was not yet bodhi, but they entered the Path.

The next day, the Buddha and the saṃgha went to Keṇiya the jaṭila and took part in the banquet he had offered them. After the meal, the Buddha thanked his host and departed. Shortly afterward, Sela and his companions realized in this very life the supreme goal of the religious life and recognized that they had destroyed rebirth: Khiṇā jāti…. Thus there were on this earth some new arhats (aññataro kho panāyasmā Sela apariso arahataṃ ahosi). Sudatta, as we have seen in the preceding note, had to be content with the fruit of srotaāpanna.

Does the fact of having heard the name of Buddha occur in the spiritual conquests? The sūtras say nothing about it. In any way, if the hearing did have a result, it was not immediate. When the new arhats attained the bodhi of the śrāvakas, eight days had elapsed since the hearing of the name of Buddha and their taking refuge (yan taṃ saraṇam āgamha ito aṭṭhami, cakkhumā; sattarattena Bhagavā dant’ amha tava sāsane).

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