The Legend and Cult of Upagupta, 0.C




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pp. 3-4 tradition regarding Upa-gupta

p. 3

"Upagupta was a Buddhist monk {abbot} ... in the region of Mathura in Northern India ... . ... he was perhaps a follower of the Sarvastivadin school. ...

After his death, his mountain monastery near Mathura became a center of pilgrimage and remained so until at least the time of the Chinese traveller Hsu:an-tsang (seventh century C.E.)."

p. 4

"In Burma, Upagupta figured originally as part of the Buddhist Sanskritic tradition that was initially very influential in that country. When, in the eleventh and twefth centuries, the Burmese religious milieu was changed by the official establishment of Pali Buddhism from S{`}ri Lanka, saints such as Upagupta suddenly found themselves ... no longer quite canonical."

"in Southeast Asia generally, Upagupta has become associated with the mythology of naga[-]s (snake {dragon} deities) ... . He is thought to be still alive, residing in a brazen palace in the midst of the Southern Ocean."

pp. 5-6, 298 legends concerning Mathura

p. 5

"the Buddha himself is reuted to have visited Mathura. He arrived there on the day of a festival. The godess of the city ... sought ... to seduce him ... by appearing before him as a naked woman. ... . ... the Buddha then commented to his disciples that Mathura was a ... place ... where there were too many women, the ground was uneven, alms were difficult to obtain, and people ... ate when it was still night." (GilgMss. 3:1:14-15)

p. 6

"A Pali sutta [p. 298, n. 9 : "M. 2:83-90 (Eng. trans., Horner 1954-59, 2:278). See also A. 1:67 (Eng. trans., Woodward and Hare 1932-36, 1:62)."] recounts the conversion of a king of Mathura named Avantiputta {Avanti-putra} by the Buddha's own disciple Mahakaccana {Maha-kat.ya-ayana 'Great in-a-Hole Travel' -- born in Ujjain the capital of Avanti},

while a Sanskrit text [GilgMss. 3:1:8-14] recalls the story of the honest Brahmin Nila[-]bhuti, who ... found ... the Blessed One's charisma ... .

Finally, in a sequel to the tale of the Buddha's visit to Mathura ..., the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya [GilgMss. 3:1:16-17] relates how some devout Mathuran Brahmins subsequently came to the Blessed One to ask him to subdue the yaks.a[-]s Gardabha, S`ara, and Vana and the[-]s Alikavenda and Timisika ... . The Buddha does so by converting thse ... to Buddhism and having the citizens of Mathura build Buddhist vihara[-]in their honor."

p. 298, n. 9

"The M[ula-]S[arva-asti-]V[ada Vinaya] (GilgMss. 2:35-36) also recounts two cures effectuated in Mathura by the Buddha'slay disciple, the physician Jivaka."

GilgMss. = Gilgit Manuscripts (ed. by Nalinaksha Dutt). 1939-59, S`riNagar & Calcutta.

p. 6 the cities which became centres of Bauddha dharma

"by the time of the Council of Vais`ali, which according to tradition took place one hundred years after the death of the Buddha, Mathura seems to have become, along with Samkas`ya and Kan.ya-kubja, one of the centres of Buddhism in the west." [p. 298, n. 12 : "According to T. 1545, 27:510c ..., Mahadeva, the propounder of the Five Theses on arhats that may ... have been the cause of the Council of Vais`ali, was a native of Mathura."]

Tais^o 1545 = Maha-vibhas.a

pp. 6 & 298 a book authored by Upa-gupta

p. 6

"Upagupta ... a Sarvastivadin ... figures prominentlyin that school's listing of Dharma masters, and a number of Chinese sources were even willing to credit him with the compilation of the Sarvastivadin Vinaya. Moreover, the only [non-extant] written work attributed to him, the Netri[-]pada s`astra, would appear to have been a treatise presenting Sarvastivadin viewpoints."

p. 298, n. 14

"In AbhK., p. 71 (... Eng. trans., Pruden 1988:226), the ellder Upagupta's Netri[-]pada s`astra is quoted as asserting that the Tathagata attains first the trance of cessation (nirodha samapatti) and then the knowledge of decay (ks.aya[-]jn~ana). This is said to be the position of "Western" Sarvastivadins, the Pas`catya[-]s (on whom see Pruden 1988:344n.235), and it is denied by the Vaibhasika[-]s of Kashmir.

On this debate, see also Lin 1949:14n.1.

{Would it not be more reasonable to suppose that different Tatha-gata-s would attain the various trances and the various knowledges in different sequences, instead of conjecturing that all Tatha-gata-s would attain the various trances and the various knowledges in praecisely the same sequence? Ought not an expert classification of the diverse Tatha-gata-s to include categorization of such sequential differences?}

The Netripada is ... quoted in an orthodox Pali text, the Vimutti[-]magga (see Ehara, Soma, and Kheminda [1961]:166)."

Lin 1949 = Lin Li-kouan : L'aide-me'moire de la vraie loi (Saddharma-smrtyupasthāna-sūtra). Paris : Adrien-Maisonneuve.

Ehara, Soma, & Kheminda 1961 = Upatissa (transl. into Chinese by Tipitaka Sanghapāla of Funan; transl. from the Chinese by N.R.M. Ehara & Kheminda Thera) : The Path of Freedom (Vimuttimagga). Kandy : Buddhist Publication Society. [reprinted 1977]

pp. 7-8 ontology-metaphysics of Sarva-asti Vada

p. 7

"the Sarvastivadin[-]s ... were concerned ... perceiving (remembering) things past and perceiving {praeternaturally} ... things future. ... The Sarvastivadin solution ... wassimply to affirm he existence not only of present, but also of past and future dharma[-]s. According to them, the past and the future are, like the present,

p. 8

... said to exist, in their having their own real characteristics (svabhavika[-]" {These characteristic are otherwise stated to exist in the Akas`ik Record.}

{Co-ordinated with this doctrine of is a doctrine of svabhavika-kaya (one's "own-becoming", i.e., the self-transforming capacity of one's subtle-body.}

pp. 7 & 298 Sarva-asti Vada scriptures generally

p. 7

"the Sarvastivadins ... had ... an Abhidharma that was quite different from that of the Theravadins.

[p. 298, n. 18 "On the Sarvastivadin canon, see ... Banerjee [1957] ... . On the Abhidharma of the school, see Takakusu 1905; and, for further references, Nakamura 1980b:105-13."]

p. 7

In addition, individual Sarvastivadin scholars produced a whole series of commentaries and treatises ... for generations of Buddhists in Northern India".

[p. 298, n. 19 "The largest of these, the Mahavibhas.a (T. 1545 ...), is a monumental commentary on the chief book of the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma, the Jn~anaprasthana. ... On the relationships among these ..., see Pruden 1988:xxxvi-lxi; Griffiths 1986:44-58 ... ."]

Banerjee 1957 = Anukul Chandra Banerjee : Sarvastivada Literature. Calcutta Oriental Press.

Takakusu 1905 = Junjiro Takakusu : "On the Abhidharma Literature of the Sarvastivadins". J OF THE PALI TEXT SOC, pp. 67-146.

Nakamura 1980b = Nakamura Hajime : Indian Buddhism : a Survey with Bibliographical Notes. Hirakata City.

Pruden 1988 = Vasubandhu (transl by Leo M. Pruden from the French transl by Louis de La Valle'e Poussin): Abhidharmakos`abhas.yam. 4 voll. Berkeley (CA) : Asian Humanities Pr, 1988-1990.

Griffiths 1986 = Paul J. Griffiths : On Being Mindless. LaSalle (IL).

p. 8 factionalism of commentaors on the Abhi-dharma

"By the second century C.E., the "orthodox" Vaibhas.ika[-]s, who claimed that they were the correct interpreters of the Abhidharma along the lines of the Mahavibhas.a commentary, had become clearly distinguished from the Sautrantika[-]s, who maintaied the sole authority of the sutra[-]s. (Bareau 1955, pp. 132 & 155)

Later ... the Mula[-]sarvastivadin[-]s ... had a separate Vianaya of their own and ... thus would appear to have been a distinct sect." [p. 299, n. 27 : "For two opposing views, see Lamotte 1958:191-92; and Frauwallner 1956:24-41."]

Bareau 1955 = Andre' Bareau : Les sectes bouddhiques du petit ve'hicule. Paris : Publications de l'École française d'Extrême-Orient, v. 38.

Lamotte 1958 = Etienne Lamotte : Histoire du bouddhisme indien des origines à l'ère Śaka. Bibliothèque du Muséon, v. 43. Louvain : Publications Universitaires, Institut Orientaliste.

Frauwallner 1956 = Erich Frauwallner : The Earliest Vinaya and the Beginnings of Buddhist Literature. Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, Serie orientale Roma, 8.

pp. 8 & 299 Sarva-asti Vadin Ava-dana-s

p. 8

"the Sarvastivadin[-]s ..., and even more the Mula{'Root'-}sarvastivadin[-]s, were also famous for their collecions of popular Buddhist legends (avadana[-]s), which they both incorporated into their canonical texts and preserved as separate anthologies."

p. 299, n. 29

"A ... survey of avadana literature may be found in Winternitz 1933, 2:277-94. For ... analysis of the stories in the Tibetan MSV., see Panglung 1981."

Winternitz 1933 = Maurice Winternitz (transl by Mrs S. Ketkar) : A History of Indian Literature. 3 voll. Calcutta.

Panglung 1981 = Jampa Losang Panglung : Die Erza:hlstoffe des Mulasarvastivada Vinaya ... . Tokyo.

p. 9 Sarva-asti Vada scriptures which contain legends concerning Upa-gupta

"The Divyavadana ... contains in its twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh chapters the fullest extant Sanskrit version of the Upagupta story.

[p. 299, n. 31 "Div., pp. 348-418. ... . .... Eng. trans., Strong 1983b:173-97; 238-56 ... ."]

The Avadana[-]s`ataka, a collection of one hundred avadana[-]s, the last of which mentions Upagupta. ... .

{This organization of 99 + 1 = 100 is not only reminiscent of the 99 disclosed "beautiful names" + 1 secret (used only, according to the 1001 Nights, in the "Night of Power") name of >al-Lahh, but, even more specifically, of how (according to Bai mythology -- HChM, p. 106) "After 9,900 years, the [female] monkey produced ninety-nine eggs."}

... Chinese versions of ... several chapters from the Samyukt[-]agama sutra (Tsa a han ching). ...

The Mula[-]sarvasti[-]vada Vinaya ... stories ... . Some of these ... in the original Sanskrit as well as in Chinese and Tibetan translations."

[p. 299, n. 36 "T. 1448, 24:41c-42b ... partial Eng. trans. of Tibetan, Rockhill 1907:164-70"]

Strong 1983b = John S. Strong : The Legend of King As`oka. Princeton Univ Pr.

HChM = Lihui Yang & Deming An : Handbook of Chinese Mythology. ABC-Clio, Santa Barbara (CA), 2005.

Rockhill 1907 =

pp. 9-10 other non-Sthavira Vada (i.e., Sammitiya and/or Maha-sanghika) scriptures which contain legends concerning Upa-gupta

p. 9

"Story no. 54 of the Kalpanaman.d.itatika (alias Sutralankara {Sutra-alankara}), an anthology of tales attributed to ... Kumara[-]lata. This story gives an account of Upagupta's conversion of Mara ... .

Section 67 of the Dama[-]muka[-]nidana sutra, an anthology of tales better known by its Chinese title (Hsien yu: ching) or its Tibetan one (h.Dsangs blun) ... . It was compiled by the Chinese monk Hui-chio and his seven companions ... in Khotan in 445 C.E.

The memoirs of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Hsu:an-tsang, who visited India in the late seventh century. ...

[p. 299, n. 41 "T. 2087, 51:890b-c, 937b (Eng. trans., Beal [1884] ..., 1:181-82, 2:273)."]

The "Upaguptavadana," chapter 72 of the Avadana[-]kalpalata, ...

p. 10

Buddhist legends ... put into verse by the eleventh-century Kashmiri poet Ks.amendra

The Tibetan ... Tara[-]natha's sixteenth-century Chos h.byung ... . ... .

[p. 299, n. 43 "Chimpa and Chattopadhyaya [1970] ...:34-44."]

... other sources preserved mostly in the Chinese Tripit.aka ... ."

[p. 299, n. 45 "T. 2058, 50:304c ff. ... Edkins 1893:67-70"]

Beal 1884 = Samuel Beal : Si-Yu-Ki : Buddhist Records of the Western World. 2 voll. London : Tru:bner & Co.

Chimpa & Chattopadhyaya 1970 = Chimpa & Alaka Chattopadhyaya (transll) : Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India. Simla : Indian Institute of Advanced Study.

Edkins 1893 = Joseph Edkins : Chinese Buddhism. London : :Kegan Paul, Trench, Tru:bner & Co.

p. 10 the Mathura-cycle of legends concerning Upa-gupta


chapter of this book

"the prediction made abouthim by the Buddha ...,


his past life as a monkey on Mount Uru[-]mun.d.a near Mathura ...,


his subsequent birth as the son of a perfume merchant in that city ...,


his encounter with the courtesan Vasava[-]datta,

his ordination by the elder S`an.aka[-]vasin, and

his fame as a teacher residing at the Nat.abhat.ika monastery ...,


... his victory over Mara ...,


... his death and cremation and

... stories of his disciples".


p. 11 Mathura-cycle legends lacking any mention of A-s`oka

"in ... the Dama[-]muka[-]nidana sutra, Mathura is very much featured, but no mention at all is made of As`oka. ... Similarly devoid of reference to the Mauryan king was the Mathuran presentation of

Upagupta as the fourth (or fifth, depending on the source) Master of the Dharma (dharm[-]acarya) in the Buddhist Sanskrit theory of patriarchal succession.

{As 4th or 5th, he will have lived in the 5th century AnteChrAira; whereas A-s`oka lived in the 3rd century AnteChrAira, i.e., some two centuries later.}

According to this tradition ..., the Buddha, at the time of his death, committed the Dharma to the keeping of the elder Maha[-]kas`yapa, who, in turn, passed it on to A[-]nanda;

Ananda then transmitted it to both S`an.aka[-]vasin and to Madhyantika {Madhya-antika},

the latter going off to convert Kashmir {Kas`-mira}

and the former becoming, in Mathura, the preceptor of Upagupta."

p. 11 the Pat.ali-putra-cycle of legends concerning "Upa-gupta" (actually proprely concerning Yas`as et al. instead)

"in the last chapter of the Avadana[-]s`ataka ..., Upagupta is already associated with the Mauryan king, but no mention is made at all of his connections with Mathura or with Mount Uru[-]mun.d.a. Instead, he is portrayed as residing at the Kukkut.a[-]rama monastery in Pat.ali[-]putra".

"it is insofar as he encounters As`oka that Upagupta has been confused with Yas`as, the abbot of the Kukkut.arama ...; and most especially with Moggaliputta Tissa {Maudgalya-ayana-putra Tis.ya}, the president of the Third Buddhist Council in the Pali Theravada {Sthavira Vada} tradition."

pp. 12-13 brazen palace at bottom of sea

p. 12

"The Lokapan~n~atti, as a whole, is a treatise on cosmology and is usually attributed to one Saddhammaghosa {Sat-dharma-ghos.a 'Existence-Law-Voice'} of Thaton in Lower Burma. It ... may well have been a reworking of a Sanskrit original, the Loka[-]prajn~apti -- a version of which is extant in the Chinese Tripit.aka ..., except that it does not include the story of Upagupta."

p. 13

"some new information about Upagupta also appears in the Lokapan~n~atti. Most importantly, he is now said not to have died, but to be dwelling in a brazen palace at the bottom of the ocean.

{"The palace of Poseidon was in the depth of the sea" -- nigh Aigai in Eu-boia (Iliad 13.21; Odusseia 5.381) -- "where he kept his horses with brazen hoofs" (DG&RB&M, s.v. "Poseidon" -- Th"OPE").}

{Cf. also the name /Tamra/ 'Copper' of the miraculous paradise-island [mythic] headquarters of Padma-sambhava (legendary founder of the rN~in-ma denomination).}

From there he can come to the aid of those devotees who worship him. In this guise, moreover, Upagutta is called

Kisanaga {Skt /kis`a-naga/ = /kis`a/ 'ape' (praesumably referring to his former incarnation as a monkey) + /naga/ 'dragon'} Upagutta."

{[Miao myth] "Long ago there were no human beings in the world, but there was a divine dragon that lived in a cave. One day, many monkeys came to the cave to play. The divine dragon blew to those monkeys, and the monkeys all transformed into human beings." (HChM, p. 105)} {[Bai myth] A "female monkey" laid an egg which hatched into "a divine dragon that could ... control the wind" (HChM, p. 106).}

DG&RB&M = Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.

Th"OPE" = "Olympios Poseidon -- Encyclopedia".

pp. 14, 16 Upa-gupta aboard a raft and connected to a seashell

p. 14

"traditions about Upagupta ... were kept alive in the practices ... of Buddhist believers ... . Today -- in Burma, in Northern and Northeastern Thailand, and in Laos -- Shin Upago (Burmese) or Phra Uppakhut (Thai, Laotian) is still thought to be alive and living in the ocean ... . ...

In Burma, ... Shin Upago ... is often depicted as sitting on a raft, ... and his head tilted upwards toward the sky. ... .

{Aztec god Topil-tzin is often depicted aboard a raft (consisting of intermeshed quetzal-coatl 'pretious-snake' figures), or with his head tilted upwards.}

... Upagupta is looking skywards because he is using his magical powers to stay the sun in its course".

{Yhos^uw<a (while on land, however) likewise temporarily halted motion of the Sun in the sky for some hours.}

p. 16

"More commonly, the saint is represented in the form of a stone or stones taken a river bottom ... .

{Yhos^uw<a instead placed a row of stones in the bed of the Yarden river.}

It is also possible to find in amulet shops small metallic representations of seashells

{Topil-tzin ('Our Lord') -- and likewise his divine brother Xolotl ('Slave') -- is depicted wearing a conch-shell on a necklace.}

or other marine creatures out of which peers a ... face ... . These, too, are said to be Phra Uppakhut".

{Is his aspect of Ehecatl ('Wind'), Topil-tzin is depicted with long, straight beak, perhaps modeled on that of a giant-squid.}

p. 16 heroine Matsya-gandha

"Upagupta ... In some areas, ... is said to be the son of Macchadevi {Matsya-devi 'Fish-Goddess'},

{if so, then he must be identical with Dvaipa-ayana Veda-vyasa, who was

the foul-smelling fish princess who was ... impregnated by a Brahmanical ascetic."

begotten on ferry-boat operatrix Matsya-gandha ('Fish-Odor') by the sage Paras`ara.}

p. 18 praeternatural apparition of Upa-gupta to the faithful

"Upagupta ... In both Northern Thailand and in Burma, ... is thought to be able to manifest himself in person, suddenly and quite mysteriously appearing in the form of a rather ugly and strange-looking monk on his begging round. In Northern Thailand, he is particularly said to come in this way very early in the morning (at 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00 A.M.) on those few days each year when the full moon falls on a Wednesday. On such days, laypersons should get up before daybreak and offer food to any monks who have gone out on their begging rounds extra early for the occasion. ...

In fact, stories abound of individuals who struck it rich after encountering Upagupta."


John S. Strong : The Legend and Cult of Upagupta : Sanskrit Buddhism in North India and Southeast Asia. Princeton Univ Pr, 1992.