Sanskrit Lesson

Bharadvajena ca           "and Bharadvaja,"

(continued from issue #51)                by Bhiksuni Heng Hsien

    Among the Great Arhats present when Sakyamuni Buddha spoke the Amitabha Sutra was the Venerable Pindolabharadvaja.1 Pindola seems to mean "One who seeks alms,"2 and to be related to the word  Pinda "lump of food," referring to the balls of rice given as alms to mendicants in India. Pindola was his personal name, and Bharadvaja3 his family name, the name of the most distinguished gotra "clan" of the eighteen Brahman clans. Pindolabharad vaja's father was chief priest to a king. The son learned the Vedas (the canon of Brahman sacrificial lore) and began to teach, but found that unrewarding. Some say Pindolabharadvaja originally joined the order of Buddhist Bhiksus out of a desire for fine offerings, but eventually subdued his cravings and become an Arhat. 

    The name Bharadvaja seems made from bharat bearing, carrying," root bhr- carry, bear"), and  vaja. "strength, speed, prize" (root vaj- "go, be strong"). The final -t of bharat becomes -d before the voiced sound v-, giving the -dva- of bharadvaja "bearing speed, or strength (of flight)"4. Once a wealthy Sresthin "elder" from the city Rajagrha  "House of Kings" set a choice sandalwood bow  at the top of a high pole, announcing that any spiritual adept who could bring it down could have the bowl. Blinded by greed, Pindolabharadvaja used his spiritual penetrations and carried off the prize. The Buddha afterwards chided him for manifesting his spiritual powers to such ignoble ends, and the bowl was ground into incense powder.

    There is another probably erroneous explanation of the name as a combination of bhara- "carrying, weighty, prize," and dhvaja "banner, emblem, flag." The Tibetan Tradition translates on the basis of that analysis,5 unsupported by the Chinese and apparently misinterpreting the Sanskrit.6

    Since Pindolabharadvaja had been so greedy both for bowls and for their contents, the Buddha refused him permission to enter Nirvana. To this day the Venerable Pindolabharadvaja remains in the world, receiving offerings as a field of blessings for mankind.