Sanskrit Lesson

vakkulena1 ca, "and Vakkula,"

(continued from issue #54)    by Bhiksuni Heng Hsien

    Among the Buddha's disciples the great Arhat Vakkula2 , who lived to be one hundred and sixty years of age, was distinguished for his life span. Born seated in full lotus and able to talk, 3 he was thought to be a monster by his mother who tried to kill him, but to no avail, for Vakkula had purely held the precept against killing for so long that he himself could not be killed. 4

    Finally his mother flung him into the sea, where he was swallowed by a fish. When the fish was caught and opened the baby Vakkula was still alive. Some say the fisherman's wife then adopted him and explain his name as meaning dva- (simplified to   va-)"two" and kula "family," indicating that he had two families, the one into which he was born and his adoptive one.

    But beware, for although vakula (also bakula) trees 6 occur in Sanskrit literature, you should not confuse them with the name of this Arhat! Their name is not in origin a Sanskrit or related word, 7 and the trees are ignominously known to bloom when spat on by a woman.

    The traditional Chinese translation of the Arhat Vakkula's name is "well-formed" 8 referring to his well-balanced limbs and well proportionad features. The Sanskrit derivation of the Chinese meaning is obscure.

    Not only was the Venerable Vakkula's life-span long , but for eighty years he cultivated the Way he never had an instant's illness or pain. That was his reward for having offered a haritaki9 fruit to a Pratyeka buddha in the past. The great Arhat Vakkula was in the assembly when the Buddha spoke the Amitabha Sutram.

1 Vakkulena appears after Kalodayina ca in Max Muller's Sanskrit edition. We have emended the word order on the basis of the Chinese text.

2. po2 chu 1 lo 2; Tibetan transliterates as Ba-ku-la or Bag-ku-la.

3 Modern derivatives and Prakrit bakkara "laughter" point to a hypothetical Sanskrit root *bakk- "to chatter," (Turner 9117).

4 See VBS #47, pp. 9-10