Sariputra Turns from the Bodhisattva Path

From Nagarjuna's Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom
(Dharmamitra Translation)

Question: What is meant by the fulfillment of dana paramita?

Response: The meaning of dana is as discussed above. As for "paara-" (In the language of Ch'in, this means "the other shore.") "-mitaa" (In the language of Ch'in, this means "to reach."), this means to cross the river of giving and to succeed in reaching the other shore.

Question: What is meant by failing to reach the other shore?

Response: It is analogous to crossing over a river but returning before having arrived. This is what is meant by failing to reach the other shore. For example, Sariputra cultivated the bodhisattva way for a period of sixty kalpas, desiring to cross over the river of giving. At that time there was a beggar who came along and demanded that he give him one of his eyes. Sariputra said, "The eye would then be useless. What do you want it for? If you need to put my body to use or if you want any valuables I own, then I'll give those to you."

The beggar replied, "I've got no use for your body and I don't want any valuables you might own. I just want an eye, that's all. If you were truly a cultivator of the practice of giving, then I'd receive an eye from you."

At that time Sariputra pulled out one of his eyes and gave it to him. The beggar got the eye and then right there in front of Sariputra he sniffed it , cursed, "It stinks," spat, and then threw it down on the ground. Then, in addition, he smashed it beneath his foot.

Sariputra thought to himself, "It's a difficult task to cross over such base people as this. He actually had no use for the eye and yet he forcefully demanded it. Having gotten it he not only threw it away, he even smashed it with his foot. How extremely base! People of this sort cannot be crossed over to liberation. Far better that I just concentrate on disciplining myself so as to gain an early liberation from the cycle of birth and death." Having thought this to himself he then turned from the bodhisattva way and directed himself to the lesser vehicle. This is what is meant by failing to reach the other shore. If one is able to advance directly and not retreat and thus complete the buddha way, this constitutes reaching to the other shore.