The Stem Array
Degé Kangyur, vol. 37 (phal chen, ga), folios 274.b–396.a; vol. 38 (phal chen, a), folios 1.b–363.a
Translated by Peter Alan Roberts
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
First published 2021
Current version v 1.0.18 (2022)
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In this lengthy final chapter of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, while the Buddha Śākyamuni is in meditation in Śrāvastī, Mañjuśrī leaves for South India, where he meets the young layman Sudhana and instructs him to go to a certain kalyāṇamitra or “good friend,” who then directs Sudhana to another such friend. In this way, Sudhana successively meets and receives teachings from fifty male and female, child and adult, human and divine, and monastic and lay kalyāṇamitras, including night goddesses surrounding the Buddha and the Buddha’s wife and mother. The final three in the succession of kalyāṇamitras are the three bodhisattvas Maitreya, Mañjuśrī, and Samantabhadra. Samantabhadra’s recitation of the Samantabhadracaryāpraṇidhāna (“The Prayer for Completely Good Conduct”) concludes the sūtra.
Translated by Peter Alan Roberts and edited by Emily Bower, who was also the project manager. Ling Lung Chen was consultant for the Chinese, and Tracy Davis copyedited the final draft. The translator would like to thank Patrick Carré and Douglas Osto, who have both spent decades studying and translating this sūtra, for their advice and help.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous sponsorship of Richard and Carol Weingarten; of Jamyang Sun, Manju Chandra Sun and Siqi Sun; and of an anonymous donor, which helped make the work on this translation possible, is most gratefully acknowledged.
This was translated and revised by the Indian upādhyāyas Jinamitra and Surendrabodhi and by the chief editor Lotsawa Bandé Yeshé Dé and others.2232
Tibetan Editor’s Colophon
A Multitude of Buddhas is the marvelous essence of the final, ultimate, definitive wheel from among the three wheels of the Sugata’s teaching. It has many other titles, such as The Mahāvaipulya Basket, The Earring, The Lotus Adornment, and so on.
It has seven sections:2233 A Multitude of Tathāgatas,2234 The Vajra Banner Dedication,2235 The Teaching of the Ten Bhūmis,2236 The Teaching of Completely Good Conduct,2237 [F.362.b] The Teaching of the Birth and Appearance of the Tathāgatas,2238 The Transcendence of the World,2239 and Stem Array.2240 These are subdivided into forty-five chapters.
According to Butön Rinpoché and others, it contains thirty-nine thousand and thirty verses, a hundred and thirty fascicles, and an additional thirty verses. In the Tshalpa Kangyur edition there are a hundred and fifteen fascicles, the Denkarma edition has a hundred and twenty-seven fascicles,2241 and present-day editions have various numbers of fascicles.2242
This sūtra was first received from Ārya Nāgārjuna by Paṇḍita Buddhabhadra and Paṇḍita Śikṣānanda (652–710), and they both translated it into Chinese. It is taught that Surendrabodhi and Vairocanarakṣita became principal editors for a Chinese translation.
As for the lineage of the text, there is the lineage from China: The perfect Buddha, Ārya Mañjuśrī, Lord Nāgārjuna, the two paṇḍitas mentioned above, and Heshang Tushun. Then the lineage continued through others until Üpa Sangyé Bum received it from Heshang Gying-ju. Then that lineage was passed on through Lotsawa Chokden and has continued up to the present time.
The lineage from India is as follows:
It was passed from Nāgārjuna to Āryadeva, and then Mañjuśrīkīrti, and so on, until Bari Lotsawa received it from Vajrāsana. It is taught that the lineage then continued through Chim Tsöndrü Sengé, the great Sakya Lord,2243 and so on.
However, I have not seen any other text or history of a translation made by any other lotsawa or paṇḍita other than those listed in the colophon to this translation into Tibetan.
The king of Jangsa Tham2244 had a complete Kangyur made that was based on the Tshalpa Kangyur. At the present time this is known as the Lithang Tshalpa Kangyur (1609–14). I considered this to be a reliable source and so have made it the basis for this edition. However, it has many omissions, accretions, and misspellings, and therefore I have at this time corrected it by seeking out many older editions.
There are variant Indian texts and conflicting translations, and I have not been able to ascertain from them a definitive single meaning or correct words. Nevertheless, this text is nothing but a valid edition.
There are varying translations of terms that have been left unrevised, as there is no contradiction in meaning. For example, it has rgyan instead of bkod pa;2245 ’byam klas instead of rab ’byams;2246 so so yang dag par rig pa instead of tha dad pa yang dag par shes pa;2247 thugs for dgongs pa;2248 [F.363.a] nyin mtshan dang zla ba yar kham mar kham dang instead of nyin mtshan dang yud du yan man dang;2249 and tha snyad instead of rnam par dpyod pa.2250
Sanskrit words have many cases and tenses, so that although the Tibetan lotsawas and paṇḍitas, who had the eyes of the Dharma, translated their meaning, their tenses, cases, and so on are difficult to discern. Those are the majority of the examples of uncertainty, and there are also a few other kinds, but they are nevertheless in accord with Tibetan grammar.
In most texts there are many archaic words, so that the meaning of the translation is not clear, but there is a consistency when those words are all in archaic Tibetan. However, there appears to have occurred in later times a strong adulteration of the text so that there is a mixture of archaic and modern forms. There are also unreliable placements of the shad mark that differentiates clauses, but all these have been left as they are because these faults are few and minor. Therefore, this revision has been diligently edited without becoming analogous to knocking down the ancient megaliths of the southern regions.
May this remain for the entire kalpa within the circle of the Cakravāla Mountains, as bright as the sun and moon, as the glory of the merit of nonsectarian beings and the precious teaching of the Buddha.
This was printed in the water tiger year called dge byed (1722),2251 in the presence of Tenpa Tsering (1678–1738), the divine Dharma king who rules in accordance with the Dharma, who has the vast, superior wealth of the ten good actions, and who is a bodhisattva as a ruler of humans and the source of happiness in the four regions of greater Tibet.
This was written by the attendant Gelong Tashi Wangchuk, who in the process of revision was commanded to become its supervisor.
Ye dharmahetuprabhavā hetun teṣān tathāgato hy avadat. Teṣāñ ca yo nirodha evaṃ vādī mahāśramanaḥ.
sdong po bkod pa (Gaṇḍavyūha). Toh 44, ch. 45, Degé Kangyur vol. 37 (phal chen, ga), folios 274.b–396.a; vol. 38 (phal chen, a), folios 1.b–363.a.
sdong po bkod pa. bka’ ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Kangyur], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 108 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 2006–9, vol. 37, pp. 590–853; vol. 38, pp. 3–800.
sdong po bkod pa. Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 39 (phal chen, ca), folios 22.b–352.a; vol. 40 (phal chen, cha), folios 1.a–310.a.
sangs rgyas phal po che zhe bya ba shin tu rgyas pa chen po’i mdo (Buddhāvataṃsakanāmamahāvaipulyasūtra) [The Mahāvaipulya Sūtra “A Multitude of Buddhas”]. Toh 44, Degé Kangyur vols. 35–38 (phal chen, ka–a). Stok Palace Kangyur vols. 35–40 (phal chen, ka–cha).
dga’ bo la mngal na gnas pa bstan pa (Nandagarbhāvakrantinirdeśa) [The Sūtra on Being in the Womb That Was Taught to Nanda]. Toh 57, Degé Kangyur vol. 41 (dkon brtsegs, ga), folios 205.b–236.b.
rgya cher rol pa (Lalitavistara). Toh 95, Degé Kangyur vol. 46 (mdo sde, kha), folios 1.b–216.b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee (2013).
snying rje chen po’i pad ma dkar po (Mahākaruṇāpuṇḍarīka) [White Lotus of Compassion Sūtra]. Toh 111, Degé Kangyur vol. 50 (mde sde, cha), folios 56.a–128.b.
ting nge ’dzin gyi rgyal po’i mdo (Samādhirājasūtra). Toh 127, Degé Kangyur vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), folios 1.b–170.b. English translation in Roberts (2018a).
dam pa’i chos pad ma dkar po (Saddharmapuṇḍarīka) [Lotus Sūtra/Lotus of the Good Dharma]. Toh 113, Degé Kangyur vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1.b–180.b. English translation in Roberts (2018b).
bde ba can gyi bkod pa (Sukhāvatīvyūha). Toh 115, Degé Kangyur vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 195.b–200.b. English translation in Sakya Pandita Translation Group (2011).
rnam par snang mdzad chen po mngon par rdzogs par byang chub pa rnam par sprul pa byin gyis rlob pa shin tu rgyas pa mdo sde’i dbang po’i rgyal po (Mahāvairocanābhisambodhivikurvatīadhiṣṭhānavaipulyasūtraindrarājānāmadharmaparyāya). Toh 494, Degé Kangyur vol. 86 (rgyud, tha), folios 151.b–260.a.
phung po gsum pa’i mdo (Triskandhakasūtra) [The Confession of the Three Heaps]. Toh 284, Degé Kangyur vol. 68 (mdo sde, ya) folios 57.a–77.a.
byang chub sems dpa’i spyod yul gyi thabs kyi yul la rnam par ’phrul pa bstan pa (Bodhisattvagocaraupāyaviṣayavikurvāṇanirdeśa/Satyaka Sūtra) [The Teaching of the Miraculous Manifestation of the Range of Methods in the Field of Activity of the Bodhisattvas]. Toh 146, Degé Kangyur vol. 57 (mdo sde, pa), folios 82.a–141.b. English translation in Jamspal (2010).
tshangs pa’i dra ba’i mdo (Brahmajālasūtra). Toh 352, Degé Kangyur vol. 76 (mdo sde, aH), folios 70.b–86.a.
tshe dang ldan pa dga’ bo la mngal du ’jug pa bstan pa (Āyuṣmannandagarbhāvakrantinirdeśa) [The Sūtra on Entering the Womb That Was Taught to Āyuṣmat Nanda]. Toh 58, Degé Kangyur vol. 41 (dkon brtsegs, ga), folios 237.a–248.a. English translation in Kritzer 2021.
bzang po smon lam (Bhadracaryāpraṇidhāna). Toh 1095, Degé Kangyur vol. 101 (gzungs, waM), folios 262.b–266.a.
shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa stong phrag nyi shu lnga pa (Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā) [The Perfection of Wisdom in Twenty-Five Thousand Lines]. Toh 9, Degé Kangyur vols. 26–28 (nyi khri, ka–ga).
sa bcu’i le’u (Daśabhūmika) [Ten Bhūmi Sūtra]. Toh 44, ch. 31, Degé Kangyur vol. 36 (phal chen, ga), folios 46.a–283.a. English translation in Roberts (2021).
sems kyi rgyal pos dris nas grangs la ’jug pa bstan pa. Toh 44, ch. 36, Degé Kangyur vol. 36 (phal chen, kha), folios 348.b–393.b. Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) Kangyur vol. 36 (phal chen, kha), pp. 807–25.
Sanskrit Editions of the Gaṇḍavyūha
Vaidya, P. L., ed. Gaṇḍavyūhasūtra. Darbhanga: Mithila Institute, 1960.
Gaṇḍavyūhasūtra. GRETIL edition input by members of the Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon Input Project, based on the edition by P. L. Vaidya. Gaṇḍavyūhasūtra. Darbhanga: The Mithila Institute, 1960. Last updated July 31, 2020.
Suzuki, D. T., and Hokei Idzumi, eds. The Gaṇḍavyūha Sūtra. rev. ed. Tokyo: Society for the Publication of Sacred Books of the World, 1949.
Chinese Editions of the Gaṇḍavyūha and Commentaries
Da fangguang fohuayan jing 大方廣佛華嚴經 (Avataṃsaka Sūtra), translated by Buddhabhadra. Taishō 278.
Da fangguang fohuayan jing 大方廣佛華嚴經 (Avataṃsaka Sūtra), translated by Śikṣānanda. Taishō 279.
Da fangguang fohuayan jing 大方廣佛華嚴經 (Avataṃsaka Sūtra), translated by Prajñā. Taishō 293.
Da fangguang fohuayan jing ru fajie pin 大方廣佛華嚴經入法界品 (Avataṃsaka Sūtra, Gaṇḍavyūha Chapter), translated by Divākara. Taishō 295.
Da fangguang fohuayan jing busiyi fo jingjie fen 大方廣佛華嚴經不思議佛境界分 (Avataṃsaka Sūtra, Chapter on The Teaching on the Inconceivability of the Buddhadharma), translated by Devaprajñā. Taishō 300.
Da fangguang fohuayan jing busiyi fo jingjie fen 大方廣佛華嚴經入法界品四十二字觀門 (Avataṃsaka Sūtra, Contemplation on the 42 Syllables of the Gaṇḍavyūha), translated by Amoghavajra. Taishō 1019.
Cheng Guan 澄觀. Da fangguang fohuayan jingshu 大方廣佛華嚴經疏 (Commentary on the Avataṃsaka Sūtra). Taishō 1735.
Translations of the Gaṇḍavyūha
Carré, Patrick. Soûtra de l’Entrée dans la dimension absolue. 2 vols.: I. Introduction et Traité de Li Tongxuan XXII–XL; II. Soûtra et glossaire. Plazac, France: Éditions Padmakara, 2019.
Cleary, Thomas. “Entry into the Realm of Reality” (chapter 39), in The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra, pp. 1135–1532. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1993.
Osto, Douglas (2010). “A New Translation of the Sanskrit Bhadracarī with Introduction and Notes.” New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 12, no. 2 (2010): 1–21.
———(2020). “The Supreme Array Scripture.” D. E. Osto. Accessed July 6, 2021.
Related Works in Tibetan
Madhyavyutpatti (sgra sbyor bam po gnyis pa). Toh 4347, Degé Tengyur, vol. 204 (sna tshogs, co) folios 131.b–160.a.
Mahāvyutpatti (bye brag tu rtogs par byed pa chen po). Toh 4346, Degé Tengyur vol. 204 (sna tshogs, co), folios 1.b–131.a.
Ngorchen Könchok Lhündrup (ngor chen dkon mchog lhun grub) and Ngorchen Sangyé Phuntsok (ngor chen sangs rgyas phun tshogs). Ngor chos ’byung: A History of Buddhism, being the text of dam pa’i chos kyi byung tshul legs par bshad pa bstan pa rgya mtshor ’jug pa’i gru chen zhes bya ba rtsom ’phro kha skon bcas. New Delhi: Ngawang Topgay, 1973.
Pekar Zangpo (pad dkar bzang po). mdo sde spyi’i rnam bzhag: bstan pa spyi’i rgyas byed las mdo sde spyi’i rnam bzhag bka’ bsdu ba bzhi pa zhes bye ba’i bstan bcos. Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang (Minorities Publishing House), 2006.
Phangthangma (dkar chag ’phang thang ma). Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2003.
Situ Chökyi Jungné (si tu chos kyi ’byung gnas). “sde dge bka’ ’gyur gyi dkar chags.” In ta’i si tu pa kun mkhyen chos kyi ’byung gnas bstan pa’i nyin byed kyi bka’ ’bum, vol. 9, folios 1.b–224.b. Kangra, Himachal Pradesh: Palpung Sungrab Nyamso Khang, 1990.
Related Works in Other Languages
Burnouf, Eugene. Le lotus de la bonne loi. Paris: L’Imprimerie Nationale, 1852.
Carré, Patrick. Notes sur la traduction française de l’Avataṃsakasūtra. Forthcoming.
Dharmachakra Translation Committee, trans. The Play in Full (Lalitavistara, Toh 95). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2013.
Edgerton, Franklin. Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary. 2 vols. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1970.
Fontein, Jan (2012). Entering the Dharmadhātu: A Study of the “Gandavyūha” Reliefs of Borobudur. Leiden: Brill, 2012.
———(1967). The Pilgrimage of Sudhana: A Study of Gaṇḍavyūha Illustrations in China, Japan and Java. The Hague: Mouton, 1967.
Gifford, Julie A. Buddhist Practice and Visual Culture: The Visual Rhetoric of Borobodur. Abingdon: Routledge, 2011.
Gómez, Luis Óscar. “Selected Verses from the Gaṇḍavyūha: Text, Critical Apparatus, and Translation.” PhD diss., Yale University, 1967.
Gómez, Luis Óscar, and Hiram Woodward Jr., eds. Barabuḍur: History and Significance of a Buddhist Monument. Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1981.
Hamar, Imre. “The History of the Buddhāvataṃsaka-sūtra: Shorter and Larger Texts.” In Reflecting Mirrors: Perspectives on Huayan Buddhism, edited by Imre Hamar, 139–68. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007.
Harrison, Paul. “Searching for the Origins of the Mahāyāna: What Are We Looking For?” The Eastern Buddhist 28, no. 1 (1995): 48–69.
Kern, H. Saddharma-Puṇḍarīka or the Lotus of the Good Law. Sacred Books of the East 21. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1884.
Kim, Hyung-Hi. La carrière du Bodhisattva dans l’Avataṃsaka-sūtra: Materiaux pour l’étude de l’Avataṃsaka-sūtra et ses commentaires chinois. Bern: Peter Lang, 2013.
Kritzer, Robert, trans. The Sūtra on Entry into the Womb (Garbhāvakrāntisūtra, Toh 58). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2021.
Jamspal, Lozang. The Range of the Bodhisattva, A Mahāyāna Sūtra: Ārya-bodhisattva-gocara, Introduction and Translation. New York: The American Institute of Buddhist Studies, Columbia University Center for Buddhist Studies, Tibet House US, 2010.
Lewis, Todd T. “Contributions to the Study of Popular Buddhism: The Newar Buddhist Festival of Guṃlā Dharma.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 16, no. 2 (Winter 1993): 309–54.
McMahan, David. “Transpositions of Metaphor and Imagery in the Gaṇḍavyūha and Tantric Buddhist Practice.” Pacific World Journal Third Series, no. 6 (Fall 2004): 181–94.
Monier-Williams, Monier. A Sanskrit–English Dictionary. Reprint of 1899 edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976.
Osto, Douglas (2008). Power, Wealth and Women in Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Gaṇḍavyūha-sūtra. Oxfordshire: Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism, 2008.
———(2009a). “ ‘Proto-Tantric’ Elements in the Gaṇḍavyūha-sūtra.” Journal of Religious History 33, no. 2 (June 2009): 165–77.
———(2009b). “The Supreme Array Scripture: A New Interpretation of the Title ‘Gaṇḍavyūha-sūtra.’ ” Journal of Indian Philosophy 37 (2009): 273–90.
Ōtake, Susumu. “On the Origin and Early Development of the Buddhāvataṃsaka-Sūtra.” In Reflecting Mirrors: Perspectives on Huayan Buddhism, edited by Imre Hamar, 87–107. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007.
Revianur, A. “Forms and types of Borobudur’s stupas.” In Cultural Dynamics in a Globalized World, edited by Melani Budianta et al., 577–84. New York: Routledge, 2018.
Roberts, Peter Alan, trans. (2018a). The King of Samādhis Sūtra (Samādhirājasūtra, Toh 127). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2018.
———, trans. (2018b). The White Lotus of the Good Dharma (Saddharmapuṇḍarīka, Toh 113). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2018.
———, trans. (2021).The Ten Bhūmis (Daśabhūmika, Toh 44-31). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2021.
Sakya Pandita Translation Group, trans. The Display of the Pure Land of Sukhāvatī (Sukhāvatīvyūha, Toh 115). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2011.
Shastri, Bahadur Chand. “The Identification of the First Sixteen Reliefs on the Second Main-Wall of Barabudur.” Bijarden tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch-Indië (Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia) 89, no. 1 (January 1932): 173–81.
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Tsugunari Kubo and Akira Yuyama, trans. The Lotus Sutra (Taishō Volume 9, Number 262). Berkeley: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2007.
Un, Ko. Little Pilgrim. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 2005.
Van Norden, Bryan, and Nicholaos Jones. “Huayan Buddhism.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 Edition).
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Williams, Paul. Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. New York: Routledge, 2009.