The Inquiry of Avalokiteśvara on the Seven Qualities
Degé Kangyur, vol. 57 (mdo sde, pa), folios 331.a–331.b
Translated by the University of Calgary Buddhist Studies Team
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
First published 2014
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This brief sūtra is introduced with the Buddha residing on Vulture Peak Mountain in Rājagṛha, together with a great monastic assembly of 1,250 monks and a multitude of bodhisattva mahāsattvas. The Buddha is approached and asked by the bodhisattva mahāsattva Avalokiteśvara about the qualities that should be cultivated by a bodhisattva who has just generated the altruistic mind set on attaining awakening. The Buddha briefly expounds seven qualities that should be practiced by such a bodhisattva, emphasizing mental purity and cognitive detachment from conceptuality.
The Inquiry of Avalokiteśvara on the Seven Qualities1 is a brief sūtra describing seven qualities that should be cultivated by a bodhisattva immediately upon generating the altruistic mind set on attaining awakening. The mind of awakening is the intention or resolution to attain full and complete buddhahood for the benefit of oneself and all sentient beings.
The structure of the sūtra is in three parts: the opening formula that gives the time, place, and Buddha’s retinue when the discourse was taught; the prescription of seven dharmas to be cultivated; and a formulaic conclusion.
The Buddha delivers his teaching in response to the bodhisattva mahāsattva Avalokiteśvara’s inquiry. What is unusual in the formulaic inquiry phrases of this sūtra is that Avalokiteśvara places his right knee in the center of a lotus flower; in most sūtras that follow such a pattern, the questioner places their knee on the ground. This implicitly demonstrates the reverence in which Avalokiteśvara was held by the compilers or transmitters of this sūtra. The Buddha prescribes seven qualities or dharmas that one should cultivate after producing the mind of awakening. They emphasize mental purity and cognitive detachment from conceptuality. These prescriptions are straightforward and easy to understand according to the overview of the sūtra by Pekar Sangpo (pad dkar bzang po, see bibliography).
The Inquiry of Avalokiteśvara on the Seven Qualities was initially translated into Tibetan from an Indian language, most likely Sanskrit, by Atiśa Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna (982–1054) and the Tibetan monk Gewai Lodrö.
The translation took place in all probability at the monastery of Tholing in West Tibet, where the rulers of Ngari (mnga’ ris) first officially welcomed Atiśa and where Gewai Lodrö was active.2 Gewai Lodrö collaborated with the great Kaśmīri scholar Subhūtiśrī(śānti) in Tholing before working with Atiśa. Atiśa and Gewai Lodrö worked together on several translations found in editions of the Tengyur, including the verses of the Bodhipathapradīpa (Toh 3947) and the Cittotpādasaṃvaravidhikrama (Toh 3969), and two texts found in most Kangyurs, the Gaṇḍisamayasūtra (Toh 299) and the Siddhaikavīramahātantrarāja (Toh 544, Degé 541).3
Atiśa makes explicit reference to this sūtra in his Bodhimārgapradīpapañjikā, Cittotpādasaṃvaravidhikrama, and Ratnakaraṇḍodghāṭanāmamadhyamakopadeśa (Toh 3930, English translation Apple 2010, pp. 142–43). In the Bodhimārgapradīpapañjikā this sūtra is mentioned in the sections discussing the mind of awakening (Sherburne 2000, p. 101), the monastic life (Sherburne 2000, p. 127), and the supersensory knowledges (Sherburne 2000, p. 209). The Cittotpādasaṃvaravidhikrama also advocates the practice of this sūtra’s prescriptions for a bodhisattva who wishes to attain supersensory knowledge quickly (Sherburne 2000, pp. 540–41).
The present translation from Tibetan is based upon a critical edition of ten Kangyur exemplars. A detailed philological analysis of the extant editions of this sūtra indicates that the oldest copies of this sūtra are preserved among Western Kangyur collections such as the Gondhla Collection, Hemis Kangyur, and Phudrak (phug brag) Kangyur.
The Inquiry of Avalokiteśvara on the Seven Qualities
Homage to the Bhagavān Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta!
Thus did I hear at one time. The Bhagavān was dwelling in Rājagṛha4 on Vulture Peak Mountain5 together with a great monastic assembly of 1,250 monks and a multitude of bodhisattva mahāsattvas. At that time, the bodhisattva mahāsattva Noble Avalokiteśvara rose from his seat, arranged his upper robe on one shoulder, and placed his right knee in the center of a lotus flower.
Joining his hands in devotion toward the Bhagavān, he asked him, “Bhagavān, in how many qualities should a bodhisattva train, just after generating the altruistic mind set on attaining awakening?”6
The Bhagavān replied to the bodhisattva mahāsattva Noble Avalokiteśvara’s inquiry with the following words:
“Kulaputra, bodhisattvas should train in seven qualities just after generating the altruistic mind set on attaining awakening.7 What are the seven? They are as follows:
“(1) One should not have sexual enjoyment even in thought, not to mention joining together the two sexual organs. [F.331.b]
“(2) One should not take up with a nonvirtuous friend even in dreams.
“(3) With a mind free like a bird, one should be completely without grasping.
“(4) With mastery in skill and wisdom, one should be without pride and reified conceptions of ‘I.’
“(5) One should abandon conceptions of existence and nonexistence and be firm in the emancipation (vimokṣa) of emptiness.
“(6) One should not take delight in saṃsāra through an inauthentic conceptual understanding, saṃsāra being like a magical illusion or dream.
“(7) And one should refrain from deprecating the law of cause and effect.
“Kulaputra, a bodhisattva who has just generated the altruistic mind set on attaining awakening8 should train in these seven qualities.”
When the Bhagavān had spoken, the bodhisattva Noble Avalokiteśvara, along with the monks and bodhisattvas, rejoiced and praised highly what had been proclaimed by the Bhagavān.9
This completes the noble Mahāyāna sūtra, “The Inquiry of Avalokiteśvara on the Seven Qualities.”10
Translated and edited by the Indian preceptor Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna and the translator monk Gewai Lodrö.
|D||Degé (sde dge) PK|
|F||Phug brag MsK|
|Go||Gondhla Collection MsK|
|KQ||Peking Qianlong PK|
|S||Stok Palace MsK|
|Z||Shey Palace MsK|
Tibetan Kangyur Editions
(rKTs = University of Vienna Resources for Kanjur and Tanjur Studies, https://www.istb.univie.ac.at/kanjur/rktsneu/sub/index.php. For other abbreviations, see notes.)
’phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug gis zhus pa chos bdun pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Āryāvalokiteśvaraparipṛcchāsaptadharmakanāmamahāyānasūtra). Toh 150, Degé Kangyur vol. 57 (mdo sde, pa), folios 331.a–331.b. tbrc.org
’phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug gis zhus pa chos bdun pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo. rKTs-K150, He48.6, Hemis Kangyur (He) (MsK), mdo sde, nga, folios 296.b–299.b. Digital scans from rKTs.
’phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug gis zhus pa chos bdun pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo. rKTs-K150, J94, Lithang (li thang) Kangyur (J) (PK), vol. 52 (mdo sde, pa), folios 278.a–279.a. tbrc.org
’phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug gis zhus pa chos bdun pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo. rKTs-K150, Q 817, Peking Qianlong (KQ) (PK), vol. 33 (mdo sna tshogs, nu), folios 293.b–294.b (p. 36 in bound edition).
’phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug gis zhus pa chos bdun pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo. 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. 57, pp. 875–78.
’phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug gyis zhus pa / byang chub sems dpa’i slab pa bdun pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo. Go16,04, Gondhla Collection (Go) (MsK), vol. 16 (ka), folios 49.a–49.b. Digital scans from rKTs. See also Tauscher (2008) below.
’phags pa spyan ras gzigs kyi dbang phyug gis zhus pa chos bdun pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo. rKTs-K150, L154, London Kangyur (L) (MsK), vol. 52 (mdo sde, za), folios 8.b–9.a. Digital scans from rKTs.
’phags pa spyan ras gzigs kyi dbang phyug gis zhus pa chos bdun pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo. rKTs-K150, C790, Phug brag Kangyur (F) (MsK), vol. 80 (mdo sde, la), folios 371.b–372.b. Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions. 1990.
’phags pa spyan ras gzigs kyi dbang phyug gis zhus pa chos bdun pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo. rKTs-K150, Z242, Shey Palace Manuscript Kangyur (Z) (MsK), vol.69 (mdo, za), folios 7.a–8.a. Digital scans from rKTs.
’phags pa spyan ras gzigs kyi dbang phyug gis zhus pa chos bdun pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo. rKTs-K150, S211, Stok Palace Manuscript Kangyur (stog pho brang bris ma) (S) (MsK), vol. 73 (mdo sde, za) folios 7.b-8.b. TBRC W22083. 109 vols. leh: smanrtsis shesrig dpemzod, 1975–80. tbrc.org
Apple, James B. “Atiśa’s Open Basket of Jewels: A Middle Way Vision in Late Phase Indian Vajrayāna.” The Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies 11 (2010): 117–98.
Chattopadhyaya, Alaka. 1967. Atīśa and Tibet Life and Works of Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna in relation to the History and Religion of Tibet. (Reprinted) New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999, 2011.
Dharmachakra Translation Group, trans. 2016. The Tantra of Siddhaikavīra (Siddhaikavīratantram, Toh 544). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2016.
Pad dkar bzang po (author), mi nyag mgon po (editor). “ ’phags pa spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug gis zhus pa’i chos bdun pa’i mdo.” In mdo sde spyi’i rnam bzhag, p. 426. Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang (Minorities Publishing House), 2006. TBRC W1PD76588. tbrc.org
Sherburne, Richard. The Complete Works of Atīśa Śrī Dīpaṃkara Jñāna, Jo-bo-rje: The Lamp for the Path and Commentary, together with the newly translated Twenty-Five Key Texts (Tibetan and English Texts). New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan, 2000.
Tauscher, Helmut. Catalogue of the Gondhla proto-Kanjur. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2008.
- a ti sha
- spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug
Generating the altruistic mind set on attaining awakening
- byang chub kyi sems bskyed
- dge ba’i blo gros
- gleng gzhi
- tho ling