The Dedication “Protecting All Beings”
Degé Kangyur, vol. 68 (mdo sde, ya), folios 79.b–81.b.
Translated by the Alexander Csoma de Kőrös Translation Group
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
This text is a prayer of dedication that strongly resonates with the later Tibetan literature of mind training (blo sbyong). In addition to the classic element of dedication of merit to all beings, a substantial part of the text comprises a passage that enumerates the many faults, shortcomings, and afflictions that burden sentient beings, as well as the many possible attainments that they consequently may not have realized, and culminates in the wish that everything negative that would otherwise ripen for sentient beings may ripen instead for the reciter, so that all sentient beings may thus be liberated and purified.
This text was translated from the Tibetan, introduced, and edited by the translator Zsuzsa Majer in collaboration with Karma Dorje (Rabjampa), a native Tibetan speaker and Tibetan language expert; Beáta Kakas, the Sanskrit expert for checking Sanskrit terms; and Nathaniel Rich, the English-language editor, in the framework of the Alexander Csoma de Kőrös Translation Group.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
This short text and The Dedication “Fulfilling All Aspirations” (Toh 285) that precedes it appear to constitute a pair, and this for several reasons. First, the two texts, both of which lack Sanskrit titles, appear side by side both in the Denkarma (ldan dkar ma) imperial catalog and in the extant Kangyurs of the Tshalpa and Thempangma lines. In the Tshalpa Kangyurs, the two are placed at the very end of the Mahāyāna division of the General Sūtra (mdo sde) section, and in the Thempangma Kangyurs toward the end of the entire General Sūtra section. Their function as dedications therefore seems to be reflected in that placement, and—in the Tshalpa Kangyurs at least—the two appear to be dedications meant specifically to seal the sections of Mahāyāna sūtras.
Furthermore, since the two texts are dedications, it is perhaps not surprising that they are neither called sūtras, nor show features typical of sūtras, such as the opening “Thus did I hear” or an introductory passage describing the setting and audience of the discourse. What is somewhat surprising is that both are nonetheless included in the sūtra section of the Kangyur, indicating that they are to be considered discourses of the Buddha.1 Along those lines, the lack of features that typically distinguish sūtras led the fifteenth-century scholar Pekar Sangpo (pad dkar bzang po), in his analytical survey of all the sūtras found in the Kangyur, to conclude that the two texts are extracts from another, longer sūtra—though he does not say which,2 and our own search for matches (at least in the Tibetan corpus) has not yet identified any such text, sūtra or otherwise. What can be said with a reasonable degree of confidence is that, regardless of their exact provenance, the two texts were translated from Sanskrit or another Indic language in the late eighth or early ninth century. The short colophon to the present text3 attests to that, providing the names of the two translators, the Indian preceptor Vidyākaraprabha and the Tibetan translator Bandé Yeshé Nyingpo, and the senior editor-translator Bandé Paltsek, who edited and finalized the text. The text is also listed in both the Denkarma and Phangthangma (’phang thang ma) catalogs. This confirms the dating of the Tibetan translation to the early ninth century at the latest.4
There is no extant Sanskrit text of this sūtra, and there are no known canonical or Tibetan commentaries. There is no known English translation of it nor any translation into any European language, and no academic research or scholarly studies of it are known. A translation of the Tibetan text is, however, available in the Mongolian Kangyur.5 The translation presented here is based on the Tibetan version in the Degé Kangyur and consultation of the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) as well as the Stok Palace manuscript.
The structure of the present text partly reflects the liturgy of “seven branches” or “seven limbs” (yan lag bdun pa), a set of practices that came to serve as the basic structure of many Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Buddhist prayers, sādhanas, and pūjās. The seven branches are commonly as follows: prostration or homage, offering, confession, rejoicing in virtue, requesting the buddhas to teach, requesting the buddhas not to pass into nirvāṇa, and dedication of merit. Not all of these seven are present in this text, which suggests that perhaps the set was formalized only later. The structure of the present text also partly reflects the structure of the preceding text. For example, here there is also only a single line of homage at the very beginning, which might indicate that the line was intended only as the customary line of homage found at the beginning of all Kangyur works. Also in common with the preceding text, the line of homage is followed by a request that the buddhas and bodhisattvas pay heed to the reciter. And what immediately follows are four brief lines, each of them devoted to a single act in the order in which they appear in the preceding text: confession, rejoicing, supplicating the buddhas, and dedicating all merits.
What sets this short text apart, however, is the extensive dedication that follows, comprising the bulk of the prayer. This features an enumeration of the many faults, shortcomings, and afflictions that burden sentient beings, as well as the many possible attainments that they may have consequently not realized, with the reciter expressing the wish that everything negative that would otherwise ripen for sentient beings may instead “ripen for me” (bdag la smin), so that all sentient beings would thus be liberated and purified. This strongly resonates with the much later Tibetan mind training (blo sbyong) teachings, especially their central contemplative exercise of “giving and taking” (gtong len). Considering how pervasive the mind training teachings became, and still remain, in the Tibetan Buddhist world, it might come as a surprise to learn that other sūtra sources in the Kangyur for the development of that specific aspiration—that the suffering and negative karma of sentient beings “ripen for me”—are practically nonexistent. In fact, it would appear that this hitherto unnoticed dedication contains the only explicit articulation to be found in the Kangyur of the paradigmatic aspiration of mind training—the wish that the suffering of others instead “ripen for me.”
I prostrate to the Buddha, to the Teaching, and to the entire Assembly.
Just as by their truth and true words the blessed buddhas who teach the truth have dedicated their perfect roots of virtue, in the same way do I, too, make this dedication. By that truth and those true words: whatever sins, nonvirtuous deeds, and evils that all sentient beings have committed; whatever falsehoods they have spoken and harmful thoughts they have had; whatever obscurations—afflictive obscurations, karmic obscurations, ripened obscurations, and cognitive obscurations—have obscured, veiled, and fettered them; that they have not correctly known their own and others’ aspirations, latent dispositions, constituents, or intrinsic nature; that they have not correctly known their differences in faculties and diligence or in their virtues and nonvirtues; that they have not correctly known those qualities that are blameworthy, not blameworthy, to be relied upon, or not to be relied upon; that they have not succeeded in encountering holy beings, listening to the holy Dharma, directing their minds appropriately, or practicing in accordance with the Dharma; that they have not correctly known the various methods of taming by which beings may be tamed however they are obscured, veiled, and fettered by obscurations: the taming of sentient beings, the taming of self, the taming of others, the taming of both, taming gently, [F.80.b] taming wrathfully, taming with equanimity, taming threateningly, taming by exorcism, taming with censure, taming by means of acts of service, veneration, and worship, taming by explaining the Dharma, taming by smiling, taming by going into seclusion to meditate, taming by means of the ascetic disciplines and having few possessions, taming through the practice of the perfections of generosity, ethical discipline, endurance, diligence, meditative absorption, and wisdom, and taming by faith, ethical discipline, learning, renunciation, wisdom, and meditative cultivation; that they have not given rise to the causes of ethical discipline; that they have not made pure the causes of meditative concentration, the causes of mental focus, the causes of meditative absorption, the causes of calm abiding, the causes of transcendent insight, the causes of the superknowledges, the causes of the exhaustion of defilements, or the causes of the discernments; that they have not actualized the meditative absorptions, the liberations, the meditative concentrations, and the meditative attainments, and that when appearances arise they have allowed what has arisen to decline; that they have given rise in their minds to the wish for gain, the wish to be honored, the wish for fame, and the wish for followers; that they have harbored in their minds thoughts of desire, malevolent thoughts, violent thoughts, thoughts about immortality, thoughts about children, thoughts about relatives, and thoughts about the requisites of clothing, food, bedding, and medicines for treating illness; that they have experienced short lives, much ill health, bad complexions, poor figures, weakness, low status, [F.81.a] meagre resources, stupidity, being reborn in the lower realms among the hell beings, in the animal realms, and in the realm of the Lord of the Dead, and that they have experienced many such kinds of suffering deriving from their bodies and mental unhappiness deriving from their minds; and that they have delighted in wrong aspirations and have not realized rightful aspirations—may everything that will ripen for sentient beings obscured and fettered by these and any other obscurations ripen for me! And may all sentient beings thus be liberated and purified.
Whatever extent the Buddha element may have, whatever extent the Dharma element may have, whatever extent the Saṅgha element may have, whatever extent the very limit of reality may have, whatever extent nonduality may have, whatever extent suchness may have, whatever extent sameness may have, whatever extent the elements of desire, anger, and ignorance may have, and whatever extent those who are bound and will be bound in saṃsāra may have—to that very extent may all sentient beings’ primary afflictions, all their secondary afflictions, and whatever elements of affliction itself there may be, all ripen for me! And may all sentient beings thus be liberated and purified.
However many roots of virtue I have created and accumulated from cyclic existence’s undiscoverable beginning, I dedicate them to all sentient beings. Attached to desire, tormented by anger, confused by ignorance, and yoked to the primary afflictions, secondary afflictions, and affliction itself, I do not correctly know, see, or understand how to dedicate the roots of virtue. But the blessed buddhas do know, see, and understand such things, and just as they dedicated their roots of virtue, so too do I dedicate mine. [F.81.b] I dedicate them in accordance with the mind of the tathāgatas. Just as they tamed sentient beings; just as they ripened their roots of virtue; just as they multiplied their roots of virtue; and just as they knew suffering, abandoned its origin, realized cessation, cultivated the path, attained the unsurpassed wisdom of omniscience, abandoned all roots of nonvirtue, possessed all roots of virtue, vanquished the latent tendencies, and attained the state of non-forgetfulness and the knowledge of all aspects—in just the same way that all the buddhas appearing in the past, the present, and the future dedicated their roots of virtue when they were bodhisattvas, so too do I dedicate mine. I dedicate them through sameness; I dedicate them through nonduality; I dedicate them by means of the dedication that completely protects all beings; and thus I recite a second time, and thus a third time.
May sentient beings see me in whatever manner will tame them,6 without their having any such thoughts in mind. And may I always engage in physical, verbal, and mental actions in whatever ways sentient beings will be purified.
The Noble Dedication “Protecting All Beings” is concluded.
’gro ba yongs su skyob par byed pa’i yongs su bsngo ba. Toh 286, Degé Kangyur vol. 68 (mdo sde, ya), folios 79.b–81.b.
’gro ba yongs su skyob par byed pa’i yongs su bsngo ba. 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), 2006–2009, vol. 68, pp. 231–36.
’gro ba yongs su skyob par byed pa’i yongs su bsngo ba. Stok 326, Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 88 (mdo sde, ji), folios 381.a–384.a.
Qutuγ-tu qamuγ amitan-i sayitur ibegen üiledügči uγuγada ǰorin irügeküi neretü. Mongolian Kangyur vol. 84, folios 92.b–94.b. In Chandra, Lokesh, ed. Mongolian Kanjur. Śata-piṭaka Series 101–208. New Delhi: Sharada Rani, 1973–1979.
Denkarma (pho brang stod thang ldan dkar gyi chos kyi ’gyur ro cog gi dkar chag). Toh 4364, Degé Tengyur vol. 206 (sna tshogs, jo), folios 294.b–310.a. See also Herrmann-Pfandt.
Dharmachakra Translation Group. The Jewel Cloud (Toh 231). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2019.
Herrmann-Pfandt, Adelheid. Die lHan kar ma: ein früher Katalog der ins Tibetische übersetzten buddhistischen Texte, 268. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2008.
Jinpa, Thupten, trans. Mind Training: The Great Collection. Library of Tibetan Classics. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2006.
Ligeti, Louis. Catalogue du Kanǰur Mongol imprimé. Vol. 1, Catalogue. Bibliotheca Orientalis Hungarica 3. Budapest: Société Kőrösi Csoma, 1942.
Pekar Sangpo (pad dkar bzang po). mdo sde spyi’i rnam bzhag. Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2006.
Phangthangma (dkar chag ’phang thang ma). Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2003.
- kun nas nyon mongs pa
A term referring to all the primary and secondary afflictive emotions that completely disturb the mind.
- zhe sdang
Hatred, aggression, and/or aversion. One of the affective behavior patterns known as the three poisons.
- smon lam
A declaration of one’s aspirations and vows, and/or an invocation and request of the buddhas, bodhisattvas, etc.
- ban de dpal brtsegs
The senior editor-translator who edited and finalized this text.
Bandé Yeshé Nyingpo
- ban de ye shes snying po
Translator of this text.
- bcom ldan ’das
An epithet of a buddha.
- byang chub sems dpa’
Someone who vows to achieve the complete enlightenment of a buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Bodhisattva great being
- byang chub sems dpa’ sems dpa’ chen po
- zhi gnas
Sometimes also translated as “mental quiescence.” Refers to a calm state without thought, or the meditative practice of calming the mind to rest free from the disturbance of thought. One of the two basic forms of Buddhist meditation, the other being transcendent insight (vipaśyanā, lhag mthong).
- bsngo ba
- yongs su bsngo ba
Dedication of the merit at the end of a spiritual practice or virtuous action, usually for the attainment of full enlightenment by all sentient beings. In this way the actions thus dedicated contribute to the purpose of attaining enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.
- zag pa
Literally “outflows,” these are mental defilements that “flow out” toward the objects of cyclic existence, binding us to them.
- ’dod chags
Passion, attachment, and/or lust. One of the affective behavior patterns known as the three poisons.
- brtson ’grus
Also “perseverance.” One of the six perfections of the bodhisattva.
- so so yang dag par rig pa
Correct and unhindered discriminating knowledge.
A word that can refer, in different formulations, to the fundamental constituents of material and/or mental phenomena, or to the realms of existence, it also has the general meaning of the nature of something.
- bzod pa
Forbearance, patience, and/or tolerance. One of the six perfections of the bodhisattva.
- tshul khrims
Morally virtuous or disciplined conduct and the abandonment of morally undisciplined conduct of body, speech, and mind. One of the six perfections of the bodhisattva.
- sbyin pa
The practice of giving or making offerings to others. One of the six perfections of the bodhisattva.
- dam pa’i chos
The Buddhadharma or the Buddha’s teachings.
- gti mug
Delusion, stupidity, closed-mindedness, and/or mental darkness. One of the affective behavior patterns known as the three poisons.
- rang bzhin
The inherent nature of a phenomenon; in the present text, this is possibly a reference to the buddha-nature, tathāgatagarbha.
- las kyi sgrib pa
Obscurations or obstructions caused by past deeds.
- bag la nyal
Habitual impulses or subconscious habit patterns that underlie emotions such as desire and hatred. These are also causes of the perpetuation of cyclic existence.
- bag chags
Karmic traces or residues imprinted by past actions and constituting tendencies that predispose one to particular patterns of behavior.
- thos pa
Hearing or listening to teachings, this refers to receiving oral instructions and studying scriptures.
- rnam par thar pa
In this context, this refers to a category of advanced meditative attainments.
- bsam gtan
One of the synonyms for meditation, referring specifically to states of mental stability or one-pointed abiding in an undistracted state of mind free from afflicted mental states. bsam gtan/dhyāna can refer to the specific states of absorption of the form and formless realms (eight in total). One of the six perfections of the bodhisattva.
- snyoms par ’jug pa
Meditative equipoise or evenness of mind. Another synonym for meditation, this refers to a category of advanced meditative attainments.
- ting nge ’dzin
A general term for states of deep concentration. One of the synonyms for meditation, referring in particular to a state of complete concentration or focus.
- mi dge ba
There are ten nonvirtuous deeds, being the opposites of the ten virtuous deeds. The three physical misdeeds are killing, taking what is not given, and engaging in sexual misconduct. The four verbal misdeeds are lying, divisive talk, harsh speech, and gossiping. The three mental misdeeds are covetousness, ill will, and false views.
- thams cad mkhyen pa
- thams cad mkhyen pa nyid
This refers to the gnosis or omniscience of the Buddha, the “All-Knowing” or “Omniscient” One.
- nyon mongs pa
Afflictive emotions, such as the three poisons, that bind one to cyclic existence.
Realm of the Lord of the Dead
- gshin rje’i ’jig rten
The preta realm, or the realm of ghosts, where Yama, the Lord of Death, is the ruler and judges the dead. Yama is also said to rule over the hells. This term is also the name of the Vedic afterlife inhabited by the ancestors (pitṛ).
- mnyam pa nyid
(The state of) “equality,” “equal nature,” “equanimity,” or “equalness.”
- nye ba’i nyon mongs pa
Literally, “near-afflictions,” or subsidiary afflictive emotions derivative of or related to the primary afflictions.
- sems can
Any living being in one of the six realms.
Sphere of reality
- chos kyi dbyings
A synonym for emptiness, the ultimate reality, or the ultimate nature of things. This term is interpreted variously due to the many different meanings of dharma (chos) as element, phenomena, reality, truth, and/or the teaching.
- de bzhin nyid
A synonym for emptiness, this term refers to the ultimate nature of things, the way things are in reality.
- mngon par shes pa
Traditionally there are six modes of supernormal cognition or ability, namely, clairvoyance, clairaudience, knowledge of the minds of others, remembrance of past lives, the ability to perform miracles, and the knowledge of the destruction of all mental defilements. The first five are considered mundane or worldly and can be attained to some extent by non-Buddhist yogis as well as Buddhist arhats and bodhisattvas. The sixth is considered to be supramundane and can be attained only by Buddhist yogis.
- de bzhin gshegs pa
“Thus-gone one,” an epithet of a buddha. A buddha is one who has “gone” to thusness, suchness, or ultimate reality.
- lhag mthong
Often translated as “insight meditation,” referring to the liberating insight into the nature of reality or the meditative practice of developing insight into the nature of reality. One of the two basic forms of Buddhist meditation, the other being calm abiding (śamatha).
Very limit of reality
- yang dag pa’i mtha’
A synonym for ultimate reality, and also a near-synonym for nirvāṇa.
- bidyA ka ra pra bha
Indian preceptor, a translator of this text.
- shes rab
Transcendent or discriminating awareness; the mind that sees the ultimate truth. One of the six perfections of the bodhisattva.