The King of Samādhis Sūtra
The Teaching on the Tathāgata’s Body
Degé Kangyur, vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), folios 1.b–170.b
Translated by Peter Alan Roberts
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
First published 2018
Current version v 1.45.25 (2022)
Generated by 84000 Reading Room v2.17.7
84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha is a global non-profit initiative to translate all the Buddha’s words into modern languages, and to make them available to everyone.
This work is provided under the protection of a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution - Non-commercial - No-derivatives) 3.0 copyright. It may be copied or printed for fair use, but only with full attribution, and not for commercial advantage or personal compensation. For full details, see the Creative Commons license.
This sūtra, much quoted in later Buddhist writings for its profound statements especially on the nature of emptiness, relates a long teaching given by the Buddha mainly in response to questions put by a young layman, Candraprabha. The samādhi that is the subject of the sūtra, in spite of its name, primarily consists of various aspects of conduct, motivation, and the understanding of emptiness; it is also a way of referring to the sūtra itself. The teaching given in the sūtra is the instruction to be dedicated to the possession and promulgation of the samādhi, and to the necessary conduct of a bodhisattva, which is exemplified by a number of accounts from the Buddha’s previous lives. Most of the teaching takes place on Vulture Peak Mountain, with an interlude recounting the Buddha’s invitation and visit to Candraprabha’s home in Rājagṛha, where he continues to teach Candraprabha before returning to Vulture Peak Mountain. In one subsequent chapter the Buddha responds to a request by Ānanda, and the text concludes with a commitment by Ānanda to maintain this teaching in the future.
Translated from the Tibetan, with reference to Sanskrit editions, by Peter Alan Roberts. The Chinese consultant was Ling-Lung Chen. Edited by Emily Bower and Ben Gleason.
This translation has been completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous donation of an anonymous donor, which helped make the work on this translation possible, is most gratefully acknowledged.
The Teaching on the Tathāgata’s Body
Then the Bhagavān said to the youth Candraprabha, “Therefore, young man, bodhisattva mahāsattvas who wish for this samādhi, and wish to attain quickly the highest, complete enlightenment of perfect buddhahood, should not know the Tathāgata to be the rūpakāya.785 Why is that? It is because the Buddha Bhagavān manifests because of the dharmakāya and does not manifest because of the rūpakāya. [F.74.a]
“Young man, bodhisattva mahāsattvas whose wish is to aspire to the body of the tathāgata, who wish to know the body of the tathāgata, should obtain this samādhi, understand it, preserve it, recite it to others, promote it, proclaim it, chant it, meditate on it with dedication to the practice of meditation, and make it widely known to others.
“Young man, the body of the tathāgata786 is taught to be one meaning,787 with the understanding that it arises from a hundred merits. It arises from the Dharma.788 It is without attributes. It is devoid of all attributes. It is profound.789 It is immeasurable. It is an immeasurable phenomenon.790 It has the nature of the absence of attributes.791 It is free of all attributes.792 It is unwavering.793 It has no location. It completely has the nature of space. It is invisible. It transcends the scope of the eye’s vision. That should be known as the dharmakāya.794
“It is inconceivable. It is beyond the level of thought. It is unaffected by bliss or suffering. It transcends all conceptual elaboration.795 It has no location,796 because it transcends the scope of the words of those who aspire to the wisdom of buddhahood. It is the quintessence797 because it transcends desire. It is indivisible because it transcends anger.798 It is stable because it transcends the scope of ignorance. It is taught through the teaching of emptiness. It is unborn because it transcends birth.799 It is ‘permanent’ in terms of words, and terminology is empty.800 It is undifferentiated because it is nirvāṇa.801 It is ‘nirvāṇa’802 because of a word. It is ‘peace’ because of speaking.803 There is equality in terms of conventional appellations.804 There are appellations in terms of ultimate truth. There is ultimate truth through correct speech.805
“It is calmness, the absence of anguish.806 It is groundless,807 and cannot be comprehended.808 There is no end to its description.809
“Young man, it arises from training in the great, higher cognitions, and it is known as the tathāgatakāya.”
Thereupon, the Bhagavān spoke these verses: [F.74.b]
“Young man, the body of the Tathāgata is not easily known through attributes or actions. It is blue, or is colored blue, or is like blue, or shines with blue light; or it is yellow, or is colored yellow, or is like yellow, or shines with yellow light; or it is red, or is colored red, or is like red, [F.75.b] or shines with red light; or it is white, or is colored white, or is like white, or shines with white light; or it is madder, or is colored madder, or is like madder, or shines with madder light; or it is crystal, or is crystal-colored, or is like crystal, or shines with crystal light; or it is fire, or is fire-colored, or is like fire, or shines with fire light; or it is distilled ghee, or is ghee-colored, or is like ghee, or shines with ghee-colored light; or it is gold, or is gold-colored, or is like gold, or shines with golden light; or it is beryl, or is beryl-colored, or is like beryl, or shines with beryl light; or it is lightning, or is lightning-colored, or is like lightning, or shines with lightning’s light; or it is Brahmā, or is Brahmā-colored, or is like Brahmā, or shines with Brahmā’s light; or it is a deva, or is deva-colored, or is like a deva, or shines with a deva’s light. It is not easy to know it.
“Young man, in that way the body of the tathāgata is pure. It cannot be conceived of through attributes, and so it is taught to be inconceivable. It cannot be conceived of816 through any attribute, and so it is taught to be inconceivable. It cannot be conceived of through external appearances. It is immeasurable. The beings and devas of this world cannot easily grasp its extent even through the perfect rūpakāya.”817
The Bhagavān then spoke these verses:
The Indian preceptor Śrīlendrabodhi, and the chief editor Lotsawa Bandé Dharmatāśīla, translated and revised this work. It was later modified and finalized in terms of the new translation.
|BHS||Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit.|
|Chinese||Sixth century Chinese translation by Narendrayaśas (see introduction, i.7).|
|Commentary||Mañjuśrīkīrti (see bibliography).|
|Gilgit||Sixth to seventh century Sanskrit manuscript (see introduction i.9 and bibliography under Dutt).|
|Hodgson||Later Nepalese Sanskrit manuscript (see introduction i.9 and bibliography under Dutt).|
|Matsunami||Matsunami’s Sanskrit edition (see bibliography).|
|Shastri||Later Nepalese Sanskrit manuscript (see introduction i.9 and bibliography under Dutt).|
|Vaidya||Vaidya’s Sanskrit edition (see bibliography).|
Tibetan Editions of the Samādhirājasūtra
chos thams cad kyi rang bzhin mnyam pa nyid rnam spros pa ting nge ’dzin gyi rgyal po’i mdo (Sarvadharmasvabhāvasamatāvipañcitasamādhirājasūtra). Toh 127, Degé Kangyur vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), folios 1.a–175.b.
———. 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. 55, pp. 3–411.
———. Lhasa Kangyur (lha sa bka’ ’gyur) vol. 55 (mdo sde, ta), folios 1.b–269.b.
———. Narthang Kangyur (snar thang bka’ ’gyur) vol. 55 (mdo sde, ta), folios 1.b–273.b.
———. Shelkar Drima Kangyur (shel mkhar bris ma bka’ ’gyur) vol. 54 (mdo sde, ja), folios 157.a–436.a.
———. Stok Palace Kangyur (stog pho brang bris ma bka’ ’gyur) vol. 58 (mdo sde, ja), folios 145.a–405.a.
———. Urga Kangyur vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), 1.b–170.a.
Sanskrit Editions of the Samādhirājasūtra
Dutt, Nalinaksha. Gilgit Manuscripts Vol. II, part I. Calcutta: J. C. Sarkhel, 1941. [This Sanskrit edition in three volumes is based on the Gilgit manuscript but also includes and represents the two Nepalese manuscripts of Hodgson and Shastri, see Introduction i.9 and n.4.
———. Gilgit Manuscripts Vol. II, part II. Calcutta: J. C. Sarkhel, 1953.
———. Gilgit Manuscripts Vol. II, part III. Calcutta: J. C. Sarkhel, 1954.
Matsunami, Seiren (ed.). “Bonbun Gattō Zanma kyō.”.in TDKK [Memoirs of Taisho University, Department of Buddhism and Literature] vol. 60 (1975), pp. 188–244.
———. “Bonbun Gattō Zanma kyō.” in TDKK [Memoirs of Taisho University, Department of Buddhism and Literature] vol. 61 (1975), 761–796.
Vaidya, P. L., ed. Samādhirājsūtra. Darbhanga, India: The Mithila Institute of Post-Graduate Studies and Research in Sanskrit Learning, 1961.
Other canonical references
da ltar gyi sangs rgyas mngon sum du bzhugs pa’i ting nge ’dzin gyi mdo (Pratyutpanna-buddha-samukhāsthita-samādhi-sūtra) [The Sūtra, The Samādhi of Being in the Presence of the Buddhas of the Present]. Toh 133, Degé Kangyur vol. 56 (mdo sde, na), folios 1.a–70.b.
dam pa’i chos pad ma dkar po’i mdo (Saddharmapuṇḍarīka-sūtra) [The Sūtra of the White Lotus of the Good Dharma]. Toh 113, Degé Kangyur vol. 67 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1.a–180.b. English translation in Roberts 2018.
de bzhin gshegs pa’i ye shes kyi phyag rgya’i ting nge ’dzin gyi mdo (Tathāgata-jñāna-mudrā-samādhi-sūtra) [The Sūtra of the Samādhi of the Seal of the Wisdom of the Tathāgatas]. Toh 131, Degé Kangyur vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), folios 230.b–253.b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2020b.
dge ba’i rtsa ba yongs su ’dzin pa’i mdo (Kuśala-mūla-saparigraha-sūtra) [The Sūtra of Possessing the Roots of Goodness]. Toh 101, Degé Kangyur vol. 48 (mdo sde, nga), folios 1.a–227.b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2020c.
de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi sku gsung thugs kyi gsang chen gsang ba ’dus pa zhe bya ba brtag pa’i rgyal po chen po (Sarva-tathāgata-kāyavākcitta-rahasyo guhyasamāja-nāma-mahā-kalparāja) [The Great King Entitled the Union of the Great Secrets: the Secret of the Body, Speech, and Mind of all the Tathāgatas]. Also known as the Tathāgataguhyaka Sūtra [The Sūtra of the Secret of the Tathāgatas] and the Guhysamaja-tantra. Toh 442, Degé Kangyur vol. 81 (rgyud, ca), folios 90.a–157.b.
gser ’od dam pa mdo sde’i dbang po’i rgyal po’i mdo (Suvarṇa-prabhāsottama-sūtrendrarāja-sūtra) [The Sūtra of the King Who Is the Lord of Sūtras: The Supreme Golden Light]. Toh 556, Degé Kangyur vol. 89 (rgyud, pa), folios 151.b–273.a.
lang kar gshegs pa’i mdo (Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra) [Entry into Laṅka Sūtra]. Toh 107, Degé Kangyur vol. 49 (mdo sde, ca), folios 56.a–191.b.
sangs rgyas rjes su dran pa (Buddhānusmṛti) [Being Mindful of the Buddha]. Toh 279, Degé Kangyur vol. 68 (mdo sde, ya), folios 55.a-55.b.
rab tu zhi ba rnam par nges pa’i cho ’phrul gyi ting nge ’dzin gyi mdo (Praśanta-viniścaya-prāthihārya-samādhi-sūtra) [The Sūtra of the Absorption of the Miraculous Ascertainment of Peace]. Toh 129, Degé Kangyur vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), folios 174.b–210.b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2020.
rgya cher rol pa’i mdo (Lalitavistara-sūtra) [The Play in Full]. Toh 95, Degé Kangyur vol. 46 (mdo sde, kha), folios 1.b–216.b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee 2013.
sa bcu pa’i mdo (Daśabhūmika-sūtra) [The Sūtra of the Ten Bhūmis]. Chapter 31 of the Avataṃsaka, Toh 44. Degé Kangyur vol. 36 (phal chen, kha), folios 166.a–283.a. English translation in Roberts 2021b.
sdong po bkod pa (Gaṇḍavyūha) [The Stem Array]. Chapter 45 of the Avataṃsaka, Toh 44-45. Degé Kangyur vols. 37 and 38 (phal chen, ga-a), folios ga 274.b–363.a. English Translation in Roberts 2021a.
shes rab pha rol tu phyin pa brgyad stong pa (Aṣṭa-sāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā-sūtra) [The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines]. Toh 12, Degé Kangyur vol. 33 (brgyad stong pa, ka), folios 1.b–286.a.
’od dpag med kyi bkod pa’i mdo (Amitābhavyūhasūtra) [The Array of Amitābha]. Also known as The Longer Sukhāvatīsūtra. Toh 49, Degé Kangyur vol. 39 (dkon brtsegs, ka), folios 237.b-270.a.
’od zer kun du bkye pa’i bstan pa’i mdo (Raśmisamantamuktanirdeśasūtra) [The Teaching on the Effulgence of Light]. Toh 55, Degé Kangur vol. 40 (dkon brtsegs, kha), folios 195.a–255.b.
tshong dpon bzang skyong gyis zhus pa’i mdo (Bhadrapāla-śreṣṭhi-paripṛccha-sūtra) [The Sūtra of the Questions of Bhadrapāla the Merchant]. Toh 83, Degé Kangyur vol. 44 (dkon brtsegs, cha), folios 71.a–94.b.
yang dag par spyod pa’i tshul nam mkha’i mdog gis ’dul ba’i bzod pa’i mdo (Saṃyagacārya-vṛtta-gagana-varṇa-vinaya-kṣānti-sūtra) [The Sūtra on Patience with the Discipline Through Practicing in a Way that is Like The Colour of the Sky]. Toh 263, Degé Kangyur vol. 67 (mdo sde ’a), folios 90.a–209.b.
Candrakīrti. dbu ma la ’jug pa (Madhyamakāvatāra) [Entering the Middle Way]. Toh 3861, Degé Tengyur vol. 102 (dbu ma ’a), folios 201.b–219.a.
———. dbu ma rtsa ba’i ’grel pa tshig gsal ba (Mūlamadhyamakavṛttiprasannapadā) [Clear Words: A Commentary on the Root Middle Way]. Toh 3860, Degé Tengyur vol. 102 (dbu ma, ’a), folios 1.a–200.a.
Dārika. ’khor lo sdom pa’i dkyil ’khor gyi cho ga de kho na nyid la ’jug pa (Cakrasaṁvaramaṇḍalavidhitattvāvatāra) [Entering the Truth: A Maṇḍala Rite of Cakrasamvara]. Toh 1430, Degé Tengyur vol. 20 (rgyud ’grel, wa), folios 203.b–219.b.
Kamalaśīla. sgom pa’i rim pa (Bhāvanākrama) [Stages of Meditation]. Toh 3915, 3916, and 3917, Degé Tengyur vol. 110 (dbu ma, ki), folios 22.a–41.b, 41.a–55.b, and 55.b–68.b.
Mañjuśrīkīrti. ’phags pa chos thams cad kyi rang bzhin mnyam pa nyid rnam spros pa ting nge ’dzin gyi rgyal po zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo’i ’grel pa grags pa’i phreng ba zhes bya ba (Ārya-sarva-dharma-svabhāva-samatā-vipañcita-samādhi-rāja-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra-ṭika-kīrti-mālā-nāma) [The Garland of Fame: A Commentary on The Mahāyāna Sūtra Entitled The King of Samādhis: The Revealed Equality of the Nature of All Phenomena]. Toh 4010, Degé Tengyur vol. 117 (mdo ’grel, nyi), folios 1.b–163.b.
———. Idem, in bstan ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Tengyur], 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). 120 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 1994–2008, vol. 117 (mdo ’grel, nyi), 752–1181.
Prajñākaramati. byang chub kyi spyod pa la ’jug pa’i dka’ ’grel (Bodhisattvacaryāvatārapañjikā) [Commentary on Difficult Points in Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas]. Toh 3872, Degé Tengyur vol. 105 (dbu ma, la), folios 41.b–288.a.
Śāntideva. byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la ’jug pa (Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra) [Entering the Conduct of the Bodhisattvas]. Toh 3871, Degé Tengyur vol. 105 (dbu ma, la), folios 1.a–40.a.
———. bslab pa kun las btus pa (Śikṣasamuccaya) [Compendium of Training]. Toh 3939, Degé Tengyur vol. 111 (dbu ma, khi), folios 3.a–194.b.
Non-Canonical Tibetan Sources
Gampopa (sgam po pa bsod nams rin chen). dam chos yid bzhin nor bu thar pa rin po che’i rgyan. Kathmandu: Gam-po-pa Library, 2003.
Pekar Sangpo (pad dkar bzang po). bstan pa spyi’i rgyas byed las mdo sde spyi’i rnam bzhag bka’ bsdu ba bzhi pa zhes bya ba’i bstan bcos. Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2006.
Rinchen Palzang (rin chen dpal bzang). mtshur phu dgon gyi dkar chag kun gsal me long. Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1995.
Tsongkhapa (tsong kha pa). lam rim chen mo. In rje tsong kha pa chen po’i gsung ’bum vol. 8, Zi ling: mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1999.
Bailey, D. R. Shackleton. The Śatapañcāśatka of Mātṛceta. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951.
Cüppers, Cristoph. The IXth Chapter of the Samādhirājasūtra: A Text-Critical Contribution to the Study of Mahāyāna Sūtras. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1990.
Dharmachakra Translation Committee, trans. (2013). The Play in Full (Lalitavistara, Toh 95). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———, trans. (2020a). The Absorption of the Miraculous Ascertainment of Peace (Praśāntaviniścayaprātihāryasamādhi, Toh 129). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———, trans. (2020b). The Absorption of the Thus-Gone One’s Wisdom Seal (Tathāgatajñānamudrāsamādhi, Toh 131). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———, trans. (2020c). Upholding the Roots of Virtue (Kuśalamūlasaṃparigraha, Toh 101). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———, trans. (2022). The Teaching on the Effulgence of Light (Raśmisamantamuktanirdeśa, Toh 55). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
Dimitrov, Dragomir. “Two Female Bodhisattvas in Flesh and Blood,” in Aspects of the Female in Indian Culture. Marburg: Indica et Tibetica, 2004, pp. 3–30.
Gómez, Luis O. and Silk, Jonathan A. Studies in the Literature of the Great Vehicle: Three Mahāyāna Buddhist Texts. Ann Arbor: Collegiate Institute for the Study of Buddhist Literature and Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, The University of Michigan, 1989.
Leslie, Julia. “A Bird Bereaved: The Identity and Significance of Valmiki’s Krauñcha,” in Journal of Indian Philosophy 26.5 (1998): 455–87.
Régamey, Konstanty. Philosophy in the Samādhirājasūtra. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1990.
Roberts, Peter Alan, trans. (2018). The White Lotus of the Good Dharma (Saddharmapuṇḍarīka, Toh 113). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———, trans. (2021a) The Stem Array (Gaṇḍavyūha, Toh 44-45). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———, trans. (2021b). The Ten Bhūmis (Daśabhūmika, Toh 44-31). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
Rockwell, John Jr. Samādhi and Patient Acceptance: Four Chapters of the Samādhirāja-sūtra, Translated from the Sanskrit and Tibetan. M.A. thesis, Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado, 1980.
Skilton, Andrew. “Dating the Samādhirāja Sūtra,” In Journal of Indian Philosophy 27: 635–52. Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999.
Tatz, Mark. “Revelation in Mādhyamika Buddhism: Chapter Eleven of the Samādhirāja-sūtra (On Mastering the Sūtra).” Translated from the Tibetan with commentary. University of Washington, 1972.
Thrangu Rinpoche. King of Samadhi: Commentaries on the Samadhi Raja Sutra and the Song of Lodrö Thaye. Hong Kong, Boudhnath & Århus: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1994.