The Dhāraṇī of the Vajra Quintessence
Degé Kangyur, vol. 56 (mdo sde, na), folios 278.a–289.b.
Translated by David Jackson
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
In The Dhāraṇī of the Vajra Quintessence, the bodhisattva of wisdom Mañjuśrī asks the Buddha to propound a teaching on the highest wisdom that questions foundational Buddhist concepts and categories from an ultimate standpoint without denying their conventional efficacy. The Buddha begins by teaching, in a paradoxical tone that defines the entire discourse, that although there is neither awakening nor buddha qualities, bodhisattvas nonetheless aspire for buddhahood. This is followed by a lengthy series of similar paradoxes that examine basic Buddhist distinctions between the worlds of buddhas and sentient beings while pointing to the common ground underlying them. One key doctrinal point is that the qualities of ordinary people are neither distinct from, nor to be conflated with, the qualities of buddhas. When asked why this is so, the Buddha explains that the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence is nonconceptual and immanent in all things, from emotional defilements up to the realization of buddhahood. Since all phenomena are equally empty of intrinsic essence, they are already intrinsically pure and beyond bondage or liberation.
The translation was completed by David Jackson under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha and edited by the 84000 editorial team.
The Dhāraṇī of the Vajra Quintessence belongs to the Buddhist genre called dhāraṇī or “incantation” (Tib. gzungs).1 In the Degé Kangyur most works of this class, usually short Mahāyāna sūtras or tantric texts, are found in the corresponding General Sūtra or Action Tantra sections, but are also duplicated in their own Compendium of Dhāraṇīs section of two hundred and sixty-four texts (Tohoku nos. 846–1108). The present scripture, however, is included only in the General Sūtra section and is one of the few such sūtras that, despite having the term dhāraṇī in their titles, are not duplicated in the compendium.2 This particular text is not a dhāraṇī in the sense in which that term is applied to a large number of scriptures containing a specific mantra-like formula recited in order to bring about a desired result. It contains no such formula at all, but rather presents a series of specific dhāraṇī that constitute spiritual qualities or forms of spiritual realization. First and foremost among these is the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence, which is presented as the ultimate mode of being or state of realization that eludes all conceptual appropriation while at the same time being immanent in all things.
The basic meaning of the Sanskrit dhāraṇa is to “hold,” “uphold,” or “maintain,” and by extension the term is frequently used in reference to memory and learning. In the context of the present work, the terms dhāraṇī or dhāraṇī gates (dhāraṇīmukha) refer at once to teachings that are retained, the avenues for putting them into practice, and the spiritual realizations that are thereby attained in a manner parallel to the way meditative absorption (samādhi) or samādhi gates (samādhimukha) are presented in many other Mahāyāna sūtras.
The sūtra opens in the town of Viśvā near the Himalayan mountains,3 where a large gathering of monks, gods, and celestial bodhisattvas have assembled to receive teachings from the Buddha. The Buddha’s main interlocutor throughout the teaching is the bodhisattva of wisdom, Mañjuśrī. The central discourse of the text is preceded by several miracles, great and small. First, the Buddha enters a special meditative state that renders him invisible to his audience. He then summons all the followers of the Mahāyāna in the universe and they miraculously assemble in the sky. At this point, the great bodhisattvas Mañjuśrī, Maitreya, Ratnaketu, and Avalokiteśvara each enter special meditative absorptions that evoke miraculous changes in the minds of their audience. Finally, the Buddha emits a vast array of multicolored light rays and proceeds to smile, with brilliant light rays emanating from his mouth. When asked by Mañjuśrī what has pleased him, the Buddha says that he is smiling because ten thousand buddhas in the sky have taught the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence. Mañjuśrī then requests the Buddha to teach that same dhāraṇī to all the assembled bodhisattvas, and the remainder of the text consists of the Buddha’s teaching and his intermittent replies to Mañjuśrī’s many questions on important doctrinal points.
From the outset, the teaching is strikingly enigmatic. The Buddha begins by warning his audience, in a paradoxical tone that defines the entire discourse, that although there is neither awakening nor buddha qualities in this dhāraṇī—understood here as both a type of discourse and a type of nondual realization—bodhisattvas nonetheless strive for buddhahood. There follows a lengthy series of similar paradoxes, which call into question basic Buddhist distinctions between the “worlds” of buddhas and sentient beings. One key doctrinal point in all this is that the qualities of ordinary people are neither distinct from, nor to be conflated with, the qualities of buddhas. When asked why this is so, the Buddha explains that the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence is nonconceptual and immanent in all things, from emotional defilements up to the realization of buddhahood. Moreover, since all phenomena are equally empty of any intrinsic essence, they are all already intrinsically pure and beyond bondage or liberation.
Next follows the first of three major sections of the sūtra, a teaching on the three bases of the dhāraṇī, which turn out to be the three main defilements of desire, anger, and confusion. Although these emotional defilements are traditionally regarded as pollutants to be avoided, the Buddha explains that they do not actually exist so there is nothing that becomes polluted, and therefore nothing to purify. Since they are intrinsically empty, they are considered bases of the dhāraṇī or the ultimate reality that is immanent in all of them.
The second major section of the sūtra is a teaching on a series of eleven Dharma gates that are also bases of the dhāraṇī, with each gate relating to a different class of sentient being. They comprise the Dharma gates for gods, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, and mahoragas, as well as for a woman, for a man, and for hell beings.
Each of these modes of being constitutes a Dharma or dhāraṇī gate because they are all nominal imputations having no actual existence, and can thus facilitate the understanding of emptiness. In short, for a bodhisattva who possesses this sort of dhāraṇī, a single syllable not only has multiple possible references but can also open on to multiple forms of reality. In that regard, all phenomena partake of this dhāraṇī and can thus become avenues for both expressing and realizing the ultimate.
The final main section of the sūtra expounds another set of eleven dhāraṇī gates. After learning about a special gate of nonduality, we learn that one of the main gates of nonduality is the teaching that ignorance is awakening. The teaching then proceeds to elucidate how each of the successive twelve links of dependent origination (apart from the final link, which is omitted) is equated with awakening. Although the idea of nonduality only appears in this final section of the text, it is a key to understanding the overall thrust of the Buddha’s discourse. For when it is understood that all phenomena are equally empty and naturally luminous, the various conceptual constructs and oppositional categories we use to evaluate and distinguish the real from unreal, the good from the bad, the high from the low, collapse and their unfabricated source is revealed. The teaching concludes with a remarkable passage in which the Buddha explains to Mañjuśrī the bodhisattva level for which this teaching is intended: it is intended for “the level of those bodhisattvas who have not set out toward awakening, who have not produced the intention to gain awakening, who do not see buddha qualities, who do not wish to run away from desire, anger, and confusion, who do not wish to go beyond saṃsāra, who do not wish to liberate sentient beings, and who do not wish to realize the buddha qualities.” The work then concludes with a description of the many benefits that derive from bearing this dhāraṇī in mind, holding, reciting, and teaching this text and of the praises of the teaching offered by the assembled audience.
To our knowledge, there is no extant Sanskrit manuscript of The Dhāraṇī of the Vajra Quintessence. Two major Chinese translations of this text were completed, first by Buddhaśānta either in the year 525 ᴄᴇ or the period between 525–529 ᴄᴇ,4 and the second by Jñānagupta in 587 ᴄᴇ.5 The Tibetan translators’ colophon states that the translation was made by the chief translator Bandé Yeshé Dé with the help of the Indian scholar Śīlendrabodhi, both of whom were active in the late eight to early ninth centuries ᴄᴇ. The text is recorded in the Denkarma6 and Phangthangma7 inventories of Tibetan imperial translations and appears to have been translated into Tibetan no later than the early ninth century ᴄᴇ. A fragmentary version of this text is also included in the collections of texts recovered from the Dunhuang caves of Central Asia.8 Although The Dhāraṇī of the Vajra Quintessence is not cited in Indian Buddhist texts, it is quoted by a few Tibetan scholars.9 This English translation was prepared based on the Tibetan translation found in the Degé Kangyur, in consultation with the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) and the Stok Palace Kangyurs.
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One was in a grass hut in the town of Viśvā near the snow-peaked Himalayan mountains where he dwelled with a great assembly of one thousand monks. At that time, the Blessed One, avoiding eating alms-food after noon, sat upright in that grass hut with his legs crossed and remained there, settled in mindfulness. Then the Blessed One entered the meditative absorption called dwelling with equality toward all phenomena, and as soon as the Blessed One had entered that absorption, the whole assembly of monks could not see a body where the Blessed One was seated.
At this point, through the power of the Buddha, Śakra, lord of the gods; Brahmā, lord of the Sahā world; and thirty-two thousand minor gods of the Śuddhāvāsa realms went to where the Buddha was staying. The lord of the gods, Śakra, and Brahmā, the lord of the Sahā world, wondered, “Where is the Buddha dwelling right now?” When they saw that the Blessed One had entered into meditative concentration in that grass hut, they went to where he was and sat before him in silence with their legs crossed. The many gods of the Śuddhāvāsa realms also sat before him in silence with their legs crossed.
At that point the Blessed One performed a miracle such that his miraculous power caused all the beings in this trichiliocosm that belong to the Bodhisattva Vehicle—whether they had newly entered that vehicle, [F.278.b] had entered it long ago, had reached the stage of nonregression, or had just one lifetime to go before reaching awakening—to proceeded to that grass hut in the vicinity of the town of Viśvā. And after they had arrived, due to the Buddha’s power, they hovered in midair at the height of a human being with their legs crossed.
It was then that Mañjuśrī Kumārabhūta entered the meditative absorption called pleasing the minds of all sentient beings. As soon as he had entered it, the minds of the entire assembly became happy, pleased, overjoyed, and deeply satisfied. The bodhisattva Maitreya also entered the meditative absorption called quelling all phenomena. Immediately thereafter, the faculties of the entire assembly were in a state of stillness.
Then the bodhisattva Ratnaketu went to that grass hut in the vicinity of the town of Viśvā with a retinue of sixty-two thousand bodhisattvas. As soon as they arrived, they each thought, “I’ll take a seat in space directly above,” and they hovered directly above with their legs crossed. Then Ratnaketu entered the meditative absorption called great array, and as soon as he did the sky was so completely filled with the blooms of lotuses and water lilies of different kinds and colors that the rays of the sun and the moon were no longer visible.
At that point, the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara came from the sky above to the vicinity of the town of Viśvā where the Blessed One was staying with a retinue of sixty-two thousand bodhisattvas. [F.279.a] Unable to find room on the ground, he and the rest of those bodhisattvas took their a seat in the sky above with their legs crossed. As soon as they were seated, the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara entered the meditative absorption called overcoming the emotional defilements of all sentient beings, and the entire assembly gathered there was immediately free of desire, anger, confusion, and all other defilements.
Then the Blessed One rose into the sky above and smiled, and light rays of myriad colors—blue, yellow, red, white, orange, crystal, and silver—shone from his mouth.
In the sky above, Mañjuśrī Kumārabhūta covered one shoulder with his robe, knelt there in the sky on his right knee, bowed toward the Blessed One with his palms together, and asked, “Blessed One, why did you smile? What caused you to do that?”
“I accept your request, Mañjuśrī. In this dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no awakening and there is no buddha, yet these bodhisattvas wish to awaken to the completely perfect awakening of a buddha. [F.279.b] In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no saṃsāra and no nirvāṇa, yet these bodhisattvas wish to attain nirvāṇa. In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no virtue and no nonvirtue, yet these bodhisattvas wish to avoid nonvirtue. In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no other shore or this shore, yet these bodhisattvas wish to reach the other shore. In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no ordinary realm nor perfection of a realm, yet these bodhisattvas wish to perfect a realm.
“In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no Māra nor even the label ‘Māra,’ yet these bodhisattvas wish to tame Māra. In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no hearer nor even the label ‘hearer,’ and yet these bodhisattvas wish to go beyond the teachings of the hearers. In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no solitary buddha nor even the label ‘solitary buddha,’ yet these bodhisattvas wish to go beyond the teachings of the solitary buddhas. In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no sentient being nor even the label ‘sentient being,’ yet these bodhisattvas wish to help sentient beings attain nirvāṇa. In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no benefit nor lack of benefit, yet these bodhisattvas wish to be of benefit.
“In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no desire nor even the label ‘desire,’ yet these bodhisattvas wish to abandon desire. In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no anger nor even the label ‘anger,’ yet these bodhisattvas wish to abandon anger. In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no confusion nor even the label ‘confusion,’ yet these bodhisattvas wish to abandon confusion. In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no knowing or unknowing, yet these bodhisattvas wish to attain knowledge. In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no pollution nor even the label ‘pollution,’ yet these bodhisattvas wish to abandon pollution. [F.280.a]
“In the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence there is no purification nor even the label ‘purification.’ There is neither moral training nor nontraining. There is no compassion, no loving kindness, nor feeling desirous or neutral toward anything. There is neither generosity nor stinginess. There is neither intact moral training nor broken training. There is neither patience nor malice. There is neither diligence nor laziness. There is neither concentration nor distraction. There is neither insight nor mental error. There is neither moral downfall nor what is not a downfall. There are no hearers, solitary buddhas, or thus-gone ones. There is neither Dharma nor non-Dharma. There are neither profound points10 nor simple ones. There is neither knowing nor not knowing. There is no attainment. There is no realization. There is no saṃsāra or nirvāṇa. There are no applications of mindfulness, no right exertions, no bases of miraculous power, no faculties, no powers, no branches of awakening, and no path.
“Mañjuśrī, bodhisattvas wishing to attain the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence should not dwell in the qualities of ordinary people. They should not uphold the qualities of ordinary people. Nor should they reject them. They should not try to accomplish such things, and they should not try to surpass them, transgress them, or consider them neutrally. They should not think about such qualities, spiritually renounce them, become lazy about them, be attached to them, be unattached to them, be completely cut off from them, or try to make contact with them.
“You should not perceive the qualities of ordinary people as polluted. You should not consider them as something one is given. You should also not consider them as something to be given up.
“The qualities of ordinary people [F.280.b] should not be viewed as distinct from the qualities of buddhas. Nor should the qualities of buddhas be conflated with the qualities of ordinary people, or qualities of ordinary people be conflated with the qualities of buddhas. The qualities of ordinary people should not be objectified. They should also not be conflated with the qualities of the hearers or solitary buddhas.
“Bodhisattvas should also not dwell in perfectly pure buddha realms, nor aspire to them. Why not? Because, Mañjuśrī, the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence is nonconceptual. It is immanent11 in desire, immanent in anger, immanent in confusion, immanent in women, immanent in men, and immanent in gods, in nāgas, in yakṣas, in gandharvas, in asuras, in garuḍas, and in mahoragas. It is immanent in the Buddha, in the Dharma, in the Saṅgha, and in hearers, solitary buddhas, the hell realms, the animal realm, and in the world of Yama. It is immanent in evil, in good, in earth, water, fire, and air, and in the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. Mañjuśrī, the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence is immanent in all things.
“Mañjuśrī, just as the element of space in the east, [F.281.a] the element of space in the south, the element of space in the west, the element of space in the north, the element of space below, and the element of space above are all immanent in the element of space, so too, Mañjuśrī, this dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence is likewise immanent in all things.”
The Buddha replied, “Mañjuśrī, what we call desire is not something that pollutes sentient beings after coming from the east. Nor is it something from the south, from the west, from the north, from below, or from above. It is not something that pollutes sentient beings after arising from within, nor is it something that pollutes sentient beings after arising from without. Mañjuśrī, if desire were something that polluted sentient beings after arising from within, then it would follow that sentient beings have pollution as their very nature, and would not be able to realize reality at some later time. Mañjuśrī, phenomena do not come, nor do they go, nor do they stay either within or without. They also do not stay in a way that is neither of these two. They are completely beyond reckoning. Therefore, desire is said to be a basis of the dhāraṇī.
“Anger is a basis of the dhāraṇī.”
The Blessed One replied, “Mañjuśrī, anger arises from spouting senseless drivel. But this spouting of senseless drivel is not past, nor is it future, nor does it arise in the present. [F.281.b] Mañjuśrī, if such phenomena were deemed to have come from the past, they would be permanent. Anger does not arise from future conditions, and present conditions also neither persist nor cease. Mañjuśrī, any phenomena that are not arisen from the past, or from the future, or from the present—such phenomena are called the basis of the dhāraṇī that is purified in the three times.
The Blessed One replied, “Mañjuśrī, confusion arises from ignorance. And ignorance is not mixed with the elements of earth, water, fire, air, space, or consciousness. Mañjuśrī, unmixed phenomena cannot be polluted and cannot be purified. Mañjuśrī, if unmixed phenomena could be polluted or purified, then the element of space, too, could be polluted or purified. Why is that? Mañjuśrī, it is because space is not mixed with any other factor. Mañjuśrī, is it possible to designate as either ‘polluted’ or ‘purified’ something that is not mixed with ignorance, does not migrate, is not restrained, does not exist, does not arise, is a nonentity, is not seen, does not appear, is not grasped, is not bound, is not liberated, is immeasurable, is void, is vain, or has no substance?”
“So too, Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “that which the thus-gone ones have taught to be ignorance is without beginning. It always lacks singularity. It is without a beginning point, without an ending point, and also does not exist in the present. Therefore, it is called ignorance. [F.282.a]
“Mañjuśrī, can any such phenomenon that is nonexistent, unfindable, unknowable, imperceptible, does not come to be, and is not an object of desire, anger, or confusion be something that could be polluted, purified, or obscured?”
“No, Blessed One. No, Sugata,” said Mañjuśrī. “Blessed One, if it is true that any phenomenon related to ignorance is not something that could be polluted, purified, or obscured, then why did the Blessed One refer to ignorance as ‘polluted’?”
The Blessed One replied, “Allow me to provide an example, Mañjuśrī. Smoke arises and fire appears when one uses a rubbing stick, the wooden base for the rubbing stick, and the rubbing action of a person’s hand, but that fire is not present in the rubbing stick, the wooden base, or the rubbing action of a person’s hand. In the same way, Mañjuśrī, the tormenting fires of desire, anger, and confusion arise in a confused person, but that torment does not dwell within, without, or as neither of those possibilities. Nevertheless, we speak of confusion, Mañjuśrī. Why is that? Because, Mañjuśrī, all phenomena are already totally free. And phenomena that are totally free we call the basis of the dhāraṇī.”
The Blessed One replied, “Mañjuśrī, there is a Dharma gate a bodhisattva can possess that leads to attaining the dhāraṇī that is in accord with everything. Even if one were to teach them using syllables numbering from one to a hundred thousand, one would never know the end of those syllables. [F.282.b] Infinite Dharma gates have appeared through this and that Dharma gate that have been explained using this or that Dharma gate, and their eloquence has no end. That limitless eloquence expresses all Dharma gates. All the words of the Dharma gates accord with a single word of the Dharma gates, while a single word of Dharma gates accords with all words of the Dharma gates.”
“Mañjuśrī,” replied the Blessed One, “all phenomena are nameless, devoid of syllables, without syllables, and yet they are expressed through syllables. That is the basis of the dhāraṇī through which the likes of nāgas enter.
“Mañjuśrī,” replied the Blessed One, “because all phenomena are limitless, innumerable, unfathomable, and equal to space, they are beyond counting. That is the basis of the dhāraṇī through which the likes of gandharvas enter.
“Mañjuśrī,” replied the Blessed One, “all phenomena are gates to nonexistence. They cannot be known as name. They cannot be known as form. They cannot be known as sound. They cannot be known as smell. They cannot be known as taste. They cannot be known as sensation. They cannot be known as mind. They cannot be known as the Buddha. They cannot be known as the Dharma. They cannot be known as the Saṅgha. They cannot be known as a hearer. They cannot be known as a solitary buddha. They cannot be known as an ordinary person. Mañjuśrī, by virtue of their utter lack of origination no phenomena are knowable, and that is the basis of the dhāraṇī through which the likes of asuras enter.
“Mañjuśrī,” replied the Blessed One, “all phenomena are without coming or going. They are without running or running away. They are not fleeing, not going, not coming, not passing away, not being born, not supporting, not remaining, not being attached, not bound, not angered, not confused, not freed, not persisting, and not stationary. Mañjuśrī, since no attachment exists in space, all factors are gates to freedom from dwelling, and that is the basis of the dhāraṇī through which the likes of garuḍas enter.
“Mañjuśrī,” replied the Blessed One, “all phenomena are devoid of agent. They are uncreated, unchanging, and no agent will be found upon investigation.14 That is the basis of the dhāraṇī through which the likes of kinnaras enter.
“Mañjuśrī,” replied the Blessed One, “all phenomena are free of stains and luminous. The fact that sentient beings are unable to make them into something polluted or something to be purified is the basis for the dhāraṇī of purity. Why is that? Mañjuśrī, because all phenomena are by nature unborn, they are always parinirvāṇa. That is the basis of the dhāraṇī through which the likes of mahoragas enter.
“Mañjuśrī,” replied the Blessed One, “because all phenomena lack true existence, they are unreal. They are without female or male genitalia. That is the basis of the dhāraṇī through which the likes of women enter.
“Mañjuśrī,” replied the Blessed One, “maleness is not apprehended in any way: it is not apprehended at a beginning point, at an ending point, or at present. Mañjuśrī, something that is not apprehended in the three times cannot be male or female. In other words, these are simply nominal expressions. Those names, too, are void and they are ascribed by virtue of the verbal sign of the dhāraṇī. That dhāraṇī, too, is arisen out of the four great elements of earth, water, air, and fire, and the arising of the four elements is not apprehended. Since all phenomena are not born, all phenomena are always parinirvāṇa. That is the basis of the dhāraṇī through which the likes of men enter.
“Blessed One,” replied Mañjuśrī, “it is through their own thoughts that immature ordinary people imagine themselves to be hell beings, animals, or spirits in the world of Yama. And it is on account of projecting something that does not exist that they feel afflictions and experience miseries in the three lower realms. However, Blessed One, since I do not see hells, I also do not see hell beings, and the sufferings of hells do not exist, either. For instance, Blessed One, suppose that some man who has fallen asleep were to imagine in a dream that he is experiencing falling into the hell realms. He vividly imagines that he has been put into a boiling iron cauldron several fathoms deep with intensely burning flames where he experiences sensations of suffering. Perceiving this with fear and anguish, he may wake up in a state of shock and terror, thinking, ‘Aaah! The pain!’ When he shouts such words out loud, his friends, kinsmen, or siblings nearby might ask, ‘What is paining you?’
“The man might then say to them, ‘I was experiencing the pains of hell.’ Then, feeling irritated and angry with those friends, kinsmen, or siblings, he might add, ‘I have been experiencing the pains of hell, so what business do you have to ask me afterward, “What is paining you?” ’ In response, those friends, kinsmen, or siblings would say to him, [F.284.b] ‘Hey! Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! You fell asleep. You never left this house.’
“Once that man has fully regained consciousness, he might think, ‘I did fall asleep and then I imagined something that was not real and that did not actually exist. Nothing really existed.’ Now, Blessed One, just as that man projected something that didn’t exist during the dream he had when he had fallen asleep and imagined that he was in hell, so it is, Blessed One, that all immature ordinary men, entangled in their desire for what is nonexistent, imagine the genitalia of a woman. Having imagined her genitalia, they fancy that they are playing around with the woman and enjoying sex together. They may think, ‘I am a man and this is a woman. This is my woman.’ Then, with a mind entangled in lustful passion, they set their minds on the pursuit of pleasure. From that starting point, they get into fights, quarrels, and disputes, and with their faculties enraged, they harbor resentment. Due to such erroneous conceptions, as soon as these people die, they will think they are experiencing for many thousands of eons the painful sensations of hell.
“Blessed One, just as that man was told by his friends, kinsmen, or siblings, ‘Hey! Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! You fell asleep. You never left this house,’ so it is, Blessed One, that the blessed buddhas have taught the Dharma to the sentient beings who are intoxicated by the four erroneous conceptions. Here there exists no woman and also no man. Here there is no sentient being, no life force, no wellbeing, and no person. All these phenomena are unreal. All these phenomena are nonexistent. All these phenomena are fabricated. All these phenomena are imagined. [F.285.a]
“All these phenomena are empty. All these phenomena are without origination. All these phenomena are without cessation. All these phenomena are nonentities. All these phenomena are disconnected. All these phenomena are like a dream. All these phenomena are like an illusion. All these phenomena are like the moon’s reflection in water. These beings are taught, ‘No one should be desirous, angry, or confused about these things. So don’t think about what is unreal!’ Upon hearing that teaching of the Thus-Gone One, they see that all phenomena are without desire. They see that all phenomena are without anger, without confusion, without obscuration, and without attachment. Having seen that all entities are already fully liberated and are always parinirvāṇa, they will die with their minds dwelling in space. As soon as they die, they will pass into the realm of final nirvāṇa that is without remainder. That, Blessed One, is how I see the hell realms.”
Then the Blessed One congratulated Mañjuśrī saying, “Very good, very good, Mañjuśrī! One should view hells just as you see them. Just as you did not form thoughts about them, so they should not imagine them. Mañjuśrī, if one sees the hells in the way you have, one will attain acceptance of the nonorigination of phenomena.”
When he had expounded this teaching on the hells, ninety-two thousand bodhisattvas attained acceptance of the nonorigination of phenomena and exclaimed in unison, ‘How marvelous and excellent is the purview of buddhas, wherein it is possible to discover qualities of buddhas among the qualities of the hell realms.’ ” [F.285.b]
Mañjuśrī Kumārabhūta said to the Blessed One, “Blessed One, please teach the bodhisattvas15 a Dharma gate of nonduality, a gate of nonduality through which bodhisattvas can realize all phenomena to be the qualities of a buddha and not create any such duality.”
The Blessed One replied to Mañjuśrī Kumārabhūta, “Mañjuśrī, that is why this Dharma gate called fully teaching is the Dharma gate that allows bodhisattvas to discuss all of the defilements in terms of buddha qualities.”
“Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “it is called ignorance because it does not exist. What is nonexistent is without arising. What has not arisen is without pollution. Mañjuśrī, that which lacks pollution is awakening. Luminous by nature, it is forever unborn. Mañjuśrī, since the thus-gone ones see the import of this, they teach that ignorance and awakening are nondual. I have not found this ignorance, Mañjuśrī, and that is why I can speak of something called ignorance. Mañjuśrī, that is the dhāraṇī gate that one enters through the likes of ignorance. [F.286.a] Through entering it, their eloquence becomes swifter, sharper, more profound, unbroken, and unlimited.
“Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “mental formations are innumerable—they cannot be counted. That is why one cannot perceive their full measure. Even though it is said that possessing nonvirtue leads to rebirth in the hell realms, one does not leave this place, and there is also no transference to that place after death. Mañjuśrī, the lack of transference is awakening. There is no coming and no going. Mañjuśrī, that is the dhāraṇī gate that one enters through the likes of mental formations.
“Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “consciousness is like an illusion. The thus-gone ones proclaim that it has arisen from what is unreal. Mañjuśrī, just as immature ordinary people who are entrenched in what is unreal collectively imagine and construct an illusion-like consciousness, so too, Mañjuśrī, these immature ordinary people collectively imagine and construct an illusion-like awakening of a buddha. They see the qualities of a buddha as something special, thinking, ‘May we be buddhas! May we liberate sentient beings! May we be the best in the world!’ And they go about imagining the awakening of a buddha is like the sky. Mañjuśrī, I sat at the seat of awakening, and I did not perceive any qualities belonging to buddhas, or hearers, or solitary buddhas, or ordinary people. Mañjuśrī, that is the dhāraṇī gate that one enters through the likes of consciousness. [F.286.b]
“Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “name is a verbal expression that is without existence, and form lacks any agent. Mañjuśrī, where there is no agent there is no self. Mañjuśrī, names can be used to teach the absence of self that is the awakening of a buddha, yet one cannot find that name even if they were to search for it throughout the ten directions. Mañjuśrī, that is the dhāraṇī gate that one enters through the likes of name and form.
“Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “all of the six sense bases are devoid of their respective objects. The sense faculty of the eye does not think thoughts such as ‘I see a form.’ The sense faculty of the ear does not think thoughts such as ‘I hear a sound.’ The sense faculty of the nose does not think thoughts such as ‘I smell a smell.’ The sense faculty of the tongue does not think thoughts such as ‘I taste a taste.’ The sense faculty of the body does not think thoughts such as ‘I feel a sensation.’ The sense faculty of the mind does not think thoughts such as ‘I am conscious of a mental phenomenon.’ The eye does not know that forms are its object; neither do forms know they are an object of the eye. The ear does not know that sounds are its object; neither do sounds know they are an object of the ear. The nose does not know that smells are its object; neither do smells know they are the object of the nose. The body does not know that tangible things are its object; neither do tangible things know they are an object of the body. The mind does not know that mental phenomena are its object; neither do mental phenomena know they are objects of the mind. Mañjuśrī, the sense bases are mutually incompatible, without motion, without action, without mutual cognizance, and mutually empty of intrinsic nature. [F.287.a] Mañjuśrī, any factor that is empty of intrinsic nature is awakening. Mañjuśrī, that is the dhāraṇī gate that one enters through the likes of six sense bases.
“Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “contact refers to contact that is encountered as form, contact that is encountered as sound, contact that is encountered as smell, contact that is encountered as taste, contact that is encountered as touch, and contact that is encountered as mental phenomena. Mañjuśrī, everything from contact that is encountered as form up to contact that is encountered as mental phenomena are supports, and whatever they support arises from many conditions. Mañjuśrī, something that arises from many conditions retains its composite character. Mañjuśrī, something with a composite character has an illusory character. Something that has an illusory character has an unreal character. Something that has an unreal character is nonexistent. Something that is nonexistent does not arise. Something that does not arise does not cease. Mañjuśrī, something that is without arising and without cessation is the awakening of a buddha. That is the dhāraṇī gate that one enters through the likes of contact.
“Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “feeling is of three kinds: pleasant feelings, painful feelings, and neutral feelings. Mañjuśrī, pleasant feelings exists neither within nor without, nor are they apprehended as both of those possibilities. Mañjuśrī, painful feelings exist neither within nor without, nor are they apprehended as both of those possibilities. Mañjuśrī, neutral feelings exist neither within nor without, nor are they apprehended as both of those possibilities.” [F.287.b]
“Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “various unreal conditions cause immature ordinary people perverted by false notions18 to experience the thought of pleasure or the thought of pain or the thought of neutral feeling. Be that as it may, Mañjuśrī, all feelings have the nature of illusion. They are not made, are unborn, and are always unoriginated. Mañjuśrī, in keeping with that line of reasoning, feeling is awakening, and that is the dhāraṇī gate that one enters through the likes of feeling.
“Mañjuśrī, what do you think?” asked the Blessed One in return. “Does the craving that a childless person has for a child19 exist inside, outside, or in the cardinal directions or intermediate directions?
The Blessed One said, “Mañjuśrī, sometimes people in conjugal union give birth to a child, and that gives rise to craving. If there is such a connection, Mañjuśrī, what do you think? [F.288.a] Did that person’s craving for a son come from the east, or from the south, or from the west, or from the north, or from below, or from above, or from within, or from without, or from neither of those last two?”
“Blessed One,” replied Mañjuśrī, “craving is not apprehended in the east, nor in the south, nor the west, nor the north, nor above, nor below, nor within, nor without, nor neither of the last two possibilities.”
“Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “phenomena that are not found in the east, in the south, in the west, in the north, and that are not apprehended within, nor without, nor either of those two cannot be something that is polluted or something that is purified. And that, Mañjuśrī, is the dhāraṇī gate that one enters through the likes of craving.
“No,” replied Mañjuśrī.
“No, they do not,” replied Mañjuśrī.
“Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “in the same way, all phenomena are without arising, without ceasing, and without obscuration. One does not produce another, and one does not apprehend another. They do not speak, and since they are inanimate, they do not give rise to verbal acts. From this analysis, Mañjuśrī, it follows that appropriation is awakening, and that is the dhāraṇī gate that one enters through the likes of appropriation.
“Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “what I explained as becoming is a nonentity, and that is why it is called becoming. Mañjuśrī, those who see that all phenomena are nonentities do not produce anything, nor do they cause anything to cease. Seeing that all phenomena are of the nature of space, they do not apprehend even the qualities of a buddha, nor do they abandon them. In this way, Mañjuśrī, becoming is awakening, and that is the dhāraṇī gate that one enters through the likes of becoming.
“Mañjuśrī,” said the Blessed One, “if bodhisattvas search for birth, they will see the absence of birth, the absence of transference, and the absence of arising. In this way, Mañjuśrī, birth is awakening, and that is the dhāraṇī gate that one enters through the likes of birth.
“Mañjuśrī, through this gate for entering the dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence, bodhisattvas will quickly attain eloquence and their eloquence will be sharper, more profound, unbroken, and unlimited.”
“Mañjuśrī,” the Blessed One replied, “it is intended for the level of those bodhisattvas who have not set out toward awakening, who have not produced the intention to gain awakening, who do not see buddha qualities, who do not wish to run away from desire, anger, and confusion, who do not wish to go beyond saṃsāra, who do not wish to liberate sentient beings, and who do not wish to realize the buddha qualities.”
Mañjuśrī Kumārabhūta requested of the Blessed One, “Blessed One, please let us know what good qualities a son or daughter of the lineage who bears this dhāraṇī in mind, holds it, recites it, makes it understood, and teaches it widely to others will gain in this life.” [F.289.b]
The Blessed One said, “You should know that such people will be protected by gods, nāgas, yakṣas, and gandharvas. You should know that they will have no doubts regarding all phenomena. You should know that they will possess knowledge that clearly discerns phenomena. Mañjuśrī, the qualities of this dhāraṇī are limitless and cannot be exhausted even in a hundred eons.”
When the Blessed One taught this Dharma discourse, ten thousand bodhisattvas gained this dhāraṇī of the vajra quintessence and thirty-two thousand beginner bodhisattvas gained acceptance of the Dharma.
|ACIP||Asian Classics Input Project (www.asianclassics.org)|
|BDRC||Buddhist Digital Resource Center (www.bdrc.io)|
|Negi||J.S. Negi, Tibetan-Sanskrit Dictionary|
|S||Stok Palace Kangyur|
’phags pa rdo rje snying po’i gzungs (Vajramaṇḍanāmadhāraṇī). Toh. 139, Degé Kangyur vol. 21 (mdo sde, na), folios 278.a–289.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. 56 (mdo sde, za), pp. 768–95.
———. Stok 121, Stok Palace Kangyur (stog pho brang bris ma bka’ ’gyur). Leh: Smanrtsis Shesrig Dpemzod, 1975–1980, vol. 65, folios 30.a–46.b. Also available online at BDRC, no. W22083.
Denkarma (pho brang stod thang ldan [/ lhan] dkar gyi chos ’gyur ro cog gi dkar chag). Toh 4364, Degé Tengyur vol. 206 (sna tshogs, jo), folios 294.b–310.a.
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Do Drupchen Jigmé Tenpai Nyima (rdo grub chen ’jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma). byang chub sems dpa’i gzungs kyi rgyan rnam par bshad pa rgyal yum lus bzang mdzes byed legs bshad phreng ba [An Ornamental Explanation of the Bodhisattva Dhāraṇī: A Garland of Eloquent Explanation that Adorns the Auspicious Body of the Victorious Mother]. In The Collected Works (gsung ʼbum) of rdo grub chen ‘jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma, vol. 1, pp. 9–196, Gangtok: Dodrubchen Rinpoche, 1974–1975. Reprinted in The Collected Works, vol. 2, pp. 345–500, Gangtok: Dodrubchen Rinpoche, 2000.
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Edgerton, Franklin. Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary 2: Dictionary. Reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1993.
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- bzod pa
A term meaning acceptance, forebearance, or patience. As the third of the six transcendent perfections, patience is classified into three kinds: the capacity to tolerate abuse from sentient beings, to tolerate the hardships of the path to buddhahood, and to tolerate the profound nature of reality. As a term referring to a bodhisattva’s realization, the term dharmakṣāṇti (chos la bzod pa) can refer to ways one becomes “receptive” to the nature of Dharma, and can be an abbreviation of anutpattikadharmakṣāṇti, “receptivity to the unborn nature of phenomena.”
Acceptance of the Dharma
- chos la bzod pa
This term refers to becoming receptive to the profound Dharma.
Acceptance of the nonorigination of phenomena
- mi skye ba’i chos la bzod pa
The acceptance of or receptivity to the nonorigination of phenomena. This realization is attained by bodhisattvas on the eighth spiritual level on the Path of Seeing (darśanamārga).
Applications of mindfulness
- dran pa nye bar gzhag pa
Refers here to the four applications of mindfulness that belong to the thirty-seven factors conducive to awakening: mindfulness of the body, feelings, thoughts, and mental objects.
- spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug
One of the bodhisattvas who attends the Buddha’s teachings in this text.
Bases of miraculous power
- rdzu ’phrul gyi rkang pa
Refers here to the four bases of miraculous power that belong to the thirty-seven factors conducive to awakening; they are determination, discernment, diligence, and contemplation.
Basis of the dhāraṇī
- gzungs kyi gzhi
A technical term employed in The Dhāraṇī of the Vajra Quintessence to signify the fact that all phenomena are inherently liberated, and thus bear the intrinsic quality of liberation as their very basis.
- bcom ldan ’das
In Buddhist literature, an epithet applied to buddhas, most often to Śākyamuni. The Sanskrit term generally means “possessing fortune,” but in specifically Buddhist contexts this term implies that a buddha is in possession of six auspicious qualities (bhaga) associated with complete awakening. The Tibetan term—where bcom is said to refer to “subduing” the four māras, ldan to “possessing” the great qualities of buddhahood, and ’das to “going beyond” saṃsāra and nirvāṇa—possibly reflects the commentarial tradition where the Sanskrit bhagavat is interpreted, in addition, as “one who destroys the four māras.” This is achieved either by reading bhagavat as bhagnavat (“one who broke”), or by tracing the word bhaga to the root √bhañj, “to break.”
- tshangs pa
One of the primary deities of the purāṇic Hindu pantheon, and perhaps the first to take on the status formerly held by the cosmic being Prajāpati in the literature of the brāhmaṇas. Though not considered a creator god in Buddhist literature, in his form as Sahāṃpati Brahmā, Brahmā occupies an important place as one of two deities (the other being Indra/Śakra) that are said to have exhorted Śākyamuni to teach the Dharma. Among his epithets is “Lord of the Sahā World” (Sahāṃpati).
Branches of awakening
- byang chub kyi yan lag
Refers here to the seven branches of awakening belonging to the thirty-seven factors conducive to awakening: mindfulness, analysis of phenomena, diligence, joy, ease, samādhi, and equanimity.
- gti mug
One of the three poisons (dug gsum) along with aversion and attachment which perpetuate the sufferings of cyclic existence. Delusion is the obfuscating mental state which obstructs an individual from generating knowledge or insight, and it is said to be dominant characteristic of the animal world in general.
- rten cing ’brel bar ’byung ba
The twelve links of dependent origination describe the process of being bound in cyclic existence, and, when reversed, the process of liberation. The twelve links are ignorance, formation, consciousness, name and form, the six sense bases, contact, feeling, craving, appropriation, becoming, birth, and old age and death. The twelfth is omitted in this text.
Literally, “retention,” or “that which retains, contains, or encapsulates,” the term dhāraṇī refers to mnemonic formulas, or codes possessed by advanced bodhisattvas that contain a quintessence of their attainments, as well as the Dharma teachings that express them and guide beings toward their realization. They are therefore often described in terms of “gateways” for entering the Dharma and training in its realization, or “seals” that contain condensations of truths and their expression. The term can also refer to a statement, or incantation, meant to protect or bring about a particular result.
- gzungs kyi sgo
As a magical formula, a dhāraṇī constitutes a gate to the infinite qualities of awakening, the awakened state itself, and the various forms of buddha activity. See also UT22084-039-002-4.
- chos kyi rnam grangs
In Buddhism, lit. “method” or “means of teaching the doctrine,” denoting both the ways of teaching the dharma as well as the dharma discourse itself.
- chos kyi sgo
Certain teachings are called “Dharma gates” (or “gates of the Dharma”) because they provide access to the practice of the Dharma and the resulting spiritual realization.
- don grub rdo rje
A Tibetan scholar (1892–1960) of the Ancient (rnying ma) tradition who composed a subcommentary on Do Drupchen Jigmé Tenpai Nyima’s An Ornamental Explanation of the Bodhisattva Dhāraṇī. This subcommentary is entitled Commentary on the Explanation of Dhāraṇī (gzungs kyi rnam bshad kyi ’grel pa).
Do Drupchen Jigmé Tenpai Nyima
- rdo grub chen bstan pa’i nyi ma
A famous Tibetan scholar (1865–1926) of the Ancient (rnying ma) tradition who composed an explication of the dhāraṇī genre entitled An Ornamental Explanation of the Bodhisattva Dhāraṇī: A Garland of Eloquent Explanation that Adorns the Auspicious Body of the Victorious Mother (byang chub sems dpa’i gzungs kyi rgyan rnam par bshad pa rgyal yum lus bzang mdzes byed legs bshad phreng ba).
Dwelling with equality toward all phenomena
- chos thams cad la mnyam pa nyid du gnas pa
The name of a meditative absorption (samādhi) of the Buddha in this text.
- nyon mongs
A term meaning “defilement” or “affliction” that refers to a wide range of mental factors that disturb the mind and lead to unwholesome deeds by body, speech, and mind. The Pāli kilesa, Middle-Indic kileśa, and Sanskrit kleśa all primarily mean “to soil, stain, defile.” The meaning “affliction” is a secondary development that derives from the more general (non-Buddhist) classical understanding of kliś (“to harm, to afflict”). Both meanings are noted by Buddhist commentators. The basic three defilements are attachment, aversion, and confusion.
Five sense objects
- ’dod pa’i yon tan ’di lnga
Desirable objects of the five senses: form, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
- dri za
Lower class of divine beings said to dwell in the east, under the jurisdiction of the Great King Dhṛtarāṣṭra. Capable of flight, they are often described as “celestial musicians.”
- mkha’ lding
Lower class of divine beings described as eagle-type birds with gigantic wingspans. They are traditionally enemies of the nāgas. In the Vedas, they are said to have brought nectar from the heavens to earth.
Cognate with the English term divine. The devas are most generally a class of divine, celestial beings who populate the narratives of Indian mythology. Devas make regular appearances in Buddhist literature at the head of the assemblies of celestial beings who attend the teachings, interact with the Buddha, bodhisattvas, and other spiritual figures, and celebrate the delivery of their teachings. In Buddhist cosmology, the devas are subdivided into numerous classes based on the specific devalokas, the “heavens” in which they reside. Traditionally there are between twenty-six and twenty-eight devalokas, divided between the desire realm (kāmadhātu), form realm (rūpadhātu), and formless realm (ārūpyadhātu). The state of deva is reached either through meritorious acts or the cultivation of subtle meditative states, and is therefore considered a higher mode of rebirth in comparison to rebirth among hell beings, pretas, and animals. Nonetheless, all the devalokas are within the three realms of saṃsāra and therefore transitory. Thus while the devas occupy the highest strata within the scheme of the five or six “destinies” (gati), the realms within saṃsāra where beings take rebirth, their state is still one determined by the fetters (saṃyojana) that bind one to the perpetual cycle of rebirth.
- nyan thos
A “hearer” or “listener,” someone who first hears the Dharma from another, or, alternatively causes others to hear the Dharma. This refers to the disciples of the Buddha who seek the awakening of a worthy one (arhat), rather than the awakening of a buddha.
- shes rab
In general, this is the mental factor of discerning the specific qualities of a given object and whether it should be accepted or rejected. As the sixth of the six perfections, it refers to the profound understanding of the emptiness of all phenomena, the realization of ultimate reality.
- mi’am ci
A class of semidivine beings that resemble humans to the degree that their very name—which means “Is that a man?”—suggests some confusion as to their divine status. Kinnaras are mythological beings found in both Buddhist and Hindu literature, where they are portrayed as creatures half human, half animal (horse or bird). They are also usually depicted as highly skilled celestial musicians.
- lto ’phye chen po
Literally “large serpent.” A subterranean semidivine being that takes the form of a large serpent, sometimes with a human torso and head.
- byams pa
One of the bodhisattvas who attends the Buddha’s teachings in this text.
- ’jam dpal gzhon nur gyur pa
Mañjuśrī is one of the eight “close sons” of the Buddha and a bodhisattva that embodies insight. He is a major figure in the Mahāyāna sūtras, appearing often as an interlocutor of the Buddha, as in the case of this text. In his most well-known iconographic form, he is portrayed bearing the sword of insight in his right hand and a volume of the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra in his left. In addition to the epithet Kumārabhūta, which means “having a youthful form,” Mañjuśrī can also take on the epithets Mañjughoṣa, Mañjusvara, and Pañcaśikha.
A demonic being often bearing the epithet of the “Evil One” (pāpīyān, sdig can), sometimes said to be the principal deity in the Heaven of Making Use of Others’ Emanations, the highest paradise in the desire realm; also one of the names of the god of desire, Kāma in the Vedic tradition. He is portrayed as attempting to prevent the Buddha’s awakening.
- ting nge ’dzin
A general term for states of deep meditation. One of the synonyms for meditation, referring in particular to a state of complete concentration or focus. The term is sometimes used to refer to a list of such states.
A semidivine class of beings who live in subterranean aquatic environments where they are known to guard wealth and esoteric teachings. Nāgas are associated with serpents and often assume a snakelike appearance. In Buddhist art and in written accounts, nāgas are regularly portrayed as being half human and half snake, and, as mentioned in this sūtra, said to have the ability to change into human form. Some nāgas are Dharma protectors, but they can also bring retribution if they are disturbed. Nāgas likewise fight one another, wage war, and destroy the lands of others by causing lightning, hail, and flooding.
- mya ngan las ’das pa
Literally “extinction,” the state beyond sorrow, it refers to the ultimate attainment of buddhahood, the permanent cessation of all suffering and of the afflicted mental states that lead to suffering. Three types of nirvāṇa are identified: (1) the residual nirvāṇa where the person is still dependent on conditioned psycho-physical aggregates, (2) the non-residual nirvāṇa where the aggregates have also been consumed within emptiness, and (3) the non-abiding nirvāṇa transcending the extremes of phenomenal existence and quiescence.
Overcoming the emotional defilements of all sentient beings
- sems can thams cad kyi nyon mongs pa ’joms pa
The name of a meditative absorption (samādhi) of a bodhisattva in this text.
Pleasing the minds of all sentient beings
- sems can thams cad kyi sems mgu bar byed pa
The name of a meditative absorption (samādhi) of a bodhisattva in this text.
- kun nas nyon mongs pa
The self-perpetuating process of affliction in the minds of beings.
Qualities of buddhas
- sangs rgyas kyi chos
Qualities of ordinary people
- so so skye bo’i chos
Quelling all phenomena
- chos thams cad rab tu zhi ba
The name of a meditative absorption (samādhi) of a bodhisattva in this text.
- rin po che’i tog
The name of a bodhisattva attending the Buddha’s teaching in this text.
- yang dag par spong ba
Refers here to the four correct exertions that belong to the thirty-seven factors conducive to awakening. The Sanskrit term samyakprahāṇa is generally translated as either "right exertion(s)” or “right abandonment(s),” depending on whether one follows the primary connotation “exertion” (pradhāna, lit. “priority”) or the secondary (nirukta) derived connotation “abandonment” (prahāṇa). The four are the intention to not do bad actions that have not been done, to give up bad actions that are being done, to do good actions that have not been done, and to increase the good actions that are being done.
- brgya byin
Common epithet of the god Indra, in Skt. meaning “Mighty One,” and in Tib., “Hundred Gifts” (because he is said to have attained his state by performing one hundred pūjās). This epithet often appears together with the title “King of Gods.” He is ruler of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three.
Seat of awakening
- byang chub kyi snying po
The seat (or essence, or highest point, maṇḍa) of awakening, which can mean both the physical location where buddhas sit to become awakened and the state of awakening itself.
- shrI len+dra bo dhi
An Indian paṇḍita resident in Tibet during the late eighth and early ninth centuries who is credited with assisting in the translation of many canonical Buddhist texts.
- rang sangs rgyas
Someone who has attained liberation entirely through their own contemplation as a result of progress in previous lives but, unlike a buddha, does not have the accumulated merit and motivation to teach others.
- gnas gtsang ma
Literally "the pure abodes," this term refers to the highest series of five heavenly abodes of the form realm (rūpadhātu) and is equated with the fourth level of meditative concentration (dhyānabhūmi). A form of this term frequently appears as a member of the compound gnas gtsang ma’i ris or śuddhāvāsakāyika, which translates as "the gods of the Śuddhāvāsa realms."
Thirty-seven factors conducive to awakening
- byang chub kyi phyogs kyi chos sum cu rtsa bdun
Thirty-seven practices that lead the practitioner to the awakened state: the four applications of mindfulness, the four right exertions, the four bases of miraculous power, the five faculties, the five powers, the eightfold path, and the seven branches of awakening.
- de bzhin gshegs pa
A frequently used synonym for buddha. According to different explanations, it can be read as tathā-gata, literally meaning “one who has thus gone,” or as tathā-āgata, “one who has thus come.” Gata, though literally meaning “gone,” is a past passive participle used to describe a state or condition of existence. Tatha(tā), often rendered as “suchness” or “thusness,” is the quality or condition of things as they really are, which cannot be conveyed in conceptual, dualistic terms. Therefore, this epithet is interpreted in different ways, but in general it implies one who has gone in the same way that the buddhas of the past have gone, or one who has manifested the supreme awakening dependent on the reality that does not abide in the two extremes of existence and quiescence.
Here also used as a specific epithet of the Buddha Śākyamuni.
Town of Viśvā
- sna tshogs kyi grong
A town near the Himalayan mountains which is one of the settings of this sūtra.
- stong gsum gyi stong chen po’i ’jig rten gyi khams
The largest universe described in Buddhist cosmology. This term, in Abhidharma cosmology, refers to 1,000³ world systems, i.e., 1,000 “dichiliocosms” or “two thousand great thousand world realms” (dvisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātu), which are in turn made up of 1,000 first-order world systems, each with its own Mount Meru, continents, sun, and moon, as well as desire, form, and formless realms, heavens of gods, etc.
Trolungpa Lotrö Jungné
- gro lung pa blo gros ’byung gnas
A famous Tibetan scholar who was active in the late eleventh to early twelfth centuries. His most famous work was the Bstan rim chen mo (Stages of Doctrine), a detailed compendium of Buddhist doctrines.
- rdo rje
The term stands for indestructibility and perfect stability. According to Indian mythology, the vajra is the all-powerful god Indra’s weapon, likened to a thunderbolt, which made him invincible. It also relates to a substance called vajra, which is the hardest physical material.
World of Yama
- 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).
- gnod sbyin
A class of semidivine beings said to dwell in the north, under the jurisdiction of the Great King Vaiśravaṇa. They are said to haunt or protect natural places and cities, can be malevolent or benevolent, and are known for bestowing wealth and other boons.
- ye shes sde
Tibetan prolific translator who was active during the late eighth and early ninth centuries. He participated in the translation of more than two hundred texts.