The Questions of Pratibhānamati
Degé Kangyur, vol. 57 (mdo sde, pa), folios 331.b–344.a.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The subject matter of this sūtra is indicated by the alternative title suggested by the Buddha himself in its conclusion: The Teaching That Clarifies Karma. In the opening section, the merchant Pratibhānamati, concerned about the state of society and what will become of the saṅgha in times to come, requests the Buddha Śākyamuni for a teaching that offers moral guidance to future beings. With the Buddha’s encouragement, he asks what actions lead to rebirth in ten different human and non-human states. The Buddha answers with descriptions of the actions associated with each of these states and the effects they will bring. Pratibhānamati then invites the Buddha to his home in Śrāvastī. Two beggars arrive there, and on account of their opposing aspirations and conduct in the presence of the Buddha and retinue, one soon becomes a king while the other is killed in an accident. The sūtra concludes as the Buddha, invited to the newly anointed king’s land, explains the karmic reasons for his unexpected fortune.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the guidance of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The translation was produced by Timothy Hinkle, who also wrote the introduction. Ryan Damron and Andreas Doctor checked the translation against the Tibetan and edited the text. Tulku Tenzin Rigsang also assisted in resolving several difficult passages.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
In this sūtra the Buddha Śākyamuni gives a teaching on the workings of karma, the relationships between actions and their effects. The setting for the teaching is the Jeta Grove near the city of Śrāvastī, which the benefactor Anāthapiṇḍada donated to the Buddha at great expense. Prompted by questions posed by the merchant Pratibhānamati, who is concerned that monastics may indulge in hypocritical behavior in the future during degenerate times, the Buddha elucidates the actions that cause rebirth in ten possible states of existence: as a god, a human, a hell being, an animal, a hungry spirit, a high-caste human, a slave, a fortunate human, an unfortunate human, or a human on the Buddhist path. Additionally, he describes the physical, verbal, and mental traits associated with each of those rebirths. These illustrate the doctrine, shared by most Indian religions, that beings’ good or bad deeds determine their future modes of birth and existence. In this way, the sūtra provides a moral framework geared toward the whole of society established on the basis of karma theory.
Following the discourse, Pratibhānamati invites the Buddha to his home for the midday meal. As a final illustration of the law of karma, we are introduced to two beggars who seat themselves among the saṅgha when the midday meal is being served. One of them does not observe the proper etiquette of ensuring honored guests are served first and thus is not served anything to eat or drink. Enraged, he leaves, harboring a very negative judgment of the assembly and perversely vowing revenge. As a result, he soon suffers an unfortunate death followed by millions of eons in hell. The other beggar, however, observes proper etiquette and is served abundant food and drink. He entertains a virtuous aspiration to serve the Buddha and his assembly for an entire week. The effect of this noble wish is that he soon becomes the king of a neighboring land whose ruler has perished without an appropriate heir. He is astounded at his sudden reversal of fortune and seeks to understand its source. Through the blessings of the Buddha he realizes how his past actions determined his current fortune. He therefore invites the Buddha and the saṅgha and serves them just as he had aspired to do. The Buddha delivers a teaching that propels the king to the state of a stream enterer. The sūtra concludes with the audience praising the Buddha and rejoicing in his teaching. Through its descriptions and examples of the workings of karma, the sūtra underscores the importance and benefits of upholding core Buddhist virtues of kindness, gratitude, generosity, honesty, and respect, while warning of the grave consequences awaiting those who do the opposite.
To our knowledge there is no extant Sanskrit version of this sūtra. It was, however, translated into Chinese (Taishō 544) by Fa Chang 法場 during the early sixth century ᴄᴇ. Although it appears that the sūtra did exercise some influence in China,1 it does not seem to have had a particularly significant impact in Tibet. The colophon to the Tibetan translation states that it was produced by the Indian preceptor Prajñāvarman and the Tibetan translator Yeshé Dé. The text is also recorded in the Denkarma2 and Phangthangma3 inventories of Tibetan imperial translations, so we can establish that it was first translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan no later than the early ninth century, as the Denkarma is dated to 812 ᴄᴇ. The primary Tibetan text used for the present translation was the Degé (sde dge) edition, but the other editions included in the Comparative Kangyur (dpe bsdur ma) were also consulted.
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas!
Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One was residing in Jeta Grove, Anāthapiṇḍada’s park at Śrāvastī. He was there together with a great saṅgha of 1,250 monks as well as 10,000 bodhisattvas. Surrounded and revered by an immense retinue, the Blessed One taught the Dharma.
At that time, the merchant Pratibhānamati left the city of Śrāvastī, surrounded and venerated [F.332.a] by a group of five hundred merchant’s sons, each of whom was also accompanied by an entourage of five hundred servants. As they arrived at Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍada’s park where the Blessed One was residing, Pratibhānamati bowed his head at the Blessed One’s feet, circumambulated him three times, and sat down together with his entourage.
At this point, through the power of the Buddha, the merchant Pratibhānamati stood up, draped his shawl over one shoulder, and knelt on his right knee. With palms together he bowed toward the Blessed One and said, “Blessed One, you are the supreme teacher, the most eminent in the three realms, the exalted ground for the merit of awakening, the one who liberates all beings, and the one who brings about the attainment of unbounded skill in all-pervasive methods. Thus, Blessed One, in times to come, during the degenerate age when the five polluting degenerations manifest, the three poisons will burn and blaze forth. Then, among those beings who inflict misery on one another there will be people with evil intentions. At that time, there will be no leader, nor anyone of this kind, and kings and high ministers will be overcome by craving for objects, leading them to quarrel and wage war against each other. When they wage war against each other, their armies of soldiers as well as the remaining civilian population will be ravaged so that not even their names will remain.
“Through the power of the Buddha’s merit, many among the four types of the Buddha’s disciples will enter the teachings and take on the guise of monks. Yet even these people will only outwardly be cloaked in saffron robes, while inwardly they will be angry, disrespectful, disharmonious, and slanderous toward one another. They will advertise the faults of others and downplay their positive qualities. They will be overcome by pride, [F.332.b] conceit, and haughtiness, and will cling to the belief in me and mine. When they pass on, they will be born into the lower realms, and they will not find even a moment of fortune. In their future lives they will again encounter many eons of the terrible experiences of suffering and of harshness, heat, and displeasure.
“On account of that, Blessed One, what are the teachings that will ripen them, turn them back from the paths leading to the lower realms, and enable them to attain the celestial palace due to their merit?”
The Blessed One answered Pratibhānamati, “Pratibhānamati, with this lion’s roar, you have asked the Thus-Gone One a question. This sort of request for the Dharma of the Thus-Gone One stirs delight in all beings. Excellent, excellent! Pratibhānamati, what attainment would make beings truly splendorous, cause them to abandon the dark side, make them join the good side, and accomplish all aims? You should ask about such a teaching. Having done so, you must then listen without doubt and I shall explain.”
Pratibhānamati then inquired of the Blessed One, “Blessed One, through what deeds is one reborn among the class of gods? Through what actions is one reborn among the class of humans? Through what actions is one reborn among hell beings? Through what actions is one reborn among the animals? Through what actions is one reborn among the hungry spirits? Through what actions is one reborn among the high castes? Through what actions is one reborn in servitude? Blessed One, through what actions does one become a fortunate being among humans—someone who has servants, pleasant breath, a nice complexion, [F.333.a] who is a joy to behold, who faces no harm, who is contented in body and mind, and praised by many people? Having already attained the excellent human state among beings, through what actions does one meet with constant slander, face the enmity of many beings, have an ugly appearance and bad breath, face all sorts of adversity, have a joyless mind and an unhealthy body, and indulge in all kinds of negative actions?
“Blessed One, through what actions will those who have taken ordination in this well-spoken Dharma-Vinaya, as a mendicant or a noble son or daughter who values peace, never part from the Jewels of Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha throughout their lifetimes and wherever they may be? Through what actions will they behold the blessed buddhas, receive the Dharma from them, delight in it, and accomplish the aims they have set their minds on?
“Given these ten questions of mine, please, Blessed One, spiritual teacher who acts without being requested, who is endowed with great compassion and power, and who discerns all phenomena with unclouded eyes, answer them extensively as a remedy for the innumerable malignant forces.”
The Blessed One said, “Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in the following five actions attain rebirth as gods. What are these five? (1) First, with loving minds they do no harm to beings but instead protect them and are patient. (2) They give generously since they are not stingy and do not steal the possessions of others. [F.333.b] (3) They guard all the bases of training given that those who enjoy themselves with the wives of others are impure. (4) They naturally maintain diligence in the purification ceremony and speak the truth. (5) In order to give up their own limitless faults, they forsake intoxicating beverages. Beings who engage in these five actions attain divine bodies.”
Then the Blessed One said, “Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in the following five actions are reborn among humans. What are these five? (1) First, they give with gratitude and provide for the poor, the destitute, and the miserable. (2) They follow the path of the ten virtues without fail. (3) They are patient, harboring no hostility toward anyone. (4) They diligently inspire lazy beings to the virtuous Dharma. (5) With a determined mind, they maintain harmony. Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in these five actions attain human lives and grow very wealthy, long lived, beautiful, and majestic, and become lords of the world.”
Then the Blessed One said, “Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in the following five actions are reborn among hell beings, where they remain for millions of eons. What are these five? (1) They have no faith in the Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha. They disparage them through unflattering speech and belittle the path of noble beings. (2) They destroy the stūpas of the thus-gone ones. (3) In the intermediate times as well, they are extremely disrespectful and disharmonious with monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen, but love having worldly conversations. (4) They steal donations made to the Three Jewels. (5) Through their disparaging words that enrage others, they are disrespectful and create discord between kings, leaders, ministers, fathers, and sons.
“In the future, those monks who enter into the teachings of the thus-gone ones, who follow the teacher—the thus-gone, worthy, perfect Buddha—and go forth from the home into homelessness, will pass themselves off as monks yet not maintain the genuine practice of the virtuous Dharma. They will not maintain harmony but will displease their preceptors and instructors and speak harshly. Even though they have been taught correctly, they will not practice those teachings. They will spurn the awakening of the buddhas, praise themselves, and slander [F.335.a] others. For the most part, they will be proud, conceited, and haughty, and will denigrate spiritual teachers. They will yearn for praise and respect but disparage others.
“Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in those five actions will be reborn among the hell beings where they will remain until the trichiliocosm is destroyed. Even when it is destroyed, they will be propelled into other world-systems in which there are hells. When those world-systems are also destroyed, they will be further propelled into still other world-systems in which there are hells. And so, on and on, they will wander amidst all the countless world-systems of hells, and their experience of suffering will find no end.”
Then the Blessed One said, “Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in the following five actions are reborn among animals. What are these five? (1) The first is corrupt discipline. The others are (2) robbery and theft, (3) taking loans from others and then conspiring against them, (4) murder, and (5) lacking faith, which makes one delight in studying something other than the sublime Dharma and relish perverted ways of life because of finding such studies enjoyable. Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in these five actions are reborn as animals.”
Then the Blessed One said, “Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in the following five actions are reborn as hungry spirits. What are these five? (1) The first is being stingy and craving. (2) Next, because they esteem extremely ignorant spiritual teachers and their ilk, they block their own happiness. (3) Because they are inclined to unwholesome ways, they are jealous. (4) Because they are excessively stingy, they are in no way generous towards brothers, sisters, children, wives, servants, laborers, wageworkers, friends, government officials, kinfolk, relatives, the venerable, mendicants, priests, and the poor. They cannot even give anything to their own mothers and fathers, nor do they care for those who are in need of care. (5) They are also not respectful, nor do they venerate spiritual teachers or regard them as precious. Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in these five actions are reborn as hungry spirits.”
Then the Blessed One said, “Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in the following five actions are reborn among the higher castes. What are these five? They are (1) giving material goods and Dharma, (2) not having hostility towards anyone, (3) being respectful of the Three Jewels and one’s parents, (4) being naturally patient, gentle, and exalted, and (5) studying the diversity of the Buddha’s teachings and being diligent in their recitation. Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in those five actions are reborn among the higher castes.”
Then the Blessed One said, “Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in the following five actions become male and female servants. What are these five? They are (1) being disrespectful toward one’s parents, (2) having an indecent mind, (3) being incorrigible and engaging in evil deeds as one pleases, (4) stealing the wealth of others, and (5) absconding with the loans one has taken and going into hiding. Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in these five actions become male and female servants.”
Then the Blessed One said, “Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in the following five actions become supremely fortunate, have servants and fragrant breath, are unthreatened, pliant in body and mind, beautiful to behold, and praised by many beings. What are these five? They are: (1) perceiving accurately, genuinely, and completely; (2) speaking without exaggeration; (3) not lacking patience towards the nature of the language used in the three vehicles of hearers, solitary buddhas, and bodhisattvas, nor denigrating nor abandoning it but instead retaining, teaching, reading, and reciting it, abandoning the limitless instances of the four faults of speech, and not belittling the path of noble beings; (4) loving and nurturing those beings who persist in counterproductive actions, turning them away from faults, and establishing them in virtue; and (5) not wishing to expose the faults one sees in others. Pratibhānamati, when beings who engage in these five actions are reborn among humans, they possess great fortune, acquire servants, fragrant breath, and mental vigor, are agreeable, and delight many beings. They are without anguish, and their minds are at ease. They are free of anger and do not encounter harm. They obtain a beautiful appearance and are honored.”
Then the Blessed One said, “Pratibhānamati, beings who engage in the following five actions attain sublime human lives, and yet they also receive constant denigration, are disliked by many beings, have bad breath and unhappy minds, are often threatened, and have very unfit bodies. What are these five? They are (1) lying, (2) being always bent on deceiving others through lying, (3) criticizing the discourses one hears when assembled to hear great Dharma talks, (4) abusing and denigrating those whose practice pure conduct, and (5) cultivating a base mind. Pratibhānamati, beings who are endowed [F.338.b] with those five actions may attain the preeminence of a human life but they receive constant denigration, are disliked by many beings, are ugly, have bad breath and unhappy minds, are often threatened, and have bodies that are unhealthy.”
Then the Blessed One said, “Pratibhānamati, mendicants and noble sons and daughters—beings who make peace their primary concern—possess five qualities that ensure that they will always encounter the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha, regardless of where they are born. They will behold the blessed buddhas, hear the Dharma from them, and be delighted. [F.339.a] They will attain awakening just as intended and gain abundance just as desired. What are these five qualities? (1) Having themselves gone for refuge in the Three Jewels, they establish others in the practice of going for refuge. (2) They skillfully create images of the thus-gone ones that are complete and detailed in all respects. (3) They recognize preceptors and teachers and are respectful towards them. (4) They easily follow instructions and practice them accordingly. (5) With pervasive and unimpeded light rays, they behold all beings as being like themselves or like their only child. These are beings who practice, read, recite, transmit, and explain the discourses exactly as they were set forth. Their contemplation is extensive. Being utterly free from obstacles, they are enthusiastic in their practice and gain accomplishment. Pratibhānamati, mendicants and noble sons and daughters—beings who make peace their primary concern—who possess those five qualities, do not encounter obstacles and are never disconnected from the Jewels of Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha, regardless of where they are born. They behold the blessed buddhas, hear their Dharma teachings, and are delighted. They attain awakening just as they intend and gain abundance just as they wish.”
As he heard this Dharma teaching, the merchant Pratibhānamati was satisfied and content. He rejoiced and was truly delighted. Joyful and happy, he gained the acceptance that phenomena are unborn. The five hundred merchant children and each of their entourage of five hundred attained the unclouded and stainless Dharma eye that perceives all phenomena.
All the gods, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, and non-humans assembled in the retinue of the Blessed One developed a motivation for one of the vehicles in accord with their inclinations. They abundantly gained whatever they wished for and scattered incalculable masses of flowers, incense, garlands, clothing, and jewelry toward the Blessed One.
“Blessed One, the masters of the three realms teach these five qualities. Excellent. Excellent. Hearing about these five qualities, this retinue has understood the meaning, just as is intended. [F.340.a] When beings in future times hear of this teaching, they will abandon non-virtue, do what is virtuous, and take up religious practice.
“Blessed One, please come together with your saṅgha of monks to my home. Please accept this invitation out of compassion for us.”
The Blessed One agreed out of compassion for the merchant Pratibhānamati. Knowing that the Blessed One had accepted his invitation, Pratibhānamati was satisfied and content. He rejoiced and was truly delighted. Happy and joyful, he bowed his head to the feet of the Blessed One, circumambulated him three times, and departed together with his retinue.
When he arrived home, he bowed to the feet of his parents and told them with joined palms, “Father, Mother, I have something to tell you. I have invited he who is rare and supreme in the world, the unsurpassed being, the king of Dharma, he who has transcended the three realms, the Blessed One himself, to come and take his midday meal here with his congregation of monks. Out of compassion for us, he has accepted!”
Pratibhānamati then instructed his wife Padma and her servants, “My dear, please prepare fine food and drink with many hundreds of flavors for the blessed, thus-gone, worthy, perfect Buddha and his retinue. Once the food has been prepared, scatter water, sweep the house, set up the canopies, hang the silken tassels, scatter flower petals, [F.340.b] and perfume the environment with fragrant incense. Lay out seats befitting the Thus-Gone One and his congregation of monks. Once he has been received and the offerings laid before him at his feet, you should invite the sublime Blessed One to take his seat.”
Pratibhānamati came together with friends, dignitaries, kin, and elders, and they all did exactly as he said. The next morning the Blessed One left Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍada’s park and traveled together with the saṅgha of monks to Śrāvastī out of kindness for beings. They did so accompanied by miraculous displays manifested by the Thus-Gone One’s splendid magical powers. Gradually they made their way to Pratibhānamati’s home.
Pratibhānamati and his entourage greeted the Blessed One, received him as a guest, made offerings at his feet, and bowed their heads to his feet. He then entered the home along with his entourage. The Blessed One sat on an excellent cushion, which befitted him, and the congregation of monks took their appropriate seats. Pratibhānamati’s parents, close friends, friends, dignitaries, relatives, and elders were delighted and bowed down; they paid respect to the master and with great affection began to serve the Blessed One and the assembly of monks. Pratibhānamati, holding a bowl filled with flowers and scented water, sat in front of the Teacher.
At that time, two friends in anguish came to Pratibhānamati’s home. One of them sat among the saṅgha. However, as he did not ask all the monks whether he could partake of their food and drink [F.341.a] and, moreover, the Blessed One had not offered the meal prayer, nobody gave him anything. He became enraged and left, thinking, “Ah, nobody has given anything at all to me, the victim. These are terrible mendicants. Their minds are not peaceful, they have no compassion, and neither do they have loving minds. Giving to them is fruitless. Only foolish sponsors would give to that sort. If I were king, I would slice off all their heads with an iron disc.”
The other fellow, however, inquired whether the monks had abundant food and drink, and he approached after the Buddha had offered the meal prayer. He then received a satisfying abundance of food and drink, and was deeply contented. He went outside and thought, “Ah! These great mendicants who have given me, a sufferer, a satisfying abundance of food and drink are compassionate. They have peaceful minds and loving characters. This will satisfy me for a full week. It is a wise and fine patron who gives to such excellent objects of generosity. Such generosity bears great fruit. Excellent! If I were king, I would honor the saṅgha of monks, including the Buddha, through all means of service for seven days. May it be so!”
Then the Blessed One was served the midday meal. He cleaned his bowl, washed his hands, and then spoke to Venerable Ānanda, “Ānanda, henceforth speak well of those who do not take food and drink.” Pratibhānamati and his entourage sat in front of the Blessed One, who gave them a delightful, [F.341.b] praiseworthy, applicable, and lucid Dharma talk that produced roots of virtue in a multitude of beings. Then he rose from his seat and went back to Jeta Grove.
Then, those two anguished men wandered about and thus ended up taking rest in different parts of the land. As they laid down, a canopy of clouds filled with lightning and wind hovered in the sky above the meritorious one, thus shading him. At that time, the king of that country passed away. Since there was no one else in the region who had sufficient royal qualities to be entrusted with the country, the citizens, including the merchants, townspeople, village folk, high ministers, ministers, guards, and retainers diligently inquired among diviners, soothsayers, and those skilled in the movements of the stars and planets as to who should become their king. The reply was, “There is a poor man who is qualified. He should become king.”
So they set out from the royal capital bearing a marvelous throne of incredible value—extensively ornamented and suitable for a king—along with a golden footstool. They carried white parasols with jeweled handles, fans with golden handles and jeweled tails, and many vases filled with perfumed water, as well as baskets of flowers, garlands of jewels, raiment, crowns, headwear and other such ornamentation, and fragrant powders. Accompanied by cymbals, drums, and singing, they searched everywhere for that impoverished man.
The diviner saw a region shrouded by a bank of clouds and said to them, “Friends, do you see that pleasant and clear region [F.342.a] covered by a dark circle of clouds?” They responded, “Friend, we see it!” The diviner said, “That is where the person with the royal attributes rests. His meritorious karma has caused those clouds to gather to shade him.” So they traveled to that spot, announcing themselves with cymbals and song. They bowed down and requested, “Accept the coronation and become our king!” The poor man objected, “How could it be that someone like me is fit to be king?” But they responded, “Because you are someone with merit. Do not say such things. It is undeniable that you must be king!” At that point he agreed.
They bade him sit down upon the marvelous seat and put his feet on the footrest. With all manner of auspiciousness, they raised him aloft and performed his coronation. They adorned him with a crown attired with a silk sash and other ornaments, hung a giant parasol over the front of the chariot, and cooled him with a golden-handled fan with a jeweled tail.
“Long live the king! May he be victorious!” Praises rang out from all sides as they led him to the royal capital. At the same time, the spinning wheel of the royal chariot cut off the head of the other beggar, who was lying there fast asleep. From then on, the meritorious man lived as the sovereign. His realm, moreover, was without epidemic or calamity. It abounded in wealth, development, well-being, and good harvests, and the land was filled with people and other beings. The king’s name became associated with being richly endowed with all positive qualities.
“This prosperity,” the king thought, “is due to someone’s grace. What is the source of my dominion’s great fortune?” Through the power of the Buddha, he remembered the entire confluence of his previous actions. Remembering accurately, he then sent a messenger to the Blessed One bearing the message, “Blessed One, out of compassion for myself and many other beings, please come here!” [F.342.b] After sending the messenger, he swept and sprinkled water on the entire road from Jeta Grove to his palace on which the Blessed One would travel. He also scattered flowers about, lined the way with parasols, victory banners, flags, and porticos, and fumigated it with incense.
Out of compassion, the Blessed One came. He was greeted by the king, townspeople, village folk, high ministers, ministers, guards, and retainers. They offered countless baskets filled with flowers, incense, flower garlands, ointments, and aromatic powders before the Blessed One’s feet. They collectively prostrated to the feet of the Blessed One and the assembly of monks. The king and his retinue honored the Blessed One as a spiritual teacher and, with the greatest possible admiration, requested the Blessed One and the assembly of monks to come to the palace, which was adorned with all kinds of jewels in the midst of a great park. For seven days they were honored with all manner of pleasing objects. The king served the Blessed One the midday meal and knew to clean his plate and wash his hands. Then, for the purpose of hearing the Dharma, he sat down with his entourage in front of the Blessed One.
He inquired, “Blessed One, given that I was once lowly and poor, how is it that I have now gained this bountiful dominion?”
The Blessed One responded, “Great King, in the city of Śrāvastī, there is a sponsor known as Pratibhānamati. Previously, he invited the Buddha and the saṅgha of monks to his home for the midday meal.” The Blessed One proceeded to relate the story of how the two anguished people [F.343.a] had arrived there and how the chariot’s wheel had sliced off the head of one of them, who then died and was reborn as a hell being. “In his life there,” the Blessed One said, “his head continuously reappears, only to be cut off again by a flaming iron wheel. Only after ten million eons will he be freed from that state.
“You, however, have attained the splendor of kingship because you made the aspiration, ‘If I were to become a king, I would offer the Buddha and the assembly of monks the midday meal for a full week!’ And thus your intention was fulfilled. Henceforth, in all your limitless lives, because of your great excellence you will become a distinguished being.”
When the king heard this most excellent Dharma teaching from the Buddha, he experienced a supreme state of mind and, together with his retinue, attained the result of a stream enterer. Other beings, thousands in number, beheld the Blessed One and heard the Dharma. In this way they attained the many pleasures of gods and humans and aroused roots of virtue that accord with freedom. When the Blessed One had benefited and nurtured everyone present, he departed for Jeta Grove. Once back in the monastery, he sat down on the seat arranged for the Buddha in the assembly of monks.
He then spoke to the venerable Ānanda, “Ānanda, bear this presentation of the Dharma in mind; memorize it, recite it, and teach it widely! Ānanda, those noble sons or daughters who uphold this Dharma teaching will receive a prophecy from the thus-gone, worthy, perfect Buddha Maitreya regarding the vehicle that accords with their aspirations.”
Then the entire assembly including Venerable Ānanda, the monks, the bodhisattvas, Pratibhānamati and all his servants, along with the world of the gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas, rejoiced and extolled what the Thus-Gone One had said.
This completes the noble Great Vehicle sūtra entitled The Questions of Pratibhānamati.
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Acceptance that phenomena are unborn
- mi skye ba’i chos la bzod pa
An attainment of effortless insight into emptiness and the lack of birth of phenomena. This attainment only occurs on the bodhisattva levels, variously said to occur on the first and eighth bodhisattva levels.
- kun dga’ bo
The buddha’s cousin and principal attendant.
- mgon med zas sbyin
Anāthapiṇḍada was a wealthy merchant in the town of Śrāvastī, famous for his generosity to the poor, who became a patron of the Buddha Śākyamuni. He bought the Jeta Grove from Prince Jeta, and built there a monastery for the Buddha. He is better known in the West by the alternative Pāli form Anāthapiṇḍika.
- lha ma yin
The traditional adversaries of the gods (devas) who are frequently portrayed in the Brahmanical mythology as having a disruptive effect on cosmological and social harmony.
- bcom ldan ’das
An epithet of a buddha, used in this text to refer to the Buddha Śākyamuni.
- chos ’dul ba
The name for the canon of monastic discipline recorded in the Tripiṭaka, of the vows and commitments enshrined therein, and of the practice of that discipline.
Five polluting degenerations
- snyigs ma’i rnyog pa lnga
Also known as “five contaminations or degenerations” (snyigs ma lnga, pañcakaṣāya). They are: (1) degeneration of lifespan, (2) degeneration of view or thoughts, (3) degeneration of the five afflictions, (4) degeneration of sentient beings, (5) degeneration of time.
- dri za
A class of generally benevolent nonhuman beings who inhabit the sky and are most renowned as celestial musicians.
- nam mkha’ lding
A class of nonhuman beings with the form of an eagle-type bird with a gigantic wingspan.
One of the five or six classes of sentient beings, specifically engendered and dominated by exaltation, indulgence, and pride. The gods are said to exist in realms higher than that of the human realm within in the world system of desire (kāmadhātu), and also in the world system of form (rūpadhātu).
- nyan thos
Someone who practices according to the vehicle of the hearers (those who hear the teachings from others); or, someone who heard the Dharma from the Buddha.
- dmyal ba pa
One of the five or six classes of sentient beings, considered to be the karmic fruition of past anger and harmful actions. According to Buddhist tradtion there are eighteen different hells, namely eight hot hells, eight cold hells, neighbouring and ephemeral hells, all of them tormented by increasing levels of unimaginable suffering.
- yi dwags
One of the five or six classes of sentient beings, considered to be the karmic fruition of past miserliness. They are particularly known to suffer from great hunger and thirst and the inability to acquire sustenance.
- rgyal bu rgyal byed kyi tshal
A park outside Śrāvastī. It was donated to the Buddha by Anāthapiṇḍada, who purchased it at great cost from Prince Jeta, and built there the monastery where the Buddha spent most rainy seasons and is therefore the setting for many sūtras.
- lus ngan phyogs
The term is used as a reference to the northern direction, which is governed by the deity Kubera.
- mi’am ci
A class of nonhuman beings whose upper bodies are animal while their lower bodies are human. The term literally means “Is that human?”
Lord of Death
- gshin rje
Ruler of the hell realms.
- lto ’phye chen po
A class of nonhuman being with the form of a large serpent.
- byams pa
Bodhisattva of loving kindness; the next buddha to follow Śākyamuni.
- dge sbyong
A term used broadly to denote a spiritual seeker.
A class of nonhuman beings who live in subterranean aquatic environments and who are known to hoard wealth and esoteric teachings. Nāgas are associated with snakes and serpents, and often assume a snakelike appearance.
- pra dz+nyA war ma
An Indian Bengali paṇḍita resident in Tibet during the late 8th / early 9th centuries. Arriving in Tibet on an invitation from the Tibetan king, he assisted in the translation of numerous canonical scriptures. He is also the author of a few philosophical commentaries contained in the Tibetan Tengyur (bstan ’gyur) collection.
- spobs pa’i blo gros
A merchant of the city of Śrāvastī who is the primary interlocutor in this sūtra.
- gso sbyong
A twice monthly ceremony performed by monks, nuns, and novices in which the ordained confess and remedy transgressions of their vows, thereby purifying and restoring the vows.
- shAkya thub pa
The name of the historical Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama; he was a muni (sage) from the Śākya clan.
- rang sangs rgyas
An individual who, in his or her last life, attains realization by realizing the nature of interdependent origination without relying upon a spiritual guide.
- mnyan yod
Ancient city of northern India.
- rgyun du zhugs pa
The first level of Noble Ones on the path of the hearers.
- mchod rten
Literally in the Tibetan, a support of veneration. Usually a heap or circular archeological structure containing relics of the masters of the past.
- dge ba bcu
Abstaining from killing, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, lying, uttering divisive talk, speaking harsh words, gossiping, covetousness, ill will, and wrong views.
- dug gsum
A collective term for desire, anger, and delusion
- khams gsum
The three realms are the desire realm (kāmadhātu), form realm (rūpadhātu) and the formless realm (ārūpyadhātu), i.e., the three worlds that make up saṃsāra. The first is composed of the six classes of beings (gods, asuras, humans, animals, hungry spirits and hell beings), whereas the latter two are only realms of gods and are thus higher, more ethereal states of saṃsāra.
- de bzhin gshegs pa
A frequently used synonym for a buddha. The expression is interpreted in different ways, but in general it implies one who has arrived at the realization of the ultimate state.
Here used as a specific epithet of the Buddha Śākyamuni.
- stong gsum gyi stong chen po
The largest universe spoken of in Buddhist cosmology, consisting of one billion smaller world systems.
- ’khor lo sgyur ba’i rgyal po
A type of monarch who gains domain over a large fraction or the entirety of the world.
- gnod sbyin
A class of nonhuman beings that haunt or protect natural places and cities. They can be malevolent or benevolent, and are known for bestowing wealth and worldly boons.
- ye shes sde
A prolific Tibetan translator active during the late 8th and early 9th centuries.