The Question of Mañjuśrī
Degé Kangyur, vol. 60 (mdo sde, ma), folios 1.b–5.a.
Translated by the Kīrtimukha Translation Group
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The bodhisattva Mañjuśrī approaches the Buddha and asks about the extent of the merit represented by the Buddha’s “Dharma conch,” which here seems to mean the Buddha’s voice. The Buddha proceeds to illustrate the vastness of this merit by means of a cosmic multiplication—sequentially compounding the merit of all beings in a certain realm if they each possessed the merit of a cakravartin, a brahmā god, a bodhisattva, and so forth, each having more merit than the previous one. The expansion continues through a list of the eighty designs marking the body of a buddha and the thirty-two signs of a great being, which, multiplied inconceivably, are said to be equal in merit to the Dharma conch. The Buddha then explains how the voice, body, and light of the Buddha are made known throughout countless realms and take on numberless manifestations to tame beings.
This sūtra was translated by the Kīrtimukha Translation Group. Celso Wilkinson, Laura Goetz, and L.S. Summer translated the text from the Tibetan and Sanskrit. William Giddings provided comparisons to the Chinese versions of the text.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The Question of Mañjuśrī presents a dialogue between the Buddha and the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, in which the Buddha illustrates the vastness of the merit represented by the Buddha’s Dharma conch and how, by means of his conch and other auspicious qualities, the Buddha and his teaching pervade countless worlds and manifest in countless guises according to the myriad needs and dispositions of beings.
The sūtra opens with Mañjuśrī approaching the Buddha and asking him to explain the measure of the merit represented by the Buddha’s “Dharma conch,” which in this sūtra seems to mean the Buddha’s voice. The conch symbolizes the far-reaching power of the Buddha’s word and the vast extent to which the teachings resonate among the incalculable realms. The conch shell is also one of the eight auspicious emblems that each symbolize various beneficent aspects of the Buddha’s teaching.
In order to express the vast magnitude of the merit of the Dharma conch, the Buddha proceeds to present a sequence of hypothetical scenarios in which all beings in a given realm possess the merit of a previously introduced figure or attribute. That merit is then multiplied by varying amounts to equal that of an even greater figure or attribute—from the cakravartin monarch to Māra, to brahmā gods of increasingly vast domains, to pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas, to the pores of the Buddha’s body and his eighty excellent signs—culminating in lists of the eighty designs marking the Buddha’s hands and feet and the thirty-two signs of a great being. Finally, the Buddha states that the sum of multiplying these eighty designs by an inconceivable amount is equal to the sum of merit generated by the Dharma conch. A very similar passage, with the same sequence of meritorious figures and signs culminating in the Buddha’s voice, can be seen in the Ratnameghasūtra (Toh 231),1 while a somewhat less similar presentation of the exponential superiority of the Dharma conch is found in another sūtra, the Akṣayamatinirdeśasūtra (Toh 175, placed nearby in the Degé Kangyur).2
The list of eighty designs on the Buddha’s hands and feet is a unique feature of this sūtra. Peter Skilling has compiled an analysis of the various sources that list the designs and symbols found on the body or on the hands and feet of the Buddha.3 Such lists are well known in the Theravādin traditions, which include an early list of around forty designs given by Buddhaghosa in his commentaries on the Digha and Majjhima Nikāyas, and several later lists of one hundred and eight signs found in Pali sources from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. In the Kangyur this list of eighty designs is found exclusively in The Question of Mañjuśrī, but there are two texts in the Tengyur that contain similar lists: Śamathadeva’s Abhidharmakośaṭīkopayikā (Toh 4094) contains two lists—one short and one long—of designs found on the body of the Buddha, cited from texts that no longer exist, and Daśabalaśrīmitra’s Saṃskṛtāsaṃskṛtaviniścaya (Toh 3897) also contains a short and long list of designs found on the hands and feet of the Buddha. In this latter text the long list is, with some exceptions, nearly identical to that found in The Question of Mañjuśrī and likely drawn from the same source. Skilling points out that although The Question of Mañjuśrī is a Mahāyāna sūtra, this list must have been taken from a Vaibhāṣika or (Mūla)Sarvāstivādin source.4
The eighty designs differ from the more commonly known eighty excellent signs on the body of a buddha. The eighty designs are adornments on the hands and feet that are said to be greater in the hierarchy of merit than the eighty excellent signs on the body, which, although not enumerated in Tibetan sources of The Question of Mañjuśrī, are listed in two of the Chinese versions.5 The thirty-two signs listed in this sūtra align roughly with other standard enumerations in the canonical literature.
The Buddha goes on to explain that the Dharma conch, with its power to tame beings, causes the teachings to pervade countless world systems, as do his body, light, and conduct—all of which manifest according to the needs and inclinations of beings. In the end, Mañjuśrī praises the Buddha, and the audience rejoices in his teaching.
There was no known Sanskrit original of The Question of Mañjuśrī available until recently, when a manuscript containing a collection of twenty texts, all of them sūtras, was found in the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Bhikṣuṇī Vinītā published a critical edition of this collection, along with an English translation, in the series Sanskrit Texts from the Autonomous Region (2010). Unfortunately, due to the inaccessibility of the manuscript collection and because it is missing a final colophon, its origin and date are currently unknown.6 In our translation, citations of the Sanskrit are given using Vinītā’s emendations of the handwritten manuscript.
The Question of Mañjuśrī is the last in the manuscript collection and is abruptly cut off about one third of the way through, ending in the middle of the third folio (F.2.b) of this sūtra as found in the Degé Kangyur. In the Sanskrit manuscript, this sūtra is titled Dharmaśaṅkhasūtra, or The Dharma Conch Sūtra, while in Tibetan manuscripts it is only ever called The Question of Mañjuśrī (Mañjuśrīparipṛcchāsūtra).
There are three versions of the text found in the Chinese Tripiṭaka: one (Taishō 473) translated by Faxian (法賢, 337–422 ᴄᴇ), which combines the titles The Question of Mañjuśrī and The Dharma Conch (佛説妙吉祥菩薩所問大乘法螺經); another (Taishō 661) translated by Divākara (地婆訶羅, 613–687 ᴄᴇ) called The Mahāyāna Sūtra on the Hundred Meritorious Marks (大乘百福相經); and a third (Taishō 662), said to be translated by Divākara, called The Mahāyāna Sūtra on the Marks Adorned with a Hundred Merits (大乘百福莊嚴相經).7
No information is given in the colophon as to the translator or editor of the Tibetan. The Denkarma and Phangthangma imperial catalogs both mention a Question of Mañjuśrī among the registry of sūtras, although there is a slight ambiguity owing to the length of ninety ślokas (one śloka equaling sixteen syllables in the Sanskrit source) described in both catalogs,8 which seems a bit short for this text. Nonetheless, considering the sūtra’s early presence in the Chinese canon, this is most likely the same text, and assuming this is the case we can surmise that it was translated into Tibetan in the early translation period at a date no later than that of the Denkarma, 812 ᴄᴇ.
We have based our translation primarily on the Degé edition of the Tibetan Kangyur, but we have also consulted the Sanskrit as well as the Comparative Edition (Tib. dpe bsdur ma) and several other Kangyur editions, including those from Tshalpa, Thempangma, and independent lines. These recensions are generally consistent and roughly correspond to the Sanskrit and Chinese sources, but there are occasional differences such as additions or omissions of stages in the hierarchical sequence of merit.9 There are also, as is to be expected, some variations between the Chinese and Tibetan translations of the lists found in the sūtra.
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas!
Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One was dwelling in the Samanta Assembly Hall in Śrāvastī together with a great saṅgha of 1,250 monks, innumerable bodhisattva mahāsattvas, and many hundreds of thousands of beings to be tamed, and other bodhisattva mahāsattvas headed by Avalokiteśvara.
The Blessed One sat unwavering upon a jeweled lion throne. Through the power of the Buddha, the bodhisattva mahāsattva Mañjuśrī rose from his seat, draped his upper robe over one shoulder, and knelt on his right knee. Joining his palms toward the Blessed One, [F.2.a] he said, “Blessed One, how extensive is the great merit of the Tathāgata’s Dharma conch,10 the great merit by which the wishes of the many hundred sextillions of beings to be tamed are completely fulfilled?”
The Blessed One replied to the bodhisattva mahāsattva Mañjuśrī, “Mañjuśrī, the great merit of the Tathāgata’s Dharma conch,11 the great merit by which the wishes of a hundred sextillion beings to be tamed are completely fulfilled, arises from insight and is imbued with great compassion.12 It is inconceivable.13
“Mañjuśrī, if all of the beings in the world were to engage in the path of the ten virtuous actions, and if that collection of merit, which is the collection of merit of all those beings, were multiplied by a hundred, it would equal that of a cakravartin king who has dominion over the four continents and possesses the seven treasures. The seven treasures are as follows: the precious wheel, the precious elephant, the precious horse, the precious jewel, the precious woman, the precious steward, and the precious minister. He has a thousand heroic sons who are courageous, have excellent well-built bodies, and utterly defeat opposing armies. Mañjuśrī, such is the cakravartin king’s great miraculous powers and might. [F.2.b]
“Mañjuśrī, if all beings in the world with its four continents were to possess the cakravartin king’s merit, and if that merit, which is the merit of all those beings, were multiplied by a hundred,14 it would equal that of Śakra, lord of the gods. Such is the lord of the gods’ great miraculous powers and great might.
“Mañjuśrī,15 if all of the beings in the realm of the world with its four continents were to possess Śakra’s merit, and if that merit, which is the merit of all those beings, were multiplied by a hundred thousand,16 it would equal that of Māra, lord of the desire realm, who understands the teachings within the desire realm.17 Such is Māra of the desire realm’s great miraculous powers and great might.
“Mañjuśrī,18 if all of the beings in the realm of the world with its four continents were to possess Māra’s merit, and if that merit, which is the merit of all of those beings, were multiplied by a hundred thousand, it would equal that of a brahmā, sovereign of a chiliocosm,19 whose love pervades the domain of a chiliocosm.
“Mañjuśrī, if all of the beings in this chiliocosm were to possess the merit of a brahmā god, sovereign of a chiliocosm, and if that merit, which is the merit of all those beings, were multiplied by a hundred thousand, it equal that of a brahmā god, sovereign of a dichiliocosm,20 whose love pervades the domain of a dichiliocosm.
“Mañjuśrī, if all of the beings in this dichiliocosm were to possess the merit of a brahmā god, sovereign of a dichiliocosm, and if that merit, which is the merit of all of those beings, were multiplied by a hundred thousand, it would equal that of a supremely great almighty brahmā, sovereign of a trichiliocosm,21 [F.3.a] whose love pervades the domain of a great trichiliocosm.
“Mañjuśrī, consider a supremely great almighty brahmā. In a single intermediate eon following the rise of the waters after the eon of destruction,22 the trichiliocosm fills up with rainfall with its droplets of water. A supremely great almighty brahmā knows all the drops of water that have amassed in his world. Therefore, he is endowed with great wisdom and has great miraculous powers and great might. The root of virtue of a great almighty one is no trifling thing.
“Mañjuśrī, if all of the beings in this trichiliocosm were to possess the merit of a great brahmā, sovereign of a trichiliocosm, and if that merit, which is the merit of all those beings, were multiplied by many hundred sextillions, it would equal that of a pratyekabuddha who had obtained great might.23
“Mañjuśrī, put aside this great trichiliocosm. Mañjuśrī, if all the beings in the domain of the buddhas, the realm of the worlds of the ten directions, were to possess the merit obtained by a pratyekabuddha who had obtained great might, and if that merit, which is the merit of all of those beings, were multiplied by many hundred sextillions, it would equal that of a single bodhisattva in their final existence.
“Mañjuśrī, if all of the beings in the realm of the worlds of the ten directions of space—beings born from an egg, born from a womb, born from heat and moisture, and born miraculously; those with form and those without; and those with perception, those without perception, and those with neither perception nor nonperception24 [F.3.b]—were to possess the merit of a bodhisattva in their final existence, and if that merit, which is the merit of all of those beings, were multiplied by many hundred sextillions, it would equal that of a single hair pore on the body of the Tathāgata. Each of the nine million nine hundred thousand hair pores on the body of the Tathāgata are established in the same way.
“Mañjuśrī, if the merit that is equal to the merit contained in all those hair pores were multiplied many hundred sextillions, it would equal that of one of the eighty excellent signs on the body of the Tathāgata.25 Each of the eighty excellent signs is established on the body of the Tathāgata in the same way.
“Mañjuśrī, if that merit, which is the merit contained in the eighty excellent signs, were multiplied by many hundred sextillions, it would be like that of one of the designs marking the Tathāgata’s hands and feet.
“The eighty designs are as follows:26 (1) a parasol, (2) a victory banner, (3) a śrīvatsa, (4) a garland, (5) a hook, (6) a diadem, (7) a staff,27 (8) a vase, (9) an elephant, (10) a horse, (11) a tiger, (12) a makara, (13) a fish, (14) a turtle, (15) a peacock, (16) a kalaviṅka bird, (17) a partridge, (18) a cāṣa bird,28 (19) a cakravāka shelduck, (20) a parrot, (21) a goose, (22) a dove, (23) barley, (24) the great medicine, (25) bamboo, (26) a gayal, (27) a nāga, (28) a goat, (29) a bull, (30) a mountain, (31) a bilva fruit tree,29 (32) a black antelope, (33) a precious jewel, (34) a supreme sword, (35) a vajra, (36) a bow, (37) an arrow, (38) a lance, (39) a trident, (40) a plow, (41) a mace, (42) an axe, (43) a lasso,30 (44) a boat, (45) a pearl ornament, (46) a cloud, (47) Brahmā, (48) Indra, (49) Dhṛtarāṣṭra,31 (50) Varuṇa, (51) Virūḍhaka, (52) Virūpākṣa, (53) Dhanada, (54) a great sage, (55) Śrī, (56) a sun, (57) a moon, [F.4.a] (58) a fire, (59) wind, (60) a lotus, (61) a nandyāvarta, (62) a triangle,32 (63) an excellent throne, (64) a mirror, (65) a tail whisk, (66) dūrvā grass, (67) puroḍāśa cake, (68) a boy, (69) a girl, (70) a drum, (71) a conch, (72) a mṛdaṅga drum,33 (73) a bracelet, (74) an armband, (75) an earring,34 (76) a ring, (77) a dangling earring, (78) an excellent flower, (79) a wish-granting tree, and (80) a lion at the center of a wheel.35 These are the eighty designs. They appear on the palms of the Tathāgata’s hands and the soles of his feet.
“Mañjuśrī, if that merit, which is the merit contained in those eighty designs, were multiplied by many hundred sextillions, it would be like one of the signs of a great being on the Tathāgata’s body; each of the thirty-two signs of a great being are established in the same way. They are as follows:36 (1) the uṣṇīṣa on the head, (2) right-curling dark blue hair on the head, (3) an even forehead, (4) being adorned with a beautiful complexion,37 (5) an ūrṇā hair between the eyebrows, (6) dark blue eyes with bovine eyelashes, (7) forty close-fitting teeth, (8) white canine teeth, (9) cheeks like a lion, (10) a large and slender tongue, (11) a torso like a lion, (12) an arm span and height that are identical like the banyan tree, (13) a hair growing from every pore,38 (14) a concealed male organ, (15) full and rounded thighs, (16) calves like those of Eṇeya, king of antelopes, (17) broad heels, (18) palms and soles that are soft and supple, (19) webbed fingers and toes, (20) long fingers and toes, (21) feet with high arches, (22) a supreme organ of taste, (23) round shoulders, (24) the seven prominent parts, (25) fine skin the color of gold, (26) the ability to reach the hands to the knees without bending, (27) well-positioned feet, (28) palms and soles with the mark of the wheel, [F.4.b] and (29) the voice of Brahmā. These are the thirty-two signs of a great being. They appear on the body of the Tathāgata.
“Mañjuśrī, if that merit, which is the merit contained in the thirty-two signs of a great being, were multiplied innumerable times, multiplied inconceivably, multiplied incalculably, and multiplied beyond expression, it would be like that of the Tathāgata’s Dharma conch. By the power of taming with the Dharma conch, with his voice the Tathāgata engenders understanding throughout limitless and countless world realms. Just as with his voice, so it is with his light and his body.39
“In this way, Mañjuśrī, this great merit, arisen from great insight, imbued with compassion, generated through skill-in-means and aspirations, completely pure in moral discipline,40 and authentically born from the distinctions of practice, is inconceivable to all śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas.41
“Mañjuśrī, the form body of the Tathāgata is especially exalted for two reasons. What are these two reasons? They are the power of aspiration and the power of the complete ripening of the virtue of sentient beings to be tamed. Mañjuśrī, for these two reasons the form body of the Tathāgata is especially exalted.
“Mañjuśrī, in this way the tathāgata, arhat, perfect Buddha comes into the world, benefits and brings happiness to many beings, has love and affection for the world, and takes birth in order to help, benefit, and bring happiness to gods, humans, and the host of beings.”
Then the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī rose from his seat and, approaching the Blessed One, pressed his palms together and said, “Blessed One—my unparalleled, matchless teacher, supreme protector in the three realms and benefactor for all sentient beings, unperturbed by worldly phenomena, unblemished like the sky, inconceivable, a worthy inspiration, desirable to behold, and beautiful to behold—I have truly found a great treasure! Sugata, I have truly found a great treasure!”
|C||Choné (co ne) Kangyur|
|D||Degé (sde dge) Kangyur|
|F||Phukdrak (phug brag) Kangyur|
|H||Lhasa (zhol) Kangyur|
|J||Lithang (li thang) Kangyur|
|K||Peking (pe cin) or “Kangxi” Kangyur|
|KY||Yongle (g.yung lo) Kangyur|
|N||Narthang (snar thang) Kangyur|
|S||Stok Palace (stog pho brang bris ma) Kangyur|
|Sanskrit||Sanskrit manuscript found in the Potala Palace (see Introduction and Bibliography)|
|Saṃskṛtāsaṃskṛtaviniścaya||A commentary by Daśabalaśrīmitra found within the Tengyur containing a list of the eighty designs found on the hands and feet of the Tathāgata (see Bibliography)|
|Taishō 473||4th–5th century Chinese translation by Faxian (法賢)|
|Taishō 661||7th century Chinese translation by Divākara (地婆訶羅)|
|Taishō 662||7th century Chinese translation by Divākara (地婆訶羅)|
|U||Urga (ku re) Kangyur|
’jam dpal gyis dris pa (Mañjuśrīparipṛcchā). Toh 172, Degé Kangyur vol. 60 (mdo sde, ma), folios 1.b–5.a.
’jam dpal gyis dris pa. 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. 60, pp. 3–13.
’jam dpal gyis dris pa. Stok 56, Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 57 (mdo sde, cha), folios 142.b–147.b.
’jam dpal gyis dris pa. F150, Phukdrak Kangyur vol. 66 (mdo sde, pa), folios 260.b–265.b.
’jam dpal gyis zhus pa. Go 26.7, Gondhla Collection vol. 26 (ka-ma), folios 17.a–21.a.
blo gros mi zad pas bstan pa (Kṣayamatinirdeśa). Toh 175, Degé Kangyur, vol. 60 (mdo sde, ma), folios 79.a–174.b. English translation in Braarvig, Jens, and David Welsh (2020).
byams pas zhus (Maitreyaparipṛcchā). Toh 149, Degé Kangyur vol. 57 (mdo sde, pa), folios 330.b–331.a. English translation in Kīrtimukha Translation Group (2021).
shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa khri brgyad stong pa (Āṣṭādaśasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā). Toh 10, Degé Kangyur vol. 29 (khri brgyad, ka), folios 1.b–300.a; vol. 30 (khri brgyad, kha), folios 1.b–206.a; vol. 31 (khri brgyad, ga), folios 1.b–206.a. English translation in Sparham (2022).
shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa khri pa (Daśasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā). Toh 11, Degé Kangyur vol. 31 (shes phyin, ga), folios 1.b–91.a; vol. 32 (shes phyin, nga), folios 92.b–397.a. English translation in Padmakara Translation Group (2018).
rgya cher rol pa (Lalitavistara). Toh 95, Degé Kangyur vol. 46 (mdo sde, kha), folios 1.b–216.b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee (2013).
Āryaśūra. pha rol tu phyin pa bsdus pa (Pāramitāsamāsa). Toh 3944, Degé Tengyur vol. 111 (dbu ma, khi), folios 217.b–235.a.
Daśabalaśrīmitra. ’dus byas dang ’dus ma byas rnam par nges pa (Saṃskṛtāsaṃskṛtaviniścaya). Toh 3897, Degé Tengyur vol. 108 (dbu ma, ha), folios 109.a–110.a. English translation in Skilling (1992): 71–73.
Maudgalyāyana. rgyu gdags pa (Kāraṇaprajñapti). Toh 4087, Degé Tengyur vol. 139 (mngon, pa), folios 93.a–172.b.
Śamathadeva. chos mngon pa’i mdzod kyi ’grel bshad nye bar mkho ba (Abhidharmakośaṭīkopayikā). Toh 4094, Degé Tengyur vol. 146 (mngon pa, ju), folios 1.b–95.a.
Vasubandhu. chos mngon pa’i mdzod kyi bshad pa (Abhidharmakośabhāṣya). Toh 4090, Degé Tengyur vol. 140 (mngon pa, ku), folios 26.a–258.a. English translation in Sangpo 2012.
Phangthangma (dkar chag ’phang thang ma). Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2003.
Denkarma (pho brang stod thang ldan dkar gyi chos ’gyur ro cog gi dkar chag). Toh 4364, Degé Tengyur vol. 206 (sna tshogs, jo), folios 294.b–310.a.
Mahāvyutpatti (bye brag rtogs byed chen po). Toh 4346, Degé Tengyur vol. 204 (sna tshogs, co), folios 1.b–131.a. Also in Sakaki, Ryozaburo, ed. 1916–25; reprint, 1965; and Delhi: Tibetan Religious and Cultural Publication Centre (bod gzhung shes rig dpe khang), 2000.
Vinītā, Bhikṣuṇī, ed. and trans. A unique collection of twenty Sūtras in a Sanskrit manuscript from the Potala. Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region 7/1. Beijing: China Tibetology Publishing House; Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 2010.
Faxian, trans. 佛説妙吉祥菩薩所問大乘法螺經 (fo shuo miao ji xiang pu sa suo wen da cheng fa luo jing; Chinese translation of The Question of Mañjuśrī), Taishō 473.
Divākara, trans. 大乘百福相經 (da cheng bai fu xiang jing; Chinese translation of The Question of Mañjuśrī), Taishō 661.
Divākara, trans. 大乘百福莊嚴相經 (da cheng bai fu zhuang yan xiang jing; Chinese translation of The Question of Mañjuśrī), Taishō 662.
Braarvig, Jens, and David Welsh, trans. The Teaching of Akṣayamati (Akṣayamatinirdeśa, Toh 175). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2020.
Dharmachakra Translation Committee, trans. The Jewel Cloud (Ratnamegha, Toh 231). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2019.
Dharmachakra Translation Committee, trans. The Play in Full (Lalitavistara, Toh 95). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2013.
Herrmann-Pfandt, Adelheid. Die lHan kar ma: ein früher Katalog der ins Tibetische übersetzten buddhistischen Texte. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2008.
Kīrtimukha Translation Group, trans. The Question of Maitreya (2) (Maitrīparipṛcchā, Toh 149). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2021.
McRae, John, trans. “The Sutra of Mañjuśrī’s Question.” In The Sutra That Expounds the Descent of Maitreya Buddha and His Enlightenment and The Sutra of Mañjuśrī’s Questions, pp. 27–143. BDK English Tripiṭaka. Moraga: BDK America, 2016.
Padmakara Translation Group, trans. The Transcendent Perfection of Wisdom in Ten Thousand Lines (Daśasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā, Toh 11). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2018.
Sangpo, Gelong Lodrö, trans. Abhidharmakośa-Bhāṣya of Vasubandhu Volume III. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2012.
Silk, Jonathan A. “Review Article: Buddhist Sūtras in Sanskrit from the Potala.” Indo-Iranian Journal 56 (2013): 61–87.
Skilling, Peter. “Symbols on the body, feet, and hands of a Buddha, Part I—Lists.” Journal of the Siam Society 80 (1992): 67–79.
Sparham, Gareth, trans. The Transcendent Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines (Aṣṭadaśasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā, Toh 10). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2022.
A supreme organ of taste
- ro bro ba’i mchog
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the twenty-second of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
Adorned with a beautiful complexion
- kha dog gis brgyan pa
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the fourth of the thirty-two signs of a great being. This sign is not mentioned in any of the other lists of thirty-two that we have investigated.
- dbang phyug
The Sanskrit īśvara literally means “powerful one.” In both Indian and Tibetan literature it is often an epithet applied to Śiva. However, here where the title is given to a “supremely great almighty brahmā, sovereign of a trichiliocosm” (tshangs pa stong gsum gyi stong chen po’i ’jig rten gyi bdag po dbang phyug chen po’i mchog), the term signifies that Brahmā, or rather a brahmā, is the overseer of an entire trichiliocosm.
An arm span and height that are identical like the banyan tree
- shing n+ya gro d+ha ltar chu zheng gab pa
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the twelfth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
- dgra bcom pa
Used both as an epithet of the Buddha and to refer to the final accomplishment of the śrāvaka path.
- spyan ras gzigs dbang po
One of the eight “close sons” of the Buddha, the embodiment of compassion. He first appeared as a bodhisattva beside Amitābha in the Sukhāvatī Sūtra. The name has been variously interpreted. In his name meaning “the lord of avalokita,” avalokita has been interpreted as “seeing,” although as a past passive participle, it is literally “lord of what has been seen.” One of the principal sūtras in the Mahāsamghika tradition, not translated into Tibetan, was the Avalokita Sūtra, in which the word is a synonym for awakening, as it is “that which has been seen” by the buddhas. In the early tantras, he is one of the lords of the three families, as the embodiment of the compassion of the buddhas.
Beings with neither perception nor nonperception
- ’du shes med ’du shes med min gyi sems can
This refers to the category of beings abiding in the fourth and highest level of the formless realm. These are either the gods that abide there or persons who have reached this state though meditative equipoise. This state is also referred to as the “peak of existence” (bhavāgra; srid rtse) and is located at the apex of saṃsāra. Abiding there, such beings do not experience perceptions and yet cannot be said to be without perceptions.
Born from a womb
- mngal las skyes pa
One of the four modes of birth (caturyoni; skyes gnas bzhi).
Born from an egg
- sgo nga las skyes pa
One of the four modes of birth (caturyoni; skes gnas bzhi).
Born from heat and moisture
- drod gsher las skyes pa
One of the four modes of birth (caturyoni; skes gnas bzhi). Tiny bugs and microbes are understood to be born from the confluence of heat and moisture.
- rdzus te skyes pa
One of the four modes of birth (caturyoni; skes gnas bzhi). Those who take miraculous birth are spontaneously born fully mature at the time of their birth. There are many categories of beings that can be born under these circumstances including gods, hungry ghosts, beings born in hell, beings born in the intermediate state (antarābhava; bar ma do), and even humans in special circumstances or in the pure realms.
- tshangs pa
One of the primary deities of the Brahmanical pantheon, Brahmā occupies an important place as one of two deities (the other being Indra/Śakra) that are said to have first exhorted Śākyamuni to teach the Dharma. The particular heavens found in the form realm over which Brahmā rules are often some of the most sought after realms of higher rebirth in Buddhist literature. Since there are multiple universes and world systems, there are also multiple Brahmās presiding over them; however, The Question of Mañjuśrī describes sequentially higher brahmā gods as ruling over sequentially more numerous world systems. The image of the singular deity, Brahmā, is depicted as the forty-seventh of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
- zhabs kyi rting pa che ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the seventeenth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
- khyu mchog
A bull. Also the second zodiac sign, vṛṣabha, which corresponds to Taurus. Both vṛṣabha and ṛṣabha can be used as respectful epithets implying preeminence, usually in phrases such as “a bull among men” (a frequent epithet of the Buddha), “a bull among sages,” and the like. Here, the bull is the twenty-ninth of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
- ’khor los sgyur ba
A cakravartin is a king who rules over at least one continent and gains his territory by the rolling of his magic wheel over the land. Therefore he is called a king with the revolving wheel. This is as the result of the merit he has accumulated in previous lifetimes. An illustrative passage about the cakravartin and his wheel can be found in Toh 95, The Play in Full 3.3–3.6 (here translated as “universal monarch”).
Calves like those of Eṇeya, king of antelopes
- byin pa ri dags kyi rgyal po e ne ya ’dra ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the sixteenth of the thirty-two signs of a great being. Eṇeya (sometimes Aiṇeya) is the mythical king of ungulates, usualy depicted as an antelope.
Cheeks like a lion
- ’gram pa seng ge’i ’dra ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the ninth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
- stong gi ’jig rten gyi khams
In Buddhist cosmology, a universe that itself contains a thousand world systems, each made up of its own Mount Meru, four continents, sun, moon, and god realms.
Concealed male organ
- pho mtshan mi snang bar nub pa
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the fourteenth of the thirty-two signs of a great being. In the Mahāvyutpatti and other sources this sign is expressed as “genitals concealed in a sheath” (kośagatavastiguhya; ’doms kyi sba ba sbubs su nub pa).
Dark blue eyes with bovine eyelashes
- spyan mthon mthing la ba’i rdzi ma ’dra ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the sixth of the thirty-two signs of a great being. This matches the list found in the Mahāvyutpatti, no. 240, but in other lists this is represented as two separate signs: “dark blue eyes” and “bovine eyelashes.”
- ’dod pa’i khams
In Buddhist cosmology, this is our own realm, the lowest and most coarse of the three realms of saṃsāra. It is called this because beings here are characterized by their strong longing and attachment to the pleasures of the senses. The desire realm includes hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, asuras, and the lowest heavens of the gods. Located above the desire realm is the form realm and formless realm.
- nor sbyin
Dhanada (“Wealth Giver”) is another name of Vaiśravaṇa (rnam thos sras, “Prince of the Distinctly Hearing One”), one of the Four Great Kings (rgyal po chen po bzhi) ruling the four directions of the desire realm. Vaiśravaṇa rules the northern direction and the yakṣas (gnod sbyin) that reside there. In The Question of Mañjuśrī his image is the fifty-third of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
- chos kyi dung
One of the eight auspicious emblems. As a musical instrument, the conch is blown like a trumpet, and throughout India’s history it has been a symbol of power, authority, and auspicious beginnings. In Buddhism, the Dharma conch has been variously described to represent the Buddha’s speech, his thought or intention (dgongs), or the sound of his teachings—in essence the Dharma itself. The sound of blowing the Dharma conch awakens beings from their sleep of delusion and ignorance.
- ’khor srung po
- yul ’khor srung
- ’khor srung
One of the Four Great Kings (rgyal po chen po bzhi) ruling the four directions of the desire realm. Dhṛtarāṣṭra rules the eastern direction and the gandharvas (dri za) that reside there. In The Question of Mañjuśrī the image of him is the forty-ninth of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
- bsam gtan
One of the synonyms for meditation, referring specifically to states of mental stability or one-pointed abiding in an undistracted state of mind free from afflicted mental states. The term also refers to the specific states of absorption of the form and formless realms. Abiding in these absorptions can cause one to be reborn into these realms, and the states themselves also seem to have a spatial correlation to the form and formless realms. In this way there are eight progressive dhyānas; the first four rūpāvacaradhyāna correspond to the form realm and the latter ārūpāvacaradhyāna corrspond to the formless realms. See also n.19.
- stong gnyis kyi ’jig rten gyi khams
In Buddhist cosmology, a dichiliocosm is a galaxy or aggregate of universes that itself contains a thousand chiliocosms, or one million world systems.
- rtswa dur ba
Cynodon dactylon (syn. Panicum dactylon), a kind of grass that is used in a variety of Buddhist ceremonies. It is also one of the eight auspicious substances (bkra shis rdzas brgyad). Here it is sixty-sixth of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
Eight auspicious emblems
- bkra shis rtags brgyad
Eight Indian emblems signifying fortune and auspiciousness. They include the lotus, the śrīvatsa, the pair of golden fish, the parasol, the victory banner, the treasure vase, the conch, and the wheel. They are not discussed particularly in this sūtra, although several of the eight are also included in the list of eighty designs found on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
Eighty excellent signs
- dpe byad bzang po brgyad cu
A set of eighty bodily characteristics and insignia borne by both buddhas and cakravartins. For a complete list see the Aṣṭādaśasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā Sūtra (The Perfection of Wisdom in Eighteen Thousand Lines), 73.93.
- bskal pa
A cosmic period of time. According to the traditional Abhidharma understanding of cyclical time, a great eon (mahākalpa) is divided into eighty lesser or intermediate eons. In the course of one great eon, the external universe and its sentient life takes form and later disappears. During the first twenty of the lesser eons, the universe is in the process of creation and expansion (vivartakalpa); during the next twenty it remains created; during the third twenty it is in the process of destruction or contraction (saṃvartakalpa); and during the last quarter of the cycle it remains in a state of destruction (saṃvartasthāyikalpa).
- dpral ba mnyam pa
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the third of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
Feet with high arches
- zhabs kyi steng mtho ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the twenty-first of the thirty-two signs of a great being. In some lists this sign is rendered “inconspicuous ankles bones” (ucchaṅkhapāda; zhabs kyi long mo’i tshigs mi mngon pa). Because of the similar and ambiguous meaning of the Sanskrit, both Tibetan translations are found attested for utsaṅgapāda.
Fine skin the color of gold
- pags pa srab la gser gyi mdog ’dra ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the twenty-fifth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
- gzugs med pa’i khams
In Buddhist cosmology, the sphere of existence two levels more subtle than our own (the desire realm), where beings are no longer physically embodied, and thus not subject to the sufferings that physical embodiment brings. See the “three realms.”
Forty close-fitting teeth
- so bzhi bcu thags bzang ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the seventh of the thirty-two signs of a great being. In the Mahāvyutpatti and other lists this is represented as two separate signs: “forty teeth” (catvāriṃśaddanta; tshems bzhi bcu mnga’ ba) and “close-fitting teeth” (aviraladanta; tshems thags bzang ba).
- gling bzhi
According to Abhidharma cosmology, each world system has four continents surrounding a central Mount Meru: to the east, Videha (lus ’phags po, “superior body”); to the south, our continent of Jambudvīpa (’dzam bu gling, “Rose Apple Continent”); to the west, Aparagodānīya (ba glang spyod “Rich in Cattle”); and to the north, Uttarakuru (sgra mi snyan, “Unpleasant Sound”).
Full and rounded thighs
- brla gang zhing zlum pa
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the fifteenth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
- drang srong chen po
Indian sage, often a wandering ascetic or hermit; in other contexts the term is also an epithet of the Buddha Śākyamuni.
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the fifty-fourth of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata. As this “great sage” is listed in the eighty designs among a group of gods (47–55), it could be that this is an epithet referring to a specific god, but to whom cannot be deciphered with certainty from this narrow context.
Hair growing from every pore
- spu khung bu re re nas skyes pa
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the thirteenth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
Having an excellent well-built body
- yan lag mchog gi gzugs dang ldan pa
Literally “having a form excellent in all body parts.”
- bye ba khrag khrig brgya stong
If the Abhidharma system is followed, this is a number calculated by multiplying a koṭi (bye ba), or ten million; by a niyuta (khrag khrig), or a hundred billion; and by a śatasahasra (brgya stong), or one hundred thousand, which all together equals ten to the 23rd power or a hundred sextillion. This term is often used as to express a number so large as to be inconceivable.
- dbang po
In most Buddhist texts he is known as Śakra; however, as the forty-eighth of the designs on the Tathāgatha’s hands and feet his name Indra, meaning “lord,” is used.
- shes rab
As the sixth of the six perfections, it refers to the profound understanding of the emptiness of all phenomena, the realization of ultimate reality. In other contexts it refers to the mental factor responsible for ascertaining specific qualities of a given object, such as its characteristics or whether it should be taken up or rejected.
- bar gyi bskal pa
A cosmic period of time. Following the Abhidharma system, eighty intermediate eons together compose one great eon (mahākalpa).
- ka la ping ka
- ka la bing+ka
An Indian bird renowned for its beautiful song. There is some uncertainty regarding the identity of the kalaviṅka, as some dictionaries declare it to be a type of Indian cuckoo (probably Eudynamys scolopacea, also known as the asian koel) or a red and green sparrow (possibly Amandava amandava, also known as the red avadavat). Within the Buddhist sūtras, the bird is usually linked to its pleasing or striking voice. In some cases, it has also taken on mythical characteristics, being described as part human, part bird. Here it is the sixteenth of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
Large and slender tongue
- lce che zhing srab pa
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the tenth of the thirty-two signs of a great being. In most other sources, the Tibetan is rendered as “very long and slender tongue” (ljags shin tu ring zhing srab pa), but the underlying Sanskrit is likely the same or similar at the very least.
Long fingers and toes
- sor mo ring ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the twentieth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
- gtun shing
The Sanskrit has the meaning of both a club or mace-like weapon, and a pestle used for grinding, which as a cylinder of wood or stone can also be utilized as a weapon. The former meaning makes sense in the context of the short list of weapons (34–43) found among the eighty designs, although the Tibetan has the meaning of “pestle.” Mahāvyutpatti no. 5890 equates gtun shing with musala. Here its image is the forty-first of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
- chu srin
- chu srin ma ka ra
A legendary sea monster often described as an amalgamation of several terrestrial and/or aquatic animals such as an elephant, a crocodile, and a boar, although the term is sometimes associated with the dugong, the crocodile, or the dolphin. Here its image is the twelfth of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
- ’jam dpal
One of the eight “close sons” of the Buddha, the embodiment of insight (prajñā). In Tibetan tradition he is known as rgyal ba’i yab gcig, the “sole father of buddhas,” as he inspires them in their realization of the profound. He is represented as bearing the sword of insight in his right hand and a volume of the Prajñāpāramitāsūtra in his left.
Said to be the principal deity in Paranirmitavaśavartin, the highest paradise in the desire realm. He is also portrayed as attempting to prevent the Buddha’s awakening. The name māra is also used as a generic name for the deities in his realm and also as an impersonal term for the factors that keep beings in saṃsāra.
A mythical being usually depicted as having the top half of a human and the bottom half of a snake. However, the nāga has a myriad of associations within Buddhism and Indian traditions in general; the term may be associated with deities, snakes (more specifically cobras), elephants, subterranean spirits, water spirits, or ethnic groups of people from the Indian subcontinent. In Tibet they became specifically associated with water spirits (klu), and in China they came to be associated with dragons. Here the image of the nāga is the twenty-seventh of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
- g.yung drung
An auspicious design resembling a svastika with an elaborate pattern around its border. In the Mahāvyutpatti, nandyāvarta is translated into the Tibetan as g.yung drung; however, later on the same Tibetan was used to translate svastika, which is translated by the Tibetan bkra shis ldan in the Mahāvyutpatti. Sometimes the distinction is made with the extended term g.yung drung ’kyil ba, a “rotating svastika/g.yung drung,” since the border pattern of the nandyāvarta gives the impression that the svastika in the center is rotating. Here the image is the sixty-first of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
Palms and soles that are soft and supple
- zhabs dang phyag gi mthil ’jam zhing mnyen pa
- zhabs dang phyag gi mthil ’jam zhing gzhon sha chags pa
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the eighteenth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
Palms and soles with the mark of the wheel
- zhabs dang phyag gi mthil na ’khor lo’i mtshan yod pa
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the twenty-eighth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
First of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata. In general Indian iconography it is a symbol of protection and royalty. In Buddhism it symbolizes protection from blazing heat of afflictions, desire, illness, and harmful forces, just as a physical parasol protects one from the blazing sun or the elements. It is also included in the eight auspicious emblems.
- shang shang te’u
Some times translated as “pheasant.” The Sanskrit, jīvaṃjīva refers to the chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar). In Tibet and China, this became a mythical bird depicted as a half human and half bird, or as a bird with two heads. Here its image is the seventeenth of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
The Sanskrit may also refer to a weapon or a plow repurposed as a weapon, which would make sense in the context of the short list of weapons (34–43) found among the eighty designs, although the Tibetan meaning itself doesn’t connote this secondary meaning. Here its image is the fortieth of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
- rang sangs rgyas
Literally, “buddha for oneself” or “solitary realizer.” Those who attain buddhahood in a time when the Buddha’s doctrine is no longer available in the world, and who remain either in solitude or among peers, without teaching the path to liberation to others. They are sometimes called “rhinoceros-like” for their preference for staying in solitude.
- glang po rin po che
One of the seven treasures of the cakravartin king. The precious elephant is described as having magical abilities and sometimes as having six tusks. A passage about the precious elephant is found in Toh 95, The Play in Full, 3.7. See also Toh 4087, the Kāraṇaprajñapti, folio 119.b.
- nor bu rin po che
One of the seven treasures possessed by the cakravartin king. It is often equated with or described as a wish-fulfilling jewel (yid bzhin gyi nor bu). It is additionally included as the thirty-third of the eighty designs found on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata. A passage about the precious jewel is found in Toh 95, The Play in Full, 3.9. See also Toh 4087, the Kāraṇaprajñapti, folio 121.b.
- ’khor lo rin po che
One of the seven treasures of the cakravartin king. The precious wheel has one thousand spokes and is the treasure that gives the cakravartin his name, as a king with a “revolving wheel.” This magical wheel floats in the air and travels, followed by the cakravartin king and his army, to the continents they will conquer. In some descriptions the wheel is made of iron, copper, silver, or gold, depending on the degree of his power and the number of the four continents he will conquer. A illustrative passage about the precious wheel is found Toh 95, The Play in Full, 3.3–3.6 (where “cakravartin” is translated as “universal monarch”). See also Toh 4087, the Kāraṇaprajñapti, folio 112.b.
- bud med rin po che
One of the seven treasures of the cakravartin king. Here the term is translated literally, but elsewhere she is referred to as btsun mo rin po che, “the precious queen.” See also Toh 95, The Play in Full, 3.10. See also Toh 4087, the Kāraṇaprajñapti, folio 122.a.
Right-curling dark blue hair on the head
- dbu’i mthon mthing la g.yas phyogs su ’khyil ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the second of the thirty-two signs of a great being. In other sources the “dark blue” (abhinīla; mthing) color isn’t mentioned with this sign. Mahāvyutpatti no. 237 has “right-curling hair on the head” (pradakṣiṇāvartakeśa; dbu skra gyas su ’khyil ba).
- dpung mgo zlum pa
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the twenty-third of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
- brgya byin
Common epithet of the god Indra, in Skt. meaning “Mighty One,” and in Tib., “Hundred Gifts.” The Tibetan translation is based on an alternate etymology that śakra is an abbreviation of śata-kratu, “one who has performed a hundred sacrifices.” This epithet often appears together with the title devendra “Lord of Gods.” He is ruler of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three.
Samanta Assembly Hall
- kun nas mdzes pa
The name of an assembly hall in Śrāvastī. It could be that samanta, meaning “universal,” just refers to the assembly hall in general. However, both the Tibetan and Chinese seemed to translate this word literally, which suggests it may be a proper noun.
Seven prominent parts
- bdun mtho ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the twenty-fourth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
- rin po che sna bdun
The seven possessions of a cakravartin including the precious wheel, the precious elephant, the precious horse, the precious jewel, the precious woman, the precious steward, and the precious minister. In some forms of the list the steward or minister is variably replaced by the precious general (senāpatiratna; dmag dpon rin po che) or the precious sword (khaḍgaratna; ral gri rin po che). A more detailed description of these seven can be found in Toh 95, The Play in Full, 3.2–3.12. There is also a detailed description of the seven treasures and the corresponding causal conditions for obtaining them in Toh 4087, the Kāraṇaprajñapti, folio 111.b. The term should not be confused with seven precious substances, a set of seven precious stones or minerals, which is a term found elsewhere but also rendered rin po che sna bdun.
- nyan thos
Primarily referring to those disciples of the Buddha who aspire to attain the state of an arhat by seeking self-liberation, in contrast to followers of the Bodhisattva Vehicle, who seek buddhahood for the sake of all beings. It is usually defined as “those who hear the teaching from the Buddha and make it heard to others.”
- mnyan du yod pa
A city of ancient India in present-day Uttar Pradesh. It was the capital of the kingdom of Kosala.
- dpal be’u
An auspicious symbol for eternity, taking the design of an endless looping knot; the Tibetan translates the term as “glorious knot,” while the Sanskrit literally means “beloved of Śrī” as an epithet of Viṣṇu (the consort of Śrī), because the emblem is seen on Viṣṇu’s chest. In Buddhism the design represents the endless insight and compassion of the Buddha and is included among the eight auspicious emblems. It is also here the third of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
- de bzhin gshegs pa
A frequently used synonym for buddha, literally meaning “one who has thus gone.” The expression is interpreted in different ways, but in general it implies “one who has departed in the wake of the buddhas of the past” or “one who has manifested the supreme awakening dependent on the reality that does not abide in the two extremes of existence and quiescence.”
Ten virtuous actions
- dge ba bcu’i las
Refraining from the ten unvirtuous actions, i.e., not killing, not stealing, not engaging in sexual misconduct, not lying, not speaking divisively, not speaking harshly, not gossiping, not being covetous, not being malicious, and not having wrong views.
Ability to reach the hands to the knees without bending
- ma btud par phyag pus mo’i lha nga la reg pa
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the twenty-sixth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
The voice of Brahmā
- tshangs pa’i dbyangs
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the twenty-ninth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
Thirty-two signs of a great being
- skyes bu chen po’i mtshan sum cu rtsa gnyis
Thirty-two of the 112 identifying physical characteristics of both buddhas and cakravartins, in addition to the eighty excellent signs. There are significant variations found in this list from source to source. See n.36.
Torso like a lion
- ro stod seng ge ’dra ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the eleventh of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
- stong gsum gyi stong chen po’i ’jig rten gyi khams
A term from Abhidharma cosmology referring to one thousand dichiliocosms, or one billion world systems.
Ūrṇā hair between the eyebrows
- smin mtshams kyi mdzod spu
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the fifth of the thirty-two signs of a great being. The ūrṇā or the “hair-treasure” (mdzod spu) is the circlet of hair between the Buddha’s eyebrows. In the Mahāvyutpatti this sign is expressed without mention of the eyebrows, (ūrṇākeśa; mdzod spu).
- gtsug tor
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as first of the thirty-two signs of a great being. In its simplest form it is a pointed shape of the head like a turban (the Sanskrit term, uṣṇīṣa, in fact means “turban”), or more elaborately a dome-shaped extension. The extension is described as having various magical attributes such as emitting and absorbing rays of light or reaching an immense height.
- ’phags skyes po
One of the Four Great Kings (rgyal po chen po bzhi) ruling the four directions of the desire realm. Virūḍhaka rules the southern direction and the kumbhāṇḍas (grul bum) that reside there. In The Question of Mañjuśrī his image is the fifty-first of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
- mig mi bzang
One of the Four Great Kings (rgyal po chen po bzhi) ruling the four directions of the desire realm. Virūpākṣa rules the western direction and the nāgās (klu) that reside there. In The Question of Mañjuśrī his image is the fifty-second of the eighty designs on the palms and soles of the Tathāgata.
Webbed fingers and toes
- zhabs dang phyag gi sor mo’i bar dra bar ’brel ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the nineteenth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
- zhabs rab tu gnas pa
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the twenty-seventh of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
White canine teeth
- mche ba dkar ba
Listed in The Question of Mañjuśrī as the eighth of the thirty-two signs of a great being.
- ye shes
- bsam pa