The Sūtra on Maitreya’s Birth in the Heaven of Joy
Degé Kangyur, vol. 61 (mdo sde, tsa), folios 296.b–303.a.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
This discourse takes place during the early evening in Śrāvastī and features the Buddha and his retinue. Among them are Maitreya (then known as Ajita) and Upāli, who asks about Ajita’s future awakening as Maitreya. The Buddha answers that he will be reborn in the Heaven of Joy. He proceeds to describe its wondrous qualities and the causes of being reborn there. At the conclusion of the discourse, all those present in the retinue rejoice and make aspirations to be reborn in the Heaven of Joy.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the guidance of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The translation was produced by Lowell Cook. Andreas Doctor checked the translation against the Tibetan, wrote the introduction, and edited the text. Felin Chung provided assistance by checking the translation against the Chinese and compiling the Chinese glossary. Further revisions based on the Chinese were made by Ian MacCormack, James Gentry, and Xiaolong Diao.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
According to tradition, Maitreya is a bodhisattva said to be currently abiding in the Heaven of Joy (Skt. Tuṣita), whence he is prophesied to return to our continent of Jambudvīpa as the next buddha of this Fortunate Eon (Skt. bhadrakalpa). Maitreya was the first bodhisattva to inspire a devoted following in India, anticipating the later development of other bodhisattva cults, such as those of the bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Mañjuśrī. The cult of Maitreya flourished in India as early as the first centuries of the Common Era, but the figure of Maitreya became especially popular in Central and East Asia, starting in the fourth century ᴄᴇ. Moreover, in his role as the future buddha, Maitreya has continued to play an important role in practically all forms of Mahāyāna Buddhism up to the present.
The sūtra translated here, Maitreya’s Birth in the Heaven of Joy, is part of this larger tradition. It is one of the many sūtras in the Kangyur to have been translated into Tibetan from Chinese.1 This is immediately clear from the original title of the text, which is transcribed from Chinese rather than Sanskrit, and from the colophon, which indicates that the translation was produced based on a Chinese manuscript.2 The Tibetan translation corresponds to a sūtra in the Chinese canon titled (Fo shuo guan mile pusa shang sheng doushuaitian jing 佛說觀彌勒菩薩上生兜率天經, Taishō 452). Of the six sūtras in the Chinese canon that center on Maitreya (Taishō 452–57), this is the only one to focus on his “ascendant” rebirth in the Heaven of Joy, whereas the others are primarily concerned with his future descent to be reborn in Jambudvīpa.3
Maitreya’s Birth in the Heaven of Joy is also sometimes classified as one of six so-called visualization sūtras in the Chinese canon, all of which are thought to have been compiled around the first half of the fifth century ᴄᴇ (Yamabe 1999, 40–46; Quinter 2013). These six sūtras receive that label from the term “visualization” (觀, guan, sometimes also translated as “contemplation” or “meditation”), which appears at the beginning of each of their titles. This raises the question of just what visualization means in this context and how it functions specifically within each of these six texts. Several of these sūtras, including Maitreya’s Birth in the Heaven of Joy, lack detailed visualization instructions, leading some scholars to question whether they were in fact ever intended for visualization practices, or simply emerged within a general milieu of Maitreya worship and contemplation.4
As for the origins of these six visualization sūtras, although traditionally understood as translations of Sanskrit texts, there are today no extant Sanskrit sources, and there is also no mention of them in Indian literature in general or in the travelogues of the Chinese monks Faxian (337–ca. 422 ᴄᴇ) and Xuanzang (ca. 602–64 ᴄᴇ) documenting their visits to India. Moreover, the terminology used in these six sūtras is similar to that of indigenous Chinese meditation manuals composed around the same time. Such things suggest that these texts might not have been composed in India. Instead, there appears to be a growing consensus that they were first compiled in Central Asia, specifically in the Turfan region, around the first half of the fifth century ᴄᴇ (Quinter 2013).5 According to the colophon of the Chinese translation, this sūtra was translated in 455 ᴄᴇ by the Chinese translator Juqu Jingsheng (d. ca. 464), an exiled prince of Anyang who traveled to Khotan to study Buddhism and is said to have brought this sūtra back to China sometime after the Northern Wei invasion of the Northern Liang in 439.6 A Chinese commentary on the sūtra, of possible Tang provenance, was uncovered at Dunhuang.7
The Tibetan colophon does not provide much detail beyond the fact that it was translated from a Chinese manuscript by the editor-translator Venerable Pabtong and Venerable Sherab Sengé. These two translators are not widely mentioned in other works cataloging the Tibetan translations. The sūtra is also absent from the ninth-century Denkarma catalog (Tib. dkar chag ldan dkar ma), which lists the Tibetan translations that had been produced up to that point—an absence that indicates a later date of translation. In producing this translation, we took as our basis the Tibetan Degé xylograph version and compared it to the variant readings recorded in the Comparative Edition (Tib. dpe bsdur ma). Furthermore, we compared the Tibetan with the Chinese of Taishō 452.8 In terms of Western languages, the sūtra has recently been translated into German from Chinese by Heyryun Koh (2008). This publication also proved helpful for our work on several occasions.
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One was staying in Prince Jeta’s Grove at Anāthapiṇḍada’s park in Śrāvastī, along with a great congregation of monks and many bodhisattva great beings.9 Then, during the first watch of the night, golden light rays emerged from the Blessed One’s body10 and circled the Jeta Grove seven times. The light made contact with11 the householder Sudatta and others;12 then a golden light filled the sky like clouds, raining down golden flowers all over Śrāvastī.13 Amidst this golden light appeared an immeasurable number of hundreds of thousands of emanated thus-gone ones. They spoke in unison about the one thousand bodhisattvas to awaken in this eon, from the awakening firstly of Krakucchanda until the awakening finally of Roca.
After they had spoken, the light of the thus-gone ones roused an entire retinue, which gathered around them like cloud banks. The retinue consisted of Venerable Ājñātakauṇḍinya, who arose from absorption, with a retinue of two hundred fifty monks; Venerable Mahākāśyapa, with a retinue of two hundred fifty monks; Venerable Maudgalyāyana, with a retinue of two hundred fifty monks; Venerable Śāriputra, with a retinue of two hundred fifty monks; one thousand fully ordained nuns including Mahāprajāpatī;14 three thousand laymen including the householder Sudatta;15 two thousand laywomen including Viśākhā;16 the sixteen bodhisattvas of the Fortunate Eon including Samantabhadra;17 and five hundred bodhisattvas including the Dharma prince Mañjuśrī;18 as well as gods, nāgas, [F.297.a] yakṣas, and asuras.19
The Blessed One then produced a thousand light rays from his tongue. Each ray of light had a thousand colors, and within each color appeared an immeasurable number of emanated thus-gone ones. All these thus-gone ones then taught in unison the profound dhāraṇīs that show the purity of all phenomena, which all great bodhisattvas possess.20 They included the dhāraṇī called limitless gateway, the dhāraṇī called wisdom of emptiness, the dhāraṇī called unobscured nature, and the dhāraṇī called great liberation without marks. With a single voice, they spoke billions of such dhāraṇī gateways.21 When they had spoken those dhāraṇī gateways, Maitreya, who was present in the retinue, attained ten trillion dhāraṇī gateways at the very instant that he heard what the Blessed One taught. He rose from his seat, adjusted his robes, joined his palms together, and then settled himself before the Blessed One.
Next, Venerable Upāli rose from his seat, bowed his head, and addressed the Blessed One, “Blessed One, long ago, in one of your treasured teachings22 the Blessed One spoke of Ajita’s23 future awakening. Ajita is not yet free from the body of an ordinary person, and his defilements have not yet been exhausted.24 He has gone forth in this life but has neither cultivated absorption nor abandoned the afflictions. Yet, the Blessed One has said that he is certain to become awakened. Therefore, when Ajita’s life is over, in which realm will he be reborn?”
The Blessed One responded to Upāli, “Upāli, take heed [F.297.b] and listen. Since the Thus-Gone One is omniscient, I have prophesied that within this retinue,25 the bodhisattva great being Maitreya will fully awaken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood. Twelve years from now, he will pass away and undoubtedly take birth in the Heaven of Joy.
“In the Heaven of Joy, there are five hundred quintillion gods, each of whom practices the profound perfection of generosity. Thus, the gods have used the power of their divine merit to construct celestial palaces to worship this bodhisattva who has only one birth remaining. To do so, they first removed their robes, sandalwood jewelry, and precious crowns. They knelt, joined their palms together, and prayed: ‘With our priceless jewels and divine crowns, we wish to worship the great bodhisattva. We have heard the prophecy that26 Ajita will awaken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood not long in the future,27 so may our precious crowns transform into substances for the worship of his fully adorned buddha-realm!’ Each god knelt and made this prayer.
“As soon as all the gods had made this prayer, all their jeweled crowns transformed into five hundred quintillion palaces. Each precious palace contained seven parks,28 each of which was made of seven precious substances. Each precious substance emitted five billion rays of light, from each of which came five billion lotuses. From each lotus emerged five billion rows of trees made of the seven precious substances. The leaves of each tree held five billion light rays in dazzling colors, and each of these dazzling colors emitted a further five billion light rays the color of Jambū river gold. [F.298.a] From each of these Jambū-gold light rays emerged five billion precious goddesses. Each goddess sat beneath the trees, holding in her hands five billion garlands with countless gems, and singing the loveliest songs about the Dharma wheel of the nonregressing level.
“Fruit grew in the trees, with a color like beryl, and all these colors were reflected in the beryl. As all the light rays swirled clockwise, many pleasant voices could be heard teaching the Dharma of great love and great compassion. Each palace29 was sixty-two leagues in height and fourteen leagues in width. Five billion nāga kings encircled each palace,30 beautifying it from above by causing rain to fall over the five billion trees31 made of the seven precious substances. Natural breezes caused the trees to sway to and fro, so that they resounded with the words of impermanence, suffering, emptiness, selflessness, and all the perfections.
“At that time, inside his palace, the great king Laodubati32 rose from his seat, prostrated to all the thus-gone ones in the ten directions, and made the following prayer: ‘If I possess the merit to construct a Dharma palace for the bodhisattva Maitreya, may precious gems spontaneously appear from between my eyebrows!’
“As soon as he made this prayer, one billion jewels appeared. They had formed in all different colors, like beryl and other gems, and were transparent like crystal.33 The jewels first circled the empty sky and then transformed into an amazing jeweled palace with forty-nine stories.
“Each railing of each story [F.298.b] was adorned by one trillion jeweled lotuses. Ninety million gods and five billion goddesses, born miraculously, stood among these railings. In the hands of each god were immeasurably many hundreds of millions of lotuses, each made of the seven precious substances. Above each lotus shone immeasurably many millions of lights. Inside these lights were divine musical instruments that spontaneously resounded without being played. As the music played, the goddesses rose, took hold of the musical instruments, danced, and sang lovely songs about the ten virtues, the four aspirations, and so on. All the gods who heard this generated the mind set upon unsurpassed awakening.
“Inside each park were reservoirs of beryl in eight hues. The interior of each reservoir was made of five billion jewels and filled with water possessing the eight qualities34 that spouted up from below.35 Outside the four entrances were four miraculously arisen lotuses. The water that emerged around these lotuses flowed with the color of the precious blossoms. Atop each lotus were twenty-four goddesses of wondrous beauty, adorned and bearing physical marks like bodhisattvas. Five billion jeweled vessels appeared in their hands. Each vessel was filled to the brim with divine ambrosia. Draped over their left shoulders were countless garlands, and balanced against their right shoulders were countless musical instruments. Like clouds, they hovered in the sky and came forth from the water. The goddesses extolled the six perfections of the bodhisattvas. Any god born36 in the Heaven of Joy was naturally served by these goddesses.
“In the palace stood a lion throne made of the seven precious substances. It was four leagues in height and adorned with gold from the Jambū river and countless jewels. [F.299.a] At the four corners of the throne were four lotuses, each made of a hundred precious jewels, each of which emitted a billion rays of light. The light produced the most beautiful flowers, which were made of a variety of gems, which in turn adorned the precious draperies.
“Ten billion Brahmā kings each brought their own beautiful chimes from the Brahmā heavens and hung them over the draperies. Lesser Brahmā kings likewise draped nets of various jewels over the draperies. A retinue of countless hundreds of thousands of gods and goddesses brought forth a great variety of jeweled lotus flowers and scattered them over the throne. These lotuses in turn produced five billion goddesses, made of gems, who stood among the draperies with white tail whisks in their hands.
“At the four corners of the palace were four jeweled pillars. Each jeweled pillar consisted of a hundred thousand mansions, and the gems of these goddesses were draped between them.37 On the railings of the palace stood a hundred thousand goddesses of amazing beauty, holding countless musical instruments in their hands. Their music resounded with the words of suffering, emptiness, impermanence, selflessness, and all the perfections. The divine palace38 was filled with immeasurably many billions of beautiful gems, and all the goddesses manifested in colors that matched those gems. Thereupon, all the countless gods throughout the ten directions made prayers for rebirth in this divine palace in the Heaven of Joy.
“Now, in that palace in the Heaven of Joy there are five great kings. The first great king is known as Ratnadhvaja. A rain of the seven precious substances is released from39 his body and scatters inside the palace. Each precious substance then transforms into countless musical instruments that hang in midair. [F.299.b] Without being played, they spontaneously emit limitless beautiful music that pleases the minds of beings. The second king is known as Flower Scatterer.40 A rain of manifold flowers is released from his body, forming parasols of flowers that cover the entire palace.41 Each parasol has hundreds of thousands of flags and streamers that guide one along the way. The third king is known as Incense Voice. From the pores of his body, he rains down a wondrous incense of the sandalwood found at the ocean shore. The incense forms a cloud with hundreds of colors, which circles the palace seven times. The fourth great king is known as Joyous Bliss. A rain of wish-fulfilling jewels is released from his body. Each jewel naturally finds its place atop the flags and streamers, where it resounds with teachings on seeking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha, as well as the five branches of discipline, countless virtuous qualities, all the perfections, and the aids to Maitreya’s awakening.42 The fifth great king is known as Fierce Voice.43 He rains down water from all the pores of his body. Five billion lotus flowers float on each water drop, and each lotus supports twenty-five crystal goddesses.44 Ringing out from every pore on the body of each crystal goddess is the lovely sound of victory over the divine māra.”
The Blessed One continued addressing Upāli, “In the Heaven of Joy, beings practice the ten virtues, return the kindness of the victorious ones, and have the merit to produce great wonders.45 Even if I were to spend an entire lesser eon explaining the fruits of how a bodhisattva bound by one life will return kindness and practice the ten virtues, it would not be exhaustive. Nevertheless, I will now briefly teach you [F.300.a] and the others about this.
“Upāli,46 whether it is a single monk or the entire retinue, anyone who has not yet grown weary of birth and death, and wishes to be reborn in a divine realm, must generate the mind set upon unsurpassed awakening. The observances for those who wish to serve Maitreya are as follows: perfect the observance of the eight precepts including the five requisites;47 be ceaseless in physical and mental diligence; practice the ten virtues; desire abundant happiness; and maintain a one-pointed desire to be reborn in the Heaven of Joy. This is known as the right observance, while any other observance is known as a wrong observance.”
Then Upāli rose from his seat, adjusted his robes, bowed his head, and asked the Blessed One, “Blessed One, as there is such sublime happiness in the Heaven of Joy, when will this great being be reborn from Jambudvīpa into that divine realm?”
The Blessed One replied, “Twelve years from now, on the fifteenth day of the second month of spring, Maitreya will return to the place where he took birth: the household of the great Brahmin Bāvarī,48 in the village of Kapāli,49 in the region of Vārāṇasī. There he will sit in the lotus posture, as if he were resting in utter absorption. His body’s golden luster and the red rays of light it emits will be brighter than a hundred thousand suns, reaching up to the Heaven of Joy above. His physical remains will stay still and unmoving, like a golden statue. From the sphere of light that surrounds his body, the syllables of the threefold liberation50 and the perfection of insight will distinctly emerge.
“Gods and humans will all be drawn there to worship the precious stūpa with his physical remains. Maitreya will then be miraculously reborn in the Heaven of Joy, in that palace made of the seven precious substances. As he sits cross-legged on a lotus flower atop the lion throne within the palace, [F.300.b] his body will shine like gold from the Jambū river. His body will be sixteen leagues tall and fully adorned with the thirty-two major marks and the eighty excellent minor marks. There will be a topknot on his head, and his hair will resemble the color of beryl.51 His divine crown will be adorned with jewels such as śakrābhilagna and kiṃśuka. The gems in his divine crown will shine with the colors of a billion jewels. In each of the colors there will be immeasurably many billions of emanated thus-gone ones, along with a multitude of emanated bodhisattvas who act as their servants. All the bodhisattvas from other pure lands will display the eighteen miracles and take up residence inside the divine crown as they wish.
“White rays of light will then emerge from between Maitreya’s eyebrows. The light will cause the thirty-two major marks to manifest in the colors of hundreds of jewels. Within each major mark will be the minor marks, which in turn will manifest in the colors of five billion jewels. Also, within each minor mark, gods will manifest whose major and minor marks blaze in the colors of five billion gems. Each god will sit on a lotus within an orb of eighty-four thousand light rays.52 Maitreya will continuously turn the Dharma wheel of the nonregressing level, day and night. He will set these five billion gods toward a single destination, accomplish their aims,53 and make them nonregressing from unsurpassed and complete awakening. Day and night within the Heaven of Joy, he will continuously establish all gods in the Dharma wheel of the nonregressing level.54 Then, after fifty-six trillion Jambudvīpa years, the discourse called Maitreya’s Birth from the Heaven of Joy into Jambudvīpa will be taught.55
“Upāli,56 the qualities associated with the bodhisattva Maitreya passing away from this world and being reborn in the Heaven of Joy are as follows. After the Thus-Gone One passes into nirvāṇa, [F.301.a] some among my attendant retinue will diligently accumulate merit, maintain their vows, sweep stūpas, construct maṇḍalas, burn fragrant incense, offer flowers, practice the threefold liberation,57 practice the profound and true Dharma, recite the sūtras and continuously keep them single-pointedly in mind, acquire the six superknowledges,58 make statues of the thus-gone ones,59 recite the name of Maitreya, and other such things. When it comes time for them to pass away—after they have received the eight vows, purified all misdeeds,60 and made prayers—they will instantly be born in the Heaven of Joy, just as quickly as a strong man can stretch out his arm.
“Then they will sit cross-legged atop lotus flowers, as hundreds of thousands of gods play divine music, scatter mandārava and great mandārava flowers, and praise them, saying ‘Excellent! Excellent! Noble sons, you have accumulated vast merit in Jambudvīpa; and now, upon dying, you have arrived here in the Heaven of Joy. You should request refuge from the divine king Maitreya and prostrate to him.61 When you prostrate to him, white light will emerge from the ūrṇā hair between his eyebrows and touch you, liberating you from ninety eons of birth and death and purifying your misdeeds.’
“Now that I have explained the marvelous Dharma of the benefits of affiliating oneself with this bodhisattva, sentient beings should not abandon their diligence, but should bring to mind the nonregressing Dharma wheel and the unsurpassed path. As they purify their misdeeds and engage in the six practices,62 they will undoubtedly be born in the Heaven of Joy and come face-to-face with the noble Maitreya. Having entered into Maitreya’s service, they will then first hear his Dharma in Jambudvīpa. [F.301.b] They will come face-to-face with all the future buddhas of this present eon, as well as all the buddhas in as many other eons as there are stars in the sky. In the presence of all those buddhas, they will receive prophecies of their own awakening.
“Upāli,63 after the Thus-Gone One has passed into nirvāṇa, within all my retinues of monks, nuns,64 gods, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, and mahoragas, anyone who hears the name of the bodhisattva great being Maitreya and venerates him with joy and respect shall attain all that was just mentioned in the mere snap of a finger, once they pass away. Upon hearing Maitreya’s name, they will no longer fall into the realms of darkness upon death, nor will they be reborn in any outlying regions, nor among people with wrong views or nonvirtuous behaviors. Such people will be reborn in every lifetime where the view is proper, the retinue is abundant, and the Three Jewels are never disgraced.
“Upāli, if those noble sons or daughters who have broken their vows or committed unwholesome misdeeds hear the name of the bodhisattva of great compassion, call out his name,65 place their full body on the ground, and confess with an undistracted mind, the entirety of their misdeeds will swiftly be purified. If anyone in the future speaks66 the name of the bodhisattva of great compassion, paints67 his image, offers him incense, flowers, fabrics, parasols, banners, or flags, venerates him, or recalls his name, then upon passing away, the bodhisattva Maitreya will radiate light from the ūrṇā hair between his eyebrows—one of the marks of a great being—and all the gods will send down a rain of mandārava flowers [F.302.a] to welcome them as they are instantly reborn in the divine realm. They will meet face-to-face with the noble Maitreya and bow their heads to him. At that very moment, they will hear the Dharma, attain the path of unsurpassed awakening, and obtain the nonregressing wheel of Dharma. In future lives, they will behold as many thus-gone ones as there are grains of sand in the Ganges river.
“Upāli,68 listen attentively and pay heed. When sentient beings in the future take refuge in the bodhisattva Maitreya, those who do so will attain the unsurpassed path and the nonregressing wheel of Dharma. Then, once the bodhisattva Maitreya attains the state of a thus-gone one, a worthy one, a perfect buddha, those people will see the light of that thus-gone one and receive a prophecy.
“Upāli,69 after the Thus-Gone One’s nirvāṇa, when the time comes for anyone—whether they are in the four retinues or a god, nāga, or yakṣa—to be reborn in the Heaven of Joy, then they must engage in the following contemplations: Thinking of the Heaven of Joy, they should take up the vows of the Thus-Gone One. Then, whether for a single day or for up to seven days, they should contemplate the ten virtues and practice the path of the ten virtues. Then the merit from this practice should be dedicated, and the aspiration made to be in the presence of Maitreya. Those who carry out these contemplations will behold a god and a lotus. Those who recite the name of Maitreya even once will be freed from twelve hundred eons of birth and death and will have their misdeeds purified. Those who hear the name of Maitreya and join their palms together70 will be freed from fifty eons of birth and death. Those who respectfully prostrate to Maitreya will be liberated from one billion eons of birth and death and will have their misdeeds purified. They will not be attached to the heavenly realms, [F.302.b] but will generate the mind set upon unsurpassed awakening in the future, under the bodhi tree, the tree of the nāgas.”71
Then72 the immeasurably great retinue rose from their seats. They bowed their heads at the feet of the Blessed One, and then bowed at the feet of Maitreya. They circled the Blessed One and Maitreya a hundred thousand times. Those who had not yet attained the path each made the following aspiration: “By fervently making aspirations here in the presence of the Blessed One, may all of us—gods, humans, the eight classes of nonhuman beings, and so forth—in the future, having abandoned our bodies, behold noble Maitreya, and be reborn in the Heaven of Joy.”
Then the Blessed One said, “In the future, all of you will create merit, guard your discipline, and take birth in the presence of the bodhisattva Maitreya. The bodhisattva Maitreya will then bless all of you.”
The venerable Ānanda then rose from his seat, knelt down, joined his palms, and addressed the Blessed One, “Excellent! The Blessed One has wonderfully explained Maitreya’s qualities. In the future, we shall strive to become such beings who attain the results of creating such merit. Therefore, Blessed One, what is the name of this Dharma discourse? How should we retain it?”
The Blessed One replied, “Ānanda, you should retain what the Thus-Gone One has taught without forgetting anything. [F.303.a] For the sake of future times, you shall reveal the path that leads to rebirth in the divine realms, disclose the marks of awakening, and prevent the lineage of the thus-gone ones from being interrupted. This discourse shall be known as The Nirvāṇa of the Bodhisattva Maitreya. It shall also be known as The Bodhisattva Maitreya’s Birth in the Heaven of Joy and Encouragement for the Seat of Awakening. You must retain it!”
When the Blessed One said this, a million bodhisattvas who had arrived from other pure lands73 attained the śūraṃgama absorption.74 Eight hundred thousand gods generated the mind set upon unsurpassed awakening. They all made the aspiration to follow Maitreya and be reborn in Jambudvīpa.
After the Blessed One had spoken, the four retinues, as well as the eight classes of nonhuman beings—gods, nāgas, and so forth—rejoiced in what the Blessed One had said. They bowed to the Blessed One and then departed.
This completes “The Noble Sūtra: The Bodhisattva Maitreya’s Birth in the Heaven of Joy.”
’phags pa byang chub sems dpa’ byams pa dga’ ldan gnam du skye ba blangs pa’i mdo. Toh 199, Degé Kangyur, vol. 61 (mdo sde, tsa), folios 296.b–303.a.
’phags pa byang chub sems dpa’ byams pa dga’ ldan gnam du skye ba blangs pa’i mdo. 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), 2006–9, vol. 61, pp. 810–25.
Juqu Jingsheng 沮渠京聲, trans. Fo shuo guan mile pusa shang sheng doushuaitian jing 佛說觀彌勒菩薩上生兜率天經, Taishō 452.
Iida, Shōtarō, Jane Goldstone, and John R. McRae. The Sutra That Expounds the Descent of Maitreya Buddha and His Enlightenment; The Sutra of Mañjuśrī’s Questions. Moraga, BDK America, 2016.
Karashima, Seishi. “Ajita and Maitreya: More evidence of the early Mahāyāna scriptures’ origins from the Mahāsāṃghikas and a clue as to the school-affiliation of the Kanaganahalli-stūpa.” Annual Report of The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology at Soka University for the Academic Year 2017, vol. XXI, 181–96. Tokyo, 2018.
Kitsūdo, Kōichi. “Two Chinese Buddhist Texts Written by Uighurs.” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, vol. 64, no. 3 (2011): 325–43.
Koh, Heyryun. “Das Shangsheng-Sutra.” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, vol. 159 (2008): 105–28.
Lamotte, Étienne. History of Indian Buddhism: From the Origins to the Śaka Era. Translated from the French by Sara Webb-Boin. Edited by Jean Dantinne. Louvain-la-Neuve: Université catholique de Louvain, 1988.
Li, Channa. “Translationship Lost in Transmission: Elusive Attributions of Two Tibetan Sūtra Translations.” Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines, no. 37 (December 2016): 207–30.
Mai, Cuong. Visualization Apocrypha and the Making of Buddhist Deity Cults in Early Medieval China: With Special Reference to the Cults of Amitābha, Maitreya, and Samantabhadra. PhD diss., Indiana University, 2009.
Quinter, David. “Visualization/Contemplation Sutras.” In Oxford Bibliographies. Oxford University Press. http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com. Last modified 26 April, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0137.
Silk, Jonathan. “Chinese Sūtras in Tibetan Translation: A Preliminary Survey.” Annual Report of The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology at Soka University for the Academic Year 2019, vol. XXII, 227–46. Tokyo, 2020.
Yamabe, Nobuyoshi. The Sūtra on the Ocean-Like Samādhi of the Visualization of the Buddha: The Interfusion of the Chinese and Indian Cultures in Central Asia as Reflected in a Fifth Century Apocryphal Sūtra. PhD diss., Yale University, 1999.
- kun shes kauN+Di n+ya
One of the Buddha’s first five disciples.
- kun dga’ bo
The Buddha’s cousin and attendant, and one of his closest disciples.
- lha ma yin
The traditional adversaries of the devas (gods) who are frequently portrayed in the Brahmanical mythology as having a disruptive effect on cosmological and social harmony.
- pa pa li
- pa ba li
A brahmin into whose family Ajita was born.
- bcom ldan ’das
An epithet of a buddha.
- tshangs pa’i lha
The three heavens of Brahmā in the form realm. Subordinates of Brahmā dwell in the first, attendants and officials dwell in the second, and the third and highest heaven is Mahābrahmā or “Great Brahmā.”
- tshangs pa’i rgyal po
A king of the Brahmā heavens in the form realm.
The term dhāraṇī — in some sūtras a mnemonic formula and also the ability of realized beings to retain (√dhṛ) in their transmundane memory any teachings — refers, in its most general use, to dhāraṇīs as understood in the context of the Dhāraṇī genre and Mahāyāna Buddhism. Such dhāraṇīs are divinely revealed prayer formulae that are dedicated to a particular deity and typically include homage, praise, supplication, exhortation to act, and, most importantly, the heart mantra or mantras of the deity. The specific meaning of “retention” is also present in this inasmuch as dhāraṇīs, once obtained, are never lost but stay with the person who obtained them. They function as doors (dhāraṇīdvāra) or access points (dhāraṇīmukha) to infinite qualities of buddhahood. When they are regarded to function as such, even shorter mantras can be designated as dhāraṇī.
- gzungs kyi sgo
A method, often in the form of a spell, that leads to the infinite qualities of awakening.
- lha’i bdud rtsi
A divine nectar, panacea against death.
- lha’i bdud
One of four māras or demonic forces that hinder progress on the path.
Eight precepts including the five requisites
- yan lag lnga’i khrims brgyad
A reference to the practice of a lay disciple (Skt. upāsaka) who ordinarily observes the five precepts, taking all eight vows for the fortnightly fast (Skt. upavāsa).
Eighty excellent minor marks
- dpe byad bzang po brgyad cu
A secondary series of identifying physical features of a great being.
Five branches of discipline
- yan lag lnga’i tshul khrims
Abstaining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxication.
Five great kings
- rgyal po chen po lnga
The five great deities of the Heaven of Joy. In the Tibetan translation, they are specified as kings.
- me tog thob ba
- me tog ’thor ba
Second of the five great kings.
- bskal pa bzang po
The present eon, in which one thousand buddhas will appear.
- smon lam bzhi
The four aspirations of bodhisattvahood defined variously in East Asian Mahāyāna works.
Fully ordained nun
- dge slong ma
A fully ordained Buddhist nun.
- dri za
A type of spirit typically known as celestial musicians.
- nam mkha’ lding
A type of giant, birdlike spirit.
Great liberation without marks
- mtshan ma med par rnam par grol ba chen po
Name of a dhāraṇī.
Heaven of Joy
- dga’ ldan
Maitreya’s heavenly abode in the desire realm, where future buddhas are said to dwell prior to their awakening in our world.
Jambū river gold
- ’dzam bu’i gser
A particularly fine type of gold deposited in the Jambū river, sometimes said to be remains of the fruits from the rose-apple trees growing there which fall into the river and are consumed.
- ’dzam bu’i gling
The southern continent according to Indian cosmology, named for the Jambu or rose-apple tree.
- ’dzam bu’i gling gi tshe lo’i grangs
The length of a year as experienced by a sentient being born on Jambudvīpa in the desire realm.
- gyen shugs
- rkyen shugs
A type of gem, presumably red as in the blossoms of the kiṃśuka tree.
- mi ’am ci
A class of nonhuman beings who are half human, half animal. Typically, their upper bodies are animal, and their lower bodies human. The term literally means “Is that human?”
- log par dad sel
The first buddha in the present Fortunate Eon.
- le’u du pa ti
This name is transcribed from the Chinese 牢度跋提. We have been unable to determine the meaning of this name, or a Sanskrit equivalent. In the Chinese, this figure is described as a “great god” rather than a “great king.”
- dge bsnyen
A male lay devotee.
- dge bsnyen ma
A female lay devotee.
- dpag tshad
A unit of distance.
- seng ge’i khri
Seat of a buddha or royal throne.
- ’od srung chen po
One of the principal disciples of the Buddha, known for his ascetic practice.
- ma ha pa sha pa ti
The maternal aunt and adoptive mother of the Buddha as well as the first woman to be ordained.
- lto ’phye chen po
A type of spirit in the form of a great serpent.
- byams pa
Bodhisattva who embodies the quality of loving kindness; the next buddha following Śākyamuni.
- man dA ra ba
- ma n+da ra ba
Flowers of the heavenly Mandārava tree, whose blossoms often rain down in salutation of buddhas and bodhisattvas.
- ’jam dpal
The bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, known for his mastery of insight.
- maud gal gyi bu
- mo’u ’gal gyi bu
A close disciple of the Buddha, famous for his mastery of supranormal powers.
Mind set upon unsurpassed awakening
- bla na med pa’i byang chub tu sems
The resolution to seek the highest level of enlightenment.
A type of serpentine spirit, often associated with underground or aquatic environments.
- phyir mi ldog pa’i sa
A level of no retrogression, the attainment of which assures further progress. Such a state is associated variously with different stages of the path or bodhisattva levels, as well as with pure lands such as Sukhāvatī or, in this case, Tuṣita heaven.
Nonregressing wheel of Dharma
- phyir mi ldog pa’i sa’i chos kyi ’khor lo
See nonregressing level.
Only one birth remaining
- skye ba gcig gis thogs pa
A term for a bodhisattva held back from buddhahood by only a single remaining lifetime, as exemplified by Maitreya.
- pab tong
The editor of this sūtra. No details of this person are known.
Perfection of generosity
- sbyin pa’i pha rol tu phyin pa
First of the six perfections.
- pha rol tu phyin pa
Generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditative concentration, and insight.
- lus mtshan
The characteristic marks of the body of a divine being.
- rin po che’i rgyal mtshan
First of the five great kings.
- shi kra bi li kra
- shi kra pa la kra
“Jewel wielded by Indra,” the name of a particular gem.
- kun tu bzang po
One of the eight great bodhisattvas.
- shA ri’i bu
One of the foremost disciples of the Buddha, known for his wisdom.
Seat of awakening
- byang chub kyi snying po
The place where Śākyamuni Buddha achieved awakening and where countless other buddhas are said to have achieved awakening. This is understood to be located under the Bodhi tree, in present-day Bodhgaya, India.
Seven precious substances
- rin po che sna bdun
Ruby, sapphire, beryl, emerald, diamond, pearl, and coral. At times, the list varies to include gold and silver at the expense of some of the other precious substances.
- shes rab seng ge
The monk who translated this sūtra from Chinese. No details of this person are known.
- mngon par shes pa drug
Divine sight, divine hearing, knowledge of the minds of others, remembrance of past lives, the ability to perform miracles, and the knowledge of the destruction of all mental defilements.
- mnyan yod
- mnyan yod kyi yul
The capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom in India.
- mchod rten
A Buddhist sacred monument, usually holding the relics of a Buddha or some highly revered Buddhist master.
- su ta sha
Praised as the foremost of male lay practitioners.
- brgyan pa’i ting nge ’dzin
The śūraṃgama absorption is a meditative state that enables one to overcome obstacles.
- 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.
Thirty-two major marks
- mtshan sum cu rtsa gnyis
A series of identifying physical features characteristic of a great being (Skt. mahāpuruṣa), exemplified by a buddha or cakravartin king.
- rnam par thar pa gsum
The threefold liberation refers to emptiness (Tib. stong pa nyid), signlessness (Tib. mtshan ma med pa), and wishlessness (Tib. smon pa med pa). Note that 三昧 usually corresponds to the Sanskrit samādhi rather than trivimokṣa.
- de bzhin gshegs pa
An epithet of a buddha.
- thor tshugs
- thor tsugs
A tuft or protuberance on the head. It may refer to the uṣṇīṣa, a coif of flesh or hair atop a buddha’s head. This Tibetan expression can also translate śikhābandha, a topknot of hair.
- sgrib pa med pa’i dngos po
Name of a dhāraṇī.
- u pA li
- u pa li
One of the foremost disciples of the Buddha, known for his knowledge of monastic discipline (Skt. vinaya).
- smin mtshams kyi mdzod spu
One of the marks of a buddha. A tuft of hair between the eyebrows capable of projecting a very bright light.
- ba ra ni
- byi shwa khra ’pho ta
- byi sha khra ’bo ta
Praised as the foremost of female lay practitioners.
- gnod sbyin
A type of spirit, sometimes harmful to humans, also often represented as attendants to Vaiśravaṇa.