The Great Cloud (1)
Degé Kangyur, vol. 64 (mdo sde, wa), folios 113.a–214.b
Translated by the Mahamegha Translation Team
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
First published 2022
Current version v 1.1.11 (2023)
Generated by 84000 Reading Room v18.104.22.168
84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha is a global non-profit initiative to translate all the Buddha’s words into modern languages, and to make them available to everyone.
This work is provided under the protection of a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution - Non-commercial - No-derivatives) 4.0 copyright. It may be copied or printed for fair use, but only with full attribution, and not for commercial advantage or personal compensation. For full details, see the Creative Commons license.
The Great Cloud features a long dialogue between the Buddha Śākyamuni and a bodhisattva named Great Cloud Essence, who are periodically joined by various additional interlocutors from the vast audience of human and divine beings who have assembled to hear the Buddha’s teaching. The topics of their conversation are diverse and wide-ranging, but a central theme is the vast conduct of bodhisattvas, which is illustrated through the enumeration of the various meditative states and liberative techniques that bodhisattvas must master in order to minister to all sentient beings. This is followed by a conversation with the brahmin Kauṇḍinya concerning the Buddha’s cousin Devadatta, who is revealed to be a bodhisattva displaying the highest level of skillful means. Kauṇḍinya then inquires about the possibility of obtaining a relic from the Buddha, and another member of the audience responds with an explanation of how truly rare it is for a buddha relic to appear within the world. Finally, the discourse ends with the Buddha delivering a series of detailed prophecies describing the principal interlocutor’s future attainment of buddhahood, and he further explains the benefits and powers that can be obtained through the practice of this sūtra itself.
This translation was produced by Joshua Capitanio for the Mahamegha Translation Team. The translator is grateful to Christopher Jones (University of Cambridge) and Susan Roach for offering several helpful suggestions.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The translation of this text has been made possible through the generous sponsorship of an anonymous donor, who would like to dedicate it in memory of Lin, Zai-He and Lin Lee, Wan-Zhi.
Great Cloud Essence said, “I beseech the Bhagavān to explain the ten Dharma gateways called the secret aspiration to liberation, which is taken up by the mind in order to attain the karmic ground of the field of the afflictions of cyclic existence.”
The Bhagavān replied, “There is the Dharma gateway called obtaining the fruit of the field of the afflictions of cyclic existence. There is the Dharma gateway called king of delighting in the field of the afflictions of cyclic existence. There is the Dharma gateway called fixing the mind on the connection with cyclic existence. There is the Dharma gateway called dhāraṇī of supreme delight in cyclic existence. There is the Dharma gateway called migrating within cyclic existence. There is the Dharma gateway called thoroughly raining down upon cyclic existence. There is the Dharma gateway called king of the uninterrupted wind of the continuity of cyclic existence. There is the Dharma gateway called thief of cyclic existence. There is the Dharma gateway called stainless domain of the root of cyclic existence. And there is the Dharma gateway called bringing illumination to all those who abide for a long time in cyclic existence. These ten are the Dharma gateways called the secret aspiration to liberation, which is taken up by the mind in order to attain the karmic ground of the field of the afflictions of cyclic existence.”
At that time, a nāga king named Poisonless made offerings to the Bhagavān and uttered this verse:
This concludes the sixth chapter, on the topic of attaining the level of activity of the field of the afflictions of cyclic existence. [F.161.a]
sprin chen po’i mdo (Mahāmeghasūtra). Toh 232, Degé Kangyur vol. 64 (mdo sde, wa), folios 113.a–214.b.
dri med grags pa’i bstan (Vimalakīrtinirdeśa). Toh 176, Degé Kangyur vol. 60 (mdo sde, ma), folios 175.a–239.a. English translation in Thurman 2017.
yongs su mya ngan las ’das pa chen po (Mahāparinirvāṇa). Toh 120, Degé Kangyur vol. 54 (mdo sde, tha), folios 1.b–151.b.
gser ’od dam pa mdo sde’i dbang po’i rgyal po (Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtrendrarāja). Toh 556, Degé Kangyur vol. 89 (rgyud, pa), folios 151.b–273.a; Toh 557, vol. 90 (rgyud, pha), folios 1.b–62.a.
Denkarma (pho brang stod thang ldan[/lhan] dkar gyi chos ’gyur ro cog gi dkar chag). Toh 4364, Degé Tengyur vol. 206 (sna tshogs, jo), folios 294.b–310.a.
Phangthangma (dkar chag ’phang thang ma). Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2003.
Anesaki, Masaharu. “Docetism (Buddhist),” in Hastings, J. (ed.) Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, pp. 835–840. (Available on Internet Archive). Edinburgh: Clark, 1911.
Brunnhölzl, Karl. When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge Between Sūtra and Tantra. Hamburg: Hamburg University Press, 2015.
Forte, Antonino. Political Propaganda and Ideology in China at the End of the Seventh Century: Inquiry into the Nature, Authors, and Function of the Tunhuang Document S. 6502 Followed by an Annotated Translation. Naples: Instituto Universitario Orientale, Seminario di Studi Asiatici, 1976.
Radich, Michael (2015). The Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra and the Emergence of Tathāgatagarbha Doctrine. Hamburg Buddhist Studies 5. Hamburg: Hamburg University Press, 2015.
Seyfort-Ruegg, David. “Docetism in Mahāyāna Sūtras,” in The symbiosis of Buddhism with Brahmanism/Hinduism in South Asia and of Buddhism with “local cults” in Tibet and the Himalayan region, pp. 31–34. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 2008.
———(2017). “Problems of Attribution, Style, and Dating Relating to the ‘Great Cloud Sutras’ in the Chinese Buddhist Canon (T 387, T 388/S. 6916).” In Buddhist Transformations and Interactions: Essays in Honor of Antonino Forte, edited by Victor H. Mair, 235–89. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2017.
Suzuki Takayasu. “The Mahāmeghasūtra as an Origin of an Interpolated Part of the Present Suvarṇaprabhāsa.” Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies 45, no. 1 (1996): 28–30.
Thurman, Robert A. F., trans. The Teaching of Vimalakīrti (Vimalakīrtinirdeśa, Toh 176). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2017.
Yoshimura Shuki. The Denkar-ma: An Oldest Catalogue of the Tibetan Buddhist Canons. Kyoto: Ryukoku University, 1950.