The Fourfold Accomplishment
Degé Kangyur, vol. 66 (mdo sde, za), folios 61.a–69.b.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The Fourfold Accomplishment revolves around a dialogue between the god Śrībhadra and the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī that takes place in the Jeta Grove at Śrāvastī. At Śrībhadra’s request, Mañjuśrī recalls a teaching that he previously gave to Brahmā Śikhin on the practices of a bodhisattva. The teaching takes the form of a sequence of topics, each of which has four components.
This text was translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the supervision of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The translation was produced by Adam Krug, then checked against the Tibetan and edited by Andreas Doctor.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
Set in Śrāvastī in the Jeta Grove where the Buddha Śākyamuni is accompanied by a large retinue of monks, bodhisattvas, and gods of the desire and form realms, The Fourfold Accomplishment revolves around a dialogue between the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī and a god named Śrībhadra. The text opens with the god Śrībhadra asking Mañjuśrī why he is still making offerings to the Buddha given his advanced spiritual progress. Mañjuśrī’s reply is that bodhisattvas should never be satisfied by the offerings they have made, and that as they make offerings they should focus on four purposes.
This initial part of the sūtra is closely paralleled in another, shorter sūtra, Mañjuśrī’s Teaching (Mañjuśrīnirdeśa, Toh 177),1 in which the setting and opening dialogue are the same but the god is called Susīma instead of Śrībhadra, and the four purposes are phrased in a different way.
In the ensuing exchange (not included in the shorter sūtra), Mañjuśrī delivers a teaching that he had previously given to Brahmā Śikhin called The Fourfold Accomplishment. This teaching presents the path and practice of a bodhisattva in forty-three topics, each of which is divided into four subtopics. The text takes on a distinctly mnemonic character in which the fourfold rubric might allow anyone reading or reciting the text to memorize a broad range of topics related to the practice of a bodhisattva. In addition to this mnemonic application, each brief list of four particular accomplishments invites broader commentary, and in this sense the text provides a readily accessible framework for teaching the bodhisattva path.
After Mañjuśrī has delivered his teaching, Śrībhadra and his retinue scatter celestial flowers on the assembly as an offering. The Buddha then uses his magical powers to reveal a sky full of bodhisattvas seated upon lotuses, and Mañjuśrī explains to Śrībhadra that all of these bodhisattvas are a magical emanation, just like his celestial flower offering. This brings a smile to the Buddha’s lips, and the text introduces its next topic: why, exactly, do buddhas smile? The question, a recurring motif in sūtra literature, echoes in the refrains of a set of poetic verses that Śrībhadra recites before the Buddha, who then answers it by predicting the imminent awakening of the bodhisattvas gathered in the sky to hear the teaching.
The sūtra then turns to a brief dialogue between the Buddha, the god Śrībhadra, and Śāriputra, in which Śāriputra doubts whether there could in fact be innumerable buddhafields and innumerable bodhisattvas who populate them. In his reply, the Buddha delivers a teaching on the vast cosmology of infinite buddhafields. The sūtra then concludes with two additional teachings from Mañjuśrī on thirty-five qualities that ripen bodhisattvas for awakening and ten types of pride that bodhisattvas should avoid.
The Fourfold Accomplishment is listed in both the Denkarma2 and Pangthangma3 royal Tibetan catalogs of translated works, indicating that the first Tibetan translation of the text was completed by the early ninth century. Unfortunately there is no colophon to the Tibetan translation, so the text does not contain any indication as to who produced the Tibetan translation. The single Chinese translation of the text , which we did not consult for the present translation, was translated by Śikṣānanda between 695–700 ᴄᴇ.4 No Sanskrit versions of the text appear to have survived.
This translation was completed based on the Tibetan translation of the text preserved in the Degé edition of the Kangyur in consultation with the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) of the Kangyur and the Stok Palace Kangyur. Any points at which the translation employs variants from editions of the Kangyur other than the Degé have been noted throughout the translation.
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One was in the Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s park at Śrāvastī. He was residing there with a great saṅgha of five hundred monks, one hundred thousand bodhisattvas who had all donned the great armor, and the gods who inhabit the desire and form realms. There, the Blessed One, surrounded and revered by this retinue of hundreds of thousands of beings, taught the Dharma.
Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta raised a jeweled parasol measuring ten leagues in diameter as an offering to the Blessed One and held it above the Blessed One’s head. Within the retinue was a god from the Heaven of Joy named Śrībhadra whose progress toward unsurpassed and perfect awakening had become irreversible. Together with his attendants, he had joined the retinue and taken his seat. Now he rose from his seat, draped his shawl over one shoulder, and knelt on his right knee. Joining his palms, he bowed toward Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta and inquired of him, [F.61.b] “Mañjuśrī, have you still not had enough of making offerings to the Thus-Gone One?”
“Divine being, tell me,” Mañjuśrī asked in return, “is the ocean ever satiated by all of the water that it receives?”
Mañjuśrī then said, “Divine being, bodhisattvas seek boundless and immeasurable omniscient wisdom that is as difficult to fathom as the depths of the great ocean,5 so they can never have enough of making offerings to the Thus-Gone One.”
Mañjuśrī replied, “Divine being, there are four things that bodhisattvas should focus on when they make offerings to the Thus-Gone One. These four are omniscience, liberating all beings, ensuring that the lineage of the Three Jewels is not broken, and attaining the array of qualities of the buddhafield. Divine being, bodhisattvas should make offerings to the Thus-Gone One while focusing on those four things.”
“Mañjuśrī,” said the god, “when you were among the Brahmā realm gods you gave a Dharma teaching to Brahmā Śikhin called The Fourfold Accomplishment of the Bodhisattva Path. Mañjuśrī, would you please teach that? I and everyone in this assembly would like to hear it. Mañjuśrī, bodhisattvas are not stingy with the Dharma, nor are they tight-fisted with the Dharma as teachers.”
“Divine being,” Mañjuśrī replied, “in that case listen well, pay attention, and I will explain the Dharma teaching called The Fourfold Accomplishment to you.
“Divine being, these are the four altruistic intentions that bodhisattvas generate: [F.62.a] bodhisattvas generate the intention to gather together immeasurable beings, they generate the intention to ripen immeasurable beings, they generate the intention to accumulate immeasurable roots of virtue, and they generate the intention to perfectly realize the boundless buddha qualities. Divine being, those are the four altruistic intentions that bodhisattvas generate.
“Divine being, these are the four attitudes bodhisattvas generate that are like a rock: an attitude that has no hostility toward those who make requests, an attitude of compassion toward those who have gone astray, an attitude of not losing insight, and an attitude of bringing all undertakings to completion. Divine being, those are the four attitudes bodhisattvas generate that are like a rock.
“Divine being, these are the four attitudes bodhisattvas generate that are superior: superior discipline, superior learning, superior great love, and superior great compassion.
“Divine being, these are the four attitudes bodhisattvas generate that are stable, substantial, inseparable, and like a vajra: not being separated from the intention, not being separated from spiritual companions, not being separated from striving, and not being separated from the Great Vehicle.
“Divine being, these are the four attitudes bodhisattvas generate that are difficult to accomplish: not being involved with the afflictions; not being involved with gain, honor, and praise; not being involved with a lesser vehicle; and not being involved with crude people. [F.62.b]
“Divine being, these are the four attitudes bodhisattvas generate that are unsurpassed: the wish to relinquish all manner of pleasing things,6 having no regret after giving them away, not wishing for any result, and the attitude of dedication to awakening.
“Divine being, these are the four qualities that crown bodhisattvas: the perfection of wisdom, skill in methods, understanding the true Dharma, and bringing beings to fruition.
“Divine being, these are the four that demonstrate the bodhisattvas’ path to awakening: exerting oneself in the perfections, acting in accord with the means for drawing beings to the path, accomplishing the abodes of Brahmā, and demonstrating playful mastery of the supernatural perceptions.
“Divine being, these four are excellent, holy, and supreme among the qualities of the bodhisattvas: having no hostility toward anyone, generating the wish to liberate those who oppose oneself, being conscientious regardless of one’s wealth or the vastness of one’s domain, and acting in accord with the Dharma, no matter how destitute and poor one may be.
“Divine being, these are the four inclinations of bodhisattvas: being satisfied with one’s own wealth as a householder, harboring no desire for another’s wealth, being satisfied with the family of the noble ones after one has gone forth, and adopting ascetic practices and reducing one’s material possessions.
“Divine being, these are the four gifts of bodhisattvas: the gift of Dharma; the gift of material wealth; the gift of paper, ink, pens, and books; [F.63.a] and the gift of wholeheartedly exclaiming ‘Well done!’ to those who teach the Dharma.7
“Divine being, these are the four essentials of bodhisattvas: essential perseverance rather than studying, essential relinquishment rather than having possessions, essential service to the teacher8 rather than to the body, and the essential development of roots of virtue rather than a livelihood.
“Divine being, these are the four things that bodhisattvas should not forsake: they should not forsake the thought of awakening, they should not forsake the holy Dharma, they should not forsake beings, and they should not forsake pursuing any qualities that are roots of virtue.
“Divine being, these are the four motives of bodhisattvas: dwelling in the deep forest, delighting in solitude, yearning for virtuous qualities, and skillfully ripening beings.
“Divine being, these are the four mansions of bodhisattvas: the abodes of Brahmā, being delighted when hearing the Dharma expounded, reflecting on emptiness, and gathering with beings of the same spiritual lineage.
“Divine being, these four are the bodhisattvas’ inexhaustible wealth: the wealth of learning, the wealth of teaching the Dharma, the wealth of assembling beings in need, and the wealth of dedication to awakening.
“Divine being, these are the four treasures of bodhisattvas: the treasure of retention, the treasure of eloquence, the treasure of the Dharma, and the treasure of dedication to inexhaustible enjoyment.
“Divine being, these are the bodhisattvas’ four types of departure: [F.63.b] departure from society, departure from all inhabited lands, departure from ignoble intentions, and departure from all the three realms.
“Divine being, these are the bodhisattvas’ four types of happiness: the happiness of being free from possessiveness and grasping due to a disregard for all material things, the happiness of solitude due to abandoning one’s homeland, the happiness of quiescence due to relinquishing the afflictions, and the happiness of attaining nirvāṇa by not forsaking beings.
“Divine being, these are the bodhisattvas’ four supreme joys: supreme joy due to seeing the Thus-Gone One, supreme joy due to hearing the Dharma, supreme joy due to giving without regret, and supreme joy due to engendering happiness in all beings.
“Divine being, these are the bodhisattvas’ four truths: not forsaking the thought of awakening, not breaking one’s commitments, not forsaking those who have taken refuge, and restraining one’s speech so that one always speaks the truth.
“Divine being, these are the bodhisattvas’ four virtuous qualities: applying oneself with good intentions to all virtuous qualities, not harboring contempt toward anyone who is untrained, becoming a friend to all beings without being asked, and not hoping for any reward because one has already accomplished all manner of good qualities and because one does not wish to be compensated.
“Divine being, these four are the pure practices of bodhisattvas: pure discipline because of the lack of self, pure absorption because of the non-existence of beings, pure insight because of the non-existence of the soul, and [F.64.a] pure liberation because of the non-existence of persons.
“Divine being, these are the four feet of bodhisattvas: the foot of the Dharma, the foot of purpose, the foot of engaging in the ascetic practices and having few possessions, and the foot of gathering9 the accumulations of the path of awakening.
“Divine being, these are the four hands of bodhisattvas: the hand of faith, the hand of discipline, the hand of learning, and the hand of insight.
“Divine being, these are the four eyes of bodhisattvas: the physical eye due to correct karmic action, the divine eye due to undiminished supernatural perception, the eye of insight due to possessing the power of extensive learning, and the Dharma eye due to reflection on all phenomena.
“Divine being, these are the four things that bodhisattvas never tire of: they never tire of generosity, they never tire of living in the deep forest, they never tire of hearing the Dharma, and they never tire of the entire collection of virtuous qualities.
“Divine being, these are the four hardships of bodhisattvas: the hardship of being patient and tolerant toward beings who are weak; the hardship of wanting to give all one’s possessions to the poor; the hardship of not being angry at those who ask for one’s head—that most important body part—but instead generating the thought that they are one’s spiritual teacher; and the hardship of taking birth at will due to not conceptualizing birth.
“Divine being, these are the bodhisattvas’ four types of good health: being healthy because the elements are in balance, being healthy because one is not tormented by the afflictions, [F.64.b] being healthy because one will establish all beings in happiness, and being healthy because one harbors no doubts regarding any phenomena.
“Divine being, these are the four personal perspectives of bodhisattvas: the perspective of the perfections, the perspective of the factors of awakening, the perspective of the authentic spiritual teacher, and the perspective of not committing any misdeeds.
“Divine being, these are the four unshakable qualities that bodhisattvas possess: the unshakable mind of awakening, unshakable commitments, the unshakable practice of what one preaches, and unshakable correct exertion.
“Divine being, these are the bodhisattvas’ four accumulations: the accumulation of tranquility, the accumulation of special insight, the accumulation of learning, and the accumulation of all roots of virtue.
“Divine being, these are the four ways that bodhisattvas integrate the teachings: integrating intention with application, integrating giving away with dedication, integrating love with compassion, and integrating method with wisdom.
“Divine being, these four dreams are consequences of the bodhisattvas’ Dharma10 obscurations: seeing a dirty well yet still seeing the moon at the bottom; seeing a muddy pond, pool, or well yet still seeing the moon at the bottom; seeing the moon although the sky is cloudy; and seeing the moon although the sky appears shrouded in wind, dust, and smoke.
“Divine being, these four dreams are consequences of the bodhisattvas’ karmic obscurations: [F.65.a] seeing oneself fall from a high cliff into an abyss; seeing a road with highs and lows; seeing oneself set out on a narrow roadway; being lost in the dream and seeing many terrifying things.
“Divine being, these four dreams are consequences of the bodhisattvas’ afflictive obscurations: seeing someone convulsing due to a strong poison, hearing the call of a large pack of vicious predators, seeing oneself living among rogues, and seeing one’s body and clothing covered with filth.
“Divine being, these four dreams are consequences of the bodhisattvas’ attaining dhāraṇī: seeing a great treasure chest filled with many jewels, seeing a pool filled with blooming lotus flowers, seeing oneself finding a bundle of white cloth, and seeing a god with a parasol being held over his head.
“Divine being, these four dreams are consequences of the bodhisattvas’ attaining absorption: seeing an attractive girl with beautiful jewelry who offers worship by scattering flowers, seeing a flock of pure white swans flying in the sky and calling out, seeing the hand of the luminous Thus-Gone One being placed on the top of one’s head, and seeing the Thus-Gone One seated on a lotus and engaged in concentration.
“Divine being, these four dreams are consequences of the bodhisattvas’ seeing the Thus-Gone One: seeing a moonrise, seeing a sunrise, seeing a lotus flower opening, and seeing the lord of the Brahmā realms in the posture of utter quiescence. Divine being, those four [F.65.b] dreams are consequences of the bodhisattvas’ seeing the Thus-Gone One.
“Divine being, these four dreams are consequences of the bodhisattvas’ particular characteristics: seeing a great sāla tree that is full of brilliantly colored leaves, flowers, and fruits; seeing a metal bowl filled with gold; seeing the sky filled with parasols, banners, and standards; and seeing a great universal emperor.
“Divine being, these four dreams are consequences of the bodhisattvas’ taming Māra: seeing a great champion overcome all of the enemy’s champions, raise a standard, and advance; seeing a great hero defeat an army and then advance; seeing a king being consecrated; and seeing oneself sitting at the seat of awakening and taming Māra.
“Divine being, these are the four corresponding dreams that are signs of the bodhisattvas’ non-regression: seeing a white diadem affixed on one’s head, seeing oneself making unstinting offerings, seeing oneself seated on a great Dharma seat, and seeing the Thus-Gone One sitting at the seat of awakening and teaching the Dharma.
“Divine being, these four dreams are consequences of the bodhisattvas’ attainment of the seat of awakening: seeing a vase; seeing oneself surrounded by blue roller birds; seeing that wherever one goes, all of the trees first reach upward, then bow and pay homage; and seeing a bright golden light. Divine being, those four dreams are consequences of the bodhisattvas’ attainment of the seat of awakening.”
When Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta gave this Dharma teaching on The Fourfold Accomplishment, [F.66.a] the god Śrībhadra was happy and rejoiced. Since he had become exceedingly happy, delighted, and joyful, he and his retinue showered the entire retinue with divine mandārava flowers as well as blue, pink, red, and white lotus flowers as an offering to Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta. As soon as they had scattered the flowers, through the power of the Buddha, beautiful, fragrant, and delightful lotus flowers the size of chariot wheels appeared in the sky above them. In the center of each of the flowers were bodhisattvas ornamented with the thirty-two marks of a great being.
“Divine being, where did these flowers of yours come from?” Mañjuśrī asked in return.
Mañjuśrī then said, “Divine being, you should view the bodies of those bodhisattvas just as you view these flowers—as emanations.”
At that moment the Blessed One smiled. As happens when the blessed buddhas smile, a multitude of light rays of various colors—blue, yellow, red, white, violet, and crystalline—emanated from the mouth of the Blessed One. These light rays pervaded infinite and limitless world systems and reached all the way up to the realm of Brahmā above. Their splendor outshone the radiance of the sun and the moon. Then the light rays returned and dissolved into the Blessed One’s crown. [F.66.b]
At that point the god Śrībhadra rose from his seat, arranged his shawl over one shoulder, and knelt on his right knee. Joining his palms, he bowed toward the Blessed One and praised the Blessed One with these verses:
“Yes, Blessed One, I see them.”
“Divine being,” the Blessed One then explained, “all these bodhisattvas have gathered from the ten directions to hear the Dharma in the presence of Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta. They have come to hear this Dharma teaching on The Fourfold Accomplishment. Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta ripened all these bodhisattvas. All these bodhisattvas are now only one birth away from unsurpassed and perfect awakening. They will fully awaken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood in one buddhafield or another, each with their various names, throughout the worlds in the ten directions.”
“Blessed One,” said Śāriputra, “in one instant, one moment, or one second, I can count all the stars in an entire three-thousandfold universe. However, Blessed One, I would be unable to count these bodhisattvas even in a hundred years.” [F.67.b]
“Śāriputra,” the Blessed One replied, “even if this continent of Jambūdvīpa were filled with minute particles, it would be possible to determine their number by counting them. However, it would be impossible to determine the number of these bodhisattvas by counting them, because the bodhisattvas that have gathered here are that innumerable.”
“Silence, Śāriputra, do not say that,” replied the Blessed One. “Śāriputra, the thus-gone ones empty countless buddhafields. Consider this, Śāriputra: The lifespan of the thus-gone ones lasts for as many eons as there are grains of sand in the Ganges. Each and every day each one delivers as many Dharma teachings as there are grains of sand in the Ganges, and in all of those Dharma teachings he prophesies as many bodhisattvas as there are grains of sand in the Ganges. Even if one were to identify a single bodhisattva to the east, beyond as many buddhafields as there are grains of sand in the Ganges, the thus-gone one will empty that many buddhafields.11 Therefore, it goes without saying that the thus-gone ones, who know the minds of all beings born into the buddhafields of the ten directions, whom they perceive with the ordinary, corporeal eye of a thus-gone one, will empty all those buddhafields.”
At that point the great hearers and the entire retinue were amazed and exclaimed, “Our teachers have such vast magical powers, are so mighty, and have such great supreme knowledge! We are so fortunate!”
The bodhisattvas who had assembled from the worlds in the ten directions [F.68.a] and hovered in the air now descended from the sky and bowed their heads at the feet of the Blessed One and Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta, circumambulated them, and then departed into the ten directions.
At that point the god Śrībhadra said to Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta, “Mañjuśrī, you performed these deeds and ripened countless beings for awakening—well done! Mañjuśrī, please grace us with your eloquence, beginning with the teachings that ripen the awakening of bodhisattvas.”
“Divine being,” replied Mañjuśrī, “there are thirty-five teachings that ripen the awakening of bodhisattvas. The thirty-five teachings are these: urging them toward timeliness; urging them toward moderation; urging them toward proportion; urging them toward capacity; urging them toward stability; urging them toward the perfections; urging them toward method; urging them toward the altruistic intention; urging them toward great love; urging them toward great compassion; urging them toward the Great Vehicle; urging them toward the Lesser Vehicle; urging them toward the truth; urging them to act on it; urging them to protect the Dharma; urging them to teach what they have studied; urging them to not discriminate among various types of beings; urging them to be equally generous to those who have faulty discipline and those who observe discipline; urging them to declare the work of Māra; urging them to fulfill their promises; urging them to not grow weary of cyclic existence; urging them to subdue Māra; urging them to be grateful and appreciative; urging them to eliminate the cause; urging them to not be afraid of the gateways to liberation; urging them to worship and serve the Thus-Gone One; urging them to joyfully consider ways to help beings; [F.68.b] urging them to not mix that with worldly Dharma; urging them to delight in the deep forest; urging them to have few desires and be content; urging them toward the past as well as the future;12 urging them to liberate those who are not liberated; urging them to comfort those who are not comforted; urging those who have not passed into parinirvāṇa to pass into parinirvāṇa;13 urging them to not interrupt the lineage of the Three Jewels; and urging them to accept the array of good qualities of the buddhafield as completely pure. Divine being, those are the thirty-five teachings that ripen the awakening of bodhisattvas.
“Divine being, bodhisattvas who have been ripened do not waver from unsurpassed and perfect awakening. No opponent whatsoever can overpower them. From then on, they no longer fear14 a bodhisattva’s ten types of pride. The ten types of pride are these: pride due to being disciplined; pride due to being learned; pride due to being eloquent; pride due to being successful, revered, and praised; pride due to living in the deep forest; pride due to one’s ascetic practices and having few belongings; pride due to being attractive, wealthy, powerful, and having attendants; pride due to Śakra, Brahmā, and the world protectors offering service; pride due to one’s absorption and supernatural perception; and being free from any arrogance due to the fact that the gods, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, and mahoragas who have faith in the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha are fond of, praise, and glorify them. Divine being, they are not at all arrogant due to those ten types of a bodhisattva’s pride.”
The Blessed One replied, “Yes, divine being, that is correct. What you say is true. Wherever Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta is, that place will not seem empty.15 Wherever this Dharma teaching is performed, that is the endeavor of the Thus-Gone One, the lord of Dharma. Those beings who hear this Dharma teaching and develop interest in it become my followers. The beings who hear this Dharma teaching and develop interest in it should be regarded as having been trained by the Thus-Gone One. Those who understand this Dharma teaching and persist in their pursuit of suchness will not regress from unsurpassed and perfect awakening.”
The Blessed One then said to the bodhisattva Maitreya, the elder Mahākāśyapa, and Venerable Ānanda, “Holy beings, I entrust this Dharma teaching to you so that you may adopt, uphold, teach, and master it. Soon I will pass into parinirvāṇa, so rely on this Dharma teaching that carries out the buddhas’ work for all beings.”
After the Blessed One had said this, the bodhisattva Maitreya, [F.69.b] Venerable Mahākāśyapa, Venerable Ānanda, and the world with its gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas rejoiced and praised the Blessed One’s words.
This concludes The Noble Mahāyāna Sūtra “The Fourfold Accomplishment.”
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Abodes of Brahmā
- tshangs pa’i gnas
The name of a meditation practice focusing on the cultivation of compassion (karuṇā), love (maitri), empathetic joy (muditā) and equanimity (upekṣā).
- nyon mongs
A type of mental imperfection; the most basic afflictions are attachment, aversion, and confusion.
- kun dga’ bo
The Buddha’s cousin and principal attendant.
- sbyangs pa’i yon tan
An optional set of thirteen practices that monastics can adopt in order to cultivate greater detachment. They consist of (1) wearing patched robes made from discarded cloth rather than from cloth donated by laypeople; (2) wearing only three robes; (3) going for alms; (4) not omitting any house while on the alms round, rather than begging only at those houses known to provide good food; (5) eating only what can be eaten in one sitting; (6) eating only food received in the alms bowl, rather than more elaborate meals presented to the saṅgha; (7) refusing more food after indicating one has eaten enough; (8) dwelling in the forest; (9) dwelling at the root of a tree; (10) dwelling in the open air, using only a tent made from one’s robes as shelter; (11) dwelling in a charnel ground; (12) satisfaction with whatever dwelling one has; and (13) sleeping in a sitting position without ever lying down.
- lha ma yin
The traditional adversaries of the devas (gods) who are frequently portrayed in brahmanical mythology as having a disruptive effect on cosmological and social harmony.
- bcom ldan ’das
In the Buddhist context, it is an epithet of the buddhas. In Sanskrit, it literaly means “One who has bhaga,” which has many diverse meanings, including good fortune, happiness, and majesty; and more specifically to this context, it is used to define someone who as possessor of six specific qualities as well as beeing a conqueror of māras. The usual definition of the Tibetan term is bcom (“subdue”), referring to the subduing of the four māras; ldan (“to possess”), referring to the possession of the great qualities of buddhahood; and ’das (“beyond,” “transcended”), meaning that such a person has gone beyond saṃsāra and nirvāṇa. In this text, it refers to the Buddha Śākyamuni.
Blue roller bird
- tsa sha
The bird Coracias indica.
- tshangs pa
A high-ranking deity presiding over a divine world where other beings consider him the creator; he is also considered to be the lord of the Sahā world (our universe).
- tshangs pa gtsug phud can
- Brahmā Śikhin
In some canonical sources, this name denotes Brahmā Sahāmpati, the lord of the Sahā universe who famously asked the Buddha Śākyamuni to teach for the first time. See, for example, Tathāgatācintyaguhyanirdeśa (Toh 47), Lalitavistara (Toh 95), and Tathāgatamahākaruṇānirdeśa (Toh 147). But in another canonical text, Saddharmapuṇḍarīka (Toh 113), it is used for a different Brahmā god. The current sūtra does not provide enough context to allow us to determine which of these two gods is under discussion.
- sangs rgyas kyi zhing
A pure realm manifested by a buddha or advanced bodhisattva through the power of their great merit and aspirations.
- ’dod khams
In Buddhist cosmology, it is our sphere of existence where beings are driven primarily by the urge for sense gratification.
Often this term has the meaning of memory, or retention. It can also refer to a magical formula invoking a particular deity for a particular purpose; in this function dhāraṇīs are longer than most mantras, and their application is more specialized.
In different contexts four, five, or six elements may be enumerated. The four elements are earth, water, fire, and air. A fifth, space, is often added. The six elements are earth, water, fire, air, space, and consciousness. According to traditional Indian medicine, many diseases arise when the elements of the body become unbalanced.
Factors of awakening
- byang chub kyi phyogs kyi chos
Thirty-seven practices that lead the practitioner to the awakened state: the four applications of mindfulness, the four authentic eliminations, the four bases of supernatural power, the five masteries, the five powers, the eightfold path, and the seven branches of awakening.
- gzugs khams
In Buddhist cosmology, the sphere of existence one level more subtle than our own (the desire realm), where beings, though subtly embodied, are not driven primarily by the urge for sense gratification.
- dri za
A lower class of divine being, under the control of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, the Great King of the East. Capable of flight, they are often described as “celestial musicians.”
- gang gA
The sacred river of North India.
- nam mkha’ lding
A class of divine creatures with the bodies of giant birds.
Gateways to liberation
- rnam par thar pa’i sgo
There are three, namely emptiness as a gateway to liberation, signlessness as a gateway to liberation, and aspirationlessness as a gateway to liberation. Among them, emptiness is characterized as the absence of inherent existence, signlessness as the absence of mental images, and aspirationlessness as the absence of hopes and fears.
One of the six classes of sentient beings. According to Buddhist cosmology, the gods are said to exist in many levels of celestial or divine realms.
- theg pa chen po
When the Buddhist teachings are classified according to their power to lead beings to an awakened state, a distinction is made between the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle, which emphasizes the individual’s own freedom from cyclic existence as the primary motivation and goal, and those of the Great Vehicle, which emphasizes altruism and has the liberation of all sentient beings as the principal objective. As the term “Great Vehicle” implies, the path followed by bodhisattvas is analogous to a large carriage that can transport a vast number of people to liberation, as compared to a smaller vehicle for the individual practitioner. See also “Lesser Vehicle.”
- nyan thos
Someone who practices according to the Vehicle of the Hearers (those who hear the teachings from others); or, someone who heard the Dharma from the Buddha. See also “Lesser Vehicle.”
Heaven of Joy
- dga’ ldan
A divine world located in the desire realm. In Buddhist thought, this is where all future buddhas dwell prior to their complete awakening.
- shes rab
The sixth of the six perfections, it refers to the profound understanding of the emptiness of all phenomena, the realization of ultimate reality. It is also one of the five powers.
- ’dzam bu’i gling
The name of the southern continent in śrāvaka Buddhist cosmology.
- mi ’am ci
A class of semidivine beings that resemble humans to the degree that their very name—which means “Is that a man?”—suggests some confusion as to their divine status.
- theg pa dman pa
It is a collective term used by proponents of the Great Vehicle to refer to the śrāvakayāna (hearer vehicle) and pratyekabuddhayāna (solitary buddha vehicle). The name stems from their goal—i.e. nirvāṇa and personal liberation—being seen as small or lesser than the goal of the Great Vehicle—i.e. buddhahood and liberation of all sentient beings. See also “Great Vehicle.”
- ’od srung chen po
One of the principal disciples of the Buddha, known for his ascetic practice.
- lto ’phye chen po
Demons shaped like enormous serpents.
- byams pa
Name of a bodhisattva, believed to be the future buddha after Śākyamuni, the fifth buddha of this eon
- man dA ra ba
Flowers of the Erythrina indica, native to India and commonly known as the coral tree. The flowers have scarlet red petals.
- ’jam dpal
The bodhisattva known for his mastery of wisdom. Also rendered here as Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta.
- ’jam dpal gzhon nur gyur pa
The bodhisattva known for his mastery of wisdom. Also rendered here simply as Mañjuśrī.
The name of the demonic being or beings that work to reinforce and maintain the veils of ordinary existence that obscure the nature of reality.
Mind of awakening
- byang chub kyi sems
The altruistic resolve to achieve complete and perfect Buddhahood for the sake of oneself and all sentient beings.
A semidivine class of beings that live in subterranean aquatic environments and that are known to hoard wealth and esoteric teachings. They are associated with snakes and serpents.
- mya ngan las ’das pa
Literally “extinction,” the state beyond sorrow, it refers to the ultimate attainment of buddhahood, the permanent cessation of all suffering and of the afflicted mental states that lead to suffering. Three types of nirvāṇa are identified: (1) the residual nirvāṇa where the person is still dependent on conditioned psycho-physical aggregates, (2) the non-residual nirvāṇa where the aggregates have also been consumed within emptiness, and (3) the non-abiding nirvāṇa transcending the extremes of phenomenal existence and quiescence. See also “parinirvāṇa.”
- yongs su mya ngan las ’das pa
The final or complete nirvāṇa, which occurs when a worthy one (arhat) or a buddha passes away. It implies the non-residual nirvāṇa where the aggregates have also been consumed within emptiness. See also “nirvāṇa.”
- pha rol tu phyin pa
The trainings of the bodhisattva path: generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration, and insight.
- brgya byin
Alternate name for Indra, the lord who rules the Heaven of the Thirty-Three.
- shAkya thub pa
Lit. “Sage of the Śākya.” In Great Vehicle literature, this is one of the most common epithets of the historical Buddha, the buddha of our time, also known as Gautama Buddha.
- sA la
Usually identified as Shorea robusta, known as the kind of tree under which the Buddha was born and passed away.
- shA ri’i bu
One of the principal disciples of the Buddha, known for his pure discipline.
Seat of awakening
- byang chug kyi snying po
The name of the seat or platform located beneath the Bodhi tree where Śākyamuni Buddha attained awakening.
- nor bdun
The seven riches of noble beings: faith, discipline, generosity, learning, modesty, humility, and insight.
- mnyan yod
The capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom in India.
- stobs bcu
A category of the distinctive qualities of a tathāgata. They are: knowing what is possible and what is impossible; knowing the results of actions or the ripening of karma; knowing the various inclinations of sentient beings; knowing the various elements; knowing the supreme and lesser faculties of sentient beings; knowing the paths that lead to all destinations of rebirth; knowing the concentrations, liberations, absorptions, equilibriums, afflictions, purifications, and abidings; knowing previous lives; knowing the death and rebirth of sentient beings; and knowing the cessation of the defilements.
Thirty-two marks of a great being
- skyes bu chen po’i mtshan sum cu rtsa gnyis
The main identifying physical characteristics of both buddhas and universal monarchs, to which are added the so-called “eighty minor marks.”
- dri ma gsum
Anger, desire, and delusion.
- stong gsum gyi stong chen po’i ’jig rten gyi khams
The largest universe spoken of in Buddhist cosmology, consisting of one billion smaller world systems.
- de bzhin gshegs pa
A frequently used synonym for a buddha. The expression is interpreted in different ways, but in general it implies one who has arrived at the realization of the ultimate state. Here used as a specific epithet of the Buddha Śākyamuni.
- zhi gnas
One of the basic forms of Buddhist meditation, which focuses on calming the mind. Often presented as part of a pair of meditation techniques, with the other being “special insight.”
- ’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.
- rdo rje
The term stands for indestructibility and perfect stability. According to Indian mythology, the vajra is the god Indra’s weapon, which made him invincible. According to the Purāṇas, the vajra was made of the bones of the sage Dadhichi, who gave up his life, so that the gods could defeat the asuras.
- gnod sbyin
A class of semidivine beings said to dwell in the north, under the jurisdiction of the Great King Vaiśravaṇa, otherwise known as Kubera.