The Quintessence of the Sun
The Travel to Mount Sumeru
Degé Kangyur, vol. 66 (mdo sde, za), folios 91.b–245.b
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
First published 2022
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The Quintessence of the Sun is a long and heterogeneous sūtra in eleven chapters. At the Veṇuvana in the Kalandakanivāpa on the outskirts of Rājagṛha, the Buddha Śākyamuni first explains to a great assembly the severe consequences of stealing what has been offered to monks and the importance of protecting those who abide by the Dharma. The next section tells of bodhisattvas sent from buddha realms in the four directions to bring various dhāraṇīs as a way of protecting and benefitting this world. While explaining those dhāraṇīs, the Buddha Śākyamuni presents various meditations on repulsiveness and instructions on the empty nature of phenomena. On the basis of another long narrative involving Māra and groups of nāgas, detailed teachings on astrology are also introduced, as are a number of additional dhāraṇīs and a list of sacred locations blessed by the presence of holy beings.
This text was translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the supervision of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. Benjamin Collet-Cassart translated the text from Tibetan into English and wrote the introduction. Andreas Doctor compared the draft translation with the original Tibetan and edited the text.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous sponsorship of Jamyang Sun and Manju Sun, which helped make the work on this translation possible, is most gratefully acknowledged.
The Travel to Mount Sumeru
Then, the Blessed One said to the bodhisattva great being Jyotīrasa, “Noble son, tell me the message of that group of nāgas.”
With a mind devoid of afflictions, Jyotīrasa replied, “Blessed One, it is time for you to come! Blessed One, please perform your deeds!”
The Blessed One replied, “Noble son, [F.220.a] it is time for the Thus-Gone One to reveal the inconceivable teaching on the nāgas’ karmic action—the teaching of purification.”
At that moment, everyone—from all the gods to all the kumbhāṇḍas—showered rains of flowers, perfumes, precious gems, fine fabrics, Dharma robes, ornaments, embroideries, parasols, banners, and flags and offered music by playing myriads of instruments, and all the humans and nonhumans praised his qualities. Amid all this, the Blessed One stood up and departed toward the north, in the direction of Mount Sumeru.
All the gods of the desire and the form realms understood that the Blessed One wanted to go to the summit of Mount Sumeru attended by his saṅgha of hearers and surrounded by his saṅgha of bodhisattvas. When he saw this, Brahmā, lord of the Sahā world, manifested a stairway for the Blessed One made of the seven precious substances and covered with various fine fabrics and divine precious flowers. He said, “Blessed One, please proceed on your way by using my stairway!”
The gods of the Heaven of Making Use of Others’ Emanations also manifested for the Blessed One a stairway made of gold from the Jambū River and covered with various powders of the most precious types of sandalwood. They said, “Blessed One, please proceed on your way by using our stairway!”
The gods of the Heaven of Delighting in Emanations also manifested for the Blessed One a stairway made of divine gold and covered with bright powders of white sandalwood. They said, “Blessed One, please proceed on your way by using our stairway!” [F.220.b]
The supreme god of the Heaven of Joy also manifested for the Blessed One a stairway made of divine beryl and covered with bright powders of yellow sandalwood. He said, “Blessed One, please proceed on your way by using my stairway!”
The supreme god of the Heaven Free from Strife also manifested for the Blessed One a stairway made of divine beryl and covered with bright divine powders. He said, “Blessed One, please proceed on your way by using my stairway!”
Śakra, lord of the gods, also manifested for the Blessed One a stairway made of red pearls and covered with bright powders of divine sandalwood and garlands of precious gems. He said, “Blessed One, please proceed on your way by using our stairway!”
The Four Great Kings also manifested for the Blessed One a stairway made of divine emeralds and covered with a variety of divine fabrics. They said, “Blessed One, please proceed to the summit of Mount Sumeru by using our stairway!”
The four rulers of the asuras and their retinues also manifested for the Blessed One a stairway made of divine white coral and covered with bright divine golden powders. They said, “Blessed One, please proceed to the summit of Mount Sumeru by using our stairway!”
Out of affection for them, the Blessed One agreed, and so he emanated six buddhas similar to himself. Then, through this great display of the Blessed One, those seven buddhas, attended by hearers and surrounded by saṅghas of bodhisattvas, arrived at the summit of Mount Sumeru in front of all the rulers of the gods and the asuras. Those seven buddhas sat on the summit of Mount Sumeru, shining through their sublime brilliance and radiance. [F.221.a] From the bodies of each of those buddhas radiated light like the light emitted by ten billion suns and moons.
When they saw this, all the nāgas who had assembled at the sacred site of wise sages became curious and asked one another, “Where do those seven beings who dwell within that brilliant light on the summit of Mount Sumeru come from?”
Nanda and Upananda said, “Those who dwell on the summit of Mount Sumeru together with the gods come from the Priests of Brahmā. They are the most supreme divine lords and have perfected the knowledge of the wisest beings. They are dwelling there out of love for us, and they bring us delight through their glorious brilliance. They will liberate us from our bondages, so you should all pay homage to them!”
Anavatapta said, “It is not them! This is the evil Māra, the leader of beings, the lord of the desire realm gifted with magical powers. Out of affection for you, he is dwelling there surrounded by his sons and other beings. He will liberate all the sentient beings who are afraid68 of the sufferings of the desire realm—hunger, thirst, and disease. He will quickly liberate you from your sufferings.”
Lord of the Earth said, “It is not him! These are the Great Kings, the rulers of the gods, and the gods of the Heaven Free from Strife, the Heaven of Joy, the Heaven of Delighting in Emanations, and the Heaven of Making Use of Others’ Emanations. They are dwelling on that mountain out of affection for you, and they look upon our group of nāgas. We should all call to them for help and shout with loud voices, ‘Please protect us!’ Since they are constantly blissful, they will liberate you from your prisons.”
Sāgara said, “It is not them! This is the majestic and resplendent Śakra, lord of the gods, together with his retinue. He looks lovingly upon all those within this four-continent world who are following the Dharma. All of you, generate love in your minds and quickly let go of anger! [F.221.b] He will quickly liberate the nāgas—he will liberate you from this place and from all your fears.”
Supratiṣṭhita said, “It is not him! These are hosts of majestic gods from the form realms who are endowed with concentration and bliss. They have ascended this sacred site of wise sages for the sake of sentient beings, and they are now sitting here. Out of love, they will quickly pacify the suffering of beings in all directions and will shower down a rain of Dharma. All of you, pay homage to them with divine minds! They will liberate us from this place.”
The nāga Body-Piercing Needle said, “These are not the gods of the form realms! These are the four demon leaders—Kubera, Supreme Being, Nectar Drink, and Bound in Movement. Surrounded by groups of yakṣas, they protect the four directions and free sinful beings. When they see our weak69 minds, they will quickly liberate us.”
The nāga Precious Protector said, “It is not them! They seem to be monks sitting there with shaved heads and saffron robes. All of you, look at them! They are sitting with their palms joined, like moons surrounded by stars. I70 see those seven as monks with shaved heads who have reached great accomplishments and are steady in their spiritual observances. I see those monks with saffron robes. They are adorned with the marks and worthy to be worshiped by all beings.”
The nāga Body-Piercing Needle then said, “This is the great leader of the world himself! This is how it seems to me. He is the universal friend of sentient beings, the protector of beings who clears away the ocean of suffering. The other sages that appear together with him are his emanations. He is dwelling there out of love for us, and he will liberate you from your sufferings.”
As soon as the Blessed One sat down on the summit of Mount Sumeru, a hundred thousand retinues took place along eighty-four leagues of that mountain. Above the Blessed One, [F.222.a] the gods of the desire and form realms emanated a storied mansion made of the divine seven precious substances that stretched all the way up to the divine abode of the Highest Heaven. It was multicolored, delightful to behold, and adorned all along its many hundreds of thousands of leagues. To worship the Blessed One, they also manifested a variety of divine fabrics, ornaments, embroideries, parasols, banners, flags, perfumes, and flowers to adorn him.
Then, the Blessed One summoned Śakra, lord of the gods, and said to him, “Kauśika, I, buddhas, bodhisattva great beings, great hearers, sages, māras, gods renowned for their great power, nāgas, yakṣas, humans, and nonhumans have resided in the buddha realm of Sahā. Similarly, the Thus-Gone One himself now resides here on Mount Sumeru, as do those bodhisattva great beings who have come from all the buddha realms of the ten directions and those gods renowned for their great power. May the beings residing on the summit of Mount Sumeru bring you welfare and happiness!”
Śakra replied, “Respected Blessed One, since you act out of affection for us, and since all of us—māras, Śakra, Brahmā, lords of the gods, lords of the nāgas, lords of the yakṣas, lords of the gandharvas, lords of the asuras, lords of the garuḍas, lords of the kinnaras, lords of the mahoragas, [F.222.b] sentient beings renowned for great power, divine sages, and human sages—have assembled here in this buddha realm of Sahā to pay homage to the Blessed One, revere him, and bring him enjoyment as he resides on Mount Sumeru, we will all meet with great welfare and happiness here!”
While sitting there, the Blessed One smiled, and various blue, yellow, red, white, violet, and crystalline light rays radiated from his mouth. Those light rays spread out and pervaded all the buddha realms of the billions of abodes of Māra, Śakra, Brahmā, and everyone else, including the rulers of the gods, the asuras, and the sages. In those abodes, all the beings renowned for their great power who were given the names Māra up to sages were touched by the light. They all left their abodes and instantly arrived at the summit of Mount Sumeru before the Blessed One and his six buddha emanations.
The Blessed One then ceased his emanations and declared, “Among all the billions of Mount Sumerus present in my buddha realm, I have explained that this Mount Sumeru is the most supreme and eminent. All the great assemblies reside on this Mount Sumeru—it is the king of all Mount Sumerus!”
When they heard this, Śakra (Kauśika) and everyone else including Brahmā, lord of the Sahā world, became elated and overjoyed.
Through the power of the Blessed One, the four great nāga kings then left the sacred site of wise sages. With his tail still resting in the great southern ocean, [F.223.a] the nāga king Sāgara stretched his head up to the summit of Mount Sumeru, where he gazed one-pointedly at the Blessed One. Similarly, with their tails resting respectively in the great western, northern, and eastern oceans, the nāga kings Precious Protector, Body-Piercing Needle, and Harsh to the Moon stretched their heads up to the summit of Mount Sumeru, where they all gazed one-pointedly at the Blessed One. The remaining countless trillions of nāgas were unable to leave, and so they supplicated stealthily, “Please protect us and liberate us from this prison!”
The nāga kings Nanda and Upananda thought, “The Blessed One will descend to the ground from the summit of Mount Sumeru. He will then reside here and teach the Dharma to the nāgas.” With this in mind, they both stretched their own bodies from the ground all the way up to the summit of Mount Sumeru.
Śakra thought, “Oh! The bodies of those nāgas are rough and dangerous to touch. It would be terrible if they were to harm the soles of the Blessed One’s feet!” With this in mind, he then draped the bodies of the nāgas in divine fabrics, and their heads with powders made of the finest sandalwood and leaves of tamāla trees. He also tossed divine flowers onto them.
The Blessed One now expanded the size of the sacred site of wise sages to a width of eighty-four quintillion leagues, and in the middle of it Brahmā, lord of the Sahā world, spread cushions adorned with divine fabrics, ornaments, jewels, and precious gems.
At that moment, while sitting on the summit of Mount Sumeru, the Blessed One said to Ājñātakauṇḍinya, [F.223.b] “I teach the Dharma through the magical and transformative power of the buddhas’ domain, so that everyone throughout the entire buddha realm of Sahā may hear it. Kauṇḍinya, clinging to the arising, continuation, origination, and appropriation of the eye is the arising of suffering. It is a disease and the perpetuation of the factors of existence. It is the manifestation of old age and death. Kauṇḍinya, clinging to the arising, continuation, origination, and appropriation of the ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind is the arising of suffering. It is a disease and the perpetuation of the factors of existence. It is the manifestation of old age and death. Kauṇḍinya, the cessation, pacification, disappearance, and pacification of the appropriation of the eye is the cessation of suffering. It is the pacification of the factors of existence and the disappearance of old age and death. Kauṇḍinya, the cessation, pacification, disappearance, and pacification of the appropriation of the ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind is the cessation of suffering. It is the pacification of the factors of existence and the disappearance of old age and death.
“Within the world with its gods, Brahmā, spiritual practitioners, brāhmaṇas, gods, and humans, I have presented the Dharma and so have become renowned as the most eminent being. Through my great love I have become renowned as the most supreme being. Through my great compassion I have become renowned as a holy being. By transcending saṃsāra I have become renowned as the unsurpassed one. Through my generosity, discipline, and restraint I have become renowned as the one who is impartial toward all beings. That Dharma is the outcome of the cultivation of such generosity, discipline, and restraint, as well as sublime states and the eightfold path of the noble ones. [F.224.a] That Dharma I have taught and elucidated to all beings on a vast scale. Since the affectionate Teacher wishes to benefit others, I have performed my deeds toward the hearers. Now it is your turn to act! Make sure you do not have any regrets in the future! Therefore, in order to eradicate old age and death, you must practice and exert yourselves in the wilderness, under trees, in charnel grounds, in the mountains, in hermitages, and in secluded places! This is my teaching.”
When the Blessed One delivered this Dharma teaching, myriads of sentient beings in each of the four continents in all the billions of four-continent worlds in this buddha realm of Sahā generated a variety of roots of virtue. Some settled within states of absorption, retention, and acceptance. Likewise, some gave rise to the Dharma eye with respect to phenomena. In some the karmic obscurations that would have led them to the hell realms were purified. In others the karmic obscurations that would have led them to be born into the hell realms, as animals or destitute yakṣas, or as poor humans were purified. Those who were afflicted by diseases recovered their health, and sentient beings were liberated from their prisons.
This concludes the chapter called “The Travel to Mount Sumeru,” the tenth among the eleven chapters included in “The Quintessence of the Sun,” the noble Great Vehicle discourse of The Great Assembly. [B12]
This was translated by the Indian preceptors Sarvajñadeva, Vidyākaraprabha, and Dharmākara and the translator Bandé Zangkyong. It was then edited and finalized by the translator-editor Bandé Kawa Paltsek.
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