The Quintessence of the Sun
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.
Then, together with their respective retinues, all the rulers of the gods, the rulers of the nāgas, the rulers of the yakṣas, the rulers of the asuras, the rulers of the garuḍas, the rulers of the kinnaras, the rulers of the mahoragas, the rulers of the pretas, the rulers of the piśācas, and the rulers of the pūtanas bowed with their palms joined together in the direction of the Blessed One and said, “Respected Blessed One, in all the places where monks, nuns, male and female lay practitioners, or faithful sons or daughters of noble family observe this initial practice of repulsiveness up to the absorption of cessation while contemplating the virtuous factors that have just been described, we shall regard them—up to the faithful daughters of noble family—together with their retinues as the teachers of their own respective classes. [F.178.b] We shall serve all of them through body, speech, and mind, and we shall ensure that they never lack Dharma robes, alms, bedding, medicine, and requisites. We shall liberate them from the fifteen unsettling dangers. What are those fifteen?54 We shall liberate them from the unsettling dangers related to the body. We shall liberate them from dirt, sticks, weapons, poison, stones, hostile beings, abusive beings, and faithless beings. We shall liberate them from disturbances in the elements. We shall protect those who serve them with offerings of delicious food and beverages, medicine, and requisites. We shall protect all such righteous sponsors, relatives, and benefactors from the unsettling dangers caused by diseases, enemies, bhūtas, and foes. We shall protect them from the unsettling dangers caused by poison, kings, civil war, invasion, and famine. Those are the fifteen unsettling dangers.
“We shall regard as our own family members all present and future monks, nuns, male and female lay practitioners, and faithful sons or daughters of noble family—even those who merely maintain an imitation of the sacred Dharma—as well as those who abide by this initial practice of repulsiveness up to the absorption of cessation and who sleeplessly exert themselves during the first and last parts of the night in the endeavors that have been described before. [F.179.a] We shall regard the regions, cities, countries, mountain hamlets, towns, capitals, and solitary places where they reside as the dwelling places of our own families. We shall avert and repel those fifteen unsettling dangers. We shall regard as the dwelling place of our own families any region where even just one single person who applies effort in such virtuous deeds resides, even if that person remains there for only a single day. We shall protect and defend those persons against those fifteen unsettling dangers. We shall regard those almsgivers, benefactors, members of the kṣatriya class, brāhmaṇas, vaiśyas, śūdras, men, women, boys, and girls as members of our own groups. We shall protect and defend them against those fifteen unsettling dangers. We shall also protect and defend against these unsettling dangers those who venerate, worship, and serve others who exert themselves in such virtuous endeavors by offering them houses, temples, monastic compounds, land, Dharma robes, alms, bedding, medicine, and tools. We shall protect and defend those pregnant women who show respect to such people, ensuring that they always remain safe and free from disease and experience many intense joys. We shall also protect from and defend against those fifteen unsettling dangers anyone who supplicates with affection those who exert themselves in such genuine contemplations, [F.179.b] anyone who proclaims their names, anyone who ties the string,55 anyone who protects them, anyone who opposes nonvirtuous deeds, and anyone who incites others to engage in virtuous deeds.
“We shall send humans and nonhumans to oppose any human or nonhuman beings who intend to ignore the words of those persons who strive in properly contemplating such virtuous endeavors, as well as those who intend to disregard, abuse, oppose, harm, or utterly corrupt56 those persons and harbor ill will toward them. We shall not tolerate them. Those sentient beings who intend to ignore the words of those who strive in properly contemplating such virtuous endeavors and those sentient beings who intend to disregard, abuse, oppose, harm, or harbor ill will toward those persons and utterly corrupt them will experience fifteen harms. What are those fifteen? They will experience (1) the suffering of quickly becoming sick, (2) the suffering related to the loss of their wealth, (3) the suffering related to the deterioration of their possessions, (4) the suffering of their main and secondary limbs being cut off, (5) the suffering of being separated from their beloved retinues, (6) the suffering related to the decline of their power, (7) the suffering related to their dwelling places, (8) the suffering of being crushed by enemies, (9) the suffering of being constantly disturbed in their minds, (10) the suffering related to their realm, (11) the suffering related to disturbances caused by the members of the kṣatriya class, [F.180.a] (12) the suffering related to disturbances caused by thieves, (13) the suffering related to the disturbances caused by women, (14) the suffering related to the quick exhaustion of their lifespan, and (15) the suffering of death. Those sentient beings will quickly experience those harms.
“Even if those sentient beings who intend to ignore the words of those who strive in properly contemplating in this way or who intend to disregard, abuse, oppose, harm, or harbor ill will toward those persons and utterly corrupt them take refuge in us out of fear and eagerly serve us with substances to accomplish a variety of mantras, we shall not accept such acts of service to fulfill their purposes, and we shall not give refuge to them. We shall not accomplish their activities or benefit them.
“There will be troublemakers—from gods and nāgas up to kaṭapūtanas—who are hostile, ruthless, ungrateful, and unafraid of the afterlife. In the wilderness, in forests, in remote places, in hermitages, in charnel grounds, under trees, in monastic compounds, in temples, in houses, and along walking lanes, they will approach those persons who strive in properly contemplating such virtuous endeavors. With hostile attitudes they will have the intention to harm them. They will cause disturbances to their bodies and minds, and they will rob their vital essences. Those beings—from gods and nāgas up to kaṭapūtanas—who are hostile, ungrateful, [F.180.b] and unafraid of the afterlife will even cause disturbances to the bodies and minds of those persons’ attendants and benefactors and rob their vital essences. Barring circumstances related to previous actions, if we do not stand against, oppose, and punish each of those beings—from gods and nāgas up to kaṭapūtanas—for their crimes, we will deceive all the thus-gone ones of the three times. While circling in saṃsāra, may we in that case never become proper vessels for the domains of the hearers, the solitary buddhas, or the thus-gone ones, and may we never achieve the happiness of emancipation!”
The Blessed One replied, “Noble sons, your commitment to make the Dharma way of all the thus-gone ones of the three times blaze and ensure that the lineage of the Three Jewels remains uninterrupted is excellent! Please do that! By doing so, you will worship and serve all the thus-gone ones of the three times. The noble sons who employ such diligence and determination to protect the well-spoken Dharma and Vinaya, as well as those who follow it and abide by the Dharma, will enjoy abundance and excellence while circling in saṃsāra. They will never experience the suffering of saṃsāra, and they will swiftly awaken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood. Therefore, since you feel aversion for suffering and wish for happiness, please act in that way! Your commitment to such wholesome activities is excellent!”
At that moment, [F.181.a] the innumerable and limitless number of nonhuman bhūtas who feed on vital essences and blood said, “Respected Blessed One, we are not humans. We feed on vital essences as well as flesh and blood. We shall not harm the Thus-Gone One’s hearers. Respected Blessed One, if we were to harm the hearers who contemplate the practice of repulsiveness that the Blessed One has taught today, may we lose our composure! May we lose our ability to reach any domain of power! We shall protect such persons, and we shall protect and defend their attendants and benefactors as well. We shall also protect, defend, guard, and look after those who support the Thus-Gone One’s hearers who abide by the Dharma and contemplate the practice of repulsiveness, and those who offer them temples, lands, monastic compounds, Dharma robes, alms, bedding, and medicinal substances.”
“Excellent, delightful beings, excellent!” replied the Blessed One, “Please do that!”
Then, the earth goddess Sthāvarā said, “Respected Blessed One, I shall provide the vitality of this vast earth to sustain the bodies of the Thus-Gone One’s hearers who abide by the Dharma and strive in the practice of repulsiveness. [F.181.b] Thereby, those who abide by the Dharma and exert themselves in such absorptions will become endowed with a majestic appearance, beautiful complexion, recollection, diligence, and insight.”
“Great benefactress,” replied the Blessed One, “with such alms you will satisfy my children, my heart children, who are born from my mouth, who are endowed with the Dharma, and who are emanated from the Dharma. This is excellent! Through this act of great generosity, you will perfect the Great Vehicle!”
Śrī Mahādevī then said, “Respected Blessed One, I will ensure that all almsgivers and benefactors of those who abide by the Dharma never lack merriment, wealth, grains, fruits, resources, and wealth. I will take care of those people who offer temples, grounds, lands, Dharma robes, alms, bedding, and medicinal substances in order to maintain, support, and look after those who day and night contemplate the practice of repulsiveness up to the absorption of cessation. I will make sure that they possess an abundance of tools, resources, and possessions and that they experience a bounty of physical and mental well-being, as well as happiness and pleasure. I will ensure that they never separate from those who are worthy recipients of generosity and that they always remain associated with them. I will ensure that their minds remain delighted by the Dharma, [F.182.a] that they are affectionate, that they do not fall into mistaken views, and that they remain loving, compassionate, and uncorrupted”
“Your support of the great benefactors is excellent!” replied the Blessed One. “Your diligent determination will cause the Great Vehicle to flourish.”
At that moment, Vajrapāṇi, the Lord of Guhyakas, said, “Respected Blessed One, thanks to the many wealthy almsgivers and benefactors who support and protect the teachings of the Blessed One while this section of The Great Assembly is being expounded, the Dharma way will blaze for a long time in this Buddha realm, and it will remain uncorrupted.”
Then the bodhisattva great being Maitreya asked, “O Lord of Guhyakas, can space be seen to degenerate?”
“No,” replied Vajrapāṇi, “because space is devoid of dwelling and imputation.”
“No,”57 replied Vajrapāṇi, “because they are within the limit of reality.”
“Can the limit of reality and space be seen as different?” asked Maitreya.
“Since they are within the unmoving and unborn realm of phenomena, they are devoid of difference,” replied Vajrapāṇi.
“Noble son,” asked Maitreya, “can the distinction between conditioned and unconditioned phenomena not be seen?”
Vajrapāṇi replied, “Just as the limit of reality and suchness are indistinct, conditioned phenomena are imputations projected onto space, and they are therefore indistinct.”
“Is it conditioned phenomena that accord with the limit of reality, [F.182.b] or is it unconditioned phenomena?” asked Maitreya.
“Since emptiness is an imputation,” replied Vajrapāṇi, “there are either conditioned or unconditioned phenomena within the limit of reality and suchness.”
Vajrapāṇi replied, “Since it is not lasting, and since it is intrinsically empty and devoid of disintegration, the assembly of all phenomena is emptiness. Not even an entity named emptiness can be found. Noble son, the essential nature is empty of essential nature, the basis of characteristics is empty of the basis of characteristics, and the nonexistence of the basis of characteristics is also empty of the basis of characteristics. One should understand all phenomena in that same manner. Why? Because all phenomena are inexpressible and are therefore emptiness. The essential nature of all phenomena has not been created by the hearers, by the solitary buddhas, or by the thus-gone ones. One should understand that the limit of reality, suchness, and conditioned and unconditioned phenomena all have the nature of space, and therefore they are all devoid of difference—they are indistinct.”
As this teaching was being given, the obscurations stemming from nonvirtuous actions committed in the past by countless sentient beings who had previously trained in the mode of emptiness were exhausted, and they attained the eye of Dharma, which is immaculate and spotless with regard to phenomena. Nine billion two hundred thousand sentient beings gave rise to the mind set on unsurpassed awakening and obtained the qualities of nonregression.
This concludes the chapter called “The Protection,” the fifth among the eleven chapters in “The Quintessence of the Sun,” the noble Great Vehicle discourse of The Great Assembly.
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.
nyi ma’i snying po (Sūryagarbha). Toh 257, Degé Kangyur vol. 66 (mdo sde, za), folios 91.b–245.b.
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