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.
At that time, [F.183.a] King Bimbisāra, who felt joyful and exhilarated, exclaimed, “Respected Blessed One, this buddha realm of Sahā is filled with bodhisattva great beings who exert themselves in concentration, and it is bathed in a brilliant light that has never been seen or heard of before. This is amazing! Respected Well-Gone One, this is truly amazing! Still, besides this buddha realm and its outer mountain range, nothing else whatsoever appears. Respected Blessed One, if this entire buddha realm of Sahā is perceived due to the light of those bodhisattva great beings, what would the light emitted by the thus-gone ones who have entered into absorption be like? Might we be able to perceive the arrays of qualities of other buddha realms through the light emitted by the Thus-Gone One?”
The Blessed One replied, “Thus it is, Your Majesty! The thus-gone ones dwell within their own domains. They are adorned by the ornament of great merit. They display boundless accomplishments as their abodes are ripened into buddhahood, which is the outcome of the roots of virtue they created by gathering accumulations in the past and the outcome of their previous bodhisattva activity. The thus-gone ones’ manifestations are blessed by the domain of nonattachment; they possess the intelligence that engages in the generation of bright wisdom, and they are born from the perfection of wisdom. They have reached accomplishment for all future eons, they dwell within the limitless domain of the buddhas, they turn the wheel of the Dharma, and they are the result of having gained control over all phenomena. [F.183.b] They know those among all beings who are of highest faculties and those who are not, and they are skilled in ripening beings. Since they have truly conquered habitual patterns, they display the spontaneous accomplishment of their enlightened activities. Your Majesty, these are the reasons why you will perceive an innumerable and limitless number of universes in all the ten directions. In the same way, you will also perceive an innumerable and limitless number of thus-gone ones surrounded by assemblies of bodhisattvas and hearers residing in those places.”
King Bimbisāra and the tens of millions of other beings then said in unison, “Blessed One, please show us the domain of the buddhas, the outcome of the ornament of great merit! Please show us everything up to the spontaneous accomplishment of your enlightened activities! Blessed One, please agree to show us the domain of the thus-gone ones!”
The Blessed One said to Venerable Ājñātakauṇḍinya, “Kauṇḍinya, all the great hearers, the householders, and the renunciates should remain absorbed within their own virtuous factors. I will also remain absorbed within my own domain—the domain of the buddhas.”
At that moment, all the beings—from gods, nāgas, and yakṣas to humans and nonhumans—who had seen the truth, who had achieved the concordant acceptance, who would no longer regress from the three vehicles, and who had sincere faith in the Three Jewels sat cross-legged and entered into absorption. [F.184.a] Then, within the domain of all the buddhas, the Blessed One entered the absorption known as the sun and moon–like absorption that pervades the sky with insight and satisfies all the numerous wise ones. That absorption is not the domain of any hearers or solitary buddhas, nor is it the domain of any bodhisattva great beings or a domain that could be understood by any sentient being. It is exclusively the domain of all the blessed buddhas’ wisdom.
After the Blessed One had entered this absorption, the entire buddha realm of Sahā and all the trillions of worlds with their four continents, the trillions of Mount Sumerus, the trillions of suns and moons, and the trillions of divine abodes at the summit of existence appeared within the body of the Thus-Gone One. The entire buddha realm of Sahā appeared within the body of the Thus-Gone One. All the afflictions related to the physical and mental suffering of all the sentient beings present in this buddha realm of Sahā—the hell beings, the animals, those in the World of the Lord of Death, the gods, and the humans—were completely eliminated, and they all achieved physical and mental well-being similar to that experienced by the monks who have entered into absorption and reached the tranquility of the second concentration. All the bodhisattvas then arose from their absorptions, and the light was dimmed within their bodies. All the hearers and sentient beings who had entered into absorption likewise arose from their absorptions and experienced such physical and mental well-being. [F.184.b] They were all amazed and astonished. With their senses satisfied, they sat within the body of the Thus-Gone One and looked at the pores of the Blessed One’s body. They all saw that from one pore of the Blessed One’s body radiated light as bright as the light emitted by as many suns, moons, great precious gems, and tenth-level bodhisattvas as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Such was the light that radiated from each of the pores of the Blessed One. The light emanating from the Blessed One’s body filled all the buddha realms of the ten directions with its brilliance. All the blessed buddhas residing within the buddha realms in which a buddha was present then filled this entire buddha realm of Sahā with these utterances:
When the blessed buddhas had uttered this statement from their respective buddha realms, each of those thus-gone ones—attended and surrounded by bodhisattvas, great hearers, gods, nāgas, yakṣas, asuras, garuḍas, gandharvas, kinnaras, and mahoragas several times as numerous as the grains of sand of the Ganges—left their buddha realms and miraculously arrived in this buddha realm of Sahā to ripen sentient beings through the power of their compassion, to fulfill the intent and the aspiration of the thus-gone Śākyamuni, and to proclaim his qualities. Upon arriving, they circumambulated the body of the Blessed One three times. The beings present in the retinues of those blessed buddhas also circumambulated the blessed thus-gone Śākyamuni and engaged in acts of worship. After that, they returned to their respective buddha realms.
At that time, those beings in the buddha realm of Sahā who were present within the body of the Blessed One saw those thus-gone ones residing with their retinues amid the arrays of qualities of all the buddha realms of the ten directions. They saw them arriving from those places with their retinues, circumambulating the blessed Śākyamuni, departing, reentering their respective buddha realms, sitting at the Vajra Seat, and teaching the Dharma. In each of those buddha realms, [F.185.b] as those blessed buddhas were sitting at their seats while teaching their respective retinues about the thus-gone Śākyamuni’s praises, qualities, fame, insight, merit, diligence, compassion, and ripening of sentient beings, an innumerable and limitless number of beings—as many as the grains of sand in the Ganges—gave rise to the mind set on unsurpassed and perfect awakening and received individual prophecies. Others did the same with respect to the vehicles of the hearers and the solitary buddhas. All the beings present within the body of the Blessed One witnessed this and heard those prophecies. All of those beings who were sitting within the body of the Blessed One also perceived the different feelings of happiness and suffering experienced by the sentient beings who lived in empty buddha realms ripe with the five degenerations. At that time, all those who lived in those empty universes ripe with the five degenerations also perceived that light, and they saw the thus-gone Śākyamuni. They saw those countless blessed buddhas and the countless beings who accompanied each of those thus-gone ones circumambulating the thus-gone Śākyamuni within this world. At that moment, all those beings experienced sublime joy, and their feelings of suffering disappeared. Tenth-level bodhisattva great beings entered those empty buddha realms ripe with the five degenerations to ripen these sentient beings. In buddha realms with beings to be tamed by buddhas, [F.186.a] they assumed the appearance of buddhas and spoke of the buddha realm of Sahā in a single voice, a single utterance, and a single sound:
Those bodhisattva great beings, appearing like buddhas and accompanied by sentient beings possessing miraculous powers who were as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges, then left those realms. They circumambulated the thus-gone Śākyamuni three times, worshiped the Blessed One with music from instruments made of precious gems and with different dances and songs, and then formed the aspiration to attain unsurpassed and perfect awakening. Some aspired for the vehicle of conditions, some for the vehicle of the hearers. All of them reached the level of nonregression in accordance with their individual inclinations. At that time, they reached different levels of absorption, acceptance, and recall in accordance with their individual practices. Then, after having accomplished a variety of roots of virtues, they returned to their respective realms.
Some tenth–level bodhisattva great beings assumed the appearance of solitary buddhas, and some others took on the appearances of hearers, Brahmā, Śakra, the Four Great Kings, [F.186.b] Nārāyaṇa, Maheśvara, nāgas, yakṣas, asuras, and universal monarchs. To ripen sentient beings, they then entered buddha realms where there were sentient beings to be tamed by hearers. There, they taught the Dharma to sentient beings while assuming the appearance of hearers. Everyone in those buddha realms perceived that light as well as the thus-gone Śākyamuni. They were filled with intense joy and delight, their senses were satisfied, their feelings of suffering disappeared, and they experienced feelings of happiness. Those who taught the Dharma in those buddha realms in the appearance of hearers were in fact bodhisattva great beings. Through the roots of virtue created by the accumulation of great merit, they spoke of the buddha realm of Sahā in this melodious utterance:
Those bodhisattva great beings, appearing like hearers and accompanied by sentient beings possessing miraculous powers who were as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges, then left those realms. In this world, they circumambulated the thus-gone Śākyamuni and his retinue three times and worshiped the Blessed One by offering him a variety of precious gems, fine cotton cloths, Dharma robes, jewelry, ornaments, parasols, banners, flags, flowers, perfumes, music, praise, song, and dance. When they arrived back in their respective buddha realms, those bodhisattva great beings sat back on their seats. In the same way, they proclaimed to their individual retinues the praises and the fame of the thus-gone Śākyamuni [. . .] and the virtuous qualities of his activity of ripening all beings. In those buddha realms, the innumerable and limitless numbers of sentient beings present in these retinues gave rise to the mind set on unsurpassed and perfect awakening. Likewise, some gave rise to the mind set on the vehicles of the hearers and the solitary buddhas. All of them reached the level of nonregression. [F.187.b] At that time, they reached various levels of absorption, recall, and acceptance, and they created roots of virtue. All sentient beings also saw, in this buddha realm of Sahā, the array present in the body of the Blessed One. They were all amazed and astonished by the qualities of the Thus-Gone One. At that moment, those sentient beings—innumerable and limitless as the grains of sand of the Ganges—who had not yet given rise to the mind set on unsurpassed and perfect awakening gave rise to it. Similarly, some gave rise to the mind set on the vehicles of the solitary buddhas and the hearers, and they all reached the level of nonregression. The same happened with respect to all those who assumed the other appearances—up to those who appeared as universal monarchs—all the way to their attainment of the level of nonregression. This is how the Blessed One, who is endowed with great miraculous powers, rested in equipoise in the absorption that stems from the domain of all buddhas, in order to ripen all beings.
This concludes the sixth among the eleven chapters in “The Quintessence of the Sun” 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.
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