The Quintessence of the Sun
The Presentation of the Conjunctions of the Lunar
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 Presentation of the Conjunctions of the Lunar Mansions
When the evil Māra saw all these thus-gone ones and retinues in their respective palaces present within the body of the Thus-Gone One, he became extremely unhappy. Dirt emerged from his entire body, and he began to weep out of distress. He started to run to and fro, to leave only to reappear, and to jump up, run and race around, gape, laugh, sigh, lick his mouth, close his eyes, stretch and contract his arms, [F.188.a] rest his head in his hands, and rub his throat and breast. When they saw this, all the sentient beings residing in the abode of Māra were unsettled. They became displeased and unhappy. One māra leader named Celestial Tree questioned the evil Māra with these verses:
The māra leader Celestial Tree then said to the evil Māra:
The māra leader Celestial Tree then said:
Celestial Tree replied:
“I shall do so!” replied Celestial Tree. He then raised his arm toward a hundred thousand soldiers wearing armor and proclaimed:
However, none of the soldiers were able to move, so the leader Celestial Tree began to weep, and his hairs stood on end. With his palms joined, he supplicated the evil Māra:
Tormented by increasing suffering and distress, a thought arose in the mind of the evil Māra: “Now I must by all means bring to mind my demonic power, so that I can address all the nāgas in their abodes and make them upset and irate!” [F.189.a]
At that moment, the evil Māra manifested flesh flies, mosquitoes, and hornets in all the abodes of the nāgas, and he filled these places with disgusting smells. He made dirt emerge from the nāgas’ bodies, and everyone became unhappy. Upset, all the nāgas, the great nāgas, and the nāga women, boys, and girls started to look around and wonder, “Who is making fun of us?” They did not understand what was happening, as they could not see anyone. Overwhelmed by anger, all the nāgas, great nāgas, and nāga women, boys, and girls in this four-continent world left their residences. The two nāga kings Nanda and Upananda also left their residences with retinues of many hundreds of thousands.
Alongside Mount Sumeru, there is a mountain called Kalatiya. On the summit of that mountain there is a59 sacred site of wise sages called Complete Support. It covers an area of forty thousand leagues, and it is ornamented with the divine seven precious substances. The nāgas entered that sacred site of wise sages to find shelter. However, as soon as they entered that place, their bodies became as small as the pin used to apply ointment to the eyes. Still, due to the power of their anger, they all perceived their bodies to be as big as Mount Sumeru. They could neither call out nor leave that place, so they just sat there, overcome by misery and anger.
Similarly, all fifty-six thousand nāga kings of Jambudvīpa, including the great nāga king Sāgara and his retinue of many trillions, Airāvaṇa, Supratiṣṭhita, Takṣaka, Anavatapta, [F.189.b] Mucilinda, Samudradatta, Given by the Water God, Given by a Householder, Given by the River, Apalāladatta, Given by the Mountain, Gajaśīrṣa, Born from an Ornament, Elapatra, Invisible Wrists, Collection of Sounds, Strength of the Ocean, Karkoṭaka, High Snow Mountain, Strength of the Water, Blue Topknot, Pale Yellow Gold, Green Grass, Abused Tree, Bright Eyes, Elephant Extinction, Tīkṣṇadatta, Moving in Places, Bad Plough, Elavarṇa, Red Eyes, Attractive, and Supreme, entered that sacred site of wise sages to find shelter, each surrounded by retinues of many hundreds of thousands. In each of the eighty-four thousand continents, many hundreds of thousands of great nāgas also left their residences and entered that realm to find shelter. [F.190.a] Similarly, the nāga kings Body-Piercing Needle and Great Movement, surrounded by myriads of nāgas, great nāgas, and nāga kings, left Uttarakuru in the north and came to that sacred site of wise sages for protection. The nāga kings Moon Protector and Wealth Giver, surrounded and attended by many trillions of nāgas, great nāgas, and nāga kings, left Pūrvavideha in the east, and they too entered that sacred site of wise sages to find shelter. The nāga kings Endowed with Jewel Garlands and Endowed with Garlands of Light left Godānīya attended by myriads of nāgas, great nāgas, and nāga kings, and they also entered that sacred site of wise sages to find shelter.
At that time, within these four continents and eight million other continents, there was not a single nāga or great nāga—whether born from an egg, from a womb, from heat and moisture, or miraculously, whether male, female, boy, or girl—who did not immediately come to that sacred site of wise sages; they all entered that place to find shelter. As soon as they entered it, each of their bodies became as small as the pin used to apply ointment to the eyes. However, due to the power of their anger, they all perceived that their bodies were as big as Mount Sumeru.
The evil Māra saw that all those nāgas had gathered in that realm and that their bodies had become small. When he saw this, he became exceedingly agitated, distressed, and scared. He said to his own faction, “Great demons, [F.190.b] all the nāgas have moved away. They have gathered at that sacred site of wise sages, and their power, appearance, and magnificence have decreased. Look at the overwhelming power of that spiritual practitioner!”
Another māra leader named Support of Discipline then said:
The māra leader Support of Discipline then departed from that abode of Māra together with eighty thousand creatures.
Since his previous aspirations had been accomplished, the thus-gone Śākyamuni had gained dominion over all wise sages. He was ripening all beings and gave teachings that were the outcome of the magical powers of all the domains of the buddhas. He was inducing weariness in all the bodhisattva great beings and bringing delight to all the gods, nāgas, yakṣas, humans, and nonhumans. He engaged with this entire buddha realm, causing it to become the most magnificent of all the pure buddha realms and making it most fortunate, endowed with the great splendor that plants the seeds of merit, and worthy to be worshiped in all the buddha realms.
The Thus-Gone One then interrupted the manifestation of his magical displays. While they were present inside the body of the Blessed One, the perceptions of everyone in this buddha realm were purified by him. [F.191.a] Now, as the Thus-Gone One interrupted the power of his absorption of miraculous transformation, which is an outcome of the domain of all the buddhas, he reappeared as he was before. He was extremely radiant, clear, and brilliant, and all the buddha realms were bathed in the light rays of his magnificence. Amazed and astonished, all the many hundreds of thousands of bodhisattva great beings worshiped the Blessed One with offerings of flowers, perfumes, powders, precious gems, fine fabrics, Dharma robes, and necklaces, as well as a variety of ornaments and musical tunes. They circumambulated the Blessed One and sat in front of him. Similarly, the Blessed One’s hearers and all the gods, nāgas, yakṣas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, mahoragas, kumbhāṇḍas, pretas, piśācas, pūtanas, kaṭapūtanas, humans, and nonhumans worshiped him with offerings of flowers, perfumes, powders, precious gems, fine fabrics, Dharma robes, necklaces, and a variety of ornaments. They circumambulated him and sat in front of him to listen to the Dharma.
At the same time, the māra leader Support of Discipline and his army of eighty thousand māras landed in Jambudvīpa, and they saw how the spiritual practitioner Gautama had interrupted the display of his vast body and that he was now again dwelling in the land of Magadha. They wondered, “Did his magical powers become weak because he is afraid of us? As he now sits there with his retinue within that assembly, is he not committing negative deeds by staying there because of us? [F.191.b] We must definitely go there right away and hear the reason for this!”
The māra leader Support of Discipline and his retinue then proceeded toward the place where the Blessed One was staying. When they arrived, they sat down before the Blessed One, and Support of Discipline uttered this verse:
The Blessed One replied in verse to the māra leader Support of Discipline:
At that moment, aroused by his past lives, aspirations, and worship of the buddhas and by all his roots of virtue, the māra leader Support of Discipline was humbled, like scattered grass, in front of the Blessed One. With tears in his eyes, he joined his palms and said, “Respected Blessed One, I am like a child, a drunk person, or someone who is mentally disturbed. I confess my faults. Respected Blessed One, I confess my faults! I now remember that, for a full uncountable eon, I previously engaged in the practice of the six perfections with great effort in order to reach unsurpassed and perfect awakening. [F.192.a] I repeatedly cultivated roots of virtue. I have previously served and revered a trillion blessed thus-gone ones in a variety of ways. I have heard the Dharma from them, and I made aspirations. Once, during the lifetime of the thus-gone Kāśyapa, a monk was requesting a discourse of the vehicle of the hearers. Without thinking, I then spoke these evil words: ‘Alas! This exposition on the hearers’ discourses in the presence of followers of the Great Vehicle, given while assuming the appearance of a spiritual practitioner is demonic!’ If I had not said those evil words at that time, I would have received a prophecy for unsurpassed and perfect awakening. However, due to the karmic residue of that action, I was born in the abode of Māra after I died. For five hundred seventy million years, and then a hundred thousand more, I did not have a single thought aimed at unsurpassed and perfect awakening, so what need is there to mention practicing the sublime states?”
Repeating these words, the māra leader Support of Discipline apologized to the Thus-Gone One and his retinue. He then exclaimed, “From now on I would rather remain in the hell realms for as long as I have so far been circling in saṃsāra than let my mind stray from unsurpassed and perfect awakening!”
The Blessed One replied, “Excellent, noble son! Those who dedicate themselves to the mind set on awakening with a compassionate attitude are making the most outstanding gift to the great guides. Even the merit of lighting lamps as big as Mount Sumeru in front of the great guides would not match that heap of merit. [F.192.b] Therefore, adopt this attitude! Surrender this strong negative karmic action to me! Remember that the aggregates and elements are devoid of concepts and marks—they are conditioned! Then you will become a leader with supreme qualities.”
At that very moment, the bodhisattva great being Support of Discipline achieved the concordant acceptance with respect to phenomena. Then, he stood up, draped the body of the Blessed One with garlands made of invaluable pearl jewelry, and asked, “What are the qualities that will cause us to quickly understand all phenomena and destroy all views as if they were water bubbles? What are the qualities that will cause us to achieve the supreme acceptance set on awakening and quickly liberate all beings? What should the bodhisattvas cultivate for the sake of abandonment?”
The Blessed One replied, “Support of Discipline, the wise ones must quickly generate four qualities. What are the four? (1) Enthusiastically accepting boundless suffering for the sake of others, (2) undertaking the endless trainings of the buddhas’ domain, (3) undertaking them without letting them regress, and (4) quickly perfecting all the limitless buddha qualities.”
When they heard that teaching, supreme trust, faith, and respect arose in the minds of the eighty-four thousand māras in the retinue of Support of Discipline, and they sincerely apologized to the Blessed One. They also made aspirations to reach unsurpassed and perfect awakening, and they all achieved the absorption that does not forget the mind of awakening. [F.193.a] They draped the body of the Blessed One with Dharma robes made of divine substances and then sat to one side.
When he saw this, the evil Māra became exceedingly distressed and scared. He shouted, “They have been consumed by the spiritual practitioner, so now I have lost those retinues! All those who left from here have fallen under his power, so no one can go outside anymore! We must remain here in this domain of the māras!” As he shouted this, he quickly closed the city gates and had guards protect them.
Then, with his sky-like vision, the Blessed One began to give extensive teachings about the three pure abodes—the focus on sentient beings, the focus on phenomena, and the absence of focus. All the nāgas who had found shelter and gathered at the sacred site of wise sages at the summit of Mount Kalatiya now noticed that their bodies had become as small as the pin used to apply ointment to the eyes, but they were unable to restore their bodies to their normal size. They became filled with fear and terror, and their hairs stood on end. So they all bowed toward Nanda and Upananda and supplicated, “When those flesh flies, mosquitoes, and hornets appeared in our towns, we all left our homes and entered this realm to find shelter. But now we are unable to leave again, and our bodies have become tiny. Please protect us so that we may return to our homes! Please grant us fearlessness!”
So all the nāgas paid homage to the evil Māra, the lord of the desire realm, saying, “Please protect us, so that we may be able to escape from this prison and live again in our own homes!”
Some of the nāgas then paid homage to the Four Great Kings, some paid homage to Śakra, some paid homage to the supreme god in the Heaven Free from Strife, some paid homage to the supreme god in the Heaven of Joy, some paid homage to the gods in the Heaven of Delighting in Emanations, some paid homage to the gods in the Heaven of Making Use of Others’ Emanations, and some paid homage to the mahābrahmās. The nāga king Sāgara then said to all the other nāga kings:
Some of the nāgas then paid homage to the sage Utterly Glorious, some paid homage to the sage Stable, some paid homage to Protecting Guardian, some paid homage to High Flier, some paid homage to Jyotīrasa, and some paid homage to Bhārgava. Then, in search of protection, they approached those beings endowed with the five higher perceptions.
At that time, those sages endowed with the five higher perceptions were sitting on the western slope of the snow mountain, listening to the praises of the leader of the Śākyas in front of the sage Jyotīrasa. When they heard the lamenting calls of all those nāgas, the five sages stood up and said to the bodhisattva great being Jyotīrasa, “Do you see that the Blessed One is harming all the nāgas in that sacred site of wise sages and that they are approaching us in search of protection? Please get up, go there, and liberate all those groups of nāgas!”
Jyotīrasa replied, “Go meet them! Once those many hundreds of thousands of gods, nāgas, and yakṣas sit in front of me, they will ask questions about the sublime states devoid of reference point, and I will satisfy their minds.”
All the sages prostrated to the feet of Jyotīrasa, circumambulated him three times, and departed using their miraculous powers. When they arrived at the sacred site of wise sages, the nāgas prostrated to them and supplicated, [F.194.b] “If you are great sages endowed with merit and insight who have mastered all methods, please protect us and release us from the fears of this prison!”
The sages replied, “We are not able to liberate you from this place. Nāga lords, on the western slope of the snow mountain lives the master of all the sages. He is called Jyotīrasa. He is renowned for his great power and has developed great insight, skill, and majesty. He will liberate you from this place. Go pay homage to him!”
When they heard those words, all the nāgas joined their palms in the direction of the sage Jyotīrasa and called for help in unison. Then, with the appearance of a sage, the bodhisattva sage Jyotīrasa miraculously left his place and arrived at the sacred site of wise sages, surrounded and attended by many hundreds of thousands of gods, kinnaras, and yakṣas. All the nāgas prostrated to him and supplicated him with utmost respect, “Please protect us so that we may return to our residences and live happily! Please liberate us from this place!”
Through the power of circumstances, the great sage, who was observing time and had knowledge about it, started to talk to them about the order of the lunar mansions:
At this point all the nāgas gathered at the sacred site of wise sages developed respect and appreciation for the supreme teacher, the sage Jyotīrasa, and diligently worshiped him to the best of their abilities.
This concludes the chapter called “The Presentation of the Conjunctions of the Lunar Mansions,” the seventh among the eleven chapters included in “The Quintessence of the Sun,” the Great Vehicle discourse of The Great Assembly. [B11]
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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