The Sūtra on the Threefold Training
Degé Kangyur, vol. 68 (mdo sde, ya), folios 55.b–56.a
Translated by the Dharmasāgara Translation Group
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
In The Sūtra on the Threefold Training, Buddha Śākyamuni briefly introduces the three elements or stages of the path, widely known as “the three trainings,” one by one in a specific order: discipline, meditative concentration, and wisdom. He teaches that training progressively in them constitutes the gradual path to awakening.
This text was translated from the Tibetan, with comparison to Sanskrit, Chinese, and Pali editions, introduced, and edited by the Dharmasāgara Translation Group: Raktrul Ngawang Kunga Rinpoche, Rebecca Hufen, Shanshan Jia, Jason Sanche, and Arne Schelling.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The Sūtra on the Threefold Training is, in essence, a brief outline of the core teachings of Buddha Śākyamuni, which he gave while traveling toward Kuśinagara in the last year before his parinirvāṇa. It was given to a large audience of fully ordained monks in a grove to the north of Kuṭigrāmaka, a village in the ancient Indian country of Vṛji, which extended from the north bank of the Ganges opposite Pāṭaliputra up to the Madhesh regions of what is currently southern Nepal. The sūtra’s condensed teaching represents the three stages of the gradual Buddhist path to enlightenment and emphasizes how the trainings are undertaken in progression. The first training, discipline, is taught as the basis for the second training, meditative concentration, which in turn is a prerequisite to wisdom, the third training.
There appear to be several parallels or versions of this text. In its Tibetan translation it is preserved not only as an independent sūtra, but also in the form of short passages in two long vinaya texts, the Bhaiṣajyavastu (sixth chapter of the Vinayavastu)1 and the Vinayakṣudrakavastu.2 It is also found as a passage in the non-Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, of which so far only incomplete Sanskrit manuscripts are extant, although a Sanskrit version has been reconstructed by Ernst Waldschmidt (1951). With some variant readings, the same passage appears, too, in the still extant Pali Mahāparinibbāna Sutta. Translations of it in Chinese can be found as part of the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra and passages in some vinaya texts.3
A number of studies and translations of the aforementioned texts in Western languages have been carried out, for example those by Waldschmidt (1951) and Rhys Davids (1951). However, there have hitherto been no translations, as far as we know, of the independent sūtra.
In this translation of the sūtra from the Tibetan Kangyur, the text is introduced with the title in Sanskrit and Tibetan, proceeding with the homage and then the general opening formula of “Thus have I heard at one time.” Naturally, in the other versions in which this text is embedded as part of a larger work, these introductory statements and the concluding sentence are not included. Besides this, there are a few variant readings in the Tibetan, Sanskrit, Pali, and especially in the Chinese. Since most of them do not alter the meaning significantly, we have chosen to note only the most important variants.
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Thus have I heard at one time. As the Bhagavān was wandering in the land of Vṛji, he arrived at the village of Kuṭigrāmaka and settled to the north of that village in a grove of sāl trees,4 [F.56.a] with a great saṅgha of bhikṣus. Thereupon the Bhagavān taught the following to the bhikṣus:
“This, bhikṣus, is discipline.5 This is meditative concentration. This is wisdom. Bhikṣus, training in discipline will lead one to abide for a long time in meditative concentration. Training in meditative concentration will lead one to gain wisdom. By training in wisdom, one’s mind will be completely liberated from desire, anger, and ignorance. In this way, having a completely liberated mind, a noble śrāvaka will perfectly know: ‘My defilements6 have ceased. I have lived the sublime life. What was to be done has been done. From here onward, I will not know any further existence.’ ”
This completes “The Sūtra on the Threefold Training.”
bslab pa gsum gyi mdo. Toh 282, Degé Kangyur, vol. 68 (mdo sde, ya), folios 55b–56a.
bslab pa gsum gyi mdo. bka’ ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Kangyur], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 108 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 2006–2009, vol. 68, pp. 165–166.
sman gyi gzhi (Bhaiṣajyavastu), chapter 6 of ’dul ba gzhi (Vinayavastu), Toh 1. Degé Kangyur, vol. 1 (’dul ba, ka), folio 277b– vol.3 (’dul ba, ga), folio 50a. Translated in Yao (2021).
’dul ba phran tshegs kyi gzhi (Vinayakṣudrakavastu), Toh 6. Degé Kangyur, vol. 10 (’dul ba, tha), folio 1a– vol. 11 (’dul ba, da), folio 333a. Translated in Jamspal et al. (forthcoming).
Jamspal, L., and Fischer, K., trans. The Finer Points of Discipline (Vinayakṣurakavastu, Toh 6). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha (forthcoming).
Rhys Davids, Caroline A. F. and Thomas W. Dialogues of the Buddha: Translated from the Pali of the Dîgha Nikâya. Third Edition. Published for the Pali Text Society. London: Luzac, 1951.
Waldschmidt, Ernst. “Das Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra: Text in Sanskrit und Tibetisch, verglichen mit dem Pali nebst einer Übersetzung der chinesischen Entsprechung im Vinaya der Mūlasarvāstivādins auf Grund von Turfan-Handschriften,” in Abhandlungen der Deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, Klasse für Sprachen, Literatur und Kunst. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1951, vol. 2, pp. 101–303.
Yao, Fumi, trans. The Chapter on Medicines (Bhaiṣajyavastu, Toh 1-6). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2021.
- dge slong
A fully ordained monk.
- tshul khrims
A mind set on abandoning the undisciplined conduct of body, speech, and mind.
- spyil bu can
A settlement / village in the country of Vṛji. According to a commentary on the Mahāvaṃsa, the Vaṃsatthappakāsinī, it is one gāvuta (about two miles) away from the river Ganges.
- ting nge ’dzin
A mind focused one-pointedly on an object of concentration.
- shing sa la
Usually identified as Shorea robusta, known as the kind of tree under which the Buddha was born and passed away.
- nyan thos
Primarily referring to those disciples of the Buddha who aspire to attain the state of an arhat by seeking self liberation. It is usually defined as “those who hear the teaching from the Buddha and make it heard to others.”
- spong byed
One of the sixteen principal mahājanapadas (great countries) of ancient India, and a confederacy of eight or nine clans. It extended from the north bank of the Ganges opposite Pāṭaliputra up to the Madhesh regions of present southern Nepal.
- shes rab
A mind that sees the ultimate truth directly.