Degé Kangyur, vol. 72 (mdo sde, sa), folios 161.b–163.b.
Translated by Bruno Galasek-Hul
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
In Auspicious Night, the deity Candana appears before a monk in Rājagṛha and asks if he knows of the Buddha’s teaching called Auspicious Night. Since the monk has never heard of it, the deity encourages the monk to ask the Buddha himself, who is staying nearby. At the monk’s request, the Buddha teaches him how to continuously remain in a contemplative state by following these guidelines: do not follow after the past, do not be anxious about the future, and do not be led astray or become distracted by presently arisen states. The Buddha then teaches several mantras and incantations for the welfare of all sentient beings and explains the apotropaic and salvific benefits of the instructions.
This sūtra was translated into English from the Tibetan by Bruno Galasek-Hul with Lama Kunga Thartse Rinpoche (Evam Choden Buddhist Center Kensington, Berkeley, California) as the consulting lama. Roxanne Shooshani proofread the translation and improved the English. Many thanks are due to Dr. Nancy Lin, Dr. James Gentry, and Kathrin Holz, who corrected some errors in the introduction and improved the translation. Special thanks are also due to Dr. Helmut Eimer for patiently sharing his insights into Kangyur literature and for an insightful discussion of a difficult reading in the Tibetan text.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
While the Buddha is staying in the Bamboo Grove in Rājagṛha, the capital of the kingdom of Magadha, a monk has taken temporary residence on the banks of Rājagṛha’s hot springs. One night, a beautiful deity appears before the monk, filling the entire area of the hot springs with a bright light. The deity asks the monk whether he knows the teaching known as Auspicious Night. The monk replies that he does not, and in turn asks the deity whether he knows it. Since neither know the teaching, the deity advises the monk to visit the Buddha and ask him to teach it to him, and then to remember it and put it into practice. The following morning, the monk visits the Buddha and tells him about his encounter with the deity the previous night. The Buddha reveals the name of the deity to be Candana and identifies him as a general of the gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. After the monk expresses his wish to hear the teaching of Auspicious Night, the Buddha explains how to cultivate a contemplative state of mind in relation to the three times: (1) Do not think about the past, (2) do not worry about the future, and (3) do not become distracted by whatever arises in the present. Following this basic outline of Auspicious Night, the Buddha repeats the instruction in verse, adding commentary and further injunctions. Having presented the teaching of Auspicious Night, the Buddha proceeds with the recitation of several mantras and incantations used for the protection of beings. He then explains the benefits of preserving the complete teaching of Auspicious Night and offers more detailed benefits regarding specific actions such as reading and reciting the sūtra and having it fastened to one’s body. The sūtra concludes with further incantations for the attainment of wealth and protection, including an invocation for the help of Vajrapāṇi, and a closing formula.
In his important study of the Mahāsūtras, Peter Skilling identifies Auspicious Night as a sūtra belonging to what he calls the rakṣā class of literature, that is, a text that is believed to protect one from disease, misfortune, and malignant spirits and to avert disaster.1 The version preserved in Tibetan, which is the basis for this English translation, is classified as a work of the Śrāvakayāna school of the Mūlasarvāstivādins;2 however, the invocation of deities or bodhisattvas such as Vajrapāṇi, the inclusion of mantras and incantations, and the promotion of the secular benefits of preserving and studying Buddhist scriptures are considered hallmarks of Mahāyāna sūtras.3
Auspicious Night is one among a long list of Indian Buddhist sūtras that are only fully accessible in their Tibetan translations because the Indic originals are lost or extant only as fragments. Several differing recensions of Auspicious Night have been preserved or have partly survived in Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan. The extant texts can be broadly grouped into two versions: an earlier version represented by the Pali texts and the earlier Chinese translations, and a later version represented by the Sanskrit texts, the Tibetan translation, and one of the Chinese translations (Taishō 1362). At the core of all these texts are a set of four to five stanzas that elucidate the sūtra’s main teaching on avoiding attachment, anxiety, and preoccupation with thoughts of the past, future, and present. The stanzas are framed uniquely in the different versions of the sūtra, and these differences help us understand the evolution of this teaching and the history of the texts that articulate it.
The Degé Kangyur contains three recensions of Auspicious Night, one each in the Sūtra (mdo sde), Tantra (rgyud), and Dhāraṇī (gzungs) sections. The Peking Kangyur includes two recensions of the sūtra—one in its Sūtra section and one in its Tantra section—whereas the Thempangma (them spangs ma) Kangyurs classify Auspicious Night exclusively as a tantra. Two of the three recensions preserved in the Degé Kangyur (Toh 612 and Toh 974) attribute its translation to a team consisting of two Indian preceptors, Jinamitra and Dānaśīla, and the Tibetan translator Yeshé Dé. The recension of the text in the Sūtra section (Toh 313) does not include a colophon naming the translators, but it appears to be the work of the same team. This attribution, as well as the fact that Auspicious Night is recorded in two imperial period catalogs—the Denkarma and Phangthangma—indicate that the Tibetan translation was completed no later than the early ninth century.4 The three Tibetan texts in the Degé Kangyur show only minor differences with respect to variant readings of certain words, primarily in the transliterations of Sanskrit mantras, suggesting that these differences are the result of later scribal emendations or errors.
As described in the synopsis above, the Tibetan translation frames the core set of verses with a narrative set at the hot springs near Rājagṛha, features a deity named Candana and an unnamed monk as the primary interlocutors, and includes several incantations and mantras that broaden the use of the sūtra to include magical and talismanic applications.
There are no extant commentaries on Auspicious Night preserved in the Tengyur, but the sūtra is referenced sporadically in indigenous Tibetan Buddhist literature. The sūtra’s title is found in the writings of the Sakya patriarch Drakpa Gyaltsen (grags pa rgyal mtshan, 1147–1216), the Nyingma master Longchenpa (klong chen pa, 1308–64), the Sakya hierarch Künga Sangpo (kun dga’ bzang po, 1382–1456), the Sakya hierarch Anyé Shap (a myes zhabs, 1597–1659), and the fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Losang Gyatso (ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho, 1617–82). In these instances, the sūtra is typically cited as part of a list of works that were studied by the author or for which he had received reading transmission. Two prominent Tibetan authors, the second Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa (dpa’ bo gtsug lag phreng ba, 1504–66) and the eighth Tai Situ Chökyi Jungné (ta’i si tu chos kyi ’byung gnas, 1699/1700–1774), quote the first two verses of Auspicious Night as proof that the Mahāmudrā meditation instruction of not letting the mind follow after, cling to, or examine thoughts concerned with the three times (past, present, and future) is not a teaching of the controversial Chinese teacher Hashang (whom the Tibetan tradition usually portrays as having taught a form of meditation in which thoughts are actively suppressed), but an authentic—that is, Indic—instruction that can be found in a canonical text.5 It appears, then, from these quotations that the sūtra (or, to be precise, the first of the verses of Auspicious Night) was used in Tibet by schools/lineages propagating the Mahāmudrā and/or Dzogchen systems of meditation.
The Majjhima Nikāya of the Pali canon includes four suttas with bhaddekaratta (the Pali equivalent of bhadrakarātrī) in their title, which are constructed around the core stanzas common to this body of scripture.6 Each sutta begins with an introductory narrative frame, followed by the stanzas and a commentary by the Buddha or a prominent disciple on the meaning of the stanzas. While the verses are identical in all four texts, the ensuing instructions and the details of location, time, and characters vary in each. While no direct relationship seems to exist between these Pali texts and the Tibetan translation of Auspicious Night, certain details from the Pali suttas appear in the Tibetan text, such as the hot springs of Rājagṛha (as in the Mahākaccānabhaddekarattasutta) and the involvement of the deity Candana (as in the Lomasakaṅgiyabhaddekarattasutta). As might be expected, the Pali suttas do not include the mantras and incantations recorded in the Tibetan text.
Sanskrit witnesses to Auspicious Night are preserved in two manuscript fragments. The first takes up approximately one folio of a palm-leaf manuscript from the Kizil cave complex in the Kucha area, an oasis kingdom at the edge of the Taklamakan Desert on the northern branch of the Silk Road.7 In this Sanskrit fragment, the sūtra is set in Prince Jeta’s Grove in Śrāvastī, differing from the Tibetan text but in accord with the Pali Bhaddekarattasutta. The fragment also preserves a few scattered syllables of mantras, including a phrase that can be reconstructed as piśācini pārṇaśavari (“O piśācinī Parṇaśavarī!”), which is also found in the version of the text translated into Tibetan.
The second Sanskrit witness to Auspicious Night is preserved in a manuscript fragment discovered in Kashgar, in present-day Xinjiang province.8 The framing narrative, in which Ānanda asks the Buddha for protection from a spell cast by a caṇḍālī, is unique among the versions of this sūtra but has clear parallels to a story preserved in the Śārdūlakarṇāvadāna of the Divyāvadāna. Though this narrative does not correspond to that of the Tibetan text, it does frame the ensuing discourse in a way the supports the inclusion of incantations and mantras, a feature not found among the Pali sources.
The Madhyamāgama (Taishō 26), which was translated by the Kashmiri monk Gautama Saṅghadeva in the years 397 and 398, contains three sūtras that are close parallels to three suttas in the Pali Majjhima Nikāya: Discourse on a Deity in the Hot Springs Grove (Wen quan lin tian jing 溫泉林天經), Discourse on a Venerable One in a Meditation Hall among the Śākyas (Shi zhong chan shi zun jing 釋中禪室尊經), and Discourse Spoken by Ānanda (A nan shuo jing 阿難說經). These correspond, respectively, to MN 133, 134, and 132 of the Pali Majjhima Nikāya. Dharmarakṣa translated Discourse Spoken by the Buddha to a Venerable Elder (Taishō 77, Zun shang fo shuo jing 尊上佛說經) between 267 and 313 ᴄᴇ. This individual translation also parallels MN 134. Finally, The Scripture of a Good Night (Taishō 1362, Shan ye jing 善夜經), which was translated by Yijing (635–713 ᴄᴇ) in 701 ᴄᴇ, is the latest among the Chinese translations9 and the only one that aligns with the Sanskrit and Tibetan texts in including mantras and incantations along with descriptions of their benefits.10
In summary, at the core of these different versions and their recensions is a set of four to five stanzas that articulate the main teaching of the sūtra: not to dwell on the past, be concerned about the future, or be distracted by present events. The narratives that frame this discourse vary widely across the versions of the text and their translations, but these core verses are relatively stable. The starkest difference between the Pali suttas and early Chinese translations on the one hand, and the Sanskrit fragments, later Chinese translation, and the Tibetan translation on the other, is the incorporation of incantations and mantras, which expands the import of the sūtra beyond the articulation of Buddhist doctrine to include the magical and apotropaic. Thus the two Sanskrit fragments, the latest of the Chinese translations, and the Tibetan translation should be considered recensions of a sūtra that differed significantly from the suttas preserved in the Pali canon and the three earlier Chinese translations.
The primary basis for this English translation is the recension of the sūtra preserved in the Sūtra section of the Degé Kangyur (Toh 313). This witness was compared with the two parallel versions in the Tantra and Dhāraṇī sections of the Degé Kangyur (Toh 617 and Toh 974, respectively), the Stok Palace manuscript Kangyur, and the appendix of variant readings reported in the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) of the Degé Kangyur. Only those variant readings that reflect text different from the Degé and/or affected the meaning of a passage have been reported in the notes. Orthographic variants of words, different verb stems used, differences in punctuation, and minor differences in terminology that yielded the same meaning were not recorded. In addition to the Tibetan versions, we consulted the electronic version of the Pali Text Society’s edition of the Pali text of the Bhaddhekarattasuttas (MN 131–34) as well as the published editions of the Sanskrit fragments, SHT III 816 and the Kashgar manuscript fragment SI 2044. Occasionally, we also refer to the Chinese translation Shan ye jing 善夜經 (Taishō 1362).
When citing the mantras and incantations recorded in the Tibetan translation, we chose to create “synthetic versions,” meaning that we have generally retained readings of a particular word or syllable that correspond with the majority of the consulted versions. We have also reconstructed Sanskrit words when it was clear and obvious what the terms would be based on the phonetic Tibetan syllables. Some of the mantras and incantations recorded in this sūtra appear to incorporate Dravidian or Proto-Dravidian syllables and words, as evidenced by the presence of retroflex sounds (ṭ, ṇ, etc.). Representing these syllables as proper words would be highly speculative on our part, so we have refrained from doing so. For the sake of clarity and readability, we have not included notes reporting our comparative analysis of the mantras and incantations in the main body of the translation. For interested readers, we have instead presented the mantras and incantations along with our complete comparative apparatus in a separate appendix.
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas!
Thus did I hear at one time. The Bhagavān was staying in Rājagṛha’s Bamboo Grove, in the Habitat of Kalandaka Birds. At that time, a certain monk was residing on the banks of Rājagṛha’s hot springs. When night had fallen, a deity with a brilliant golden complexion appeared before the monk and11 illuminated the entire bank of the hot springs with a vast radiance.
“Monk, I too do not know the teaching of Auspicious Night.”
The deity said, “The Bhagavān is staying nearby in Rājagṛha’s Bamboo Grove, in the Habitat of Kalandaka Birds. Go straight to the Bhagavān and ask him! Retain the Bhagavān’s instruction exactly as it is given to you, and apply yourself to it!” He then disappeared suddenly.
The next morning,12 the monk went to the Bhagavān. On arriving, he bowed his head to the Bhagavān’s feet and remained to one side. Sitting to the side of the Bhagavān, the monk asked the Bhagavān, “Venerable sir, last night, after dusk, a deity with a brilliant golden complexion [F.162.a] appeared before me and illuminated the entire bank of the hot springs with a vast radiance. The deity said to me, ‘Monk, do you know the teaching of Auspicious Night?’ I replied, ‘Deva, I am ignorant of the teaching of Auspicious Night. Now, are you, Deva,13 aware of the teaching of Auspicious Night, or are you unaware of it?’ ‘Monk, I too do not know the teaching of Auspicious Night,’ the deity responded. ‘Deva, who then exists who knows the teaching of Auspicious Night?’ The deity then said, ‘The Bhagavān is staying in Rājagṛha’s Bamboo Grove, in the Habitat of Kalandaka Birds. Go straight to the Bhagavān and ask him! Retain the Bhagavān’s instruction exactly as it is given to you, and apply yourself to it!’ He then disappeared suddenly. Therefore, Venerable Bhagavān, I have come to ask you the meaning of this.”
“Sir, I do not know that deity,” the monk replied.
“Sir, I wish to hear the teaching of Auspicious Night,” the monk entreated.
The Bhagavān replied, “Then, monk, listen well and carefully, and pay attention! I will teach you. Monk, when monks are endowed with three special qualities, they are called those who abide by the teaching of Auspicious Night. Which three? They are as follows: By possessing the three special qualities of (1) not following after the past,16 (2) not hoping17 for the future, and (3) remaining uncaptivated by presently arisen states, a monk is known as someone who follows the teaching of Auspicious Night.”
tadyathā| bi nā bi ni| bi na pūraṇi| buddha-martaṇḍe| mānini mānini| ṇi ṇi ṇi ṇi| ṭi ṭi ṭi ṭi| vīrati| gauri| gāndhāri| caṇḍāli| mātaṃgi| pukkasi| brāhmaṇi| drāviḍi| drāmiḍi| śavari| sadālambha| hīnamadhyamadhāriṇi| maholani| dalabhani| dalābhadre| mahādalini| calini| muṣṭe| cakravarti| mahācakravarti| śavari śavari| mahāśavari| bhu tsing gi| bhu tsi ring gi ni| ni mi ni ming gi ni| nimiṃdhari bhu ta ni svāhā
tadyathā| e ṭu ṭu ṭu ṭu| na ṭu mi rṇi| ki rṇi| eṁ ku| sid da ta ri| tsa la lu| rni rtu| nirma llu| gallu| a ba tra no ne| śe ku nir ba ra da sa le| ta ra ke| ta re| ta rod tu| nod tu| ti la la lu| bhūtapataye| ba ta yi ye svāhā
tadyathā| arakāte | narakāte| pāṃśuka| pāyiye| kapotaka pāyiye| tapodhane svāhā
“Monk, when, with the intention of safeguarding all sentient beings, sons of good family or daughters of good family [F.163.a] keep the meaning of Auspicious Night’s teachings,28 together with its prose, its stanzas, and its Dravidian mantras, in their mind, or when they remember it, read it,29 concentrate on it, master it, or correctly teach it in detail to others, their body will be indestructible by fire, indestructible by poison,30 and unharmed by punishment inflicted by authorities31 or assault from thieves; furthermore, they will not die prematurely and will certainly reach nirvāṇa.
“Homage to the completely perfect buddhas, the tathāgatas, the arhats of the past, present, and future!
tadyathā| nimi nimiṃdhare| timi timiṅgali| trailokya-avalokini| [F.163.b] triśūladharaṇi| a ku phi ni| kṛmīkṛti | ki li ki li| kud to kud to| kud to kud si| kurti ku pi ti
“May I and all sentient beings, accompanied by Vajrapāṇi,39 be protected everywhere from all dangers, illnesses, poisons, fevers, evil spirits, bites from venomous creatures, thieves, all humans and nonhumans, all dangers, injuries, infectious disease, fighting, troubles, wrongdoing, discord, quarrels, and disputes, as well as from all evil deeds committed with body, speech, and mind, and from all fears! Protect!
When the Bhagavān had spoken these words, the monks and all the assemblies,40 together with the world and its deities, humans, asuras, garuḍas, gandharvas, kinnaras, mahoragas, great yakṣas, rākṣasas, pretas, and piśācas, delighted and rejoiced in the Bhagavān’s words.
tadyathā| bi nā bi ni| bi na pūraṇi|42 buddha-martaṇḍe|43 mānini mānini|44 ṇi ṇi ṇi ṇi| ṭi ṭi ṭi ṭi|45 vīrati|46 gauri| gāndhāri|47 caṇḍāli|48 mātaṃgi|49 pukkasi|50 brāhmaṇi|51 drāviḍi|52 drāmiḍi|53 śavari|54 sadālambha|55 hīnamadhyamadhāriṇi|56 maholani|57 dalabhani|58 dalābhadre|59 mahādalini|60 calini|61 muṣṭe| cakravarti|62 mahācakravarti|63 śavari śavari| mahāśavari|64 bhu tsing gi|65 bhu tsi ring gi ni|66 ni mi ni ming gi ni|67 nimiṃdhari bhu ta ni68 svāhā|69
tadyathā| e ṭu ṭu ṭu ṭu| na ṭu mi rṇi|70 ki rṇi| eṁ ku|71 sid da ta ri| tsa la lu|72 rni rtu|73 nirma llu|74 gallu|75 a ba tra no ne|76 śe ku nir ba ra da sa le|77 ta ra ke| ta re| ta rod tu|78 nod tu| ti la la lu|79 bhūtapataye| ba ta yi ye80 svāhā|
|BHSD||Franklin Edgerton, Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary|
|Mvy||Braarvig, ed., Mahāvyutpatti with sGra sbyor bam po gnyis pa|
|SHT III||Lore Sander and Ernst Waldschmidt, Sanskrithandschriften aus den Turfanfunden, part 3.|
|SI 2044||Kashgar manuscript fragment, Minayeff and Oldenburg 1983|
|Taishō||Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō; see SAT|
|A||Kangyur Pedurma (bka’ ’gyur dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Kangyur]|
|C||Choné (co ne) Kangyur|
|D||Degé (par phud) printed Kangyur|
|H||Lhasa (lha sa/zhol) printed Kangyur|
|J||Lithang (li thang/’jang sa tham) printed Kangyur|
|K||Peking printed Kangyur (1684–92, emperor Kangxi)|
|KY||Yongle printed Kangyur (1410)|
|N||Narthang (snar thang) printed Kangyur|
|S||Stok Palace (stog pho brang) manuscript Kangyur|
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- nyon mongs
The afflictions are mental factors that afflict the mind and lead to unwholesome actions of body, speech, and mind, which in turn produce suffering. The basic afflictions in all schools of Buddhism are considered to be attachment (rāga/lobha), hostility (dveṣa), and delusion (moha).
- dgra bcom
There are four kinds of “noble persons” (āryapudgala) according to the Śrāvakayāna, characterized by the level of abandonment of ten kinds of fetters (saṃyojana) that bind one to saṃsāra. This is the fourth and final of the four stages of the realization of the supramundane path (and fruit), equivalent with awakening or liberation.
- lha ma yin
A class of nonhuman beings who inhabit one of the six types of worlds (loka) that make up saṃsāra. The asuras are the enemies of the gods (deva), vying with them in an eternal struggle for supremacy.
- ’od ma’i tshal
The famous bamboo grove near Rājagṛha where the Buddha regularly stayed and gave teachings. It was situated on land donated by King Bimbisāra of Magadha and was the first of several landholdings donated to the Buddhist community during the time of the Buddha.
- bcom ldan ’das
A common epithet of the historical Buddha. The Sanskrit word bhaga means, among other things, good fortune, happiness, prosperity, and excellence. The suffix -vat indicates possession. A common English translation is thus “the Blessed One” or “the Fortunate One.” The three syllables of the Tibetan translation mean that the Buddha has “overcome or conquered” (bcom), is “endowed with [qualities]” (ldan), and has “gone beyond [saṃsāra]” (’das).
- gdol ma
- gtum mo
A member of the lowest social classes in ancient Indian caste society.
- tsan dan
In the sūtra Auspicious Night, Candana is identified as an army general from among the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. According to the Pali suttas, Candana is one of the yakṣa generals and a vassal of the gods of the four directions, also known as the Four Great Kings (Cāturmahārājika). In the Lomasakaṅgiyabhaddekarattasutta version of the Bhaddekarattasuttas in the Majjhima Nikāya (MN 134), as in Auspicious Night, Candana is the deity that illuminates the banks/park of the hot springs, but he is not identified as a general from the Heaven of the Thirty-Three gods. The Sanskrit word means “sandalwood powder,” which was considered a very precious substance.
- lha’i bu
The term dhāraṇī has the sense of something that “holds” or “retains,” and so it can refer to the special capacity to memorize and recall detailed teachings. It can also refer to a verbal expression of the teachings—a spell or mnemonic formula that distills and “holds” essential points of the Dharma and is used to attain mundane and supramundane goals. The same term is also used to denote texts that contain such formulae.
- ’gro lding ba’i gsang sngags kyi gzhi
- ’gro lding ba’i sngags kyi gzhi
Literally, “Dravidian mantra words.” The Bodhisattvabhūmi defines Dravidian mantras as strings of syllables with no specific semantic domain. The fact that these mantras are specifically identified as “Dravidian” (Skt. drāmiḍa; Tib. ’gro lding) points to their origin among the speakers of Dravidian languages in South India.
- dri za
A class of generally benevolent nonhuman beings who inhabit the sky and are most renowned as celestial musicians. They are one of the aṣṭasenā, eight groups of nonhuman beings said to have been present when the Buddha preached the Mahāyāna sūtras.
- nam mkha’ lding
A class of nonhuman being described as eagle-type birds with a gigantic wingspan. They are the traditional enemies of the nāgas. Literally “sky-soarer” in Tibetan, they are one of the aṣṭasenā, eight groups of nonhuman beings said to have been present when the Buddha preached the Mahāyāna sūtras.
Gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three
- sum cu rtsa gsum gyi lha
A class of gods within the desire realm (kāmadhātu). Their presiding deity is usually considered to be Śakra, also known as Indra.
Habitat of Kalandaka
- bya ka lan da ka gnas pa
- bya ka lan ta ka gnas pa
A woodland within the Bamboo Grove; in the Pali tradition the compound is usually interpreted as “squirrels’ feeding place,” but according to Tibetan sources kalandaka refers to a kind of bird.
The exact referent of the word kalandaka is contested, and its etymology is unclear (see Mayrhofer 1956, s.v.). While in the Pali Buddhist tradition the word is generally believed to refer to a kind of squirrel (see Dhammika 2015, 61 and 110), the Tibetan tradition understood ka lan da ka to be a species of bird that nested in the Bamboo Grove. In the Pali tradition, kalandakanivāpa is the name of a locality in or near the Veṇuvana, the Bamboo Grove north of the ancient town of Rājagṛha, in which a certain king had placed food (nivāpa) for the squirrels. According to legend, a tree spirit in the form of a squirrel had warned the intoxicated, sleeping, and unattended king that a venomous snake was approaching to bite him. Out of gratitude, the king ordered that the squirrels be fed regularly. According to Tibetan sources, King Bimbisāra of Magadha confiscated the park that was later to become the Bamboo Grove from a local landowner. The landowner, angry about the expropriation, took rebirth as a venomous snake in that park. One day, when Bimbisāra and his attendants had fallen asleep after a picnic in the park, the snake approached to bite the king. Some kalandaka birds, however, saw the snake and seized it. Their cries awoke one of the king’s wives, who then killed the snake, thus saving the king’s life. As a sign of his gratitude, Bimbisāra planted bamboo that the birds especially liked (cf. Rockhill 1884, 43–44, for a translation of the Kangyur passage relating this story). According to some Chinese sources kalandaka is the name of the person who donated the Bamboo Grove to the Buddha (for references, see Vinītā 2010, 415 and 417, footnote b). We have followed the Tibetan interpretation in our translation.
Heaven of the Thirty-Three
- sum cu rtsa gsum
The second heaven of the desire realm, located above Mount Meru and reigned over by Indra and thirty-two other gods.
- ta po ta
ta po ta (or ta la po ta?) is the Tibetan transliteration of the Pali and Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit word tapodā (or tapoda), which, in the Pali texts, designates a hot spring outside of ancient Rājagṛha. This site, together with its surrounding area, the tapodārāma (Hot Springs Park), was favored as a bathing place by the early Buddhist saṅgha. The hot springs are in operation, even today, near the Veṇuvana site in Rajgir.
- rig sngags
- rig pa
Vidyāmantras are incantations that, by extension of the literal meaning of the Sanskrit word, are believed to encapsulate and invoke hidden or spiritual knowledge in their syllables, which themselves are considered magically potent. In tantric texts, vidyās and vidyāmantras take the form of or can appear as female deities.
- bar ma do
The transitional, discarnate state of a sentient being between death and rebirth, classically said to last up to forty-nine days. Its existence was and is not accepted by all Buddhist schools (not, e.g., by the Theravādins).
- mi’am ci
A class of nonhuman beings that are half-human, half-animal, typically with animal heads atop human bodies. Kinnaras are one group among the aṣṭasenā, eight groups of nonhuman beings said to have been present when the Buddha preached the Mahāyāna sūtras.
- theg pa chen po
Vehicle or path of the bodhisattvas; when contrasted with the Śrāvakayāna with respect to its salvific power or goal, the Mahāyāna is characterized by the bodhisattvas’ postponement of their own liberation from saṃsāra and their aspiration to save all sentient beings.
- lto ’phye chen po
Literally “great serpents,” mahoragas are supernatural beings depicted as large, subterranean beings with human torsos and heads and the lower bodies of serpents. Their movements are said to cause earthquakes. They are one group among the aṣṭasenā, eight groups of nonhuman beings said to have been present when the Buddha preached the Mahāyāna sūtras.
- gsang sngags
A formula of words or syllables that are recited aloud or mentally in order to bring about a magical or soteriological effect or result. The term has been creatively etymologized to mean “that which protects (trā) the mind (man)”.
- dbang phyug
The Sanskrit aiśvarya can be variously rendered as “sovereignty or supremacy, mastery, or might, superhuman power, or omnipotence, etc.” The term refers to the mastery or sovereignty of a buddha gained through the training on the Buddhist path to awakening and through the development of superhuman abilities or superknowledges (abhijñā) thereby, such as clairvoyance, the ability to read others’ minds, and other magical powers like the ability to walk through solid objects.
- pA r+Na sha ba ri
- ri phrod lo ma gyon ma
A piśācinī renowned in Buddhist lore for her power to cure disease, avert epidemics, and pacify obstacles. She is often considered a form of Tārā.
- sha za
A class of nonhuman beings traditionally associated with the wild, remote places of the earth. They are considered particularly violent and known to devour flesh. Thus the term was translated into Tibetan as “flesh eater.”
- pi sha tsi
A being from the Buddhist spirit world. See “piśāca.”
- yi dags
The Sanskrit preta literally means “departed” and generally refers to the spirits of the dead; more specifically in Buddhism, it refers to a class of sentient beings belonging to the lower or “bad/unfortunate rebirth destinies” (apāya).
- rgyal po’i khab
The ancient capital of Magadha prior to its relocation to Pāṭaliputra during the Mauryan dynasty, Rājagṛha is one of the most important locations in Buddhist history. The literature tells us that the Buddha and his saṅgha spent a considerable amount of time in residence in and around Rājagṛha enjoying the patronage of King Bimbisāra and then of his son King Ajātaśatru. Rājagṛha is also remembered as the location where the first Buddhist monastic council was held after the Buddha Śākyamuni passed into parinirvāṇa. Now known as Rajgir and located in the modern Indian state of Bihar.
- srin po
A class of nonhuman beings that are often, but certainly not always, considered harmful and demonic in the Buddhist tradition.
- thub pa
An epithet of the Buddha Śākyamuni; the Sanskrit term connotes “silence” or “quiescence,” which is regarded as a central quality of sages. The Tibetan thub pa means “capable one.”
Son of good family
- rigs kyi bu
While this is usually a characteristic pertaining to Brahmins (i.e., born in the Brahmin caste to seven-generation Brahmin parents), the Buddha redefined noble birth as determined by an individual’s ethical conduct and integrity. Thus, someone who enters the Buddha’s Saṅgha is called a “son or daughter of noble family” and is in this sense “good” or “noble” and considered born again (dvija, or “twice born”).
The polysemous word chos (usually a translation of dharma) is used here in the sense of “qualities,” as when someone or something is said to possess particularly efficacious, good, or beneficial qualities. It also can mean “virtue” in the nonreligious and nonmoral sense.
- nyan thos kyi theg pa
Vehicle of the śrāvakas or hearers, i.e., the path followed by the immediate disciples of the historical Buddha, and those who follow them, that leads to the state of an arhat.
- bde bar gshegs pa
Literally “one who has fared well”; a common epithet for a buddha.
- mdo sde
The term "teaching" renders here mdo sde, which usually refers to one of the collections of sūtras in the Kangyur. However, it can also mean the text of a particular sūtra or the teachings or doctrine contained in it—which is the case in this text.
- gnod sbyin
Yakṣas are ambivalent nature spirits. According to Indian mythology, they inhabit trees, ponds, and other natural places, and serve as guardians of a certain locale. They possess magical powers, are shapeshifters, and can appear as helpful to and protective of the Buddha, his disciples, and the teachings. They can also be malevolent forces that create obstacles and illness. They are one group among the aṣṭasenā, eight groups of nonhuman beings said to have been present when the Buddha preached the Mahāyāna sūtras.