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
- dgra bcom
- lha ma yin
- ’od ma’i tshal
- bcom ldan ’das
- gdol ma
- gtum mo
- tsan dan
daughter of good family
- rigs kyi bu mo
- lha’i bu
- ’gro lding ba’i gsang sngags kyi gzhi
- ’gro lding ba’i sngags kyi gzhi
- dri za
- nam mkha’ lding
gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three
- sum cu rtsa gsum gyi lha
Habitat of Kalandaka
- bya ka lan da ka gnas pa
- bya ka lan ta ka gnas pa
Heaven of the Thirty-Three
- sum cu rtsa gsum
- ta po ta
- rig sngags
- rig pa
- bar ma do
- mi’am ci
- theg pa chen po
- lto ’phye chen po
- gsang sngags
- dbang phyug
- pA r+Na sha ba ri
- ri phrod lo ma gyon ma
- sha za
- pi sha tsi
- yi dags
- rgyal po’i khab
- srin po
- thub pa
son of good family
- rigs kyi bu
- nyan thos kyi theg pa
- bde bar gshegs pa
- mdo sde
- lag na rdo rje
- gnod sbyin