Describing the Benefits of Producing Representations of the Thus-Gone One
Degé Kangyur, vol. 72 (mdo sde, sa), folios 197.a–198.b
Translated by the Alexander Csoma de Kőrös Translation Group
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
This sūtra was translated from the Tibetan and introduced by the Alexander Csoma de Kőrös Translation Group, which is comprised of Krisztina Teleki and Karma Dorje (Rabjampa). Beáta Kakas served as Sanskrit expert and William Dewey served as the English-language editor.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
In Describing the Benefits of Producing Representations of the Thus-Gone One,1 the Buddha Śākyamuni is residing in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park in Śrāvastī when a large number of monks gather nearby and begin discussing how one should respond when asked about the karmic benefits accrued by creating representations of the Buddha. They approach the Buddha for guidance, and the Buddha explains the five kinds of benefits that such virtuous deeds bring. First, he elaborates on the excellent life circumstances such as happiness and fame that they will experience. Second, he details the characteristics of physical beauty that they will gain. Third, he lists the kinds of wealth they will accrue. Fourth, he states that the donor will become a universal emperor enjoying all the advantages of that position. Fifth, he explains that the donor will be reborn among the gods and enjoy all divine distinctions. The sūtra then concludes with the monks rejoicing and praising the Buddha.
This English translation is based on the Tibetan version in the Degé Kangyur in consultation with the variant readings recorded in the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) Kangyur. There is to our knowledge no extant Sanskrit version of this sūtra. The colophon to the Tibetan translation states that it was translated by the Indian preceptor Dharmākara, the translator Bandé Yeshé Nyingpo, and the chief editor Bandé Paltsek. As for the date of the Tibetan translation, the text’s inclusion in the Denkarma2 and Phangthangma3 imperial catalogs confirms its provenance in the late eighth or early ninth century.
A Chinese version of this text is also extant with the title Zuofoxingxiang jing 作佛形像.4 While its translator is unknown and its date is uncertain, it is mentioned in the Dongjin lu 東晉錄 (Record of the Eastern Jin, 317–420 ᴄᴇ). It is also referenced in the Houhanshu 後漢書 (Book of the Later Han), which is the official dynastic history of the Later Han dynasty 後漢 (25–220 ᴄᴇ) written by Fan Ye 范曄 (398–445). This indicates that the Chinese translation was completed sometime before the late fourth or early fifth century.
A Mongolian translation of the text is also available in different versions of the Mongolian Buddhist canon, which is based on the Tibetan.5
There is, to our knowledge, no previous English translation of the text to date, nor any translation into any other European language.
At that time a large number of monks had gathered in the assembly hall and started the following conversation: “Faithful brahmins or householders who remember what they are taught and have become increasingly learned may ask you how to practice virtue. There may also be some who delight in producing representations of the Thus-Gone One, who will come before us and inquire, ‘Respected ones, may we know how much benefit there is for donors when they produce a representation of the Thus-Gone One?’ How can we then respond to them in accordance with the Dharma when we do not know how much benefit results from producing a representation of the Thus-Gone One? We should ask the blessed, thus-gone, worthy, perfect Buddha—the omniscient, all-seeing teacher who eliminates all doubts—about this point. Once the Blessed One teaches us, we will comprehend it and can then explain it at length and respond to those faithful brahmins and householders.”
Then that large number of monks went to the place where the Blessed One was staying, prostrated themselves at the Blessed One’s feet, sat to one side, [F.197.b] and asked the Buddha the following: “Respected One, a large number of us monks just had the following conversation when we gathered in the assembly hall: ‘Faithful brahmins or householders who remember what they are taught and have become increasingly learned may ask us how to practice virtue. There may also be some who delight in producing representations of the Thus-Gone One, who will come before us and inquire, “Respected ones, may we know how much benefit there is for donors when they commission a representation of the Thus-Gone One?” How can we then respond to them in accordance with the Dharma when we do not know how much benefit results from producing a representation of the Thus-Gone One? We should ask the blessed, thus-gone, worthy, perfect Buddha—the omniscient, all-seeing teacher who eliminates all doubts—about this point. Once the Blessed One teaches us, we will comprehend it and can then explain it at length and respond to those faithful brahmins and householders.’ Respected Blessed One, since we have come to you asking about these matters, may we know how much benefit there is for donors when they produce a representation of the Thus-Gone One?”
The Blessed One replied, “Monks, you have asked this to bring benefit to many beings, to bring happiness to many beings and out of compassion for them, and to bring benefit and happiness to gods and humans. You have thought to ask for clarification from the thus-gone, worthy, perfect Buddha. Excellent! Excellent! For that reason, monks, listen to me very carefully, pay attention, [F.198.a] and I will teach you.
“One will live in a great palace, be regarded as fortunate, be free of poverty,6 and have great joy, longevity, fame, and happiness. Monks, this is the first benefit for a donor who produces representations of the Thus-Gone One.
“One will also have riches, abundant wealth, prosperity, property, and many belongings. One will be self-sufficient and have many cherished possessions such as a great number of livestock, grain, jewels, gold, treasuries, and storerooms; many horses, elephants, oxen, sheep, male and female servants, employees, and laborers; and many ministers, friends, relatives, and kin. Monks, this is the second benefit for a donor who produces representations of the Thus-Gone One.
“Monks, one will also have a beautiful body, a pleasant appearance, elegance, a golden complexion,7 a head that is round like a parasol, long arms, a broad forehead, unbroken eyebrows, a perfect set of limbs and extremities, and be adorned with all sorts of ornaments. Monks, this is the third benefit for a donor who produces representations of the Thus-Gone One.
“Monks, one will also become a universal emperor who has a fine retinue, the seven royal treasures, and is surrounded by one thousand sons. All of one’s sons, wives, servants, and caretakers will listen respectfully and follow one’s commands. Monks, this is the fourth benefit for a donor [F.198.b] who produces representations of the Thus-Gone One.
“Moreover, monks, after passing away, one will take a favorable rebirth among the gods in the heavenly realms. After being born there, one will become an excellent king of the gods who will be venerated by the gods and goddesses. One will enjoy ten states: divine lifespan, divine complexion, divine power, divine happiness, divine lordship, and divine form, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Monks, this is the fifth benefit for a donor who produces representations of the Thus-Gone One.”
’phags pa de bzhin gshegs pa’i gzugs brnyan bzhag pa’i phan yon yang dag par brjod pa zhes bya ba’i chos kyi rnam grangs. Toh 320, Degé Kangyur, vol. 72 (mdo sde, sa), folios 197.a–198.b.
’phags pa de bzhin gshegs pa’i gzugs brnyan bzhag pa’i phan yon yang dag par brjod pa zhes bya ba’i chos kyi rnam grangs. bka’ ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Kangyur]. 108 volumes. Beijing: Krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Press), 2006–2009, vol. 72, pp. 584–88.
dkar chag ’phang thang ma. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang (Nationalities Press), 2003.
Qutuγ-tu tegünčilen iregsed-ün körüg bey-e-yi bayiγuluγsan-u sayin tusa-yi ünen-iyer ögüleküi neretü nom-un ǰüil. Mongolian Kanjur vol. 88, folios 264.a−266.b. Śata-piṭaka Series 101–208. Edited by Lokesh Chandra. New Delhi: Sharada Rani, 1973–79.
Herrmann-Pfandt, Adelheid. Die lHan kar ma: ein früher Katalog der ins Tibetische übersetzten buddhistischen Texte, 268. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2008.
Ligeti, Louis. Catalogue de Kanǰur Mongol imprimé. Vol. 1, Catalogue. Bibliotheca Orientalis Hungarica III. Budapest: Société Kőrösi Csoma, 1942.
- thams cad gzigs pa
- mgon med zas sbyin gyi kun dga’ ra ba
- rim gro’i gnas
- ban de dpal brtsegs
Bandé Yeshé Nyingpo
- ban de ye shes snying po
- bcom ldan ’das
- bram ze
- chos kyi rnam grangs
- d+ha rma ka ra
- sbyin pa po
- rgyal bu rgyal byed kyi tshal
- dge slong
- thams cad mkhyen pa
- yang dag par rdzogs pa’i sangs rgyas
- gzugs brnyan
- btsun pa
seven royal treasures
- rin po che sna bdun
- mnyan yod
- ston pa
- gnas bcu po
- de bzhin gshegs pa
- ’khor los sgyur ba’i rgyal po
- dge ba
- dgra bcom pa