The Verses of Nāga King Drum
Degé Kangyur, vol. 72 (sa), folios 204.b–208.b
Translated by Sonam Tsering Ngulphu and Norzin Dolma
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The Verses of Nāga King Drum contains the Buddha’s narration of a tale from one of his past lives as the nāga king Drum. While traveling with his younger brother Tambour, they come under verbal attack by another nāga named Drumbeat. Tambour’s anger at their mistreatment and desire for retaliation prompts Drum to counsel Tambour on the virtues of patience and nonviolence in the face of aggression and abusiveness. Through a series of didactic aphorisms, he advises his brother to meet disrespect and persecution with serenity, patience, compassion, and insight, in order to accomplish what is best for oneself and others. The Buddha now recounts King Drum’s wise counsel as a helpful instruction for his own followers.
The Verses of Nāga King Drum1 is a short sūtra composed entirely in verse, in which the Buddha recounts an episode from one of his former lives as a nāga king to illustrate and explain the importance of practicing patience and nonviolence in order to maintain harmony within the monastic community. The sūtra refers to a time when discord had broken out among the monastic saṅgha. This prompts the Buddha to outline the types of behavior that are worthy of someone who has adopted the religious life. His lesson takes the form of a parable from one of his previous lives as a righteous nāga king named Drum. The story recounts how King Drum, accompanied by his brother Tambour, set out in search of the Dharma, only to encounter the belligerent nāga Drumbeat, who proceeds to harass and verbally abuse the two brothers. Tambour is unable to withstand such ill treatment from someone he considers inferior and, in a burst of anger, makes plans to lay waste to Drumbeat’s city. However, King Drum intervenes with wise counsel as to why one should eschew violence at all costs and face belligerence with patience and wisdom. Tambour takes this message to heart, and his need for retaliation is assuaged. The Buddha concludes the sūtra by disclosing that in their past lives, he was King Drum, Ānanda was Tambour, and Devadatta was Drumbeat.
There are no known Sanskrit manuscripts or Chinese translations of this sūtra. As for the Tibetan translation, the text is found in Kangyur collections of different periods and is also recorded in the Denkarma2 and Phangthangma3 catalogs of Tibetan imperial translations. Thus, it appears that it was first translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan no later than the early ninth century, as the Denkarma is dated to 812 ᴄᴇ. This provides us with the only information to date the Tibetan translation, as the text does not include a translators’ colophon. Hence, we do not know the names of the Tibetan translators and editors involved in the translation. This English translation was prepared based on the Degé Kangyur in consultation with the Comparative Edition (Tib. dpe bsdur ma) and the Stok Palace Kangyur.
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas!
This completes The Verses of Nāga King Drum.
klu’i rgyal po rnga sgra’i tshigs su bcad pa. Toh 325, Degé Kangyur vol. 72 (mdo sde, sa), folios 204.b–208.b.
klu’i rgyal po rnga sgra’i tshigs su bcad pa. 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), 2006–9, vol. 72, 613–23.
klu’i rgyal po rnga sgra’i tshigs su bcad pa. Stok Palace Kangyur (stog pho brang bris ma bka’ ’gyur). Vol. 54 (mdo sde, ga), folios 351b-357a.
dkar chag ’phang thang ma / sgra sbyor bam po gnyis pa. Pe cin: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2003.
Denkarma (pho brang stod thang ldan dkar gyi chos ’gyur ro cog gi dkar chag). Toh 4364, Degé Tengyur vol. 206 (sna tshogs, jo), folios 294.b–310.a.
Herrmann-Pfandt, Adelheid. Die lHan kar ma: ein früher Katalog der ins Tibetische übersetzten buddhistischen Texte. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2008.
- kun dga’ bo
- lhas byin
- rnga sgra
- yan lag brgyad
- drang srong chen po
- klu mo
rite of restoring vows
- gso sbyong
- thub pa
- shakya thub pa
- rang sangs rgyas
- nye rnga
- de bzhin gshegs pa