The Sūtra of the Moon (1)
Degé Kangyur, vol. 34 (sher phyin, ka), folios 282.b–283.a
Translated by the Pema Yeshé Dé Translation Team
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The Sūtra of the Moon (1) is a short discourse providing a Buddhist account of a lunar eclipse. On one occasion while the Buddha is residing in Śrāvastī, the moon is seized by Rāhu, lord of the asuras, which causes an eclipse. The god of the moon asks the Buddha for refuge, after which the Buddha urges Rāhu to release the moon. When questioned by Vemacitra, another lord of the asuras, Rāhu explains that if he had not let the moon go, his head would have split into seven pieces. This sūtra enjoys some popularity today and appears in Tibetan collections of mantras and texts for protection.
This sūtra was translated by Giuliano Proença, who also prepared the introduction, the glossary, and the notes. The English translation and ancillary materials were proofread by Daniela Espíndola.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The Sūtra of the Moon (1) is a short discourse set in Śrāvastī that presents a Buddhist account of a lunar eclipse. It describes the asura king Rāhu seizing the moon and the Buddha calling for its release.1 When the eclipse begins, the god of the moon asks the Buddha for refuge, prompting the Buddha to demand that Rāhu let the moon go. When questioned by the asura Vemacitra, Rāhu explains that if he had not released the moon, his head would have split into seven pieces.
The Sūtra of the Moon (1) is a Tibetan translation of a canonical Theravāda text and thus was probably translated from Pali. It belongs to a group of thirteen late-translated sūtras2 (gsar du ’gyur ba), as noted in Butön Rinchen Drup’s3 History of Buddhism and in the Lithang, Degé, and Urga Kangyurs.4 One of these sūtras, The Sūtra of the Sun (Toh 41)5, presents an almost identical narrative concerning a solar eclipse. It features one additional verse not found in The Sūtra of the Moon (1), and the same is true of the Pali counterparts of these two texts. The equivalent of The Sūtra of the Moon in the Pali canon, the Candimasutta, is included in the Saṃyutta Nikāya (SN 2.9). Except for some words and one short phrase, the Tibetan and Pali are very similar.
There is another text in the Kangyur titled The Sūtra of the Moon (2) (Toh 331),6 which was translated from Sanskrit in the time of the early diffusion (eighth–ninth centuries). This text has Sanskrit, Chinese, and Old Uyghur parallels.7 It shares much of the same content as the sūtra translated here, but it differs in its wording, the number of verses and passages of its prose, its setting, and the characters depicted.
The Sūtra of the Moon (1) and The Sūtra of the Sun are popular among Tibetans today,8 appearing in Tibetan collections of mantras and protective texts. In the Theravāda tradition, they are included in Paritta collections, which have the function of providing protection through recitation.
Peter Skilling dates the translation of the thirteen late-translated sūtras to the first decade of the fourteenth century.9 The Sūtra of the Moon (1) is found in the Kangyurs of the Tshalpa, the Thempangma, and the mixed lines, as well as in some canonical collections from Western Tibet.10
The colophons of all versions of the Tshalpa line only indicate the conclusion of the sūtra, while the other collections mention the translators and the place where they worked: Ānandaśrī and Tharpa Lotsāwa Nyima Gyaltsen Palsangpo11 at the monastery of Tharpa Ling12 in Central Tibet.
Ānandaśrī is described in the colophon of the Āryamaitrīsūtra,13 which he also translated together with Künga Gyaltsen Thupten Palsangpo,14 as a prominent paṇḍita from Sri Lanka, but little is known about how or why he came to be in fourteenth century Tibet or how long he stayed there. Tharpa Lotsāwa, apart from these thirteen sūtras, also translated several other texts that are preserved in the tantra section of the Kangyur, working mainly with Indian and Nepalese paṇḍitas.15 Notably, he was one of the teachers of Butön Rinchen Drup (1290–1364).
It is interesting to note that this Tibetan translation gives the Sanskrit title Candrasūtra, while its presumed Theravāda source would have had the title Candimasutta. It is possible that the translators and later editors Sanskritized the title in accordance with the translation practices of the time. The title Candrasūtra is not attested in Sanskrit works, but the title Candramaṇḍalasūtra is documented in a Sanskrit fragment from Central Asia that lists different sūtras.16
The French Sanskritist and Orientalist Léon Feer studied Buddhist accounts of eclipses, including the legend of Rāhu according to Hindu and Buddhist texts. He translated Daniel John Gogerly’s English translation of the Candimasutta into French and produced his own French translations of Toh 42 and Toh 331. His notes are detailed and rich in explanations. He also finalized and published the unfinished work of Paul Grimblot on some paritta texts, presenting the Pali equivalent to Toh 42, excerpts of its commentary in the Aṭṭhakathā, and its translation into French.17
Peter Skilling has studied the thirteen late-translated sūtras (Toh 31–43) in detail, examining the location of these texts in the Kangyur, and their colophons, contents, translators, and possible original language. He notes parallels, dates the translations, and reviews scholarship on these works.
Feer translated Toh 42 from Tibetan into French in 1865. However, there are many translations from Pali. There is Feer’s translation into French (1871), Wilhelm Geiger’s translation into German (1930),18 Rhys Davids’ translation into English (1950), and a recent translation into English by Bhikkhu Sujato (2018).19
Our translation is based on the Tibetan text as found in the sūtra section of the Degé Kangyur, but we note variant readings from the witnesses of the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma), the Stok Palace Kangyur, and the Bardan Collection. In addition, we have compared the Pali with the Tibetan and noted cases where the Pali presents different readings. We occasionally refer to Toh 331 and its Sanskrit parallel.
Our translation benefited from Feer’s notes on Toh 42 and Toh 331, as well as from his translations. We also consulted Geiger’s translation of the Pali Candimasutta into German, and Sujato’s translation into English.
Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One was dwelling in Jeta Grove, Anāthapiṇḍada’s park in Śrāvastī.20 At that time the god Candramas was seized by Rāhu, lord of the asuras. Then the god Candramas, [F.283.a] recollecting and taking the Blessed One to heart,21 recited this verse:
Thereupon Rāhu, lord of the asuras, set the god Candramas free and hurriedly26 approached Vemacitra,27 lord of the asuras. He then sat to one side, displeased,28 agitated, and with all his body hairs bristling. Vemacitra, lord of the asuras, now questioned Rāhu, lord of the asuras, in verse:
zla ba’i mdo (Candrasūtra). Toh 42, Degé Kangyur vol. 34 (sher phyin, ka), folios 282.b–283.a.
zla ba’i 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), 2006–9, vol. 34, pp. 836–39.
zla ba’i mdo. Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 87 (mdo, chi), folios 216.a–217.a.
Butön Rinchen Drup (bu ston rin chen grub). chos kyi ’byung gnas gsung rab rin po che’i gter mdzod. In: gsung ’bum (zhol par ma/ ldi lir bskyar par brgyab pa), vol 24 (ya), pp. 633–1055. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1965–71.
Candimasutta. Pali Canon, Saṃyutta Nikāya 2.9. Texts in Pali on SuttaCentral. For translations, see Bhikkhu Sujato, The Moon.
Sūryasutta. Pali Canon, Saṃyutta Nikāya 2.10. Texts in Pali on SuttaCentral. For translations, see Bhikkhu Sujato, The Sun.
Bhikkhu Sujato, trans. The Moon (English translation of Candimasutta). SuttaCentral, 2016–18.
———, trans. The Sun (English translation of the Sūryasutta). SuttaCentral, 2016–18.
Dharmachakra Translation Committee, trans. (2016). Destroyer of the Great Trichiliocosm (Mahāsāhasrapramardanī, Toh 558). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———(2020a), trans. The Application of Mindfulness of the Sacred Dharma (Saddharmasmṛtyupasthāna, Toh 287). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———(2013), trans. The Play in Full (Lalitavistara, Toh 95). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———(2020b), trans. The Root Manual of the Rites of Mañjuśrī (Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa, Toh 543). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
Feer, Léon (1883). Fragments extraits du Kandjour. Annales du Musée Guimet 5. Paris.
———(1865). La Légende de Rahu chez les bramanes et les buddhistes. Paris: Duprat.
Geiger, Wilhelm. Die in Gruppen geordnete Sammlung aus dem Pāli-Kanon der Buddhisten zum ersten Mal ins Deutsche übertragen. München-Neubiberg: Oskar Schloss, 1930.
Grimblot, Paul and Léon Feer. “Extraits du Paritta.” Journal Asiatique 67 (1871): 225–335.
Jamspal, Lozang and Kaia Tara Fischer, trans. The Hundred Deeds (Karmaśataka, Toh 340). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2020.
Pema Yeshé Dé Translation Team, trans. (2023). The Sūtra of the Sun. (Sūryasūtra, Toh 41). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
———(2023), trans. The Sūtra of the Moon (2). (Candrasūtra, Toh 331). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
Rhys Davids, Caroline A. F. The Book of the kindred sayings (Samyutta-nikāya) or grouped suttas. Pali Text Society Translation Series 7. London: The Pali Text Society, 1950.
Roberts, Peter Alan, trans. The White Lotus of the Good Dharma (Saddharmapuṇḍarīka, Toh 113). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2018.
Skilling, Peter. “Theravādin Literature in Tibetan Translation.” Journal of the Pāli Text Society 19, (1993): 69–201.
Waldschmidt, Ernst. “Buddha Frees the Disc of the Moon (Candrasūtra).” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 33 (1970): 179–83.
Wille, Klaus. “Neue Fragmente des Candrasūtra.” In Bauddhasāhityastabakāvalī, Essays and Studies on Buddhist Sanskrit Literature dedicated to Claus Vogel by Colleagues, Students, and Friends, edited by D. Dimitrov, M. Hahn, and R. Steiner, 339–51. Indica et Tibetica 36. Marburg: Indica et Tibetica Verlag, 2008.
Zieme, Peter. “Verse des Candrasūtra nach chinesisch-uigurischen Bilinguen.” Türk Dilleri Araştırmaları 10 (2000): 65–80.
Nyima Gyaltsen Palsangpo
- nyi ma rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po