The Stem Array
Degé Kangyur, vol. 37 (phal chen, ga), folios 274.b–396.a; vol. 38 (phal chen, a), folios 1.b–363.a.
Translated by Peter Alan Roberts
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
In this lengthy final chapter of the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, while the Buddha Śākyamuni is in meditation in Śrāvastī, Mañjuśrī leaves for South India, where he meets the young layman Sudhana and instructs him to go to a certain kalyāṇamitra or “good friend,” who then directs Sudhana to another such friend. In this way, Sudhana successively meets and receives teachings from fifty male and female, child and adult, human and divine, and monastic and lay kalyāṇamitras, including night goddesses surrounding the Buddha and the Buddha’s wife and mother. The final three in the succession of kalyāṇamitras are the three bodhisattvas Maitreya, Mañjuśrī, and Samantabhadra. Samantabhadra’s recitation of the Samantabhadracaryāpraṇidhāna (“The Prayer for Completely Good Conduct”) concludes the sūtra.
Translated by Peter Alan Roberts and edited by Emily Bower, who was also the project manager. Ling Lung Chen was consultant for the Chinese, and Tracy Davis copyedited the final draft. The translator would like to thank Patrick Carré and Douglas Osto, who have both spent decades studying and translating this sūtra, for their advice and help.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous sponsorship of Richard and Carol Weingarten; of Jamyang Sun, Manju Chandra Sun and Siqi Sun; and of an anonymous donor, which helped make the work on this translation possible, is most gratefully acknowledged.
A Multitude of Buddhas is the marvelous essence of the final, ultimate, definitive wheel from among the three wheels of the Sugata’s teaching. It has many other titles, such as The Mahāvaipulya Basket, The Earring, The Lotus Adornment, and so on.
It has seven sections:2233 A Multitude of Tathāgatas,2234 The Vajra Banner Dedication,2235 The Teaching of the Ten Bhūmis,2236 The Teaching of Completely Good Conduct,2237 [F.362.b] The Teaching of the Birth and Appearance of the Tathāgatas,2238 The Transcendence of the World,2239 and Stem Array.2240 These are subdivided into forty-five chapters.
According to Butön Rinpoché and others, it contains thirty-nine thousand and thirty verses, a hundred and thirty fascicles, and an additional thirty verses. In the Tshalpa Kangyur edition there are a hundred and fifteen fascicles, the Denkarma edition has a hundred and twenty-seven fascicles,2241 and present-day editions have various numbers of fascicles.2242
This sūtra was first received from Ārya Nāgārjuna by Paṇḍita Buddhabhadra and Paṇḍita Śikṣānanda (652–710), and they both translated it into Chinese. It is taught that Surendrabodhi and Vairocanarakṣita became principal editors for a Chinese translation.
As for the lineage of the text, there is the lineage from China: The perfect Buddha, Ārya Mañjuśrī, Lord Nāgārjuna, the two paṇḍitas mentioned above, and Heshang Tushun. Then the lineage continued through others until Üpa Sangyé Bum received it from Heshang Gying-ju. Then that lineage was passed on through Lotsawa Chokden and has continued up to the present time.
The lineage from India is as follows:
It was passed from Nāgārjuna to Āryadeva, and then Mañjuśrīkīrti, and so on, until Bari Lotsawa received it from Vajrāsana. It is taught that the lineage then continued through Chim Tsöndrü Sengé, the great Sakya Lord,2243 and so on.
However, I have not seen any other text or history of a translation made by any other lotsawa or paṇḍita other than those listed in the colophon to this translation into Tibetan.
The king of Jangsa Tham2244 had a complete Kangyur made that was based on the Tshalpa Kangyur. At the present time this is known as the Lithang Tshalpa Kangyur (1609–14). I considered this to be a reliable source and so have made it the basis for this edition. However, it has many omissions, accretions, and misspellings, and therefore I have at this time corrected it by seeking out many older editions.
There are variant Indian texts and conflicting translations, and I have not been able to ascertain from them a definitive single meaning or correct words. Nevertheless, this text is nothing but a valid edition.
There are varying translations of terms that have been left unrevised, as there is no contradiction in meaning. For example, it has rgyan instead of bkod pa;2245 ’byam klas instead of rab ’byams;2246 so so yang dag par rig pa instead of tha dad pa yang dag par shes pa;2247 thugs for dgongs pa;2248 [F.363.a] nyin mtshan dang zla ba yar kham mar kham dang instead of nyin mtshan dang yud du yan man dang;2249 and tha snyad instead of rnam par dpyod pa.2250
Sanskrit words have many cases and tenses, so that although the Tibetan lotsawas and paṇḍitas, who had the eyes of the Dharma, translated their meaning, their tenses, cases, and so on are difficult to discern. Those are the majority of the examples of uncertainty, and there are also a few other kinds, but they are nevertheless in accord with Tibetan grammar.
In most texts there are many archaic words, so that the meaning of the translation is not clear, but there is a consistency when those words are all in archaic Tibetan. However, there appears to have occurred in later times a strong adulteration of the text so that there is a mixture of archaic and modern forms. There are also unreliable placements of the shad mark that differentiates clauses, but all these have been left as they are because these faults are few and minor. Therefore, this revision has been diligently edited without becoming analogous to knocking down the ancient megaliths of the southern regions.
May this remain for the entire kalpa within the circle of the Cakravāla Mountains, as bright as the sun and moon, as the glory of the merit of nonsectarian beings and the precious teaching of the Buddha.
This was printed in the water tiger year called dge byed (1722),2251 in the presence of Tenpa Tsering (1678–1738), the divine Dharma king who rules in accordance with the Dharma, who has the vast, superior wealth of the ten good actions, and who is a bodhisattva as a ruler of humans and the source of happiness in the four regions of greater Tibet.
This was written by the attendant Gelong Tashi Wangchuk, who in the process of revision was commanded to become its supervisor.
Ye dharmahetuprabhavā hetun teṣān tathāgato hy avadat. Teṣāñ ca yo nirodha evaṃ vādī mahāśramanaḥ.
sdong po bkod pa (Gaṇḍavyūha). Toh 44, ch. 45, Degé Kangyur vol. 37 (phal chen, ga), folios 274.b–396.a; vol. 38 (phal chen, a), folios 1.b–363.a.
sdong po bkod 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. 37, pp. 590–853; vol. 38, pp. 3–800.
sdong po bkod pa. Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 39 (phal chen, ca), folios 22.b–352.a; vol. 40 (phal chen, cha), folios 1.a–310.a.
sangs rgyas phal po che zhe bya ba shin tu rgyas pa chen po’i mdo (Buddhāvataṃsakanāmamahāvaipulyasūtra) [The Mahāvaipulya Sūtra “A Multitude of Buddhas”]. Toh 44, Degé Kangyur vols. 35–38 (phal chen, ka–a). Stok Palace Kangyur vols. 35–40 (phal chen, ka–cha).
dga’ bo la mngal na gnas pa bstan pa (Nandagarbhāvakrantinirdeśa) [The Sūtra on Being in the Womb That Was Taught to Nanda]. Toh 57, Degé Kangyur vol. 41 (dkon brtsegs, ga), folios 205.b–236.b.
rgya cher rol pa (Lalitavistara). Toh 95, Degé Kangyur vol. 46 (mdo sde, kha), folios 1.b–216.b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee (2013).
snying rje chen po’i pad ma dkar po (Mahākaruṇāpuṇḍarīka) [White Lotus of Compassion Sūtra]. Toh 111, Degé Kangyur vol. 50 (mde sde, cha), folios 56.a–128.b.
ting nge ’dzin gyi rgyal po’i mdo (Samādhirājasūtra). Toh 127, Degé Kangyur vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), folios 1.b–170.b. English translation in Roberts (2018a).
dam pa’i chos pad ma dkar po (Saddharmapuṇḍarīka) [Lotus Sūtra/Lotus of the Good Dharma]. Toh 113, Degé Kangyur vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1.b–180.b. English translation in Roberts (2018b).
bde ba can gyi bkod pa (Sukhāvatīvyūha). Toh 115, Degé Kangyur vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 195.b–200.b. English translation in Sakya Pandita Translation Group (2011).
rnam par snang mdzad chen po mngon par rdzogs par byang chub pa rnam par sprul pa byin gyis rlob pa shin tu rgyas pa mdo sde’i dbang po’i rgyal po (Mahāvairocanābhisambodhivikurvatīadhiṣṭhānavaipulyasūtraindrarājānāmadharmaparyāya). Toh 494, Degé Kangyur vol. 86 (rgyud, tha), folios 151.b–260.a.
phung po gsum pa’i mdo (Triskandhakasūtra) [The Confession of the Three Heaps]. Toh 284, Degé Kangyur vol. 68 (mdo sde, ya) folios 57.a–77.a.
byang chub sems dpa’i spyod yul gyi thabs kyi yul la rnam par ’phrul pa bstan pa (Bodhisattvagocaraupāyaviṣayavikurvāṇanirdeśa/Satyaka Sūtra) [The Teaching of the Miraculous Manifestation of the Range of Methods in the Field of Activity of the Bodhisattvas]. Toh 146, Degé Kangyur vol. 57 (mdo sde, pa), folios 82.a–141.b. English translation in Jamspal (2010).
tshangs pa’i dra ba’i mdo (Brahmajālasūtra). Toh 352, Degé Kangyur vol. 76 (mdo sde, aH), folios 70.b–86.a.
tshe dang ldan pa dga’ bo la mngal du ’jug pa bstan pa (Āyuṣmannandagarbhāvakrantinirdeśa) [The Sūtra on Entering the Womb That Was Taught to Āyuṣmat Nanda]. Toh 58, Degé Kangyur vol. 41 (dkon brtsegs, ga), folios 237.a–248.a. English translation in Kritzer 2021.
bzang po smon lam (Bhadracaryāpraṇidhāna). Toh 1095, Degé Kangyur vol. 101 (gzungs, waM), folios 262.b–266.a.
shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa stong phrag nyi shu lnga pa (Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā) [The Perfection of Wisdom in Twenty-Five Thousand Lines]. Toh 9, Degé Kangyur vols. 26–28 (nyi khri, ka–ga).
sa bcu’i le’u (Daśabhūmika) [Ten Bhūmi Sūtra]. Toh 44, ch. 31, Degé Kangyur vol. 36 (phal chen, ga), folios 46.a–283.a. English translation in Roberts (2021).
sems kyi rgyal pos dris nas grangs la ’jug pa bstan pa. Toh 44, ch. 36, Degé Kangyur vol. 36 (phal chen, kha), folios 348.b–393.b. Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) Kangyur vol. 36 (phal chen, kha), pp. 807–25.
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