The Detailed Account of the Previous Aspirations of the Blessed Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha
Degé Kangyur, vol. 87 (rgyud ’bum, da), folios 274.a–283.b
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
First published 2021
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The Detailed Account of the Previous Aspirations of the Blessed Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha centers on the figure commonly known as the Medicine Buddha. The text opens in Vaiśālī, where the Buddha Śākyamuni is seated with a large retinue of human and divine beings. The bodhisattva Mañjuśrī asks Śākyamuni to teach the names and previous aspirations of the buddhas, along with the benefit that buddhas can bring during future times when the Dharma has nearly disappeared. The Buddha gives a teaching on the name and previous aspirations of the Buddha Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha, and then details the benefits that arise from hearing and retaining this buddha’s name.
This text was translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee. The translation was produced by Adam Krug and edited by Andreas Doctor.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous sponsorship of May, George, Likai, and Lillian Gu, which helped make the work on this translation possible, is most gratefully acknowledged.
The Detailed Account of the Previous Aspirations of the Blessed Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha opens in Vaiśālī, where the Buddha Śākyamuni is seated with a saṅgha of eight thousand monks, thirty-six thousand bodhisattvas, and a large gathering of gods, spirit beings, and humans. The bodhisattva Mañjuśrī rises from his seat and asks the Buddha to give a Dharma teaching about the names and previous aspirations of the buddhas, and to describe the benefits that buddhas can bring to those who live in future times when the Dharma has nearly vanished. In response, Śākyamuni discusses the twelve aspirations of the Buddha Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha, his buddhafield, and the benefits to be gained by those who hear and retain his name.
The aspirations of Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha center on bringing benefit to others. The sūtra relays that, first and foremost, Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha seeks to elevate all beings to the same level of realization that he has achieved, and to illuminate the world with light capable of dispelling the darkness that hinders spiritual progress. He aims to use his wisdom and skillful means to bring immeasurable wealth to beings, and to steer them away from mistaken paths, thus leading them to the Mahāyāna and ensuring their ability to practice pure conduct and discipline. He aspires also to cure beings of any ailments they may face, including the diseases that may afflict them, promising good health so they can devote themselves to spiritual practice. In short, he aims to assist all beings facing unfortunate circumstances by freeing them from ailments, ultimately leading them to liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Having detailed these aspirations, Śākyamuni next turns to Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha’s buddhafield, explaining that it is completely pure and encouraging all Mahāyāna practitioners to make the aspiration to be born in that realm. He then lists the benefits associated with simply hearing Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha’s name.
Mañjuśrī responds by vowing to teach this sūtra in the future and provides a short set of instructions on how to worship it as a written work. Śākyamuni then turns to his disciple Ānanda and asks if he has any doubts or reservations about what has just been taught. Ānanda assures Śākyamuni that he does not doubt what he has heard, but then suggests that other beings might have doubts. The Buddha assures Ānanda, and by extension anyone who might read this sūtra, that it is impossible for anyone who has heard the name Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha to be reborn in the lower realms.
The text continues with a set of instructions from the bodhisattva Trāṇamukta about how making offerings to Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha can reverse the process of dying and call a dying or dead person’s consciousness back to the body. Trāṇamukta outlines a ritual that is performed over a forty-nine-day period and that begins with observing the eightfold purification vows, providing support for the offering rite to the monastic saṅgha, and contemplating Bhaiṣajyaguru’s name three times each day and three times each night. Then saṅgha members recite the text forty-nine times and offer oil lamps to seven statues of Bhaiṣajyaguru for a forty-nine-day period. Trāṇamukta states that kings can also perform this rite to avoid disaster and ensure the happiness of the kingdom. He concludes his instructions with a brief enumeration of nine types of untimely death, telling Ānanda that the problem of untimely death is the reason why Śākyamuni has taught the use of mantras and medicines. The sūtra concludes with Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta, the bodhisattvas, the Lord of Secrets Vajrapāṇi, and indeed the entire world including its gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas rejoicing and praising what the Blessed One had said
This sūtra survives in Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan. In Sanskrit, there are three available editions, compiled and edited from the cache of Buddhist Sanskrit manuscripts excavated from a stūpa in Gilgit in the early twentieth century. Gregory Schopen notes that at least five manuscripts of this text were found among the Gilgit collection,1 and his analysis of them shows that there were at least two distinct recensions of the text circulating in Gilgit during the fifth and sixth centuries ᴄᴇ.2 Some substantial passages in Sanskrit have also survived as several citations in Śāntideva’s (685–783 ᴄᴇ) Śikṣāsamuccaya,3 indicating that the text continued to be well known in the Buddhist heartland of India in the eighth century ᴄᴇ.
Considerably earlier even than the Sanskrit manuscripts of Gilgit, however, a Chinese translation very similar to the later versions of the text was included as the twelfth and final fascicle of a longer work (Taishō 1331) translated by Śrīmitra in the early fourth century ᴄᴇ.4 In the seventh century, two new standalone Chinese translations were made, one in 616 ᴄᴇ by Dharmagupta (Taishō 449) and one in 650 ᴄᴇ by Xuanzang (Taishō 450).5
The Tibetan translation has a colophon telling us that it was made by two ninth-century Indian preceptors—Jinamitra and Dānaśīla—in conjunction with Bandé Yeshé Dé (mid-eighth to early ninth century),6 placing the date for its initial translation from Sanskrit into Tibetan in the early ninth century. This date is confirmed by the text’s appearance in both the Denkarma7 and Phangthangma8 royal Tibetan catalogs of translated works. Although both royal Tibetan catalogs indicate that this text was originally classified as a sūtra, Butön listed it in different works as both a sūtra and a tantra,9 and in all Kangyurs it is placed with the tantras of the Action (kriyā) class. In the Degé Kangyur it is presented among the texts of this category related to the principal figure of the tathāgata family (de bzhin gshegs pa’i rigs kyi gtso bo) as one work in a cycle of four that relate to the Buddha Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha. The first of the texts in this cycle, The Detailed Account of the Previous Aspirations of the Seven Thus-Gone Ones (Toh 503),10 first describes the aspirations of six other tathāgatas, and then reproduces almost verbatim the content of the present text centered on Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha, a passage that takes up half the length of the text. The historical relationship of these two texts remains to be investigated, but the existence of fourth and seventh century ᴄᴇ Chinese translations, as well as of fifth to sixth century Sanskrit manuscripts, of the present work11—while the longer text only appeared in China in the eighth century—strongly suggests that the present work was the first to exist. It has no obvious tantric characteristics and it is perhaps surprising that it is not at least duplicated in the General Sūtra section, like many other works of its kind.
Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha is a widely known figure of the Buddhist pantheon in all countries where the Mahāyāna is practiced, and he is familiarly known as the Medicine Buddha or the Buddha of Healing, the short form of his name in Tibetan being Sangyé Menla (sangs rgyas sman bla). As this text demonstrates, his aspirations and activity are by no means confined to the relief of suffering caused by illness, but his popularity stems no doubt from this universally experienced need. A large number of liturgies in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition were written for the purpose of invoking, visualizing, and praying to him, and in these texts as well as in many paintings and murals he is depicted as a blue-colored buddha, holding in his alms bowl a sprig of myrobalan to represent medicinal plants. He is often visualized or depicted surrounded by the other six tathāgatas with which he is associated, accompanied by the two bodhisattvas mentioned in 1.22, and sometimes by the twelve great yakṣa generals mentioned in 1.53. Practices dedicated to him often involve the recitation of the dhāraṇī included in the third text of the cycle, The Dhāraṇī of the Tathāgata Vaiḍūryaprabha (Toh 505), and of the homage and short mantra that compose the fourth, untitled text that we have numbered Toh 505a.
This translation is based on the Tibetan translation from the Tantra Section in the Degé Kangyur, in consultation with the Tibetan translations in the Stok Palace Kangyur and the Comparative Kangyur (Tib. dpe bsdur ma). It was checked against the Sanskrit editions of the Gilgit manuscripts prepared by Dutt, Vaidya, and Schopen.
The Detailed Account of the Previous Aspirations of the Blessed Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One was wandering through the provinces and came to Vaiśālī. There in Vaiśālī, at the base of the musical tree,12 he was accompanied by a great saṅgha of eight thousand monks, and with him, too, were thirty-six thousand bodhisattvas and all manner of kings, ministers, brahmins, householders, gods, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, and mahoragas, all of whom encircled and venerated him as he taught the Dharma.
Then, through the Buddha’s power, the bodhisattva great being and Dharma prince Mañjuśrī rose from his seat, adjusted his upper robe on one shoulder, knelt with his right knee on the ground, bowed to the Blessed One with his palms together, and made this request to the Blessed One:
“May the Blessed One please teach a detailed account of the names and previous aspirations of the thus-gone ones, so that beings who hear them13 may be purified of their karmic obscurations and be guided, later in future times when only an imitation of the holy Dharma remains.”
“Very well, Mañjuśrī, very well,” the Blessed One replied to Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta. “It is good, Mañjuśrī, that the boundless compassion you have generated has led you to make this request for the benefit, aid, and happiness [F.274.b] of all those divine and human beings who are enveloped by all kinds of karmic obscurations. Listen well and keep in mind what I say, Mañjuśrī, and I shall explain.
“Mañjuśrī, to the east of this buddhafield, past as many buddhafields as there are grains of sand in ten Gaṅgā rivers, lives the blessed Buddha Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha, in the world Vaiḍūryanirbhāsa. He is a thus-gone, worthy, and perfect buddha, someone endowed with knowledge and good conduct, a well-gone one, a knower of the world, a charioteer who tames people, unsurpassed, and a teacher of gods and humans.
“Mañjuśrī, long ago, when he was practicing bodhisattva conduct, the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha proclaimed the following twelve great aspirations:
“For his first great aspiration, he proclaimed, ‘In the future, when I have attained awakening as a perfect buddha who has manifested unsurpassed and perfect awakening, may my body’s radiance illuminate innumerable, limitless, and immeasurable worlds, warm them, and make them shine. May all beings be adorned with the thirty-two marks of a great person and the eighty minor marks, just as I am.’
“For his second great aspiration, he proclaimed, ‘In the future, when I have attained awakening as a perfect buddha who has manifested unsurpassed and perfect awakening, may my body be like a precious blue beryl gem—pure inside and out and radiating a stainless light. [F.275.a] May I manifest a broad and tall body that stands firm, is ablaze with glory and splendor, and is adorned with a halo of light so bright that it outshines the sun and moon. May my light allow any beings who are born in the dark spaces between worlds, and those here in the human world who travel to various places during the dark of night, to proceed joyfully, and may they perform virtuous deeds.’
“For his third great aspiration, he proclaimed, ‘In the future, when I have attained awakening as a perfect buddha who has manifested unsurpassed and perfect awakening, may my boundless wisdom and skillful means furnish immeasurable realms of beings with inexhaustible wealth, and may no one lack anything.’
“For his fourth great aspiration, he proclaimed, ‘In the future, when I have attained awakening as a perfect buddha who has manifested unsurpassed and perfect awakening, may any beings who have set out on the wrong path be set upon the path to awakening. May all those who have entered the path of the hearers and who have entered the path of the solitary buddhas be led to the Great Vehicle.’
“For his fifth great aspiration, he proclaimed, ‘In the future, when I have attained awakening as a perfect buddha who has manifested unsurpassed and perfect awakening, may any beings who are close to me practice pure conduct. Likewise, may a limitless and boundless number of other beings hear my name, and may my power cause them to be bound by the three vows and have uncorrupted discipline. May no one [F.275.b] engage in incorrect discipline and proceed to the lower realms.’
“For his sixth great aspiration, he proclaimed, ‘In the future, when I have attained awakening as a perfect buddha who has manifested unsurpassed and perfect awakening, may beings who have weak constitutions, impaired faculties, or poor complexions; who are dumb, lame, hunchbacked, or have vitiligo; who have only one eye or are blind, deaf, or mentally ill; and whose bodies are otherwise affected by illness hear my name. When they do, may all their faculties become whole and their bodies intact.’
“For his seventh great aspiration, he proclaimed, ‘In the future, when I have attained awakening as a perfect buddha who has manifested unsurpassed and perfect awakening, may beings whose bodies are afflicted by various types of illnesses, who are vulnerable, who are defenseless, who lack necessities and medicines, who have no one to care for them, who are poor, and who suffer hear my name, and may all their illnesses be quelled. May they be healthy and live free from harm for as long as it takes them to attain awakening.’
“For his eighth great aspiration, he proclaimed, ‘In the future, when I have attained awakening as a perfect buddha who has manifested unsurpassed and perfect awakening, may any women who are afflicted by the hundreds of disadvantages of being a woman, who dislike being of the female gender, and who want to be free from the condition of being a woman, leave behind their female gender and be born as a man for as long as it takes them to attain awakening.’
“For his ninth great aspiration, he proclaimed, ‘In the future, when I [F.276.a] have attained awakening as a perfect buddha who has manifested unsurpassed and perfect awakening, may I release all beings from Māra’s bonds. May I establish in the correct view those who are in opposition due to their divergent, contrasting, and disturbed views. In due order, may I teach them the conduct of a bodhisattva.’
“For his tenth great aspiration, he proclaimed, ‘In the future, when I have attained awakening as a perfect buddha who has manifested unsurpassed and perfect awakening, may the power of my merit free from all manner of harm any beings who are terrified because they fear their king, and who are bound, beaten, tortured, sentenced to death, persecuted by many acts of treachery, dishonored, and pained by bodily, verbal, or mental suffering.’
“For his eleventh great aspiration, he proclaimed, ‘In the future, when I have attained awakening as a perfect buddha who has manifested unsurpassed and perfect awakening, may I provide food that is vibrant, aromatic, and savory, in order to satiate the bodies of any beings who are scorched by the fire of hunger and thirst, who expend great effort searching for food, and who commit sinful actions. Then, may I make them even happier with the taste of the Dharma.’
“That thus-gone one’s twelfth great aspiration was, ‘In the future, when I have attained awakening as a perfect buddha who has manifested unsurpassed and perfect awakening, [F.276.b] may I provide with clothes that suit their needs and are dyed in bright colors those sentient beings who are naked, who have no clothes, who are poor, who are suffering, and who are miserable day and night due to cold, heat, flies, and biting insects. May I fulfill all the wishes of beings with whatever types of jewelry, ornaments, garlands, perfumes, ointments, music, instruments, and drums they desire.’
“Mañjuśrī, those are the twelve great aspirations that the blessed, thus-gone, worthy, and perfect Buddha Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha proclaimed long ago, when he was practicing bodhisattva conduct.
“Mañjuśrī, the aspirations of the Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabharāja and the array of good qualities of his buddhafield cannot be exhausted over the course of an eon or even longer than an eon. His buddhafield is utterly pure. There are no stones, pebbles, or gravel; there are no faults related to desire; there are no cries of suffering and the lower realms; and there is no such thing as the female gender. The foundation, walls, fences, archways, latticework windows, and turrets are made of blue beryl, and the parapets are made of the seven precious substances. The array of good qualities of the world Vaiḍūryanirbhāsa is equal to that of the world Sukhāvatī.
“There are two bodhisattva great beings who are foremost among the immeasurable and innumerable bodhisattvas in that world. The first is named Sūryavairocana, and the second is named Candravairocana. These two maintain the treasury of the holy Dharma of the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha. Mañjuśrī, that is why a faithful son or daughter of good family should make the aspiration [F.277.a] to be born in that buddhafield.”
The Blessed One continued to address Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta, saying, “Mañjuśrī, there are ordinary beings who do not know about virtue and nonvirtue. They are overcome by greed and do not understand generosity and the ripened result of generosity. They are childish and foolish, lacking the capacity for faith. As they strive to accumulate and maintain wealth, their minds are not disposed toward generosity and sharing. When it is time to give a gift, they become dejected as if they were cutting the flesh from their own bodies. Many of those beings do not even allow themselves to enjoy material wealth,14 let alone provide for their parents, wives, sons, and daughters, for their male and female servants and employees, and for beggars.
“When such beings pass away, they are reborn in the hungry ghost realm or as animals. For those among them who have heard the name of the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha in their previous lives as humans—whether they find themselves in the world of Yama or in the animal realm—that Thus-gone One’s name will appear there before them. Simply by recollecting it, after they eventually pass away, they will once again be born in the human realm. They will remember their former lifetimes, grow anxious out of fear of the lower realms, and no longer concern themselves with sense pleasures. They will delight in generosity, promote generosity, and give away everything they own. Eventually, they will even give their own head, hands, feet, eyes, flesh, and blood to anyone who asks, let alone other things like accumulated wealth.
“Moreover, Mañjuśrī, there are beings [F.277.b] who undermine the precepts of the thus-gone ones,15 violating discipline and engaging in wrong views. There are those who are disciplined and may maintain their discipline, but do not seek erudition, and so do not understand the profound meaning of the discourses that the Thus-Gone One has taught. There are those who do become erudite but develop excessive pride, and because they are overcome by their pride, they act with jealousy toward others and misuse and forsake the holy Dharma. Such foolish people who side with Māra pursue a bad path themselves and cause many billions of other beings to fall into the great abyss. Those beings are reborn amidst the horrors of hell.
“For those who have heard the name of the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha in a previous life as a human being, even those who live in the hell realms, the power of the Buddha will cause the name of that thus-gone one to appear before them. Then, when they pass away, they will be reborn in the human realm. They will maintain the correct view, they will be diligent, and their minds will be predisposed toward virtue. They will leave home, go forth in the teaching of the Thus-Gone One, and finally practice bodhisattva conduct.
“Moreover, Mañjuśrī, there are beings who praise themselves and denigrate others out of jealousy. Beings who sing their own praises and denigrate others will suffer in the three lower realms for many thousands of years. After many thousands of years have passed, they will pass away and be reborn in the animal realm as cows, horses, camels, donkeys, and so forth. They will be beaten with whips and rods, their bodies will be afflicted by hunger and thirst, [F.278.a] and they will have to carry great loads as they move along the road. Even if they do attain human birth, they will always be born into families of low standing, be servants, and be under other people’s control.
“Those who have heard the name of the blessed, thus-gone, worthy, and perfect Buddha Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha in a previous life as a human being will be liberated from all manner of suffering due to that root of virtue. They will be intelligent, learned, bright,16 prudent, and focused on pursuing virtue, and they will always find company with a spiritual teacher. They will cut Māra’s bonds, crush the eggshell of ignorance, and dry up the river of the afflictions. They will be liberated from birth, old age, death, anguish, lamentation, suffering, unhappiness, and conflict.
“Mañjuśrī, there are also those beings who delight in slander and beings who instigate fights, arguments, and disputes with one another. Such contentious beings commit various types of nonvirtuous actions with their body, speech, and mind. They do not wish to benefit one another and constantly try to harm one another. They summon a forest deity, tree deity, or mountain deity, or they summon the various spirits in the charnel grounds. They kill beings who have taken birth as animals and offer them to the yakṣas and rākṣasas who eat flesh and blood. They utter the name of their enemy or create an effigy, cast a violent spell at them, and enlist a kākhorda or vetāla to create obstacles in their life with the hope [F.278.b] that they will destroy their enemy’s body. However, no one can create obstacles for those who have heard the name of the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha. Such people are loving to one another, beneficent, free from ill will, and satisfied with their own possessions.
“Moreover, Mañjuśrī, among the fourfold assembly of monks, nuns, male lay practitioners, and female lay practitioners, as well as among other faithful sons or daughters of good family who observe the eightfold precepts, there are some who maintain the precepts for one year or three months. If they develop an aspiration, saying, ‘Due to my root of virtue, may I be reborn in the west in Sukhāvatī, the world where the Thus-Gone Amitāyus resides,’ they will hear the name of the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha. Then, at the moment of death, the eight bodhisattvas will miraculously appear and show them the way, and they will take miraculous birth there upon brightly colored lotuses.
“Some will be born in the god realms, and after they are born there, their previous roots of virtue will never be exhausted, and they will not proceed to the lower realms. After they pass away, they will become universal emperors with dominion over the four continents in this human realm, and they will establish many billions of beings on the path of the ten virtuous actions.
“Others will be born in great kṣatriya households, born in great brahmin households, born in great landowning households, and born in households whose treasuries and storehouses contain an abundance of riches and grain. They will have excellent physiques, [F.279.a] be powerful, have attendants, be courageous and heroic, and have the strength of a great champion. Any woman who should hear the Thus-Gone One’s name and bear it in mind should know that it is the last time she will be of the female gender.”17
At that point Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta told the Blessed One, “Blessed One, in the future I will proclaim the name of the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha in various ways to those faithful sons and daughters of good family who hold this discourse, recite it, explain it, teach it correctly and in detail to others, copy it, commission it to be copied, write it in a book, and venerate it with flowers, incense, garlands, ointments, parasols, and victory banners. I will proclaim it so that they will even hear that buddha’s name in their dreams.
“They will wrap this discourse with cloths of the five different colors and place it in a clean area. The Four Great Kings with their retinues and billions of deities will gather wherever this discourse is located. Those who retain the name of the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha and this discourse on the detailed account of his previous aspirations will not suffer untimely death. No one will be able to steal their vital energy, and if it has been stolen, they will take it back.”
The Blessed One replied, “It is so, Mañjuśrī. What you say is true. Mañjuśrī, a faithful son or daughter of good family who makes offerings to that thus-gone one should make a statue of that thus-gone one and [F.279.b] observe the fast associated with the noble eightfold precepts for seven days and seven nights. They should eat pure food and thoroughly wash their body. They should wear fine, clean clothes. Then, in a clean area, they should scatter the petals of various flowers and perfume the area with various fragrances. They should then decorate the place with various cloths, parasols, and banners. There, they should then cultivate a stainless mind, an untainted mind, a mind free from ill intent, a benevolent mind, an impartial mind, and an equanimous mind. They should then play music, play instruments, and sing songs as they circumambulate the statue of that thus-gone one.
“If they contemplate his previous aspirations and teach this discourse, all their wishes and aspirations will be fulfilled. If they aspire to a long life, they will have a long life. If they pray for wealth, they will have wealth. If they pray to become a powerful ruler, they will achieve that with little trouble. If they wish for a son, they will have a son.
“When someone has a bad dream, sees a crow or a bad omen somewhere, or dwells in a location where the one hundred inauspicious things are present, if that person venerates the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha with the various types of offerings, then the bad dreams, bad omens, and inauspicious things will no longer appear.
“If those who face dangers from fire, dangers from water, dangers from weapons, dangers from poison, dangers from steep cliffs, dangers from raging elephants, dangers from lions, dangers from tigers, dangers from bears, hyenas, and poisonous snakes, and dangers from snakes, scorpions, and centipedes, have made offerings18 to that thus-gone one, they will be freed from all manner [F.280.a] of dangers. Those who face dangers from enemy armies, dangers from thieves, and dangers from bandits should also make offerings to that thus-gone one.
“Moreover, Mañjuśrī, if any faithful sons or daughters of good family who maintain taking refuge in the Three Jewels for as long as they live and have no other tutelary deity, maintain the five precepts, maintain the ten precepts, maintain the four hundred vows and precepts of a bodhisattva, are monks who have left home and maintain the two hundred and fifty precepts, or are nuns who maintain the five hundred precepts, should break any one of the precepts among the vows and precepts they have taken and fear they are in danger of falling into the lower realms, if they then make offerings to the blessed Thus-Gone One Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha, they should know that they will not suffer rebirth in the three lower realms.19
“If any woman giving birth who experiences intense, fierce, and unbearable suffering makes offerings to the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha, she will immediately be liberated from that suffering. The child will be born with all its limbs intact, and it will have a good physique, be handsome and good looking, have sharp faculties, be intelligent and healthy, and have few difficulties. Nonhuman beings will not be able to steal its vital energy.”
At that point the Blessed One asked Venerable Ānanda, “Ānanda, do you trust and believe in the good qualities of the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabharāja that I have described? Are you uncertain, or do you have any reservations or doubts about this profound buddha domain?” [F.280.b]
“Respected Blessed One,” Venerable Ānanda replied, “I am not uncertain, nor do I have any reservations or doubts about the qualities that the Thus-Gone One has described, because the thus-gone ones have no impure conduct of body, speech, and mind. Blessed One, even such miraculous and powerful beings as the sun and the moon might fall to the earth, and even Sumeru, the king of mountains, might move from its base, but the word of the buddhas is never incorrect. Yet still, respected Blessed One, there are beings who lack the capacity for faith, and when they hear about this buddha domain of the buddhas20 they will wonder, ‘How can such good qualities and benefits come about by merely recollecting the name of that thus-gone one?’ Because they have no faith, do not believe, and reject this, for a long time they will suffer injuries, lack medicines, be unhappy, and fall into the lower realms.”
The Blessed One replied, “Ānanda, it is untenable and impossible for someone who has had the name of that thus-gone one resound in their ears to be reborn in the lower realms. Ānanda, the domain of the buddhas is difficult to believe. Ānanda, the faith and belief you have should be seen as the power of the Thus-Gone One.21 This is something possessed only by bodhisattva great beings who are one birth away from awakening—not by hearers and solitary buddhas.22
“Ānanda, attaining a human life is rare, and faith and devotion toward the Three Jewels [F.281.a] is rare, but hearing the name of that thus-gone one is even more rare. Ānanda, the bodhisattva conduct of the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha is immeasurable, his skillful means is immeasurable, and the detailed account of his aspirations is immeasurable. If I wanted to explain that thus-gone one’s bodhisattva conduct accurately and extensively for an eon or the remainder of an eon, the eon would come to an end before I could complete that detailed account of the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabharāja’s previous aspirations.”
At that point, from among the gathering a bodhisattva great being named Trāṇamukta rose from his seat, adjusted his upper robe on one shoulder, knelt with his right knee on the ground, bowed to the Blessed One with his palms together, and said to the Blessed One, “Respected Blessed One, in the future there will be beings whose bodies are tormented by various types of illnesses. Their limbs will atrophy due to chronic illness, and their lips and throats will be parched from hunger and thirst. They will be heading for their demise surrounded by weeping friends, acquaintances, and relatives. They will see darkness in all directions and be led by Yama’s servants.
“While such a person’s body is still lying there, the consciousness will be brought before the Dharma King Yama. The god who was born with that person23 and who has recorded all of that person’s virtuous and [F.281.b] nonvirtuous actions in writing will then present them to the Dharma King Yama. The Dharma King Yama will then question and interrogate the person and issue his judgment based on how many of their actions were virtuous and how many were nonvirtuous.
“If the friends, acquaintances, and relatives24 of those who are ill take refuge in the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabharāja and perform the offering in this way to benefit them, their consciousness will turn back and make its way, just as if they had been dreaming, to the place where they had been. For some the consciousness will return on the seventh day, for some on the twenty-first, thirty-fifth, or forty-ninth day, and they will remember what happened to them. The ripening of virtuous and nonvirtuous actions will now be clear to them, and they will no longer commit unwholesome actions, even at the expense of their life. Therefore, faithful sons or daughters of good family should make offerings to that thus-gone one.”25
Venerable Ānanda then asked the bodhisattva Trāṇamukta, “Son of good family, how should one perform such an offering to the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabharāja?”
The bodhisattva Trāṇamukta replied, “Venerable Ānanda, those who want to free someone from a grave illness should observe the eightfold purification vows for seven days and seven nights to benefit the sick person. They should make as many offerings as possible to the monastic saṅgha of food, drink, and provisions, and offer service. They should focus on the name of the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabharāja three times each day and three times each night. They should recite this discourse forty-nine times, offer oil lamps for forty-nine days, and make seven statues. They should place seven oil lamps in front of each statue, and each of the oil lamps should be as large as a chariot wheel to ensure that the oil lamps will not go out during the forty-nine days. They should make more than forty-nine five-colored flags. [F.282.a]
“Respected Ānanda, if anointed kṣatriya kings face a threat of injury, disaster, and conflict that is related to an illness, their own or an enemy army, a lunar asterism, a lunar eclipse, a solar eclipse, unseasonable winds and rains, or drought, then those anointed kṣatriya kings26 should be benevolent toward all beings. If they release their prisoners and perform the aforementioned offering to the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabharāja, the roots of virtue of those anointed kṣatriya kings and this detailed account of the previous aspiration prayers of the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabharāja will ensure that the country will be happy, crops will be good, the winds and rains will come on time, and there will be a successful harvest. All the beings who live in that country will be healthy and happy and will abound in supreme joy. The wicked yakṣas, rākṣasas, bhūtas, and piśācas in that country will not harm beings. No evil omens will appear, and the lifespans, complexions, energy, health, and power of those anointed kṣatriya kings will increase.”
Then Venerable Ānanda asked the bodhisattva Trāṇamukta, “Son of good family, how is it that someone’s lifespan may be restored after it has been exhausted?”
“Respected Ānanda,” the bodhisattva Trāṇamukta replied, “have you not heard [F.282.b] from the Thus-Gone One that premature death may be of nine types? It is for this reason that he has taught the use of mantras and medicines. There are beings who contract an illness, and even though that illness is not very severe, they either lack both medicine and nurses or the doctors administer the wrong medicine. This is the first type of untimely death. The second type of untimely death is when someone is executed as a king’s punishment. The third type of untimely death is when someone is extremely careless, for nonhuman beings steal the vital energy from those who live carelessly. The fourth type of untimely death is when someone is burned by fire and dies. The fifth type of untimely death is when someone dies by drowning. The sixth type of untimely death is when someone dies upon encountering a ferocious predator such as a lion, tiger, jackal, or snake. The seventh type of untimely death is when someone falls off a mountainside into an abyss. The eighth type of untimely death is when someone is killed by poison, a kākhorda, or a vetāla. The ninth type of untimely death is when someone cannot find food and drink and dies of starvation and thirst. This is a brief account of the major types of untimely death that the Thus-Gone One has taught, but there are an innumerable and incalculable number of other kinds of untimely death.”
There were twelve great yakṣa generals27 gathered in that assembly—the great yakṣa general Kiṃbhīra, the great yakṣa general Vajra, the great yakṣa general Mekhila, the great yakṣa general Antila, the great yakṣa general Anila, the great yakṣa general Saṇṭhila, the great yakṣa [F.283.a] general Indala, the great yakṣa general Pāyila, the great yakṣa general Mahāla, the great yakṣa general Cidāla, the great yakṣa general Caundhula, and the great yakṣa general Vikala.
Each great yakṣa general had seven hundred thousand yakṣa attendants, and they all told the Blessed One with a single voice, “Blessed One, due to the Buddha’s power, we have heard the name of the blessed Thus-Gone One Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabharāja, and we will no longer have any fear of proceeding to the lower realms. All of us together, for as long as we live, take refuge in the Buddha, we take refuge in the Dharma, and we take refuge in the Saṅgha. We will diligently work for the benefit, aid, and happiness of all beings. In particular, we will protect any being who practices this sūtra in villages, towns, provinces, and forests, and who remembers the name of the blessed Thus-Gone One Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabharāja, makes offerings to him, and serves him. They will be under our protection, they will be under our care, they will be free from all manner of misfortunes, and we will fulfill their every wish.”
“Very good, very good,” the Blessed One said in response to the great yakṣa generals. “It is excellent that you great yakṣa generals are so grateful toward the blessed Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabharāja, and that you are so committed to recollecting him and working for the benefit [F.283.b] of all beings.”28
Then Venerable Ānanda rose from his seat, adjusted his upper robe on one shoulder, knelt with his right knee on the ground, bowed to the Blessed One with his palms together, and asked, “Blessed One, what is the name of this Dharma discourse? How should it be remembered?”
The Blessed One replied, “Ānanda, this Dharma discourse should be remembered as The Detailed Account of the Previous Aspirations of the Thus-Gone Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha. It should also be remembered as The Bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi’s Vow. It should also be remembered as Purifying All Karmic Obscurations and Fulfilling All Hopes. And it should also be remembered as The Vows of the Twelve Great Yakṣa Generals.”
When the Blessed One had spoken, Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta, the bodhisattvas, the Lord of Secrets Vajrapāṇi, the entire retinue, and the whole world with its gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas rejoiced and praised what the Blessed One had said.
This concludes the Great Vehicle sūtra “The Detailed Account of the Blessed Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabha.”
Sigla for Tibetan Sources
|S||Stok Palace MS Kangyur|
Sigla for Sanskrit Editions
|G||Bhaiṣajyagurusūtra in Dutt et al.|
|Sᴄ||Bhaiṣajyagurusūtra in Schopen|
|V||Bhaiṣajyagurusūtra in Vaidya|
’phags pa bcom ldan ’das sman gyi bla bai Dur+ya’i ’od gyi smon lam gyi khyad par rgyas pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Āryabhagavānbhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabhasya pūrvapraṇidhānaviśeṣavistāranāmamahāyānasūtra). Toh 504, Degé Kangyur vol. 87 (rgyud ’bum, da), folios 274.a–283.b.
’phags pa bcom ldan ’das sman gyi bla bai Dur+ya’i ’od gyi smon lam gyi khyad par rgyas pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Āryabhagavānbhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabhasya pūrvapraṇidhānaviśeṣavistāranāmamahāyānasūtra). 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. 87, pp. 814–36.
’phags pa bcom ldan ’das sman gyi bla bai Dur+ya’i ’od gyi smon lam gyi khyad par rgyas pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Āryabhagavānbhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabhasya pūrvapraṇidhānaviśeṣavistāranāmamahāyānasūtra). Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 72 (mdo, zha), folios 268.a–282.a.
’phags pa de bzhin gshegs pa bdun gyi sngon gyi smon lam gyi khyad par rgyas pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Āryasaptatathāgatapūrvapraṇidhānaviśeṣavistāranāmamahāyānasūtra) [The Detailed Account of the Previous Aspirations of the Seven Thus-Gone Ones]. Toh 503, Degé Kangyur vol. 87 (rgyud ’bum, da), folios 248.b–273.b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translations Committee (2021).
’phags pa de bzhin gshegs pa’i ting nge ’dzin gyi stobs bskyed pa bai DUr+ya’i ’od ces bya ba’i gzungs (Āryatathāgatavaiḍūryaprabhanāmabalādhānasamādhidhāraṇī) [The Dhāraṇī of the Tathāgata Vaiḍūryaprabha]. Toh 505, Degé Kangyur vol. 87 (rgyud ’bum, da), folios 284.a–286.a.
pho brang stod thang ldan dkar gyi chos kyi ’gyur ro cog gi dkar chag [Denkarma]. Toh 4364, Degé Tengyur vol. 206 (sna tshogs, jo), folios 294.b–310.a.
Śāntideva. bslab pa kun las btus pa’i mngon par rtogs pa (Śikṣāsamuccaya). Toh 3940, Degé Tengyur vol. 111 (dbu ma, khi), folios 3.a–194.b.
sman gtong ba’i tshe sman la sngags kyis gdab pa. Toh 505a, Degé Kangyur vol. 87 (rgyud ’bum, da), folio 286.a.
Bendall, Cecil, ed. Çikshāsamuccaya: A Compendium of Buddhistic Teaching Compiled by Çāntideva, Chiefly from Earlier Mahāyāna-Sūtras. Bibliotheca Buddhica 1. St. Petersburg: Académie Impériale des Sciences, 1902.
Dutt, Nalinaksha, D. M. Bhattacharya, and Vidyavaridhi Shiv Nath Sharma, eds. “Bhaiṣajyaguru-sūtram.” In Gilgit Manuscripts Vol. I, 1–32. Calcutta: Calcutta Oriental Press, 1939.
Schopen, Gregory. “The Bhaiṣajyaguru-Sūtra and the Buddhism of Gilgit.” PhD diss., Australian National University, 1978.
Vaidya, P. L., ed. Mahāyāna-sūtra-saṁgraha: Part I. Buddhist Sanskrit Texts 17. Darbhanga: Mithila Institute, 1961.
Butön Rinchen Drup (bu ston rin chen grub). chos ’byung (bde bar gshegs pa’i bstan pa’i gsal byed chos kyi ’byung gnas gsung rab rin po che’i gter mdzod). In gsung ’bum/ rin chen grub/ zhol par ma/ ldi lir bskyar par brgyab pa/, vol. 24 (ya), pp. 633–1055. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1965–71.
dkar chag ’phang thang ma. Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2003.
Eimer, Helmut. Der Tantra-Katalog des Bu ston im Vergleich mit der Abteilung Tantra des tibetischen Kanjur: Studie, Textausgabe, Konkordanzen und Indices. Bonn: Indica et Tibetica Verlag, 1989.
Lancaster, Lewis R. The Korean Buddhist Canon. Accessed April 23, 2019.
Yoshimura, Shyuki. The Denkar-Ma: An Oldest Catalogue of the Tibetan Buddhist Canons. Kyoto: Ryukoku University, 1950.
Dharmachakra Translations Committee, trans. The Detailed Account of the Previous Aspirations of the Seven Thus-Gone Ones (Saptatathāgatapūrvapraṇidhānaviśeṣavistāra, Toh 503). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2021.
- nye du
- sman pa
- tshe dpag med
- kun dga’ bo
- gza’ ’dzin
- lha ma yin
Bandé Yeshé Dé
- ban+de ye shes sde
- mngon par skye
- brdeg pa
- byams pa la gnas pa
- sman gyi lha
- sman gyi lha bai DUr+ya’i ’od
- sman gyi lha bai DUr+ya’i ’od kyi rgyal po
- ’byung po
- bcom ldan ’das
- long ba
- bai DUr+ya
- kho lag
- bcing ba
- sangs rgyas kyi spyod yul
- zla ba lter rnam par snang ba
- g.yo ba ’dzin
- rkang lag brgya pa
- bsam ’dzin
Crops will be good
- lo legs par ’gyur
- dA na shI la
- ’on pa
- ’dod chags
- nga rgyal dang bral ba
- bems po
- byang chub sems dpa’ brgyad
- yan lag brgyad pa’i bsnyen gnas
Eighty minor marks
- dpe byad bzang po brgyad cu
- bslab pa’i gzhi lnga po
- nags tshal gyi lha
Four Great Kings
- rgyal po chen po bzhi
- dri za
- gang gA
- nam mkha’ lding
- bu btsa’ ba’i dus na
God who was born with that person
- mi de dang lhan cig skyes pa’i lha
- puruṣasya sahajā pṛṣṭhānubaddhā devatā
- smon lam chen po
- shing sA la chen po
Great yakṣa general
- gnos sbyin gyi sde dpon chen po
Have only one eye
- zhar ba
- sgur po
Hungry ghost realm
- yi dags kyi ’jig rten
- bro nad
- lham me gyur
- dbang po ma tshang ba
- tshul khrims log par zhugs
- dbang ’dzin
- dzi na mi tra
- las kyi sgrib pa
- ci ’jigs
- mi’am ci
- rgyal rigs
- yan lag skyon can
- gza’ zla ba
- smra ’dzin
- lto ’phye chen
- legs par gnas pa
- ’jam dpal
- ’jam dpal gzhon nur gyur pa
- rgyan ’dzin
- smyon pa
- gdung zla
- ri’i lha
- rol mo’i sgra can gyi shing ljon pa
- yo byad
- rim gro byed pa
One hundred inauspicious things
- bkra mi shis pa brgya
- śatam alakṣmīṇām
Overcome by greed
- chags pas zil gyis non pa
Overcome by pride
- nga rgyal gyis non pa
- btung ’dzin
Persecuted by many acts of treachery
- sgyu du mas kun du btses pa
- anekamāyābhir upadrutaḥ
- sha za
- mdog ngan pa
- mdog mi sdug pa
Practice pure conduct
- tshangs par spyad pa
- bslab pa’i gnas
- bslab pa’i gzhi
- grong rdal
- yid bzhungs pa
Purifying All Karmic Obscurations and Fulfilling All Hopes
- las kyi sgrub pa thams cad rnam par sbyong zhing re ba thams cad yongs su skong ba
- srin po
- sangs rgyas sman bla
- gnas bcas
- zhi ba’i lha
- zhi ba lha
- ’dod pa’i yon tan
Sentenced to death
- gsad par ’os pa
Seven precious substances
- rin po che sna bdun
- thabs mkhas
- gza’ nyi ma
Spaces between worlds
- ’jig rten gyi bar
- sku gzugs
Strength of a great champion
- tshan po che chen po’i stobs
- bde ba can
- ri rab
- nyi ma
- nyi ma ltar rnam par snang byed
- bslab pa’i gzhi bcu po
Ten virtuous actions
- dge ba bcu
The Bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi’s Vow
- byang chub sems dpa’ lag na rdo rjes dam bcas pa
The Vows of the Twelve Great Yakṣa Generals
- gnod sbyin gyi sde dpon chen po bcu gnyis kyis dam bcas pa
Thirty-two marks of a great person
- skyes bu chen po’i mtshan sum cu rtsa gnyis
- sdom pa gsum
- de bzhin gshegs pa
To make shine
- lhang nger gyur
- lhan ner gyur
- go rar gzhug pa
- grong khyer
- skyabs grol
- shing gi lha
- ba gam
- tshul khrims nyams pa med pa
- ’khor los sgyur ba’i rgyal po
- dus ma yin par ’chi ba
- bai DUr+ya ra snang ba
- bai DUr+ya snang ba
- yangs pa can
- rdo rje
- lag na rdo rje
- ro langs
- rdzogs byed
- sha bkra
- lus ngan pa
- longs spyod
World of Yama
- gshin rje’i ’jig rten
- gnod sbyin
- gshin rje