The Dhāraṇī Endowed with the Attributes of All the Buddhas
Degé Kangyur, vol. 88 (rgyud ’bum, na), folios 26.a–27.b (in 1737 par phud printing), folios 43.a–44.b (in later printings)
The Dhāraṇī Endowed with the Attributes of All the Buddhas details a brief exchange between the Buddha and the four guardian kings of the world, that is, the four divine beings who rule over the cardinal directions in the Indian Buddhist tradition. Pursuant to a description of the fears that plague mankind, the Buddha declares that he will provide remedies for them. Invoking the presence of numberless buddhas in the limitless world systems described in Buddhist cosmology, the Buddha and the four kings provide several mantras of varying lengths meant for daily recitation, with the stated benefits not only of averting all manner of calamities—untimely death, illness, and injury chief among them—but of attracting the attention and blessings of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, and ensuring good health and benefit for the practitioner and all beings.
The translation was produced by David Gitlen, who also wrote the introduction. The translator would like to express his gratitude to Khensur Geshe Wangdak Rinpoche, Phil Stanley, Sarah Harding, and Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen for their help and guidance.
This translation has been completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The Dhāraṇī Endowed with the Attributes of All the Buddhas records an encounter between the Buddha and the four guardians of the world at an unspecified site on the banks of the Ganges River. The Buddha himself initiates the dialogue, describing four great fears—aging, sickness, decrepitude, and death—declaring death to be the chief among them, and promising to provide remedies for them. With a snap of his fingers, the Buddha summons the attention and presence of buddhas throughout the reaches of space in the ten directions, and they recite, in unison, the longest of the dhāraṇī incantations found in the text. Each of the four guardians, in turn, goes on to pledge his assistance and provides a shorter dhāraṇī mantra as a supplement to the main one. The Buddha succinctly describes the various applications and benefits of the recitation, reading, writing, and wearing of these mantras, accruing not only to the individual, but to the very place in which they are recited and to those with whom they are connected. Finally, he explains how such practices fit in with commonly accepted ideas of accumulating merit through acts of devotion.
The original Sanskrit text for The Dhāraṇī Endowed with the Attributes of All the Buddhas has not been located, but a Chinese translation does exist (Taishō 1346). The Chinese text lists the translator as Devendraprajñā, whose exact dates are uncertain, but who was active in China as a translator under Tang dynasty patronage by the last decade of the seventh century. The Chinese version is quite close to the Tibetan (although it has a different title),1 but it does contain a number of differences and additional lines or fragments, as well as a short section at the end, not found in the Tibetan versions, describing a ritual procedure for constructing altars and making offerings.2 In the Degé Kangyur The Dhāraṇī Endowed with the Attributes of All the Buddhas is included among the tantras belonging to the Action (kriyā) class (Toh 513) and it is also reproduced in the Dhāraṇī (gzungs ’dus) section (Toh 856).3 The attribution in the colophon of the Tibetan version to the translators Jinamitra, Dānaśīla, and Yeshé Dé puts its translation somewhere around the end of, or shortly after, the reign of King Trisong Detsen, at the turn of the ninth century. Its inclusion in the Denkarma (ldan dkar ma) catalog of the canon, compiled in 812 ᴄᴇ, supports this.4 Lastly, it should be mentioned that an English translation of this text by Joan Nicell was published online in 2007.
This English translation was produced based on both Toh 513 and Toh 856 in the Degé Kangyur in consultation with the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma), the Stok Palace Kangyur, and the Chinese translation (Taishō 1346).
Homage to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas!
At that time, the Blessed One said to those four great kings including Vaiśravaṇa, “All men, women, young boys, and girls have four great fears. Which four? These four: aging, sickness, decrepitude, and death.6 Among them, the single greatest fear is of the Lord of Death, in that death is cruel,7 cannot be remedied, and is always in close pursuit.8 Great kings, I will now pronounce the remedy for this single great fear.”
The Blessed One was seated facing10 east, and with the sound of a finger snap he invoked all the tathāgatas, saying, “May all the tathāgatas, the worthy ones, the perfect buddhas, who have fully awakened to unsurpassable and perfect awakening out of love for sentient beings, assist me! Having been blessed here by all the buddhas, I will avert the untimely deaths of all beings! I will turn a second wheel of Dharma that has not been turned before!” [F.26.b][F.43.b]
Likewise, he invoked all the tathāgatas of the south, west, north, above, and below, saying, “May all the tathāgatas, the worthy ones, the perfect buddhas, who have fully awakened to unsurpassable and perfect awakening out of love for sentient beings, assist me!”
Likewise, in every intermediate direction he spoke these words, so that beings’ life spans, physical strengths, and complexions would be perfect, and so that fear of an untimely death would not arise, saying, “May all the buddhas assist me!”
Then there appeared before the Buddha’s eyes as many world systems as there are elements of earth throughout the ten directions, filled with blessed buddhas like a sesame pod. These tathāgatas pledged their assistance, and all spoke the following:11
tadyathā calā calā cale vinati svastike cakrāṅgati praśamantu sarvarogānatre kunaṭe mahākunaṭe care carere hemagiri hemagauri hemaniśunti hemasisi kaurave kauravave hekurare kurare kumati piṣasamaṇe śiṣuvi cale cale vicale mā vilamba humu humu svāhā!
The lords of the guhyakas, as many as there were, from their places beside all those tathāgatas, also spoke, saying “hūṁ hūṁ si si svāhā!” and the tathāgatas vanished from sight.
Then the great king Vaiśravaṇa said, “Blessed One, I, too, with the blessing of the tathāgatas, will act as a guardian, and will avert untimely death! tadyathā śvete śvete lelili!”
Dhṛtarāṣṭra also spoke, saying “care carere svāhā!”
Virūpākṣa also spoke, saying “balampipa!”
The Blessed One responded, “Great Kings, when a son or daughter of noble family recites at least once a day, every day, these vidyāmantras seen12 by all the buddhas, that son or daughter of noble family should be regarded as a teacher. That son or daughter of noble family will never again be reborn in the three lower realms and will be of benefit to the lives of all beings. Anyone who recites these words once a day for the benefit of all beings, or even reads them, will have no fear of untimely death. Their bodies will be free of disease. At no time will they drown, or be killed by fire, by weapons, by poison, or by lightning. It should be known that wherever a child of the victors recites these vidyāmantras, he or she will secure the attention of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas. Anyone who writes this down, or has it written down, will be serving the blessed buddhas with every respect and honor. If one wonders why this is, it is because the tathāgatas have declared that serving sentient beings is serving the buddhas. If someone, having written this, affixes it to a limb,13 all their limbs will be protected.”14
When the Blessed One had spoken thus, the four great kings, the entire retinue, and the world with all its gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas rejoiced and praised the words of the Blessed One.
This concludes the Noble Dhāraṇī Endowed with the Attributes of All the Buddhas.
Note that there is a discrepancy among various databases for cataloging the Toh 856 version of this text within vol. 100 or 101 of the Degé Kangyur. See Toh 856, note 3, for details.
Two sets of folio references have been included in this translation due to a discrepancy in volume 88 (rgyud ’bum, na) of the Degé Kangyur between the 1737 par phud printings and the late (post par phud) printings. In the latter case, an extra work, Bodhimaṇḍasyālaṃkāralakṣadhāraṇī (Toh 508, byang chub snying po’i rgyan ’bum gyi gzungs), was added as the second text in the volume, thereby displacing the pagination of all the following texts in the same volume by 17 folios. Since the eKangyur follows the later printing, both references have been provided, with the highlighted one linking to the eKangyur viewer.
’phags pa sangs rgyas thams cad kyi yan lag dang ldan pa zhes bya ba’i gzungs. (Āryasarvabuddhāṅgavatīnāmadhāraṇī). Toh 513, Degé Kangyur, vol. 88 (rgyud ’bum, na), folios 26.a–27.b.
’phags pa sangs rgyas thams cad kyi yan lag dang ldan pa zhes bya ba’i gzungs. bka’ ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Kangyur], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan pe 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), 2006–2009, vol. 88, pp 126–31.
諸佛集會陀羅尼經. 中華電子佛典協會. 大正新脩大正藏經 (Chu fo chi hui t’o lo ni ching). Vol. 21, no. 1346.
Braarvig, Jens. “Dhāraṇī and Pratibhāna: Memory and Eloquence of the Bodhisattvas.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 8, no.1 (1985): 17–29.
Davidson, Ronald M. “Studies in Dhāraṇī Literature I: Revisiting the Meaning of the Term Dhāraṇī.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 37 (2009): 97–147.
_______. “Studies in dhāraṇī literature II: Pragmatics of dhāraṇīs.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 77 (2014): 5–61.
Denkarma (pho brang stod thang ldan [/ lhan] dkar gyi chos ’gyur ro cog gi dkar chag). 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. Wien: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2008.
Lamotte, Étienne. History of Indian Buddhism: From the Origins to the Śaka Era. Translated from the French by Sara Webb-Boin under the supervision of Jean Dantinne. Louvain-la-Neuve: Université catholique de Louvain, Institut orientaliste, 1988.
Nattier, Jan. A Few Good Men: The Bodhisattva Path according to The Inquiry of Ugra (Ugraparipṛcchā). Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003.
Nicell, Joan. The Dharani Called “Possessing the Limbs of All the Buddhas.” Portland: FPMT Inc., 2007.
- da na shi la
- yul ’khor srung
four great kings
- rgyal po chen po bzhi
- catur mahārāja
four guardians of the world
- ’jig rten skyong ba bzhi
- catur lokapāla
- gang ga
- dzi na mi tra
lord of the guhyaka
- gsang ba pa’i bdag po
- dge bsnyen
- rnam thos kyi bu
- rig sngags
- ’phags skyes po
- mig mi bzang
- ye shes sde