The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates
Degé Kangyur, vol. 88 (rgyud ’bum, na), folios 54.a–54.b (in par phud printings), 71.a–71.b (in later printings)
Translated by the Pema Yeshé Dé Translation Team
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
While the Buddha is abiding in the space above the Śuddhāvāsa realm with a retinue of bodhisattvas, he urges them to uphold The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates and presents these gates as six aspirations that vanquish the causes of saṃsāric experience. He then presents the dhāraṇī itself to his listeners and instructs them to recite it three times each day and three times each night. Finally, he indicates the benefits that come from this practice, and the assembly praises the Buddha’s words. This is followed by a short dedication marking the conclusion of the text.
Giuliano Proença and Leticia Osorio produced and revised the translation. Joaquim Monteiro provided comparisons with the Chinese versions of the consulted texts and gave valuable references throughout the translation process. Giuliano Proença wrote the introduction and other ancillary elements while Leticia Osorio revised them.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates is a short text that consists mainly of a dhāraṇī taught by the Buddha to an assembly of bodhisattvas. According to Pedro Sánchez,1 this style of dhāraṇī appeared between the third and eighth centuries ᴄᴇ. Since Xuanzang’s Chinese translation dates to 645 ᴄᴇ, this text must have already been available at the beginning of the seventh century. It appears to have enjoyed a certain level of popularity, since we find many copies of it among the Dunhuang documents in Tibetan and Chinese, as well as several Indian, Tibetan, and Chinese commentaries and recitation texts based on it.
One of its commentaries, the Ṣaṇmukhīdhāraṇīvyākhyāna (Toh 3989), appears in the Tengyur and is attributed to Vasubandhu (fourth to fifth century); its Chinese translation is in the Taishō. Its subcommentary (IOL Tib J 430) written by Jñānadatta has been preserved only in Tibetan and Chinese among the Dunhuang manuscripts. According to the colophon of the Dunhuang texts, these Indian commentaries were translated into Tibetan by the Indian paṇḍitas Dharmapāla and Prajñāvarman and the Tibetan translator-monk Yeshé Dé.
There are four known Tibetan commentaries on the Ṣaṇmukhīdhāraṇī composed by the renowned scholars Butön Rinchen Drup (1290–1364), Jonang Tāranātha (1575–1634), the seventh Dalai Lama (1708–57), and the Geluk scholar Ngülchu Dharmabhadra (1772–1851). The Phangthangma, one of the imperial catalogs of translated works, also mentions two sādhanas related to the Ṣaṇmukhīdhāraṇī, which we could not locate. There are available, however, some relatively modern recitation texts related to this dhāraṇī composed by Ngawang Khedrup (1779–1838) and Losang Tsültrim Gyatso (1845–1915).
It is not known who translated The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates into Tibetan. Neither the colophons, the Denkarma and Phangthangma imperial catalogs, nor Tibetan historical works mention the translators. The inclusion of our text in the Denkarma catalog, dated to ca. 812 ᴄᴇ, confirms that the translation was made by the early ninth century at the latest. It seems likely that this dhāraṇī was translated from an Indian original since, according to the Phangthangma catalog, it was not among the dhāraṇīs that were translated from Chinese.
Texts that include dhāraṇīs, as well as those referred to as dhāraṇīs by their titles, are widespread in the Mahāyāna sūtra literature as well as featuring in the tantras. Gergely Hidas, for example, notes that dhāraṇī scriptures have been assigned both to sūtra and tantra categories in Buddhist canonical collections and that their classification is “sometimes controversial within Tibetan and Chinese textual systems.”2 In this regard, it is interesting to note that three almost identical versions of the Ṣaṇmukhīdhāraṇī are assigned to the Sūtra, Tantra, and Dhāraṇī sections of the Kangyurs of the Tshalpa group. In the Thempangma Kangyurs, such as the Stok Palace Kangyur, it is included exclusively in the Tantra section. In the Lhasa and Narthang Kangyurs, we find almost identical versions of The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates in both the Sūtra and Tantra sections. Our text is also found among the Dunhuang manuscripts.3 All versions are roughly the same length. There were probably different sources for the Tibetan translations that were found in Dunhuang: Pelliot tibétain 415 is almost identical to the Thempangma versions, while Pelliot tibétain 77 is in some cases closer to the Tshalpa versions.
Fortunately, there are a few extant Sanskrit manuscripts of The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates. Mimaki (1977b) prepared a critical edition based on these manuscripts and prepared a critical edition of the Tibetan based on various canonical translations. The Tibetan versions seem to be quite accurate translations of the Sanskrit text, although there are minor differences between them. It is noteworthy that the versions of the Thempangma Kangyur group, like that of the Stok Palace, and Pelliot tibétain 415 are closer to the extant Sanskrit version than versions from the Tshalpa Kangyur group. The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates was translated into Chinese by the great translator Xuanzang in 645 ᴄᴇ (Taishō 1360). The Chinese translation differs considerably from the Sanskrit and the Tibetan, especially in its presentation of the six gates, despite having the same structure as the Sanskrit and Tibetan texts. Interestingly, the Tibetan and Chinese translations of the above-mentioned commentary and subcommentary are similar in content and wording. Even the quotations of the six gates in the Chinese subcommentary more closely match the Tibetan text of The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates than Xuanzang’s rendering of the six gates.
In addition to his critical editions of the Sanskrit and Tibetan versions of the text, Mimaki (1977a) offers a French translation. Mimaki also examines references to The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates in later treatises and its possible affiliation to the Sautrāntika school. He lists the extant Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese manuscripts of the text, as well as the Tibetan editions and the commentaries. He also compares his Sanskrit edition with the Tibetan and with the Chinese canonical versions. Mimaki’s research proved invaluable for preparing our own translation.
We have based our translation mainly on the Tibetan text as found in the Sūtra section of the Degé Kangyur (Toh 141), but consulted the other versions found in the Action Tantra and Dhāraṇī sections to clarify ambiguous passages (Toh 526 and Toh 916, respectively).4 Whenever our main source text diverged from the Sanskrit, we compared the passage in question with other Tibetan translations, including the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) and Stok Palace versions, and the two complete Tibetan manuscripts from Dunhuang, and we recorded variant readings in the notes. Moreover, in cases where both the Tibetan and Sanskrit texts allowed for different readings, we consulted the Indian commentaries on The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates for clarification.
As suggested by its title, The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates consists in an account of the six gates, which are presented as a series of six aspiration prayers, followed by the presentation of the dhāraṇī itself. The goal of the dhāraṇī is to transcend worldly suffering by eradicating the causes of saṃsāric experience.
The text begins with the Buddha advising his audience of innumerable bodhisattvas to uphold The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates for the good of the entire world. He then utters the six aspirations, which can be summarized as recognizing one’s own sufferings as no different from those of all beings in saṃsāra, using worldly happiness for the benefit of others as well as oneself, purifying one’s misdeeds through confession, understanding demonic actions, developing virtue through supreme knowledge, and liberating all beings from saṃsāra.
He finally instructs the assembly to recite the dhāraṇī three times each day and three times each night and then highlights the benefits that derive from this practice, including the ultimate benefit of attaining spiritual awakening. The text concludes with the assembly praising the Buddha’s teaching. This is followed by a short dedication marking the conclusion of the text. In one Tibetan canonical version (Toh 141), two auspicious sayings in Sanskrit and the “Verse on Dependent Arising” (Pratītyasamutpādagāthā) appear after the dedication.
Thus did I hear at one time. The Bhagavān was dwelling together with an assembly of innumerable bodhisattvas in a pavilion ornately decorated with the seven kinds of precious jewels7 that was located in the firmament of the sky above Śuddhāvāsa.
“Whatever misdeeds and non-virtuous actions11 I have done, may I not fail to confess each one of them through unsurpassed confession.
tadyathā oṃ kṣame kṣame kṣānte kṣānte dame dame dānte dānte bhadre bhadre subhadre subhadre candre candre [F.54.b] [F.71.b] sucandre sucandre candrakiraṇe candravati tejovati yaśovati16 dharmavati brahmavati sarvakleśaviśodhani sarvārthasādhani sarvānarthapraśamani17 paramārthasādhani kāyaviśodhani vāgviśodhani18 manaḥsaṃśodhani svāhā
“Therefore, children of a noble family, if any sons or daughters of a noble family recite The Dhāraṇī of the Six Gates three times by day and three times by night, then, having purified all their karmic obscurations, they will remember their previous lives up to seven lifetimes19 and will swiftly20 and fully awaken to unsurpassed perfect buddhahood.”21
|A||Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) of the Kangyur|
|D (Toh 141)||Degé (sde dge) Kangyur—Sūtra section|
|D (Toh 526)||Degé (sde dge) Kangyur—Tantra section|
|D (Toh 916)||Degé (sde dge) Kangyur—Dhāraṇī section|
|HT||Lhasa (zhol) Kangyur—Tantra section|
|K||Peking (pe cin) Kangxi Kangyur|
|KY||Peking Yongle (g.yung lo) Kangyur|
|NT||Narthang (snar thang) Kangyur—Tantra section|
|PT||Pelliot tibétain (numbers denote specific texts in collection)|
|S||Stok Palace (stog pho brang) Manuscript Kangyur|
|Skt.||Mimaki’s Sanskrit edition (1977)|
|Toh||Degé (sde dge) Kangyur (numbers denote specific texts in collection)|
Note that there is a discrepancy among various databases for cataloging the Toh 916 version of this text within vol. 100 or 101 of the Degé Kangyur. See Toh 916 note 4 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.
sgo drug pa’i gzungs (Ṣaṇmukhīdhāraṇī). Toh 141, Degé Kangyur vol. 56 (mdo sde, na), folios 299.a–300.a.
sgo drug pa’i gzungs (Ṣaṇmukhīdhāraṇī). Toh 526, Degé Kangyur vol. 88 (rgyud, na), folios 54.a–54.b (in par phud printings).
sgo drug pa’i gzungs (Ṣaṇmukhīdhāraṇī). Toh 916, Degé Kangyur vol. 100 (gzungs, e), folios 260.b–261.a.
sgo drug pa’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 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. 56, pp. 826–29; vol. 88, pp. 227–30; vol. 97, pp. 775–78.
sgo drug pa’i gzungs. Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 102 (rgyud, da), folios 60.a–61.a.
Pelliot tibétain 77, section 2. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. Accessed through The International Dunhuang Project: The Silk Road Online.
Pelliot tibétain 415, section 1. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. Accessed through The International Dunhuang Project: The Silk Road Online.
Mimaki, Katsumi (1977b). “La Ṣaṇmukhī-dhāraṇī ou ‘Incantation des SIX PORTES,’ texte attribué aux Sautrāntika (II).” Report of the Japanese Association for Tibetan Studies 23 (1977): 9–13.
Vasubandhu. sgo drug pa’i gzungs kyi rnam par bshad pa (Ṣaṇmukhīdhāraṇīvyākhyāna). Toh 3989, Degé Tengyur vol. 113 (mdo ’grel, ngi), folios 64.b–66.a.
———. sgo drug pa’i gzungs kyi rnam par bshad pa. bstan ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Tengyur], krung go’i bod kyi shes rig zhib ’jug lte gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 120 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa’i dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 1994–2008, vol. 37, pp. 3–7.
Jñānadatta (ye shes byin). ’phags pa sgo drug pa’i gzungs kyi rnam par bshad pa rgya cher ’grel pa. IOL Tib J 430, section 1. British Library, London. Accessed through The International Dunhuang Project: The Silk Road Online.
Denkarma (pho brang stod thang ldan dkar gyi chos kyi ’gyur ro cog gi dkar chag). Toh 4364, Degé Tengyur vol. 206 (sna tshogs, jo), folios 294.b–310.a.
Phangthangma (dkar chag ’phang thang ma). Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2003.
Tāranātha. ’phags pa sgo drug pa’i gzungs kyi rnam par bshad pa. In gsung ’bum/ tA ra nA tha (dpe bsdur ma), vol. 35 (77) pp. 350–362. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, 2008.
Xuanzang, trans. Liu men tuoluoni jing 六門陀羅尼經, Taishō 1360.
Vasubandhu. Liu men tuoluoni jing lun 六門陀羅尼經論, Taishō 1361.
Buddhavacana Translation Group, trans. The Sūtra on Dependent Arising (Pratītyasamutpādasūtra, Toh 212). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2016.
Dalton, Jacob, and Sam Van Schaik. Tibetan Tantric Manuscripts from Dunhuang: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Stein Collection at the British Library. Leiden: Brill, 2006.
Halkias, Georgios. “Tibetan Buddhism Registered: A Catalogue from the Imperial Court of ’Phang Thang.” The Eastern Buddhist 36, nos. 1–2 (2004): 46–105.
Hidas, Gergely. “Dhāraṇī Sūtras.” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Buddhism, edited by Jonathan Silk et al., vol. 1, Literature and Languages, 129–37. Leiden: Brill, 2015.
Mimaki, Katsumi (1977a). “La Ṣaṇmukhī-dhāraṇī ou ‘Incantation des SIX PORTES,’ texte attribué aux Sautrāntika (I).” Report of the Japanese Association for Tibetan Studies 23 (1977): 965–72.
———(1977b). “La Ṣaṇmukhī-dhāraṇī ou ‘Incantation des SIX PORTES,’ texte attribué aux Sautrāntika (II).” Report of the Japanese Association for Tibetan Studies 23 (1977): 9–13.
Obermiller, Eugéne, trans. and ed. History of Buddhism (Chos ḥbyung) by Bu-ston. Vol. 2, The History of Buddhism in India and Tibet. Materialien zur Kunde des Buddhismus 19. Heidelberg: O. Harrassowitz, 1932.
Sánchez, Pedro M. C. “The Indian Buddhist Dhāraṇī: An Introduction to its History, Meanings and Functions.” MA diss., University of Sunderland, 2011.
Yoshimura, Shyuki. The Denkar-Ma: An Oldest Catalogue of the Tibetan Buddhist Canons. Kyoto: Ryukoku University, 1950.
- lha ma yin
One of the six classes of sentient beings. The asuras are engendered and dominated by envy, ambition, and hostility and are metaphorically described as being incessantly embroiled in disputes with the gods (deva). They are frequently portrayed in brahmanical mythology as having a disruptive effect on cosmological and social harmony.
- bcom ldan ’das
“Blessed One,” an epithet of the Buddha.
- byang chub sems dpa’
A being who is dedicated to the cultivation and fulfillment of the intention to attain perfect buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.
- bdud kyi las
An action that is either done by the god-demon Māra (the personification of evil) himself; or by beings belonging to the class of demons; or by humans either (literally) under demonic influence or (figuratively) under the influence of whatever distractions, obstacles, and afflictions act as an impediment to liberation.
Lit. “god.” A class of beings in the higher planes of existence in the desire realm, as well as in the form and formless realms.
A verbal formula or phrase that can serve a variety of purposes depending on the genre of text. It often refers to a magical incantation for attaining mundane or supramundane goals.
- dri za
A class of sentient beings who live on scents and are particularly known to be musicians.
- las kyi sgrib pa
Obstructions due to past actions.
- ’jam dpal gzhon nur gyur pa
The bodhisattva who is considered the embodiment of wisdom, with the additional honorific title for a young man, since he is perennially youthful.
- mya ngan las ’das pa
Final liberation from suffering. The Sanskrit literally means “extinguishment” and the Tibetan “the transcendence of suffering.”
- pha rol tu phyin pa
Typically refers to the practices of the bodhisattvas, which are embraced with knowledge. The six perfections are generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration, and wisdom.
Roots of nonvirtue
- mi dge ba’i rtsa ba
Usually referring to the ten unwholesome actions, which are taking life, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, lying, sowing discord, harsh speech, worthless chatter, covetousness, wishing harm on others, and wrong views.
Roots of virtue
- dge ba’i rtsa ba
Wholesome actions that are conducive to happiness.
- ’khor ba
The cyclic existence in which beings are confined to suffering and unsatisfactoriness.
Seven kinds of precious jewels
- rin po che sna bdun
The list of seven precious materials varies. One possible listing is gold, silver, cat’s eye, crystal, ruby, emerald, and amethyst.
- gnas gtsang ma
Name for the five highest levels of existence within the form realm.
- yongs su shes pa
A general term that may here imply not just understanding or knowledge but realization or even awakening.