The King of the Array of All Dharma Qualities
- Yeshé Dé
Degé Kangyur, vol. 88 (rgyud ’bum, na), folios 54.b-68.a (in par phud), 71.a–85.a (in post par phud)
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The events recounted in The King of the Array of All Dharma Qualities take place outside Rājagṛha, where the Buddha is residing in the Bamboo Grove together with a great assembly of monks, bodhisattvas, and other human and non-human beings. At the request of the bodhisattvas Vajrapāṇi and Avalokiteśvara, the Buddha teaches his audience on a selection of brief but disparate topics belonging to the general Mahāyāna tradition: how to search for a spiritual friend and live in solitude, the benefits of venerating Avalokiteśvara’s name, the obstacles that Māra may create for practitioners, and warnings on how easy it is to lose one’s determination to be free from saṃsāra. The sūtra also includes two dhāraṇīs that the Buddha and Vajrapāṇi teach in turn, along with details of their benefits and Vajrapāṇi’s ritual recitation instructions. Throughout the text, the Buddha repeatedly insists on the importance and benefits of venerating and propagating this teaching as well as those who teach it.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the guidance of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The translation was produced by Benjamin Collet-Cassart, who also wrote the introduction. Andreas Doctor compared the draft translation with the original Tibetan and edited the text. Khenpo Urgyen Tenphel from Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery and Wiesiek Mical assisted by resolving several difficult passages. We are also very grateful to Dr. Oliver von Criegern for sharing his doctoral dissertation on this sūtra, which includes, inter alia, his Sanskrit edition of the Gilgit manuscript and a full translation of the text into German.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The King of the Array of All Dharma Qualities is a scripture found in both the general sūtra and the tantra sections of most Kangyurs. The sūtra is set in the Bamboo Grove at Kalandakanivāpa, a park outside Rājagṛha where several sūtras are said to have been taught. Here, the Buddha resides together with a great saṅgha of monks and with several bodhisattvas. The Buddha enters a state of meditative absorption, whereby the earth shakes, and various supernatural manifestations appear. At the sight of these magical displays, many other beings are attracted to the place where the Buddha is about to teach and, joining those already present, they listen. The bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi then supplicates the Buddha to teach the sūtra called The King of the Array of All Dharma Qualities.
After the Buddha has instructed the audience on the four proper attitudes for finding a spiritual friend, Avalokiteśvara tells the audience that those who hear this Dharma teaching will be blessed by all the buddhas and will be reborn in Sukhāvatī. At the request of Vajrapāṇi, the Buddha then explains the significance of Avalokiteśvara’s name. Next, the Buddha and Vajrapāṇi successively utter two powerful dhāraṇīs for the benefit of those present in the assembly. Vajrapāṇi accompanies the recitation of his dhāraṇī with the description of a ritual featuring the maṇḍalas of Vajradhara, Śākyamuni, and Avalokiteśvara.
In the remainder of the sūtra, the Buddha entrusts his teaching to Vajrapāṇi and the rest of the audience, repeatedly insisting that this text and those who teach it should be regarded as thus-gone ones themselves. The benefits derived from worshiping and propagating this teaching and its teachers are then repeatedly presented to the assembly. The Buddha concludes his discourse by explaining the unfortunate consequences of not persevering in the Dharma but instead relapsing into saṃsāric pursuits. He illustrates this with three analogies: (1) a woman who forgets the difficulty of childbirth and allows herself to become pregnant again; (2) a man who has recovered from his drunkenness yet quickly returns to his old habits; and (3) a being who escapes hell and is born as a human, only to engage in the very actions that lead straight back to hell. Having warned his audience about the dire outcomes of such careless attitudes, the Buddha provides Ānanda with five alternative titles for this sūtra, and the entire world with its human and non-human beings rejoices and praises the teaching.
The Buddha’s main interlocutors in this sūtra are the bodhisattvas Vajrapāṇi and Avalokiteśvara. The bodhisattva Vyūharāja, “King of the Array,” plays only a minor role, and the fact that the title includes the words that make up his name does not seem likely to be due to his presence in the cast of characters. On the other hand, the relationship between the content of the sūtra and its title (which is repeated at several points within the text) remains unclear. The content is generally heterogeneous, but it is noteworthy that it contains two dhāraṇīs and descriptions of a ritual. The presence of these ritual elements in a Mahāyāna teaching is probably the reason why this text is included twice in the Degé and other Kangyurs with Tshalpa influence, appearing not only in the General Sūtra section (as Toh 114) but also in the section of Action tantras (as Toh 527). In Kangyurs more closely aligned to the Thempangma tradition, the text appears only in the Action tantra section.
The sūtra was translated into both Chinese and Tibetan. The Chinese translation (T.1374) was produced by the famous Chinese pilgrim Yijing (635–713) at the beginning of the eighth century, while the Tibetan translation rendered here in English was prepared a century later by the prolific Tibetan translator Yeshé Dé (fl. eighth to ninth centuries) in collaboration with the Indian preceptors Prajñāvarman and Surendrabodhi.
In both early ninth century inventories of translated texts, the Denkarma (ldan dkar ma) and Phangthangma (’phang thang ma), a text with this title is listed as having six bam po (fascicles), which would make it at least ten times longer than the present text. The Phangthangma additionally lists another text with the same name, but with four hundred ślokas, which would correspond more closely to the sūtra translated here. Butön (bu ston rin chen grub), in his fourteenth century canonical list that was an important influence in the compilation of the Kangyur, ascribes six bam po to a text with this title, too,1 and then a few folios later goes on to mention another text with this same title, but of only four hundred ślokas, among thirty-six texts that he had not found.2 Although there may have been errors in the inventories,3 it is not easy to mistake a six bam po text for a four hundred śloka one, and it remains a possibility that two texts of very different length but the same title co-existed at some time. The fact that it is the longer of the two whose existence Butön seems to confirm, and not the shorter, adds to the uncertainty. Nevertheless, no trace of a longer version has come to light. The versions found in the Tabo and Gondhla proto-Kangyur collections appear to be different Tibetan translations of the same original.
It is hard to evaluate the influence of this sūtra on the wider tradition. Compared to some of the other texts with which it is placed (in most Kangyurs) in the first thirty or so works of the General Sūtra section, it does not seem to have had a significant impact—unlike, for example, The White Lotus of the Good Dharma immediately preceding it and The Display of the Pure Land of Sukhāvatī that follows. In contrast to its much-cited neighbours with predominant doctrinal themes, it has not been the focus of any specific practice or tradition, and it is not immediately obvious which of its relatively brief and quite disparate statements might at one time have been most valued. The few citations in later literature that we have identified do not collectively focus on one of its topics in particular.4 Nevertheless, the most sustained message of the sūtra—that respect, worship, and preservation of the sūtra itself will bring immense spiritual benefits, including rebirth in Sukhāvatī—carries reflections of both The White Lotus of the Good Dharma and The Display of the Pure Land of Sukhāvatī, and is perhaps a sufficient explanation of its presence in many Kangyurs between these two texts.5
Significantly, a Sanskrit palm leaf manuscript was discovered in Gilgit in 1938 among numerous other Buddhist texts (Hinüber 1979 and Hartmann 1997). Dr. Oliver von Criegern of the University of Munich has produced an edition of this Sanskrit manuscript, as well as an edition of the Tibetan text (including proto-Kangyur manuscripts from Tabo and Gondhla) and a full translation into German that we consulted during the translation to resolve several difficult passages (Criegern 2009). While we consulted the Sanskrit edition during our work, this translation mainly follows the Tibetan Degé woodblock print. However, in a few instances where the Tibetan seems corrupt and the Sanskrit offers the more sensible reading, we have followed the Sanskrit edition. Significant differences from the proto-Kangyur manuscripts are recorded in endnotes. The dhāraṇīs are transcribed according to the Degé edition; the Sanskrit is also provided in endnotes, together with tentative translations.
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas!
Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One was dwelling in the Bamboo Grove, in the Kalandakanivāpa near Rājagṛha, together with a great saṅgha of five hundred monks and with twelve hundred bodhisattvas, all of whom had obtained dhāraṇīs. They had unimpeded wisdom and were unhindered in their sphere of activity. They were skilled in means, had developed equanimity toward everything in the three realms, and possessed an altruistic mindset of compassion and benevolence. All of them were there to request Dharma teachings from the Thus-Gone One.
The twelve hundred bodhisattvas in attendance included the bodhisattva great being Maitreya, the bodhisattva great being Nityodyukta, the bodhisattva great being Samatāvihārin, [F.55.a] [F.72.a] the bodhisattva great being Aniñjya, the bodhisattva great being Sumati, the bodhisattva great being Mahāmati, the bodhisattva great being Anantapratibhāna, the bodhisattva great being Suvikrāntamati, and the bodhisattva great being Avalokiteśvara.7 Also present were Śakra, Brahmā, the guardians of the world, the nāga kings, the lords of the rākṣasas, and three hundred yakṣiṇīs.8 There were also six thousand caraka, parivrājaka, and nirgrantha non-Buddhists, as well as the seven lords of the garuḍas. The whole assembly, while circumambulating the Thus-Gone One, worshiped him by scattering a rain of celestial flowers and sandalwood powder, and playing divine cymbals and drums. With manifest faith in the teaching of the Thus-Gone One, they exclaimed, “Blessed One, excellent, excellent! Blessed One, the teaching of the Thus-Gone One that extinguishes all disturbing emotions is a great miracle! It is excellent, excellent!”
At that moment the Blessed One entered the absorption known as the stainless victory banner that completely subdues all disturbing emotions. Through the power of that absorption, the earth shook violently, causing it to rise and sink. It quivered, trembled, and quaked; wobbled, rocked, and swayed; vibrated, shuddered, and reeled; convulsed, rattled, and shook; clattered, rattled, and clanged; and boomed, thundered, and roared. [F.55.b] [F.72.b] A rain of sandalwood powder and celestial flowers fell from the sky, and divine light shone throughout the world. All the beings in this great trichiliocosm who had taken birth in the lower realms were instantly freed. The homes of the lords of the gods, nāgas, yakṣas, rākṣasas, and humans were illuminated. The sound of celestial cymbals resounded, and divine lights and fragrances manifested everywhere.
Everyone was amazed at the sight of this great miraculous display and wondered, “Whose power is causing this illumination of our homes, the manifestation of this great miracle, these earthquakes, and this great rain of flowers? Whose blessings are causing all of this?” Having reflected on this silently for a moment, they said to each other, “This is the power of the Thus-Gone One! These are the miracles of the Thus-Gone One!”
At that time the Four Great Kings thought, “Let us go to where the Blessed One resides so we can meet, pay homage to, and worship the Thus-Gone One, and listen to the Dharma.”
So the lords of the gods, nāgas, yakṣas, and rākṣasas, all these powerful beings endowed with great supernatural powers, then proceeded to the Bamboo Grove, in the Kalandakanivāpa where the Blessed One was residing, carrying with them blue lotus flowers, pink lotus flowers, water lilies, and white lotus flowers, as well as jasmine, mandārava, and mahāmandārava flowers. Once there, they worshiped the Blessed One and paid homage to him. Their downpour of flowers covered the wide earth up to knee height. All the bodhisattva great beings then circumambulated the Blessed One three times and sat to one side to listen to the Dharma. [F.56.a] [F.73.a]
The bodhisattva great being Vajrapāṇi was surrounded by millions of bodhisattvas and millions of gods, and there were many hundreds of vidyādharas present before him. Through the great power of their supernatural abilities, they worshiped the Thus-Gone One, his saṅgha of monks, and the gathering of bodhisattvas with a great array of flowers, perfumes, flower garlands, incense, cymbals, and great drums.
Then the bodhisattva Vyūharāja made offerings to the Thus-Gone One in the form of displays both mighty and divine, as well as a great rain of flowers. Seeing that vast assembly, the bodhisattva great beings longed for a Dharma discourse. In his mind, the Blessed One knew the bodhisattvas’ wish, and so spoke to the bodhisattva Vyūharāja, saying, “Noble son, go and survey the wide earth.”
“Vyūharāja,” declared the Blessed One, “on this very day the attainment of unsurpassed and perfect awakening will be prophesied for sixty-four thousand beings.”
The bodhisattva great being Vajrapāṇi then fell at the feet of the Blessed One and said, “Blessed One, many gods, nāgas, yakṣas, rākṣasas, humans, carakas, and parivrājakas have gathered here. Well-Gone One, many beings have gathered here. Blessed One, [F.56.b] [F.73.b] this is the time for hearing the Dharma. Well-Gone One, this is the time for hearing the Dharma.”
But the Blessed One remained silent. So the bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi then supplicated the Thus-Gone One a second time, and a third time:
“Blessed One, I request you to teach the Dharma! Well-Gone One, I request you to teach the Dharma! I request you to fulfill the aspirations of all beings! Blessed One, I request you to dispel their remorse! For the welfare and happiness of all beings, I request you to teach the sūtra called The King of the Array of All Dharma Qualities. It extinguishes all disturbing emotions, overcomes all demons, brings an end to all evil deeds, generates faith in those who lack faith, quells the torments caused by famines, cures all sicknesses, and wards off untimely death. The very moment I heard it from the Thus-Gone One Vidyuprabhāsa, all phenomena became immediately apparent to me, the gates to the lower realms closed completely, and all karmic obscurations were eliminated. Please teach this sūtra!”
But in response, the Blessed One told the bodhisattva great being Vajrapāṇi, “Noble son, in the future there will be beings who have no faith in my teaching, who have no genuine faith or trust in the sūtras spoken by the Thus-Gone One. They will claim, ‘This is not a sūtra taught by the Thus-Gone One,’ or, ‘According to this teaching there is no karmic maturation of either good or bad actions.’ Overwhelmed by greed, they will not engage in activities of worship, not even toward those who teach the Dharma. They will experience many misfortunes in that very life and will burn in the hell realms in their future rebirths. Noble son, [F.57.a] [F.74.a] this is not the time to hear this great king of sūtras that is like the father and mother of the thus-gone ones and that exhausts all karma. Moreover, it might cause those non-Buddhist carakas and parivrājakas, as well as many other beings, to be reborn in the lower realms. Noble son, they will not have faith in this king of sūtras. With their minds blinded by desire, they will be preoccupied with their households. They will engage in farm work and business, fight battles, and crave conflict. After they die, they will burn in the eight great hells.”
At that moment, however, eighty thousand beings stood up, fell at the feet of the Blessed One, and said, “Blessed One, we will have faith in this sūtra. We will revere it and spread it. We will be eager to write it down, read it aloud, propagate it, and recite it. Later on, when the Dharma has disappeared, we will bear criticism, intimidation, and abuse. Blessed One, we will remember your kindness, and will not be ungrateful or have regrets later. Blessed One, please teach the sūtra called The King of the Array of All Dharma Qualities! In future times, this sūtra will perform the activity of the Thus-Gone One.”
The bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi then asked, “Blessed One, how should a bodhisattva great being search for a spiritual friend?”
“Noble son,” answered the Blessed One, “a bodhisattva great being who searches for a spiritual friend should possess these four qualities: (1) a wish to be continuously in the presence of a spiritual friend, (2) a diligent nature, (3) a completely pure motivation, and (4) the wish to receive the Dharma.” [F.57.b] [F.74.b]
“Blessed One,” continued the bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi, “how should a bodhisattva live in solitude?”
The Blessed One replied, “That bodhisattva should avoid the householder life, avoid associating with non-spiritual friends, and give up all personal possessions.”10
The bodhisattva great being noble Avalokiteśvara then said, “Blessed One, I have never seen anyone reborn in the lower realms after hearing this Dharma teaching.11 In fact, that would be impossible. Blessed One, just listening to this Dharma teaching and paying homage to it is already a great miracle and a great wonder, not to mention the acts of writing this Dharma teaching down; commissioning it to be written; holding it; reading it aloud; venerating it with parasols, victory banners, and flags; or of offering clothes and ornaments to those who teach it! Such people are blessed by all the buddhas. The thus-gone ones have prophesied that they will be reborn in Sukhāvatī. Such Dharma teachers should be regarded as thus-gone ones themselves.”
“Excellent, excellent,” said the Blessed One. “Thus it is, noble son! I too will revere those who spread this Dharma teaching. And I prophesy that they will be reborn in Sukhāvatī. Those who revere the thus-gone ones and worship them with flowers, incense, perfumes, flower garlands, ointments, cloths, ornaments, parasols, victory banners, and flags will not die an untimely death. [F.58.a] [F.75.a] They will not fear enemy armies or the calamity of famines. They will not be distressed over their children or their spouses, and all their aspirations will be completely fulfilled. Noble son, it is rare for thus-gone ones to appear and for this king of sūtras to be heard. Noble son, whether in a village, a city, a market, a house, or an isolated place, any place in which this Dharma teaching is heard will be kept under the care of the thus-gone ones.”
“Because he sees and surveys the entire world; brings contentment, protection, and relief; has a compassionate, benevolent, loving, and affectionate mind; and completely fulfills all aspirations, he is named ‘Avalokiteśvara.’ ”
The bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi then said, “Blessed One, just to contemplate Avalokiteśvara’s name completely fulfills all one’s aspirations, not to mention worshiping the Thus-Gone One, or having faith in this Dharma teaching, holding it, reading it aloud, writing it down, commissioning it to be written, worshiping it with great offerings of clothes and ornaments, and adorning it with ornaments!”
“Noble son,” replied the Blessed One, “I have a dhāraṇī called jayamatī that I received from the Thus-Gone One Jayaghoṣa when I was a bodhisattva. As soon as I obtained it, I reached the tenth level and many thousands of beings reached the level where they become receptive to the unborn nature of phenomena.”12
“Blessed One, please teach us that powerful dhāraṇī!” pleaded the bodhisattvas.
The Blessed One, the Thus-Gone One, then uttered this dhāraṇī with the sound and intonation of a kalaviṅka bird:
tadyathā: jaya jaya, jayavaha, khavaha, jayavaha, hulu hulu, padmābhe, avam ava me, sara saraṇe, dhiri dhiri, dhiri dhiri, devatānupālani, yuddha uttāraṇi, paracakranivāraṇi, pūraya bhagavān sarvāśān, mama sarvakarma kṣapaya, buddhādhiṣṭhānena, svāhā.13
“Noble son, this is the dhāraṇī called jayamatī. It exhausts all evil deeds, increases wealth, multiplies crops, repels enemy armies, quells the torments caused by famines, and prolongs life. This Dharma teaching is like the father and mother of all thus-gone ones. Noble son, a person who pays homage to this Dharma teaching and the words of this dhāraṇī mantra, who worships it with a pure motivation, writes it down, commissions it to be written, and venerates those who teach it with great offerings, will eradicate all their karmic obscurations. They will not die an untimely death and will experience happiness in this life. They will feel content with their children, spouse, household, or kingdom, and all their aspirations will be fulfilled.”
“Blessed One,” said the bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi, [F.59.a] [F.76.a] “I pay homage to this Dharma teaching. I will also worship those who teach it, write it down, hold it, and read it aloud. Those who worship this Dharma teaching and make offerings of clothes, ornaments, parasols, and carriages to the ones who teach it are thereby worshiping all the thus-gone ones. Blessed One, to those who worship me and all the bodhisattvas with the highest offerings, I will grant protection in every kingdom, I will fulfill all their aspirations, and I will make them venerable in every kingdom. Blessed One, I will also bestow the words of a dhāraṇī mantra for the sake of those who listen to the Dharma. I will fulfill all their aspirations. I will care for them.”
“Noble son, speak for the sake of beings!” urged the Blessed One.
namaḥ sarvatathāgatānāṃ, namo ´mitābhāya tathāgatāya, namaḥ sarvabuddhabodhisattvānāṃ, namaḥ sarvamahārdhikebhyas. tadyathā: huhu hehe, mati mati, mahāmati, vajramati, dṛḍhavajramati, tathāgatānuparipālite, sara sara, ayomukhi bhṛkuṭi, bhṛkuṭamukhi, kṛpe kṛpāluke, satyavacanam anusmara, bhagavan vajrapāṇi, sarvakarmāvaraṇāni kṣapaya, sarvāśāṃ paripūraya, dehi me varam buddhasatyena bodhisattvasatyena, svāhā.14
“Venerable Blessed One, those who want to reach the level of a bodhisattva, have a vision of a thus-gone one, be reborn in a buddha realm, or gain sovereignty, possessions, lands, wealth, or crops should worship this Dharma teaching and those who teach it with vast offerings. [F.59.b] [F.76.b] They should also worship those who write it down, hold it, and read it aloud, with gifts of perfumes, flower garlands, ointments, bedding, cushions, clothes, ornaments, parasols, and carriages. Blessed One, I will protect them and make them highly venerable in every kingdom. I will provide them with all the happiness they wish for, and I will look after each of them as if they were my only child.
“Those who wish to have a vision of me, become a powerful monarch, attain the state of meditative absorption, have the ability to retain what they hear, transmute minerals,15 become invisible, and fly through the sky, should fast for an entire day and night on the eighth day of the waxing moon. They should then make an image of Vajradhara in the color of a reed.16 It should be adorned with every ornament, have a peaceful appearance, and be filled with relics. The Thus-Gone One, Śākyamuni, should be placed at the center and the noble four-armed Avalokiteśvara to the right.17 The latter should also be adorned with every ornament and filled with relics. The Four Great Kings should be present on the left and right sides, in postures of worship.
“Those of noble family who engage in this practice must maintain ritual purity, make ablutions, and change their clothes three times a day. They should cultivate a loving attitude toward all beings. From the eighth day of the waxing moon until the full moon of the following month, they must only eat rice porridge and barley, recite the mantra three times a day, and offer incense consisting of aloeswood, sandalwood, frankincense, and myrrh. They should recite this mantra 300,000 times. This is known as the preparatory recitation.
“At a shrine containing relics, or at a hermitage, they should perform worship with various types of incense, perfumes, flowers, and flags, [F.60.a] [F.77.a] and should offer divine food made of white flour. They should also commission this Dharma teaching to be written, and worship it with various clothes, ornaments, scarves, parasols, and carriages. Until the date of the full moon, they must keep a compassionate attitude toward all beings, as well as bathe and change clothes three times a day. They should create a square maṇḍala of smeared cow dung,18 cover it with different kinds of flowers, and arrange sixteen filled vases and sixteen lamps. The space should be adorned with various parasols, victory banners, and flags. Having offered various kinds of delicious divine foods and sprinkled the area with scented water, they should recite the mantra until the image and the ground start to shake, and until they experience a state of joy.19 They should then know that the practice has definitely succeeded. Afterward I will manifest in their dreams and instruct them. I will fulfill all their aspirations and look after each of them as if they were my only child. I will grant them any boon that they desire, except if they lose faith and abandon this Dharma teaching.”
“Vajrapāṇi,” declared the Blessed One, “what you have said is excellent, excellent!”
The bodhisattva noble Avalokiteśvara then said to the bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi, “Noble son, this Dharma teaching will not spread among beings of inferior merit. They will not be able to write it down, commission it to be written, hold it, or read it aloud; Māra will create obstacles for them. Noble son, [F.60.b] [F.77.b] there are four deeds of Māra that create obstacles to the endeavors of writing this Dharma teaching down, reading it aloud, and propagating it. These four are: (1) laziness, (2) lack of faith, (3) lack of reverence for the master, and (4) a wandering mind when teaching the Dharma. Noble son, you should understand these four to be deeds of Māra.
“There are four other deeds of Māra. These four are: (1) taking no interest in a spiritual friend, (2) not reflecting deeply, (3) harshness in words,20 and (4) being caught up in worldly concerns and thinking such things as, ‘I am not afraid of this life or of future ones,’ ‘There is no karmic maturation of unwholesome actions,’ ‘No words are unclear to me,’21 ‘My mind is not dull,’22 ‘I am handsome,’ and ‘I am powerful.’ Such people are attached to their households and families, and will experience suffering for many eons. These four deeds of Māra should be regarded as non-virtuous friends.
“There are four other deeds of Māra. These four are: (1) craving for wealth, which causes suffering for many eons; (2) joking and gossiping with non-virtuous spiritual friends;23 (3) being content with one’s spouse; and (4) undermining the interest of those who study the Dharma; that is, going to a place where influential people gather and proclaiming, ‘Generosity produces no karmic result. This Dharma teacher is an evildoer! Intoxicated by the arrogance of his powerful status, he indulges in sexual misconduct and delights in divisive speech. He wants to create obstacles to your life. But you are a religious person who has practiced a lot of Dharma. You read aloud the sūtras and commission them to be written.’ Such people prevent this sūtra from being written down and venerated. They will encounter many obstacles in this very life and burn in hell in their future rebirths.24 [F.61.a] [F.78.a] Noble son, you must understand that these are deeds of Māra, and you must not fall under their influence.”
“My friends,” said the Blessed One, “I say this repeatedly: be heedful, or later, when you are burning in the hell realms, you will have regrets.”
The Blessed One then uttered these verses:
When they heard these verses, the Four Great Kings shed tears, moved by the power of the Dharma. Trembling, they fell at the feet of the Blessed One and said, “Blessed One, we four great kings will worship those who spread this Dharma teaching and protect those who listen to it. Blessed One, we will protect those who write it down and commission it to be written. We will also protect those who hold, read aloud, and master the dhāraṇīs, as well as those who worship such Dharma teachers with clothes and ornaments. We will protect their lands. We will grant them all the wealth and crops they desire. We will look after each of them as if they were our only child. [F.61.b] [F.78.b] We will fight in front of them in every battle. We will win for them the highest respect in every kingdom. We will remember the kindness of the thus-gone ones; we will not be ungrateful. Blessed One, we will cause despair in anyone who hears this Dharma teaching but does not revere it, and who fails to worship those who teach it.”
In response, the Blessed One expressed his approval to the Four Great Kings, saying, “Excellent, excellent, great kings! Great kings, always act in this excellent way!”
Then the great king of the gandharvas, Dhṛtarāṣṭra,25 fell at the feet of the Blessed One and said, “Blessed One, in the future there will be beings who indulge in non-virtue, who have no faith in the thus-gone ones and lack insight. They will not memorize such Dharma teachings, nor read them aloud, nor commission them to be written. They will not practice generosity, nor will they believe in the karmic maturation of generosity. They will only be concerned with the happiness of this life. This great king of sūtras, which is equal to the Thus-Gone One, is taught for the sake of beings like these.”
“Noble son,” said the Blessed One, “two factors cause beings to fall into the hell realms. These two are: (1) attachment and (2) anger. Noble son, these two factors cause beings to fall into the hell realms. Noble son, four factors cause beings to be reborn among the favorable states of existence. These four are: (1) regarding all beings equally, (2) purity of motivation, (3) relinquishing all possessions,26 and (4) the practice of celibacy.”
The Blessed One then uttered these verses: [F.62.a] [F.79.a]
The bodhisattva great being, noble Avalokiteśvara, then said, “Blessed One, noble sons and daughters who have faith in this Dharma teaching and worship it with flowers, incense, perfumes, flower garlands, ointments, parasols, victory banners, and flags, and who worship with great offerings those who teach it, write it down, and memorize it, will generate many excellent qualities and benefits in this very life. They will not be harmed by eye, ear, nose, or tongue diseases, nor by fevers, poisons, weapons, or fire. They will live happily with their parents, children, spouses, and families,28 [F.62.b] [F.79.b] and will be victorious in every battle. When they die, the thus-gone one Akṣobhya will bring them relief, saying, ‘Come. Enter the realm of Sukhāvatī. Great being, you glow with the roots of virtue! You will be reborn wherever you wish.’ ”
“Excellent, excellent, Blessed One!” continued the bodhisattva great being noble Avalokiteśvara. “It is excellent that this teaching has been established in this world by the Thus-Gone One and that it performs his awakened activity. Blessed One, this great knowledge completely purifies all karma.”
“Noble son,” replied the Blessed One, “this teaching will not spread among beings of inferior merit. Those beings will not hear this teaching. It will not come into their hands. When, through the power of the Buddha, this teaching comes into someone’s hands, or when the thus-gone ones cause someone to hear it, that person should immediately write it down, commission it to be written, and read it aloud. Noble son, after merely hearing the name of this Dharma teaching that is equal to the Thus-Gone One, one will not have to fear the lower realms. Someone who propagates just a single letter or a single word from this Dharma teaching, or transmits it in some land or country, should be regarded as equal to the Thus-Gone One, should be worshiped as a thus-gone one, and should be regarded as one’s own parent. Noble son, this Dharma teaching has been taught by the seven thus-gone ones,29 has been rejoiced in by all the bodhisattvas, and has been upheld and protected by all the gods. This Dharma teaching is like the father and mother of all bodhisattvas.”
“Noble son,” said the Blessed One, “this Dharma teaching will spread and remain in its complete form in the oceanic abode of the king of the nāgas, and in the abode of the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. It will spread to the southern region. In this world it will remain only for a while. Here, it will spread to some places but not to others.”30
“Vajrapāṇi,” continued the Blessed One, “I entrust this Dharma teaching to you. Memorize it, read it aloud, venerate it, and disseminate it. Do not let this Dharma teaching that is equal to the Thus-Gone One vanish, for it performs the activity of a thus-gone one.”
“Blessed One, I will take up this Dharma teaching,” replied the bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi. “I will memorize it, read it aloud, venerate it, and disseminate it. I will venerate and honor those who teach it. Those who worship its teachers also worship me, so I will protect them and look after them. I will remember the kindness of the Thus-Gone One.”
The bodhisattva noble Avalokiteśvara then said to the Blessed One, “Blessed One, I pay homage to this Dharma teaching. I too will worship those who listen to it, write it down, read it aloud, memorize it, [F.63.b] [F.80.b] and disseminate it. Blessed One, if this Dharma teaching should spread among beings of inferior merit or where an immoral king rules, that king will not worship this Dharma teaching. He will not have faith in it. He also will not worship those who teach it, write it down, read it aloud, memorize it, disseminate it, or transmit it. He will not perceive them as his master. For these reasons, this Dharma teaching will vanish. Tremendous harm will unfold and a lot of unhappiness will be experienced in such a place. Therefore the ruling class and the king should realize, ‘The Dharma has vanished from our realm,’ and then take up the practice of the Dharma.”
“Excellent, excellent,” replied the Blessed One. “Thus it is, noble son! Noble son, as an analogy, consider a faithful noble son or daughter who, for a hundred or even a thousand years, worships with unsurpassed offerings as many thus-gone, worthy, perfect buddhas as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Suppose that person also makes offerings to the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas by filling up this world with precious jewels and offering it to them, and also gives away their own body, spouse, sons, and daughters as offerings. By comparison, however, a person creates much more merit by worshiping this Dharma teaching, writing it down, reading it aloud, commissioning it to be written, worshiping it with flowers, incense, perfumes, and flower garlands, or by offering even just a single karṣāpaṇa to it. The roots of virtue generated in the former cases do not match even one percent of the merit generated by venerating this sutra.
“If someone, perceiving this teaching as their master, worships it with parasols, victory banners, [F.64.a] [F.81.a] and flags, or requests this Dharma teaching by offering clothes, ornaments, parasols, carriages, villages, cities, or even a piece of land the size of an ox’s hoof print to those who teach it, and, having been instructed in this Dharma teaching, understands that their body is insubstantial like a dream, an illusion, or a water bubble—that this body is insubstantial and all phenomena are impermanent—then they have been prophesied and inspired by the thus-gone ones, and will worship all the thus-gone ones until eventually they awaken to unsurpassed, perfect buddhahood.”
At that moment all the bodhisattvas, the lords of the gods, the lords of the nāgas, the lords of the yakṣas, the lords of the rākṣasas, the lords of the garuḍas, and the lords of the kinnaras expressed in unison their approval to the Blessed One: “Excellent, excellent, Blessed One! This was a second turning of the wheel of Dharma. Blessed One, we will all act in accordance with this Dharma teaching and worship it. We will also protect that land. We will worship those who teach it, and will protect them, appear to them, and inspire them. Whoever perceives the teachers of this Dharma, or those who write it down, memorize it, and read it aloud, as their own master, parent, or child, we too will regard them as our own parents. Anywhere this Dharma teaching becomes corrupted31 there will be strife among children, spouses, and parents, and all will be reborn in the hells.”32
The Blessed One expressed his approval to the bodhisattvas and to everyone else, [F.64.b] [F.81.b] from the lords of the gods to the lords of the humans, saying, “Excellent, excellent, noble sons! My friends, please do exactly that! I entrust this Dharma teaching to you so that you may propagate and worship it. May this Dharma teaching that is equal to the Thus-Gone One not rapidly vanish, and may no one discard it and fall into the hell realms. This Dharma teaching will bring benefit and happiness to many beings. Have no regrets!”
When this Dharma teaching was taught, this world wobbled and rocked. The minds of six thousand beings were liberated from their defilements with no further grasping.
The bodhisattva noble Avalokiteśvara then asked, “Blessed One, if someone writes this Dharma teaching down, commissions it to be written, memorizes it, reads it aloud, masters it, teaches it extensively and genuinely, and worships it with flowers, incense, perfumes, flower garlands, ointments, powders, clothes, parasols, victory banners, and flags, how much merit will that noble son or daughter generate? Where will they be reborn?”
The Blessed One expressed his approval to the bodhisattva noble Avalokiteśvara, saying, “Excellent, excellent, noble son! It is excellent that you ask the Thus-Gone One about this matter! Noble son, listen carefully and keep in mind what I will explain to you now. If a noble son or daughter writes this Dharma teaching down, commissions it to be written, memorizes it, reads it aloud, masters it, teaches it extensively and genuinely, and worships it with flowers, incense, [F.65.a] [F.82.a] perfumes, flower garlands, ointments, powders, clothes, parasols, victory banners, and flags, when they die they will be reborn in Sukhāvatī.
“Noble son, compared to making offerings to all the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas by filling up this great trichiliocosm with precious jewels, the merit generated by a noble son or daughter who upholds this Dharma teaching, worships it, writes it down, commissions it to be written, and worships those who teach it with offerings such as flowers, incense, perfumes, flower garlands, and ointments will be much greater. Noble son, the merit generated is not at all comparable.
“Noble son, a noble son or daughter who engages in bodhisattva conduct will give away their own sons, daughters, spouse, arms, legs, eyes, and head as offerings. Compared to them, someone who writes this Dharma teaching down, commissions it to be written, reads it aloud, and inspires faith in it will generate much more merit. Noble son, the merit is not at all comparable. One should regard a noble one who spreads this teaching as a thus-gone one and perform worship exactly as one would for a thus-gone one.”
“Blessed One,” said the bodhisattva great being noble Avalokiteśvara, “this Dharma teaching is to be revered by the world with its gods, humans, and asuras. Those who teach it are also worthy of reverence and worship. Blessed One, this Dharma teaching is a great miracle!33 Therefore, [F.65.b] [F.82.b] all noble sons and daughters should respectfully listen to it and keep it in mind. Blessed One, wherever this Dharma teaching spreads, that place will be blessed by the Thus-Gone One and should be regarded as a place of worship. Such a place should be revered by the world with its gods, humans, and asuras.”
“Thus it is, thus it is, noble son!” replied the Blessed One. “Noble son, that place is indeed to be revered by the world with its gods, humans, and asuras.”
“Blessed One,” said the bodhisattva noble Avalokiteśvara, “if someone worships this Dharma teaching and makes an offering to it of a single mustard seed, with a mind inspired by veneration and respect, all the karma they have generated by engaging in the five acts with immediate retribution will be completely exhausted. They will be reborn in wealthy families for ninety thousand eons and as a universal monarch for eighty thousand eons. They will be reborn in the pure buddha realms, will not die a horrible death, and will not be reborn in the lower realms. All their aspirations will be completely fulfilled.”
The Blessed One then said to the bodhisattva great being noble Avalokiteśvara, “Noble son, in the past, countless eons ago, appeared the thus-gone one called Dharmajñānāsaṅgavirajaketurāja. At that time I had taken birth as a brahmin and heard this Dharma teaching, which I then taught to others. As soon as I received this teaching, I became receptive to the unborn nature of phenomena34 and purified my spiritual insight into phenomena. [F.66.a] [F.83.a] All those who heard this teaching were freed from the lower realms and would never again fall back into such states of existence. Their spiritual insight into phenomena was purified. All those beings will eventually awaken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood.
“Noble son, for many years, for many hundreds, thousands, and hundreds of thousands of years, I gave away my wealth, grains, cowries, and gold to help those who were bound by attachment, anger, and ignorance. Eventually, I gave away my arms, legs, eyes, and head, as well as my beloved sons, spouses, and daughters. I gave away my marrow and my bones, my homes, my villages, my towns, my cities, my countries, and my royal palaces. For hundreds of thousands of years I observed celibacy, stayed away from households, and never enjoyed kingdoms, wealth, countries, palaces, retinues, sons, daughters, or spouses. I was entirely celibate, and only performed acts of generosity. I focused only on worshiping and serving the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha. I continuously honored, respected, worshiped, and venerated those who taught the Dharma, offering them flowers, incense, perfumes, flower garlands, ointments, powders, clothes, parasols, victory banners, and flags. I served many spiritual friends, and with weariness toward saṃsāra, offered my own body, eyes, flesh, [F.66.b] [F.83.b] marrow, bones, and skin—not to mention all the outer material things—without ever feeling any regret.”
When they heard about the past deeds of the Thus-Gone One, the bodhisattvas, the lords of the gods, the lords of the nāgas, the lords of the yakṣas, the lords of the asuras, the lords of humans, the carakas, the parivrājakas, and the nirgranthas all shed tears, moved by the power of the Dharma, and became receptive to the unborn nature of phenomena.
“My friends,” continued the Blessed One, “uphold this Dharma teaching! It performs the activity of the Thus-Gone One for the sake of beings.”
The bodhisattva noble Avalokiteśvara then said,35 “Blessed One, rare are the beings who have faith in this Dharma teaching, worship it, memorize it, read it aloud, and master it. Anyone who upholds this teaching should be regarded as a buddha appearing in the world.”
“Excellent, excellent, noble son!” replied the Blessed One. “Thus it is, noble son! Rare are the noble sons or daughters who worship this Dharma teaching, write it down, commission it to be written, memorize it, read it, and worship those who teach it with flowers, incense, perfumes, flower garlands, ointments, powders, clothes, parasols, victory banners, and flags. They themselves should be regarded as thus-gone ones.
“Noble son, there will be beings who do not worship this Dharma teaching,36 who do not memorize it, read it aloud, or make offerings to it. [F.67.a] [F.84.a] They will circle in saṃsāra for many eons, for a hundred or a thousand eons. They will experience much suffering, hundreds of types of suffering. As an analogy, consider a pregnant woman. When her baby boy or girl is forming in her womb during the different stages of the pregnancy—from the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth month all the way until the birth of the child—the mother’s body is taken over by the baby. Her joints are pushed apart, she loses her appetite, and her voice becomes weak. She carries the baby while experiencing the pain of these oppressive physical sensations. Until the baby is born, she experiences the suffering of the hell beings, and thinks, ‘After I give birth to my child, if everything goes well, I will become celibate forever!’ Later, however, excited by desire for sensual pleasures, she will forget all that suffering, and only think of pleasure.
“Similarly, in the future there will be beings who have no faith in this Dharma teaching, who will not worship it, memorize it, or read it aloud. They will be reborn among the hell realms, the animal realms, or in the world of the Lord of Death. Intoxicated by desire, they will encourage their emotions, thinking, ‘I have to look after my household, my family, my spouse, my sons, and my daughters.’ When they are reborn in the hell realms, they will feel regret. Afterward, however, once liberated from those hellish states, they will be excited by desire and forget the suffering they endured in the hell realms, and will neither engage in generosity nor maintain their discipline.
“Consider also the analogy of someone intoxicated by liquor. When someone is strongly intoxicated, to the point of being completely drunk, [F.67.b] [F.84.b] they are unable to find their way home, or to their bed. They do not think about their parents, spouse, sons, or daughters. They do not remember the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha. Intoxicated like this, they become fearless. Even if they pass by a charnel ground, they think, ‘What god, nāga, or yakṣa can frighten me!’ They perceive mats made of dirt, wood, grass, or thorns as comfortable beds. Later, however, when they recover and awaken from their drunkenness and regain their senses, they feel remorse about their conduct and think, ‘Even at the cost of my life, I will never drink liquor again!’ ”
“Similarly, beings whose minds are inebriated by desire and conceit, deluded by their householder lives and intoxicated by wealth, do not seek out the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha. They do not remember to be generous. They do not strive to be reborn among the higher realms, as a king, or in the buddha realms. These beings will circle in saṃsāra, experiencing the suffering of being reborn among the hell realms, the animal realms, or in the World of the Lord of Death. They think, ‘I’m healthy; I’m not suffering.’ However, when these beings are liberated from the hell realms, the animal realms, and the World of the Lord of Death and take rebirth in a human body that is so difficult to obtain, their body becomes weary from the physical torments and the darkness endured while in the womb. Weary of soaking in blood and bile, phlegm, excrement, and filth, they think, ‘I have circled in saṃsāra for a hundred years, an eon, a hundred eons, a thousand eons, a hundred thousand eons. I have experienced all these unbearable, horrible, painful sensations. I wonder what previous actions caused all these awful situations? [F.68.a] [F.85.a] It must be due to my many evil deeds in the past!’ Even being in the womb produces similar regrets as those produced by the experience in the hells. So they promise themselves, ‘Once I am liberated from this hell-like womb, I will seek out the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha with undivided faith. I will by all means avoid this hell-like experience of the womb!’ In spite of this, once they are liberated from the womb, they nevertheless continue to act carelessly and experience the suffering of the hell realms all over again. Therefore, never act carelessly!”
At that point venerable Ānanda asked, “Blessed One, what is the name of this Dharma teaching? How should we remember it?”
“Ānanda,” replied the Blessed One, “remember this Dharma teaching as The Protector of All Beings, The Questions of the Bodhisattvas, The King of the Miraculous Display of the King of the Array, The Complete Awakening of the Thus-Gone Ones, and The King of the Array of All Dharma Qualities.”37
When the Blessed One finished speaking, the bodhisattvas, the great śrāvakas, Śakra, Brahmā, the guardians of the world, and all their retinues, as well as the world with its gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas, all rejoiced and praised the words of the Blessed One.38
This concludes the Noble Great Vehicle Sūtra “The King of the Array of All Dharma Qualities.”
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 chos thams cad kyi yon tan bkod pa’i rgyal po zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Āryasarvadharmaguṇavyūharājanāmamahāyānasūtra). Toh. 114, Degé Kangyur vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 181a–195b. Also as Toh. 527, Degé Kangyur vol. 88 (rgyud, na), folios 54b–68a (in par phud printings), folios 71b–85a (in post par phud printings).
’phags pa chos thams cad kyi yon tan bkod pa’i rgyal po zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’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), 2006–2009. As Toh 114, vol. 51, pp 477–514; and as Toh 527, vol. 88, pp 231–265.
Kawa Paltsek (ska ba dpal brtsegs). gsung rab rin po che’i gtam rgyud dang shAkya’i rabs rgyud [“Account of the Precious Scriptures and the Śākya Lineage”]. Toh 4357, Degé Tengyur, vol. 204 (sna tshogs, co), folios 239.a–377.a.
Butön (bu ston rin chen grub). bde bar gshegs pa’i bstan pa’i gsal byed chos kyi ’byung gnas gsung rab rin po che’i mdzod (chos ’byung). In gsung ’bum vol. 24 (pa), pp 633 et seq. Reproduced from the zhol par ma prints. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1965-71.
Apple, James B. “The Phrase dharmaparyāyo hastagato in Mahāyāna Buddhist Literature: Rethinking the Cult of the Book in Middle Period Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 134, no. 1 (2014): 22–50.
Criegern, Oliver von. Das Sarvadharmaguṇavyūharājasūtra: ein Mahāyānasūtra zum Buchkult aus den Gilgitfunden. PhD Diss., Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, 2009.
Hartmann, Jens-Uwe. “Studies on the Gilgit texts: The Sarvadharmaguṇavyūharājasūtra.” In Dharmadūta: Mélanges offerts au Vénérable Thích Huyên-Vi à l’occasion de son soixante-dixième anniversaire, edited by B.T. Dhammaratana, 135–140. Paris: Editions You-Feng, 1997.
Hinüber, Oskar von. “Die Erforschung der Gilgit-Handschriften (Funde buddhistischer Sanskrit-Handschriften, I).” Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen. Philologisch-Historische Klasse 12 (1979): 327–360.
- ting nge ’dzin
- mi ’khrugs pa
- kun dga’ bo
- spobs pa mtha’ yas
- mi g.yo ba
- spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug
- ’od ma’i tshal
- ’byung po
- tshangs pa
- spyod pa pa
- ’gron bu
- chos kyi ye shes mtha’ yas pa chags pa med cing rdul dang bral ba’i rgyal po’i tog
- yul ’khor srung
five acts with immediate retribution
- mtshams med pa lnga
Four Great Kings
- rgyal po chen po bzhi
- ce pog
- dri za
Heaven of the Thirty-Three
- sum cu rtsa gsum pa
- rgyal ba’i dbyangs
- rgyal ba’i blo gros
- byad stems
- bya ka lan da ka gnas
- zho’i brgyad
- mi’am ci
- gshed byed
- grul bum
- blo gros chen po
- lto ’phye chen po
- byams pa
- gu gul
- gcer bu pa
- rtag tu brtson pa
- kun tu rgyu ba
- stobs kyi ’khor los sgyur ba
- yi dwags
- rgyal po’i khab
- srin po
receptive to the unborn nature of phenomena
- chos la bzod pa
- brgya byin
- shakya thub pa
- mnyam pa nyid la gnas pa
- chos kyi mig pa
- bde ba can
- blo gros bzang po
- rab gnon blo gros
- them spangs ma
- stong gsum gyi stong chen po’i ’jig rten gyi khams
- trisāhasramahāsāhasra lokadhātu
- tshal pa
- ’khor los sgyur ba
- rdo rje ’chang
- lag na rdo rje
- rig ’dzin
- glog snang ba
- yid gnyis yang dag sel ba
- bkod pa’i rgyal po
world of the Lord of Death
- gshin rje’i ’jig rten
- gnod sbyin