The Exposition on the Universal Gateway
Degé Kangyur, vol. 40 (dkon brtsegs, kha), folios 184.b–195.a
Translated by Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
In The Exposition on the Universal Gateway, the bodhisattva Amalagarbha arrives in this world from a distant pure land to request teachings from the buddha Śākyamuni. The Buddha proceeds to explain to all assembled bodhisattvas, monks, and lay devotees the manner in which the five aggregates are equal to meditative absorption. He also explains how the various classes of beings and all other phenomena are absorption as well. In conclusion, he lists the names of various absorptions and the benefits one obtains upon attaining these states.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the guidance of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The translation was produced by Oriane Lavolé who also wrote the introduction. Andreas Doctor compared the translation with the original Tibetan and edited the text.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The Exposition on the Universal Gateway takes place at Vulture Peak Mountain where a celestial bodhisattva named Amalagarbha arrives with a large retinue to request teachings from the Buddha Śākyamuni. In response, the Buddha delivers a teaching that describes how all phenomena are forms of absorption. The Buddha first points out how each of the aggregates are absorption and then he proceeds to describe how all beings and phenomena are absorption as well. The reason why phenomena are absorption is their shared empty nature. In short, emptiness is the intrinsic nature of absorption as well as all other phenomena.
Following this teaching, Mañjuśrī asks the Buddha to list the names of various absorptions for the benefit of the assembled bodhisattvas. In response, Śākyamuni mentions a number of absorptions as well as the spiritual accomplishments that they bring. Mañjuśrī rejoices in this teaching and makes aspiration prayers to benefit all those who hear this teaching. Suddenly, however, the demon Māra appears and laments this situation. He begs the Buddha not to bless the teaching he has just delivered, since that would result in Māra’s realm becoming empty. The Buddha surprisingly grants Māra this request and so the demon joyfully returns with his aims fulfilled. In answer to Mañjuśrī’s astonishment at this unexpected turn of events, the Buddha delivers a short teaching on the nondual nature of all phenomena, which delights the whole congregation and reassures everyone that everything is well, nevertheless.
To our knowledge, a Sanskrit version of this sūtra no longer exists. However, an early Sanskrit prototype of the text appears to have circulated in the southern parts of Central Asia as an independent scripture, not yet part of the Heap of Jewels collection, as early as the mid-fifth century.1 Khotanese references to this sūtra from that time also seem to confirm its Sanskrit title, which is otherwise not attested elsewhere.2
The sūtra was translated twice into Chinese. The first of the Chinese translations (Taishō 315) was produced in 287 ᴄᴇ by the monk Dharmarakṣa (c. 233–310 ᴄᴇ).3 The second translation (Taishō 310-10) was produced by the renowned South Indian translator Bodhiruci (?–727) between 706 and 713 ᴄᴇ.4 This is the version that was included in the Chinese collection of the Heap of Jewels.5
In Tibet, the text was translated together with the other scriptures in the Heap of Jewels collection. The Tibetan colophon lists the translators as the Indian preceptors Jinamitra and Surendrabodhi, and the Tibetan translator Yeshé Dé, who were active translators in the late eighth and early ninth centuries.6 The sūtra appears to have had limited popularity in Tibet, as it is not quoted widely in commentarial treatises.
This English translation was prepared based on the Tibetan translation found in the Degé Kangyur, in consultation with the Stok Palace manuscript and the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma).
Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One was staying at Vulture Peak Mountain by Rājagṛha, together with a great saṅgha of eight hundred monks, and with forty-two thousand bodhisattvas. At that time, a bodhisattva great being by the name Amalagarbha, accompanied by ninety-two thousand other bodhisattvas, set out from the world known as Immaculate Conduct—the buddhafield of the thus-gone, worthy, perfect buddha Saṃkusumita. They traveled to Vulture Peak Mountain, here in this Sahā world, where the blessed, thus-gone, worthy, perfect buddha Śākyamuni dwelled.
As the bodhisattva great being Amalagarbha arrived in the sky, surrounded and attended by a great assembly of bodhisattvas, the Blessed One noticed him. As he caught sight of him, the Blessed One thought, “The bodhisattva great being Amalagarbha has been dispatched here by the thus-gone, worthy, perfect buddha Saṃkusumita in order to receive the Dharma teaching called The Exposition on the Universal Gateway. Therefore, I, for my part, should gather the bodhisattvas.” Then, because the Blessed One formed this intent, all bodhisattva great beings residing in boundless, infinite worlds7 arrived at Vulture Peak Mountain here in this Sahā world to meet the Blessed One.
Upon arrival, they bowed their heads to the Blessed One’s feet and sat down to one side. [F.185.b] All the bodhisattva great beings at Vulture Peak Mountain who had retired for meditation8 also gathered. The bodhisattva great being Amalagarbha then went before the thus-gone, worthy, perfect buddha Śākyamuni, holding a thousand-petaled lotus flower made of the seven precious substances. He bowed his head to the Blessed One’s feet and offered him the thousand-petaled lotus.
Amalagarbha then said to the Blessed One, “Blessed One, the thus-gone, worthy, perfect buddha Saṃkusumita from the world Immaculate Conduct inquiries about the Blessed One’s health. Does the Blessed One have but little trouble, grief, and agitation?9 Is he in good health, strong, and at ease? Is the Blessed One free of illness and does he have but few troubles?” When he had thus inquired after the Blessed One’s health, he added, “Might the blessed, thus-gone, worthy, perfect buddha Śākyamuni deliver the Dharma teaching pertaining to the inconceivable Exposition on the Universal Gateway to the bodhisattva great beings?” Then, having asked the Blessed One in this way, the bodhisattva great being Amalagarbha sat down cross-legged in the sky in the midst of his retinue of bodhisattvas.
At that time, Prince Mañjuśrī was also present within that assembly.10 He rose from his seat, draped his shawl over one shoulder, and knelt on his right knee. Joining his palms, he bowed toward the Blessed One and said, “In order to foster the bodhisattvas, I request the Blessed One, the Thus-Gone One, to thoroughly expound the Dharma teaching pertaining to the inconceivable Exposition on the Universal Gateway. Blessed One, [F.186.a] I beseech you. In the past, I received this teaching from the thus-gone, worthy, perfect buddha Bright Lamp and thereby developed eighty-four sextillion absorptions. I also understood seventy-seven sextillion approaches to accomplishing dhāraṇīs. That being the case, may the Blessed One also teach this thoroughly in order to foster these bodhisattvas.”
He listened closely as the Blessed One said, “Mañjuśrī, bodhisattva great beings should understand form to be absorption. They should understand sound to be absorption. They should understand scent to be absorption. They should understand taste to be absorption. They should understand tactile objects to be absorption. They should understand the objects of the mind to be absorption.
“They should understand women’s figures12 to be absorption. They should understand men’s figures13 to be absorption. They should understand boys’ figures to be absorption. They should understand girls’ figures to be absorption. They should understand the gods’ figures to be absorption. They should understand the nāgas’ figures to be absorption. They should understand the yakṣas’ figures to be absorption. They should understand the gandharvas’ figures to be absorption. They should understand the asuras’ figures to be absorption. They should understand the garuḍas’ figures to be absorption. They should understand the kinnaras’ figures to be absorption. They should understand the mahoragas’ figures to be absorption. They should understand the hell beings’ figures to be absorption. They should understand animals’ figures to be absorption. [F.186.b] They should understand the figures of beings in the world of the Lord of Death to be absorption.
“They should understand attachment to be absorption. They should understand anger to be absorption. They should understand ignorance to be absorption. They should understand all virtues to be absorption. They should understand all nonvirtues to be absorption. They should understand all conditioned phenomena to be absorption. They should understand all unconditioned phenomena to be absorption. In this manner, they should understand all phenomena to be absorption. Mañjuśrī, bodhisattva great beings who obtain all such absorptions have omnipresent minds and are trained in the Dharma teaching of The Exposition on the Universal Gateway.
As he completed these verses, thus delivering this inconceivable teaching, ninety-two thousand bodhisattvas gained the acceptance of phenomena being unborn. Seventy-two sextillion gods formed the resolve to attain unsurpassed and perfect awakening. Thirty-six thousand monks liberated their minds from the defilements, without further appropriation. Six thousand two hundred nuns also formed the resolve to achieve unsurpassed and perfect awakening. Eight million one hundred thousand male lay practitioners formed the resolve to achieve unsurpassed and perfect awakening. Four million two hundred thousand female lay practitioners also formed the resolve to reach unsurpassed and perfect awakening.
Then Prince Mañjuśrī said to the Blessed One, “If those bodhisattvas with sharp faculties who have come here hear the names of some absorptions, they will attain illumination in all phenomena. They will be impervious to all the gods belonging to the entourage of Māra and to those who hold the view that apprehends the person. Through a single letter, they will understand all letters, and through all letters, they will understand56 one letter.57 They will become skilled in teaching the Dharma to all beings with unimpeded confident eloquence. [F.192.b] They will gain acceptance of the profound Dharma. They will understand all conduct to be of a single defining characteristic. They will achieve an unobscured state through the four correct discriminations. I beseech the Blessed Ones to teach the names of these absorptions.”
To this the Blessed One responded, “Mañjuśrī, to that end, listen carefully and keep in mind what I shall say.”
“Mañjuśrī, there is the absorption called forgetting no Dharma. If they obtain this absorption, bodhisattvas will retain all the Dharma teachings taught by the Buddha and teach them to others as well.
“Mañjuśrī, there is the absorption called imitating the pleasant sound of the lion’s roar. If they obtain this absorption, bodhisattvas will [F.193.a] make themselves heard all the way up to the Brahmā realm.
“Mañjuśrī, there is the absorption called truly creating all forms of joy, contentment, and satisfaction. If they obtain this absorption, bodhisattvas will gladden the various minds and thoughts of all sentient beings.
“Mañjuśrī, there is the absorption called source of inconceivable qualities, wellspring of the precious domain of wisdom, singular stream free of affliction. If they obtain this absorption, bodhisattvas will be able to display all miracles and subdue all beings.
“Mañjuśrī, there is the absorption called the symbol of all languages. If they obtain this absorption, bodhisattvas will understand all languages, expressions, and signs. They will reveal a single letter through all letters, and all letters through a single letter.
“Mañjuśrī, there is the absorption called accumulation and demonstration of all merit and roots of virtue arisen from ripened action. If they obtain this absorption, bodhisattvas will remain in equipoise without saying anything. Without uttering a single sound, they will cause all beings to hear the words Buddha, Dharma, Saṅgha, hearers, solitary buddhas, bodhisattvas, and perfections.
“Mañjuśrī, there is the absorption called the array of confident eloquence in all Dharma teachings. [F.193.b] If they obtain this absorption, bodhisattvas will become confidently eloquent in all utterances, languages, sounds, and expressions.”
Then Prince Mañjuśrī said to the Blessed One, “Blessed One, I have an insight to share regarding the unique description of qualities expressed in this Dharma teaching.”
The Blessed One responded, “Mañjuśrī, please share your insight.”
Mañjuśrī then said, “Blessed One, I wish that those bodhisattvas who are free of doubt and hesitation and who teach, hold, recite, integrate, and authentically and extensively expound this Dharma teaching to others, undoubtedly achieve confident eloquence in this very lifetime. I wish that they obtain swift confidence, vast confidence, confidence in the profound, unforgetting confidence, and variegated confidence. I wish that their minds become free from all animosity toward any sentient being. Why do I make that wish? It is because the accomplishment of this Dharma teaching depends on precisely this conduct.”
The Blessed One then approved of Prince Mañjuśrī, saying “Mañjuśrī, excellent, excellent. Your words are well spoken. Mañjuśrī, for instance, it is incontrovertible that generosity yields great wealth. It is incontrovertible that discipline leads to rebirth in the upper realms. It is incontrovertible that study leads to great insight. It is incontrovertible that familiarization leads to separation. Likewise, Mañjuśrī, it is incontrovertible that this Dharma teaching will bring forth confident eloquence in this very lifetime.
“Mañjuśrī, for instance, bodhisattvas who abide on the seat of awakening are certain to fully awaken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood. Likewise, Mañjuśrī, bodhisattva great beings who recite this Dharma teaching are certain to achieve confident eloquence in this very lifetime.
“Mañjuśrī, therefore, bodhisattva great beings who wish to achieve confident eloquence in this very lifetime should without doubt or hesitation obtain this Dharma teaching, hold it, recite it, read it, understand it, and expound it extensively and correctly to others.”
Then the bodhisattva great being Amalagarbha said to the Blessed One, “Blessed One, after you pass into parinirvāṇa, I too will work to ensure that those bodhisattvas who have no doubt or hesitation and who retain, hold, read, understand, and correctly and extensively expound this Dharma teaching to others achieve confident eloquence in it.”
At this point, the evil Māra came weeping and wailing before the Blessed One and said, “Blessed One, if the thus-gone, worthy, perfect buddha is compassionate and bestows60 happiness to suffering beings, then I beseech the Blessed One not to further bless this Dharma teaching, so as to dispel my own mental anguish. Blessed One, when the Blessed One was seated on the seat of awakening, and now as he delivered this Dharma teaching, [F.194.b] I was tormented by intense suffering, anguish, and sorrow. Blessed One, if any sentient being who so much as hears this Dharma teaching will proceed irreversibly to unsurpassed and perfect awakening, then no need to mention that those who not only hear but retain, hold, read, understand, and expound this Dharma teaching extensively and correctly to others will likewise proceed irreversibly to unsurpassed and perfect awakening. All these beings will fully pass into nirvāṇa. Therefore, Blessed One, my māra realm will become empty. If the thus-gone, worthy, perfect buddha is compassionate and bestows happiness onto those who suffer, then I beseech the Blessed One to relieve my suffering. I beseech the Well-Gone One to relieve my suffering.”
Then the Blessed One responded to the evil Māra, “Evil one, do not fear. Not all sentient beings will fully pass into nirvāṇa. Evil one, nor will I bless this Dharma teaching, so do not fear.”
When the Blessed One had consoled him, the evil Māra was satisfied, pleased, and happy. He became joyful, delighted, and elated, and instantly disappeared.
The Blessed One responded, “Mañjuśrī, since no phenomenon is blessed, all phenomena [F.195.a] are blessed. Since this Dharma teaching is not blessed either, it is blessed. Mañjuśrī, that is why I told the evil Māra that I would not bless this Dharma teaching. Mañjuśrī, by the power of truth and the truth of these words, since no phenomenon is blessed, they are all blessed. They are beyond distinction, inexpressible, without characteristics, inexplicable, unutterable, nondual, without duality, and identical with the limit of reality. They are steeped in suchness and are of the nature of the realm of phenomena. By the power of this truth and these true words, may this Dharma teaching spread throughout the world!”
Then, having performed this truth blessing, the Blessed One addressed the venerable Ānanda, “Ānanda, this Dharma teaching and all the eighty-four thousand sections of Dharma are the same,61 so you must therefore retain this teaching of The Universal Gateway. You must hold it, read it, master it, and teach it extensively and authentically to others. Why is that? Ānanda, it is because the thus-gone ones teach the eighty-four thousand sections of the Dharma to beings once they have understood this realm of Dharma62 of The Universal Gateway. Ānanda, for that reason you must guard, retain, and master this Dharma teaching.”
When the Blessed One had said this, the bodhisattva great being Amalagarbha, Prince Mañjuśrī, Venerable Ānanda, and the whole world with its gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas rejoiced and praised the Blessed One’s words.
This concludes The Exposition on the Universal Gateway, the tenth of the one hundred thousand sections of the Dharma discourse known as The Noble Great Heap of Jewels.
|C||Coné (co ne) Kangyur|
|H||Lhasa (zhol) Kangyur|
|J||Lithang (’jang sa tham) Kangyur|
|K||Peking (pe cin) Kangxi Kangyur|
|KY||Peking Yongle (g.yung lo) Kangyur|
|N||Narthang (snar thang) Kangyur|
|S||Stok Palace (stog pho brang) Manuscript Kangyur|
’phags pa kun nas sgo’i le’u zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Samantamukhaparivarta). Toh 54, Degé Kangyur vol. 40 (dkon brtsegs, kha), folios 184b–195a.
’phags pa kun nas sgo’i le’u 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), 2006–9, vol. 40, pp. 522–553.
’phags pa kun nas sgo’i le’u zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo. S 11.10, Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 36 (dkon brtsegs, kha), folios 273a–289a.
Chang, Garma C. C. Treasury of Mahāyāna Sūtras: Selections from the Mahāratnakūṭa Sūtra. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1983.
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.
Dhammadinnā. “ ‘Maharatnakuta’ Scriptures in Khotan: A quotation from the Samantamukhaparivarta in the Book of Zambasta.” Annual Report of The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology at Soka University 17 (2014): 337–47.
Herrmann-Pfandt, Adelheid. Die lHan kar ma: ein früher Katalog der ins Tibetische übersetzten buddhistischen Texte. Wien: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2008.
Orzech, Charles D., Henrik Hjort Sorensen, and Richard Karl Payne, eds. Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia. Leiden: Brill, 2011.
Sen, Tansen, and Bangwei Wang, ed. India and China: Interactions through Buddhism and Diplomacy: A Collection of Essays by Professor Prabodh Chandra Bagchi. London: Anthem Press, 2011.
- ting nge ’dzin
acceptance of phenomena being unborn
- mi skye ba’i chos la bzod pa
acceptance of the profound dharma
- chos zab mo la bzod pa
accumulation and demonstration of all merit and roots of virtue arisen from ripened action
- las kyi rnam par smin pa las byung ba’i bsod nams dang dge ba’i rtsa ba thams cad bsags shing ston par byed pa
- dri ma med pa’i snying po
- lha ma yin
- bai dur+ya
- tshangs pa
- kun tu snang ba’i sgron ma
- sangs rgyas
captivating to behold and greatly joyous
- lta bas chog mi shes shing mchog tu dga’ ba dang ldan pa
- rnam par rig pa
- spobs pa
dwell in the same condition
- gnas gcig gnas pa
forgetting no Dharma
- chos thams cad mi brjed pa
four correct discriminations
- so so yang dag par rig pa bzhi
- dri za
- nam mkha’ lding
- nyan thos
imitating the pleasant sound of the lion’s roar
- seng ge’i sgra mngon par bsgrags pa’i dbyangs yid du ’ong ba rjes su sgros pa
- spyod pa yongs su dag pa dang ldan pa
- slar mi ldog pa
- ’dzam bu’i gling
- dzi na mi tra
- mi’am ci
liberated their minds from the defilements, without further appropriation
- len pa med par zag pa rnams las sems rnam par grol
- anupādāyaśravebhyaś cittāni vimuktāni
limit of reality
- yang dag mtha’
- lto ’phye chen po
- ’byung ba chen po
- man da ra ba
- ’jam dpal
- yid kyi khams
objects of the mind
- yid kyi khams
- pha rol tu phyin pa
- ’jam dpal gzhon nur gyur pa
- rgyal po’i khab
realm of Dharma
- chos kyi dbyings
realm of phenomena
- chos kyi dbyings
- mi mjed
- brgya byin
- shakya thub pa
- me tog kun tu rgyas pa
showing the land
- yul ston pa
- rang sangs rgyas
source of inconceivable qualities, wellspring of the precious domain of wisdom, singular stream free of affliction
- yon tan bsam gyis mi khyab pa’i ’byung gnas shes rab kyi yul rin po che’i ’byung khungs rgyun cig pa nyon mongs pa med pa
source of light
- ’od zer ’byung ba
- su ren dra bo dhi
- mgyogs par ’gro ba
the array of confident eloquence in all dharma teachings
- chos thams cad la spobs pa bkod pa
the exalted king of all dhāraṇīs
- zungs thams cad las mngon par ’phags pa’i rgyal po
the infinite immaculate
- mtha’ yas dri med
the symbol of all languages
- sgra skad thams cad kyi brda’
truly creating all forms of joy, contentment, and satisfaction
- dga’ ba dang mgu ba dang tshim pa thams cad yang dag par bskyed pa
- ’od zer thogs pa med pa
Vulture Peak Mountain
- bya rgod kyi phung po
world of the Lord of Death
- gshin rje’i ’jig rten
- gnod sbyin
- ye shes sde