The Uṣṇīṣavijayā Dhāraṇī with Its Ritual Manual (1)
Degé Kangyur, vol. 90 (rgyud ’bum, pha), folios 230.a–237.b
Translated by Catherine Dalton
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
First published 2022
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This text was translated by Catherine Dalton, who also wrote the introduction.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous sponsorship of May, George, Likai, and Lillian Gu, which helped make the work on this translation possible, is most gratefully acknowledged.
The Uṣṇīṣavijayā Dhāraṇī with Its Ritual Manual opens in Sukhāvatī, where the Blessed One Amitāyus is residing. Amitāyus addresses the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, informing him that there are beings who suffer from illnesses and short lifespans, and introducing the uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī as a remedy for such painful circumstances. Avalokiteśvara immediately asks Amitāyus to pronounce the dhāraṇī, which the Tathāgata does from within a state of samādhi.
After he pronounces the dhāraṇī, Amitāyus addresses Śakra and explains that reciting it purifies all lower rebirths and obscurations and leads beings to higher rebirths. Amitāyus lists a number of lower births that will be avoided by someone who recites this dhāraṇī, as well as the various prominent families within the human realm into which the reciter will be born on their way to attaining the state of awakening. As he continues to elaborate upon the ways in which one can use the dhāraṇī to benefit beings, Amitāyus explains that it can be hung from the top of a flagstaff, a mountain, or a tall building so that those in the surrounding areas will be purified and prevented from taking lower rebirths. He also notes that it may be carved into wood, placed at a caitya, and worshiped. This inspires Yama, the Lord of Death, to pledge to Amitāyus to protect beings who recite the dhāraṇī.
The Four Great Kings then request instructions on the rites associated with the dhāraṇī, and Amitāyus proceeds to teach a number of rites, including ways the dhāraṇī can be used to benefit the dead, animals, and those who are ill, as well as to prevent lower rebirths and extend life. These rituals involve the preparation of a maṇḍala in which the dhāraṇī is installed, making various offerings, the construction of caityas, and hundreds, thousands, or even a hundred thousand recitations of the dhāraṇī. In some cases the rituals involve fasting or performing the ritual at specific times of the lunar month. Śakra is instructed to teach one of these rites to the god Supratiṣṭhita to extend his life, which he does, and the god is delighted with the results. Finally, Amitāyus teaches his own dhāraṇī along with its related sādhana and fire offering rite, along with a number of additional applications of the dhāraṇī to obtain results such as glory and kingship.
This work is one among a group of texts in the Kriyātantra section of the Tibetan Kangyurs that contain the uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī and its related rituals (kalpa). The present text is the longest of four short dhāraṇī texts—three of which have the same title—that present the uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī with its ritual manual (kalpa).1 These four works share a similar narrative opening (nidāna) up through the presentation of the dhāraṇī proper, and several among them also share additional passages. Beyond its close relationship with the other ritual manuals connected with the uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī, this text shares a number of parallel passages with what we will call—simply for the purpose of distinguishing it from the present group of dhāraṇī-kalpas—the “primary” uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī text (Toh 597, which is titled Sarvadurgatipariśodhana-uṣṇīṣavijayā-dhāraṇī rather than Uṣṇīṣavijayā-dhāraṇī-kalpasahitā).2 Despite these significant textual parallels, that text has an entirely different opening narrative and, unsurprisingly, lacks nearly all of the ritual instructions contained in our text.
There are many Sanskrit witnesses of the uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī proper,3 and the primary uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī text (Toh 597) survives in at least one, an incomplete early manuscript.4 While our text appears to no longer be extant in Sanskrit, there is at least one surviving Sanskrit uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī work that is closely related to it and belongs to the same group of related dhāraṇī texts described above. This work shares the same opening narrative and some of the ritual material with the texts from this group.5
The primary uṣṇīṣavijayā text (Toh 597) was first translated into Chinese by Buddhapāli in the late seventh century, and then at least five times subsequently.6 Several ritual manuals for the dhāraṇī’s recitation were also translated into Chinese, but our text does not appear to be among them.7 One ritual manual (Taishō 978), translated into Chinese by Dharmadeva between 973 and 981, is among the group of uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī texts to which the present work belongs.8 The primary uṣṇīṣavijayā text was significant in East Asia, and one scholar has even identified it as the most important esoteric Buddhist scripture translated into Chinese in the seventh century.9 Practices connected with the uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī were important in China, in particular in conjunction with funerary rites, where the dhāraṇī was written on pillars near tombs, especially from the mid-Tang to Ming dynasties (ca. 800–1600 ᴄᴇ).10 In addition to its ritual uses, in China this dhāraṇī receives mention in poems and tales of miracles and is analyzed in philosophical commentaries.11
The uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī also appears to have been popular in Dunhuang. A number of Tibetan manuscripts from Dunhuang include just the dhāraṇī on its own, both in Tibetan transliteration (dhāraṇīs, like mantras, are commonly left untranslated in Tibetan texts) and in Tibetan translation. The primary uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī text also appears in several Dunhuang manuscripts.12 Interestingly, several drawings from Dunhuang show maṇḍala (altar) arrangements corresponding to uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī texts,13 and one in particular, which has labels written in Chinese, depicts a maṇḍala that is nearly identical to a maṇḍala described in one of the rites in our text, even though no known ritual manual surviving in Chinese describes such a maṇḍala.14 There is also a woodblock print from tenth-century Dunhuang that has an image of Amitābha and a dhāraṇī written in Sanskrit, but with Chinese writing on the side. The Amitābha dhāraṇī from this print is very similar to (but not identical with) the second short dhāraṇī transmitted in the present text.15 The records of uṣṇīṣavijayā-related works at Dunhuang, then, suggest a close relationship between Tibetan- and Chinese-speaking Buddhist practitioners there.
In Nepal, uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī rituals continue to be performed as part of modern Newar Buddhist practice, where their practice is sometimes prescribed for Wednesdays in particular.16 Practices connected to the uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī likewise continue in modern Tibetan Buddhism. The so-called Tongchö (stong mchod)—the thousandfold offering practice of Uṣṇīṣavijayā, a version of which is mentioned briefly in our text—is currently performed in Tibetan monasteries, sometimes using a ritual manual composed by the nineteenth-century polymath Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo. Other notable Tibetan works on the uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī and its associated practices include commentaries by the great Sakya lama Butön (bu ston rin chen grub, 1290–1364) and the fourth Panchen Lama, Losang Chökyi Gyaltsen (blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1570–1662).
The question of what, or who, exactly, Uṣṇīṣavijayā is is a complex one that cannot be clearly answered here. In short, like a number of uṣṇīṣa deities, she is sometimes identified as a protective deity, in this case a goddess, emanated from the Buddha’s uṣṇīṣa. Indeed, Uṣṇīṣavijayā is clearly depicted as a goddess in a number of short sādhanas included in Indian anthologies such as the Sādhanamāla, compiled from the works of many authors probably during the period of the Pāla kings (eighth to twelfth century).17 Three closely similar sādhanas of a three-faced, eight armed form of the goddess are included in the Tengyur, one in each of the three related anthologies translated from the Indian collections into Tibetan in the eleventh to fourteenth centuries respectively.18 A variety of other forms are depicted or described in Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Kashmiri sources.19 In the later Tibetan tradition Uṣṇīṣavijayā can even appear as one of a group of three long-life deities along with the Buddha Amitāyus and White Tārā. However, in our Kangyur text, and indeed in all but one (Toh 598) of the uṣṇīṣavijayā works in this section of the Kangyur, while the dhāraṇī itself uses the feminine vocative form throughout, the name uṣṇīṣavijayā is not rendered into Tibetan in the feminine, and the word uṣṇīṣavijayā is not used to refer to anything apart from the name of the dhāraṇī—the dhāraṇī of the crown victory. The single instance in this text in which we could interpret uṣṇīṣavijayā to refer to a goddess is a sentence in one of the rites for an Amitāyus sādhana that also involves reciting the uṣṇīṣavijayā dhāraṇī. After having properly followed the rite, the text notes that “in the early morning at dawn you will see the face of the Bhagavatī, and she will give you whatever accomplishments you desire.” The name of this Bhagavatī is not mentioned in our text, but we might well presume that she is Uṣṇīṣavijayā herself.
The range of possible answers to the question of what the name Uṣṇīṣavijayā refers to is enlarged even further by the existence of a group of related texts widely used in Southeast Asia, sharing the Pali title Uṇhissa-vijaya-sutta (or in some cases simply Uṇhissa-vijaya) but found in a number of different forms, some in Pali but others in Siamese, Lao, Yuon, and Khmer. Some refer at least briefly to the story of the god Supratiṣṭhita (Pali Supatiṭṭhita) which, though somewhat secondary in the present text, is the central frame story of Toh 597. But instead of the dhāraṇī of the Sanskrit and Tibetan texts they contain a set of verses (gāthā) to be recited whose content is unrelated to that of the Sanskrit dhāraṇī. The gāthā are also found alone in several ritual compilations. Even in the vernacular versions, the verses are written in Pali. In these texts, in their own opening lines, it seems to be the verses themselves that are referred to as the Uṇhissa-vijaya.20
This text was translated into Tibetan by the Indian paṇḍita Dharmasena and Khampa Lotsāwa Bari Chödrak, and it is therefore an eleventh- or twelfth-century translation. However, the imperial Phangthangma catalog lists one Uṣṇīṣavijayā-dhāraṇī-vidhisahitā, which, even if not the same as the present text, is certainly a work of a similar type.21 Thus, along with the records of Uṣṇīṣavijayā texts at Dunhuang, its presence in the Phangthangma catalog at the very least indicates the early presence of parts of the Uṣṇīṣavijayā corpus, including not just the dhāraṇī but also some of its associated rites, in Tibet.
The present translation is based on the Tibetan translation of the text found in the Tantra Collection (rgyud ’bum) section of the Degé Kangyur,22 in consultation with the Stok Palace Kangyur and the notes in the Comparative Edition of the Kangyur (dpe bsdur ma). The text is stable across all the Kangyurs consulted, with the same title and colophon and only minor variants. We also consulted the Sanskrit from Schopen’s transcription of the “Los Angeles Manuscript” of the primary dhāraṇī text and Hidas’ edition and translation of the surviving Sanskrit Uṣṇīṣavijayā-dhāraṇī text for the passages that are parallel with the present text.
The main dhāraṇī is not identical in every detail across the five different versions in the Degé Kangyur (Toh 594–598), and the existence of further variations across different Kangyurs and versions in extra-canonical collections further complicates the picture. Reference to the dhāraṇī as presented in Hidas’ edition of the Sanskrit yields useful orthographic confirmation, but may be misleading as a model given that the ten different Nepalese Sanskrit manuscripts on which it is based are of much later date than any of the present Tibetan witnesses. Here and in the other works in the group we have therefore chosen to transcribe the dhāraṇī as it appears in the Degé version of each text, making only minor choices of orthography and adding annotations to point out the most significant discrepancies.
One noticeable difference across both Tibetan and Sanskrit versions of the dhāraṇī is the presence or absence of the syllable oṁ at the beginning of certain phrases. In the present work and Toh 595, 596, and 597 there are only three such oṁ syllables, while in Toh 598 oṁ appears no less than nine times, as it does in Hidas’ edition from Sanskrit sources and in extra-canonical liturgies. The Tibetan translation of Toh 598 was made at a significantly later date than the other works of the group, and may possibly signal a change in usage that is also reflected in the Nepalese Sanskrit texts of even later date. This is corroborated by the absence of extra oṁ-s in the Dunhuang manuscripts. The colophon of Toh 597 found in the Phukdrak (phug brag) Kangyur includes a note claiming that the texts with only three oṁ-s are to be considered more correct.23 The note also states that although there may have been Sanskrit sources with as many as nine oṁ-s, the twelfth-century translator Sumpa Lotsāwa24 reported that all the Sanskrit texts he had seen contained only three, and that the Sanskrit manuscripts of the texts held at Sakya monastery had no more than that. Because Sumpa Lotsāwa is known to have lived and studied in Nepal, his comment on the “correct” number of oṁ-s in the Sanskrit manuscripts available to him offers a glimpse of the evolution of the text in the Nepalese tradition. As Hidas’ edition of the Nepalese manuscripts suggests, the number of oṁ-s in the dhāraṇī seem to proliferate, eventually reaching a total of nine.
Over the centuries, the textual transmission of the dhāraṇī has preserved the major portion of it with remarkable fidelity. Nevertheless, the few anomalies to be seen across all these closely related texts are a reminder that here, as with other dhāraṇī works, some variations over time and place are to be expected.
The Uṣṇīṣavijayā Dhāraṇī with Its Ritual Manual (1)
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Thus did I hear at one time. The blessed, thus-gone, worthy, perfectly awakened Buddha Amitāyus was staying in the excellent secret palace, Dharma Proclamation,26 in Sukhāvatī. He said to the bodhisattva, the great being, Noble Avalokiteśvara, “Child of noble family, there are beings who suffer, are afflicted with diseases, and have short lifespans. To help them, one should uphold and recite this dhāraṇī called the crown victory of all tathāgatas and teach it extensively to others for the sake of long life.”27
Then the bodhisattva, the great being, Avalokiteśvara arose from his seat, joined his palms, and said to the Blessed One, “Blessed One, please teach! Well-Gone One, please teach the dhāraṇī called the crown victory of all tathāgatas.”
Then the Blessed One looked upon the circle of his perfect28 retinue, entered the samādhi called the splendor beheld everywhere, and pronounced this dhāraṇī called the crown victory of all tathāgatas:29
“oṁ namo bhagavate sarvatrailokyaprativiśiṣṭāya buddhāya te namaḥ |
tadyathā | oṁ bhrūṁ bhrūṁ bhrūṁ | śodhaya śodhaya | viśodhaya viśodhaya | asamasamantāvabhāsaspharaṇagatigaganasvabhāvaviśuddhe30 | [F.230.b] abhiṣiñcantu māṃ sarvatathāgatāḥ sugatavaravacanāmṛtābhiṣekair mahāmudrāmantrapadaiḥ | āhara āhara mama31 āyuḥsandhāraṇi | śodhaya śodhaya | viśodhaya viśodhaya | gaganasvabhāvaviśuddhe | uṣṇīṣavijāyapariśuddhe | sahasraraśmisañcodite | sarvatathāgatāvalokini | ṣaṭpāramitāparipūraṇi | sarvatathāgatamāte32 | daśabhūmipratiṣṭḥite | sarvatathāgatahṛdayādhiṣṭhānādhiṣṭḥite | mudre mudre mahāmudre | vajrakāyasaṃhatanapariśuddhe | sarvakarmāvaraṇaviśuddhe | pratinivartaya mamāyurviśuddhe | sarvatathāgatasamayādhiṣṭhānādhiṣṭhite | oṁ muni muni mahāmuni | vimuni vimuni mahāvimuni | mati mati mahāmati | mamati | sumati | tathatābhūtakoṭipariśuddhe | visphuṭabuddhiśuddhe | he he | jaya jaya | vijaya vijaya | smara smara | sphara sphara | sphāraya sphāraya | sarvabuddhādhiṣṭhānādhiṣṭhite | śuddhe śuddhe | buddhe buddhe | vajre vajre mahāvajre | suvajre | vajragarbhe | jayagarbhe | vijayagarbhe | vajrajvālagarbhe | vajrodbhave | vajrasambhave | vajre | vajrini | vajram bhavatu mama śarīraṃ sarvasatvānāñ ca kāyapariśuddhir bhavatu | sadā me33 sarvagatipariśuddhiś ca34 | sarvatathāgatāś ca māṃ35 samāśvāsayantu | budhya budhya | siddhya siddhya | bodhaya bodhaya | vibodhaya vibodhaya | mocaya mocaya | vimocaya vimocaya | śodhaya śodhaya | viśodhaya viśodhaya | samantamocaya mocaya | samantaraśmipariśuddhe | sarvatathāgatahṛdayādhiṣṭhānādhiṣṭhite | mudre mudre mahāmudre | mahāmudrāmantrapadaiḥ svāhā.36
“Lord of the Gods,37 this dhāraṇī called the crown victory completely purifies all lower rebirths, completely purifies the obscurations resulting from evil deeds, leads to the path of higher rebirths, and utterly destroys all lower rebirths. As many buddhas as there are grains of sand in eighty-eight trillion Gaṅgā Rivers [F.231.a] have taught, blessed, and rejoiced in this dhāraṇī, and it is sealed by the wisdom mudrā of all the buddhas. It was taught in order to place all beings on the path that leads to higher rebirths, to bring back those who have fallen into lower rebirths, and to liberate all those in painful and frightening existences—hell beings, those born into the animal realm, those in the Realm of the Lord of Death, and all others who have plunged into the ocean of suffering.
“Similarly, this dhāraṇī can benefit beings who have a short lifespan and little fortune, who are despised, who have fallen into various unpleasant38 rebirths, whose thoughts are corrupt, and who have strayed from the path. This dhāraṇī,39 along with its mudrās and mantras, has been entrusted to the beings of Jambudvīpa, so you, Śakra, must keep it well!
“Lord of the Gods, hearing this dhāraṇī a single time immediately and completely purifies the karmic obscurations accumulated over a hundred thousand eons. Know that one will no longer take any of the various births in the hell realms, the animal realm, the Realm of the Lord of Death, the realm of the pretas, and the realm of the asuras. Likewise one will not be born into the class of creatures such as yakṣas, rākṣasas, bhūtas, piśācas, pūtanas, kaṭapūtanas, apasmāras, dogs, tortoises, snakes, fierce wild animals, birds, bees, flies, reptiles, and ants.
“Instead, I say40 that one will meet with the tathāgatas, be born into the family of the bodhisattvas, or be born into a prominent family such as a brahmin family that is like a great sāl tree, a kṣatriya family that is like a great sāl tree, a householder family that is like a great sāl tree, or a merchant family [F.231.b] that is like a great sāl tree.
“Lord of the Gods, the power of this dhāraṇī will allow one to obtain great and completely pure rebirths until one finally reaches the seat of awakening.
“Lord of the Gods, this dhāraṇī is extremely powerful, beneficial, potent, virtuous, and auspicious.
“Lord of the Gods, this dhāraṇī called the crown victory, which completely purifies all lower rebirths, has been set forth for the benefit of beings.
“Lord of the Gods, consider the utterly stainless precious jewel that is the heart of the sun, completely pure like space, luminous, and blazing with light. This dhāraṇī will render beings devoid of stains just like that jewel. Consider also the perfectly stainless gold from the Jambu River that is pure, perfectly resplendent,41 and utterly lovely. Lord of the Gods, great beings such as those are as utterly and completely pure as that gold, and they will continue to be reborn like that from one lifetime to the next.
“Lord of the Gods, wherever this dhāraṇī is taught—and particularly wherever it is written down,42 read aloud, recited, chanted, worshiped, studied, listened to, and upheld—all rebirths will be thoroughly purified, and all rebirths in the hell realms will cease.
“Lord of the Gods, this dhāraṇī should be written down and hung from the top of a flagstaff. It should be placed on a high mountain, on top of a tall building, or inside of a caitya. Śakra, should any monk or nun, layman or laywoman, or any other son or daughter of noble family see it, live near it, pass under its shadow, or be touched by a breeze carrying a particle of dust from this dhāraṇī when it is hung from the top of a flagstaff, [F.232.a] all of that being’s evil deeds will be purified,43 Śakra, and they will no longer have any fear of going to the lower realms. Know that they will not be born as a hell being, they will not be born in the animal realm, they will not be born in the Realm of the Lord of Death, they will not be born as a preta, and they will not be born among the asuras. Lord of the Gods, know that such a being has been prophesied by all the tathāgatas and will never turn back from unsurpassed, complete, perfect awakening.
“Lord of the Gods, there are also great benefits if this dhāraṇī is carved into wood. If someone worships and honors it, adorns it with flowers, incense, perfumes, flower garlands, scented salves, parasols, banners, pendants,44 and ornaments—not to mention builds a caitya at a crossroads, places this dhāraṇī there, and joins their palms together or prostrates or circumambulates it—you should know, Śakra, that this being is indeed a great being! Know them to be a child of the tathāgatas. Know them to be an abode of the Dharma. Know them to be a caitya of the tathāgatas.”
Then, as that evening passed and dawn began to break,45 Dharmarāja Yama arose, went before the Blessed One, and worshiped the Blessed One with divine flowers, cloth, ornaments, and other things, and he respectfully circumambulated the Blessed One seven times. Then he touched the Blessed One’s feet and said, “Blessed One, this dhāraṇī is very powerful. It is very beneficial.46 Blessed One, I will also continually pursue the benefit of those beings, and I will always remain here to protect and defend them.47 I will turn those beings away from all hell realms. Blessed One, I will do what I know is right, and I will not do what I know is not right.”
Then [F.232.b] the Four Great Kings circumambulated the Blessed One three times and said to him, “Blessed One, please give an extensive explanation of the detailed rite for this dhāraṇī and the way to perform the rite.”
The Blessed One then addressed the Four Great Kings, “Listen, and I will explain the way to perform the rite of this dhāraṇī.
“To help a being with a short lifespan, a son or daughter of noble family should bathe on the full moon day, put on clean clothes, and fast48 as they recite this dhāraṇī one thousand times. If they do this, the depleted lifespan of that being will be restored, and they will become free from illness. All their obscurations will be purified, and they will be completely freed from all lower rebirths, such as that of a hell being.
“One can even recite this dhāraṇī in the ear of any bird or living being that has taken an animal birth and know that this will be their very last lower rebirth.
“If one does the same thing for someone who is extremely ill, even when the doctors have determined that things have taken a turn for the worse and given up, they will be completely freed from their illness and be cut off from all lower rebirths. When they die, they will be born in the realm of Sukhāvatī. Know that this very life is their last birth from a womb. From one lifetime to the next, they will only take miraculous birth from the center of a lotus, and they will always remember the succession of their past lives.
“For any being who has committed negative deeds and has died, recite the dhāraṇī over white mustard seeds twenty-one times and scatter these over their bones. Even if they have been born as a hell being, in the animal realm, in the Realm of the Lord of Death, as a preta, or in some other lower rebirth, the power of this dhāraṇī will free them from those lower rebirths, [F.233.a] and they will be reborn as a god.
“Whoever recites this dhāraṇī completely twenty-one times each day will become worthy to receive offerings from great worldly beings. Their lifespan will increase, they will be free from illness, they will be happy, they will always be joyful, and they will either attain great parinirvāṇa or, when they die, be reborn in the realm of Sukhāvatī. From there they will travel to many different buddha fields and meet the tathāgatas in each one. Those tathāgatas will reassure them and issue prophecies of their awakening. In each of those buddha fields, they will illuminate the entire world.49
50“Make the mudrā in this way: place the palms and ten fingers together, bend the two index fingers, and interlace them with the two thumbs. Then recall this dhāraṇī.
“Make a square maṇḍala, scatter it with multicolored flowers, and burn different types of incense around it. Kneel with the right knee on the ground and, by means of samādhi, visualize and pay homage to all the tathāgatas. Then, read the dhāraṇī aloud eight hundred times. Even reading it in this way once is the same as having worshiped, served, and honored tathāgatas equal to the grains of sand of eighty-eight quintillion Gaṅgā Rivers. Having worshiped all those tathāgatas with great cloudbanks of offerings, they will all say “Excellent!” That being should be known as a child born from the very nature of all the tathāgatas. They will have unobscured wisdom and be ornamented with the mind of great awakening.51 [F.233.b]
52“Through this method for the rite for accomplishing this dhāraṇī, Lord of the Gods, all beings will be completely freed from lower rebirths, such as that of a hell being. All their rebirths will be completely pure, and they will have long lives.
“Lord of the Gods, go and teach and proclaim this dhāraṇī to the god Supratiṣṭhita.53 Lord of the Gods, it will purify all of the god Supratiṣṭhita’s rebirths in seven days, extend his lifespan, and make him powerful.”
Śakra, Lord of the Gods, followed the Tathāgata’s instruction, went to the god Supratiṣṭhita, and gave him this dhāraṇī. On the seventh day, after he had exerted himself in reciting this dhāraṇī for six days and six nights, all his wishes were fulfilled. He was completely liberated from lower rebirths, he was established on the path to higher rebirths,54 and his life was extended. He exclaimed, “How amazing is the Buddha! How amazing is the Dharma! How amazing is it that a dhāraṇī like this has appeared in the world, one that has completely freed me from such great fear!”55
56Śakra, Lord of the Gods, and the god Supratiṣṭhita, together with a great retinue, gathered flowers, perfumes, incense, garlands, parasols, banners, pendants, and beautiful silken canopies, used their divine powers to travel to where the Blessed One was, and approached him. They worshiped the Blessed One, offering him hundreds of thousands of essential offerings such as divine silks and jewels, circumambulated him, and sat before the Blessed One. They expressed their joy in this way and then sat before the Blessed One and listened to the Dharma.
The Blessed One extended his golden hand and comforted the god Supratiṣṭhita, taught him the Dharma, and prophesied his awakening.57
“Child of noble family, [F.234.a] this dhāraṇī of the crown victory of all tathāgatas is the destroyer58 of the great cudgel of death, the purifier, the destroyer of evil deeds. If one writes this dhāraṇī on birch bark or some other surface, places it in the center of a caitya, worships it extensively by offering whatever one has, and then circumambulates it one hundred thousand times, one will be granted an excellent lifespan and a sharp intellect. When this is done, a lifespan of seven days will become seven years, and a lifespan of seven years will become seventy years. Thus, one will obtain an excellent lifespan, a good memory, freedom from illness, and the ability to remember previous lives.
“If someone installs this dhāraṇī in a caitya and binds a cloth on which the dhāraṇī is written around its summit they will be freed from grave illness.
“Write the dhāraṇī together with one’s own name on a piece of cloth or bark using yellow pigment derived from cow bile and install it in a sandalwood caitya. Then place it at home and worship it with thousands of vast offerings. If one performs this offering rite each month while reciting the dhāraṇī eight hundred times, one will be free from illness and live for one hundred years. If a sandalwood caitya is not available, follow the same procedure with a clay caitya.
“One can also draw on a clean piece of cloth a caitya that is resting on a crossed vajra and ornamented with an encircling vajra garland. Write one’s own name and the words of the dhāraṇī in the center of it with yellow pigment derived from cow bile. When this is installed inside an enclosed vessel made of two clay cups,59 placed in the home, and worshiped with extensive offerings, one will always be protected.
“An additional rite is as follows: make a square maṇḍala with cow dung that has not fallen on the ground and scatter it with white flowers. Place four butter lamps at the four corners. Burn incense made of aloeswood and frankincense. Fill a vessel with perfumed water and adorn it with white flowers. Place in the center a caitya or statue with the dhāraṇī in its inner chamber. Touch it with the left hand while holding a mālā in the right hand, and recite the dhāraṇī twenty-one times at the three times of the day.60 [F.234.b] One who drinks three handfuls of that water will be free of illness and have a long life. Their enemies will fall away, and they will gain a sharp intellect and noble speech. They will remember their previous births from one lifetime to the next. If that water is sprinkled around a house, a cattle barn or horse stable, or a royal residence, there will be no fear of thieves, snakes, yakṣas, or rākṣasas, and no one will suffer from illness. If the water is sprinkled over someone’s head, they will be freed from illness.
“There is also the extremely beneficial dhāraṇī of limitless life,61 which brings great pacification wherever it is applied. If it is recited in full twenty-one times over a toothbrush, one will not have any pain when chewing, and one will have a sharp intellect and a long life. If it is recited over three handfuls of water twenty-one times at the three times of the day,62 whoever drinks that water will be completely freed from all illness and will live for a long time.”
Then the bodhisattva great being Noble Avalokiteśvara circumambulated the Blessed One Amitāyus and said, “Blessed One, how should a son or daughter of noble family perform the caitya ritual? How should they accomplish such tasks as making the statue and so forth, and how should they perform the fire offering?”
The Blessed One replied:
Then the Blessed One entered the samādhi called glorious limitless light rays63 in all directions and spoke this dhāraṇī called the limitless life of all tathāgatas:
“oṁ amṛte64 amṛtodbhave amṛtasaṃbhave amṛtavikrānte amṛtagate65 amṛtagāmini amṛtāyurdade66 gaganakīrtikare sarvakleśakṣayaṃ kariye svāhā
“Recite this dhāraṇī as many times as possible while excavating the clay for building a caitya, [F.235.a] while applying that clay, and all the way up until the canopy is raised.”
Then he taught the rite:
“It should be twelve finger-widths in size, adorned with many ornaments made of gold, lapis, silver, and rubies, and placed upon a lotus. Draw the Four World-Protectors holding banners in the four directions, the gods of the pure abodes holding flowers, incense, and perfumes, Śakra, Lord of the Gods, holding the parasol, and, on the right and the left sides, Avalokiteśvara and Vajradhara holding white tail whisks. Following proper procedure, draw these on the petals of the lotus, proceeding clockwise around the caitya. Write down the dhāraṇī called the crown victory of all tathāgatas and install it in the caitya’s interior relic chamber.67 Then, sprinkle the caitya with scented water and worship it with delightfully scented flowers. Perform a thousandfold offering. Fast on the eighth day of the waxing moon and, with your mind set on the benefit of all beings, make offerings for the bestowal of long life and intelligence68 and recite the dhāraṇī one thousand times. If this is done every month for six months, one will obtain a lifespan of a thousand years. If it is done regularly for a year, one will obtain a lifespan of a hundred thousand years. If it is performed in perpetuity, one will obtain an inexhaustible lifespan, become powerful, be undefeatable by anyone, and obtain a supreme celestial uṣṇīṣa that is unequaled by even the gods and asuras.
“Here is another rite. Take some earth from a very holy place, mix it with delightful perfumes, and make a caitya. Start with one thousand, and make up to five thousand caityas.69 Every day install the crown victory dhāraṇī in all the caityas. Perform the extensive offering as instructed [F.235.b] and read the dhāraṇī aloud starting with one thousand times and for as many as seven thousand recitations. Perform this every day for the dhāraṇī that bestows long life and intelligence, and dedicate one’s own roots of virtue to the shared benefit of all beings. Give up such things as restraining and beating beings. In each subsequent month make twice as many offerings and recite the dhāraṇī eight hundred times. This should be performed by oneself or by someone else in one’s stead.70
“This ritual will allow one to avoid the eight types of untimely death. One will have a sharp intellect, be free from illness, live for one hundred years, be delightful to all beings, and recollect past lives. When the time comes to die, one will leave one’s body behind just like a snake shedding its skin and be reborn into a beautiful body in the world of Sukhāvatī. One will never be reborn into lower rebirths as a hell being, in the animal realm, or in the Realm of the Lord of Death. One will not even hear the word hell, so how could one experience the ripening of such a karmic result? One will not go to those places.”
Then the Blessed One Amitāyus taught the following sādhana:
“A skillful person who wishes beings to have limitless lifespans and to bring about their freedom from the pitiful state of saṃsāra should make a beautiful canvas that is the proper size out of threads that have been spun by a young maiden.71 Then, using a variety of colors of pigment, one should write the crown victory dhāraṇī inside a caitya that has been emanated from the letters of the dhāraṇī.
“Draw Amitāyus garlanded by thousands of light rays and seated upon a lotus and moon seat. He is luminous like the autumn moon and adorned with every ornament. He has three faces, each with three eyes, and he has eight arms. His right face is peaceful and radiant with golden light. His left face is fierce, with fangs biting down on his lower lip, and radiant with light the color of a blue utpala. His central face is charming [F.236.a] and white. His right hands hold a crossed vajra at his heart, Amitābha seated on a lotus, an arrow, and the gesture of supreme generosity. His left hands hold a lasso with the threatening gesture, a bow, the gesture granting freedom from fear, and a vase. On his head is the syllable oṁ in a caitya, at his throat is the syllable āḥ, and at his heart the syllable huṁ. At his forehead is hraṁ, at his navel hrīḥ, and at his two feet aṁ aḥ. Arrange these syllables on his body and include the phrase rakṣa svāhā with one’s own name inside it.
“On either side of him are Padmapāṇi and Vajradhara holding white tail whisks. Above, like a flow of nectar raining down, are a pair of gods from the pure abodes. In the four directions are wrathful Acala, Kāmarāja, Nīladaṇḍa, and Mahābala. They hold a sword, a hook, a club, and a vajra, respectively, and their left hands brandish the threatening gesture to72 frighten malevolent beings.
“When one has completed it with careful attention to those details,73 one should fast near a caitya that contains relics and worship it with a thousandfold great offering while reciting the dhāraṇī one hundred thousand times. Recite the dhāraṇī one thousand times each day from the first to the fifteenth day of the waxing moon. Then, in the early morning at dawn you will see the face of the Bhagavatī, and she will give you whatever accomplishments you desire.
“One can also install the painting in a location that has been anointed with delightfully scented water, perform extensive worship, and recite the dhāraṇī eight hundred times each day. Or, one can make a thousandfold offering and recite the dhāraṇī a thousand times. If one does this, one’s lifespan will be limitless and one will be able to suppress others with limitless power,74 be able to fly, and be free from great illness. [F.236.b] This will make anyone able to memorize and perfectly recite one thousand verses each day.
“Or if someone is unable to do that, they should install it in their home in a place that has been anointed with scented water and make whatever offerings they have. In all the coming months they should recite the dhāraṇī eight hundred times on the eighth day of the month, and every day they should recite it twenty-one times at the three times of the day. If they do this, they will have a sharp intellect and a long life. They will be full of insight, free from illness, and happy. They will live for one hundred years and remember their past lives.
“Or if one is unable to do this oneself and someone does it in one’s stead, then one will have a long life and a sharp intellect.
“Now I will explain the fire offering rite for the benefit of all beings. Build a round hearth one cubit in size and adorned with a garland of vajras. Smear it with white sandalwood or white earth and scatter white flowers on it. Place a butter lamp on each of its four sides, and worship it properly with incense and other offerings. In each of the four directions place a well-decorated and beautiful vase covered with white cloth with its openings adorned with boughs from a tree. Start a fire with wood from a date palm, and summon Agni by asking him to approach as you give three full ladles in the fire and sprinkle it with cleansing water. Visualize Amitāyus clearly in the center of the hearth, recite the crown victory dhāraṇī, and offer three full ladles. One can also perform the fire offering while reciting the dhāraṇī together with the life-extending and intelligence-sharpening dhāraṇī oṁ amṛtāyurdade75 svāhā eight hundred times at the three times of the day.
“If one recites the crown victory dhāraṇī seven times, one will have a long life, a sharp intellect, and happiness and be free from illness.
“Someone who wishes to live for a thousand years can also make an extensive offering on the eighth day of the waxing moon and perform the homa at the three times of the day, and supreme long life and a sharp intellect will be bestowed upon them.
“One should not disparage beings. With this rite, one’s body will not be afflicted by illness. [F.237.a] One will live for five thousand years, be victorious over enemies, and have a sharp intellect and a sweet voice.
“If one is unable to perform this oneself but someone performs it in one’s stead, one will obtain great peace.
“If one seeks some other accomplishment, one can recite the great crown victory dhāraṇī together with the life-extending and intelligence-sharpening dhāraṇī76 while performing the fire offering one hundred thousand times. If one performs the thousandfold worship and recites the dhāraṇī one hundred thousand times at the beginning and end, one will live for a hundred thousand years. If one does this ten million times, one will live for ten million years. Following the practice of this rite will enable one to live for countless years, to fly, to be heroic, and to be victorious over all enemies.
“If one seeks glory and performs a fire offering of one hundred thousand wood apples,77 one will obtain great glory. If one seeks to be king and performs a fire offering of one hundred thousand lotuses, one will become a great king. If one performs that ten million times, one will become a universal monarch.
“Or, if one wishes to obtain the sword siddhi and so forth, one should display the painting in front of a caitya that contains relics, perform the great thousandfold offering, and recite the dhāraṇī one hundred thousand times. If one recites it one hundred thousand times over a sword made of the five metals and then holds the sword in one’s right hand, one will be able to travel to whatever place one thinks of, take whatever form one desires, be extremely powerful, and subdue others. One will be the singular guide of all beings and then become the great, supreme physician with a limitless lifespan. One can also perform the same sādhana over a vajra, cakra, trident, and the like.
“This great dhāraṇī with limitless benefits that is the heart of all the tathāgatas and supremely difficult to encounter will bring about the accomplishment of any ritual action to which it is applied. Whoever recites this dhāraṇī called the crown victory of all tathāgatas twenty-one times at the three times of the day every day, makes a great caitya [F.237.b] and hangs the dhāraṇī from it, and explains the dhāraṇī to others at length will be happy, powerful, and free from illness, live for a hundred years, have a sharp intellect, and remember their previous lives. When they die, they will leave their body behind just like a snake shedding its skin and be born into the world of Sukhāvatī. The word hell will never reach their ears, so how could they experience the ripening of such a karmic result? They will always remember their previous lives from one lifetime to the next.”
When the Blessed One spoke these words, his entire retinue and the world and its gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas rejoiced and praised what the Blessed One had said.
This concludes “Crown Victory of All Tathāgatas: The Uṣṇīṣavijayā Dhāraṇī with Its Ritual Manual.”
It was translated, edited, and finalized by the scholar Dharmasena and by Khampa Lotsāwa, the monk Bari.
Source Texts for This Translation
de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi gtsug tor rnam par rgyal ba zhes bya ba’i gzungs rtog pa dang bcas pa (Sarvatathāgatauṣṇīṣavijayānāmadhāraṇīkalpasahitā). Toh 594, Degé Kangyur vol. 90 (rgyud, pha), folios 230.a–237.b.
de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi gtsug tor rnam par rgyal ba zhes bya ba’i gzungs rtog pa dang bcas pa. 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. 90, pp. 752–82.
de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi gtsug tor rnam par rgyal ba zhes bya ba’i gzungs rtog pa dang bcas pa. Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 104 (rgyud, pa), folios 110.a–120.b.
Other Tibetan and Sanskrit Sources
de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi gtsug tor rnam par rgyal ba zhes bya ba’i gzungs rtog pa dang bcas pa (Sarvatathāgatauṣṇīṣavijayānāmadhāraṇīkalpasahitā). Toh 595, Degé Kangyur vol. 90 (rgyud, pha), folios 237.b–242.a.
de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi gtsug tor rnam par rgyal ba zhes bya ba’i gzungs rtog pa dang bcas pa (Sarvatathāgatauṣṇīṣavijayānāmadhāraṇīkalpasahitā). Toh 596, Degé Kangyur vol. 90 (rgyud, pha), folios 242.a–243.b.
’phags pa ngan ’gro thams cad yongs su sbyong ba gtsug tor rnam par rgyal ba zhes bya ba’i gzungs (Sarvadurgatipariśodhanauṣṇīṣavijayānāmadhāraṇī). Toh 597, Degé Kangyur vol. 90 (rgyud, pha), folios 243.b–248.a; Toh 984, Degé Kangyur vol. 102 (gzungs, waM), folios 120.a–124.b.
de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi gtsug tor rnam par rgyal ma’i gzungs zhe bya ba’i rtog pa (Sarvatathāgatauṣṇīṣavijayānāmadhāraṇīkalpa). Toh 598, Degé Kangyur, vol. 90 (rgyud, pha), folios 248.a–250.a.
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- mi g.yo ba
- me lha
- ’od dpag tu med pa
- tshe dpag tu med pa
- brjed byed
- lha ma yin
- spyan ras gzigs
- ’byung po
- bcom ldan ’das
- bram ze’i rigs
- mchod rten
- ’khor lo
- chos yang dag par sdud pa
- chos kyi rgyal po gshin rje
- Dharmarāja Yama
Four Great Kings
- rgyal po chen po bzhi
- ’jig rten skyong ba bzhi
- gang gA’i klung
Great sāl tree
- shing sA la chen po
- sbyin sreg
- khyim bdag gi rigs
- ’dzam bu
- ’dzam bu’i gling
- rtog pa
- ’dod pa’i rgyal po
- lus srul po
Khampa Lotsāwa Bari Chödrak
- khams pa lo tsA wa ba ri chos grags
- rgyal rigs
- dge bsnyen
- dge bsnyen ma
Lord of the Gods
- lha rnams kyi dbang po
- ngan ’gro
- ngan ’gro
- stobs po che
- dge slong
- phyag rgya
- dbyug pa sngon po
- dge slong ma
- pad+ma ’chang
- sha za
- yi dags
- gnas gtsang ma
- srul po
- srin po
Realm of the Lord of Death
- gshin rje’i ’jig rten
- sgrub pa’i thabs
- brgya byin
- ting nge ’dzin
- bde ba can
- shin tu brtan pa
- de bzhin gshegs pa
- ’khor los sgyur ba
- gtsug tor
- rdo rje
- rdo rje ’chang
- lag na rdo rje
- phyag na rdo rje
- bde bar gshegs pa
- gnod sbyin
- gshin rje