The Dhāraṇī “Essence of Immeasurable Longevity and Wisdom”
Degé Kangyur, vol. 91 (rgyud ’bum, ba), folios 220.b–222.b
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The Dhāraṇī “Essence of Immeasurable Longevity and Wisdom” opens at a pool by the Ganges, where the Buddha Śākyamuni is seated with five hundred monks and a great saṅgha of bodhisattvas. The Buddha begins with a short set of verses on the Buddha Aparimitāyus, who dwells in the realm of Sukhāvatī, telling the gathering that anyone who recites Aparimitāyus’ name will be reborn in that buddha’s realm. He then provides a unique description of Sukhāvatī, followed by instructions for two practices, related to the text’s dhāraṇī, that can grant rebirth in Sukhāvatī in the next life.
This text was translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the supervision of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The translation was produced by Adam Krug and then checked against the Tibetan and edited by Andreas Doctor.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The Dhāraṇī “Essence of Immeasurable Longevity and Wisdom” opens at a pool by the Ganges, where the Buddha Śākyamuni is seated with five hundred monks and a great saṅgha of bodhisattvas. The Buddha begins his teaching with a short set of verses on the Buddha Aparimitāyus and the realm of Sukhāvatī in which that buddha dwells, telling the gathering that anyone who recites Aparimitāyus’ name will be reborn there.
He then begins a summary of the circumstances of Aparimitāyus’ lifetime as an awakened one. We learn that, like Śākyamuni, Aparimitāyus was born into a kṣatriya family. The Buddha then enumerates the names of Aparimitāyus’ father (a universal ruler), mother, queen, son, and attendant, and then those of his two foremost disciples in terms of insight and miraculous powers—the equivalent of Śākyamuni’s disciples Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana—and the extent of his saṅgha of hearers. This account, in following the classic paradigm that the life stories and deeds of all buddhas conform to the same template of analogous events and participants, goes further than even the best-known work of the genre, the Bhadrakalpika (Toh 94),1 by adding the names of figures in Aparamitāyus’ realm who are the equivalents of Māra and Devadatta in Śākyamuni’s realm.
The beautiful and wondrous qualities of Sukhāvatī, well known from texts such as the Sukhāvatīvyūha (Toh 115)2 and Amitābhavyūha (Toh 49), are described in very little detail in this text, but are subsumed in the statements that all the beings there are miraculously born from a jeweled lotus and that there is no female gender,3 and in the descriptions later in the text of Aparimitāyus’ lotus seat and Bodhi tree.
The Buddha then provides a set of instructions for visualizing Aparimitāyus that include performing prostrations three times a day and three times a night for ten days while reciting the dhāraṇī of Dundubhisvararāja. The successful performance of this practice will result, he says, in visions of Aparimitāyus and of all the buddhas of the ten directions. After the Buddha has recited the dhāraṇī, he provides instructions for a further practice that consists of visualizing Aparimitāyus on his lotus seat under his particular Bodhi tree, accompanied by the bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta. In addition to bringing visions of Aparimitāyus, these practices will result in practitioners being reborn in Sukhāvatī in their next life.
The Tibetan translation that survives to this day in the Kangyur dates to the eleventh century ᴄᴇ, but the text must have been in circulation in India considerably earlier, since a Chinese translation (Taishō 370) had been completed by an unknown translator during the Liang dynasty in the early half of the sixth century.4 The Tibetan translation was made by the Indian preceptor Puṇyasambhava and the Tibetan Lotsāwa Patsap Nyima Drak (b. 1055). Almost nothing is known of Puṇyasambhava, while Patsap Lotsāwa was responsible not only for bringing to Tibet the philosophical works for which he is best known, but also for introducing new lineages of a few tantric practices from Kashmir, where he studied for twenty-three years.
In most Kangyurs the text translated here is included in the section of works classified as tantras belonging to the Action (kriyā) class, and is grouped with eight texts (Toh 673A–680) corresponding to the principal buddha (rigs kyi gtso bo) of the padma (lotus) family. This group, in addition to the present dhāraṇī (Toh 676), and the four works on Amitābha that follow it (Toh 677–80),5 also contains the very widely used The Aparimitāyurjñāna Sūtra (1) (Toh 674) and The Aparimitāyurjñāna Sūtra (2) (Toh 675)—the two versions of the text commonly known as the “Sūtra of Long Life” or, in Tibetan, Tsédo (tshe mdo)—and a dhāraṇī related to it, The Essence of Aparimitāyus (Toh 673A).6 The names of the buddha or buddhas on which this group of texts focus are variable: Amitābha, Amitāyus, Aparimitāyurjñāna, and—both in the present text—Aparimitāyus and Dundubhisvararāja. The finer distinctions between these figures have not always been entirely clear. In India, the names Amitāyus and Amitābha appear to have been almost synonymous, but distinctions of role and perhaps even identity seem to have arisen later in both China and Tibet. Alternatively, some of the figures in these texts may derive from originally independent textual traditions that later came to be grouped together. In discussing these distinctions, Tibetan scholars used such terms as “the Amitāyus of Sukhāvatī” (bde ba can gyi tshe dpag med), “the Amitāyus of the Zenith” (steng gi tshe dpag med), “the Amitāyus of Akaniṣṭha” (’og min gyi tshe dpag med), and “the Amitāyus of the Immortal Sound of the Drum” (’chi med rnga sgra’i tshe dpag med). The need for such terms suggests that in Tibetan the rendering Tsépamé (tshe dpag med) as a short form of both Aparimitāyurjñāna and Aparimitāyus, as well as of Amitāyus, may have contributed to some blurring of differences between them.
These terms also demonstrate that the clearest basis on which distinctions may be made is the buddha field in which these buddhas dwell. In the present text, the explicit focus is on the buddha who presides over the pure realm of the western direction known as Sukhāvatī (bde ba can). He is referred to in the Tibetan text as Tsépamé (tshe dpag med), and although this could be back translated as Amitāyus, and must surely here be identified with Amitābha, we have chosen to render it instead as Aparimitāyus. This is in deference to the title, which is a little problematic in that it appears to identify the text instead with Aparimitāyurjñāna, the buddha of the pure realm in the zenith who is the focus of the Aparimitāyurjñānasūtra texts (or Tsédo, Toh 674 and 675) mentioned above.7
Perhaps as one result of potential ambiguity regarding the exact reference of its title, the text translated here, The Dhāraṇī “Essence of Immeasurable Longevity and Wisdom,” is also referred to in some Tibetan works as The Sūtra [or Dhāraṇī] of the King of the Sound of the Drum (rnga sgra’i rgyal po’i mdo/gzungs), which in Sanskrit would be *Dundubhisvararājasūtra. Indeed, the name of the dhāraṇī that this work contains is explicitly stated in the text to be Dundubhisvararāja, or Amṛtadundubhisvararāja, and tradition has taken this to be yet another moniker of Amitābha or Amitāyus of Sukhāvatī. As a name, Dundubhisvara is not uncommon in Indian literature, and other Mahāyāna works list Dundubhisvararāja (or the alternatives Dundubhisvara and Dundubhisvaranirgoṣa) as names of a former buddha, a series of former buddhas, and the buddha who dwells in the northern quarter,8 but in this context, no doubt on the basis of the mentions in this text, Tibetan Buddhist tradition equates the names Dundubhisvararāja (rnga sgra’i rgyal po) and Amṛtadundubhisvararāja (’chi med rnga sgra’i rgyal po) most frequently with Amitābha or Amitāyus of Sukhāvatī.
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One was seated on the banks of the Gaggarā lotus pond10 with a great monastic saṅgha of five hundred monks and a great saṅgha of bodhisattvas. The Blessed One addressed the monks, the monks gave the Blessed One their full attention, and the Blessed One [F.221.a] said to them:
“Monks, the Thus-Gone, worthy, perfect Buddha Aparimitāyus’ palace, called Having a Retinue, is ten thousand leagues wide. He was born into a kṣatriya family. Monks, the Thus-Gone, worthy, perfect Buddha Aparimitāyus’ father was a universal ruler named Most Gracious, and his mother was named Splendorous. His kṣatriya queen was named Gracious Protector. Monks, the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus’ son was named Moonlight, and his attendant’s name was Stainless Renown. Monks, the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus’ disciple foremost in insight was called Pinnacle of Grace, and his disciple foremost in miraculous powers and foremost in great endeavor was named Great Array.
“Monks, the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus’ Māra was called King of Offerings, and the name of his Devadatta was Gracious Gift. [F.221.b] Monks, the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus’ great gathering of hearers contains sixty thousand great hearers.
“Monks, all the beings who think well of him should bear in mind the name of the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus, practice for ten days with an undistracted mind that recollects the Buddha, and continually think of the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus who dwells in the realm of Sukhāvatī.
“They should also continually recite the dhāraṇī of Śrī Amṛtadundubhisvararāja.12 If all beings, three times a day and three times a night, prostrate with the five points of the body to the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus while thinking of him, after ten days they will have a vision of the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus and a vision of all the blessed buddhas dwelling in the ten directions. If they dedicate all their roots of virtue to rebirth in the realm of Sukhāvatī, when they die the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus will be present before them, and they will be reborn in the buddha field of the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus.
tadyathā śavale avale sañjale nirdeśe nirjāte nirukte nirmukhe jvalaparicchedani sukhavatinirdeśe amṛte āyurgarbha13nirhāni amṛte ayuḥprasādhane nirbuddhi ākāśanirdeśe ākāśanirjāte14 ākāśanirkuśale ākāśanirdarśane ākāśādhiṣṭhāne sukhavati ādhiṣṭhāne rūpanirdeśe catvāridharmaprasādhane catvāri āryasatyaprasādhane catvārimārgabhavanaprasādhane15 bala16vīryaprasādhane dharmācchedane kuśale kuśalanirdeśe kuśalapratiṣṭhāne buddhākuśale viśuddhaprabhā17sa dharmakaraṇe nirjati nirbuddhe vimale viraje rājase rasāgre rasāgrabale rasāgrādhiṣṭhite kule pratikule vikule dānte sudānta18citte supraśāntacitte supratiṣṭhite sule sumukhīdharme ca dharme bale ca bale anuśābale buddhākāśaguṇe buddhākāśanirguṇe amṛtadundubhiḥsvare svāhā
“Monks, faithful [F.222.a] sons or daughters of good family who recite this Amṛtadundubhisvararāja dhāraṇī as it has been taught should dress in clean clothes and, in a place that is pure and unspoiled, make offerings of flowers and perfumes to the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus. They should imagine the lotus seat at the seat of awakening and the perfect Bodhi tree. They should arouse longing to be there, and if they have such longing and faith they will be reborn in the buddha field of the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus.
“Monks, the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus’ king of trees is the tree called Radiating Jeweled Lotus, and it is covered in flowers and fruit. The lotus seat, which is pure, bright, and fine, is called Brilliant Light Ray. The Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus is seated there surrounded by many precious jewels. The bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara is to his right, the bodhisattva Mahāsthāmaprāpta is to his left, and they are all surrounded by an incalculable gathering of bodhisattvas. Faithful sons or daughters of good family who have great devotion, faith, and reverence will be reborn there. They will take miraculous birth on great lotuses made of the seven precious jewels situated on the great golden ground.
“Monks, any monk, nun, male lay practitioner, or female lay practitioner who bears in mind the name of the Thus-Gone Aparimitāyus will never have to face any dangers from fire, dangers from water, dangers from poison, dangers from weapons, dangers from yakṣas, and dangers from rākṣasas, except for those that arise due to the ripening of previous actions.”
When the Blessed One had spoken these words, the monks, the entire retinue, and the world with its gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas rejoiced and praised what the Blessed One had said. [F.222.b]
Note that there is a discrepancy among various databases for cataloging the Toh 850 version of this text within vol. 100 or 101 of the Degé Kangyur. See Toh 850 note 9 for details.
’phags pa tshe dang ye shes dpag tu med pa’i snying po’i gzungs (Āryāparimitāyurjñānahṛdayadhāraṇī). Toh 676, Degé Kangyur vol. 91 (rgyud ’bum, ba), folios 220.b–222.b.
’phags pa tshe dang ye shes dpag tu med pa’i snying po’i gzungs (Āryāparimitāyurjñānahṛdayadhāraṇī). Toh 850, Degé Kangyur vol. 100 (gzungs ’dus, e), folios 62.a–64.a.
’phags pa tshe dang ye shes dpag tu med pa’i snying po’i gzungs (Āryāparimitāyurjñānahṛdayadhāraṇī). 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, vol. 91, pp. 808–15.
’phags pa tshe dang ye shes dpag tu med pa’i snying po’i gzungs (Āryāparimitāyurjñānahṛdayadhāraṇī). 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, vol. 97, pp. 154–60.
’phags pa tshe dang ye shes dpag tu med pa’i snying po. Stok Kangyur 105 (rgyud, pha), folios 202.b–205.a.
bcom ldan ’das snang ba mtha’ yas kyi gzungs sngags (Bhagavadamitābhadhāraṇīmantra). Toh 677, Degé Kangyur vol. 91 (rgyud, ba), folio 222.b; Toh 864, vol. 100 (gzungs ’dus, e), folios 87.b–88.a.
bde ldan gyi snying po. Toh 690, Degé Kangyur vol. 91 (rgyud, ba), folio 223.a; Toh 889, vol. (gzungs ’dus, e), folio 165.b.
’phags pa bde ba can gyi bkod pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Āryasukhāvatīvyūhanāmamahāyānasūtra). Toh 115, Degé Kangyur vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 195.b–200.b. English translation in Sakya Pandita Translation Group (2011).
’phags pa bskal pa bzang po pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Āryabhadrakalpikanāmamahāyānasūtra). Toh 94, Degé Tengyur vol. 45 (mdo sde, ka), folios 1.b–340.a. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee (forthcoming).
’phags pa ’od dpag med kyi bkod pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Āryāmitābhavyūhanāmamahāyānasūtra). Toh 49, Degé Kangyur vol. 39 (dkon brtsegs, ka), folios 237.b–270.a.
’phags pa tshe dang ye shes dpag tu med pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Āryāparimitāyurjñānanāmamahāyānasūtra). Toh 674, Degé Kangyur vol. 91 (rgyud, ba), folios 211.b–216.a; Toh 849, vol. 100 (gzungs ’dus, e), folios 57.b–62.a. English translation in Roberts and Bower (2021a).
’phags pa tshe dang ye shes dpag tu med pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Āryāparimitāyurjñānanāmamahāyānasūtra). Toh 675, Degé Kangyur vol. 91 (rgyud, ba), folios 216.a–220.b. English translation in Roberts and Bower (2021b).
’phags pa tshe dpag med kyi snying po. Toh 673a, Degé Kangyur vol. 91 (rgyud, ba), folio 211.b. English translation in Roberts and Bower (2021c)
’phags pa yon tan bsngags pa dpag tu med pa zhes bya ba’i gzungs (Āryāparimitaguṇānuśāṁsanāmadhāraṇī). Toh 679, Degé Kangyur vol. 91 (rgyud, ba), folio 223.a; Toh 851, vol. 100 (gzungs ’dus, e), folio 64.a. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation Committee (2020).
pho brang stod thang ldan dkar gyi chos kyi ’gyur ro cog gi dkar chag [Denkarma]. Toh 4364, Degé Tengyur vol. 206 (sna tshogs, jo), folios 294.b–310.a.
snang ba mtha’ yas rjes su dran pa. Toh 678, Degé Kangyur vol. 91 (rgyud, ba), folios 222.b–223.a; Toh 867, vol. 100 (gzungs ’dus, e), folio 88.b.
dkar chag ’phang thang ma. Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2003.
Dharmachakra Translation Committee, trans. The Dhāraṇī Praising the Qualities of the Immeasurable One (Āryāparimitaguṇānuśāṁsanāmadhāraṇī, Toh 679, 851). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2020.
———. The Good Eon (Āryabhadrakalpikanāmamahāyānasūtra, Toh 94). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2022.
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Roberts, Peter Alan, and Emily Bower, trans. (2021a) The Aparimitāyurjñāna Sūtra (1) (Āryāparimitāyurjñānanāmamahāyānasūtra, Toh 674, 849). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2021.
———, trans. (2021b) The Aparimitāyurjñāna Sūtra (2) (Āryāparimitāyurjñānanāmamahāyānasūtra, Toh 675). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2021.
———, trans. (2021c) The Essence of Amitāyus (Toh 673a). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2021.
Sakya Pandita Translation Group, trans. The Display of the Pure Land of Sukhāvatī (Āryasukhāvatīvyūhanāmamahāyānasūtra, Toh 115). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, 2011.
- ’od mtha’ yas
- ’chi med rnga sgra’i rgyal po
- tshe dang ye shes dpag tu med pa
- tshe dpag med
- spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug
- byang chub kyi shing
Brilliant Light Ray
- bkra ba’i ’od zer can
- lhas byin
- rnga sgra’i rgyal po
- dang ba
- bzang skyong ma
- bkod pa chen po
- nyan thos chen po
Having a Retinue
- ’khor dang bcas pa
King of Offerings
- mchod pa’i rgyal po
king of trees
- shing gi rgyal po
- rgyal rigs
- mthu chen thob pa
- maud gal gyi bu
- zla ba’i ’od
- bzang po’i mchog
Patsap Nyima Drak
- pa tshab nyi ma grags
Pinnacle of Grace
- bzang po’i tog
prostrate with the five points of the body
- yan lag lngas phyag
- pun+ya sam b+ha wa
Radiating Jeweled Lotus
- rin po che’i pad+ma rnam par snang ba
- sha ri’i bu
seat of awakening
- byang chub kyi snying po
- gzi brjid can
- snyan pa dri ma med
- bde ba can
the banks of the Gaggarā lotus pond
- gang ga tas bskor ba’i rdzing bu’i ’gram
- ’khor los sgyur ba’i rgyal po