The Dhāraṇī of Parṇaśavarī
Degé Kangyur, vol. 94 (rgyud ’bum, tsha), folios 228.b–229.a
Translated by Ryan Damron and Wiesiek Mical under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The Dhāraṇī of Parṇaśavarī is a short dhāraṇī dedicated to the piśācī Parṇaśavarī, who is renowned in Buddhist lore for her power to cure disease, avert epidemics, pacify conflicts, and otherwise protect those who recite her dhāraṇī from hardships beyond their control. Her name can be translated as the “Leaf-Clad Mountain Woman” and points to her status as a piśācī, a class of wild and often dangerous supernatural beings that haunt the untamed forests and mountains of the South Asian and Himalayan landscape. The dhāraṇī translated here is among the oldest extant works dedicated to her and represents one of the earliest known rites used to invoke her assistance. The later Indian and Tibetan traditions recognize Parṇaśavarī as a manifestation of the goddess Tārā, and popularized recitation of her dhāraṇīs and mantras as a specifically effective means for countering epidemics. Parṇaśavarī appears in rites or maṇḍalas associated with the Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa, Hevajra Tantra, Sampuṭa Tantra, and Caṇḍamahāroṣaṇa Tantra and remains popular in Nepalese Buddhism, where her dhāraṇī has been incorporated into the “Seven Days” (Saptavāra) practice of reciting one dhāraṇī per day of the week.1 She is also widely practiced in the Tibetan tradition, as is clear from the large body of indigenous Tibetan literature dedicated to her rituals and practices.
In the dhāraṇī translated here, Parṇaśavarī is described only briefly as a piśācī with two arms, one holding a noose and the other an axe. Her form evolved in the later Indo-Tibetan tradition, however, and a three-faced, six-armed form has become widely popular. In this depiction her body is described as yellow or green in color, with a matching center face, a white face to the right, and a red face to the left. Her six arms wield a vajra, axe, and arrow on the right while making the gesture of threat and holding a noose, bow, and bundle of leaves on the left.2 Her relationship to wild and untamed spaces is made particularly explicit by the description of leaves clinging to her body and her matted locks, tiara of woven flowers, tiger-skin sash, and so forth.3
Though included in the Kangyur, The Dhāraṇī of Parṇaśavarī lacks many of the expected features of canonical Buddhist scripture. The dhāraṇī does not begin with the standard introductory formula (nidāna) that establishes the setting for the scripture, nor is it framed as a discourse of the Buddha Śākyamuni or another member of the Buddhist pantheon. The text begins with a general homage to the Three Jewels followed by a more specific homage to the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the lotus family—Amitābha, Avalokiteśvara, and Mahāsthāmaprāpta—that serves to categorize Parṇaśavarī and her practice as belonging to that family of deities and rites. Following this homage the dhāraṇī continues with a plea for Parṇaśavarī’s intercession, via her dhāraṇī, in matters of disease, disaster, and strife. After this plea comes the dhāraṇī itself, which is rendered in a mixture of phonetic Sanskrit and Tibetan translation. Like the passage that precedes it, the dhāraṇī consists of a vigorous exhortation to Parṇaśavarī to pacify an array of threats that are generally beyond the supplicant’s personal control, including disease, epidemics, physical danger, and astrological influences. The text then ends abruptly with the completion of the dhāraṇī.
The Dhāraṇī of Parṇaśavarī represents one of three ritual manuals dedicated to Parṇaśavarī included in the Tibetan canon, manuals which in turn serve as the basis for seven different but closely related texts, two in the Kangyur and five in the Tengyur. Those in the Kangyur seem to have been brought to Tibet some two centuries earlier than those in the Tengyur.
The two Parṇaśavarī texts in the Kangyur must have been derived from the same basic text. The difference between the version translated here, The Dhāraṇī of Parṇaśavarī, and the other, The Parṇaśavarī Sūtra, is that in the latter the original text is rendered entirely in transliterated Sanskrit, and is then followed by a series of verses in Tibetan emphasizing the sūtra’s efficacy in a number of different contexts, with a specific emphasis on veterinary applications; the verses are unique to that version. In those Kangyurs that have an added Compendium of Dhāraṇīs, like the Degé Kangyur, these two Parṇaśavarī texts are each duplicated therein; thus in the Degé Kangyur The Dhāraṇī of Parṇaśavarī appears once in the Tantra section as Toh 736, and again in the Compendium of Dhāraṇīs as Toh 995,4 while The Parṇaśavarī Sūtra appears as Toh 735 in the Tantra section and Toh 994 in the Compendium of Dhāraṇīs. In the Tengyur, two texts almost identical to the one translated here are each included in two different anthologies of sādhanas. One has the title The Dhāraṇī Mantra of Parṇaśavarī (Toh 3361), and the other The Dhāraṇī of Parṇaśavarī (Toh 3540).
None of the instances of the text in the Kangyur include a translators colophon, but in the Tengyur the colophon to Toh 3361 identifies it as having been translated by the paṇḍita Amoghavajra and Khampa Lotsāwa Bari Chödrak (ca. eleventh century), and the Tengyur catalog lists it among the collection of sādhanas compiled by this pair;5 while Toh 3540 is listed among the sādhanas compiled by Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147–1216), third of the five great Sakya forefathers.6 However, the version of The Dhāraṇī of Parṇaśavarī found in the Kangyur almost certainly predates these collections significantly, since its inclusion in the Denkarma catalog indicates that it had been translated into Tibetan by the early ninth century.7 The dhāraṇī was translated into Chinese twice, once by Amoghavajra (705–74)8 and again by Faxian (ca. tenth century).9 From Amoghavajra’s Chinese translation we can be confident that the dhāraṇī was circulating in India at least as early as the eighth century.
Parallel to all six of these Tibetan versions, and in addition to their transliterated content, a purely Sanskrit witness has been preserved in the Sādhanamālā under the title Āryaparṇaśavarītārādhāraṇī, The Noble Dhāraṇī of Parṇaśavarī-Tārā.10 The title itself is unique for its identification of Parṇaśavarī as a form of the goddess Tārā, which is not specified in any of the canonical works dedicated to Parṇaśavarī translation but accords with the later Indo-Tibetan tradition. However, since none of the many manuscripts of the Sādhanamāla can be dated to earlier than the twelfth century ᴄᴇ, the inclusion of Tārā in the title (which is not even a feature of all the manuscripts)11 cannot be taken as evidence for that identification with Tārā going back as far as the earlier Tibetan witnesses. Apart from this difference in the title, the Sanskrit and Tibetan texts are the same except for some minor variations.
The Sādhanamālā contains two additional texts on Parṇaśavarī, and it is these two texts that are the surviving Sanskrit parallels to the remaining three Tibetan translations in the Tengyur. Sādhanamālā no. 14812 entitled The Sādhana of Parṇaśavarī, is, as the title suggests, a sādhana and so does not include the long dhāraṇī found in the present translation. Instead, it includes the much shorter mantra similar to the one popularly associated with Parṇaśavarī in the later Indo-Tibetan tradition: oṃ piśāci parṇaśavari sarvamāripraśamani svāha, “Oṃ Hail to the Piśācī Parṇaśavarī who pacifies every pestilence!” This sādhana was translated and included in the Tibetan canon as Toh 3360, a translation prepared by Amoghavajra and Bari Chödrak,13 and as Toh 3538, a work compiled by Drakpa Gyaltsen. Finally, Sādhanamālā no. 149,14 also entitled The Sādhana of Parṇaśavarī, consists of a much shorter sādhana that was included in Drakpa Gyaltsen’s collection (Toh 3539).15 This sādhana differs from the preceding one in describing Parṇaśavarī’s right and left faces as being black and white instead of white and red, and includes a slightly longer variant of the deity’s mantra: oṃ piśāci parṇaśavari sarvamāripraśamani hūṃ phaṭ svāhā.
This English translation is based on the Tibetan text from the Degé Kangyur in consultation with the Tibetan translations found in the Stok Palace and Phukdrak Kangyurs and the Sanskrit witness from the Sādhanamālā. The main dhāraṇī follows the text recorded in the Tibetan translation but has been lightly emended based on the Sanskrit attested in the Sādhanamālā.
This text was translated during the coronavirus pandemic of 2019–2020 and is offered by 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha with the aspiration that all beings everywhere may find comfort and relief during this challenging time.
May truth, words of truth, and true speech send them away and dispel them!20 May these words of mantra empowered by the wise guard me and all beings. May they protect us, keep us secure, defend us, and bring us peace and good fortune. May they protect us from punishment and weapons. May they neutralize all poisons. May they protect from the dangers of fire and the dangers of water. May they cut down kākhordas. May they establish the protective boundary and bind the earth.
The dhāraṇī is:
tunna tunna vitunna vitunna tuṇa tuṇa tumule svāhā. oṃ gauri gāndhāri caṇḍāli mātaṅgi pukkasi svāhā. oṃ aṅkure māṅkure kurare parṇaśavari svāhā. namas sarvaśavarīṇāṃ mahāśavarīṇāṃ24 bhagavati piśāci parṇaśavari piśāci svāhā. oṃ piśāci parṇaśavari hrīḥ jaḥ hūṃ phaṭ piśāci svāhā.25
Note that there is a discrepancy among various databases for cataloging the Toh 995 version of this text within vol. 101 or 102 of the Degé Kangyur. See Toh 995 note 4 for details.
’phags ma ri khrod lo ma gyon ma zhes bya ba’i gzungs (Āryaparṇaśavarīnāmadhāraṇī). Toh 736, Degé Kangyur vol. 94 (rgyud, tsha), folios 228.b–229.a.
’phags ma ri khrod lo ma gyon ma zhes bya ba’i gzungs (Āryaparṇaśavarīnāmadhāraṇī). Toh 995, Degé Kangyur vol. 101 (gzungs ’dus, waM), folios 149.a–149.b.
’phags ma ri khrod lo ma gyon ma zhes bya ba’i gzungs (Āryaparṇaśavarīnāmadhāraṇī). Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 108 (rgyud, tsa), folios 77.b–78.b.
’phags ma ri khrod lo ma gyon ma zhes bya ba’i gzungs (Āryaparṇaśavarīnāmadhāraṇī). Phugdrak Kangyur vol. 117 (rgyud, dza), folios 259.a–260.b.
par+Na sha ba ri’i mdo (*Paṛṇaśavarīsūtra). Toh 735, Degé Kangyur vol. 94 (rgyud, tsha), folios 227.a–228.a.
par+Na sha ba ri’i mdo (*Paṛṇaśavarīsūtra). Toh 994, Degé Kangyur vol. 101 (gzungs ’dus, waM), folios 148.a–149.a.
ri khrod lo ma can gyi sgrub thabs (Parṇaśavarīsādhana). Toh 3360, Degé Tengyur vol. 76 (rgyud, mu), folios 39.a–39.b.
’phags ma ri khrod lo ma can gyi gzungs sngags. Toh 3361, Degé Tengyur vol. 76 (rgyud, mu), folio 39.b.
ri khrod lo ma can gyi sgrub thabs. Toh 3538, Degé Tengyur vol. 76 (rgyud, mu), folio 179.a–b.
ri khrod lo ma can gyi sgrub thabs. Toh 3539, Degé Tengyur vol. 76 (rgyud, mu), folio 179.b–180.a.
’phags ma ri khrod lo ma can gyi gzungs. Toh 3540, Degé Tengyur vol. 76 (rgyud, mu), folio 180.a.
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.
bstan ’gyur dpe bsdur ma’i dkar chag chen mo. [Catalog of the Comparative Tengyur]. 2 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang, 2005.
bcom ldan ’das ma ri khrod lo ma gyon ma’i sgrub thabs nad ’joms stobs sgron ma. rin chen gter mdzod vol. 73 (bi), folios 111–17. Paro: stod lung mtshur phu’i phar khang, 1976–80.
Sādhanamālā. Edited by Benoytosh Bhattacharyya. 2 vols. First published, Baroda: Central Library, 1925. Reprinted, Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1968.
Herrmann-Pfandt, Adelheid. Die lHan kar ma: ein früher Katalog der ins Tibetische übersetzten buddhistischen Texte. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2008.
Hidas, Gergely. “Dhāraṇī Sūtras.” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Buddhism, edited by Jonathan Silk et al., vol. 1, Literature and Languages, 129–37. Leiden: Brill, 2015.
Lancaster, Lewis R. The Korean Buddhist Canon: A Descriptive Catalogue.
- ’od dpag med
- don yod rdo rje
- spyan ras gzigs
Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen
- rje btsun grags pa rgyal mtshan
- byad stems
Khampa Lotsāwa Bari Chödrak
- khams pa lo tsA wa ba ri chos grags
- mthu chen thob pa
- ri khrod lo ma gyon ma
- sha za mo