The Bhūtaḍāmara Tantra
Degé Kangyur, vol. 95 (rgyud ’bum, dza), folios 238.a–263.a
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The Bhūtaḍāmara Tantra is a Buddhist esoteric manual on magic and exorcism. The instructions on ritual practices that constitute its main subject matter are intended to give the practitioner mastery over worldly divinities and spirits. Since the ultimate controller of such beings is Vajrapāṇi in his form of Bhūtaḍāmara, the “Tamer of Spirits,” it is Vajrapāṇi himself who delivers this tantra in response to a request from Śiva. Notwithstanding this esoteric origin, this tantra was compiled anonymously around the seventh or eighth century ᴄᴇ, introducing for the first time the cult of its titular deity. Apart from a few short ritual manuals (sādhana), this tantra remains the only major work dedicated solely to Bhūtaḍāmara.
This translation was produced by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the supervision of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. Wiesiek Mical translated the text from the Sanskrit manuscripts, prepared the Sanskrit edition, and wrote the introduction. Thomas Doctor then compared the translation against the Tibetan translation found in the Degé Kangyur and edited the text. Special thanks are owed to Dr. Péter-Dániel Szántó for making available his transcript of the manuscript, “Göttingen Xc 14/50 I,” which was our default source for the reconstruction of the Sanskrit text.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
“I will now teach the detailed sādhana procedure for female spirits that has been taught by Great Wrath himself in this great sovereign Bhūtaḍāmara Tantra, the most secret among all that is secret. It produces manifold accomplishments for the sake of benefitting poor and unfortunate ones.
“The practitioner should go at night to a champak tree203 and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times for three days.204 When the recitations are complete, he should offer an elaborate pūjā, burn bdellium incense, and recite again. Vibhūṣaṇī will arrive at midnight without fail. When she does she should be given a welcome offering of sandalwood-scented water. She will be pleased and will become his mother, sister, or wife.205 If she becomes a mother, she and her retinue of one hundred and eight will offer clothes, ornaments, food, and so forth. If she becomes a wife, she will offer one thousand206 dinars and an elixir of long life. If she becomes a sister, she will travel up to one thousand leagues to procure a celestial woman to offer. She will also give divine elixirs and treasures.
“The practitioner should go at night [F.252.b] to a charnel ground and recite the mantra ten thousand times. At the end of the recitation the spirit Kuṇḍalahāriṇī208 will arrive without fail. When she does, she should be given a welcome offering of blood. She will be pleased. The practitioner should say, ‘Please be my mother.’ She will care for him like a mother.209
“The practitioner should go at night to a solitary Śiva liṅga and recite the mantra ten thousand times. Siṃhārī will arrive in person and say, ‘Hey practitioner! What can I do for you?’ The practitioner should reply, ‘Please be my wife.’ She will offer a divine elixir of long life, eight dinars, and a pair of garments.
“The practitioner should go to a temple of Vajrapāṇi and offer a bunch of oleander flowers to either a painting or figurine of Hāsinī placed near Vajrapāṇi.210 He should recite the mantra until midnight, at which time Hāsinī will swiftly arrive in person at the temple of Vajradhara. When she has arrived, she should be given a welcome offering of water mixed with red sandalwood. She will say, ‘Practitioner, what do you command me to do?’ He should reply, ‘Be my servant!’ She will follow him continually and offer clothes, ornaments, and food. These should all be used until nothing of them remains. If he stores any of these away, the same will not happen again. At night a celestial palace will appear.
“The practitioner should go to the confluence of two rivers and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times for seven days. On the seventh day he should offer an elaborate pūjā and begin reciting as soon as the sun sets. Lighting sandalwood incense, he should recite until midnight. Then Naṭī will swiftly arrive in person. When she has arrived, she can be sexually embraced and will become his wife. Leaving behind on his bed a hundred palas of celestial gold, she will depart at dawn. She will always do the same, day after day. The practitioner should spend everything without any remainder. If he saves any of it, he will not receive more.
“The practitioner will definitely succeed by merely reciting her name. ‘Definitely’ means always. No recitation, burnt offerings, or preliminary practice is necessary. He will succeed right away, just as Vajrapāṇi has declared.212
“The practitioner should go at night to the door of his own house and recite the mantra for three days. Rati is certain to arrive and perform the duties of a servant, including all the sowing of seeds, the ploughing of fields, all the housework, and so on.213
“The practitioner should go at night to a place sacred to the mother goddesses bringing a dish of meat, and follow the procedure as prescribed for fish and meat. He should recite the mantra one thousand and eight times for seven days. Kāmeśvarī is certain to arrive. When she does, he should give her a welcome offering of water and blood.214 She will say, ‘Master, what is your command?’ The practitioner should reply, ‘Hey goddess, please be my wife.’ She will become his wife, fulfill his every wish, and grant him a kingdom.
“At night, the practitioner should prepare a bed in a temple215 and perform worship there using white sandalwood and jasmine flowers. He should light bdellium incense and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times. At the end of this recitation Devī is certain to arrive. When she does, the practitioner should pleasure her with embraces and kisses or however he likes. In her form as a nubile, golden-colored woman adorned with every kind of jewelry, she will become his wife. She will offer eight dinars and a pair of garments.216 She will offer satisfying food to those in his own circle, while to himself she will offer riches brought from the abode of Vaiśravaṇa.
“One should recite these mantras in secret. One will achieve one’s purpose at the end of recitation every time.”
So spoke the lord.217
|+||plus signs replace illegible text|
|]||a right square bracket marks the lemma, i.e., the adopted reading for which variants are adduced|
|°||an upper ring indicates truncation of a word|
|†||daggers enclose unintelligible text|
|A||Tokyo University Library (New 274 / Old 567)|
|B||Tokyo University Library (New 273 / Old 483)|
|G||Göttingen University Library (Göttingen Xc 14 / 50 I)|
|SM||Sādhanamālā, the sādhana of Bhūtaḍāmara (sādhana no. 264)|
|Tib.||Tibetan text of the Bhūtaḍāmara Tantra in the Degé canon (Toh 747)|
Bhūtaḍāmaratantram. Rāya, Kṛṣṇa Kumāra, ed. Vārāṇasī: Prācya Prakāśana, 1933.
Bhūtaḍāmaratantra. University of Göttingen Library, Xc 14/50 I.
Bhūtaḍāmaramahātantrarāja. University of Tokyo Library, New 274/Old 567.
Bhūtaḍāmaramahātantrarāja. University of Tokyo Library, New 273/Old 483.
Bhattacharyya, Benoytosh, ed., Sādhanamālā (pp. 512−28). Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1968.
’byung po ’dul ba zhes bya ba’i rgyud kyi rgyal po chen po (Bhūtaḍāmara Tantra). Toh 747, Degé Kangyur vol. 95 (rgyud ’bum, dza), folios 238.a–263.a.
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———. The Indian Buddhist Iconography Based on the Sādhanamālā and Other Cognate Sanskrit Texts and Rituals. Calcutta: Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1958.
Bühnemann, Gudrun. “Buddhist Deities and Mantras in the Hindu Tantras I: The Tantrasārasaṃgraha and the Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati.” Indo-Iranian Journal 42:4 (1999): 303–34.
Cabezón, José Ignacio. The Buddha’s Doctrine and the Nine Vehicles. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Pal, Pratapaditya. Hindu Religion and Iconology According to the Tantrasāra. Los Angeles: Vichitra Press, 1981.