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.
Then, Vajradhara pronounced the words of a mantra of inviolable efficacy, words that can kill any god:
As soon as this was pronounced, the world systems of the great trichiliocosm filled with intense vajra fire.220
The lord then said:
“Hūṁ, strike, phaṭ!”221
As soon as this was pronounced, Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Maheśvara, and all the worldly gods, as well as all celestial beings, including the many vidyādharas, nāgas, yakṣas, bhūtas, pretas, apsarases, piśācas, gandharvas, kinnaras, mahoragas, and garuḍas shattered into hundreds of pieces and died.222
Then Mañjuśrī, the princely youth, the bodhisattva, the great being,223 expressed his astonishment: “Well done! Well done, O glorious Vajradhara, supreme master Great Wrath! These wicked spirits and worldly deities will be overthrown in the future, in times to come.”
“Having climbed to the summit of a mountain, the practitioner should recite the mantra one hundred thousand times. His purpose will then be achieved. Then, during a full moon, he should prepare a pūjā according to his means, light a butter lamp, and recite the mantra all night. Precisely at dawn, Śaśī will arrive in person. When she does, he should give her a welcome offering of sandalwood-scented water. She will say words of appreciation.225 He should say, ‘Please be my wife.’ She will offer power substances and the elixir of long life, by means of which the practitioner will live one thousand years.
“The practitioner should prepare a maṇḍala with sandalwood and dairy products and recite the mantra ten thousand times for seven days.226 [F.254.a] On the seventh day he should offer an elaborate pūjā, and on the eighth day of the bright fortnight he should recite the mantra all night on top of a mountain. Tilottamā is certain to arrive at dawn and stand before him smiling coyly. He should embrace her, kiss her, and make love with her in silence.227 He will then achieve his purpose. She will give whatever he wishes for. Riding on her back, he will be carried as far as the heavenly realms. In addition, she will even give him a kingdom.
“The practitioner should go to the confluence of two rivers and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times a day228 for seven days. On the seventh day, he should prepare an elaborate pūjā, light bdellium incense, and recite the mantra all night. Then, at dawn, Kāñcanamālā is certain to arrive, shining brightly.229 He should give her a welcome offering of sandalwood-scented water. Pleased, she will ask, ‘What can I do for you, my dear?’ The practitioner should say, ‘Please be my mother.’ She will then protect him like a mother. She will give food, ornaments, clothes, and so on to the practitioner and those close to him. He will live one thousand years.
“There are no restrictions with regard to a particular lunar day or astrological junction, nor is fasting prescribed. The practitioner should go to the top of a mountain and recite the mantra ten thousand times, repeating this again at night.230 Kuṇḍalahāriṇī is certain to arrive at midnight. She will become his wife and give 100,000231 dinars every day. Taking him upon her back, she will carry him all around the four continents.232 She will give him the elixir of long life and power substances.
“The practitioner should go to a temple and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times a day233 for one month. Then, when the month has passed, on a full moon day he should recite until midnight.234 Ratnamālā is certain to arrive at midnight, her anklets ringing. When she arrives, he should offer her a seat of flowers235 and say, ‘Welcome, goddess!’ She will reply, ‘What do you command me to do, master?’ The practitioner should reply, ‘Please be my wife.’ She will then perform the duties of a wife and bestow divine pleasures.236 He will live one thousand years.
“Beginning on the first day of the bright fortnight, the practitioner should offer an elaborate pūjā, prepare a maṇḍala with sandalwood powder,237 burn bdellium incense, and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times at the three junctions of each day. Then, during the full moon, he should prepare an elaborate pūjā and recite the mantra all night. Rambhā is certain to arrive at dawn.238 If she doesn’t arrive she will die. When she arrives she will become his wife and offer the elixir of long life. He can make love to her as much as he likes. He will live ten thousand years, and [F.254.b] when he dies he will be reborn in a royal family.
“The practitioner should go at night to a temple, burn sandalwood incense, and recite the mantra ten thousand times for one month. At the end of this period he should offer a pūjā according to his means and recite the mantra all night. Urvaśī will swiftly arrive at dawn. Once she has arrived, he should offer her a seat of flowers and say, ‘Welcome!’ She will reply, ‘Hey practitioner! What do you command?’ The practitioner should say, ‘Please be my wife.’ She will offer the elixir of long life and power substances. He should avoid sexual contact with other women. He will live five thousand years.
“Alone at night and ritually pure, the practitioner should draw the glorious Bhūṣaṇī with saffron ink on birch bark. Burning sandalwood incense, he should recite the mantra for one month. At the end of this period he should offer an elaborate pūjā and recite until midnight. Bhūṣaṇī is certain to arrive at midnight. When she does he should promptly make love to her. She will be pleased and will give him gold bullion and coins, pearls, and so forth. Every day she will present delicious foods. She will also offer the elixir of long life.”
So spoke the lord.
|+||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.
Bhattacharyya, Benoytosh. “The Cult of Bhūtaḍāmara.” Proceedings and Transactions of the Sixth All-India Oriental Conference: 349−70. Patna: Bihar and Orissa Research Society, 1933.
———. 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.