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 Vajrapāṇi, the lord of guhyakas,322 said this to Maheśvara:323 “Listen, Mahādeva! I will make everyone a servant of the one who transcends the triple universe. I will bring the rogue deities under control.”324
Maheśvara-Mahādeva then said to the lord, “Please give, O lord, the full instructions for the practice that will bond us to you325 along with the mudrās and mantric formulas of the one who is invincibly efficient326 and transcends the triple universe.”327
“The procedure for this maṇḍala is as follows:
“The vajra master should adorn himself with a garland of blue flowers, tie a blue bandana around his head, and put on a pair of blue garments. He should recite the following heart mantra of Great Wrath [F.260.a] for the benefit of all beings, resolved on success in the practice of Great Wrath. At that very time he will successfully take control of all deities.343
“Hūṁ, O vajra! Phaṭ!344
“As soon as this mantra is pronounced, all the deities will be brought under control.
“The mantras for vajra-castigation:
“The master should stand with his left leg outstretched and his right slightly bent. Raising the vajra-scepter,345 he will destroy all the deities with the mere utterance of the syllable hūṁ, just as Vajrapāṇi has declared. Instantly, the apsarases, yakṣiṇīs, nāginīs, bhūtas, and bhūtinīs, possessed of great powers, will perish, subjected to the mantra of vajra-castigation.346
“Following this recitation all the deities will be dead or castigated.
“Using this mantra, even a buddha is certain to be torn to pieces.
“As soon as this mantra is uttered, he will become able to effect the ‘external’ possession, the summoning, and the humbling.
“Next in the great sovereign Bhūtaḍāmara Tantra are the detailed instructions on the ritual of the maṇḍala of Great Wrath.
“The mantra for incense, in the southeast:
“Oṁ, Ratneśvarī, with incense in her hand! Hūṁ!356
“The mantra for perfume, in the southwest:
“The mantra for the lamp, in the northwest:
“The mudrā of the lion banner:
“Hold your fists together and extend both index fingers.
“Form your right hand into a fist and extend your index finger, bending it slightly.
“Form your left hand into a fist while extending your middle finger.
“Join your hands together with fingers outstretched and then slightly bend both index fingers.
“Entwine your fingers and extend both index fingers.
“Stretch out both hands and place them on your shoulders.
“Form your right hand into a fist while extending the middle finger.”
|+||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.