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.
“The practitioner should go to a charnel ground and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times as a preliminary practice. Then he should start the main practice.
“He should go to a charnel ground at night and offer into a fire one thousand and eight51 oblations using sticks of cutch wood smeared with curds, honey, and ghee. A female spirit who roams charnel grounds will quickly arrive and offer her services. She will work the fields and will give one dinar every single day.
“He should go at night to a cultivated field and make the prescribed offerings of fish and meat that have been incanted twenty-one times. A piśācī who performs tasks will then do the work as described above.
“He should go at night to a charnel ground and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times. A female spirit of the piśācī class who performs tasks will soon arrive in her gentle aspect, eager to receive orders. She will do house chores, help resolve disputes, carry out fierce activities, and perform other tasks.
“He should go at night to a charnel ground and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times. A female spirit of the piśācī class who performs tasks will swiftly arrive surrounded by a retinue of one hundred.52 Once she has arrived, the practitioner should offer her a bali of blood53 following the procedure as required for fish and meat. She will be pleased and will perform the tasks of a servant. Every single day she will give, to the practitioner and four others, a pair of garments, one dinar, food, and ornaments. She will fetch and deliver a beautiful woman even from a distance of one hundred leagues. In short, she will perform the duties of a servant for as long as the practitioner lives.”
|+||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.