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 for three days. Each of the eight kātyāyanī spirits will swiftly arrive. When one of them appears, she should be given a welcome offering of a skull cup filled with blood. She will be pleased and say, ‘What can I do for you, my dear?’ He should reply, ‘Please be my mother.’ She will then protect and support him like a mother. She will give him a kingdom and fulfill his every wish. He will become extremely wealthy76 and will live for five hundred years. When he dies, he will be reborn in a royal family.
“The practitioner should go to a temple of the glorious Vajradhara [F.244.a] and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times77 as a preliminary practice. At night, he should return to the Vajradhara temple and recite; he will then see the form of a beautiful woman. She will grant him whatever boon he requests.
“The practitioner should go at night to a solitary Śiva liṅga and recite the mantra one thousand times. Within one day he will hear the sound of a woman’s anklets. On the second day he will see a celestial woman before him. He should neither dishonor her nor speak to her. On the third day, she will say, ‘Hey practitioner! What do you command me to do?’ He should reply, ‘Hey goddess, be my servant!’ She will serve him for as long as he lives. Taking him upon her back, she will carry him to Mount Sumeru or to the ocean, or any other such place. In addition, she will go to the house of the noble Kubera, take his riches, and offer them. She will procure, in the expanse of Jambudvīpa, a girl of superior beauty and offer her to the practitioner. If this celestial girl makes love to him, he will live five hundred years. When he dies, he will be reborn in a vassal royal family.
“The practitioner should go to the confluence of two rivers at night and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times. A celestial female spirit will arrive along with her retinue. When she has arrived, he should neither dishonor her nor address her. If he makes love to her in silence, she will stay, offering five dinars and a pair of garments every day.
“The practitioner should go to a garden at night and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times for three days. On the third day, he will hear the sound of a woman’s anklets. On the fourth, he will see the spirit herself. On the fifth, she will stand right in front of him. On the sixth, she will give him five dinars. On the seventh, she will come to his home. On the eighth, he should prepare a maṇḍala on a pillow,78 offer bdellium incense, and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times. A celestial spirit-girl will arrive at his home. When she arrives, he should make love to her, and she will become his wife. She will depart at daybreak, leaving a string of divine pearls on the bed. As soon as he grasps this string, [F.244.b] she will give another five hundred dinars and a pair of garments. She will topple all his enemies. His lifespan will extend to one thousand years. When he dies, he will be reborn in a royal family.
“The practitioner should go to an empty shrine at night and recite the mantra one hundred and eight times for three days. The female spirit, radiating bright light, is bound to come with a retinue of one hundred and eight. Once she has arrived, he should present her with a welcome offering of sandalwood-scented water. She will be pleased and become his wife. She will give him an elixir of longevity as well as clothes, adornments, food, and so forth to one hundred and eight of his dependents. He will live five thousand years, and upon death he will be reborn in a royal family.
“The practitioner should go to a royal residence at night and recite the mantra one thousand and eight times as a preliminary practice. On the fifth night, he should light a fire with the wood of Indian oleander and make an offering of one thousand and eight79 jasmine flowers smeared with curd, honey, and ghee. The great spirit lady, the queen of spirits, will swiftly arrive with her retinue of five hundred, accompanied by the loud jingling of anklets. Once she has arrived, she should be presented with a welcome offering of water with flowers80 and addressed with the words, ‘Please be my mother, sister, or wife.’ If she becomes the practitioner’s mother, he must not hurt her feelings. She will grant divine food, enjoyments, and a hundred thousand pieces of gold. If she becomes his younger sister, she will offer a kingdom and will travel one thousand leagues to find a woman to bring back and offer to him. If she becomes his wife she will, in her celestial form, offer sensual pleasure and fulfill all his wishes. He will live ten thousand years and be reborn in a royal family upon death.
“On the full moon, the practitioner should recite the mantra ten thousand times. He should go to a temple at night, make elaborate offerings, and recite the mantra all night. A female spirit will arrive at dawn. When she does, she should be given a welcome offering of blood. Pleased, she will be eager to serve, and she will give the practitioner five dinars and desirable food every day. He will live five hundred years.”
|+||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.
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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.