Degé Kangyur, vol. 44 (dkon brtsegs, cha), folios 27.a–29.b.
Translated by the Kīrtimukha Translation Group
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
At the opening of this sūtra, King Ajātaśatru’s son Siṃha and his five hundred attendants approach the Buddha, who is on Vulture Peak. After paying homage and offering golden parasols, Siṃha asks the Buddha a series of questions about the conduct of bodhisattvas. The Buddha answers each of Siṃha’s questions with a series of verses describing the various karmic causes that result in the qualities and attributes of bodhisattvas. Afterward, when Siṃha and his attendants promise to train in this teaching, the Buddha smiles, causing the three-thousandfold world system to quake. When the bodhisattva Ajita asks the Buddha why he smiled, the Buddha explains that Siṃha and all of his companions will become buddhas and establish buddhafields similar to that of Amitābha.
This sūtra was translated by the Kīrtimukha Translation Group in Boulder, Colorado. Celso Wilkinson, Laura Goetz, and L. S. Summer translated the text from the Tibetan and Sanskrit. Thank you to William Giddings for serving as consultant for inquiries related to the Chinese versions of the text. Also, thank you to Tsultrim Delek for answering some of our questions regarding the Tibetan.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
Siṃha’s Questions is listed as the thirty-seventh chapter of the Ratnakūṭa (Heap of Jewels) section of the Kangyur and was translated into Tibetan from an unknown Sanskrit source in the early ninth century by the Indian scholars Dānaśīla and Munivarman and the Tibetan translator and chief editor Yeshé Dé. It is listed in both ninth-century imperial catalogs, the Denkarma and Phangthangma.1
There are three versions of the text found in the Chinese Tripiṭaka. The translator of Taishō 344, the first and likely earliest version of the sūtra, is unknown.2 Taishō 343 was translated by Dharmarakṣa (zhu fa hu 竺法護) during the Jing Dynasty, around 200–300 ᴄᴇ. The text was again revised in China by the Indian translator Bodhiruci (pu ti liu zhi 菩提流志) sometime between 706 and 713, when he undertook a project to translate the Ratnakūṭa collection as a whole (Taishō 310) into Chinese. At that time, Siṃha’s Questions was included among fifteen sūtras that Bodhiruci chose to retranslate while accepting into his collection the Chinese of twenty-two other sūtras that had been translated previously.3
Any Sanskrit original was thought to be lost until recently, when a Sanskrit manuscript of Siṃha’s Questions, along with nineteen other sūtras, was found in the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Bhikṣuṇī Vinītā published a critical edition of this collection in the series Sanskrit Texts from the Autonomous Region (2010) along with an emended edition of the Sanskrit, parallel editions of the Tibetan and Chinese, an English translation based on the Sanskrit, and reference to other Tibetan and Chinese recensions in the notes. Unfortunately, due to the manuscript’s inaccessibility and the collection missing a final colophon, its origin and date are currently unknown.4
The sūtra is not particularly well known, but verses of it are quoted in a few Indian commentaries, including Śāntideva’s training anthology, the Śikṣāsamuccaya. It is also quoted in some Tibetan commentaries, usually in the context of using the Buddha’s words to verify that a certain virtuous practice is the concordant cause for developing a particular positive result or quality.5
Siṃha’s Questions presents the practices of bodhisattvas through a question-and-answer dialogue between the Buddha and Prince Siṃha, the son of King Ajātaśatru of Magadha. At the beginning of the sūtra, Siṃha and five hundred of his attendants approach the Buddha and supplicate him, each offering a golden parasol. Feeling confident, Siṃha asks the Buddha a series of questions about the conduct of bodhisattvas concerning how one attains the various sublime qualities and attributes possessed by bodhisattvas and by the Buddha himself. The Buddha then directly answers each question, listing the practice or virtuous conduct that acts as the concordant cause for acquiring each particular quality. The dialogue thereby becomes an elementary teaching on virtuous causes and results, encompassing a broad range of attainments and how they are accomplished through the proper virtuous activity.
The dialogue between Siṃha and the Buddha seems to keep a wide audience in mind, discussing matters that could potentially appeal to a layperson’s worldly interests, such as acquiring wealth, beauty, power, and loyal servants. However, the primary focus of Siṃha’s series of questions remains how to correctly follow the practices of bodhisattvas and attain the final goal of becoming a buddha. Even when his questions are concerned with how to attain wealth and power, they can be understood to be relevant to a bodhisattva’s career (to attract followers, etc.), and we can surmise that Siṃha’s interest in them is for the benefit of others.
At the conclusion of the sūtra, Siṃha and his attendants promise to follow this teaching. The Buddha is pleased and gives them an extraordinary prophecy: Siṃha and all five hundred attendants will become buddhas and will, three hundred eons after the emanation of Maitreya, in an eon called Great Illumination, establish buddhafields “like that of Amitābha.”
Prince Siṃha himself is an elusive figure in Buddhist literature. While his father, King Ajātaśatru, is quite famous in the sūtras, any mention of this particular Siṃha seems to be unique to this sūtra. King Ajātaśatru’s other son and eventual successor, Udayabhadra, is much better known in the histories and literature, but from our research there does not seem to be any connection between these two princes, nor mention of Siṃha, outside of this sūtra.6
Our translation is based primarily on the Tibetan found in the Degé Kangyur, with reference to all the recensions found in the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) and Stok Palace Kangyurs. Any significant differences in meaning between these versions have been documented in the notes. We also consulted fragments of the text found in the collection from Dunhuang, but these did not show any notable differences.7
The Sanskrit manuscript from the Potala was closely consulted, as were the Sanskrit verses quoted in the Śikṣāsamuccaya. The Sanskrit witnesses have been favored in some instances where they present a clearer reading than the Tibetan, particularly when these differences were verified by the Chinese translations. In this regard, Vinītā’s critical edition was an invaluable source, as we consulted it for the Sanskrit as well as for its comparative editions of the Tibetan and Chinese. In cases where we have referred to the Chinese, we have given preference to Bodhiruci’s translation, as it was a revision made with knowledge of the previous Chinese versions, and it also corresponds most closely with the Sanskrit manuscript. Any significant differences in meaning found in the Sanskrit and Chinese have been documented in the notes.
Homage to all buddhas and bodhisattvas!
When this Dharma presentation was taught, eight hundred million beings set out for supreme awakening.117 When the Blessed One had spoken, Siṃha, along with his companions and the world with its gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas, rejoiced and praised the words of the Blessed One.118
This concludes the thirty-seventh chapter, “Siṃha’s Questions,” from the eleven hundred chapters of the Dharma presentation of The Noble Great Heap of Jewels.
|D||Degé (sde dge) Kangyur|
|H||Lhasa (zhol) Kangyur|
|K||Kangxi (Peking late 17th century) Kangyur|
|KY||Yongle (g.yung lo) Kangyur|
|N||Narthang (snar thang) Kangyur|
|S||Stok Palace (stog pho brang bris ma) Kangyur|
|Sanskrit||Sanskrit manuscript found in the Potala Palace (see introduction and bibliography)|
|Taishō 310||8th century Chinese translation by Bodhiruci (菩提流志), Taishō 310 (37)|
|Taishō 343||3rd century Chinese translation by Dharmarakṣa (竺法護)|
|Taishō 344||An early Chinese translation by unknown translators|
|Śikṣ||Sanskrit text of Śikṣāsamuccaya by Śāntideva|
seng ges zhus pa (Siṃhaparipṛcchā). Toh 81, Degé Kangyur vol. 44 (dkon brtsegs, cha), folios 27.a–29.b.
seng ges zhus pa. bka’ ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Kangyur], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 108 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 2006–9, vol. 44, pp. 72–81.
seng ges zhus pa. Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 40 (dkon brtsegs, cha), folios 71.a–74.b.
IOL Tib J 201. British Library, London. Accessed through The International Dunhuang Project: The Silk Road Online.
IOL Tib J 202. British Library, London. Accessed through The International Dunhuang Project: The Silk Road Online.
Śāntideva. bslab pa kun las btus pa (Śikṣāsamuccaya). Toh 3940, Degé Tengyur vol. 213 (dbu ma, khi), folios 3.a–194.b.
Könchok Lhündrup (dkon mchog lhun grub) and Sangyé Phuntsok (sangs rgyas phun tshogs). “dam pa’i chos kyi byung tshul bstan pa’i rgya mtshor ’jug pa’i gru chen dang de’i rtsom ’phro kha skong legs bshad nor bu’i bang mdzod.” In sa skya’i chos ’byung gces bsdus, 4:1–253. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 2009. BDRC W1PD90704.
Künga Sangpo (kun dga’ bzang po). “spring yig slob ma la phan pa.” In ngor chen kun dga’ bzang po’i bka’ ’bum (The Complete Works of Ngor-chen Kun-dga’-bzang-po), 4:619–60 (folios 310.a–330.b). Dehradun: Sakya Center, 199?. BDRC W11577.
“Siṃhaparipṛcchāmahāyānasūtra.” In A Unique Collection of Twenty Sūtras in a Sanskrit Manuscript from the Potala. Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region 7/1, vol. I,2, pp. 453–520. A critical edition of the Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan with an English translation edited and translated by Bhikṣunī Vinītā. Beijing: China Tibetology Publishing House Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 2010.
Siṃhaparipṛcchāmahāyānasūtra (大寶積經, 阿闍世王子會, “Ratnakūṭa-sūtra, the Meeting with the Son of King Ajātaśatru”). Taishō 310. Accessed May 31, 2018.
Siṃhaparipṛcchānāmamahāyānasūtra (佛説太子刷護經). Taishō 343. Accessed May 31, 2018.
Siṃhaparipṛcchānāmamahāyānasūtra (佛説太子和休經). Taishō 344. Accessed May 31, 2018.
Śāntideva. Śikṣāsamuccaya. In Śikṣāsamuccaya of Śāntideva, edited by P. L. Vaidya. Buddhist Sanskrit Texts 11. Darbhanga: Mithila Institute of Post-Graduate Studies and Research in Sanskrit Learning, 1960. English translation in Goodman, Charles. The Training Anthology of Śāntideva: A Translation of the Śikṣā-samuccaya. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
Chakravarti, Uma. Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1996.
Conze, Edward. Buddhist Scriptures. Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1959.
Dungkar Losang Trinlé (dung dkar blo bzang phrin las). dung dkar bod rig pa’i tshig mdzod chen mo (Dungkar’s complete Tibetological dictionary). Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 2002.
Karlgren, B. Grammata Serica Recensa. Stockholm: Museum of Far Eastern Antiques, 1957.
Negi, J. S., ed. Tibetan-Sanskrit Dictionary (bod skad dang legs sbyar gyi tshig mdzod chen mo). 16 volumes. Sarnath: Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, 1993.
Pedersen, K. Priscilla. “Notes on the Ratnakūṭa Collection.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 3, no. 2 (1980): 60–66.
Rotman, Andy, trans. Divine Stories: Divyavadana, Part 2. Classics of Indian Buddhism. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2017.
Silk, Jonathan A. “Review Article: Buddhist Sūtras in Sanskrit from the Potala.” Indo-Iranian Journal 56 (2013): 61–87.
Stimson, H. M. T’ang Poetic Vocabulary. New Haven: Far Eastern Publications, 1976.
Vinītā, Bhikṣunī, ed. and trans. A unique collection of twenty Sūtras in a Sanskrit manuscript from the Potala. Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region 7/1, vol. I,2, Beijing: China Tibetology Publishing House; Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 2010.
Woolner, A. C. Introduction to Prakrit. Calcutta: University of the Panjab, Lahore, 1917.
- ting nge ’dzin
A state of mental absorption or one-pointed concentration.
- ma skyes dgra
King Ajātaśatru of Magadha succeeded his father, Bimbisāra, after imprisoning him and causing his death. Despite this evil act, King Ajātaśatru was later repentant and, in the end, is viewed favorably in Buddhist literature.
- ’od dpag med
One of the most important buddhas in the Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna pantheon, Amitābha is the buddha presiding over the western pure land of Sukhāvatī.
Attitude of equality
- sems mnyam pa
A state of mind that regards all being equally and is without hostility or malice towards any being.
- bcom ldan ’das
In Buddhist literature, an epithet applied to buddhas, most often to Śākyamuni. The Sanskrit term generically means “possessing fortune,” but in specifically Buddhist contexts implies that a buddha is in possession of six auspicious qualities (bhaga) associated with complete awakening. The Tibetan term—where bcom is said to refer to “subduing” the four māras, ldan to “possessing” the great qualities of buddhahood, and ’das to “going beyond” saṃsāra and nirvāṇa—possibly reflects the commentarial tradition where the Sanskrit bhagavat is interpreted, in addition, as “one who destroys the four māras.” This is achieved either by reading bhagavat as bhagnavat (“one who broke”) or by tracing the word bhaga to the root √bhañj (“to break”).
- sangs rgyas zhing
A pure realm manifested by a buddha in which beings may follow the path to awakening without fear of falling into lower realms. In many sources it is said to be brought to manifestation through a buddha or bodhisattva’s merit and aspiration.
Characteristics of phenomena
- chos kyi mtshan nyid
The defining characteristics (lakṣaṇa) of phenomena (dharma). The term lakṣaṇa is used in a variety of contexts to indicates the primary characteristic or defining feature of any particular phenomena; for instance the lakṣaṇa of fire is that it is hot and burning.
- dA na shI la
An Indian preceptor from Kashmir who was resident in Tibet during the late eighth and early ninth centuries. He was a frequent collaborator of Yeshé Dé.
- mar me mdzad pa
Dīpaṅkara is a buddha of the past said to have lived one hundred thousand years before Śākyamuni. In depictions of the buddhas of the three times, he represents the buddha of the past, while Śākyamuni represents the present, and Maitreya represents the future.
- lha’i rna ba
Clairaudience, i.e., the sublime ability to understand all languages and listen to them whether they are nearby or far away. This is the second of the six (or sometimes five) superknowledges (ṣaḍabhijñā).
- lha’i mig
Clairvoyance, i.e., the ability to see all forms whether they are near or far, subtle or gross; also the ability to see the births and deaths of sentient beings. This is the first of the six (or sometimes five) superknowledges (ṣaḍabhijñā).
Eighty excellent signs
- dpe byad bzang po brgyad cu
The eighty minor or secondary signs possessed by a “great being” (mahāpuruṣa), which all buddhas are said to have.
- bzang ’gro
The higher states of rebirth including those of gods, asuras, and human beings.
- mos pa
In a general sense, the mental inclination or focus toward a virtuous object. The term is also classified as a mental factor (caitta), being categorized variably according to different Buddhist schools but generally indicating the mental ability to focus on one object without straying to another. The term is also commonly translated as “determination,” “interest,” or “zeal.”
- snying po lnga
The identity of the five essences is uncertain; they are only a few mentions of the term in Kangyur, none of which identify what they are. According to most Tibetan dictionaries, such as the dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo, they are honey (sbrang rtsi), raw sugar (bu ram), salt (tshwa), ghee (zhun mar), and sesame oil (til mar). Rotman notes that Ayurveda sources also list the five essences as “milk, sugar, honey, ghee, and long pepper (Piper longum).” See Rotman (2017), p. 543, n. 571.
- mngon par shes pa lnga
See the six superknowledges. The five superknowledges follow the same set excluding the knowledge of how to extinguish the defilements (discussed fourth in Siṃha’s Questions).
- sbyin pa
The practice of giving or making offerings to others. One of the six perfections of a bodhisattva.
- thub pa chen po
An epithet of a buddha.
Guardians of the world
- ’jig rten mgon
An epithet commonly referring to buddhas or high-level bodhisattvas.
- ’dren pa
An epithet of a buddha.
- mi khom pa
The Sanskrit literally means “without leisure”; this refers to being born in a state in which one will not have the opportunity to meet with a buddha or their teachings. Eight situations are typically listed: (1) being born in a hell realm, (2) as an animal, (3) as a hungry ghost, (4) as a long-life god, (5) in a borderland or non-Buddhist country, (6) having wrong views, (7) as someone with impaired faculties who is unable to understand the teachings, or (8) in a time or place where no buddha has come.
- bslab pa
A general term for practice of the Dharma. Sometimes translated as “training.”
- phrag dog
The mental state of jealousy, īrṣyā is sometimes translated as “envy.” It is classified as one of the twenty subsidiary afflictions (upakleśa).
- ye shes tog gi rgyal mtshan
The name that Siṃha and his five hundred attendants will take when they become buddhas in the future, according to the Buddha’s prophecy. This name varies significantly in the Chinese versions of Siṃha’s Questions (see verse 48 and n.102).
- ka la ping ka
A mythical Indian bird renowned for its beautiful call. Some dictionaries equate it with the Indian cuckoo (or other Indian songbirds), while other sources will attribute mythical qualities to it.
- byams pa
One of the four immeasurables of the Mahāyāna, known in early Buddhism as “pure abodes” (Skt. brahmavihāra), which comprise (1) love, sometimes translated as “loving kindness,” (2) compassion, (3) empathetic joy, and (4) impartiality. Immeasurable love arises from the wish for all living beings to have happiness and the causes of happiness.
- byams pa
The bodhisattva who became Śākyamuni’s regent and is prophesied to be the next buddha, the fifth buddha in the Fortunate Eon. In early Buddhism he appears as the human disciple Maitreya Tiṣya, sent to pay his respects by his teacher. The Buddha gives him the gift of a robe and prophesies he will be the next Buddha, while his companion Ajita will be the next cakravartin. As a bodhisattva in the Mahāyāna, he has both these names.
The principal deity in Paranirmitavaśavartin, the highest heaven in the desire realm. He is best known for his role in trying to prevent the Buddha’s awakening. The name Māra is also used as a generic name for the deities in his abode, and also as an impersonal term for destructive forces that keep beings imprisoned in saṃsāra.
- dran pa
One of the most important trainings for the Buddhist practitioner, it is traditionally taught within the teachings on the four applications of mindfulness.
- rdzus te skye ba
Regarded as the most superior of the four modes of birth, the three other modes being birth from an egg, birth from a womb, or birth from warmth and moisture. Those who take a miraculous birth are spontaneously born fully mature at the time of their birth.
- tshul khrims
Morally virtuous or disciplined conduct and the abandonment of morally undisciplined conduct of body, speech, and mind. In a general sense, moral discipline is the cause for rebirth in higher, more favorable states, but it is also foundational to Buddhist practice as one of the three trainings (triśikṣā) and one of the six perfections of a bodhisattva.
- mu ni bar ma
An Indian preceptor who was resident in Tibet during the late eighth and early ninth centuries.
- bzod pa
On a mundane level, patience is said to be the cause for becoming beautiful in future lives, but it is also foundational to Buddhist practice and one of the six perfections of a bodhisattva. As such it can be classified into three modes: the capacity to tolerate abuse from sentient beings, to tolerate the hardships of the path to buddhahood, and to tolerate the profound nature of ultimate reality.
- brtson ’grus
A state of mind characterized by having joyful persistence when engaging in virtuous activity. One of the six perfections of a bodhisattva.
- lhag bsam
A strong sense of determination, often associated with altruism.
- rgyal po’i khab
The ancient capital of Magadha prior to its relocation to Pāṭaliputra during the Mauryan dynasty, Rājagṛha is one of the most important cities and geographic locations in Buddhist literature, which tells us that the Buddha and his saṅgha spent a considerable amount of time in residence in and around Rājagṛha, enjoying the patronage of King Bimbisāra and then his son King Ajātaśatru of Magadha. Rājagṛha is also remembered as the location where the first Buddhist monastic council was held after the Buddha Śākyamuni passed into parinirvāṇa.
From the Sanskrit root √dhṛ, (“to retain” or “to hold”), a dhāraṇī is a verbal formula that holds the words and meaning of a larger text or doctrine. In its simplest function it serves as a mnemonic device for remembering a certain teaching, but in certain contexts the dhāraṇī may carry a magical connotation, and in this sense it is a precursor to the mantra.
- dge ’dun
The community of followers of the Buddha’s teachings, particularly the monastics.
- kyal ba
Seventh of the ten nonvirtuous (akuśala) actions, the third of the three related to speech (the first two being slander and harsh speech).
- mngon shes drug
The six superknowledges in Siṃha’s Question are discussed in verses 27–30 in the following order: (1) divine sight, a form of clairvoyance; (2) divine hearing, a form of clairaudience; (3) knowing the dying, transmigration, and rebirth of sentient beings; (4) knowing how to extinguish the defilements; (5) the recollection of former lives; and (6) knowing how to perform miraculous transformations. In Buddhist literature, the six are not always given in this order, and sometimes the superknowledges are listed as five, excluding knowing how to extinguish the defilements.
- phra ma
Fifth of the ten nonvirtuous (akuśala) actions, the first of the three related to speech (the latter two being harsh speech and senseless talk).
- ser sna
The mental state of stinginess, matsara is sometimes translated as “miserliness” or “avarice.” It is classified as one of the twenty subsidiary afflictions (upakleśa).
- sum cu rtsa gnyis mtshan
The thirty-two marks manifested by a “great being” (mahāpuruṣa). As “great beings,” all buddhas are said to display them.
- mtha’ gnyis
The two views of (1) eternalism (śāśvatānta), the belief in a permanent, causeless creator and/or the belief in an independent, permanent, singular self; and (2) nihilism (ucchedānta), the belief that things ultimately do not exist and/or the denial of the law of cause and effect or of past and future lives.
Voice of Brahmā
- tshangs pa’i dbyangs
A voice that has the qualities of the voice of the god Brahmā. This is one of the thirty-two marks of a buddha.
- bya rgod kyi phung po’i ri
A craggy hill, situated in the vicinity of Rājagṛha, where the Buddha expounded many sūtras, notably the Prajñāpāramitā. It continues to be a sacred pilgrimage site for Buddhists to this day.
- tshong dpon bu
The term śreṣṭhin and its Pāli equivalent seṭṭi have undergone a particular development in Buddhism. The Tibetan translation “merchant” or “owner of merchandise” (tshong dpon) reflects that śreṣṭhin later came to be associated with traders, merchants, and also moneylenders. However, in Sanskrit the term literally means “distinguished,” and an older survey of the term shows that it implies a kind of nobleman of influential social standing who has both access to wealth and a close association with the king. For a more detailed history on the development of this term, see Chakravarti (1996), chapter 3, particularly pp. 73–79.
- ye shes sde
A famous Tibetan translator and monk of the eighth to the ninth century, he translated into Tibetan and revised, in collaboration with various Indian scholars, more than two hundred and fifty texts of the Kangyur and Tengyur.