- Yeshé Dé
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
- ma skyes dgra
- ma pham pa
- ’od dpag med
attitude of equality
- sems mnyam pa
- bcom ldan ’das
- sangs rgyas zhing
characteristics of phenomena
- chos kyi mtshan nyid
- dA na shI la
- mar me mdzad pa
- lha’i rna ba
- lha’i mig
eighty excellent signs
- dpe byad bzang po brgyad cu
- bzang ’gro
- mos pa
- snying po lnga
- mngon par shes pa lnga
- sbyin pa
- snang ba che
- thub pa chen po
guardians of the world
- ’jig rten mgon
- ’dren pa
- mi khom pa
- bslab pa
- phrag dog
- ye shes tog gi rgyal mtshan
- ka la ping ka
- byams pa
- byams pa
- dran pa
- rdzus te skye ba
- tshul khrims
- mu ni bar ma
- bzod pa
- brtson ’grus
- lhag bsam
- rgyal po’i khab
- bzod pa
- dge ’dun
- kyal ba
- seng ge
- mngon shes drug
- phra ma
- ser sna
- sum cu rtsa gnyis mtshan
- mtha’ gnyis
voice of Brahmā
- tshangs pa’i dbyangs
- bya rgod kyi phung po’i ri
- tshong dpon bu
- ye shes sde