The Dhāraṇī of the Tathāgata Jñānolka
Degé Kangyur, vol. 100 (gzungs ’dus, e), folios 55.a–56.a.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The Dhāraṇī of the Tathāgata Jñānolka opens with a description of a group of four tathāgatas and four bodhisattvas, who are seated in the celestial palace of the Sun and the Moon. The deities of the Sun and Moon return to their celestial palace from elsewhere and, seeing these tathāgatas and bodhisattvas, both wonder whether they might obtain a dhāraṇī that would allow them to dispel the darkness and shine a light upon all beings. The tathāgatas, perceiving the thoughts of the Sun and Moon, provide them with the first dhāraṇī in the text. The bodhisattva Samantabhadra then provides a second dhāraṇī and instructs the deities of the Sun and Moon to use it to free beings who are bound for rebirth in the lower realms—even those who have been born in the darkest depths of the Avīci hell.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the supervision of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. The translation was produced by Adam Krug and edited by Ryan Damron.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The Dhāraṇī of the Noble Tathāgatha Jñānolka that Purifies All Rebirths centers on a pairing of four tathāgatas and four bodhisattvas, who offer dhāraṇīs to the deities of the Sun and the Moon after perceiving their wish to shine a light upon beings residing in the darkest depths of cyclic existence. The tathāgata Jñānolka is identified in the Indic title of the work in the Kangyur, and the Sanskrit names of the three tathāgatas accompanying him have been identified here thanks to an edition of the Khotanese manuscript of the Jñānolkadhāraṇī published, along with a brief study and German translation, by Ernst Leumann in 1920.1 The set of four tathāgatas and four bodhisattvas at the center of the Jñānolkadhāraṇī cult, based on Leumann’s Khotanese sources, are as follows:
Leumann’s edition also preserves Khotanese Sanskrit versions of the dhāraṇī mantras contained in the text that appear in this translation.
Mauro Maggi’s summary of sources for the Jñānolkadhāraṇī notes that the majority of known extant versions of the text have survived in Khotanese witnesses, and that the earliest Chinese translations of the text derive from both a Khotanese original and a Tibetan translation. According to Leumann, the Tibetan translation of the text does not agree very closely with the Khotanese, and the Khotanese versions vary.2 While the differences between the Tibetan translation and Khotanese manuscripts of the Jñānolkadhāraṇī raise the possibility that the version translated and preserved in the Kangyur derives from a separate source that has yet to be located, the Sanskrit manuscript witnesses that are currently available all indicate Khotan as the most likely location in which the cult of the four tathāgatas and bodhisattvas in this text and the dhāraṇī mantras it preserves flourished. Aside from its obvious applications for purifying those still living of the possible fate after their death of lower rebirth, and its potential function as a ritual liturgy for the bodhisattva’s practice of liberating beings, the narrative frame of the Jñānolkadhāraṇī indicates that its dhāraṇī mantras could have functioned as part of a funeral liturgy, designed rather to liberate from lower rebirth the recently deceased.
The Jñānolkadhāraṇī appears in the Denkarma3 and Phangthangma4 royal Tibetan catalogs of translated works, which indicates that the text was translated into Tibetan by at least the early ninth century. It is found in all Kangyurs, with one copy in Kangyurs of the Themphangma line and often two in Kangyurs of predominantly Tshalpa lineage; in the Degé Kangyur, there is one copy in the Action Tantra section (Toh 522) and one in the Compendium of Dhāraṇīs (Toh 848),5 while in some other Tshalpa Kangyurs (Choné, Lithang, Urga, Lhasa, and others) there are two copies in different volumes of the Tantra section. The text was translated into Chinese twice, first in the late seventh century by the translator Devaprajñā (T 1397)6 and then again in the tenth century by Dānapāla (T 1398).7
This translation is based on the two versions of the text preserved in the Degé Kangyur, in consultation with the versions in the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) of the Kangyur, and the text in the Stok Palace Kangyur.
Homage to the Omniscient One.
Homage to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Homage to the blessed one, the tathāgata Jñānolka.
Homage to the tathāgata Suvarṇaprabhākūṭanirbhāsa.
Homage to the tathāgata Satyavādin.
Homage to the tathāgata Bhīkṣmasvaragarjitarājā.
The four bodhisattvas—Samantabhadra, the youthful Mañjuśrī, Dhāraṇīśvararāja, and Vajrapāṇi—were dwelling in the abode of the Sun and the Moon along with the tathāgatas. When the Sun and Moon reached the place where the tathāgatas and bodhisattvas were seated, they saw the tathāgatas upon lion thrones bedecked with jewels and the bodhisattvas seated within palaces arrayed with banners bearing the rose apple insignia.
The Sun and Moon each thought, “How can we obtain from these tathāgatas and bodhisattvas the dhāraṇī mantra called the wise one pervading the ten directions, which rises like the dawn to shine a light upon all beings and dispel their thick darkness? With its power we could shine a light upon all sentient beings.” [F.55.b]
The tathāgatas and bodhisattvas perceived the thoughts of the Sun and Moon and responded with the following dhāraṇī mantra:
saryathīva cakṣurdada cakṣuprabha dhulamētha kalatha ithithaṃsa sūrata sūrata suthāsa itithaṃsa vēlu vēlu vēlāpaṇi cārumūrtani āraṇi kālāpaṇi kālāpaṇi tturudhusi turuturudhusi dhāsuti dhāsuti dharadhara dhiridhiri dhurudhuru dhūradhūra kālakāla sathāsa sathāsa gīla gīla gīlāpaya gīlāpaya dhasu dhasu sūṃddhu sūmbhu ēthasu ēthasu ēthasāpaṇi yijuru rede karakara kirikiri kurukuru kurmakurma karmāpaṇi karmāpaṇi karmāpaṇi karmāpaṇi kēlukēlu kēlāpaṇi karkāri karkāri lāru vuddhe dhurude mahādhurude karakara kirikiri piḍhusi piḍhusi dhasu dhasu hasu hasu hasāpaṇi svāhā9
Then the bodhisattva Samantabhadra addressed both the Sun and the Moon, saying, “Sons of the lineage, eighty-four million buddhas have taught this dhāraṇī mantra in order to help beings who are bound for lower rebirth. Sons of the lineage, it is much easier to find a rare udumbara flower than it is for these dhāraṇī mantra verses to appear in the world. Sons of the lineage, obtaining these dhāraṇī mantra verses is much easier than reading and retaining these verses in one’s mind. Sons of the lineage, it is far more likely for a buddha to appear in the world than it is for these dhāraṇī mantra verses to appear in the world. [F.56.a]
“Sons of the lineage, if one recites these dhāraṇī mantra verses three times a day and three times a night for twenty-one days on behalf of those beings trapped for eons in Avīci hell—namely, those who have committed the five inexpiable acts or who have forsaken the holy Dharma—the power of these verses will open the hundred doors of the great Avīci hell, and those beings will attain liberation. This being the case even for them, it goes without saying that for human beings in Jambudvīpa the same is true.
“Whoever hears these dhāraṇī mantra verses shall truly know that we, the four tathāgatas, the four bodhisattvas, and the Sun and Moon, support them.
“The dhāraṇī mantra verses are:
dhunaṭi mahādhuṇati surusuru svāhā śuklaviśōdhani taratara svāhā || jyōtipradīpe turuturu svāhā || padmamālani sattyatarabudhe huruhuru svāhā satyabuddhe saty'ālōkani kirikiri svāhā || dhāraṇibuddhi apratihatabuddhi curucuru svāhā || lakṣaṇârcite dhūmaparihāre khurukhuru dhāra mahādhāra dharadhara yaṃ ttîye svāhā || avrrate sutape apratihatabuddhi dharadhara yam tîye svāhā ||10
This concludes “The Noble Dhāraṇī of the Tathāgata Jñānolka that Purifies All Rebirths.”
This text, Toh 848, and all those contained in this same volume (gzungs ’dus, e), are listed as being located in volume 100 of the Degé Kangyur by the Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC). However, several other Kangyur databases—including the eKangyur that supplies the digital input version displayed by the 84000 Reading Room—list this work as being located in volume 101. This discrepancy is partly due to the fact that the two volumes of the gzungs ’dus section are an added supplement not mentioned in the original catalog, and also hinges on the fact that the compilers of the Tōhoku catalog placed another text—which forms a whole, very large volume—the Vimalaprabhānāmakālacakratantraṭīkā (dus ’khor ’grel bshad dri med ’od, Toh 845), before the present volume, numbering it as vol. 100, although it is almost certainly intended to come right at the end of the Degé Kangyur texts as volume 102; indeed its final fifth chapter is often carried over and wrapped in the same volume as the Kangyur dkar chags (catalog). Please note this discrepancy when using the eKangyur viewer in this translation.
In the Toh 522 version of this text there is discrepancy in the folio numbering between the 1737 par phud printings and the late (post par phud) printings of the Degé Kangyur. Although the discrepancy is irrelevant here, further details concerning this may be found in note 8 of the Toh 522 version of this text.
’phags pa ye shes ta la la zhes bya ba’i gzungs ’gro ba thams cad yongs su sbyong ba (Āryajñānolkanāmadhāraṇīsarvagatipariśodhanī). Toh 522, Degé Kangyur vol. 88 (rgyud ’bum, na), folios 59.a–60.b.
’phags pa ye shes ta la la zhes bya ba’i gzungs ’gro ba thams cad yongs su sbyong ba (Āryajñānolkonāmadhāraṇīsarvagatipariśodhanī). Toh 848, Degé Kangyur vol. 100 (gzungs ’dus, e), folios 55.a–56.a.
’phags pa ye shes ta la la zhes bya ba’i gzungs ’gro ba thams cad yongs su sbyong ba. 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), 2006–2009, vol. 88, pp. 189–94.
’phags pa ye shes ta la la zhes bya ba’i gzungs ’gro ba thams cad yongs su sbyong ba. 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), 2006–2009, vol. 97, pp. 168–73.
’phags pa ye shes ta la la zhes bya ba’i gzungs (Āryajñānolkonāmadhāraṇīsarvagatipariśodhanī). Stok Palace Kangyur, vol. 102 (rgyud ’bum, da) folios 42a–44a.
Denkarma (pho brang stod thang ldan [lhan] dkar gyi chos ’gyur ro cog gi dkar chag). Degé Tengyur, vol. 206 (sna tshogs, jo), folios 294.b–310.a.
dkar chag ’phang thang ma: sgra sbyor bam po gnyis pa. Beijing: mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2003.
Edgerton, Franklin. Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2004.
Monier-Williams, Monier. A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Etymologically and Philologically Arranged with Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2005.
Negi, J.S. Tibetan-Sanskrit Dictionary (bod skad dang legs sbyar gyi tshig mdzod chen mo). Sarnath: Central Institute of higher Tibetan Studies, 1993.
Yoshimura, Shyuki. The Denkar-Ma: An Oldest Catalogue of the Tibetan Buddhist Canons. Kyoto: Ryukoku University, 1950.
Leumann, Ernst. “Die Jñānolkadhāraṇī.” In Buddhistische Literatur: Nordarish und Deutsch: I. Teil: Nebenstüke, 157–62. Leipzig, 1920.
Maggi, Mauro. “Jñānolkadhāranī.” Encyclopedia Iranica, first published 2008, updated 2012 [accessed February, 2018].
- mnar med pa
The lowest hell; the eighth of the eight hot hells.
- ’jigs pa’i sgra sgrogs rgyal po
A tathāgata associated with Jñānolka.
- gzungs kyi dbang phyug rgyal po
- ye shes ta la la
Mañjuśrī, the youthful
- ’jam dpal gzhon nur gyur pa
- kun tu bzang po
- ’od brtsegs snang ba
A tathāgata associated with Jñānolka.
- phyag na rdo rje