The Play in Full
Degé Kangyur, vol. 46 (mdo sde, kha), folios 1.b–216.b
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The Play in Full tells the story of how the Buddha manifested in this world and attained awakening, as perceived from the perspective of the Great Vehicle. The sūtra, which is structured in twenty-seven chapters, first presents the events surrounding the Buddha’s birth, childhood, and adolescence in the royal palace of his father, king of the Śākya nation. It then recounts his escape from the palace and the years of hardship he faced in his quest for spiritual awakening. Finally the sūtra reveals his complete victory over the demon Māra, his attainment of awakening under the Bodhi tree, his first turning of the wheel of Dharma, and the formation of the very early saṅgha.
This text was translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the supervision of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche.
Cortland Dahl, Catherine Dalton, Hilary Herdman, Heidi Koppl, James Gentry, and Andreas Doctor translated the text from Tibetan into English. Andreas Doctor and Wiesiek Mical then compared the translations against the original Tibetan and Sanskrit, respectively. Finally, Andreas Doctor edited the translation and wrote the introduction.
The Dharmachakra Translation Committee would like to thank Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche for blessing this project, and Khenpo Sherap Sangpo for his generous assistance with the resolution of several difficult passages.
This translation has been completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous sponsorship of 簡源震及家人江秀敏，簡暐如，簡暐丞 Chien YuanChen (Dharma Das) and his wife, daughter, and son for work on this sūtra is gratefully acknowledged.
Monks, in the meantime the Bodhisattva thought to himself, “It would not be right if I did not share my plans with the great king Śuddhodana and simply left home without his permission. It would be very ungrateful of me.”
So that night when everything became quiet, he left his own quarters and entered the quarters of King Śuddhodana. As soon as the Bodhisattva stepped foot on the palace floor, the entire palace became illuminated with light. The king woke up and, when he saw the light, he promptly asked his chamberlain, “Did the sun rise? It is such a beautiful light!”
His chamberlain replied, “No, my lord, it is still the middle of the night.” He continued:
Thereafter the Śākyas and King Śuddhodana placed five hundred young men by the eastern city gate to guard the Bodhisattva. All the men were armed, trained in combat, skilled in archery and javelin throwing, and were as strong as powerful wrestlers.  In order to further guard the Bodhisattva, each of the young Śākya men had five hundred chariots at their disposal, and along with each chariot were five hundred infantrymen.
Likewise they placed five hundred young men by the southern, western, and northern city gates to guard the Bodhisattva. All the men were armed, trained in combat, skilled in archery and javelin throwing, and were as strong as powerful wrestlers. In order to further guard the Bodhisattva, each of the young Śākya men had five hundred chariots at their disposal, and along with each chariot were five hundred infantrymen.
The elders of the Śākya clan, both male and female, were also placed everywhere at road intersections, junctions, and many highways in order to guard the Bodhisattva. Even King Śuddhodana kept watch at the palace gate, accompanied by five hundred young Śākyas mounted on elephants and horses.
Monks, at that point the twenty-eight great yakṣa generals, such as Pāñcika, met with the five hundred sons of Hārītī and voiced their concern: “Friends, tonight the Bodhisattva will leave his home. [F.101.a] So you should delight in making offerings to him.”
Likewise the Four Great Kings, who had entered the Aḍakavatī Palace, told the great gathering of yakṣas, “Friends, tonight the Bodhisattva will leave his home. You must help him leave by carrying the hooves of his fine horse with your hands.”
Then the god Vyūhamati volunteered, “I will construct in midair a fabulous road seven chariots wide, flanked on both sides by jeweled platforms, blazing with the light of sunstone gems, shaded with raised parasols, flags, and banners, strewn with various flowers, and censed from incense burners of various fragrances. On this road the Bodhisattva will set forth.”
Then the king of the elephants named Airāvaṇa spoke: [F.101.b] “Upon my trunk I will erect a mansion thirty-two leagues tall. In that mansion divine maidens  can assemble to serve and venerate the Bodhisattva by making music, singing songs, and playing instruments.”
Finally the nāga kings Varuṇa, Manasvin, Sāgara, Anavapta, Nanda, and Upananda spoke: “We, for our part, will produce cloud banks of sandalwood and let a rain of sandalwood powder descend as offerings to the Bodhisattva.”
In the meanwhile the Bodhisattva’s mind was on the Dharma. He was resting comfortably in the music hall, surrounded by his ladies. As he reflected on the conduct of past buddhas and the way to benefit all sentient beings, he was thinking about four aspiration prayers that he had formed in the past:
“Previously I wished to become a self-appearing lord and pursue omniscience. At that time I donned the armor of the following fourfold resolve.
“First, I have seen how sentient beings suffer. So may I free and liberate those who are bound to the world and caught in the prison of cyclic existence. May I liberate sentient beings from the tight shackles and chains of craving.”
“May I shine the light of Dharma for those who are thrown deep into the darkness of great ignorance within the world—for the people whose eyes are obscured by the cataract of ignorance, who lack the eye of wisdom, and who are blind with ignorance and delusion. May I raise the lamp of wisdom, which destroys the darkness for those who are blinded by ignorance. May I apply the medicine of the three gateways to liberation—the remedy that employs means, wisdom, and knowledge. May I remove the darkness of ignorance and all cataracts and faults of dullness, and in this way purify their wisdom eye.”
“Alas, this world has raised the banner of pride and egotism. It is obsessed with clinging to ‘I’ and ‘mine.’ People’s minds grasp at the self, and false notions of a self distort their views. May I bring down this banner of pride that thinks ‘I am’ by showing them the noble path.”
“Alas, this world is not at peace because of the self. The world is continually disturbed and is like a tangled mass of cords. Beings come and go. They always move and circle back and forth between this world and the next. Their spinning around knows no end and resembles a firebrand’s circle. May I show them the Dharma of tranquility, which brings fulfillment through knowledge.”
Right then the god Dharmacārin and the gods of the pure realms made the retinue of consorts appear unappealing. After the gods had revealed the consorts’ unpleasant and unattractive features, they took position in the sky and uttered the following verses:
When the Bodhisattva looked at the entire retinue of women, he saw that some had garments that had slipped off, some had disheveled hair, and some had their jewelry in disarray. Others had lost their head ornaments, some had ugly shoulders, while some had uncovered arms and legs. Some had repulsive expressions, while the eyes of others were crossed. Some were drooling, and others were snoring.
Some were laughing wildly, some were coughing, and others were prattling incoherently. Some others were gnashing their teeth, and the complexion of others had changed. Some of the women had unpleasant features, such as arms that were too long. Some tossed their feet around. Some had their heads uncovered, while the heads of others were covered. The facial features of some had changed. The bodies of some looked awful, and some were even lying naked.
Some were hunched over and making gargling sounds. Some, still holding clay kettledrums, were twisting their bodies and heads. Some of the women held their instruments, such as lutes and three-stringed lutes. Others were grinding their flutes with their teeth, making crushing noises. Some were playing kimpalas, nakalus, and sampas whose resonance boxes had been removed. Some had their eyes closed, some had them open, and some were rolling their eyes. Some of the women were also lying with their mouths agape.
The Bodhisattva looked at the retinue of consorts, who were lying there on the floor looking utterly revolting, and he had the impression that he was indeed in a cemetery.
On this topic, it is said:
Then the Bodhisattva examined his retinue of women by means of this gateway to the light of the Dharma. Next, with words spoken out of great compassion, he lamented sentient beings:
The Bodhisattva examined the retinue of consorts by means of these thirty-two similes. He contemplated the impure nature of the body and developed a feeling of repulsion, and then disgust. Next he meditated the fact that his own body was just like theirs, and so he truly saw the shortcomings of the physical body. Then he let go of his attachment toward the body, destroying his perception of it as being attractive and instead seeing it as repulsive. He saw that the body, from the soles of the feet all the way up to the top of the head, is made of filth, produces filth, and emits filth. At that moment he exclaimed the following verses: [F.104.a]
In this way the Bodhisattva remained mindful of the body as something that must be left behind.
The gods, who were hovering in the sky above, asked the god Dharmacārin, “Dear friend, what is this? Siddhārtha dawdles and keeps looking at the retinue of consorts. He even smiles and does not seem displeased. But perhaps he is like a deep ocean that cannot be fathomed? Because isn’t it true that whoever is unattached does not cling to objects? Or will he perhaps forget the promise he made when he was inspired by the gods?”
The god Dharmacārin replied, “Why say something like that? There is surely evidence that when he practiced awakened conduct in the past, he developed this kind of detachment. Why then would he all of a sudden become attached in this existence, which is his last?”
Monks, indeed the Bodhisattva had become certain. He was filled with distaste and had made up his mind. So without any delay, he gracefully rose from his seat in the music hall and turned toward the east. With his right hand he parted the bejeweled lattice and went onto the palace roof. [F.104.b] There he folded his hands and, recalling all the buddhas, he bowed to them. When he looked up into the expanse of space, he saw Indra, the one-thousand-eyed lord of the gods, with a retinue of one hundred thousand gods, holding flowers, incense, garlands, perfumes, scented powder, garments, parasols, victory banners, flags, earrings made of flowers, and garlands made of precious stones. Bowing before him, Indra paid his respect to the Bodhisattva.
The Bodhisattva also saw the four guardians of the world together with hordes of yakṣas, demons, gandharvas, and nāgas. They all wore solid armor, corselets, and helmets. In their arms they held swords, bows and arrows, spears, javelins, and tridents. They gracefully took off their bejeweled diadems and crowns and bowed before the Bodhisattva. Then he saw two gods,  Sūrya and Candra, standing on his right and left sides. Puṣya, the chief of all constellations, was also seen standing by.
Chanda replied, “I have heard, my Lord, that when you were born, you were brought to the priests who are skilled in making predictions based on examining signs. They prophesied before your father, King Śuddhodana, ‘Your Majesty, your royal line will flourish.’ When King Śuddhodana inquired further, the priests replied:
“My Lord, there is this prophecy and it cannot be denied. But please listen to what I have to say, for I may be able to help you!”
“How so?” asked the Bodhisattva.
Chanda replied, “My Lord, why is it that some people go through disciplined actions and practice austerities? They wear deerskin and tie their hair in a topknot. They wear garments made of tree bark. They let their nails, hair, and beard grow long. They take pleasure in torturing their bodies and go through various difficult torments. They take up the harshest of austerities because, as they say, they wish to attain the best among gods and humans. But you, Lord, you already possess this good fortune!
“The kingdom is prosperous, large, and peaceful, with excellent harvests. It is delightful and filled with many people. [F.105.b] Your parks are the best of the best, full of flowers and fruits and resounding with the singing of birds. There are beautiful ponds with blue, pink, and white lotus flowers, and they resound with the cries of swans, peacocks, cuckoos, wild ducks, storks, and whooper swans. There are many flowering trees growing around the lakes, such as mango, aśoka, campaka, amaranth, and saffron trees. The parks are adorned with groves of jeweled trees that are arranged like chessboards and surrounded by jewel platforms. One sees jeweled lattices hanging everywhere. The parks can be enjoyed during any season, and they are pleasant to visit whether it is the hot season, the rainy season, autumn, or winter.
“Your palaces  are like the palace of Vaijayanta, wherein one finds the peace of true Dharma, and all one’s worries are gone. Since your palaces are the color of autumn clouds, they resemble Mount Kailāśa. They are adorned with verandas, arches, portals, windows, cooling terraces, and top-floor terraces. They resound with the tinkling of tiny bejeweled bells on latticed draperies.
“Your retinue of consorts is well trained. They sing songs while playing melodious music and dancing. They play tuṇas, paṇavas, flutes, lutes, wood kettledrums, reed pipes, wooden pins, cymbals, kimpalas, nakalus, guitars, clay kettledrums with a good sound, and paṭahas. They attend upon you with comedy and dance—playful, enjoyable, happy, and sweet.
“And you, my Lord, are still young. You are in the prime of your life. You are a fresh and tender boy with black hair and a body like a lotus. You have not yet given yourself to the pleasures of the senses. So now enjoy yourself, like the lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, the lord of the gods, the one endowed with a thousand eyes. We can always leave our homes later, once we are old.” [F.106.a]
But the Bodhisattva replied, “Enough, Chanda! These sense pleasures are impermanent and unstable. They do not endure and are subject to change. Like the rapids of a mountain torrent, they quickly pass and are turbulent. Like dewdrops, they do not last. Like an empty fist that tricks a child, they have no substance. Like the core of a plantain tree, they have no strength. Like a vase of unbaked clay, they naturally break. Like autumn clouds, they appear one moment and vanish the next. Like a flash of lightning in the sky, they last for just the briefest time. Like a vessel filled with poison, they cause pain. Like poison ivy, they bring discomfort.
“The objects of desire, which are desperately craved by all those with immature minds, are like water bubbles, always changing. Like a mirage, they are caused by mistaken perception. They are like a hallucination that has come about through false thinking. Just like dreams, they cannot satisfy, since one is grasping at a false appearance. Just as it is difficult to fill the oceans, desires can never be fulfilled. Like salty water, objects of desire only make you thirstier. Like the head of a viper, they are dangerous to touch.  Like a deep abyss, they are abandoned entirely by wise people. They produce anxiety, cause strife, and generate distress and faults. Knowing this, the wise ones avoid them, the clever ones deplore them, the noble ones abhor them, and the intelligent ones disparage them. Yet the ignorant embrace them, and the immature rely on them.”
At that moment he spoke the following verses:
Then Chanda, wailing as if in sharp pain, with tearful eyes and stricken with agony, exclaimed the following verses:
At that time Chanda, who now cried even harder, exclaimed, “Lord, is your resolve based on conviction?”
The Bodhisattva replied:
The Bodhisattva replied:
Monks, when the gods Śāntamati and Lalitavyūha understood the Bodhisattva’s determination, they caused all men, women, and children in the city of Kapilavastu to fall asleep. They made everything plunge into deep silence.
Monks, at that moment the Bodhisattva realized that everyone in the city was sound asleep, that the hour of midnight had come, and that the moon was in the constellation of Puṣya, the lord of constellations. He was aware that right then the time had come for him to leave home.
As soon as the Bodhisattva uttered these words, the Four Great Kings left their residences. They had listened to the Bodhisattva’s words and had prepared to make offerings to him. Now they hurried quickly to the city of Kapilavastu.
King Dhṛtarāṣṭra, lord of the gandharvas, arrived from the east together with several trillion kinnaras playing various instruments and singing songs. As soon as Dhṛtarāṣṭra arrived, he began to circumambulate the city of Kapilavastu. Stopping in the east, from where he had arrived, he paid homage to the Bodhisattva.
The great king Virūḍhaka arrived from the south with several trillion kumbhāṇḍas holding in their hands various pearl necklaces.  In addition they carried various precious gems, and vases filled with different types of perfumes. [F.108.b] As soon as Virūḍhaka arrived, he also began to circumambulate the city of Kapilavastu. Stopping in the south, from where he had arrived, he paid homage to the Bodhisattva.
The great king Virūpākṣa arrived from the west with several trillion nāgas holding in their hands various necklaces made of pearls and different types of precious gems. They sent forth a gentle breeze from a rain of flowers and perfumed powders that emitted beautiful scents. When Virūpākṣa arrived, he also circumambulated the city of Kapilavastu. Stopping in the west, from where he had arrived, he paid homage to the Bodhisattva.
The great king Kubera arrived from the north with several trillion yakṣas holding in their hands precious jewels of the type called starlight. They also carried oil lamps and lighted lanterns. They held in their hands various weapons, such as bows and arrows, swords, spears, lances with two and three points, discuses, one-pointed pikes, and javelins, and they were armed with strong armor and helmets. When Kubera arrived, he also began to circumambulate the city of Kapilavastu. Then he settled in the northern direction, from where he had arrived, and paid homage to the Bodhisattva.
Thereafter Śakra, lord of the gods, arrived together with the gods from the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, bringing divine flowers, perfumes, garlands, ointments, scented powders, garments, parasols, victory banners, flags, earrings, and adornments. When he arrived there, he began to circumambulate the city of Kapilavastu.
Monks, when Chanda heard the Bodhisattva’s words, his eyes became filled with tears and he said, “Lord, you know the right time, the right moment, and the right occasion. However, this is not the right time and not the occasion to leave. So why do you give me the order for leaving?”
Then Chanda asked, “The time for what, my Lord?”
Monks, once the Bodhisattva had left his home, he crossed over the lands of the Śākyas, the Kroḍyas, and the Mallas. When day broke, he had arrived six leagues away from the town of Anumaineya in the country of Maineya. There he dismounted from his horse Kaṇṭhaka and, once he was on the ground, he dismissed the great assembly of gods, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, demigods, garuḍas, kinnaras, and mahoragas. Then he thought to himself, “I should entrust these ornaments and the horse Kaṇṭhaka to Chanda, and then send him back.”
The Bodhisattva then thought to himself, “With my hair this long, I cannot be a monk.” So he took his sword, cut off his hair, and then cast it into the air. The gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three collected the hair for worship. Even to this day the gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three celebrate this event during the Hair Festival. At this very place another memorial was built, which today is still known as “Receipt of the Hair.”
The gods of the pure realms then thought, “The Bodhisattva needs saffron-colored robes.” Immediately a god left and manifested in front of the Bodhisattva in the form of a hunter wearing saffron-colored cloth.
The god replied, “Your clothes already suit you well, and I am happy with what I wear.”
But the Bodhisattva insisted: “Please, I beg you.”
The god, still in the shape of a hunter, then gave his saffron-colored clothes to the Bodhisattva, while he himself took the Bodhisattva’s silken garments. Because the god was overcome with devotion to the Bodhisattva, he touched the garments to his head, holding them with both of his hands. Then he returned to the celestial world in order to render offerings and veneration to the garments there. Chanda had witnessed the exchange of clothes, and later a memorial was erected at the site. This memorial is still known today as the “Memorial of Receiving the Saffron-Colored Cloth.” [F.112.b]
When the Bodhisattva cut off his hair and put on the saffron-colored cloth, one hundred thousand gods felt joyous, pleased, and elated. Happy and delighted, they called out cries of joy and exclaimed,
“Friends, Prince Siddhārtha has left his home! Friends, Prince Siddhārtha has become a monk! He will awaken to unexcelled, perfect, and complete buddhahood and will turn the wheel of the Dharma. He will liberate from birth the infinite number of beings who are born. Then he will free them from old age, death, sickness, pain, lamentation, suffering, depression, and distress, and ferry them to the other shore of the ocean of saṃsāra. He will establish them in the realm of phenomena, which is blissful, peaceful, deathless, and free from fear, suffering,  harm, and stain.”
When the retinue of consorts did not see the young prince, they began to search for him in the spring, summer, and winter palaces, and in his private rooms and apartments. Unable to find him, they all began to wail like fish hawks. The ladies were overcome by extreme grief, and some cried out, “My son!” Others called out “My brother!” “My husband!” “My lord!” and “My master!” Some mumbled different tender words, while others contorted their bodies in various ways and wept. Some of the ladies plucked their hair, while others faced each other and sobbed.
Some cried with rolling eyes, and others shed tears, wiping their faces with their garments. Some slapped their thighs with their hands, and others beat their chests.
Some slapped their arms with their hands, and others beat their heads. [F.113.a] Some covered their head with dust and wept, crying out loud. Some ladies were seen disheveling their hair, others pulling it out. Some raised their arms and lamented loudly. Some ran headlong, like gazelles pierced by poisonous arrows, all the while crying. Some among them staggered about like a plantain tree shaken by the wind and sobbed. Others tossed their bodies around on the floor, as if they were just about to die, while some writhed on the ground, as if they were fish pulled from water, and cried. Others collapsed suddenly on the ground, like a tree that has been cut from its root, and wept.
When the king heard these noises, he asked his fellow Śākyas, “What is this loud noise coming from the ladies’ apartments?”
The Śākyas looked into the matter and replied, “Your Majesty, the young prince  is not in the ladies’ apartments.”
The king then ordered, “Quickly close the city gates! Let us search for the prince within the gates!” But the prince was nowhere to be found, whether inside or outside the gates.
The king then sent messengers on horseback into the four directions with the order: “Go, and do not come back until you have found the prince!”
Since those who can read signs and the future had prophesied that the Bodhisattva would leave through the Gate of Auspiciousness, the messengers proceeded to this gate. There they saw that a rain of flowers had fallen on the road, and they thought, “He must have left this way.”
When they had traveled a little farther, they met the god who was carrying the Bodhisattva’s silken garments on his head. Again they thought, “These are the silken garments of the prince. Can it be that he has been killed for their sake? Get hold of this man!”
However, right then they saw Chanda trailing behind the god, leading the horse Kaṇṭhaka and carrying the Bodhisattva’s ornaments. [F.113.b] So they said, “Here comes Chanda with Kaṇṭhaka. Let us not act rashly but instead question him first.”
So they asked him, “Chanda, did this man kill the prince for the sake of his silken garments?” 
Chanda replied, “No, not at all. This person offered the prince his own saffron-colored clothes, and the prince in return gave him these silken garments. That god then placed the garments on top of his head and returned right then to his celestial realm in order to venerate them.”
Chanda replied, “No, you will not be able to do so. The young prince is so diligent, disciplined, and steadfast. He said that unless he awakens to perfect and complete buddhahood, he will never again enter the city of Kapilavastu. So he will not return with you. What the prince said will happen is in fact what will happen. And why will the prince not return? Because of his enthusiasm, discipline, and steadfastness.”
Then Chanda took the horse Kaṇṭhaka and the ornaments and went to the inner quarters. Three young Śākyas called Bhadrika, Mahānāma, and Aniruddha tried for a long time to lift the ornaments, but they were unable to. These ornaments were made for someone with a body as strong as Nārāyaṇa, and so other people were not able to wear them.
When Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī saw that nobody could move the ornaments, she thought, “When I see his ornaments lying there, my heart is pierced with pain. I think it is better therefore to throw the ornaments into the pond.” So she let the ornaments be thrown into the pond, and even to this day that lake is called the Lake of the Ornaments.
On this topic, it is said:
This concludes the fifteenth chapter, on leaving home. [B11]
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