The Play in Full
The Nairañjanā River
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, during the six years that the Bodhisattva practiced austerities, he was continually followed by Māra, the evil one. Yet, although Māra tried his best to harm the Bodhisattva, he never found an opportunity. As it became apparent that it would be impossible to harm the Bodhisattva, Māra, sad and dejected, finally left. 
It is also expressed in this way:
Monks, at that point the Bodhisattva thought to himself, “There are monks and priests in the past, the future, and the present who cause themselves harm. They experience intense suffering from unbearable heat and go through very unpleasant experiences. In this way they suffer greatly.”
Monks, I continued to think, “With these acts and methods I have not been able to manifest any true knowledge that would be higher than manmade teachings. This path does not lead to awakening. This path is incapable of eradicating the continuation of birth, old age, and death in the future. But there must be another path to awakening that can eradicate the future suffering of birth, old age, and death.”
Monks, I continued to think, [F.130.a] “Once, when I was sitting in my father’s park under the shade of a rose apple tree, I rejoiced as I attained the first level of concentration, which is free from desires and negativities, endued with good qualities, reflective, investigative, and full of joy born out of discrimination. I rejoiced as I attained the levels of concentration up to the fourth. That, indeed, must be the path to awakening, which can eradicate the arising of the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death. And so a conviction was born in me: ‘This is the path to awakening!’ ”
Again I thought, “Yet this path cannot be realized by someone who has grown so weak. If I were to proceed toward the seat of awakening merely by the power of my supernatural knowledge but with my body so critically weak,  future beings would not be disposed favorably toward me, and this path would not lead to awakening. Therefore I shall begin to eat solid food again. That way I can regain my physical strength. Once I do so, I will proceed to the seat of awakening.”
Monks, at that point some gods felt concern for me. Since they knew my thoughts, they came to where I was staying and told me, “Holy Man, don’t eat solid food! We can give you nourishment through the pores of your body.”
Monks, I then thought, “I took a vow to remain fasting. And in this way the people in the villages around me would know that the mendicant Gautama abstains from food. However, if these concerned gods were to grant me nourishment through the pores of my body, I would be the worst of hypocrites.”
The Bodhisattva therefore decided to disregard the words of the gods in order to avoid hypocrisy. Instead he decided to begin eating solid foods. Monks, in this way the Bodhisattva arose from the seat where he had practiced discipline and hardship for the past six years, [F.130.b] and he proclaimed, “I will now eat solid foods, such as molasses, pea soup, lentil soup, porridge, and rice!”
Monks, at that point the five ascetic companions thought to themselves, “Based on this path and these practices, the mendicant Gautama appears unable to actualize an exalted wisdom vision that is any higher than manmade teachings. Yet how can eating solid foods and leading a comfortable life be of any help? What an ignorant and childish man!”
Ever since the Bodhisattva had begun his practice of austerities, ten young girls from the village had served him as a way to see him, venerate him, and assist him. At the same time his five companions had also attended him by bringing him the single juniper berry, sesame seed, or rice grain that he ate. The names of these ten village girls were Balī, Balaguptā, Supriyā, Vijayasenā, Atimuktakamalā, Sundarī, Kumbhakārī, Uluvillikā, Jāṭilikā, and Sujātā.
These young girls now prepared various types of soups for the Bodhisattva and offered them to him. The Bodhisattva accepted these meals, but he also gradually began to go on alms rounds in the local village. In this way he regained his previous luster, appearance, and strength. People now began calling him “the beautiful monk” and “the great monk.”
Monks, every day since the beginning of the Bodhisattva’s practice of austerities, the village girl Sujātā had offered food to eight hundred priests in the hope that the Bodhisattva would come out of his discipline and hardship and maintain his vital functions. [F.131.a] As she did so, she offered the prayer, “May the Bodhisattva take my food and thereby truly attain perfect and completely unexcelled awakening!”
Monks, since six years had passed, I had this thought, “My saffron robes have really aged. Perhaps it would be good if I could find some cloth to cover me.” Monks, at that point one of Sujātā’s servants, a woman named Rādhā, had just died. She had been wrapped in a hemp cloth and left in the charnel ground. When I saw this dusty rag, I decided to use it to cover myself.
As I stood there, bent over with my left leg stretched out and my right hand reaching down in order to pick up the rag,  one earth god called out to the sky gods, “Friends, here is a descendent of a great royal clan. He has abandoned his kingdom of a universal monarch, and now he turns his mind to a dusty rag. What a sight! Friends, this is really amazing!”
All the sky gods heard the voice of the earth god, and they passed on the message to the gods in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. The gods in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings told the gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. They in turn passed on the message to the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife, and from there the message spread to the Heaven of Joy, the Heaven of Delighting in Emanations, the Heaven of Making Use of Others’ Emanations, and finally all the way to the Brahma realm. Monks, at that time, at that moment, at that very instant, this message resounded and traveled all the way to Highest Heaven: “Friends, here is a descendent of a great royal clan. He has abandoned his kingdom of a universal monarch, and now he turns his mind to a dusty rag. What a sight! Friends, this is really amazing!”
The Bodhisattva then thought to himself, “I have found this dusty rag, so it would be good if I could find some water to wash it with.” At that very moment the gods hit the ground with their hands, and on that spot a lotus pond appeared. Still to this day, this pond is known as “The Pond Where the Hands Struck.” [F.131.b]
Once again the Bodhisattva thought, “Now I have obtained water, so it would be good if I could also find a flat stone on which to wash this cloth.” At that very moment Śakra placed such a rock before him, and the Bodhisattva now began to wash the dusty rag.
Śakra, king of the gods, then spoke to the Bodhisattva: “Holy Man, give the cloth to me. Then I will wash it.” However, the Bodhisattva wanted to demonstrate the conduct of a renunciant, so he did not give the cloth to Śakra. Instead he washed it himself. 
Afterward the Bodhisattva felt tired and wanted to step out of the pond. However, Māra, the evil one, felt jealous and magically raised the edge of the pond. Yet at the side of the pond was a large kakubha tree. In order to follow the worldly custom and to please the goddess of that tree, the Bodhisattva called out to her, “Listen, goddess, lower one of your branches!” The goddess lowered a branch and, as the Bodhisattva grasped it, he was lifted out of the pond. Once he was free, he remained under the shade of the kakubha tree, where he sewed the dusty rag into the robes of a monk. Today this place is still known as “The Sewing of the Dusty Rags.”
At that point a god from the pure realms, who was called Vimalaprabha, offered the Bodhisattva divine fabrics that had been dyed in saffron-red color, as is suitable for a monk. The Bodhisattva accepted this gift, and the following morning he put on these fabrics, arranged them into a monk’s robes, and went to the nearby village.
At midnight the gods announced the following to Sujātā, daughter of the villager Nandika, in the village Senāpati in Urubilvā: “The one for whom you have been making offerings has relaxed his discipline and decided that he will once again eat nourishing and solid food. Previously you made the aspiration, ‘May the Bodhisattva take my food and thereby truly attain perfect and completely unexcelled awakening!’ Now that time has come, so you must do what you ought to be doing.” [F.132.a]
Monks, as soon as Sujātā, daughter of the villager Nandika, heard these words of the gods, she quickly gathered the milk of a thousand cows. Seven times she skimmed the cream from the milk, until she obtained a thick, strength-giving cream. She then poured this cream into a new clay pot, mixed it with the freshest rice, and placed it on a brand-new stove. As the milk porridge was cooking, various omens manifested.  Within the milk appeared the contours of an endless knot, a simple swastika, an elaborate swastika, a lotus, a vardhamāna, and other auspicious signs. Upon seeing this, Sujātā thought to herself, “The appearance of these signs surely means that the Bodhisattva will now take food and obtain unexcelled, perfect, and complete awakening.” At that time a fortuneteller versed in ritual and the art of reading signs came to the village and prophesied that someone would attain immortality there.
When Sujātā had finished cooking the porridge, she placed it on the ground where, full of devotion, she had already prepared a seat for the Bodhisattva by scattering flowers and perfumed water. She then told one of her servants, a woman named Uttarā, “Uttarā, go and fetch the priest. I will stay here and look after this milk porridge with honey.”
“Very well, my lady,” answered Uttarā, who then did as she was told. She went off in the eastern direction, but there she met only the Bodhisattva. She then went south, but there as well she met the Bodhisattva. Then she went west and north, but in those places as well she encountered the Bodhisattva. At that time some gods from the pure realms had removed all the extremist practitioners, and now none of them were to be found.
Monks, the Bodhisattva then went to the home of the village girl Sujātā, where he sat down at the seat that had been prepared for him. Monks, the village girl Sujātā then filled a golden vessel with the milk porridge and honey and offered it to the Bodhisattva. 
The Bodhisattva then had this thought: “Sujātā has offered this food, and if I eat it now, there is no doubt that I shall truly attain perfect and completely unexcelled awakening.” Then the Bodhisattva had his meal. When he was done, he got up and asked Sujātā, “Sister, what should I do with the golden bowl?”
“Please take it with you,” she replied.
The Bodhisattva told her, “I don’t need this bowl.”
Sujātā then told him, “Well then, do as you please. But I do not give food to anyone without also giving them a bowl.”
So the Bodhisattva took the bowl and left Urubilvā. Before noon he arrived at the banks of the Nairañjanā River, the river of nāgas. He put down his bowl and robe and entered the water to refresh himself. Monks, while the Bodhisattva was bathing, several hundred thousand gods came to venerate him. They poured divine aloe and sandalwood powder as well as various ointments into the river, and they scattered divine flowers of all colors onto the water. In this way the whole great Nairañjanā River flowed on full of divine perfumes and flowers that rained down. Many trillion gods came to collect the perfumed water that the Bodhisattva had used for bathing. They brought it with them to their own abodes in order to enshrine it in memorials and venerate it. The village girl Sujātā also collected all the hair and the beard of the Bodhisattva. Thinking that it must be sacred, [F.133.a] she took it with her in order to make memorials for veneration. 
When the Bodhisattva emerged from the river, he wanted to sit down, and so he looked for a suitable place on the riverbank. Right then, a nāga girl who lived in the Nairañjanā River emerged out of the earth’s surface and offered the Bodhisattva a throne made of jewels.
The Bodhisattva took his seat there and, while he was thinking fondly of the village girl Sujātā, he drank what he needed of the milk porridge made with honey. When he was done with his meal, he threw the golden bowl into the water without any feelings of attachment. As soon as the bowl hit the water, the nāga king Sāgara, full of devotion and great respect, came to fetch the bowl and bring it to his kingdom, thinking, “This is worthy of veneration!”
At that point the thousand-eyed Indra, the destroyer of cities, changed into a garuḍa with a diamond beak and attempted to steal the golden bowl from the nāga king Sāgara. When Indra was unable to do so, he changed into his own form and requested it politely. This time he received the bowl, and he brought it back to the Heaven of the Thirty-Three in order to enshrine it in a memorial for the sake of worship. In this heaven he started a religious festival called The Procession of the Bowl, observed on the days of astrological juncture. To this day the gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three hold an annual Festival of the Bowl. The nāga girl carried off the magnificent throne in order to make a memorial out of it and venerate it.
Monks, due to the strength of the Bodhisattva’s merit and the power of his insight, his body instantaneously changed as soon as he took in solid foods. In one moment his body regained its previous beautiful lotus-like luster. He now manifested the thirty-two and eighty marks of a great being as well as a halo of light, one fathom in diameter, around his body.
On this topic, it is said:
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