The Play in Full
Approaching the Seat of Awakening
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, when the Bodhisattva bathed in the Nairañjanā River and enjoyed a meal, his physical strength came back to him. With a triumphant gait, he now began the walk toward the great Bodhi tree. This tree was the king of trees and was found at a place characterized by sixteen unique features.
He walked with the gait of a great being. It was an undisturbed gait, a gait of the nāga Indrayaṣṭi, a steadfast gait, a gait as stable as Mount Meru, the king of mountains. He walked in a straight line without stumbling, not too fast and not too slow, without stomping heavily or dragging his feet. It was a graceful stride, a stainless stride, a beautiful stride, a stride free from anger, a stride free from delusion, and a stride free from attachment. It was the stride of a lion, the stride of the king of swans, the stride of the king of elephants, the stride of Nārāyaṇa, the stride that floats above the surface, the stride that leaves an impression of a thousand-spoked wheel on the ground, the stride of he whose fingers are connected through a web and who has copper-colored nails, the stride that makes the earth resound, and the stride that crushes the king of the mountains.
He walked with the stride of someone whose feet level off the terrain, be it sloping up or sloping down, the stride that leads sentient beings to happy rebirths through contact with the light rays that emerge from the web between his fingers, the stride that walks upon stainless lotuses, the stride that proceeds from previous wholesome actions, the stride of the previous buddha-lions, [F.134.b] and the stride that proceeds from a stable and indestructible diamond-like intention.  He had a stride that destroys all lower realms and all miserable existences, a stride that brings happiness to all beings, a stride that points out the path to liberation, a stride that renders powerless the strength of demons, a stride that suppresses evil opponents with their doctrines, a stride that removes the cataract of darkness and disturbing emotions, and a stride that undoes the workings of cyclic existence.
He walked with a gait that outshines Śakra, Brahmā, Maheśvara, and the world protectors. His stride was that of the single lord of the great trichiliocosm, the spontaneous stride that cannot be overpowered, the stride that actualizes the attainment of omniscient wisdom, the stride of mindfulness and insight, the stride that leads to a happy rebirth, the stride that pacifies old age and death, the stride of stainless peace, the stride that leads to the city of nirvāṇa, which is auspicious, stainless, and free from fear. With such a stride the Bodhisattva set out for the seat of awakening.
Monks, on the stretch between the Nairañjanā River and the seat of awakening, the gods of wind clouds swept the road for the Bodhisattva, while the gods of rain clouds sprinkled his path with scented water, and scattered flowers along the way. At that point all the trees in this world of the great trichiliocosm bent their crowns toward the seat of awakening. All the children who had been born on that very day now slept with their heads toward the seat of awakening. Likewise all the mountains that exist in this world of the great trichiliocosm, such as Mount Meru, bowed toward the seat of awakening.
All the way from the Nairañjanā River to the seat of awakening, the road had been beautified for a stretch of several miles by the gods of the desire realm. [F.135.a] At both sides of the road, they had magically erected a railing made from the seven types of precious stones. The road was shaded, at the height of seven palm trees, with a jeweled latticework and adorned with divine parasols, flags, and banners. At a distance of an arrow’s flight, they had emanated a row of palm trees made of the seven types of precious stones and taller than the railing. Between all the palm trees, jewel garlands were strung. In between each pair of palm trees, a lotus pond  was built, filled with scented water, lined with golden sand, and covered in blue, yellow, red, and white lotuses. Jewel ledges and beryl staircases surrounded the ponds. The ponds resounded with the calls of ducks, storks, swans, geese, cranes, and peacocks. Eighty thousand divine maidens sprinkled the path with flowers of divine scent. In front of each of the palm trees was a jewel podium on which eighty thousand divine maidens stood, proffering containers with powders of sandal and aloeswood, and holding up lighted incense burners with sandalwood. On each of these jewel podiums were also five thousand divine maidens singing celestial songs.
Monks, in this way the Bodhisattva proceeded on his way, emitting trillions of light rays, while the realms shook, music played from millions of instruments, a great rain with an abundance of flowers fell, millions of silken banners fluttered in the wind, millions of drums resounded as they were beaten, and horses, elephants, and bulls circumambulated the Bodhisattva. Hundreds of thousands of parrots, mynas, cuckoos, partridge, swans, sandpipers, peacocks, and cakrāvaka birds were drawn into the Bodhisattva’s presence. Adorned with hundreds of thousands of auspicious signs, such was the road on which the Bodhisattva traveled on his way to the seat of awakening. [F.135.b]
On that night, the very night when the Bodhisattva set his aim on attaining full and complete awakening, the all-powerful Brahmā, the ruler of the great trichiliocosm, called out to his large retinue in the Brahma realm.
“Friends,” he said, “you should be aware of this. The Bodhisattva, the Great Being, has donned the great armor. Without forsaking his great vow, protected by his solid armor, he is undeterred and has perfected all the conduct of a bodhisattva. He has reached the further shore of all the perfections and become a master of all the grounds of a bodhisattva. He is perfectly pure in his aspirations of a bodhisattva and joins in the five spiritual faculties of all sentient beings.  He has entered the secret locations of all the thus-gone ones and is beyond all paths of demonic activity. He is not dependent on others regarding the basis for acquiring merit. He is blessed by all thus-gone ones. He demonstrates the path to complete freedom for all sentient beings. He is a great captain who conquers the circle of Māra’s army. He is the single hero of the trichiliocosm.
“He has accomplished all the medicines of Dharma and is the great king of physicians, wearing a silken headband of salvation. He is the great Dharma king who shines the bright light of knowledge. He is a great meteor-like king who, like a magnificent lotus flower, is unstained by the eight worldly concerns. He never forgets the dhāraṇīs of any teaching. He is like a great ocean, free from attachment and aversion. He is immovable and unshakable like the great central mountain. He is utterly stainless, pure, and in possession of a very wholesome mind, and thus he is like a great jewel. He has become a master of all phenomena and is, in all his actions, beyond intentions.
“The Bodhisattva, who is like the great Brahmā, proceeds to the seat of awakening with the desire to awaken to unexcelled, perfect, and complete buddhahood in order to tame the armies of Māra. [F.136.a] He proceeds in order to perfectly accomplish the ten powers, the fourfold fearlessness, and the eighteen unique qualities of a buddha. His aim is to turn the great wheel of Dharma and utter the lion’s great roar. With the gift of Dharma, he will satisfy all sentient beings. He will purify the eye of Dharma of all sentient beings and annihilate all his opponents together with their doctrines. He goes to the seat of awakening to demonstrate the fulfillment of his previous vows and to gain a ruler’s complete mastery over all phenomena. Friends, for these reasons you should pay homage to the Bodhisattva and joyfully assist him in every way possible!”
Monks, the great Brahmā, who presides over the trichiliocosm, then made, in a single moment, all the worlds in the great trichiliocosm the same. The world had now become smooth, like the palm of a hand. There was no longer any gravel or rocks, and instead the world was filled with jewels, pearls, cat’s-eye gems, conch shells, crystals, corals, gold, and silver. He covered this entire world of the great trichiliocosm in soft green grass, curled to the right in the pattern of a swastika, soft as the finest cloth, and pleasant to the touch. 
At that moment, all the great oceans had also become as peaceful as dry land, and all the beings who live in the waters had become free from any harm. When all the worldly guardians in the ten directions, such as Indra and Brahmā, saw how beautiful the world had become, they decided to venerate the Bodhisattva by adorning a hundred thousand buddha realms in the same way.
All other bodhisattvas who are beyond the world of humans and gods also wished to venerate the Bodhisattva, and therefore they adorned the limitless buddha realms in the ten directions with an array of offerings. All these buddha realms, even though they were adorned in different ways, now appeared as one single buddha realm. All the space between the worlds had disappeared, [F.137.a] as had the encircling black mountains and the smaller and greater perimeter walls. All these buddha realms could be seen permeated with the light streaming from the Bodhisattva.
At the seat of awakening, there were sixteen gods who guarded the place. Their names were Utkhalin, Sūtkhalin, Prajāpati, Śūrabhala, Keyūrabala, Supratiṣṭhita, Mahindhara, Avabhāsakara, Vimala, Dharmeśvara, Dharmaketu, Siddhapātra, Apratihatanetra, Mahāvyūha, Śilaviśuddhanetra, and Padmaprabha. It was these sixteen gods, all of whom had attained irreversible patience, who guarded the seat of awakening.
As a way to venerate the Bodhisattva, they had adorned the seat of awakening. At a distance of eighty leagues, they had encircled the place with railings, built in seven rows. Palm trees were also placed in seven circles, and a sevenfold lattice with bells of precious stones enfolded it. All of this was surrounded with seven threads made of precious materials.
The seat of awakening was covered with cloth made of gold from the Jambū River, a cloth studded with seven precious gems and woven with a golden thread. It was bestrewn with lotuses of gold from the Jambū River, scented with aromatic essences, and covered by a jewel canopy. All the beautiful and excellent trees that grow and are venerated in all the different worlds in the ten directions, including the worlds of gods and humans, now manifested at the seat of awakening.  Likewise all the different species of flowers that grow in water as well as on land manifested there at the seat of awakening. Moreover, the bodhisattvas in all the various worlds in the ten directions now became visible at the seat of awakening, adorning the place with their immeasurable accumulations of merit and wisdom. [F.137.b]
In this way, the gods who guarded the seat of awakening magically manifested such displays at that place. They were so magnificent that when the gods, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, and demigods witnessed them, they began to conceive of their own abodes as nothing more than charnel grounds. As they saw the displays, they felt great respect and exclaimed with joy, “How great! What an inconceivable manifestation of meritorious ripening this is!”
At the Bodhi tree itself there were four deities: Veṇu, Valgu, Sumanas, and Ojopati. These four deities of the Bodhi tree also wished to venerate the Bodhisattva, and therefore they modeled the Bodhi tree to give it perfect roots, trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits, as well as a perfect height and circumference. It was beautiful, nice to behold, wide, and, with its height of eighty palm trees and a corresponding circumference, very imposing. This was indeed a magnificent and beautiful tree. It was encircled by jewel platforms that were built in seven rows. Jewel palm trees were also placed around it in seven circles, and a sevenfold lattice with bells of precious stones enfolded it. All of this was surrounded with seven threads made of precious materials that formed the outer ring.
Like the coral tree or the kovidāra tree, this was a tree that one could never tire of beholding. This place, where the Bodhisattva was to take his seat with the intention of attaining full and complete awakening, had become the essence of indestructible diamond, harder than any diamond in the great trichiliocosm.
Monks, as the Bodhisattva was walking toward the seat of awakening, rays of light streamed forth from his body. The light pacified all the lower realms and caused all unfortunate states to cease. All the painful feelings of beings in the lower realms came to a halt. [F.138.a]  All beings with impaired faculties now recovered their senses. Anyone who suffered from disease was healed. Anyone feeling discomfort attained happiness. All who were struck with fear found release. Anyone living in bondage was freed from his or her ties. Anyone suffering from poverty discovered wealth. All the people tormented by disturbing emotions found release from their anguish. Those who were starving had their stomachs filled. All the ones who were parched were relieved of their thirst. Pregnant women gave birth easily. Those who were old and weak gained perfect strength.
At that moment all sentient beings were relieved of the harms inflicted by attachment, anger, ignorance, wrath, greed, cruelty, ill will, envy, and jealousy. At that moment no one experienced dying, moving to the next life, and taking birth. At that moment everyone engendered love, altruism, and a feeling that all beings are each other’s mothers and fathers.
This can also be expressed in verse:
Monks, the light that streamed from the body of the Bodhisattva illuminated the abode of Kālika, the king of nāgas. The light was pure and stainless and gave rise to joy as it satisfied the bodies and minds that it touched. It cleared away all disturbing emotions and brought joy, happiness, trust, and supreme enjoyment to all sentient beings. When Kālika, the king of the nāgas, saw how the light illumined his own abode, he spoke these verses in front of his retinue:
Monks, at this point Suvarṇaprabhāsā, the chief queen of Kālika the nāga king, came to see the Bodhisattva. She was surrounded and escorted by many nāga girls, who were holding various types of cloth, parasols made of assorted jewels, different pearl necklaces, a variety of precious jewels, an array of garlands, a myriad of unguents and powders made by gods and humans, and containers with diverse perfumes. The nāga girls attended to the Bodhisattva while they sang melodious songs accompanied by music. In this way, as the Bodhisattva proceeded on his way, they besprinkled him with showers of flowers made of various jewels and praised him with these verses:
At that point hundreds of thousands of gods from the pure realms descended into the atmosphere. They knew the Bodhisattva’s thoughts and said:  “Yes, that is how it is. Holy Man, that is correct. The previous thus-gone ones used a seat of grass as they attained unsurpassed, genuine and perfect awakening.”
Monks, at the right side of the road the Bodhisattva now noticed a grass seller, whose name was Svastika, who was busy cutting grass. The grass was green, soft, fresh, and beautiful. It coiled to the right and resembled the neck of a peacock. It was as soft to the touch as divine cloth, [F.141.a] with the sweetest scent and the most beautiful color.
At this sight the Bodhisattva left the road, and he went to the grass seller Svastika and spoke to him with sweet words. His words were authoritative, informative, and clear. His speech was uninterrupted, captivating, and pleasant to hear. It was affectionate, worthy to be remembered, encouraging, satisfying, and delightful.
His words were not harsh. They were free from stammering, and they had no animosity. They were not erratic but smooth, gentle, sweet, and pleasant to the ear. It was a speech that delighted both the body and the mind and cleared away all attachment, anger, delusion, strife, and quarrels. His voice was like the call of the cuckoo bird, the kunāla bird, and the partridge. It sounded like a drum or a melodious chant. It caused no harm but was true, clear, and genuine. His voice had a resonance like the voice of Brahmā, or the gushing of waves on the ocean, or the sound of rocks hitting against each other. It was a voice praised by the lord of the gods and the lord of the demigods. It was hard to measure its profundity and depth. It rendered powerful demons powerless and eliminated opposing doctrines.
He spoke with the strength of the lion’s roar, the neighing of a horse, the trumpeting of an elephant, and with a voice resounding like that of a nāga. His voice was like the clapping of a thundercloud, pervading all buddha realms in the ten directions. It roused all sentient beings in need of guidance. It was unconfused, harmless, and without hesitation. It was appropriate, logical, spoken at the right time, in a timely manner, and contained hundreds of thousands of teachings. It was smooth, unimpeded, and with uninterrupted eloquence. [F.141.b] He spoke with a single voice, yet was heard in all languages. His voice caused all meanings to be known, produced all types of happiness, demonstrated the path to liberation, proclaimed the accumulations necessary for the path, did not ignore his audience, pleased all retinues,  and conformed with the teachings of all buddhas.
Monks, as the Bodhisattva was walking toward the Bodhi tree, the gods and bodhisattvas realized that this was the moment when the Bodhisattva, having sat there, would attain awakening and become a truly perfect awakened one. Accordingly, they decided to decorate another eighty thousand bodhi trees.
Some of the bodhi trees were made of flowers and were one hundred thousand leagues high. Other bodhi trees were made of odoriferous substances and were two hundred thousand leagues high. Some bodhi trees were made of sandalwood and were three hundred thousand leagues high. Still other bodhi trees were made of cloth and were five hundred thousand leagues high. Some bodhi trees were made of jewels and were one million leagues high. Other bodhi trees were made of all sorts of jewels and were one trillion leagues high.
At the root of each of these bodhi trees, they erected a suitable lion throne draped in various kinds of divine cloth. By some of the bodhi trees they also prepared a lotus throne, or a throne made of fragrant substances, or a throne made of various precious materials.
The Bodhisattva  now rested evenly in the absorption known as playful array. [F.142.b] As soon as the Bodhisattva began to rest in this absorption of playful array, immediately an identical bodhisattva appeared, with his body beautifully adorned with all the excellent marks and representations, sitting upon each of the lion thrones at the root of each of the bodhi trees.
At that point the bodhisattvas and the gods each perceived that the Bodhisattva was resting in equilibrium upon their particular lion throne and not on those set forth by the others. The power of the Bodhisattva’s absorption of playful array produced similar perceptions in the beings in hell, those born as animals, those living in the realm of the lord of death, all gods and humans, and all other beings, regardless of their form of existence. All beings now witnessed the Bodhisattva sitting on the lion throne at the root of the Bodhi tree.
Nevertheless, in order to also satisfy the intellect of those who lacked dedication, the Bodhisattva picked up the bundle of grass, went to the Bodhi tree, and circumambulated it seven times. The Lord then arranged the grass so that the ends of the grass pointed inward and the roots pointed outward. In this way he arranged for himself a very fine seat of grass.
He then sat down like a lion, like a hero, in a powerful way, in a steady way, in a diligent way, in a forceful way, like an elephant, like a lord, in a natural manner, like a wise person, like an unsurpassed person, like a special one, like an exalted one, like a famous one, like one full of praise, like a generous person, like a disciplined person, like a forbearing person, like a diligent person, like a concentrated person, like an insightful being, in a wise manner, in a meritorious manner, like someone who has conquered the attacks of demons, and like someone who has perfected the accumulations.
In this way he sat down on the grass seat and crossed his legs facing toward the east. He then straightened his back, collected himself one-pointedly, and formed this firm resolve: [F.143.a] [T.285]
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