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 that way the Bodhisattva taught this Dharma discourse to the large congregation of gods, [F.24.a] instructed them, inspired them, delighted them, and caused them to be receptive. He then said to that assembly of fortunate gods:
“Friends, I will now proceed to Jambudvīpa. In the past when I practiced the conduct of a bodhisattva, I attracted sentient beings through the four activities of giving, pleasant speech, beneficial activity, and demonstrating consistency in speech and aims. But friends, I would be acting without gratitude, and it would be inappropriate, if I were not now to achieve unexcelled, perfect, and complete awakening.”
To this, the Bodhisattva replied to the great retinue of gods, “The bodhisattva Maitreya will teach you the Dharma.” He then took the crown from his own head and placed it on the head of the bodhisattva Maitreya, saying, “You, virtuous one, shall awaken to perfect and complete buddhahood after me.”
Thus it was that the Bodhisattva enthroned the bodhisattva Maitreya in the Heaven of Joy. Then he again spoke to the great retinue of gods: “Friends, in what form should I enter the womb of a mother?”
Some replied, “As a human in the form of a young brahmin.” But other gods suggested, “In the form of Śakra, or Brahmā, or a great king, or Vaiśravaṇa, or a gandharva, or a kinnara, or a mahoraga, or Maheśvara, or the moon god, [F.24.b] or the sun god, or a garuḍa.”
There was also one of the gods of the Brahmā realm present, who was called Ugratejā. Having been a sage in his previous life, he had taken rebirth among the gods, where his progress toward unexcelled and perfect awakening had become irreversible. He now spoke:
Monks, while the Bodhisattva was still residing in the sublime Heaven of Joy, he considered the time for his birth. At that time he manifested eight omens at the sublime residence of King Śuddhodana. What were these eight?
The residence was immaculate since all weeds, stumps, brambles, small pebbles, and gravel had been removed. It was  well watered and very clean. It was undisturbed by wind and free from soot and dust. There were no mosquitoes, flies, bees, or snakes. It was covered with flowers, and the area became level, like the palm of a hand. This was the first omen.
Flocks of birds came to the palace from the Himālayan mountains, the king of mountain ranges. There were pattraguptas, parrots, mynas, cuckoos, swans, curlews, peacocks, wild geese, kunālas, nightingales, pheasants, and many others. The birds had beautiful and delightful wings in many colors and sang in melodious sounds. They perched upon the verandas, turrets, doorways, pavilions, and [F.25.a] upper terraces of King Śuddhodana’s sublime residence. The birds were joyful and content, and they each sang happily. This was the second omen.
In all of King Śuddhodana’s delightful parks, woodlands, and gardens, the various trees blossomed and carried fruits of all seasons. This was the third omen.
In each of King Śuddhodana’s lotus ponds and reservoirs, there appeared lotuses the size of cartwheels, each with many trillions of petals. This was the fourth omen.
In that sublime residence of King Śuddhodana, all the provisions of butter, sesame oil, honey, raw sugar, and sugar-cane juice were never depleted and appeared to be full even though they were used abundantly. This was the fifth omen.
Inside the women’s quarters of King Śuddhodana’s excellent residence, all the instruments, such as the great kettledrums, the clay and wooden kettledrums, the flutes, lutes, reed pipes, three-stringed lutes, bells, and cymbals suddenly emitted wonderful music by themselves without being played. This was the sixth omen. 
In that most excellent residence of King Śuddhodana, all the containers of different types of precious substances, such as gold, silver, jewels, pearls, beryl, shells, crystals, and corals, opened their lids and displayed their flawless perfection and abundance. This was the seventh omen.
Queen Māyā bathed and applied perfumes to her body. She ornamented her arms with many bracelets and dressed in the softest and most beautiful garments. Joyful, happy, and rapturous, accompanied and encircled by ten thousand women, she went to where King Śuddhodana was seated comfortably in the music hall. She seated herself to his right side on the fine, precious throne draped with jeweled latticework. With a smiling and trusting face free from anger, she spoke to King Śuddhodana in these verses:
There were also Sārthavāha, the officer son of Māra; Brahmā, the lord of the Sahā World; the divine priest Brahmottara; the divine priest Subrahmā; and Prabhāvyūha, Ābhāsvara, Maheśvara, and the gods living in the pure realms of Niṣṭhāgata and the Highest Heaven, as well as many hundreds of thousands of others as well. They spoke to one another in these words:
“Friends, if we were to allow the Bodhisattva to depart alone, without expressing our gratitude to him, it would be inappropriate. Friends, who among us will have the courage to serve the Bodhisattva constantly and ceaselessly as he travels to the womb of his mother? Who will serve him as he is in the womb, when he is born, as he grows and plays as a young child? Who will serve him when he is in the female quarters watching the musical performances, and when he renounces his home and is practicing austerities? Who will serve him as he proceeds to the seat of awakening, tames the demons, attains perfect and complete awakening, and turns the wheel of the Dharma? Who will serve him until he demonstrates passing into great parinirvāṇa? Who can keep him company with a kind, affectionate, friendly, loving, and noble attitude?”
Then they sang these verses: 
When they heard these verses, the gods assembled. There were 84,000 gods from the Heaven of the Four Great Kings, 100,000 gods from the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, 100,000 gods from the Heaven Free from Strife, 100,000 gods from the Heaven of Joy, 100,000 gods from the Heaven of Delighting in Emanations, 100,000 gods from the Heaven of Making Use of Others’ Emanations, 60,000 gods from the realm of Māra who were born there because of their former virtuous actions, 68,000  gods from the realm of Brahmā, and many hundreds of thousands of gods assembled from all the realms up to the highest heaven.
Moreover, many hundreds of thousands of gods came together from the east, the south, the west, and the north. [F.28.a] The foremost among the gods then spoke these verses to the great assembly of gods:
Monks, the goddesses who sport in the desire realms saw the perfection of the Bodhisattva’s bodily form and wondered, “What is she like, that maiden who will conceive this sublime and supreme pure being?”
Filled with curiosity, they gathered the finest and best flowers, incense, lamps, perfumes, garlands, ointments, powders, and cloths. Then, blessed as they were with supernatural powers from the ripening of merit and with divine bodies that are mentally created, they instantaneously disappeared from that celestial palace.
By means of their celestial powers, they traveled to Kapilavastu, that sublime city with a hundred thousand gardens,  and arrived at King Śuddhodana’s residence, known as the Home of the Swans, the great mansion that resembled the palaces of the ruler of the gods.
The goddesses, wearing loose gowns, were well adorned by the splendor of their immaculate merit, and their arms and hands were full of divine ornaments. They saw Queen Māyā resting on her fine bed. They pointed her [F.29.a] out to each other and, hovering in midsky, they sang these verses to one another:
Monks, as the Bodhisattva was about to pass away and take rebirth, many hundreds of thousands of bodhisattvas, who were bound by just one more birth, came to him from the east of the sacred abode of the Heaven of Joy. They approached the Bodhisattva in order to make offerings to him. Likewise many hundreds of thousands of bodhisattvas, all of them bound by just one more birth, came from all ten directions within the sacred abode of the Heaven of Joy, also approaching the Bodhisattva in order to make offerings to him.
There were eight million four hundred thousand goddesses from the Heaven of the Four Great Kings who approached the Bodhisattva, making offerings to him accompanied by music and singing. Similarly, eight million four hundred thousand goddesses from each of the realms of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, the Heaven Free from Strife,  the Heaven of Joy, the Heaven of Delighting in Emanations, and the Heaven of Making Use of Others’ Emanations approached the Bodhisattva. Singing songs and playing musical instruments of all types, they made offerings to the Bodhisattva.
At that time the Bodhisattva had taken his seat on the Glorious Essence lion throne inside his great palace. This throne had come about through all his merit and was visible to all the gods and nāgas. Then, as the bodhisattvas and many millions of gods, nāgas, and yakṣas assembled around him, he began his departure from the sublime realm of the Heaven of Joy.
Monks, [F.30.a] as he started to move, the Bodhisattva’s body began to shine with a brilliant and dazzling light that surpassed any other celestial light. This unprecedented light illuminated all the vast and enormous realms of the great trichiliocosm. Even the darkest regions of the world, filled with negativity and obscurity, where even the renowned great power and magical ability of the sun and the moon are unable to produce light, colors, or heat, were bathed in light. In those realms, the unfortunate beings normally cannot even see their own hands. But even there, the dazzling light shone. Due to the light, the beings in those realms now recognized one another and remarked, “Listen, friends! Other beings have also been born here!”
Then the whole billionfold world system shook in six ways and exhibited eighteen great signs. It began to quiver, tremble, quake, move, make sound, and roar, each in three degrees of intensity.  The world shook so violently that its center and edge, east and west, as well as north and south, all bounced around, so that when one side was up, the other was down.
At that point one could hear all sorts of pleasant and cheerful sounds. There were sounds that inspired love and made everyone serene. There were inviting and refreshing sounds that were impossible to describe or imitate, agreeable sounds that do not produce fear. [F.30.b] At that moment there was not a single being anywhere that felt hostile, frightened, or anxious. At that moment even the light of the sun and moon and the splendor of the gods, such as Śakra, Brahmā, and the world protectors, was eclipsed. All beings who were living in the hells, along with those born as animals and all those in the realm of the lord of death, became instantaneously free from suffering and filled with every happiness. No being had any painful emotion, such as anger, delusion, envy, jealousy, pride, hypocrisy, arrogance, wrath, malice, or burning anguish. At that moment all sentient beings felt love for each other, wished each other well, and saw each other as parents and children.
Trillions of divine and human musical instruments played sweet sounds without even being touched or played. Hundreds of millions of gods lifted and carried that great mansion using their hands, shoulders, and the crowns of their heads. Hundreds of thousands of goddesses each sang songs. From all around they praised the Bodhisattva with the sounds of their tunes: 
This concludes the fifth chapter, on setting out.
’phags pa rgya cher rol pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Āryalalitavistaranāmamahāyānasūtra). Toh 95, Degé Kangyur vol. 46 (mdo sde, kha), folios 1b–216b.
’phags pa rgya cher rol pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo. 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 46, pp. 3–434.
Foucaux, Phillipe Édouard. Rgya Tch’er Rol Pa ou Développement des Jeux, Contenant l’Histoire du Bouddha Çakya-mouni. Première Partie—Texte Tibétain. Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1847.
Hokazono, Kōichi (1994). Raritavisutara no Kenkyu. Volume 1 [study of Lalitavistara, chs. 1–14]. Tokyo: Daitō Shuppansha, 1994.
———— (2019a). Raritavisutara no Kenkyu. Volume 2 [study of Lalitavistara, chs. 15–21]. Tokyo: Daitō Shuppansha, 2019.
———— (2019b). Raritavisutara no Kenkyu. Volume 3 [study of Lalitavistara, chs. 22–27]. Tokyo: Daitō Shuppansha, 2019.
Lefmann, Salomon. Lalita Vistara. Halle: Verlag der Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses, 1882.
Mitra, R. L. (1853–1877). The Lalita Vistara or Memoirs of the Early Life of S’a’kya Siñha. Bibliotheca Indica: A Collection of Oriental Works, Old Series, nos. 51, 73, 143, 144, 145, 237. Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1853–1877.
Bays, Gwendolyn. The Voice of the Buddha, The Beauty of Compassion: The Lalitavistara Sutra. Tibetan Translation Series, vol. 2. Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing, 1983.
Foucaux, Phillipe Édouard (1848). Rgya Tch’er Rol Pa ou Développement des Jeux, Contenant l’Histoire du Bouddha Çakya-mouni: Traduit sur la version Tibétaine du Bkahhgyour, et revu sur l’original Sanscrit (Lalitavistara). Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1848.
———— (1870). Étude sur le Lalita Vistara pour une édition critique du texte sanskrit, précédée d’ un coup d’oeil sur la publication des livres bouddhiques en Europe et dans l’Inde. Paris: Maisonneuve, 1870.
———— (1884). Le Lalitavistara, Développement des Jeux: l’histoire traditionnelle de la vie du Bouddha Çakyamuni. Première partie. Annales du Musée Guimet, vol. 6 Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1884.
———— (1892). Le Lalitavistara, Développement des Jeux: l’histoire traditionnelle de la vie du Bouddha Çakyamuni. Seconde partie: notes, variantes, et index. Annales du Musée Guimet, vol. 19. Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1892.
Lefmann, Salomon (1874). Lalitavistara: Erzählung von dem Leben und der Lehre des Çâkya Simha. Berlin: Dümmler, 1874.
Lenz, Robert. “Analyse du Lalita-Vistara-Pourana, l’un des principaux ouvrages sacrés des Bouddhistes de l’Asie centrale, contenant la vie de leur prophète, et écrit en Sanscrit.” In Bulletin Scientifique publié par l’Académie impériale des Sciences de Saint-Pétersbourg, I.7:49–51; I.8:57–63; I.9:71–72; I.10:75–78; I.11:87–88; I.12:92–96; I.13:97–99. St. Petersburg: Académie impériale des sciences, 1836.
Miller, Robert. The Chapter on a Schism in the Saṅgha (Saṅghabhedavastu, Toh 1-1). 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, forthcoming.
Mitra, R. L. (1881–1886). The Lalita Vistara or Memoirs of the Early Life of S’a’kya Siñha, Translated from the Original Sanskrit. Bibliotheca Indica: A Collection of Oriental Works, New Series, nos. 455, 473, 575. Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1881–1886. Republished, Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1998.
Silk, Jonathan A. “Serious Play: Recent Scholarship on the Lalitavistara.” In Indo-Iranian Journal 65, pp. 267–301. Leiden: Brill, 2022.
Vaidya, P. L. Lalitavistara. Buddhist Sanskrit Texts, vol. 1. Darbhanga: The Mithila Institute, 1958.
Winternitz, Maurice (1927). A History of Indian Literature. 3rd ed. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1991, 2:249–56.
Goswami, Bijoya. Lalitavistara. Bibliotheca Indica Series, vol. 320. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 2001.
Khosla, Sarla. Lalitavistara and the Evolution of Buddha Legend. New Delhi: Galaxy Publications, 1991.
Thomas, E. J. “The Lalitavistara and Sarvastivada.” Indian Historical Quarterly 16:2 (1940): 239–45.