The Play in Full
Entering the Womb
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, the cold season had passed and it was the third month of spring. It was the finest season, when the moon enters the constellation Viśākhā. The leaves of trees unfurled and the most exquisite flowers blossomed. It was neither cold nor hot, and there was no fog or dust in the air. Fresh green grass covered the grounds everywhere.
The Lord of the Three Worlds,  revered by all the worlds, now judged that the time had come. On the fifteenth day, during the full moon, while his future mother was observing the poṣadha precepts during the constellation of Puṣya, the Bodhisattva moved, fully conscious and aware, from the fine realm of the Heaven of Joy to the womb of his mother. [F.32.a]
He entered through his mother’s right side in the form of a baby elephant, white in color with six tusks. His head was the color of a reddish insect, and the tusks were blazing gold. He had all his limbs intact and his full faculties. As he entered, he stayed only at the right side of the womb and never on the left. As this occurred, Queen Māyā was sleeping on her pleasant bed and saw the following in her dream:
As she awoke, Queen Māyā first adorned herself with ornaments and flowing garments. Refreshed in body and mind, she felt affectionate, joyful, and calm. She then arose from her bed and made her way down from the upper floors of the palace, surrounded by her female attendants. She proceeded to the aśoka-tree forest, where she felt at ease. Once there, she sent a message to King Śuddhodana: “Your Majesty, please come, the queen would like to see you.”
When King Śuddhodana heard this message, he became very elated, and immediately he rose from his throne. Surrounded by his ministers and townspeople, attendants and relatives, he went to the aśoka forest. However, as he arrived, his body suddenly felt very heavy and he was unable to enter the forest. In this way he just stood at the entrance to the aśoka forest. Reflecting a little, he then spoke these verses: [F.32.b]
The queen replied:
The brāhmins replied, “Your Majesty, please speak. When we hear what you saw in your dream, we will explain.” [F.33.a]
The queen replied:
Monks, when King Śuddhodana heard that message from the priests who understood how to analyze marks and signs and who knew the scriptures related to dreams, he was satisfied. Impressed, delighted, and joyful, he felt blissful and happy. He pleased the priests by offering them delicious food and drink. When they were all full, he entertained them and presented them with gifts before they departed.
At the same time, as an offering to the Bodhisattva, alms were distributed at the four gates of the city of Kapilavastu and at all its crossroads and junctions. The king offered food to those who were hungry, and drink to those who were thirsty. He offered clothes to those who needed clothing, carriages to those who required transportation, perfumes to those who desired perfume, garlands to those who wished for garlands, oils to those who wanted ointments, sheets to those who longed for bedding, shelter to the homeless, and necessities to those who yearned for provisions.
Monks, in this way each of the eminent gods of the desire realm [F.34.a] individually presented their respective residences as an offering to the Bodhisattva, right there in the fine city of Kapilavastu. King Śuddhodana also provided an excellent mansion. It far surpassed those built by other humans, although it could not match the divine palaces. However, by the power of the Bodhisattva resting in the absorption known as the great array, Queen Māyā appeared in all of those residences.
During the period when the Bodhisattva stayed in Queen Māyā’s womb, he remained on the right side of the womb, seated in a cross-legged posture.  In addition all the chief gods believed that the mother of the Bodhisattva remained only in the residence they had given her, and not anywhere else.
On this topic, it is said:
Then some gods among the assembly began to wonder, “Even the gods in the Heaven of the Four Great Kings turn back when they approach human habitations. So what about the gods of the highest order—those in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, the Heaven Free from Strife, or the Heaven of Joy? How could the pure Bodhisattva, who is free from bad-smelling odors, superior to the entire world, a jewel among beings, transmigrate from the divine realm of the Heaven of Joy and remain for ten months in the foul-smelling human body inside his mother’s womb?”
Then at that time, by the power of the Buddha, venerable Ānanda said to the Blessed One, “O Blessed One, the Thus-Gone One has taught how the female body is inferior and enjoys desire. That was astonishing. But, Blessed One, it is even more astonishing that when you, who are superior to all worlds, were a bodhisattva in the past, you moved from the divine realm of the Heaven of Joy and entered your mother, remaining in a human body on the right side of the womb! [F.34.b] Blessed One, you have mentioned how it all happened, and yet it is simply beyond me!”
Ānanda replied, “Yes please, Blessed One, right away. Well-Gone One, now would be a perfect time! If the Thus-Gone One should reveal the Bodhisattva’s delight, it would be a great pleasure to witness it.” 
Then, through the Blessed One’s doing, Brahmā, lord of the Sahā World, disappeared from the Brahma Realm together with six million eight hundred thousand gods of that same realm. They all appeared in the presence of the Blessed One, where they prostrated at the feet of the Blessed One and circled him three times. Then Brahmā stood to one side, bowing to the Blessed One.
Although the Blessed One knew already, he asked Brahmā, the lord of the Sahā world, “Brahmā, did you remove the structure that delighted me in the past when I was a bodhisattva and stayed for ten months in my mother’s womb?”
Then Brahmā, lord of the Sahā World, [F.35.a] prostrated with his head at the feet of the Blessed One before disappearing from the presence of the Blessed One. In that very instant he reached the Brahma realm. There he spoke these words to the god Subrahmā:
“Friend, go from this Brahma realm up to the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and tell them, ‘We are bringing the jeweled structure that delighted the Bodhisattva and we are taking it into the presence of the Blessed One. Those among you who would like to see it should come quickly!’ ”
Brahmā, lord of the Sahā World, together with 84 trillion gods, lifted the jeweled structure that had delighted the Bodhisattva and placed it atop a great mansion in the Brahma realm that was three hundred leagues high. Surrounded by all these many trillions of gods, he then descended back down to Jambudvīpa. 
At that time there was a great gathering of gods from the desire realm who wished to serve the Bodhisattva. These gods further embellished the jeweled structure that had delighted the Bodhisattva, using divine fabrics, garlands, perfumes, flowers, music, and other divine delights. The most eminent among the gods all surrounded the structure.
At the same time Śakra, lord of the gods, was standing far away on top of Mount Sumeru in the middle of the ocean. Shielding his face with his palm, he turned his head and stared out unblinking and completely transfixed, but he was unable to see the jeweled structure. Why was that? Among the gods, those of the Brahma realm have the greatest ability, and the gods in 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 are inferior in comparison to them. So what need is there to speak of Śakra, master of the gods?
Thus they stood aside, turned their heads, and gazed intently at the Blessed One.  Suddenly Brahmā, lord of the Sahā World, arrived together with 84 trillion gods, carrying the jeweled structure that had delighted the Bodhisattva and bringing it in front of the Thus-Gone One.
The jeweled structure that had delighted the Bodhisattva was finely shaped, exquisite and beautiful to behold. It was square in form and had four pillars. At the top was a beautifully adorned upper floor scaled to fit a six-month-old fetus. Inside that upper chamber was a throne with a sitting area that was likewise scaled to fit a six-month-old fetus.
There is nothing whatsoever in the world, including the realms of gods and Brahma gods, that is similar in color and shape to the jeweled structure that delighted the Bodhisattva. When the gods saw it, their eyes were dazzled and they were amazed. When it was placed in the presence of the Thus-Gone One, it gleamed, radiated heat, and shone brightly. This multistoried structure was as resplendent as gold that has been smelted twice by an expert goldsmith [F.36.a] so that it has become perfectly refined and free of any impurity.
Likewise nothing whatsoever in all the divine realms can compare to the size and shape of the throne inside the structure that had delighted the Bodhisattva, except perhaps the neck of the Bodhisattva, which resembles a conch in shape and color. Even the garments worn by the great Brahmā lost their beauty in front of the Bodhisattva’s throne, causing them to resemble cast-off black blankets that have been beaten by wind and rain. The temple was made from uraga sandalwood, which is so precious that a single mote of its dust is equal in value to a thousand universes. Furthermore the temple was surrounded on all sides by more such uraga sandalwood.
Inside that temple hovered an identical second structure, which did not touch the first structure. Inside this second temple hovered  an identical third structure, which also did not touch the second structure. Within that third temple made of incense was a throne with cushions. The color of the uraga sandalwood was like the finest blue beryl. Around the temple of incense were all types of flowers that surpassed even those of the gods. They had not been planted there, but appeared solely because of the maturation of the Bodhisattva’s previous basic virtue.
That precious structure that delighted the Bodhisattva was like a diamond—solid, firm, and indestructible. Yet it was also pleasant to the touch, like kācilindika cloth. Moreover, the precious structure that delighted the Bodhisattva clearly reflected all that is found within the abodes of the gods of the desire realm.
On the evening in which the Bodhisattva entered the womb, a lotus appeared from below the waters, piercing the earth and rising up six million eight hundred thousand leagues, as far as the Brahma realm. [F.36.b] Only the best of charioteers and the great Brahmā, who is master of a thousand powers, were able to see that flower. To everyone else, it was invisible. In that great lotus appeared a drop of nectar, which embodied the extracted essence and vitality of the entire great trichiliocosm. The great Brahmā placed this drop into a beautiful vessel of beryl and offered it to the Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva accepted the gift and, out of affection for the great Brahmā, he drank it. Apart from a bodhisattva in his final existence, who has completed all the bodhisattva stages, no other being is able to digest such a drop of vital energy.
What were the previous actions that prepared the Bodhisattva for digesting this drop of vital energy?  When the Bodhisattva was practicing the conduct of a bodhisattva for extended periods in the past, he gave medicine to the sick, fulfilled the wishes of those who had aspirations, and never abandoned those who came to him for refuge. He always offered the finest flowers, the best fruits, and the most delicious foods first to the thus-gone ones, the memorials of the thus-gone ones, the saṅgha of hearers of the thus-gone ones, and his parents. Only then would he cater to his own needs. It was as a result of this activity that the great Brahmā offered the Bodhisattva this drop of nectar.
Within that temple all the most excellent and exquisite pleasures and amusements came together, manifesting due to the maturation of the Bodhisattva’s previous actions. Moreover, within the precious structure that delighted the Bodhisattva, a set of garments appeared, known as the ornament of a hundred thousand. Apart from a bodhisattva in his final existence, [F.37.a] no other being anywhere could ever receive such garments. In fact all possible sublime and perfect forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures were present within that peaked structure. [B4]
In this way the temple that delighted the Bodhisattva was completely perfect and finely constructed both inside and outside. It was also pleasant to touch, like silk from Kaliṅga. This is merely an example, for in reality nothing could compare to it.
Because of the previous aspirations of the Bodhisattva, his intentions were accomplished. It is the nature of things that a great bodhisattva is born into the human world. Having renounced his home, he attains perfect and complete awakening and turns the wheel of Dharma. Yet before he enters his mother’s womb, a temple of precious materials is manifested on the right side of the mother’s womb. Then as a bodhisattva transmigrates from the Heaven of Joy, he remains seated in a cross-legged position in that tiered chamber. The body of a bodhisattva in his last existence is free from the four stages  of embryonic development. Instead he appears seated, with all his limbs, organs, and characteristics fully formed. As such Queen Māyā saw the arrival of an elephant in her dream.
Now Śakra, lord of the gods, as well as the Four Great Kings, the twenty-eight great commanders of the yakṣas, and the master of the guhyakas, who are the type of yakṣa from which Vajrapāṇi came, all knew that the Bodhisattva had entered the womb of his mother, and they constantly stayed close to him. The Bodhisattva also had four goddesses named Utkhalī, Samutkhalī, [F.37.b] Dhvajavatī, and Prabhāvatī serve him. When these four goddesses knew that the Bodhisattva had entered the womb of his mother, they kept a constant guard over him. In addition, when Śakra, lord of the gods, discovered that the Bodhisattva had entered the womb of his mother, he brought along five hundred gods to constantly follow the Bodhisattva.
The body of a bodhisattva who has entered the womb of his mother develops certain features. For example, it is like a great fire burning on a mountaintop during the darkest night, visible from a league or even five leagues away. The body of the Bodhisattva as he entered the womb of his mother was just this way. It was radiant, well formed, handsome, and pleasing to see. As he sat with crossed legs inside that peaked structure, he was exceedingly beautiful. He appeared to have a golden hue, shining like refined gold adorned with precious beryl. The mother of the Bodhisattva could also see the Bodhisattva within her womb.
In the same way that a lightning bolt illumines everything as it emerges from a mass of clouds, so the Bodhisattva dwelling in his mother’s womb also illuminated the innermost chamber of the precious temple through his splendor, brilliance, and color. When that was illuminated, he illuminated the middle chamber of the fragrant temple. When the second level  of the fragrant temple was illuminated, the light went farther and illuminated the outer chamber of the fragrant temple. Then, as the third level of the fragrant temple was bathed in light, his mother’s entire body became filled with light. The light then went farther and illuminated the seat upon which his mother was seated. Gradually the light streamed forth and brightened the entire palace. The light rays rose beyond the palace and illuminated the east. Likewise, while the Bodhisattva was residing in the womb of his mother, the glory, brilliance, and color of the Bodhisattva illuminated the south, the west, and the north, below and above. In fact all the ten directions [F.38.a] were bathed in light for several miles in each direction.
Monks, in the early morning the Four Great Kings and the twenty-eight great commanders of the yakṣas together with five hundred yakṣas arrived to meet the Bodhisattva and to offer him their respect and veneration, and also to listen to the Dharma. At that time the Bodhisattva, who was aware of their arrival, extended his right hand and pointed out their seats. The guardians of the world and the other guests sat down on the arranged seats. They perceived the Bodhisattva, who was in the womb of his mother, in the form of a child who has already taken birth, extending his hand and moving it in various positions. Upon seeing this they prostrated to the Bodhisattva and were filled with joy, devotion, and well-being.
When the Bodhisattva saw that they were settled, he taught them a Dharma teaching and instructed them, inspired them, and delighted them. When they wished to go, the Bodhisattva, who knew full well their thoughts, extended his right hand as a farewell greeting. As he retracted his hand, there was no harm done to his mother. The Four Great Kings understood the greeting and thought, “We have been dismissed by the Bodhisattva.”  Then they circled around the Bodhisattva and his mother three times before departing. This was the circumstance and the reason why the Bodhisattva, in the quiet of the night, would extend his right hand and draw it back. Finally he would let the hand rest while maintaining mindfulness and carefulness.
At other times when people came to see the Bodhisattva, be they women or men, [F.38.b] boys or girls, he would first joyfully welcome them, and then his mother would do the same. Monks, in this way the Bodhisattva became very skilled at initiating delightful salutations as he dwelt in his mother’s womb. There was no one, whether god, nāga, yakṣa, human, or nonhuman, who was ever able to greet the Bodhisattva first with a delightful salutation. Instead the Bodhisattva would initiate the salutations, and afterward the mother of the Bodhisattva would joyfully welcome the guests.
When the morning had passed and the noon hour arrived, Śakra, the lord of the gods, along with the most eminent gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, came to meet the Bodhisattva and to offer him their respect and veneration, and also to listen to the Dharma. The Bodhisattva, who saw them coming from a distance, extended his golden-colored right hand and, to the delight of Śakra, lord of the gods, and the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, pointed out their seats. Monks, at that moment Śakra, lord of the gods, was unable to resist the Bodhisattva’s request, and so he and the gods all settled down on the seats that had been arranged for them.
When the Bodhisattva knew that they were settled, he taught them a Dharma teaching and instructed them, inspired them, and delighted them. In whichever direction the Bodhisattva would extend his hand, the mother of the Bodhisattva would turn to face that way. Then the gods reflected, “The Bodhisattva is having a heartwarming conversation with us.” And each one of them thought, “The Bodhisattva is speaking directly to me; to me alone he extends a friendly welcome.” All the while the images of Śakra, lord of the gods, [F.39.a] and those of the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three were reflected within the temple. Thus nowhere else were the Bodhisattva’s enjoyments as perfectly pure as in the womb of his mother.
Monks, when Śakra, lord of the gods, and the other gods wished to depart, the Bodhisattva, who knew full well their thoughts, extended his right hand as a farewell greeting. As he retracted his hand, there was no harm done to his mother. At that time Śakra, lord of the gods, and the other gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three reflected, “We have been dismissed by the Bodhisattva.”  Then they circled around the Bodhisattva and his mother three times before departing.
Monks, noontime passed, and it was now evening when Brahmā, lord of the Sahā World, surrounded by many hundreds of thousands of gods, approached the Bodhisattva carrying a drop of the vital force of the divine realms. They came to meet the Bodhisattva and to offer him their respect and veneration, and also to listen to the Dharma.
Monks, the Bodhisattva knew that Brahmā, lord of the Sahā World, was arriving together with his retinue, and again he raised his golden-colored right hand. He cordially greeted Brahmā, lord of the Sahā World, and those gods of the pure realms, and pointed out their seats to them. Monks, again it was not possible  for Brahmā, lord of the Sahā World, to resist the Bodhisattva’s command. Thus Brahmā, lord of the Sahā World, as well as the other gods of the pure realms, settled on those seats that had been arranged. When the Bodhisattva knew that they were settled, he taught them a Dharma teaching and instructed them, [F.39.b] inspired them, and delighted them. In whichever direction the Bodhisattva would extend his hand, the mother of the Bodhisattva would turn to face that way. Then the gods reflected, “The Bodhisattva is having a heartwarming conversation with us.” And each one of them thought, “The Bodhisattva is speaking directly to me; to me alone he extends a friendly welcome.”
Monks, when Brahmā, lord of the Sahā World, and those gods of the pure realms wished to depart, the Bodhisattva, who knew full well their thoughts, extended his right hand as a farewell greeting. As he retracted his hand with mindfulness and carefulness, there was no harm done to his mother. Then Brahmā, lord of the Sahā World, and those gods of the pure realms reflected, “We have been dismissed by the Bodhisattva.” Then they circled around the Bodhisattva and his mother three times before departing. Finally the Bodhisattva let his hand rest while maintaining mindfulness and carefulness.
Monks, from everywhere, such as the east, the south, the west, the north, above and below, many hundreds of thousands of bodhisattvas came to meet the Bodhisattva and to offer him their respect and veneration, and also to listen to the Dharma and correctly proclaim that Dharma. Once they had arrived, the Bodhisattva’s body began emitting light, which manifested into lion thrones. The Bodhisattva then indicated to the bodhisattvas to take their seat on these thrones. When he knew that they were settled, the Bodhisattva questioned and examined the bodhisattvas  regarding the divisions pertaining to the Great Vehicle. However, with the exception of the gods who were of equal fortune, no one else perceived this. [F.40.a] Monks, this was the circumstance and the reason why the Bodhisattva projected light from his body in the quiet of the night.
Monks, while the Bodhisattva was dwelling in the womb of his mother, Queen Māyā did not feel any heaviness in her body. On the contrary she felt light, supple, and happy, and she did not experience any uncomfortable pains in her belly. She was not afflicted by attachment, anger, or delusion. She did not entertain any desirous thoughts, nor any thoughts of ill will or harm. She neither experienced nor witnessed any heat, cold, hunger, thirst, gloom, uncleanliness, or fatigue. No unpleasant forms, sounds, smells, tastes, or textures appeared to her, and she also had no bad dreams. There was no female deception, guile, envy, or feminine disturbing emotions to trouble her.
At that time the mother of the Bodhisattva observed the five basic precepts. She was disciplined and followed the path of the ten virtuous actions. The mother of the Bodhisattva never desired any man whomsoever, and neither did any man feel lust in the presence of the mother of the Bodhisattva.
Merely by seeing the mother of the Bodhisattva, any woman, man, boy, or girl in the city of Kapilavastu and its surrounding areas who had been possessed was cured and regained consciousness immediately, regardless of whether they had been possessed by gods, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, demigods, garuḍas, or bhūtas. Those nonhuman beings quickly departed for other places.
All those who had been struck by illness were freed from their disease as soon as the mother of the Bodhisattva placed her right hand on the top of their head. In this way she would cure those who suffered from any illness or ailment that arises from disharmony among wind, bile, or phlegm. [F.40.b] She would cure illnesses related to the eyes,  ears, nose, tongue, and lips, as well as toothaches, throat diseases, goiters, lumps, various forms of leprosy, tuberculosis, madness, dementia, fevers, swellings, boils, rashes, scabs, and other illnesses. Once they were freed from their disease, these people could then return to their homes. Queen Māyā would also pick herbs and distribute them to the sick, who would immediately regain their health and vigor.
When Queen Māyā looked inside her belly, she saw the Bodhisattva resting on the right side of her womb. She could see this as clearly as if she was looking at her own face in a spotless mirror. Seeing him in that way, she was satisfied, elated, and delighted. She felt extremely happy, buoyant, and joyful.
Monks, through the blessings of the Bodhisattva staying in his mother’s womb, the sounds of divine musical instruments arose constantly without interruption both day and night, and a rain of divine flowers fell. The gods sent timely rains, and the winds blew at appropriate moments. The seasons and the stars all moved in a balanced manner. The kingdom was joyful and the harvests were bountiful. There were no disturbances or animosity anywhere.
In the city of Kapilavastu, the clan of the Śākyas and everyone else had plenty to eat and drink, and they enjoyed themselves with various amusements. They were generous and created merit. They happily amused themselves just as one does during the autumn festival at the end of the fourth month. King Śuddhodana devoted himself purely to religious practice. Setting aside all his kingly work, he lived in complete purity as if he had entered an ascetic’s grove. [F.41.a] With great delight, he followed the Dharma.  Monks, such were the miraculous marvels that occurred while the Bodhisattva remained in his mother’s womb.
The Blessed One then showed the jeweled structure to venerable Ānanda as well as to Śakra, lord of the gods; the four guardians of the world; and many other gods and humans. As they saw the structure, they were satisfied, uplifted, and full of rejoicing. In a joyful mood, they were happy and delighted.
On this topic, it is said:
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