29 June 2012

Canonical Sources for the Vajrasattva Mantra

I've mentioned that Maitiu O'Ceileachair and I have identified the earliest textual occurrence of the Hundred Syllable Vajrasattva Mantra in the Chinese Tripiṭika. Circumstances have meant that Maitiu and I have not been able to write up our notes formally. I know there is considerable interest in this mantra, and the Vajrasattva Mantra continues to be the most popular page on my mantra website. So I thought I would write up some of the basic stuff that we've found, along with transcriptions of the mantra from various Canonical sources. This blog post represents our collaborative effort, but credit for all the observations on the Chinese goes to Maitiu.

The earliest occurrence in the Chinese Canon, which is really the only candidate for the earliest literary use of the mantra, since only the Chinese dated their texts, is in T.866, a collection of mantras related to the Sarvatathāgata-tattvasaṃgraha (STTS). T.866 was translated into Chinese by Vajrabodhi (ca 671-741) in 723 CE. Stephen Hodge (2003) says that Vajrabodhi acquired his STTS manuscript circa 700 CE, so it had to have been composed before that date.

Two Sanskrit manuscripts of STTS are extant, though both are relatively recent copies. One has been published in facsimile edition (Candra & Snellgrove), and another forms the basis of a critical edition by Yamada (which means that he compares his Sanskrit manuscript with other versions).  *see comments. We also looked at two versions in printed editions of the Tibetan Canon (the Peking and Derge editions) and several other Chinese versions from the Taisho Edition of the Tripiṭaka (e.g. T.873, 875, 884, 1224, 1320, 1956), including Amoghavajra's translation into Chinese (T. 873).

The mantra occurs in the context of a brief introductory paragraph and is followed by another brief paragraph.

Sanskrit text

atha sarvamudrāṇāṁ sāmānyaḥ svakāyavākcittavajreṣu vajrīkaraṇavidhivistaro bhavati| yadā mudrādhiṣṭhānaṁ śithilībhavati, svayaṁ vā muktukāmo bhavati, tato'nena hṛdayena dṛḍhīkartavyā|
oṃ vajra-satva-samayam anupālaya
dṛḍho me bhava su-toṣyo me bhavānurakto me bhava
su-poṣyo me bhava sarva-siddhiñ ca me prayaccha
sarva-karmasu ca me citta-śreyaḥ kuru hūṃ
ha ha ha ha hoḥ
Bhagavan sarva-tathāgata-vajra mā me muṃca
vajrī bhava mahā-samaya-sattva āḥ ||
anenānantaryakāriṇo'pi sarvatathāgatamokṣā api saddharmapratikṣepakā api sarvaduṣkṛtakāriṇo'pi sarvatathāgatamudrāsādhakā varjasattvadṛḍhībhāvādihaiva janmanyāsu yathābhirucitāṁ sarvasiddhimuttamasiddhiṁ vajrasiddhiṁ vajrasattvasiddhiṁ vā yāvat tathāgatasiddhiṁ vā prāpsyantī-tyāha bhagavāṁ sarvatathāgatavajrasattvaḥ||

Todaro's translation of the Sanskrit.
(except for the mantra which is my translation)

"Now an explanation of the rite of the strengthened of all mudrās alike in one's own body, speech and mind thunderbolt is given. When the mudrā empowerment becomes weak or when there is a desire for liberation by oneself, then one should be made firm with this mantra:
O Vajrasattva honour the agreement!
Reveal yourself as the vajra-being!
Be steadfast for me!
Be fully nourishing for me!
Be very pleased for me!

Be passionate for me!
Grant me all success and attainment!
And in all actions make my mind more lucid!
ha ha ha ha hoḥ
O Blessed One, vajra of all those in that state, don't abandon me!
O great agreement-being become real!
"The Bhagavat Vajrasattva of all the Tathāgatas said: "Notwithstanding continuous killing, the slander of all the Tathāgatas, the repudiation of the true teaching and even all evil and injury, (by this) the perfection of all the Tathāgata's mudrās from the strengthening of Vajrasattva, in the present life as you desire, and all accomplishments, the supreme accomplishment, the thunderbolt accomplishment or the accomplishment of Vajrasattva, up to the accomplishment of the Tathāgata, will be attained quickly."


The reconstructed version of the mantra created on the basis of Sthiramati's work in Jayarava (2010) reflects the extant Sanskrit and Chinese texts of STTS quite well, with only minor differences. It may be that the Tibetans were working from a different source text.

The mantra explicitly allows that someone who has done evil, more or less any kind of evil, will not be prevented from making progress. The Chinese version includes the five atekicca or unforgivable actions. (Giebel p.99). This represents that last phase of turning a tenet of Early Buddhism on its head, i.e. that the consequences of actions are inescapable. This role of the mantra--usually referred to as 'purifying karma'--remains central in the narratives surrounding its use in Tibetan Buddhism. The mantra seems much less prominent in Sino-Japanese Tantric Buddhism, and Vajrasattva (Japanese: 金剛薩埵 Kongosatta) plays quite a different role than in Tibet.

The text refers to the mantra as hṛdaya, i.e, 'heart mantra' or 'heart essence'.

Both extant Sanskrit versions spell sattva with one t, i.e. satva; which may indicate some Middle-Indic influence, although the language of this passage appears to conform to Classical Sanskrit norms.

The main difference between this mantra text and the one reconstructed from the Tibetan in Jayarava (2010) is that Yamada has su-toṣyo me bhavānurakto me bhavasu-poṣyo me bhava; where as the Tibetan (and the Chinese texts) transpose the last two phrases:  sutoṣyo me bhava, supoṣyo me bhava, anurakto me bhava. Note that bhavānurakto is a coalescence of bhava anurakto forced by Sanskrit sandhi rules (-a a- > -ā-).

Tibetan Versions of the Mantra

The Tibetan texts below are transcribed as they appears in the printed text, including punctuation marks, see also note at the end of this section. The lines of woodblock prints are long, and the mantra goes over a couple of long lines in both cases--difficult to reproduce in this medium so I haven't tried.

Derge Ed.
ཨོཾ་བཛྲ་སཏྭ་ས་མ་ཡ། མ་ནུ་པཱ་ལ་ཡ། བཛྲ་ས་ཏྭ་ཏྭེ་ནོ་པ། ཏི་ཥྛ་དྲྀ་ཌྷོ་མེ་བྷ་བ། སུ་ཏོ་ཥྱོ་མེ་བྷ་བ། ཨ་ནུ་ར་ ཀྟོ་མེ་བྷ་བ། སུ་བོ་ཥྱོ་མེ་བྷ་བ། སརྦྦ་སི་ དྡྷི་མྨེ་པྲ་ཡཱ་ཙྪ། སརྦྦ་ཀརྨྨ་སུ་ཙ་མེ་ཙི་ཏྟཾ་ཤྲེ་ཡཿ་ཀུ་རུ་ཧཱུྂ། ཧ་ཧ་ཧ་ཧ་ཧོཿ། བྷ་ག་བཱན། སརྦྦ་ཏ་ཐཱ་ག་ཏོ། བཛྲ་མཱ་མེ་མུཉྩ་བཛྲི་བྷ་བ་མ་ཧཱ་ས་མ་ཡ་སཏྭ་ཨཿ།

oṃ badzra satva sa ma ya| ma nu pā la ya| badzra satva tve no pa| ti ṣṭha dṛ ḍho me bha ba| su to ṣya bha ba| a nu ra kto me bha ba| su po ṣyo me bha ba| sa rbba siddhi mme pra ya tsatsha| sa rbba ka rmma su tsa me tsi ttaṃ śre yaḥ kuru hūṃ| ha ha ha ha hoḥ| bha ga vān| sa rbba ta thā ga ta| badzra mā me nu ñca ba drī bha ba ma hā sa ma ya satva aḥ

Peking Ed.
།ཨོཾ་བཛྲ་སཏྭ་ས་མ་ཡ། །མ་ནུ་པཱ་ལ་ཡ།བཛྲ་ས་ཏྭ་ཏྭེ་ནོ་བ།ཏི་ཥྛ་ཌི་ཌྷོ་མེ་བྷ་བ་སུ་ཏོ་ཥྱོ་མེ་བྷ་བ།སུ་བོ་ཥྱོ་མེ་བྷ་བ།ཨ་ནུ་རག་ཏོ་མེ་བྷ་བ།སརྦྦ་སིད་དྷི་མྨེ་པྲ་ཡཱ་ཙྪ་་་་་་་་་་སརྦ་ཀརྨ་སུ་ཙ་མེ།ཙི་ཏྟཾ་ཤྲེ་ཡཾ་ཀུ་རུ་ཧཱུྂ།ཧ་ཧ་ཧ་ཧ་ཧོཿ་བྷ་ག་བཱན།སརྦྦ་ཏ་ཐཱ་ག་ཏོ། །བཛྲ་མཱ་མེ་མུཾཙ་་་་་་བཛྲི་བྷ་བ་མ་ཧཱ་ས་མ་ཡ་སཏྭ་ཨཱཿ

| oṃ badzra satva sa ma ya | | ma nu pā la ya | badzra sa tva tve no ba | ti ṣṭha ḍi ḍho me bha ba su to ṣyo me bha ba | su po ṣyo me bha ba | a nu rag to me bha ba | sa rbba sid dhi mme pra ya tsatsha ……….. sarva karma su tsa me | tsi ttaṃ śre yaṃ ku ru hūṃ | ha ha ha ha hōḥ bha ga vān | sa rbba ta thā ga to | | badzra mā me muṃtsa……badzri bha ba ma hā sa ma ya satva āḥ
Peking ed. shows signs of being slavishly copied from a woodblock of a different size. The repeated shad | | (not to be confused with a nyis shad || ), for example in the first line 'ya | | ma' indicates that the original line ends with ya | and the new line starts with | ma. The groups of multiple tsheg indicate space filling. We've included the exact number of tsheg as in the printed text (C.f. Beginning and End Markers in Buddhist Texts).

Tibetan regularly makes several substitutions: va > ba; ja > dza; ca > tsa. In addition rva > rbba; rma > rmma (Derge). Medial nasals are sometimes replaced by anusvāra, e.g. muñca > muṃtsa. Both have satva for sattva, but so do extant Sanskrit texts.

General anomalies in the Tibetan versions of the mantra are discussed in Jayarava (2010). Particularly the break between samayam anupālaya becoming samaya manupālaya from an Indic original that would have written individual syllables with no word breaks: e.g. स म य म नु पा ल य sa ma ya ma nu pā la ya (See also the Chinese Siddhaṃ script preserved in T. 875 below.) This is quite simply an error, and was probably a mistake of reading rather than listening.

Both texts incorrectly add a shad in the middle of vajrasattvatvenopatiṣṭha. The words are vajrasattvatvena upatiṣṭha with a sandhi  -a u- > -o- (See Jayarava 2010 for more on this).

Chinese Versions of the Mantra

Reconstructing Sanskrit from Chinese is an imprecise art and often relies on knowing what the Sanskrit 'should' say. Chinese transcriptions are not very good at representing visarga and anusvāra can go missing as well (though this might be the Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit source material rather than the translators). Some translators indicate vowel length and some don't. Generally Amoghavajra is pretty good and many translators followed his conventions.

The earliest occurrance is T. 866.

T. 866
A Summary of Recitations Taken from the Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṃgraha(sūtra)
Translation by Vajrabodhi: 11th year of Kaiyuan (開元), Tang dynasty (CE 723) in Zisheng Monastery (資聖寺). (fasc. 2)

[each section of the mantra is transliterated and then followed, in parentheses, by a gloss in Chinese]
[0239a12] 唵 跋折囉 薩埵三摩耶 麼奴波邏耶。(金剛薩埵三摩耶願守護我)跋折囉薩埵 哆吠奴烏(二合)播底瑟吒(以為金剛薩埵)涅哩茶烏(二合)銘婆嚩(為堅牢我)素覩沙揄(二合)銘婆嚩(於我所歡喜)阿努囉(上 )訖覩(二合)婆銘縛 素補使榆(二合)銘婆嚩 薩婆悉地 含銘般囉野綽(授與我一 切悉地)薩婆羯磨素遮銘(及諸事業)質多失唎耶(令我安隱)句嚧吽呵 呵呵呵護(引)薄伽梵(世尊)薩婆怛他揭多(一切如來)跋折囉麼迷悶遮(願金剛莫捨離我)跋折哩婆嚩(令我為金剛三摩耶薩埵)摩訶三摩耶薩埵阿(去 引)
oṃ vajra sattvasamaya manupālaya (vajrasattvasamaya please protect me) vajrasattvatvenopatiṣṭha (become vajrasattva) dṛḍho me bhava (be strong [for] me) sutoṣyo me bhava (be pleased with me) anurakto me bhava supoṣyo me bhava sarvasiddhi [there is an extra syllable here gam/kam] me prayaccha (bestow on me all siddhis) sarvakarmasu ca me (and all karmas) citta śreyaḥ (make me at peace) kuru hūṃ ha ha ha ha hoḥ bhagavan sarvatathāgata vajra mā me muñca (please Vajra do not abandon me) vajrībhava (make me the vajra samayasattva) mahāsamayasattva āḥ
Vajrabodhi gives glosses for some parts of the mantra that make it clear that he understands sarvasiddhi to mean 'all the siddhis'. I suspect that the punctuation of this line is incorrect and 含 has been moved from directly behind 悉地 and that these characters should be read together as siddhiṃ or siddhaṃ. It is possible that siddhiṃ is a Middle-Indic form of siddhīn. According to Edgerton (BHSD) when the nasal of -īn is retained the vowel is shortened.

Note that the Chinese appears to read vajra sattvasamaya manupālaya rather than vajrasattva samayam anupālaya in line with the Sanskrit mss. If this is correct then the error could have occurred on Indian soil and been transmitted to Tibet and China as it was.

(translated by Amoghavajra 753 CE. 1st chapter only)
唵日羅 薩 怛 三 摩 耶 麼 努 波 (引) 耶
日羅 薩 怛 怛 尾 怒 波 底 瑟 奼
捏 哩 濁 寐 婆 蘇 都 使 庾 寐 婆
阿 努 囉 羯 都 寐 婆
蘇 布 使 庾 寐 婆
薩 悉 朕 寐 缽 囉 也 車
薩 羯 摩 素 者 寐 質 多 室 哩 藥 矩嚕 吽
呵呵呵呵 斛 (引)
婆 伽 梵 薩 怛 他 櫱 多 日囉 摩 弭 悶 遮
日哩 婆 摩 訶 三 摩 耶薩怛 噁(引)

ǎn rì luó sà dá sān mā yē me nǔ bō (yǐn) yē
rì luó sà dá dá wěi nù bō de sè chà
niē li zhuó mèi pó sū dōu shǐ yǔ mèi pó
ā nǔ luo jié dōu mèi pó
sū bù shǐ yǔ mèi pó
sà xī zhèn mèi bō luo yě chē
sà jié mā sù zhě mèi zhì duō shì li yào ju lū hōng
a a a a hú (yǐn)
pó gā fàn sà dá tā niè duō rì luó mā mǐ mēn zhē
rì li pó mā hē sān mā yē sà dá ě (yǐn)

Amongst the Chinese versions are two which preserve a (corrupt) Siddhaṃ version of the mantra. We include one of these for comparison. (The Siddhaṃ is written using the CBETA Font which is not aesthetically pleasing but gives us an idea of what Chinese Siddhaṃ looks like.)

蓮華部心念誦儀軌 [平安時代寫東寺三密藏藏本]
A Ritual Manual of the Mental Recitation of the Lotus Section.
Written during the Heian Period (794-1185 CE). From the Sanmitsu Collection of the Tō-ji.
[0326a26] 金剛三昧。

oṃ va jra sa tva sa ma ya ma nu pā la ya va jra sa tva nve no pa ti ṣṭa dṛ ho me bha va mi su tu ṣuo me bha va a nu ra kto me bh ba sup u ṣo me bha va sa rva si ddhiṃ me pra ya ccha sa rva ka rma su ca me cit ta śre ya ku ru hūṃ ha ha ha ha hoḥ bha ga vaṃ sa rva ta thā ga ta va jra mā ma muṃ ca va jrī bha va ma hā sa ma ya sa tvā āḥ
Be aware that this mantra is corrupted and contains many introduced errors. It is provided for comparison purposes only.


These then are principle canonical sources of the Hundred Syllable Vajrasattva Mantra in the Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese versions of the Sarvatathāgata-tattvasaṃgraha. Since the Chinese accurately recorded the date of their translations we can be confident that T. 866 is the earliest translated text in the Chinese Tripiṭika to contain this mantra. The differences between the various versions are relatively minor, though they suggest that even at the earliest times this text existed in several versions containing these minor differences, i.e. not all the differences are due to translations or scribal error.

All of these canonical versions tend confirm the notion that the mantra was originally written in good Sanskrit rather than the somewhat garbled version in the received Tibetan tradition. The garbling of the mantra forms part of the discussion in Jayarava (2010), as does the tension created by received tradition vs. other forms of authority. However T. 866 suggests that at least some of the errors were present in the Indian tradition already. The fact of the difference between the canonical and received versions of the mantra highlights the conflict of sources of authority in the Buddhist tradition. Though Tantric Buddhism places great emphasis on guru to disciple transmission, which tends to outweigh textual authority; the fact that we now have much greater access to the Tripiṭika and the knowledge that the mantra has been partially garbled are difficult to ignore for Western converts unconsciously inculcated with the valorisation of textual authority.

The Vajrasattva mantra was set free from this context in the Tibetan Tantric tradition where it performs an important role in purifying karma that might otherwise impede progress on the Buddhist path.  In its self this is a fascinating aspect of the history of ideas in Buddhism.



大正新脩大藏經 [Taishō Revised Tripiṭaka]

Chandra, Lokesh and Snellgrove, David L. Sarva-tathāgata-tattva-saṅgraha : facsimile reproduction of a tenth century Sanskrit manuscript from Nepal. New Delhi : Sharada Rani, 1981. Online transcription Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon. http://dsbc.uwest.edu/node/7269

Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association (CBETA) http://www.cbeta.org/

'De-bshin-gśegs-pa thams-cad-kyi de-kho-na-ñid bsdusp-pa shes-bya-ba theg-pa chen-poḥi mdo (Sarvatathāgata-tattvasaṃgraha-nāma-mahāyāna Sūtra).' The Tibetan Tripitaka Peking Edition. (Ed. D. T. Suzuki) Tokyo: Tibetan Tripitaka Research Institute, 1956. Vol.4, p.233. (Ña 37a-b)

‘De-bshin-gśegs-pa thams-cad-kyi de-kho-na-ñid bsdusp-pa shes-bya-ba theg-pa chen-poḥi mdo (Sarvatathāgata-tattvasaṃgraha-nāma-mahāyāna Sūtra).’ Derge: The Sde-dge Mtshal-par Bka’-’gyur: A Facsimile Edition of the 18th Century Redaction of Si-tu Chos-kyi-’byuṅ-gnas Prepared under the Direction of H.H the 16th Rgyal-dbaṅ Karma-pa. Delhi: Delhi Karmapae Chodhey Gyalwae Sungrab Partun Khang, 1976-1979.

Giebel, R. W. (2001) Two Esoteric Sutras. Numata.

Hodge, Stephen. The Māhvairocana-Ambhisaṃbodhi Tantra: With Buddhaguhya's Commentary. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

Jayarava. 'The Hundred Syllable Vajrasattva Mantra.' Western Buddhist Review, 5, Oct 2010. Online: http://westernbuddhistreview.com/vol5/vajrasattva-mantra.pdf

Tadaro, Dale Allen. An Annotated Translation of the Tattvasamgraha (Part 1) with an Explanation of the Role of the Tattvasamgraha Lineage in the Teachings of Kukai. Doctoral dissertation Columbia University, 1985.

Weinberger, Steven Neal. The significance of yoga tantra and the "Compendium of Principles" ("Tattvasamgraha Tantra") within tantric Buddhism in India and Tibet. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Virginia, 2003.

Yamada, Isshi. Sarva-tathāgata-tattva-saṅgraha nāma mahāyāna-sūtra : a critical edition based on a Sanskrit manuscript and Chinese and Tibetan translations. New Delhi : Sharada Rani, 1981 p 95.

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