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The Sûtra of the Dhârani of the Illustrious Diadem of Buddha's Surmounting Head










VOL. IX.--1880

[Bombay, Education Society's Press]
{Scanned and edited by Christopher M. Weimer, April 2002}

p. 195



   Attention has elsewhere been drawn to the ancient Buddhist inscription at[1] Keu-yung-kwan, a small village about five miles to the north of the Nankow Pass. This inscription is engraved in the characters of six different nations, viz., Mongol or Bâshpah, Uîghûr, Nyuchih, Chinese, Devanâgari, and Tibetan. On examination it is found to contain certain Buddhist dhârani or incantations, which in the paper alluded to (Jour. R. A.. Soc., vol. V. pp. 14ff.)[2] have been translated by Mr. Wylie and Dr. Haas for the benefit of the English reader. These dhâranis are found in various Buddhist works, and are supposed to represent the highest and most potent charms which words proceeding from the top of the illustrious diadem (chû.da) of Buddha's head are able to convey. This "honoured diadem of Buddha's head" refers to the well known conceit of the Buddhists that from the top of the cranium of their master proceeded an elongated excrescence (ush.nîsh),[3] the top of which reached to the highest heaven. In all probability this imaginary formation is pictured in the Amarâvati sculptures as the "pillar of glory surmounted by Om" proceeding from the throne supposed to be occupied by Bhagavat (see particularly pl. lxxi, figs. 1 and 2, Tree and Serpent Worship). These pillars of light are also referred to by Spence Hardy (Manual of Buddhism, 1st ed. pp. 180, 207), and perhaps originated in the idea of the Li"nga and its worship. Be this as it may, it is curious to trace as far back as we can the origin of such a peculiar idea; and for this purpose we have appended the translation of a Sûtra attributed to the Shaman Buddhavara (Fo-to-po-li) of the Yang dynasty.


The Sûtra of the Dhârani of the Illustrious Diadem of Buddha's Surmounting Head.

   "Thus have I heard. At one time Bhagavat was residing at Šrâvastî, in the garden of Jeta, the friend of the orphans, together with 1250 great Bhikshus, his disciples, and with upwards of 12,000 great Bôdhisattwas and priests. At this time there was amongst the Dêvas of the Trayastri"nšas Heavens, one in the Assembly of the Saddharma Hall, called Shen-chu. This Dêva, whilst wandering to and fro in the celestial gardens, with the company of Dêvas who attended him, had heard a voice proceeding from space, and warning him that in a few days hence he should be called to give up his heavenly estate and be born in hell, after which he should receive a succession of births all more or less miserable and painful. On this, the Dêva hastened to Šâkrarâja, and with doleful voice and many tears laid the case before him, asking and beseeching for advice and escape. Then Šâkrarâja, having heard the words of Shen-chu, at once entered into a state of profound abstraction, and, perceiving that the case was to be with Shen-chu even as the voice had declared, he resolved at once to repair to the place where Buddha was residing, even to the garden of Jeta, and there having presented him with suitable gifts, to seek his counsel and advice on the point. Accordingly having done so, and having saluted the foot of Bhagavat and seven times circumambulated him, he stated the circumstances of Shen-chu's destiny, and humbly asked the advice of the World-honoured one."

   Then Buddha caused to proceed from the top of his head every kind of glorious light, which spread itself from world to world through all space. Then this light again returned to the presence of Buddha, and having revolved around him three times entered through his mouth. Then the World-honoured gave a gentle smile, and addressed Šâkrarâja as follows:--"Heavenly king, there are certain dhârani called the 'honoured diadem of Buddha's head,' which are able to deliver from every kind of evil birth, and to destroy every possible sorrow. If a man once hears these, and if they once pass through his ears, then all the evil deeds he has ever done shall be cancelled and their punishment remitted; if he writes them on a wall, or reads them, so written, to others, then shall the same consequences follow and full deliverance be obtained."

   On this Šâkrarâja entreats Buddha to repeat these charmed words, on which he did so.

[1. It belongs to the Mongol age, cir. 1345 A.D.

2. See also Yule's Marco Polo. vol. I, pp. 29, 444.--ED.

3. The word ush.nîsha usually means a 'turban,' but is used by the Buddhists as a technical term for the top-knot on Buddha's head, by which all figures of him are distinguished; he is never represented in Indian sculpture with any sort of covering on his head.--ED.]

p. 196

   The dhârani are much shorter than those on the Keu-yung gate, but contain the same leading words; we do not repeat them, our object being merely to show the purpose of their being placed on this barrier gate, through which Mongols and Thibetans must enter the empire, and doubtless were glad to be so easily assured of deliverance by the repetition of the words.

   "Šâkrarâja, having heard these words, thankfully received them; and having saluted the World-honoured one, forthwith departed."[4]

[4. The Oriental, Oct. 9, 1875.]

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