Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī Sūtra
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The Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī Sūtra (Sanskrit: ऊष्णीष विजय धारणी सूत्र; traditional Chinese: 佛頂尊勝陀羅尼經; simplified Chinese: 佛顶尊胜陀罗尼经; pinyin: Fódǐng Zūnshèng Tuóluóní Jīng, Japanese: 佛頂尊勝陀羅尼 Butchō Sonshō Darani Kyō) is a Mahāyāna sūtra from India. An alternate longer Sanskrit title is Sarvadurgatipariśodhana Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī Sūtra.
The sūtra was translated a total of eight times from Sanskrit to Chinese between 679 CE and 988 CE. It gained wide circulation in China, and its practices have been utilized since the Tang Dynasty, from which it then spread to the rest of East Asia. The Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī is associated with Mount Wutai, which in the Chinese Buddhist tradition is considered the bodhimaṇḍa of Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva. Sacred stone tablets with the Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī carved into them have been distributed widely in some regions of the Far East.
In the first year of Yi Feng (676 AD) of the Tang Dynasty, a Brahmin monk named Buddhapala from Kasmira (Northern India) came to Wu Tai Mountain in China. His intention was to pay homage and offer reverence to Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva. Instead of seeing Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva, he met an old man at Siyang Mountain Range (where Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Monastery now stands), who told him:
the beings in China have committed many offences, and even those who have left the home life have violated the precepts. Only the Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī Sūtra can eliminate all the evil karma of sentient beings.
The old man added:
If you could bring back this Sutra from India for circulation, that would be equivalent to paying homage to all sages universally, extensively benefiting all sentient beings, liberating the beings in the underworld and repaying the kindness of all Buddhas.
Buddhapala heeded the advice and returned to India to get the Sanskrit version of the Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī. In the fourth year of Yi Feng (679AD), Buddhapala was back in Chang'an and met the Emperor. The Emperor kept the Sutra in the palace and called upon Tripitaka Dharma Master Divakara and Du Xing Ti together with Buddhapala to translate the first version. After having completed the translation, the Emperor had no intention of allowing the translated Sutra to be taken out of the palace.
Buddhapala pleaded to the Emperor and appealed to his Majesty to allow the translated Sutra to be circulated. Yet, the Emperor only returned the original Sanskrit text to Buddhapala and kept the translated copy for himself. Saddened, Buddhapala left the palace and met with a Chinese monk known as Shun Zhen who was proficient in Sanskrit. He together with Shun Zhen translated the Sutra again. After having completed the second version which was meant to be circulated, Buddhapala took the original Sanskrit text with him into Wu Tai Mountain to meet Manjushri Bodhisattva and was never seen again.
This dharani is also circulated widely in Japan. In the summer of 925 AD, there was a severe drought throughout Japan. The Emperor commanded the Great Dharma Master Zun Yi from the school of Tiantai to request for rain. He recited the Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī and soon rain blessed the land. The whole nation delighted and, since then, the secret Dharma of the Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī became prevalent throughout Japan.
The purpose of this sūtra is said to be to help sentient beings in a troubled and tumultuous world. According to this sūtra, beings will leave suffering and obtain happiness, increasing in their prosperity and longevity, remove karmic obstacles, eliminate disasters and calamities, remove enmity and hatred, fulfill all wishes, and quickly be led onto the Buddha's way. It is held by some that when the dhāraṇī is heard, it can imbue the alaya consciousness with pure seeds that will help to lead one to buddhahood.
According to the text, major applications of this dharani include:
- Destroy calamities and rescue those in difficulties
- Eliminate offenses and create good deeds
- Purify all karmic obstructions
- Increase blessings and lengthen lifespan
- Attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi
- Relieve beings in the ghost realm
- Benefit birds, animals and all crawling creatures
- Increase wisdom
- Revert the fixed karma;
- Eliminate various illness;
- Destroy hells;
- Ensure the safety of the households, and having children to inherit the family pride;
- Harmonise husbands and wives;
- Be able to reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss or various Buddhalands;
- Heal sickness inflicted by ghosts and spirits;
- Request for rain etc.
Some quotes from the sutra text include:
"If someone hears this Dharani even just for a moment, he will not undergo karmic retribution from evil karma and severe hindrances accumulated from thousands of kalpas ago, that would otherwise cause him to revolve in the cycles of birth and death - in all kinds of life forms in the evil paths - hell, hungry ghost, animal, realm of King Yama, Asuras...ferocious animals, crawling creatures and even ants and other life forms...he will be reborn in the Buddhalands, together with all the Buddhas and Ekajati-pratibadda Bodhisattvas, or in a distinguished Brahmin or Ksatriya family, or in some other wealthy and reputable families."
"If one can chant this Dharani 21 times daily, he is worthy of accepting all the immense worldly offerings and will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss after his death. If one chants this dharani constantly, he will attain Maha Parinirvana and be able to lengthen his lifespan besides enjoying the most extraordinary bliss."
"May the Tathagata have compassion on Devaputra Sushita and all other heavenly beings. Also, for the sake of the beings in future Dharma-ending Age, kindly give a discourse on this Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī Mantra so that we could cultivate and may all beings be eternally freed from the sufferings of the eight adversities."
"If someone could write this Dharani and place It on the top of a tall banner, high mountain or in a tall building or even keep It in a stupa; Lord of Heaven! If there are bhiksus or bhiksunis, upasakas or upasikas, laymen or laywomen who have seen this Dharani atop the above structures; or if the shadows of these structures should fall on beings who come near to the structures, or particles of dust from the written Dharani are blown onto their bodies; Lord of Heaven! If the accumulated evil karma of these beings should cause them to fall into evil paths such as realm of hell, animal, King Yama, hungry ghost, Asura and others, they will all be spared from the evil paths, and they will not be tainted with filth and defilement. Lord of Heaven! Instead, all Buddhas will bestow predictions (Vyakarana) onto these beings who will never regress from the path to Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (complete enlightment)."
According to the Sūtra a devaputra by the name of Susthita who, was enjoying the supremely wonderful bliss of heavenly life turn to be solemn after he suddenly heard a voice in space saying
Devaputra Susthita, you have only seven days left to live. After death, you will reborn in Jambudvipa (Earth) as an animal for seven successive lives. Then you will fall into the hells to undergo more sufferings. Only after fulfilling your karmic retribution will you be reborn in the human realm, but to a humble and destitute family; while in the mother’s womb you will be without eyes and be born blind.
On hearing this, Devaputra Susthita was so terrified and rushed over to the Heavenly Palace of Lord Sakra. Bursting into tears, he prostrated himself and telling what had happened to Lord Sakra. Lord Sakra immediately calmed his mind to enter Samadhi. Instantly, he saw that Susthita would undergo seven successive evil paths in the forms of a pig, dog, jackal, monkey, python, crow and vulture, all feeding on filth and putrescence. Lord Sakra could not think of any way to help Susthita. He felt that only the Tathagata, Arhat, Samyaksambuddha could save Susthita from falling into the great sufferings of evil destinies.
Soon after nightfall, Lord Sakra made preparation and head to the garden of Anathapindada. Upon arrival, Lord Sakra prostrated himself at the Buddha’s, then circumambulated the Buddha seven times clockwise in worship, before laying out this great Puja (offerings). Kneeling in front of the Buddha, Lord Sakra described the future destiny of Devaputra Susthita.
Instantly, the usnisa (crown of the head) of the Tathagata radiated multiple rays of light, illuminating the world in all ten directions—the light then returned. The Buddha smiled and said to Lord Sakra, “Lord of Heaven, there is a Dharani known as the Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī. It can purify all evil paths, completely eliminating all sufferings of beings in the realms of hell, King Yama and animal, destroy all the hells, and transfer sentient beings onto the virtuous path.” After hearing all the disclosure, Lord of Heaven appealed to the Buddha to discourse of this great Dharani. The Buddha aware of Lord Sakra’s intention and his eagerness to hear His discourse of this Dharani and so immediately proclaimed the Mantra. Then the Buddha told Lord Sakra, “The Mantra is known as the ‘Purifying All Evil Path’ Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī’. It can eliminate all evil karmic hindrances and eradicate the suffering of all evil paths.” Again the Buddha told Lord Sakra that this great Dharani is proclaimed together by Buddhas as numerous as eighty-eight kotis (hundred million) of the grains of sand of the Ganges River. All Buddhas rejoice and uphold this Dharani that is verified by the wisdom seal of the Vairocana Tathagata.
Again the Buddha reminded Lord Sakra should in turn transmit it to Devaputra Susthita and in addition you yourself should receive and uphold it, recite, contemplate and treasure it, memorise and reverse it. This Dharani should be widely proclaimed to all beings in the Jambudvipa world and entrust him for the benefit of all heavenly beings. The Buddha also reminded Lord Sakra should diligently uphold and protect it, never letting it to be forgotten or lost.
After the Lord Sakra received this Dharani practice from the Buddha, he returned to his heavenly palace to convey it to Devaputra Susthita. Having received this Dharani, Devaputra Susthita kept practices as instructed for six days and six nights, after which all his wishes were completely fulfilled.
When seven days were over, Lord Sakra brought Devaputra Susthita, together with other heavenly beings, respectfully approached the Buddha and presented their grand offerings. Once they have respectfully circumambulated hundred thousand times, paid homage to the Buddha, then happily took their seats and listened to the Buddha preach the Dharma.
According to the text of the sutra, the dharani is:
- namo bhagavate trailokya prativiśiṣṭaya buddhāya bhagavate.
- tadyathā, om, viśodhaya viśodhaya, asama-sama
- samantāvabhāsa-spharana gati gahana svabhāva viśuddhe,
- abhiṣiňcatu mām. sugata vara vacana amṛta abhiṣekai mahā mantra-padai.
- āhara āhara āyuh saṃ-dhāraṇi. śodhaya śodhaya gagana viśuddhe.
- uṣṇīṣa vijaya viśuddhe sahasra-raśmi sam-codite.
- sarva tathāgata avalokani ṣaṭ-pāramitā-paripūrani.
- sarva tathāgata mati daśa-bhūmi prati-ṣṭhite.
- sarva tathāgata hṛdaya adhiṣṭhānādhiṣṭhita mahā-mudre.
- vajra kāya sam-hatana viśuddhe.
- sarvāvaraṇa apāya-durgati pari viśuddhe, prati-nivartaya āyuh śuddhe.
- samaya adhiṣṭhite. maṇi maṇi mahā maṇi.
- tathatā bhūta-koṭi pariśuddhe. visphuṭa buddhi śuddhe.
- jaya jaya, vijaya vijaya. smara smara, sarva buddha adhiṣṭhita śuddhe,
- vajri vajragarbhe vajram bhavatu mama śarīram.
- sarva sattvānām ca kāya pari viśuddhe. sarva gati pariśuddhe.
- sarva tathāgata siñca me samāśvāsayantu.
- sarva tathāgata samāśvāsa adhiṣṭhite.
- budhya budhya, vibudhya vibudhya,
- bodhaya bodhaya, vibodhaya vibodhaya samanta pariśuddhe.
- sarva tathāgata hṛdaya adhiṣṭhānādhiṣṭhita mahā-mudre svāhā.
This Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī includes several additions to the original Sanskrit transliteration, for completeness, and in light of other versions.
In addition to the long dhāraṇī, there is the much shorter Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya heart-mantra:
- oṃ amṛta-tejavati svāhā
The world famous Japanese Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki translated the Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī into the English language and this was included in the Manual of Zen Buddhism.
According to the Records of the Teaching of Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī Sūtra by Great Dharma Master Fa Cong (in the Tang dynasty), the great and unsurpassed merits of this Dharani can be categorised into ten doors as follows:
- The door of taking refuge under the sages.
- The door of revealing the Dharma Body.
- The door of purifying evil paths.
- The door of good and brightness initiation.
- The door of spiritual power protection.
- The door of lengthening the lifespan.
- The door of integrating concentration and wisdom.
- The door of Vajra offering.
- The door of universally attaining purity.
- The door of accomplishing Nirvana.
- Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī Sutra Chinese/English/Malay Translation by Malaysia Usnisa Vijaya Buddhist Association (Malay: Persatuan Penganut Agama Buddha Usnisa Vijaya Malaysia)
- Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī Sūtra (Chinese/English/Malay)
- "The Korean Buddhist Canon: A Descriptive Catalog (K 319)".
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