Humane King Sutra

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Humane King Sutra (Chinese: 仁王經; Renwang jing Japanese: Ninnō-gyō[1] Korean: inwang-gyeong) is one of the more influential of the East Asian Buddhist apocryphal scriptures[citation needed]—texts that although purported by their unknown authors to be translations of Indian works, were actually composed in China and Korea. There are two versions: the first is called the Humane King Perfection of Wisdom Sutra (仁王般若波羅蜜經), while the second is called the Humane King State-Protection Perfection of Wisdom Sutra (仁王護國般若波羅蜜經), more idiomatically the Prajnaparamita Scripture for Humane Kings Who Wish to Protect their States.[2] Although the full titles indicate that it is a prajñāpāramitā (般若波羅蜜, perfection of wisdom) text, it is better characterized as a blend of transcendent prajñā, yogācāra, and tathāgatagarbha teachings.

This sutra is unusual in the fact that its target audience, rather than being either lay practitioners or the community of monks and nuns, is the rulership (i.e. monarchs, presidents, prime ministers, etc.). Thus, for example, where the interlocutors in most scriptures are arhats or bodhisattvas, the discussants in this text are the kings of the sixteen ancient regions of India. The foregrounded teachings, rather than being meditation and wisdom, are "humaneness" and "forbearance", these being the most applicable religious values for the governance of a Buddhist state. Hence today in some Chinese temples, the sutra is used during prayers on behalf of the government and the country.

Another distinctive characteristic of this scripture is that a second "translation" was carried out a few centuries after the appearance of the original version, by the monk Amoghavajra (Pukong 不空), one of the most important figures in the Chinese Esoteric tradition, as well as a patriarch in the Shingon school of Japan. But this new version was actually just a rewrite, since there was no original Sanskrit version.[citation needed] This second version of the text (仁王護國般若波羅蜜經, T 246.8.834-845) while based mostly on the original version (仁王般若波羅蜜經, T 245.8.825-834), the translation of which was attributed to Kumārajīva, contains new sections that include teachings on mandala, mantra, and dhāraṇī.

In the same way that such other apocryphal works, such as the Brahma's Net Sutra, came to hold a special authoritative position in the subsequent development of Buddhism in Korea and Japan, as well as China, the Humane King Sutra became the standard model text in these East Asian countries for Buddhist-based state protection and statecraft, along with the Golden Light Sutra.


One theme of the sutra is impermanence. A passage which is popular in Japan is the four-character expression (yojijukugo) "the prosperous inevitably decline" (盛者必衰, jōshahissui),which in full reads "The prosperous inevitably decline, the full inevitably empty" (盛者必衰、実者必虚, jōsha hissui, jissha hikkyo), and is analogous to sic transit gloria mundi in the West. This is famously quoted in the first line of The Tale of the Heike, whose latter half reads: "the color of the sāla flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline." (沙羅雙樹の花の色、盛者必衰の理を顯す, Jōshahissui no kotowari wo arawasu).[3]


There are two classical Chinese translations extant:

  • the 仁王護國般若波羅蜜經 Renwang Huguo Bore Boluomi Jing (trans. by Kumārajīva in 410-412).[4][5]
  • the 仁王護國般若波羅蜜多經 Renwang Huguo Bore Boluomiduo Jing (trans. by Amoghavajra in 765-766).[6][7] Amogavajra translated the mantras.

The discovery of the Old Translated Inwanggyeong (구역인왕경;舊譯仁王經) in Gugyeol in the mid-1970s contributed to Middle Korean studies.[8]


  1. ^ 仁王経, Daijirin, Kōjien
  2. ^ Orzech 2002, p. 63
  3. ^ Chapter 1.1, Helen Craig McCullough's translation
  4. ^ Taisho Tripitaka Vol. 8, No. 245, CBETA
  5. ^ Orzech 1989, p.18
  6. ^ Taisho Tripitaka Vol. 8, No. 246, CBETA
  7. ^ Orzech 1989, p.18
  8. ^ On the Chinese Transcriptions of Northeastern Eurasian Languages

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]