Shurangama Sutra

(The full title:)
Sutra of the Foremost Shurangama at the Crown of the Great Buddha; and of All the Bodhisattvas' Myriad Practices for Cultivating and Certifying to the Complete Meaning of the Tathagata's Secret Cause.

(Dai Phud Ding Sau Ling Yim Ging)

(Taisho Tripitaka 0945)

Translated during the Tang Dynasty by Shramana Paramiti from central India.


Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

Famous paragraphs

Shurangama Vows
The expedients to Samadhi
Maha-stamaprapta Bodhisattva's preachment on being mindful of the Buddha
Avalokitesvara's Dharma-Gate -- Enlightened through the gateway of ear
The four clear and decisive instructions on purity
Shurangama Mantra
In-depth explanation on causes and retributions
The skandha-demons of fifty classes

Chapter 1

Thus I have heard. At one time the Buddha dwelt at the City of Shravasti in the sublime abode of the Jeta Grove with a gathering of great Bhikshus, twelve hundred fifty in all. All were great Arhats without outflows, disciples of the Buddha who dwelt in and maintained the Dharma. They had fully transcended all existence, and were able to perfect the majestic deportment wherever they went. They followed the Buddha in turning the wheel and were wonderfully worthy of the bequest. Stern and pure in the Vinaya, they were great exemplars in the three realms. Their numberless response-bodies took beings across and liberated them, extricating and rescuing those of the future so they could transcend the bonds of all mundane defilements. The names of the leaders were: the Greatly Wise Shariputra, Mahamaudgalyayana, Mahakaushtila, Purnamaitreyaniputra, Subhuti, Upanishad, and others.

Moreover, numberless Pratyekabuddhas who were beyond learning and those of initial resolve came to where the Buddha was. All the Bhikshus were there as well, having the Pravarana at the close of the summer retreat.

And there were also Bodhisattvas from the ten directions, who desired counsel in order to resolve their doubts. All were respectful and obedient to the compassionate and stately one as they prepared to seek the Secret Meaning.

Then the Tathagata arranged his seat, sat quietly and peacefully, and for the sake of everyone in the congregation, proclaimed the profound and mysterious. At the banquet of Dharma, what the members of the pure congregation obtained was unprecedented. The Immortal's kalavinka-sound pervaded the worlds of the ten directions and Bodhisattvas as many as the Gange's sands gathered at the Way-place with Manjushri as their leader.

On the day of mourning, King Prasenajit, for the sake of his father, the former king, arranged a vegetarian feast and invited the Buddha to the side rooms of the palace. He welcomed the Tathagataa with a vast array of superb delicacies of unsurpassed, wonderful flavors and himself invited the Great Bodhisattvas, as well. Elders and laypeople of the city were also prepared to provide meals for the Sangha at the same time, and they stood waiting for the Buddha to come and receive offerings.

The Buddha commanded Manjushri to assign the Bodhisattvas and Arhats to receive offerings from the various vegetarian hosts. Only Ananda, who had travelled far to accept a special invitation earlier, and had not yet returned, was late for the apportioning of the Sangha. No senior Bhikshu or Acharya was with him, and so he was returning alone on the road. On that day Ananda had received no offerings, and so at the appropriate time he took up his almsbowl and, as he travelled through the city, received alms in sequential order. As he set out to receive alms from the first to the last donors, his vegetarian hosts, he thought not to question whether they were pure or impure; whether they were kshatriyas of honorable name or chandalas. While practicing equality and compassion he would not select merely the lowly but was determined to perfect all beings' limitless merit and virtue. Ananda was aware that the Tathagata, the Bhagavan(World Honored One), had admonished Subhuti and Mahakashyapa for being Arhats whose minds were not fair and equal. He revered the Tathagata's instructions on impartiality for saving everyone from doubt and slander.

Having crossed the city moat, he walked slowly through the outer gates, his manner stern and proper as he strictly respected the rules for obtaining vegetarian food. At that time, because Ananda was receiving alms in sequential order, he passed by a house of prostitution and was waylaid by a powerful artifice. On the strength of Kapila's mantra, which came from the Brahma Heaven, the daughter of Matangi drew him onto an impure mat. With her licentious body she caressed him until he was on the verge of destroying the precept-substance. The Tathagata, knowing Ananda was being taken advantage of by an impure artifice, finished the meal and immediately returned to the Sublime Abobe.

The king, great officials, elders, and laypeople followed along after the Buddha desiring to hear the essentials of the Dharma. Then the Bhagavan from his crown emitted hundreds of rays of jeweled light which dispelled all fear. Within the light appeared a thousand-petalled jeweled lotus, upon which was seated a transformation-body Buddha in full-lotus posture, proclaiming a holy Mantra. Shakyamuni Buddha commanded Manjushri to take the mantra and go provide protection, and, when the evil mantra was dispelled, to support Ananda and Matangi's daughter and encourage them to return to where the Buddha was. Ananda saw the Buddha, bowed, and wept sorrowfully, regretting that from time without beginning he had been preoccupied with erudition and had not yet perfected his strength in the Way. He respectfully and repeatedly requested an explanation of the initial expedients of the wonderful shamatha, samapatti, and dhyana, by means of which the Tathagatas of the ten directions had realized Bodhi.

At that time Bodhisattvas as numerous as Ganges' sands, great Arhats, Pratyekabuddhas, and others from the ten directions, were also present. Pleased at the opportunity to listen, they withdrew quietly to their seats to receive the sagely instruction.

The Buddha said to Ananda, "You and I are of the same family and share the affection of this natural relationship. At the time of your initial resolve, what were the outstanding characteristics which you saw in my Dharma that caused you to suddenly cast aside the deep kindness and love found in the world?"

Ananda said to the Buddha, "I saw the Tathagata's thirty-two hallmarks, which were so supremely wonderful and incomparable that his entire body had a shimmering translucence just like that of crystal. I often thought that those hallmarks could not have been born of desire and love. Why? The vapors of desire are course and murky. From foul and putrid intercourse comes a turbid mixture of pus and blood which cannot give off such a magnificent, pure, and brilliant concentration of purple-golden light. And so I eagerly gazed upward, followed the Buddha, and let the hair fall from my head."

The Buddha said, "Very good, Ananda. You should know that from beginningless time all beings are continually born and continually die, simply because they do not know the everlasting true mind with its pure nature and bright substance. Instead they engage in false thinking. These thoughts are not true, and so they lead to further transmigration. Now you wish to investigate the unsurpassed Bodhi and actually discover your nature. You should answer my questions with a straightforward mind. The Tathagatas of the ten directions escaped birth and death because their minds were straightforward. Since their minds and words were consistently that way, from the beginning, through the intermediate stages to the end, they were never in the least evasive. Ananda, I now ask you: at the time of your initial resolve, which arose in response to Tathagata's thirty-two hallmarks, what was it that saw those characteristics and who delighted in them?" Ananda said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, this is the way I experienced the delight: I used my mind and eyes. Because my eyes saw the Tathagata's outstanding hallmarks, my mind gave rise to delight. That is why I became resolved and wished to extricate myself from birth and death."

The Buddha said to Ananda, "It is as you say, that experience of delight actually occurs because of your mind and eyes. If you do not know where your mind and eyes are, you will not be able to conquer the wearisome mundane defilements. For example, when a country is invaded by thieves and the king sends out his troops to suppress and banish them, the troops must know where the thieves are. It is the fault of your mind and eyes that you undergo transmigration. I now ask you specifically about your mind and eyes: where are they now?"

Ananda answered the Buddha, "Bhagavan, All the ten kinds of beings in the world alike maintain that the mind-consciousness dwells within the body; and as I regard the Tathagata's eyes that resemble blue lotuses, they are on the Buddha's face. I now observe that these prominent organs, four kinds of defiling objects, are on my face, and my mind-consciousness actually is within my body."

The Buddha said to Ananda, "You are now sitting in the Tathagata's lecture hall. Where is the Jeta Grove that you are gazing at?" "Bhagavan, this great many-storied pure lecture hall is in the Garden of the Benefactor of the Solitary. At present the Jeta Grove is, in fact, outside the hall."

"Ananda, as you are now in the hall, what do you see first?" "Bhagavan, here in the hall I first see the Tathagata, next I see the public, and from there, as I gaze outward, I see the grove and the garden."

"Ananda, how are you able to see the grove and the garden." "Bhagavan, since the doors and windows of this great lecture hall have been thrown open wide, I can be in the hall and see into the distance."

Then, in the midst of the great assembly, the Bhagavan extended his golden arm, rubbed Ananda's crown, and said to Ananda and the public, "There is a Samadhi called the King of the Foremost Shurangama at the Great Buddha's Crown Replete with the Myriad Practices; it is a path wonderfully adorned and the single door through which the Tathagatas of the ten directions gained transcendence. You should now listen attentively." Ananda bowed down to receive the compassionate instruction humbly.

The Buddha said to Ananda, "It is as you say. When one is in the lecture hall and the doors and windows are open wide, one can see far into the garden and the grove. Could someone in the hall not see the Tathagata and yet see outside the hall?" Ananda answered: "Bhagavan, to be in the hall and not see the Tathagata, and yet see the grove and fountains is impossible."

"Ananda, you are like that too. Your mind is capable of understanding everything thoroughly. Now if your present mind, which thoroughly understands everything, were in your body, then you should first be aware of what is inside your body. Could there be beings who first see the inside of their bodies before observing external phenomena? Even if you cannot see your heart, liver, spleen, and stomach, still, you should be able to clearly perceive the growing of your nails and hair, the twist of your sinews, and the throb of your pulse. Why don't you perceive these things? If you cannot perceive your internal organs, how could you perceive what is external to you? Therefore you should know that declaring that the aware and knowing mind is inside the body is an impossible statement."

Ananda bowed his head and said to the Buddha, "Upon hearing the Tathagata proclaim this explanation of Dharma, such a Dharma-sound as the Tathagata has proclaimed, I realize that my mind is actually outside my body. How is that possible? For example, a lamp lit in a room will certainly illumine the inside of the room first, and only then will its light stream through the doorway to reach the recesses of the hall. Beings' not being able to see within their bodies but only see outside them, is analogous to having a lighted lamp placed outside the room, so that it cannot illumine the rroom.This principle is clear and beyond all doubt. It is identical with the Buddha's complete meaning, isn't it?"

The Buddha said to Ananda, "All these Bhikshus, who just followed me to the city of Shravasti to go on sequential almsrounds to obtain balls of food, have returned to the Jeta Grove. I have already finished eating. Observing the Bhikshus, do you think that by one person eating everyone gets full?" Ananda answered, "No, Bhagavan. Why? Although these bhikshus are Arhats, their physical bodies and lives differ. How could one person's eating enable everyone to be full?" The Buddha told Ananda, "If your mind which is aware, knows, and sees were actually outside your body, your body and mind would be mutually exclusive and would have no relationship to one another. The body would be unaware of what the mind perceives, and the mind would not perceive the awareness within the body. Now as I show you my hand which is soft like tula-cotton, does your mind distinguish it when your eyes see it?"

Ananda answered, "Yes, Bhagavan."

The Buddha told Ananda, "If the two have a common perception, how can the mind be outside the body? Therefore you should know that declaring that the mind which knows, understands, and is aware is outside the body is an impossible statement." Ananda said to the Buddha, "Bhagavan, it is as the Buddha has said. Since I cannot see inside my body, my mind does not reside in the body. Since my body and mind have a common awareness, they are not separate and so my mind does not dwell outside my body. As I now consider the matter, I know exactly where my mind is."

The Buddha said: "So, where is it now?"

Ananda said, "Since the mind which knows and understands does not perceive what is inside but can see outside, upon reflection I believe it is concealed in the organ of vision. This is analogous to a person placing crystal lenses over his eyes; the lenses would cover his eyes but would not obstruct his vision. The organ of vision would thus be able to see, and discriminations could be made accordingly. And so my mind is aware and knows, understands, and is aware does not see within because it resides in the organ: it can gaze outside clearly, without obstruction for the same reason: it is concealed in the organ."

The Buddha said to Ananda, "Assuming that it is concealed in the organ, as you assert in your analogy of the crystals, if a person were to cover his eyes with the crystals and looks at the mountains and rivers, would he see the crystals as well?" "Yes, World Honored One, if that person were to cover his eyes with the crystals, he would in fact see the crystals."

The Buddha said to Ananda, "If your mind is analogous to the eyes covered with crystals, then when you see the mountains and rivers, why don't you see your eyes? If you could see your eyes, your eyes would be part of the external environment, but that is not the case. If you cannot see them, why do you say that the aware and knowing mind is concealed in the organ of vision as eyes are covered by crystals? Therefore you should know that you state the impossible when you say that the mind which knows, understands, and is aware is concealed in the organ of vision in the way that the eyes are covered by crystals."

Ananda said to the Buddha, "Bhagavan, I now offer this reconsideration: viscera and bowels lie inside the bodies of living beings, while the apertures are outside. There is darkness within where the bowels are and light at the apertures. Now, as I face the Buddha and open my eyes, I see light: that is seeing outside. When I close my eyes and see darkness, that is seeing within. How does that principle sound?"

The Buddha said to Ananda, "When you close your eyes and see darkness, does the darkness you experience lie before your eyes or not? If it did lie before your eyes, then the darkness would be in front of your eyes. How could that be said to be 'within'? If it were within, then when you were in a dark room without the light of sun, moon, or lamps, the darkness in the room would constitute your vital organs and viscera. If it were not before you, how could you see it? If you assert that there is an inward seeing that is distinct from seeing outside, then when you close your eyes and see darkness, your would be seeing inside your body. Consequently, when you open your eyes and see light, why can't you see your own face? If you cannot see your face, then there can be no seeing within. If you could see your face, then your mind which is aware and knows and your organ of vision as well would have to be suspended in space. How could they be inside? If they were in space, then they would not be part of your body. Otherwise the Tathagata who now sees your face should be part of your body as well. In that case, when your eyes perceived something, your body would remain unaware of it. If you press the point and insist that the body and eyes each have an awareness, then you should have two perceptions, and your one body should eventually become two Buddhas. Therefore you should know declaring that to see darkness is to see within is an impossible statement."

Ananda said to the Buddha, "I have often heard the Buddha instruct the four assemblies that since the mind arises, every kind of dharma arises and that since dharmas arise, every kind of mind arises. As I now consider it, the substance of that very consideration is truly the nature of my mind. Wherever it joins with things, the mind exists in response. It does not exist in any of the three locations of inside, outside and in between."

The Buddha said to Ananda, "Now you say that because dharmas arise, every kind of mind arises. Wherever it joins with things, the mind exists in response. But it has no substance, the mind cannot come together with anything. If, having no substance, it could yet come together with things, that would constitute a nineteenth realm brought about by a union with the seventh defiling object. But there is no such principle. If it had substance, when you pinch your body with your fingers, would your mind which perceives it come out from the inside, or in from the outside? If it came from the inside, then, once again, it should be able to see within your body. If it came from outside, it should see your face first." Ananda said, "Seeing is done with the eyes; mental perception is not. To call mental perception seeing doesn't make sense."

The Buddha said, "Supposing the eyes did the seeing. That would be like being in a room where the doors could see! Also, when a person has died but his eyes are still intact, his eyes should see things. But how could one be dead if one can still see? Furthermore, Ananda, if your aware and knowing mind in fact had substance, then would it be of a single substance or of many substances? Would its substance perceive the body in which it resides or would it not perceive it? Supposing it were of a single substance, then when you pinched one limb with your fingers, the